Is Your Dog Trying To Be The Alpha? Doubt It!

Unfortunately many trainers still believe in the dominance/alpha theory. This is harmful because it prevents owners from understanding what their dog is actually trying to tell them.

This “dogs are wolves” theory started in the late 1960s. The underlying meaning is that because dogs and wolves are the same species, they must behave the same way. A man by the name of David Mech trapped several wolves and put them all in a pen to observe them. He came to the conclusion that wolves “pack” and “dominate” each other, therefore dogs must do the same, right? Wrong.

wolves

As science advanced, Mech continued his research but started to observe wolves in their natural habitat. He came to a much different conclusion, the model of the wolf’s supposed “fight for dominance and alpha status” was replaced with one where parents and older siblings guide and lead the younger ones. Now, Mech has written and edited many books on this subject stating why his earlier observations were misinformed and explaining his observations of packs in the wild.

Since that time, studies of the domestic dog have also moved on. It has been well established that the social behavior of the domestic dog is not the same as a wolf. Humans have been breeding dogs for thousands of years to not only work for them, but to be companions. These adaptations have removed the need for them to operate as their wild ancestors. Although dogs do congregate in groups around resources, they do not form packs in the cohesive family way that wolves still do.

The concept of “dominance” itself has never been a quality of an individual, but the product of a relationship. In fact, the relationship of the pet dog to human, is much more complicated than to just label it as one trying to “dominate” the other. Dogs do certain things because they are getting some sort of positive reward from it. They jump on the counter because they find food, not because they are trying to show you that they are “alpha” and can do whatever they want, they bite people because they are scared and people misread or ignored their warning signs.

person-and-dog

Dog training has come a long way scientifically and to continue to label so many issues as “dominant” and “alpha” is doing a disservice to the dog and owner. So get some treats, and start rewarding for the behavior you want and you will in turn, have a great partnership for many years to come!

Interested in leaning more? Check out this great article here!

DNA Results Are In!

I finally sent in Kali and Nanu’s DNA tests and got the results just over a week later. I know many people are skeptical but I believe that they have some merit to them (as it is the same or very similar technology to a human DNA test). You can also purchase the tests from a variety of dog rescues for $10 so buying is contributing to a good cause.

Kali and Nanu

Kali and Nanu

How it works:

Every dog has it’s own unique DNA. The test itself is an easy cheek swab, and then you send it in and they look for DNA matches in their extensive database of dog breeds. DNA my dog claims that they match every breed that is found in your dog. Yep, it is THAT simple!

Once you receive your results, each breed match is categorized into a level. These levels indicate how prominent each breed match is in your dog’s DNA.

  • Level 1 This category recognizes when a dog’s DNA contains a majority of one specific breed (75% or greater). A dog will only report with a Level 1 breed if they have a high percentage match to a single breed in their DNA. Most mixed breed dogs will not usually have a breed in this category unless one or both of their parents are purebred.
  • Level 2 This category reports breeds that may be easily recognizable in your dog. Each breed listed makes up between 37%-74% of your dog’s breeds. Dogs with a large mixed ancestry will not normally have breeds reporting at this level.
  • Level 3 This category identifies breeds that have between 20%-36% of the listed breed(s).
  • Level 4 This category represents 10%-20% of the breed DNA. Dogs with large mixes may have a number of breeds in this category.
  • Level 5 This category represents the lowest level of breed in your dog occurring at 9% or less. These breeds still appear at a low and measurable amount in your pet’s DNA and were likely carried over from several generations.

Results!

Kali was listed as a Husky Boxer mix, and we thought that her more prominent breeds would be Husky and Lab.

IMG_1656[1]

Her Results:

  • Level 2: Alaskan Malamute
  • Level 4: Cocker Spaniel
  • Level 4: Schnauzer

Nanu was listed as a Shepherd mix, and we believed her prominent breeds to be Shepherd, Collie, and maybe some Rottweiler.

Nanu5

Her results:

  • Level 3: Miniature Pinscher – We were BLOWN away by this!
  • Level 4: Boxer
  • Level 4: Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Level 4: Rottweiler
  • Level 4: Siberian Husky

Have you gotten your dog’s DNA results? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments below!

Project 48: 48 Dogs in 48 Hours

As most of you probably already know, I am DREAM‘s Spay/Neuter Program Coordinator. We were approached by Sagkeeng Spay Neuter Initiative Program (SSNIP) at the beginning of September asking us to partner with them on running the largest mobile spay/neuter clinic in Manitoba and we jumped on the opportunity. The two most important initiatives of DREAM are spay/neuter programs to help control the animal overpopulation problem, and education programs in schools in Winnipeg as well as the remote communities.

project48poster-231x300

Project 48 is happening this coming weekend, September 28/29, 2013. We are “fixing” 48 dogs in 48 hours and vaccinating and deworming as many as we can.  Vetting services will be provided by Dr. Keri Rydell’s Mobile Clinic and we will be bringing a group of dedicated volunteers to help out with the recovery and rounding up of stray dogs in the community. Many of the dogs we will be altering will be owned dogs, however we will also be spaying and neutering as many strays as we can coordinate rescue spots for.

Why is heartworm important?
Parasites or worms, live in a dog’s stomach and intestines. They will cause a dog to lose weight and have a bloated belly. Your dog will eat a lot of food, and never gain enough weight if she has worms. Deworming medication is inexpensive and will get rid of the parasites in your dog, saving you lots of money on dog food.

Why is vaccinating important?
Vaccines are something we give our dogs with a needle to keep them from getting sick with diseases like Parvovirus (like a very bad stomach flu that kills most puppies that get it). Vaccines are not expensive, but treating your dog for the diseases will prevent treating them at a vet, which is very costly.

Why is spay/neuter so important?
Spaying your female will help her live a much longer, happier life because she will not be constantly caring for puppies and needing lots of extra food to keep them healthy. It will also prevent big groups of male dogs from coming around your home when your female is in heat, which can be dangerous for your family.
Neutering your male dog will keep him from siring puppies. It will also make him less likely to wander away from home, and he may be less aggressive or territorial. He will not get into as many fights with other male dogs and will not chase females in heat anymore. In Manitoba, the majority of dog bites are from intact males.

If you are interested in learning more about this project please go to http://dreamrescue.ca/project48/. If you would like to donate please go to http://www.spaynneuterinitiativeprogram.com/donations.html.

Have you helped out at any spay/neuter clinics? Let me know your experiences in the comments below!

Introducing a New Dog into Your Home

Hello!

I have had a few fosters and adopters contact me recently about how they should introduce a new dog into their home, so I thought I would write about it today. Introducing a new dog into your home is a very important part of adopting or fostering. First and foremost, the meeting between the new dog and your current pets is critical.

If you are adopting a dog, you want to take both yours and the other dog to a neutral place, on leash, to meet each other. If you are fostering you probably won’t have this luxury so make sure that they are meeting outside on leash.

Greeting

Tips for Leash Meetings

  • Calmly walk the dogs towards each other, don’t let them pull to get there, try and calm them with some redirecting and treats before they can sniff one another
  • Let them meet for 3 seconds (1 alligator, 2 alligator, 3) and walk them apart (no matter what) and distract each dog, if this meeting goes well you can let them extend their greeting to a good sniff. Here is a more in depth article about the 3 second rule: http://www.thrivingcanine.com/letting_dogs_meet_the_three_second_rule
  • REMEMBER: Make sure to be holding the leash so the dogs cannot get tangled together, that can put a lot of stress on dogs who have never met before. You also want to make sure that both dogs have an escape route, this is very important inside, you do not want your dog or the foster to be trapped in a corner or back of a room.
  • Once you feel confident that the dogs will get along, you can take the leash off, but you may have to do this for a couple of days before that happens. It all depends on both dogs body language, loose, wiggly body, ears loose, tail wagging, play bowing, etc. Sometimes I will keep my foster’s leash on for the first few days, just in case I need to redirect them outside if house training is involved, or if they are having a hard time coming and going through the door.

If your dog is having some issues with the new one, set some boundaries for your foster, like no going up on the couch, their dog bed, your bed, (depending what your house rules are of course), or sharing their toys. This will make your dog feel more secure knowing that you are not just letting this unknown dog in to take up all of their space. You may have to keep their meetings to  a minimum at the beginning if they are not getting along. You can either keep your foster in a separate room, or behind a barrier of some kind (like a baby gate). Having them in the same room but behind a gate is good because then your dog and the foster can still sniff and get used to each other without it being too much.

A good friend of mine is an AMAZING whelping foster, meaning that she takes in pregnant dogs and helps them through their pregnancy, birth, and care of mom and pups afterwards. She said that it always helps to bath the dog before having them meet her pack because then her dogs have something to recognize. Dogs have an amazing sense of smell so having the new dog smell as similar to your pack as possible, will definitely help the transition process.

Wish, available for adoption through Earthdog Terrier Rescue of Manitoba

Wish, available for adoption through Earthdog Terrier Rescue of Manitoba

What not to do

  • Never introduce your dogs off leash
  • Never introduce them in a small area inside with no escape routes
  • If you get a very timid or scared dog, don’t introduce them right away, Let them get settled in their own space and then you can start the intros.
  • Do not introduce your entire pack at once, do one dog at a time

Are you a foster or an adopter? What has worked for you in the past? Let me know in the comments below!

Why Punishment Fails in Dog Training

As you all know, I am a Positive Reinforcement Dog Trainer, and am against any use of physical or verbal punishment. Scientific studies have proven that punishment fails in dog training, and here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • The use of punishment is training your dog what NOT to do, while using positive reinforcement trains the dog what TO do, therefore less training steps.
  • Punishment can suppress certain behaviors, such as growling or baring teeth. These signs are important to know when your dog is feeling uncomfortable, so you can remove them from the situation. If your dog is being punished for these behaviors, they may skip the warning signs and go straight to biting or attacking. I never reward for growling or baring teeth, I  only do for calm behavior, however they do not get punished for doing so. I choose to redirect that behavior so that they offer me something like eye contact, making them choose to do that over growling or baring teeth.
  • Dogs feed off of our emotions. Punishment is giving off a negative and frustrating emotion, making your dog feel that way too. You want your dog to enjoy training and to WANT to do things to please you, rather than being afraid to do something to displease you.

joey-3

  • If your timing is off, you will confuse your dog as to what behavior you are punishing. This can give your dog fear aggression when they do not know what they are doing wrong. Imagine if we were walking down the street and every time a blue car drove by I kicked you, but a couple times I kicked late while a different car is driving by. You are going to be paranoid the entire time we are walking that I am going to kick you.
  • You want training to be fun for your dog so they want to do the things you ask. If you are constantly punishing, your dog will eventually give up because they aren’t sure what you actually want them to do.
  • Using punishment can sometimes be reinforcing the behavior. For example, when a dog jumps up they are looking for attention, therefore verbal punishment and pushing can seem like play.
  • When using punishment, you need to be punishing the behavior EVERY TIME it occurs or else they are self rewarding. When you use positive reinforcement, you are teaching the dog to choose the right behavior on their own.

So next time you think you are taking the easy way out by using a verbal or physical punishment, think how it is really going to affect your dog. In the long run, don’t you think it is best to train your dog the right behavior from the beginning? You want to have a positive relationship with your dog, not one where they listen to you out of fear.

What training methods have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Resource Guarding – Part 2

Hi everyone!

I will write about some alternate forms of resource guarding today, focusing on food. Resource guarding is a normal behavior for a dog, especially if they grew up in a situation where they had to fight for their possessions. This behavior can range from relatively tame behavior, like running away with a coveted item or growling at an approaching person, to full-blown aggression, such as biting or chasing a person away. Some dogs will only direct their guarding at certain people while others will do it with everyone. They also can have a number of different items that they guard such as, food, kennel or dog bed, toys, bones, socks, etc.

Many times, if a dog only guards their food, owners will not try to alter their behavior, they will just “leave him alone” at meal time. This is a fine solution while the dog is at home during a typical evening, but what happens if you go on a holiday and leave the dog with your friends who have a young child, or when you have guests over that don’t know your dog’s feeding habits? During this process you dog’s body language is very important. If he is very stiff, staring, panting, yawning, growling intensely, and you think he may bite, please consult a professional in your area to come over and do an in home assessment. To better understand your dog’s body language, make note of their body movements, tail, eyes, and ears, while you know they are comfortable, then when something changes you will be better equipped to notice.

Boogie DOGGIE LANGUAGE - Imgur

The method used for resource guarding is desensitizing and counterconditioning, which are quite complex so this exercise will take a bit of time and dedication but will be well worth it in the end.

Changing Your Dog’s Behavior:

  • To begin, you will stand a few feet away from your dog while their dry kibble is on the floor. Use a cue like “That looks good” or whatever you want, and at the same time toss a piece of chicken, or other high value treat to them (use a treat that he only gets during this exercise). Continue to do this every few seconds until your dog is finished. Repeat this step for a few days. REMEMBER, if your dog moves close to you to get a treat, just ignore them until they go back to eating.
  • Now, take a step forward, use your verbal cue, toss a treat, and step back. Do this for a few days until the dog is getting more comfortable and move onto step 3.
  • Take a step to be standing right beside your dog, use the verbal cue, drop the treat directly into their bowl, and step away. Again, do this for few days until he is visually comfortable and move on!
  • Repeat the above step, but bend down closer to your dog’s bowl to drop in the treat. Continue to do this and as the dog gets more comfortable, keep inching down until you are placing the treat into the bowl.
  • Now, continue to bend down, touch his bowl, and give him the treat from the other hand. Do this for a few meals and then you can move onto picking the bowl off the ground while treating with your other hand and placing it back down.

If your dog is getting the steps very quickly then you can adjust as you feel the need to, however make sure not to rush through this, you do not want your dog to feel threatened at any point in time. You may even need to have everyone in your family go through the steps individually for the dog to get comfortable with each person.

You can apply this exercise to anything that the dog is guarding, the steps remain the same but the area will change. Is your dog a resource guarder? What did you do to adjust their behavior? Let me know in the comments below!

MUR Adoptable – Josie

Hi friends!

I wanted to share about another beautiful adoptable from Manitoba Underdogs Rescue who has a soft spot in my heart, Josie. If it were up to me, I’d be adding Josie to my pack. Unfortunately my partner is at his dog limit (for now) so I have to settle for co-fostering Josie and helping with her training.

Josie before - note her body is very stiff, her head is down, and her ears are back

Josie before – note her body is very stiff, her head is down, and her ears are back

Before coming into care, Josie was living as a stray in a remote Manitoban community. She was terrified of people and we couldn’t get anywhere near her to catch her, so we had to use a humane trap. Upon arriving to the “big city”, Josie stayed at my house for a few days. I had a “safe place” set up for her including a crate, blanket, food, and water. Crating a dog has a bad rap for being “cruel”, but in reality, dogs need a safe place that is always available for them if they are feeling anxious, nervous, have a special bone to chew, or need to take a nap, most dogs love having a crate.

After an initial behavioral assessment, I determined that there wasn’t a mean bone in Josie’s body, she was just extremely afraid; understandably, as it was her first time in a car, crate and house. You never want to force a fearful dog to do anything, either lure them with treats or wait them out. With Josie, I wanted to take her outside, so I started with offering her food and water, then experimented with some other snacks. During this process I did not give any eye contact, I sat a fair distance away where she didn’t have to walk right to me to leave the room, and I had my side facing her. Body language, both yours and the dog’s, are very important when working with dogs like Josie. Turned out, Josie was a big fan of hot dog buns so I left a little trail of crumbs and eventually she came out of the kennel and off we went into the backyard.

At this point, Josie was a flight risk so even though I have a fully fenced yard, I kept her on leash at all times, even inside the house. Once outside, it was a bit of a challenge to get her back inside. I left a trail of treats going inside the door and turned my back as to not intimidate her, eventually we made it back in, and she bee lined straight for her kennel. That was what we did for the next few days, going out and back in, which got increasingly quicker each time. By the second day, she would even stop to check out the house before heading back to her crate!

It turns out that Josie LOVES other dogs, and her foster sisters have been great influences on her! Dogs can be the best teachers, or the worst, depending on their habits. Josie now walks right inside with my girls because she learned from them that it is safe to walk past me when I open the door. They also taught her to walk on the leash and that it is a fun activity rather than an intimidating, scary one.

Josie fitting right in with my girls at their favorite lookout spot!

Josie fitting right in with my girls at their favorite lookout spot!

Josie has now been in care for just over three months. I continue to work with Josie, getting her used to different items and experiences, like the collar and leash, and checking out new environments. Josie now walks right into my yard with confidence and molds right in with my pack. We even have her coming on our walks and greeting people at the door. Needless to say, when Josie finds that perfect family, she will also come with a couple of humans who will need some visitation rights!

Josie after - note her body language, ears perked, loose body, head and tail up

Josie after – note her body language, ears perked, loose body, head and tail up

Interested in adopting this sweet girl? Check out www.manitobaunderdogs.org/ for more information!

Hope this blog is helpful for those who ever need to work with timid/semi-feral animals. If you’ve had your fair share working with timid/semi-feral animals, I’d love to hear what steps you took to help them transition to life as a pet!

MUR Adoptable – Abby – Separation Anxiety

Hi Friends!

Today I am going to introduce another dog, Abby, that I worked with from Manitoba Underdogs Rescue. Abby suffers from separation anxiety, which is fairly common and can often result in some destruction or escaping from the home. We want the bond between us and our pets to be strong, but sometimes the dog can become too dependant on their human, which causes them stress when they are left alone.

Abby has been adopted and is fitting in great in her new home with a family willing to work through her issues!

Abby has been adopted and is fitting in great in her new home with a family willing to work through her issues!

Some common causes of separation anxiety are:

  1. Straight after a change in routine, you may be working different hours, a family member may of moved out, or you might be on vacation or off work spending more time with your dog and then return to them being home for longer periods of time.
  2. When you bring your new dog home, being in a new environment will create some anxiety until they get used to your routine and realize that it is a permanent home. It can take up to a year for your new dog to fully settle in.
  3. If your dog experiences a traumatic event while on their own, a break in, something large falling, a thunderstorm, etc.
  4. If you move to a new house or neighborhood.

Abby’s fosters/adopters had tried putting her in a kennel, but she would not settle down, so they tried containing her in a room. While in this room she broke through the screened in window and when confined again, chewed and scratched through the door. After all of this, they decided to just leave her out in the house and see what happens. She was doing much better but still scratching at the doors and windows.

After meeting with the family and observing Abby, we made an action plan. Unfortunately, depending on the severity of the anxiety, this isn’t an easy fix, it takes a lot of time and patience. We decided to kennel train her, even if not for her to stay in all day but just a safe option for her to retreat to if ever feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes confinement can make separation anxiety worse so I definitely recommend consulting a professional before making any decisions on your course of action.

Training Steps:

REMEMBER: Separation anxiety can be quite serious depending on what level your dog is at. If you are worried about the safety of your dog, or your house, please contact a Force-Free trainer in your area! During this training time, you shouldn’t leave your dog at home for long periods of time. Most people have full time jobs and can’t stay home during the day, so consider taking your dog to daycare until their anxiety starts to get better. These length of time that you dedicate to each step will vary depending on the dog. If ever your dog starts to get anxious, back up a step or two.

  • If your dog becomes nervous while you are getting ready to go out, start putting on your jacket and just staying in the house, or picking up your keys and carry them around with you inside. Go through the actions that make your dog nervous and don’t leave the house.
  • Once your dog is more comfortable with you getting ready to leave, start leaving the room (close yourself off in another) for a few seconds at a time, showing your dog that you will be coming back. REPEAT this step as much as necessary.
  • Once your dog is comfortable with the few seconds, start adding more time closed off in the room. Make sure to switch up the times as well. 2 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds, 8 seconds, 30 seconds, 15 seconds, etc…. Continue to increase the time until you can make it a few minutes.
  • Once that step is complete, start doing the same exercise but out the front and back door. Try to work your way up to 15 or 30 minutes.
  • Now it is time to actually leave! Go run a quick errand, and return. Start small with 15-30 minutes and work your way up to a couple hours. Eventually start with half a day at work and stop in at lunch to let your dog out and have a short play.

Once you are starting to leave your dog home alone for periods of time, distract them with treat games and lots of toys to occupy their time. Separation anxiety happens for the first hour or two that you are gone, so if your dog has something to distract them during that time, they should settle down and go about normal behavior until you return. I would recommend “hiding” food around for them to go and find, if they are too nervous to take regular kibble, try putting some low sodium chicken broth on top or mixing in some mashed sweet potato. Then scatter a whole bunch of bones and toys for them to chew, make sure to leave a mix of stuffed toys, food bones (not too many of these because you want them gaining any weight), plastic bones (nylabones work great), rope toys, anything your dog enjoys.

Through this whole process, make sure your dog is getting a lot of exercise, mental and physical, before you leave the house. Take your dog for a long walk before you leave and when you get home, also do some obedience training for 15 minutes before leaving, teach him some tricks! You can do the basics, sit, down, sit and stay, down and stay, and then move into others like shake a paw, rollover, crawl, bow, whatever you want! The less energy your dog has when you leave, the less likely they are to experience any level of anxiety.

Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety? What techniques worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Getting Involved in Animal Rescue

Interested in getting involved in the animal rescue world but not quite sure how?

As most of you already know, I am very involved in the Manitoba dog rescue world. When I started out, I knew that I wanted to do something to help but lived in an animal free apartment so I couldn’t foster or adopt. I began by helping the foster families walk the dogs, or let them out and feed them if they weren’t going to be home, things like that. Later on I became more involved with helping create the print outs for the adoptables album for the adoption fairs, and once I moved into a house I began fostering and adopted two of my own. Once I realized my true passion for animal rescue I became more involved with DREAM and am currently their Spay/Neuter Program Coordinator and Operations Director. I am also helping the foster dogs and families, from Manitoba Underdogs Rescue, with any training questions or issues.

The DREAM Team

The DREAM Team

Here are some of the many ways to get involved with rescue (not in any order of importance):

  1. Foster – fostering will cost you nothing, and you are directly helping save a life! Fostering is also great for those who are not sure if they are ready to make the full commitment to adopt, or aren’t sure what kind of dog will fit into their lifestyle.
  2. Adopt – Looking to add a pet to your life? Check out your local rescue and adopt! You will be directly contributing to helping the animal community and ending overpopulation and abuse. Adopting a pet is also MUCH cheaper than purchasing one off of the internet, through a breeder, or in a pet store because all of the shots, immunizations, and spay/neuter is included. These can add up to $500 on top of the purchasing fee or more versus the $250 – $300 to adopt a pet. “But what if I want a pure bred or a small breed?” Rescues very often have pure bred animals AND small breeds! You just need to make sure to check out all of the rescues and shelters in your community!
  3. Support a foster family! Help out with walking, feeding, snuggling, and whatever they need a hand with!
  4. Looking to do something from the comfort of your own home? Why not be a reference checker! Phone potential adopters references or phone adopters for a follow up on how their lives are with their newest furry family member.
  5. Donate money, or items such as food, collars and leashes, blankets, newspaper, kennels, etc….
  6. Have a fundraiser – instead of wedding favors make donations in your guest’s names, instead of birthday presents have people donate to your favorite rescue, have a garage sale – get creative!
  7. Help out at adoption fairs! Man the BBQ or take care of the pups, speak to potential adopters, or sell merchandise!
  8. Easiest way to help out? Post and share about dogs and/or rescues in need on your social media platforms and encourage your friends to do the same!
  9. Want to be more involved? Check out what inside positions are available! A rescue is just like a business, but run by volunteers, there are marketing teams, community outreach teams, productions (event planning etc) teams, data entry teams, finance and admin teams, operations (dog intake, foster support etc) teams, and so much more!

Send an e-mail to a local rescue today and find out how you can help! Here are just a few of the many rescues here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada:

  1. DREAM – Dog Rescue Education and Advocacy of Manitoba
  2. Manitoba Underdogs Rescue
  3. Earthdog Terrier Rescue of Manitoba
  4. Manitoba Small Dog Rescue
  5. Hull’s Haven Border Collie Rescue
  6. Happy Tails Adoption Center
  7. Winnipeg Animal Services
  8. Winnipeg Humane Society
  9. Before the Bridge Senior K9 Rescue
  10. Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue
  11. Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue

Have any questions on how to get involved? Are you currently involved in rescue? What do you do to help? Let me know in the comments below!