Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Fate Steps In" from Cult Of The Greyhound


Let’s talk about coincidence. Some don’t believe in coincidence. I do. I also believe in fate. Today was a huge helping of both - like Thanksgiving helping size, served up just for me and before 7:00 AM.

Today at the dog park the girls were doing their typical early morning run with their partners in crime, Dillon and RJ. We hadn’t been there for more than 5 minutes, long enough for them to do their business, prance over to me to tell me about it and start one run, when Dillon zagged when he should have zigged and Dru zigged when she should have zagged.

Another collision.

Dillon, at the better angle just went under and continued through. Dru, not at the better angle, went ass over tea kettle, in a flailing tangle of legs, body, head and tail. This time I saw it happen and she looked like a bunch of stuffed toy dog parts spinning around in a dryer.

Seriously? I mean, seriously? We’ve been going to the park most days for over a year without any major incidents, then she has 2 in as many weeks. What the hell kind of sick cosmic joke is that?

I went running over; calculating where the closest vet open at 6 AM is and noting that there was only a minor greyhound scream of death. Well crap, it could be worse than last week. Less noise sometimes means more injuries.

She’s running towards me, tail tucked, head down, shoulders hunched. What is this whole body tremble about? It was still pretty dark so I lightly ran hands over her to see if there was any blood. Nothing sticky. OK that’s a good start. Time to pay a little more attention to her legs. Anything broken? Doesn’t appear to be. Whew. How the hell did she manage to come out of this one OK? Well mostly OK. Now she won’t leave my side, is freaked when the other dogs come near her and is skulking around the park. Well crap.

But fate stepped in today, in some new and wicked cool swat boots. As always, my friend Jamie from Seize the Leash was on the other side of the fence. About 10 minutes after the incident, while I was still petting Dru, she casually observed, “Now I think she is just looking for attention.”

“Hmmmm?” I’m thinking, she’s a bit loony (Jamie, not Dru, who at this point was still shaking and hovering, obviously traumatized.)

“Well at first she was freaked out, scared and hurt. Now I think she just wants the attention and you are giving it to her. Dogs don’t hold on to things like people do. You need to get the movie out of your head.”

Now here’s the thing. I’ve seen Jamie work absolute miracles with dogs. When-the-owner-is-about-to-give-up-on-the-dog-and-have-it-put-down-and-the-trainer-comes-to-the-rescue-Lifetime-story kind of miracles. But, this time, this time, it was MY dog and she was HURT, dammit.

Milking it. My ample ass.

OK pause… hmmmmm, could we be a bit wound up still? Isn’t Jamie the one with the expertise? Annnnddddd, breathing, breathing, calm.

“OK, what do I need to do?”
“Get her mind moving.”
“Huh?” Obviously mine was not at 6:15 AM.
“Get her mind moving, so move her, don’t let her just stay in that state.” I looked at Dru, she was still hunched like a caterpillar on the up-stroke.
“Huh. How?”
“Move yourself. Walk her around.”
“On a lead?” – Me, all about the details. Thank goodness she’s patient – Jamie, that is.
“If necessary.”

So we started moving. Talk about the crazy parade. Breeze followed right in behind “Are we going now, huh, huh, huh?” Willow came in a nice second “When we walk like this we sometimes get snackies.” Then RJ and Dillon wiggled their way in "Hey, we're moving here." Dru started trailing the group, no lead necessary; still nervous, but moving.

I was like the kid in the car, each lap past the fence “How much longer?”
Until she is out of that state.”
“I obviously need to exercise more.”

We did laps forever, an interminable amount of time, we could have grown crops and harvested them in the time we were running. Well jogging. OK, OK walking fast. It was cold and my knees were loudly protesting during the entire 5 minutes.

Little break at the fence with Jamie and RJ’s Mom. What’s this? a huge massive fight between Willow and Dru. Raised up on back legs and everything. “What the hell was that?” None of us could figure it out, we didn’t see it start. Back to the jogging, obviously the state of mind hadn’t changed yet. The other dogs got bored with my snail pace laps and started doing some of their own running. Zinging past and pelting me with dirt on mini-sprints. Little show offs.

Another break. I saw Dru shake. She had to work her way into it, starting slow, pausing, building, then completing it at half-speed. After which, her posture changed. Just a little, but her tail wasn’t as tucked and her back as bowed. Jamie immediately caught it “She just shook off some of that energy. Get her moving again.”

More jogging coming up. A couple of laps in and Jamie gets my attention. “She’s looking to you to run.”
“I’m not going any faster than this, so tough titt...”
“No, she wants to run with the other dogs and is looking to you to see if it is OK.”
“What?” You know those little thoughts that just flash unbidden through your brain. This one had ‘crazy’ in it.
“You didn’t see it because you were looking away.”
“Well yes, I was ignoring her, not making a big deal out of her state.”
“Yes and that was good. Now she’s almost ready, she just needs you to tell her it is OK.”

What the hell, might as well give it a shot. At least then the running will stop.

I threw the ball for RJ and the pack went off after him. Then I saw it. Dru looked at them, turning her body in their direction and looked back at me. Whaaaat dude? Oh that’s right, I’m up. “Ummmm. Go get ‘em. Go on, Dru, run.” And wouldn’t you know, she did. She was a bit hesitant at first but she chased after them. She came back to check in with me. I again told her to go run and she did. Son of a gun.

Damn and bless that smiling face on the other side of the fence. I hate it when I’m not only wrong, but so far off the mark, I’m not even in the same country. This was one of those times. And I am absolutely thrilled I’m blessed with the friends I have, that they care as much as they do and are as patient as they are. RJs Mom stayed late to have the boys help with the rehab. And Jamie’s uncanny ability to read dog body language and communication strikes again. This time with my girls, not some other dog. OK, I’ll admit, and with me. Damn, she’s good. I can’t wait to try this at the other park this weekend. Thank you, Jamie.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Advanced Behavior Training Class

Advanced Behavior Training

Come join us in an 8 week adventure. Be prepared to put basic skills to the test in the real world. This innovative class meets at various locations including parks, public shopping areas, hiking trails. stores and more. Everyone will learn how to transfer the skills they've learned in class to real world situations and increase their dog's reliability when faced with major distractions.

The class is 8 sessions, one session a week. One of these session will be a one-on-one with a trainer at your home (or other choice of venue) to assist you in handling those things that just cannot be addressed in a class situation. Next Advanced Behavior Training Class starts next Sunday morning - November 14th - at 9am at Brandi Fenton Park near the dog park areas.

Here are some of the highlights of the last Advanced Behavior Training Class. We had a lot of fun and the dogs learned to be social and have fun also. Sign Up Here

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ask The Trainer - Demanding Dog

Question: Tag is feeling better after his neuter and wants a lot of attention. He tells me that he wants me to pet him by "grabbing" my arm with his mouth--he doesn't bite down, but it would be dangerous for children and quite frightening for them if they don't know that he's not trying to hurt them. He also tends to jump up at your face to lick you, but hits you with his teeth. How can I stop him from doing this--teach him a different way to "tell" me he wants attention.

Answer: Sounds like Tag needs to be on No Free Lunch program. He should not be asking for attention - or in this case demanding attention - from any human at all, ever. You need to be in control of when he gets attention, when he eats, when he's allowed to play, everything. Sounds like Tag ended up at PACC because his previous owners allowed him to be in control.

So, to control his demanding of your attention, he needs to learn to ask by sitting, not by pushing, grabbing, jumping, licking or bumping, he needs to learn that he gets no attention or affection unless he does something for you first.

When he jumps, walk into him as though he wasn't there and just keep walking no matter what he does. Then ignore him for awhile. Don't ever let him jump on anyone else. Put him on a leash when people come to your house. You don't have to hold the leash, just let it hang, but if he tries to jump up, step on the leash. Then have everyone turn their backs on him until he walks away. Let everyone know they are not to look at him, talk to him or touch him until he sits nicely.

Bumping with the nose and grabbing body parts with the mouth are things that the mommy dog did to discipline her puppies. She did these things to teach them what they needed to know to live in the canine world. For an adult dog to use these methods on a human means that this dog thinks it controls humans. So, same thing. The dog gets nothing when it demands by bumping or grabbing. If you are sitting, stand up and either turn your back to the dog, or walk away from it. If you have guests - again, put the dog on a leash and take it out of the room if it does that to your guests. Keep it out for a count of 100 or long enough that he's calm, then lead it back in. Drop the leash after you are back in the room. Repeat this until he understands that he isn't to try and control your guests and goes and lays down or otherwise relaxes.

Teach him sit, down, shake, roll over, and any and all tricks and commands you can think up. This teaches him that you are the one in control. Teach using a minimum of reinforcers (treats) as you want him to understand that what you say is what he does, no matter what.

Do not free feed him. Feed him on a schedule and make him work for his food. Pushing is the best way to make him work for it but doing a routine of "tricks" will work as well.

Get him out for exercise twice a day. Real exercise, not a walk where he's allowed to stop and smell everything or pee on every tree and post. This can include a great 1/2 game of fetch or fetch/tug, flirt pole, swimming or a treadmill if you have one.

I noticed that you said "I think he would do best with older kids, as he does occasionally "heel" me." on his writeup with TCWN.  Yes, this is typically heeler, but it's also the way a heeler controls the animals it is herding.  For it to do so with a human again means that he thinks he's in control. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Default Behaviors

As a genetic predisposition, after thousands of years of domestication, dogs have a need to look to humans for guidance and companionship. When dogs were for the most part still working partners, behavior problems were few. As industrialization took over many of the dogs jobs and they became more companion then partner, behavior problems grew. In general, behavior problems are the result of a lack of guidance and direction, leadership if you will, in a world that is not what nature intended for a dog.
As you are walking along your dog spies a stranger in the distance and gives a quick glance up at you, before returning her gaze back to the stranger. Aroused by what could be a potential threat or playmate, your dog looks to you for guidance. Most people don't realize this and ignore the dog. So having received no information from you, your dog is left to make a choice as to how to respond. If your dog is at all anxious about people she might decide that barking is the appropriate response, or if happy to greet people she begins to work herself into a frenzy to 'say hello'. Your attempts to control her at this point are futile, she's too excited.
Be on the look out for these two behaviors:
Checking in. Watch your dog, notice how often she looks at you. This may be direct eye contact or a slight turn of the head and sometimes just a quick flick of the ears toward you. Pay attention when your dog stops moving and seems to wait for you to move before continuing on herself. Your dog is 'checking in' with you, essentially waiting for or looking for more information from you. Let your dog know that you are aware of this connection with praise, a treat, and a cue as to how to proceed (even if it's just "forward" or "walk"). Do this whenever you notice your dog checking in with you, but the key is for you to begin looking for these check-in behaviors and acknowledging them.

Default behaviors. Many dogs have learned that by performing a particular behavior, they get something they want. This 'default' behavior can be a sit, down, or check-in. Most often dogs learn to sit for dinner, treats or going out the door. Some dogs may need to be taught this behavior while others figure it out on their own. Before feeding your dog, tossing or tugging a toy, opening a door, or any of the other daily interactions you have with your dog which involves providing them with something they need or want, wait for your dog to offer the desired behavior, or ask for the behavior if they need help in understanding that 'sitting' makes things happen. This behavior will become one which will be easier for your dog to perform when they are aroused or distracted.

Next time your dog spies something of concern or interest she can be assured that you have a plan of action and all she needs to do is check-in to get that information from you. In Behavior Training, the dogs learn many things that could all be turned into default behaviors depending on the situation. Sit for food, treats, petting, greeting. Look at That for seeing something nearby that may be worrisome, Touch That for things that at first seem scary or dangerous, reorienting at thresholds, and Not Now for when you just want to keep moving.

Use these behaviors often, especially when you're dog does check in with you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Greyhound Owners Survey

If you are a greyhound owner or foster, or have owned greyhounds in the past and know something about their behavior and personalities, I would be ever so grateful if you would answer my survey :)

Saturday Blog Hop

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Sacred Cows of Dog Training

The dog's intelligence, sociable nature and adaptability make him an excellent companion and also make it easy to train and educate him to ensure he fits comfortably into the human world. Today the dog is more companion then working partner and various theories have emerged to explain his behavior - and mis-behavior - and how to make that behavior more amenable to us as humans.

Since the advent of the Internet, the availability of information about everything you could possibly know about anything has grown exponentially.  Dog training is no different.  You can now find the "secrets" of the Hollywood dog trainers, dog trainers in general and the ways of canine whichness on National Geographic and Animal Planet.  Don't get me wrong, I've benefited tremendously from this availability of information despite decades of experience and college studying animal behavior, biology and genetics.

Before the information age, one had to either go to school and become a Veterinarian or an Animal Behaviorist.  There was no university education in becoming a dog trainer or even just a dog behaviorist.  You had to have the whole ball or nothing.  Or, you could apprentice under an existing trainer.  Canine behaviorists didn't actually exist before the last few years that didn't have one of the above two degrees.  Trainers however, learned about behavior as it applies to dogs, and learned how to train a dog. 

Before the 40's and the advent of learning theory and the Premack Principle, animal training was a hit or miss thing.  Different "schools" of training existed generally based on what breed group of dog you were training or what function you were training a dog for.  There were the herding dogs, guarding, hauling, hunting, pointing, retreiving and earth dogs. Each breed group had it's job and a basic set of guidelines for how to train a dog in it's group.  But each individual did things their own way for the most part, mostly after apprenticing under a family member or neighbor. 

Then came BF Skinner and his students, the Brelands, with operant conditioning, classical conditioning (Pavlov), the Premack Principle and various other pieces of psycho babble - how dogs and other animals (including humans), supposedly learn.  At pretty much the same time, there were studies done on captive wolves and dominance theory emerged to explain lupine behavior and this was translated into canine behavior.  Everyone "knows" that dogs are descended from wolves.

During the 1900's many prominent trainers, and their methodologies, emerged in the field of dog training. These include Conrad Most, William Koehler, Winifred Strickland, C.W. Meisterfeld and Barbara Woodhouse. They developed their own particular style of training techniques, and made lasting contributions to the field of organized dog training.  

Then came Ian Dunbar and Karen Pryor who introduced positive reinforcement only training and pushed it into prominance in the 80's.  Karen Pryor and several others were trainers for Sea World and learned the techniques that the Breland's had perfected.  But the 80's also brought out the dominance theory and a battle began between proponents of the two methods.

Personally, my practice and theory is different then most of what you read, see on TV or hear from other trainers.  I think it is a mistake to think that because dogs are descended from an ancestor of wolves, they behave like wolves. If you actually watched wolves in the wild, they cooperate, not dominate.  Wolves understand who is good at what and test each other in play to find out where they fit in - not the pack as a whole - but in each activity that the pack is involved in. 

Training dogs is fun for me and for the dog, as it should be. It is through play behavior, and the social rules that all dogs and wolves learn as pups, that a "pack" or "family" of canines is ruled. Further, it is fun to play with our dogs even if none of us learn anything. It will certainly make more sense to the dog than to be jerked around on a leash or sent to the corner for a timeout.

I've found through the years that all that's really necessary is a knowledge of and continual use of communication signals to and from the dog, the willingness of the owner to change how they view their dog and how they interact with it, and a rehabilitation period for the dog to discard the behaviors that were driving everyone (including the dog) crazy.  Play is an important aspect of this process because it is how dogs learn to be dogs as puppies.  The rehabilitation process is basically just informing the dog, in a language and format that he understands (what momma did when he was a pup), what is acceptable, where the boundaries lie, and what the rules for future behavior are.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Pinky is a white pit bull mix about 85 lbs. She was a stray that wandered into T's life last year. For many months, Pinky and T's other dog did great together. Then T started working long hours and things deterioated. Here is what T has to say at the end of Behavior Training.

In a perfect world I would posses all the natural instincts and skills of Cesar Milan.  For those of you who don't know who he is, he is like the "Godfather of Dog training".  He can alter a dogs state of mind with just the touch of his fingers and resounding "Psst".  And dog and humans alike take notice.  Of course, I do not possess such powers, in fact, I am a dog whisperer in training and taking baby steps toward understanding and correcting my three dogs.

Especially, Pinky.  She is a miunderstood breed by natures.She is a pix-mix and everyone I know had deemed her a lost cause due to the aggression she was displaying on my border collie.  The fighting was very minimal at first but intensified within the last 6 months.  So my emotional level was a code red.  Nothing I did seem to stop the fighting and there was a lot of blood, all three of us got hurt.  Saddie, my border collie got the worst of it, and after several trips to the vet and my attempts in first aid, we put her back together.

I even got to the point where I was convinced that there was no solution for Pinky but putting her down. If nothing else, to stop her suffering.  But then I started to come to Seize the Leash and both Pinky and I have made tremendous progress.  I was finally able to focus on the real issues, that Pinky was afraid and acting out in an aggressive way.  Having that knowledge and understanding empowered me to become a better pack leader.  I make it a conscious effort to display confidence, remain calm even when it seems there is an attack, make quick and just corrections and keep it moving.  I no longer dwell on the situation that just happened, I collect myself and keep going.

My pack recently had a new addtion, a bouncing, jumping full of evergy 5 month old boxer-mix, and more often then not, I find myself cleaning up after her. She seems to have a particular liking to trees, potted plants and anything not made out of concrete, she'll find it and chew on it. Or in some cases, eat it.  Just like as I am writing this short essay, I discovered that Irre knocked the trash can down and helped herself to turkey bones.  My emotional level was frustration, but I remain assertive and send Pinky and Irre to the kennel.

When dealing with Saddie, who is always so nervous I have made a point to be as calm as I can around her to help her over this phase of her life.  Having learned not to coddle her when she is scared, not to encourage her hyperactivity and only give her attention when she calmed down has made a big difference.  There are still times, though, when she gets me to be frustrated because it takes her a while to get to her calm state.

Lastly, for anyone thinking of a getting a dog, think twice.  Training a dog(s), is a 24/7 job, you're always learning and it is a lot of work, but the reward comes when I can walk my three dogs without having them pull me down the street.  Even better is when I take them out on my tricycle, it is quite the show stopper, but it is also very rewarding when we are all in sync.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Blog Hop

Don't assume that the dog who appears to be the aggressor is actually the problem. Last night a play date errupted into a fight within the first 10 minutes of the date. An anxious dominant dog was brought to a play date and instantly decided he was going to take over the house and the yard. He challenged the dog tha...t lived there, tail upright and wagging stiffly, stance stiff and challenging, eyes hard and ears pricked far forward. The humans assumed the tail wag meant the dog was friendly and ignored the other signals. So when the dog who actually lived at the house finally escalated his own signals of "please stop" to a mock attack, he was punished and banned to the house.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Understanding Dogs

“Why does my dog dog that?” Because they can, because they are a dog, because they have been inadvertintly taught to do it, have not been trained to do something else instead…those are the answers, or at least some of them.

I tell people nearly every day that the problem is not the dog. What you see dogs doing are normal dog behaviors and for the dog they are not a problem. There are however dog and human communication issues, human to dog expectation issues and lack of teaching issues. Tthe majority of “dog behavior problems” are actually created by the humans in the dogs life. I do understand some dogs are born wrong or have physical issues, but they are the minority I can assure you.

Dogs do what works. Dogs do what gets them things and attention. Behavior that is reinforced has a higher likelihood of repeating. If you leave food on the counter and the dog is able to get it, he will. He has now been reinforced for counter surfing and will continue to surf the counters looking for more reinforcement again, and again and again.

Dogs do not waste much time or energy on any activity that does not allow them to win. Dogs are wonderful at conserving energy. You can avoid or minimize problem behavior by ensuring these behaviors lack reinforcement from humans. Dogs really like to do things that are rewarding and worthwhile (to them), so will expend far more energy to do it.

Dogs really are beautifully simple and do not wish to take over the world or dominate you. They do not dwell on the "wrongs" you may have done them or the toy you took away from them. When you aren't around, they are probably sleeping (provided you have thoroughly exercised them before you leave). If they are doing “naughty things” it is out of boredom. loneliness, a need to do something, hunger, or anxiety.

Dogs are social animals and as such need social contact with other beings. They follow you around room to room because they wish to remain with you, because you were gone all day, because you are their only social option or because they really like being with you. They get excited when you return, no matter how long your were gone, they jump up and perform other rituals they know. They aren't doing these greeting riturals to dominate you or take over, but rather to say “hi”, to smell all the great smells from the places you've been and the things you've encountered, and out of sheer joy to be reunited.

Dogs are not four-footed people in fur, they are a different species just trying to survive and function in a foreign world with beings that don’t understand their language, their exercise or social needs or their commitment to being there. They are wonderfully loyal and tolerant of things humans would never live with and do it with grace and style that cannot be matched. Spending time with your dog could be the highlight of your day if you learn to communicate and interpret correctly your dog's communication.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ask The Trainer - Totally terrified in the car

Question:  I got a call from someone asking about their dog and his terror of riding in a car. They go on a weekly weekend trip and he can't enjoy the wide open spaces of the destination because of his terror.

Answer: Here is the program I gave her.
A) First step - day one

Put Jake on a leash and lead him into the car. Count to 5 and lead him out. Take him for a short walk around the yard and repeat. Repeat this until he is anticipating going in the car or he doesn't want to get out at the end of your count.

up the time in the car to 30 seconds. Do the short walk in between each going in and out of the car. Don't let him control things, you control everything. If he tries to get out, keep him in for a count of 5 and then lead him out. The walk is to calm him. So if he starts stressing, keep him walking until he calms down. Calm is normal rate of breathing, mouth open with tongue gently laying on the bottom front teeth or hanging out and down. Tail floating between hanging straight down and half way up. Eyes soft and liquid. Again, repeat this until he starts anticipating getting in or reluctant to get out.

Up the time to 1 minute

up the time to 5 minutes. This time get him to sit while he's in there if he's not already sitting.

up the time to 10 minutes with him laying down.
Do this until he's comfortable laying down and is reluctant to get up and get out of the car for 10 minutes.
B) Next step is the treats. Hide treats everywhere. If you trust him off leash, then take the leash off and let him find all the treats both in and out of the car. Note what parts of the car he refuses to go near even with a treat there. Do this for a good 1/2 hour or until he is willing to go near at least half the areas he was reluctant about when you started this step.
C) Day two - Repeat step A with the car running in the driveway.

D) Day three - Repeat step B with the car running in the driveway.

E) Day four - Take Jake on a long walk, or otherwise get him really tired before you start today's process.

Put Jake on a lead and then put him in the car and take him around the block. Take him out and do the walk around the yard. Do this step until he lays down all by himself while you are driving.

Go around the block 5 times watching Jake. If he stands up, check his signals. Stop, no matter where around the block you are and let him out and walk him til he calms. Then get back to the house and walk him again. Repeat this until he either stays laying down the whole time or he is not exhibiting any calming or stress signals.

Go around 5 blocks once and repeat until he is willing to lay down for most of the trip

Go around 5 blocks 5 times and repeat until he is willing to lay down for most of the trip

Go for a 15 minute drive and repeat until he is willing to lay down for most of the trip

Go for a 30 minute drive and repeat until he is willing to lay down for most of the trip

Make sure on steps 3 through 6 that he stays calm the entire time. Stop immediately if he starts showing any stress and walk him until he is calm before getting back in the car. If he stresses on any step. Go back a step until he stays totally calm for that step.

He should be good to go at this point. Before you go on any trips from this point, get him really tired before putting him in the car. Start making it a habit to watch his stress level after this and stop the car and take him for a walk at the first sign of stress. By doing this you are letting him know that you are in control of the situation. A long time ago, when I was doing a lot of SCUBA diving and being on boats, I had someone tell me that motion anxiety happens because of the feeling of a lack of control. So now when I first get on a boat, I ask the skipper if I can drive for awhile. It always gets rid of the motion sickness. Obviously we can't do that with a dog. But dogs are happy if they know their human is in control and this is the way to show him that.

Calming herbs, aromas and nutritional supplements:

B Vitamins
Omega 3's
Bach Rescue Remedy

Things to remember with this process.

It's boring and repetitive and whereas we don't like boring repetitive tasks, dogs thrive on them. Ask any ball chasing dog why he keeps bringing back the ball just to chase it again :). So, if you can get the attitude that each time you do this that it's something you've never done before, it will help keep you from getting frustrated. Take breaks for yourself if you start feeling frustrated or bored with the process. Start watching Jake closer, look for every minor detail in his body language, see if you can spot the very first signs of stress. This keeps your mind busy.

In any process like this, whether it takes 4 days or 8 weeks of behavior class, there is always going to be set backs. We call them extinction bursts. Basically what happens is Jake will revert and it will be worse then ever - for a short while. If you stay calm when this happens, and it will happen approximately three times during the four days, he will get over this. After a year of freaking out in the car, it's become a habit he can't break. LIke an addict, on average a dog will say - but I've alway done it THAT way, I don't want to do it THIS way - three times before it completely extinguishes.

Don't talk to him during this whole thing except to say - in (get in the car), out (get out of the car), find it (find the treats), sit or lay down. Do not tell him "it's okay", "everything is fine" - all those things we tell humans when they get upset. No talking and no petting unless he's totally calm. Reinforce calmness - ignore stress. Especially don't say the words you've used with him in the past in trying to calm him.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ask The Trainier: What should I do? Problem dog

Question: I have a Maltese mix and have had him since he was a very small puppy, he has always been socialized with other animals (dogs, cats, even horses) and people but it never really "took". He is never outright aggressive but he growls whenever the cat or puppy come into his space and otherwise ignores them. He also is very irritable when I am not around and will poo on the carpet even though he is potty trained(he's almost 4 btw). Lately he has also come to be very jealous of my boyfriend, who tries very hard to interact with him and play with him, and just today snapped at him for no reason when my boyfriend was reaching down to pet him. Also, if I am gone and it is just my boyfriend here he will cower whenever he is spoken to and pee on the carpet when my boyfriend tries to let all the dogs outside then won't come back inside when he is asked. I am very worried about how he will take to our new baby that is on the way but have no idea what to do. I don't want to get rid of him because he is so attached to me I don't know how he would do in another household and I know he would get put to sleep at the pound, but I'm also afraid he will bite the baby. He hates little things like puppies and kittens and hates things even more if they take my attention away from him but if he bites the baby I will have no choice but to give him up. What do I do in this situation?

Answer: He sounds like a very frightened dog who has learned that being confrontational chases the scary things away. The biting, the growling, the hiding in corners, peeing and pooping on the floor and the jealousy are all signs of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and a lack of consistency. He can't predict what is going to happen in his world and so lashes out at everything.

Socialization is great in most cases, but if you have a dog that is frightened and try to "socialize" him, all you are really doing is adding to his fear. Growling at the cat or puppy is the Maltese telling them that they are invading what he considers his space, as is the growling at and nipping at your boyfriend.

You say he hates anything that takes your attention away from him. This tells me that he thinks he owns you. You are the only thing in his world that doesn't scare him and he isn't going to let anything change that.

Changing this Maltese will require a lot of desensitization (not socialization since he has no clue how to be sociable at this point), but he can be gently and with regard to his fear threshold, desensitized enough that he can then start being curious about things. At that point he can be taught how to be sociable and what doggie manners are.

You are going to have to let go of him to a large degree or he is never going to learn how to live in a human world. You are his crutch, so you'll need to back off. Your boyfriend will need to start being the center of his universe for awhile which means feeding him, even hand feeding if necessary, taking him for walks and doing gentle massage and TTouch with him when he's ready for it.

He needs to be crate trained so that he has a safe spot to relax in and not feel threatened. You don't have to close the door to the crate, but he needs a den that is all his. Somewhere he can retreat to when the world is just too much to handle.

He needs more exercise and mental stimulation to build his confidence. He needs to be gently taught that he can control things other then you. Play 101 things to do with a box and other confidence building games.

And most importantly, he needs some rules, boundaries and limitations in his world. He needs to be told what he can and can't do, where he can and can't go, how much barking he can do (3 barks is my limit), when and where he eats (no free feeding), his toys need to be rotated so that he understands that they don't actually belong to him. He needs consistent leadership and parenting.

Saturday Blog Hop

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dogs & Cats

Question: I have full grown cats and what can I do to keep Pinto from chasing the cats? He only does it at certain times. Can you give me any suggestions?

Answer: When small animals move fast, a dog is going to chase it. It's a fact of life. You can eventually get the cats use to being chased, but you're never going to totally cure the dog of chasing something that is moving. Eventually, both the cats and the dog will understand that this can be a fun game. One of my daughter's dogs when she was growing up, use to race along the the length of our house while the cats raced along any high surface they could find. I caught them at this game one day when I decided to go in the backdoor instead of the front door. I saw Sammy the dog, "chasing" the cats through the living room window.

Having said that, here is how you can keep the chasing to a minimum.

Behaviors to teach the dog: Teach the dog "leave it" with the ultimate response to you saying "leave it" meaning "walk away". Teach him to "wait" (hold on just a sec and then we'll do it) and to "stay" (don't move until I say "OK").

Control the Environment
You have an opportunity with a new dog to convince him that you are the ultimate authority on everything - including cats. You do this by controlling the dog's environment from the moment you bring him home. First, set up a tie-down - attach a short, unbreakable leash to an immovable object. A wall is best, but an extremely heavy piece of furniture is okay.

Acclimate the dog to this area. Give him treats, bones or chewies there, and make a nice safe spot for him. Once he's happy with his tie-down, bring the cat in when the dog is NOT there (his scent will be). Let the cat explore and examine the area where the dog has been. Provide a perch, out of the dog's reach, where the cat can comfortably watch the dog's area. Give him some treats, catnip or other toy in that area. You may even want to feed him there for a period of days or weeks. It's best if you can acclimate both animals separately for at least a couple of days.

When both cat and dog appear to be comfortable with their spots, tie the dog down, and give her something delicious to chew on. Then, bring the cat in and place him on his perch. It's not usually wise to hold him because he may feel trapped and try to escape, injuring himself and you and exciting the dog in the process. Leave the door open this first time, so the cat can leave if he wishes to. (He probably will.)

An important component of Counter Conditioning is making the association of something pleasant with something unpleasant. Thus, you might withhold attention from both parties until they're in the same room with each other, then give both of them lots of attention. Or, feed them when they can see each other, making sure the cat is very safe and the dog.

When not doing this exercise, keep Pinto on a leash attached to your belt (or get a hands free leash). Say "leave it" whenever Pinto sees one of the cats and then walk away from the cat.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ask the Trainer - Obscessive, Incessant Licking

Lance came to class as a foster and again with his new owner.  The picture is the day he came as a foster with Deena working with him on focus.

Question: Lance is doing very well he is well behaved walks and runs with me very well. The only thing that he really needs work on is that he likes to lick your face and won't stop once he starts, i even gave him a good swat on the snout the other day and he didn't even flinch he just keeps pushing towards you and want to lick's really annoying haha. so i was hoping to learn some way to get him to stop getting in peoples faces and licking all the time other than that, he is doing terrific. He is also very skiddish i don't know why, i think maybe he was abused as a puppy... 
A week later: Lance did pretty well at the class, he get's easily distracted with other dogs around but i think a little more focus training will do him well. I took him hiking after the class and against my better judgement i let him off the leash and i'm happy to say he did great he stayed close by and was very well mannered. I think it gave him a good sense of freedom but he still responded to me when i called and would come right back. I took him for another run today but he didn't seem so inclined, i pretty much had to drag him the whole way, but hopefully with a little more work he'll come to enjoy a daily run like i do.

Answer: It sounds to me like Lance may have been frightened by something when you started the run the other day. When you come on Saturday, remind either me or Deena to show you "look at that" and "reorienting" which will solve this problem.
Dogs generally have 5 things they can do under stress - Fight, Flight, Freeze, Faint and Fool Around. What you've seen with the licking is "fool around". That much licking and fawning is a sign of stress. Signe was right when she said he is saying "you're my master" over and over so you don't forget it :). It's the "fooling around" method of handling stress. My cat does this when I get to her tail during her nightly brushing. She doesn't like her tail messed with and starts to stress out. Her solution - grab the brush and start playing with it to keep it from her tail.
Not wanting to run was Faint. Freeze is different then Faint. Freeze you can unstick with some gentle tugging, Faint means the dog is shutting down in the face of too much fear/stress. First the Freeze (stop and check it out) then the Faint (shutdown) totally skipping the Flight (run away) because the stress is too much. The best way to handle Faint is to teach him who will handle any perceived danger - YOU. Which means you get him to focus on you instead of the environment when you walk out your front door (reorienting) and if you do see anything that might spook Lance, tell him to "look" at it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ask the Trainer: Food Fight

Question:: I took home three 4mo old pups who seem very sweet, lab/hound mixes I would say. I put them in a crate to eat out of one big bowl and they got into a fight. Should I try and make them eat out of one bowl or avoid conflict by feeding them separately or how does one go about getting them over being food aggressive? They are skinny too.

Answer: I would just put them in a room with three bowls. Four months is considered adult by the adult pack members. They have their first rush of sex hormones around 17 weeks, so fights will start happening as they manuever themselves into position in the pack and figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Putting them all in the crate together made them fight for space, not food. If you put them in a room instead, they will play musical bowls and not fight. Most fights are actually over space, rank/status and manners (bad ones).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ask The Trainer - House training

Question: Ok so I rescued Duke. He comes from a home where he was not well feed, yellowing teeth, much to much for his age. He was taken from the house that had 10 other dogs and hadn't been fed for sometime. Then he spend 10 days in PACC. Here is our little Dukes problem, he goes to the bathroom on towels and rugs and if lucky enough to get him to go outside its on piles of pine needles. She bought and put in a doggy door but still... New mom is not happy. What kind of retraining ideas can I offer this new mom?

Answer: The easiest way to re-housetrain a dog, or to housetrain an older dog that was never housetrained to begin with, is to attach the dog to you when you are home. Tie a rope around your waist and attach it to the dogs collar. This way the dog is always with you and you can start spotting his signals. As soon as you see his potty signals, take him outside to a designated spot (use the towels or rugs or pine needles outside to start with) and tell hiim to "go potty" or "hurry up". Be totally calm and matter-of-fact about the whole process. When he's done doing his business, praise him lightly and go back in the house.

When you aren't home, if he is already crate trained, put him in the crate. If he isn't crate trained you have two options. Crate train him or get a cat box and put a bathroom towel in it (an old one that you don't mind washing a lot). It sounds like he could have been litter box trained or pee pad trained. You could use this to gradually move him outside through the dog door.

Don't leave rugs or towels down anywhere for him to use for a couple of weeks except the one in front of the dog door. For three days practice luring him outside to another towel through the dog door. On the third day, remove the towel that's on the inside and leave the one that's on the outside for him to use. If you don't make a fuss about things, don't punish him for going in the house, especially don't punish him hours later, then he should be choosing to go outside within a week or two.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ask the Trainer - Anxiety

Question: I adopted a fantastic little dog from Cold Wet Noses (Terri highly recommends you!). I just adopted my new pup Sunday and she is transitioning exceptionally well.

One thing that I hope you can assist me with- I see she has some anxiety when I leave, which consists of her crying and some howling/barking. She does calm down. She is making small strides in reducing anxiety each day she is with me and I am celebrating her small successes. I would love for her to trust me, and her feel secure since she has been abandoned in the past.

I would really like to enlist your services. I see that you will be offering classes in July and would like to sign up for them if you think we would benefit. She likes to be around other dogs and I think she would really love the group environment. Which series of classes would be best for a small, young dog who has some anxiety when left alone? Also, she does not yet grasp the basic commands such as sit and stay. Or, would it be best for a one on one visit? Many thanks and look forward to meeting you!

Answer :I remember seeing Maddie on the TCWN website, she is a cutie !!!

So, separation anxiety and anxiety in general. Dogs are social creatures, just as we are, they don't like being left alone especially in a strange place. It sounds like you are doing great. Just keep doing what you are doing.

Because she has only been with you since Sunday, the pattern of departures and arrivals hasn't been set with her yet, so the normal "ritual" that I prescribe for separation anxiety most likely won't work. That said, there are many things you can do to make this process go a little faster.

1) Take her out for a good strong tiring walk before you leave the house.
2) Don't fuss about leaving, just leave.
3) Don't fuss when you come home, just walk in the door (if she's in a crate let her out), ignore Maddie completely for at least 5 minutes. Come in, put your purse down, listen to your messages, turn on your computer, whatever, but don't greet Maddie yet. When she looks like she is bored with your arrival, that's when you pay attention to her. Make this greeting of a calm dog really happy and exciting for her.
4) get her some mentalling challenging toys - a busy ball, a kong, treat puzzles and chew toys. Rotate her toys every day, don't let her get bored with them. Have enough toys that you can rotate every day for at least 4 days before repeating a toy.
5) Now take her for another walk or play fetch or tug or with a flirt pole (for her size you can use one of the cat toys which is a pole and string with a fuzzy thing tied on the end for her to chase and "kill").

Dogs love an ordered existence. If you do this every day, where she can count on things happening regularly, it will speed up the process.

Trust is built with a dog through play and shared outings - just like in the wild, they play and rest together and then go hunting. Tiny Tyrants (Thursday nights at 6) group class would be a great place for her to be. She would get the socialization she needs and learn some new things with you, the person who is going to be the center of her life. The class, even though it's for reactive dogs, will help any dog that has issues, no matter what they are. The class teaches three main important things 1) calm 2) that the answer to all questions is look at mommy and 3) how to communicate both with other dogs and the human world.

I don't actually teach obedience, but sit, down, stay, wait, leave it, give it, take it, drop it and other "tricks" are part of the curriculum as a step in learning a calming or coping exercise.

Response: Thank you SO very much for your fantastic advice! I am feeling so reassured by your email that I am on the right track with creating less anxiety for Maddie. I need to work on #3 big time and I am definitely not doing that just yet. Thank you so much, I learned quite a bit just from your response! I would love to continue to learn from you and sign up for a series of one of group classes. Any recommendations of which one would be best?

MANY thanks!!

NOTE: Maddie joined Tiny Tyrants and is doing wonderful !!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ask the Trainer - Bailey, 9mo old Chihuahua

Question: We just got Bailey yesterday and he is very responsive and loving to my wife but is very mistrustful of me. He even sort of bit me( he did not break the skin. It was more a warning). He may have had difficulties with a male but I do not know. We really want this to work for him and us but somehow I need to gain his trust. PLEASE HELP.

Answer: Start hand feeding him - litterally feeding him from your hand. Every meal. Bailey gets no food except from your hand. During the day, throw treats near his feet for him to eat. Otherwise, just ignore him. Don't look at him, especially don't challenge him by looking him in the eyes. When you have to approach him, do it sideways the way dogs will greet each other.

Loosen up your body. Be as loose as possible when around him. Instead of being the big bad pack leader, be the moose - the prey. Think about this - dogs/wolves hunt in packs to capture the animals that are larger then they are. But they also have a great deal of respect for those large animals. They have sharp hooves and antlers. A moose, elk or caribou can stop an entire pack in mid stride just by turning around, standing tall and shaking their antlers at them.

Bailey, being small, sees you as the moose. You are huge and have hands and things that move fast at him. Slow down, loosen up and don't "confront" him. Let him make the moves - "dance" with him.

Don't ever reach for the top of his head from above him. Another lesson from the wild - your hands coming at the top of Bailey's head are like large birds with feet dangling down diving from the air to grab small to medium size animals for lunch. Come at him to pet him from under his chin. The most sensitive part of a dog's body to pet and massage is the chest.

Response: Good morning Jamie, Just as update on Bailey, our new dog. He is doing great!! After 2 days of hand feeding, he is trusting me enough to sit on my lap. He also lets me pick him up and put his leash on his collar. He is eating on his own and has become part of our family. We couldn't have done it without you. Thank you for all the great advice.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ask the Trainer - Pit and ShiTzu Meeting

Question: Hey if u can email me advice I'd appreciate it. So my bf got a male pit named Mac he's 6 months old and fairly obedient. He still plays too rough and nips a bit but he plays w a 5 and 7 year old fairly well. Sometimes rough. Well I just got an 8 year old female shihtzu named tahllulah. I slept at my bfs house and brought tahllulah but i wasn't ready to have them meet cuz my bf went to bed so mac was in the yard and I took tahllulah to potty out front. Well he was dying to (I hope just) meet her. Oh btw I loveee pits. I have raised only pits tahllulah is my 1st small dog so I don't stereotype pits as bad. I just know as w ppl dogs have their own personality and tolerance. Well he squeezed through the fence and charged at tahllulah and chased her under the truck I dk what he did under there but she cried (she's just fine tho) I got them apart and held her while he sniffed her and he got too wild so she ggave a warning growl. I separated them. I don't think he's vicious maybe it had to do w her not being altered (I just got her she was their cash cow. They bred her til she could no longer handle another litter and then gave her away. Lucky me tho :) mac is very rough with other dogs when he plays and tahllulah is a calm lap dog. Such a loyal sweetie. I dk what to do abt our dogs. I don't want to keep them separate I want them to get along but I'm afraid. Can anyone help me or give advice? Anything is appreciated

Answer: First off, the more fear you have, the more the dogs are going to react. Your emotional state is sensed by the dogs and they start trying to figure out where the danger is, and since Tallulah is the new kid on the block, Mac could target her as the problem or vice versa.

Secondly, Tallulah is older and settled in her emotional state right now. She isn't going to want much of that puppy energy from Mac. I would get Mac REALLY tired before introducing them again. Take him on a good long walk till he's so totally tired he can barely move. Then put the two dogs together. This way Tallulah can view him without all the energetic running around. Then make sure that Mac gets plenty of exercise every day so that his interactions with Tallulah are at a level she can tolerate.

Third, Mac outweighs her by a goodly amount even at 6 months. I have to watch two of my dogs with each other because one weighs 60 lbs and the other weighs 10 lbs. The big one likes to push with her paws when playing with other big dogs, but that really hurts the poor toy poodle. So again, make sure Mac is tired so that he doesn't inadvertintly hurt Tallulah.

Fourth and final, start training Mac. Teach him much more then just sit,stay,come,heel. He needs to learn leave it, give it, take it, drop it, how to focus, self control, impulse control and to always look to his owners for direction when he hasn't been taught the answer to a situation.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ask The Trainer

question: we want to get 2 puppies, my question is: is it easier to train one puppy and then add another one later or to train 2 at the same time? I have 2 young adults to help me.
answer: For two decades I adopted older dogs from rescue and trained them to live in my world and handled the behavior issues that they came with. 2 1/2 years ago, I decided that I wanted to train a dog up from puppyhood again and not have to deal with "issues". So I got a 9 week old puppy. Six months later, I got another puppy and six months after that I got yet another puppy. The youngest is now 1 1/2.

Ruth, the first puppy, got her puppy training alone. Brynda, the second puppy, got her puppy training with Ruth right next to her and Micah, the third, had two dogs helping him. I can say without qualification that it was easier to train Micah then Ruth because I had the examples of the other two showing Micah what to do. Now they are all learning different things. Ruth loves to fetch and I'm going to be getting her into flyball.

Brynda is my "therapy" dog and goes with me to assess the emotional state of troubled dogs and lets me know what they are actually thinking and emoting about. Micah is learning freestyle dance. So they are all training separately.

Right now in puppy class are a brother and sister pit bull mixes. Buddy, the male, is having a harder time learning then his sister, Coco. He learns best when she isn't there to distract him. He's still slower then Coco to pick things up, but when he gets them, he really "get's it". Last puppy class there were 5 puppies. Only one of the puppies had a hard time because of the distraction of the other puppies, but she was also the one that learned the fastest. I think she did it fast so that she could play with the other dogs, that was her "reinforcement" for doing her exercises.

So, honestly, the answer to your question is "it depends". It depends on the personalities and learning abilities of each puppy - even from the same litter. Even learning the housetraining, chewing training and other puppy manners is individual. Ruth was a no brainer, Brynda at the age of 2 still has potty problems and Micah hasn't yet learned to lift his leg like normal male dogs but he rarely had accidents in the house. Neither Ruth nor Brynda chewed inappropriately, but Micah ruined a few socks, pillows and slippers before he understood that he wasn't to chew things just because they smelled like me.

However, as far as time and the impulse to pull your hair out by the roots - get them together. Then you only have to supervise them for 4 months and it's done - I slaved for 18 months till they were all adult enough that I could leave them alone without crating them. You also can generally get into a puppy class with one at half price.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Aggression Revisited

Back in February, I wrote a blog post called When Is It Actually Aggression. This post was based on an actual evaluation that I did. They did hire me based on just my ability to control the dogs during that evaluation. For the next 3 months, I worked with this family trying to resolve the issues.

In my original assessment I diagnosed the problem as boredom, lack of leadership and trying to have two different packs in the same house without melding them. I discovered over the next weeks that I was completely correct in my assessment. There was NO leadership, no direction, no consistency and no communication. But this didn't just affect the dogs. I discovered that Mom and the Scotties didn't actually live there and that she hadn't lived there for 5 years. The Scotties were dropped off there every day for Dad to babysit along with the other three dogs. I also discovered that Dad did nothing but work all day and totally ignored the dogs except when they needed to be rotated from room to room so every one had a chance to do their business outside. Yet, Boone was purportedly his dog. There was no communication between the humans either. They kept secrets from each other, blamed each other for every thing that happened and were pretty disfunctional.

For the next two weeks, I worked with Peggy on getting her two dogs (Lucy and Zed) to understand that she was now the one in charge, getting them focused on her so that they would take direction from her, and trying to get the dogs out of their rooms for physical and mental stimulation at least an hour every day. In that two weeks I received at least two phone calls or texts from Peggy daily explaining how the dogs were still acting up and excuses as to why she hadn't take them for a walk or set up the obstacle course in the backyard. On the third session, I asked Peggy why her Mom wasn't there sometimes to help. That was when I found out that not only did Mom not live there, but that Lucy was actually Mom's dog originally. When Mom left, Lucy was given to Peggy's sister who she adored. Then the sister went off to live her own life leaving Lucy behind for Peggy to take care of. That was when the fighting started.

I also learned on week three that Peggy had hired a trainer two years before who hadn't accomplished anything and according to Peggy, the fighting escalated because of what the trainer did. The next night I got a frantic voice mail from Peggy. The dogs had gotten in another fight. Dad had miscalculated when rotating the dogs and Lucy and Zed had been left in a room together. I spent the next three weeks - free of charge - at Peggy's house every other day working with her and the dogs. I purchased out of my own pocket, muzzles for the dogs so that even if they got in a fight they couldn't hurt each other badly. I bought several books on aggression that I hadn't read before, re-read a few that I had, trying to find a solution for these dogs. Peggy in the meantime wasn't doing anything unless I was there. She refused to work with the dogs because she was afraid of them. She still wouldn't take them for walks and asking for help from Mom, Dad or sister was not an option. I was beginning to despair.

Then all of a sudden I started getting rave reports from Peggy. The dogs did this and the dogs did that - all good, getting better every day. So I relaxed and started steering her in the original direction of exercise and mental stimulation. Things were progressing. She and Dad started bringing the three dogs to behavior class on Saturday morning. I worked with her at her house three more weeks which ended the original contract. Peggy said she wanted to continue for a few weeks working with the dogs before buying more hours. All fine and good.

Then nothing from her. Absolutely nothing for two months. Then a text message about how Lucy is now attacking the young boy Boone for no apparent reason. I asked her to write it all up for me, all the details and then I'd call her and set up a meeting so we could work on another program. She never got the write up to me and then yesterday she asked me for a refund.

I think one of the greatest challenges for all of us as dog professionals is that on a daily basis we have to work with other people’s limitations. For the most part, we succeed. People change their lives and their dog's lives for the better. But there are always a few people who challenge our patience, our mission, and their own ability to grow and evolve. And in the end, they make us better trainers.

Limitations are OK. We are all human. But there is nothing worse than a situation where a client attempts to make a case for their negative attributes instead of figuring out how they are going to do the work. This case is the perfect example: “Well, it’s difficult for me to work with my dog every day because it’s only me and I work full time and go to school and I have to have a life too, and it just seems like a waste of time. Can't you just fix the dog right now?”

I don’t care that you’re not perfect and neither does your dog. Neither am I. Ask almost anyone. The only thing I or any trainer will ask from you is that you make a committment to yourself and your dog and not expect your trainer to wave a magic wand. That you bring a sense of trust both for your trainer and for the spirit of the work you do together. That you follow through until the end in helping your dog be the best s/he can be.

The story of Peggy, Lucy, Zed and Boone is sad. She says she has hired more trainers since the frantic text message about Lucy attacking Boone. I wonder if these new trainers are going to have to get out the pliers as I did and pull the teeth of the truth from Peggy one tiny piece at a time. Maybe someday, I'll see a blog post about Peggy and the dogs from some other trainer and how this time tried and true methods just didn't seem to work.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clueless: A Dog Park Tail

Generally I don't have to deal with people who think they know everything there is to know about dogs. The people whom I work with one-on-one and at behavior and puppy classes are there because they know they have things to learn. The dog park, however, is a different scenario. Although I tend to go very early in the morning (5;30 to 7:00am), by 6:30 others start showing up.

Most of the people and dogs that come to the dog park at that time of morning are wonderful. The dogs are mostly balanced and just want to play and run around with their friends. Every once in a while, someone new shows up with a dog that has never been to a dog park before and has minimal socialization in other settings. We either integrate them quickly into the pack, or the owner and dog leave in a hurry, the owner embarrased by the inappropriate actions of his/her dog.

This morning I had a totally different type of human to deal with. This person and his "friend" have been coming for the last week or so with their two small old dogs (pug and peke or shih tzu mix). This person, whom I will call Bob, tries to get all the other dogs in the park to come and interact with him. His rational is that all dogs love him. Bob tries to prove this by chasing the dogs down and then holding them while trying to get them to accept his petting.

My Husky mix Ruth was having no part of Bob and let him know it. The first day he persisted until Ruth growled at him and then ignored him to chase her ball. Brynda licked him in the face a couple of times, but mostly just stayed away despite his efforts to encourage her to jump up at his face and lick it. Micah won't even acknowledge that Bob exists. Even Jake, who loves men and thinks they should all be his bosom buddies, doesn't like Bob and stays away. Today I noticed that none of the regulars would go near Bob either and made wide detours around him as they raced madly about the park.

But does Bob notice this? Does he pay attention to his own dog? The answer to both questions is a resounding no.

This morning Bob decided that he was going to entice what to him was a new dog in the park. Stanley however isn't new to the park, he just doesn't come often. Stanely is one of "my" dogs (he took behavior class) and he and his owners actually live within two blocks of Deena and I and have become good friends.

I don't actually know what actions Bob took before I noticed what was happening - I was paying attention to Brynda and Micah running with Bandit and watching Ruth share her ball with Brownie. When I did notice, what I saw was Stanley, foaming at the mouth, frozen to the spot he was standing on, whale eyed and "huffing" at something. Stanley was more stressed then I'd ever seen him in the six months I'd known him and his owners. Normally, Stanley is a very friendly, mild-mannered dog. He came to behavior class because of hyperactivity which no longer exists. He is however, slightly shy around strange men.

I looked along Stanley's line of site to see Bob. Bob was stalking Stanley, his arms and hands out in an "I'm going to capture you" position, barking at Stanley and staring at him straight in the eyes. I took immediate action and yelled "HEY!!! Stop that right now". Bob yelled back at me "NO, I'M PLAYING WITH HIM LEAVE ME ALONE". Well that devolved fast into a shouting match, but at least I got his attention off Stanley and his owner distracted him with a ball.

At the end of the shouting match, where I accused him of abusing Stanley and he insisted that dogs need to be played with and me saying that staring at a dog straight in the eyes is NOT an invitation to play, Bob decided that he wasn't going to win the argument. He started parroting back to me exactly what I was saying to him. His final parting words, shouted as loud as he could shout, before I just threw my hands in the air and walked away was "No wonder you're single".

Where the heck did that come from? What does my relationship status have to do with how to interact with a dog?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Barking and Territorial Behavior - or Why Dogs Bite Men in Uniforms

Many owners have problems with their dog or dogs barking incessantly throughout the day whenever anyone goes past the window or walks past the house or when the mailman delivers the mail.

Dogs that bark are demonstrating territorial behavior, which is a warning for the intruder to keep away. This is an area where dogs either look for leadership or assert their leadership. Pack animals are territorial creatures. Your dog, being a pack animal, instinctively understands territorial behavior. This is why many dogs react so aggressively when someone passes by or enters your home. Your dog considers your home as his den. A pack leader's role is to protect the pack at all costs and a dog that has assumed this position takes these responsibilities very seriously.

When people visit, dogs often become very excitable and go running to the door barking while the owner is trying to keep hold of the collar and open the door at the same time. A dog that goes to the door and is involved in deciding who is allowed into the den has been given the role of pack leader by the humans in the home. If the person at the door comes in, even though the dog has said "no", then the dog will resort to biting to affirm his decision.

With small dogs, owners will often lift the dog in their arms to contain him. Lifting a small dog up in your arms gives the dog height. To a dog, the one who is highest (not tallest, just on the highest ground) is the dominant one in the pack. You can see this often at a dog park where in greeting a new dog, one dog will attempt to put his head on the shoulders of the other dog, thereby saying "I'm higher ranked in this pack then you are".

It is not your dog's role to answer the door. A good way of reinforcing this message is for you to claim the door as yours, putting down an imaginary boundary of where he is allowed to go and no farther. The moment your dog goes to move forward you must block him by using body language. Stand up as straight as you can, put your hands on your hips (makes you look bigger to your dog), take a step toward him and say "hey" firmly and confidently. It doesn't have to be loud, there is no need to yell. You can use whatever sound you wish, but I suggest that you don't use "no" as you've probably used it so many times without backing it up that the dog thinks it's just meaningless barking.

Another method is desensitizing the dog to people coming to the door. Put your dog on the lead and have someone knock on the door. The moment your dog lunges forward or barks, take him calmly and assertively in the opposite direction while the other person opens the door. This is a very effective way of demoting your dog and alleviating him of the stress of being in charge. Wait until your dog is calm before having your helper knock on the door again and you will soon notice that with every repeated knock, your dog becomes more and more relaxed. When he realizes it is not his decision to allow people into the home, he will look to you to see what you want him to do when someone knocks.

It is very important that whoever comes into the house pays absolutely NO attention to the dog until he is totally calm and settled somewhere in the house. It's even more important for YOU to remain calm and assertive throughout the retraining or desensitization process. Your dog will sense your emotions and attitude and respond accordingly. You being calm, reassures your dog that there is nothing wrong. If you shout at your dog or say something in an anxious tone, you will be confirming to the dog that there is potential danger.

Once you have achieved the required response, other than needing an occasional reminder, your dog will be unaffected when someone comes to the door.

My Dog Is Friendly - Really !!

My Dog is Friendly

How many of you have heard someone say this as their off leash dog comes running up to you and your dogs on a walk? Better yet, for those of you who like the dog park, how many times have your heard "She just wants to play" or "That's how he plays" while your dog is frantically looking for a place to hide.

Most of you have probably learned the lesson about how well people know and can control their own dogs the hard way. Lots of people take the chance but I won't anymore. I decide what dogs my three interact with if for no other reason then that a lot of people just don't understand the role of a responsible dog owner. They're not bad people, but it's impossible to tell who has or hasn't learned about dogs in general or their own dog in particular.

So what do we do in situations like this?

First, protect your dog. If she is on a leash, put her behind you, stand up as tall as you can and GLARE at the oncoming dog. Put your hand out in front of you like a policeman does while directing traffic. Make sure you tell the oncoming owner that you are not happy with the way his dog is approaching and that you will do everything you need to to prevent harm to yourself and your dog. Don't be shy, be assertive. If the other person is clueless about their dog, do you really care if you make them a friend or not?

By putting your dog behind you, you are accomplishing three things:

  • 1) You are getting your dog out of harms way

  • 2) You are telling your dog not to engage with the oncoming dog and

  • 3) You are telling your dog that it isn't her job to decide whether to greet a new dog or not.

  • Second, protect yourself. Carry a walking stick, a golf umbrella or even a baseball bat. I prefer a walking stick, although my ChuckIt (or as a friend calls it - the orange stick of death) will deter most approaching dogs. If a dog is approaching you off-leash in a super excited or menacing manner, don't worry about what the owner is going to think when you brandish your "weapon". The law says dogs need to be leashed and 99.99% of the time you only have to wave the "weapon" and not use it..

    What do you do in the dog park?

    First, learn canine communication signals. Know when the play is getting too rough or your dog is frightened or otherwise put-off by the "play" of another dog. Break things up before they escalate and leave the park if the other dog's owner is oblivous to what is happening or is making excuses as to why his dog is doing these crazy things. Owners sitting on the sidelines not watching their dogs are disasters waiting to happen.

    Second, keep your eyes on your dog. I know it's not good human manners to talk to people without looking at them, but the safety of your dog and yourself can depend on you being somewhat rude. In addtion to keeping your eyes on your dog, stay as close to her as you can. Don't sit on the sidelines watching from a distance.

    Third, make sure you and your dog enter the park in a calm manner. No rushing in or jumping around. This will signal to all the other dogs that you and your dog are no threat. At the same time, assess the other dogs that are already in the dog park. Watch how they are playing or not and how intense the activity is. The more excited and intense the activity at the park is, the greater the chance it will escalate into an altercation.

    Fourth, no matter what happens, stay calm. You can't help if you are standing there screaming or wringing your hands or running around chasing fighting dogs. Dogs have four legs and can run circles around us poor limited humans. Wait for an opening and then grab whatever you can get and toss it. Grab hair, a tail, a leg, whatever. Get in fast and then toss whatever you caught. Don't hang on waiting to get bitten.

    Fifth, teach your dog to "check in" with you every 5 minutes or so. That way, if she does get in trouble, the first place she'll go to is you.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Action VS Reaction

    It is easy to spend your time reacting to your dog's unwanted behavior. For Example...

    •Yelling "No!" after he has tipped over the trash
    •Calling "Come here, boy" after he sprints out the door
    •Commanding "Off, off, off" after the dog's paws are up around your shoulders After is too late.
    You need to anticipate your dog's behavior and take action accordingly. Your puppy is predictable. You know that he will jump on guests, pull you out the door and try to steal the cat food. This is not news. That being the case, why not make a plan for success?

    Set up the situation, leave the lead on the dog, and teach him. Use body blocking to prevent jumping or racing out the door. Work on sit as the answer for almost everything! As your guest enters, command "Sit." As you reach for the doorknob, tell them "Wait." As he turns his head toward the cat food, issue a no-nonsense "Leave it" then back away, help him get it right then throw a puppy praise party! Always praise/reward lavishly when he complies.

    Are you part of the problem?

    Before you blame your dog for his behavior, take a close look at your own. What he learns is up to you. How he behaves is up to you. If you want him to change his behavior, you will have to change yours first. Over the years, I have noticed a few common mistakes people make with their dogs. These mistakes often lead to problem behavior. Let's look at some of these before we start trying to work with the dog. Have you:

    Been over emotional?

    I remind clients all the time to relax. Housebreaking mistakes or jumping up may be annoying but they aren't felonies. Take a breath. To teach you need to be calm, relaxed, enthused and clear. If you're not, don't expect the dog to respond the way you want. Yelling, screaming, and hitting are not helpful. They invariably make matters worse, adding new problems to the list you already have. Dogs may respond temporarily out of surprise, intimidation or fear, but they have not been taught exactly what you want so they will make the mistake again.

    Been inconsistent?

    How can you expect consistency from your dog, if you can't get it from yourself? Are you consistent about your word usage or are you a bit casual? Maybe giving the command "sit" one time, "sit down" the next? How about your expectations? You say sit and he lies down but you let it slide? How about your praise? When he grabs his leash and tugs on Saturday morning you laugh but when he does it on Monday morning you get annoyed? Do you praise your dog when he does listen? Your dog will never know what you want without praise. Decide which behaviors you want and which you don't want and then stick to that decision. If you do your part, he'll do his.

    Been exercising him enough?

    If your dog is behaving poorly, up his exercise. This is especially true for Sporting, Terrier and Nordic breeds and mixes (Nordic includes the sled dogs: Huskies, Malamutes, Samoyeds). Many dogs need an hour or more of hard running a day to behave like civilized pets.

    Been complaining more than practicing?

    It's easy to complain about your dog. It is much harder to take action. Training is not magic. It takes work. Dog training is wonderful. Work effectively with the dog and he'll improve. If you're working frequently but not seeing the desired results, question your methods, not your dogs abilities.

    Misinterpretting his actions?

    Be absolutely sure you understand why he is doing something before you try to change his behavior. Once I walked into a home and the unneutered male Yorkie immediately clamped onto my leg, humping madly. The owner cooed "Oh, isn't that sweet? He's hugging you." This is not an affectionate gesture. It is an extremely assertive act, especially to a stranger, and points to serious aggression present or brewing.

    Here are some behaviors that are commonly misinterpretted.

    •Submissive wetting
    Dog means: So sorry. Owner thinks: "Spiteful!"

    Dog means: Back off. Owner thinks: "He's talking" or "He doesn't really mean it."

    •Pulling on lead
    Dog means: Let me get away from this choking feeling. Owner thinks: "He must be stupid if he's choking himself like that."

    •Chewing you favorite pair of shoes
    Dog means: I'm frightened. This smells good, like my owner. Owner thinks: "He's getting me back for leaving him "alone."

    Repeating Yourself?

    If you repeat commands, you are begging to be ignored. Obedience on the first command is not optional. It may save his life and it will certainly simplify yours. Give the command once. Enforce it immediately. Praise him right away.


    If you are bored, surely your dog will be. You set the tone for your dog. Having fun is not just a nice idea, it's necessary. Praise him, surprise him, enjoy yourself! Both dogs and people learn quickly when the teaching is fun!

    Have Patience

    “Patience” is really the difference between our expectations and the dog’s current understanding. When those two things are aligned, there is no “patience” involved. It’s just learning and having the pleasure of helping another being figure something out. It feels alive and connected, not “patient” at all.

    Not that patience is a bad thing, certainly not, we all need it at times. But when you are in the moment with an animal you’re working with, “patience” isn’t even present, you’re someplace beyond it.

    It is the same whenever we are involved with what we love. If you’re a musician, artist, writer or athlete lost in the love of your craft or sport, you aren’t “patient,” you are simply doing and being at the same moment. Being lost in the process feels so profoundly good, so deeply nourishing that you are not outside of it, judging it or tapping your toes for it to hurry up. You’re just in it and happy to be there.

    1. Accept that your dog is doing exactly what he understands to do. Which means, if he’s doing something different than you expect, try thinking, “He is confused”.

    2. Accept that your dog is trying his hardest, and if he isn’t doing things the way you’d like them done, think “I need to help him,” not that he is stubborn or defiant.

    3. Ask yourself, “How can I help him understand what I want?” And then make things easier until you find out where he is confused. Reward his best choices and you will get better ones in the future.

    Do those three things and I bet you’ll be “beyond patience” in no time!