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!

Brain Games for Dogs

How do you exercise your dog? Do you exercise their brain too? Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Throughout history, dogs have been bred to have jobs. Sure, most of our pets aren’t working dogs, but none the less they still need something to do to keep busy. Dogs that are heavily exercised but lack outlets for mental stimulation suffer from an imbalance that can lead to several behavior problems. If you exercise your dog well but don’t provide mental stimulation, a possible result is a wonderful but bored athlete that has the energy and physical fitness to destroy lots of things or participate in many undesirable behaviors!

It is important to give your animal the opportunity to perform various activities each day. If your pet spends an hour a day barking or gnawing on the table legs, it is probably lacking stimulation. If you provide a variety of structured activities, it is likely that the undesirable behavior will decrease or be extinguished. For example, if your pet spends 30 minutes to an hour per day eating instead of wolfing food down in 5 minutes, it will have met a large part of daily activity needs, and will be less likely to destroy the couch or dig holes in your backyard!

Feeding Your Dog

How do you feed your dog? Do they get meals in a regular bowl and wolf it down in seconds flat? Just think! All of those rewards being wasted in just a few minutes. Use it for training exercises or stuff it in a kong or other treat dispensing toy and make them work for it! In the video above, you can see Nanu eating her breakfast out of a kong. Buy or make a few different dispensers and switch them up but remember to always put them away after they are done with them. You don’t want it to be available to them all of the time because you want it to be a novelty.

Home Made Treat Games

You don’t have to break the bank on expensive treat dispensers for your dog! Pick a few good items (like a kong) and try making some others at home.

  • Different types of plastic bottles or containers. Make it interesting! Use some with the lid off, and some lid on and cut holes into the plastic in different places. Just make sure not to leave any sharp edges.
  • Put pieces of kibble or treats in a muffin tin and cover each indent with a tennis ball. Remember, you want your dog to be sniffing out the food so make sure not to fill each hole and always leave different ones empty.
  • Put kibble or treats underneath different Tupperware containers and get your dog to sniff them out and figure out how to get the container off of the reward.
  • I recommend using your dog’s food for all of these activities so they do not gain any weight. However, if you are using treats, make sure to minus that from their daily food intake.

TIP: If you want to give your dog a tasty treat to calm them down if they are over excited, or anxious because company is coming over, try frozen peanut butter, sweet potato, or low sodium chicken broth in a kong!

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When playing a special game, or when teaching a new behavior, make sure to use a really high value reward that your dog wants to work for. These treats should only be about the size of a pea and very soft. Switch it up! Use different kinds of rewards such as chicken breast, cheese, Zukes Training Treats, etc. If your dog starts to get bored of one, either take a break or switch to another. If your dog isn’t big on treats, you can use a favorite toy that they only get to play with during training time, or if they are attention seekers, give them some love.

Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is a great game to get your dog to use his brain, and get some physical exercise. This is especially good on those really rainy or cold days, or you are just too busy to get outside. Hide and seek also encourages your dog pay attention to you on walks, because he learns to look for you and he gets a tasty reward or fun toy.

  • When your dog isn’t paying attention to you, slowly walk away and find a hiding spot (examples are around a corner, in a different room, etc)
  • Wait for a second and then call your dog’s name. If he has stopped and isn’t looking back, call your dog’s name again in a very excited tone.
  • As he rushes to find you, keep calling out his name. Once he finds you, praise him and give him a treat or toy. After the first few times, your dog should figure out to come find you after just calling his name once.
  • Now that your dog is catching on to the game, start incorporating some training! Get your dog to “sit” use “stay” or “wait” go hide, and introduce “find it”. REMEMBER, don’t start using “find it” until he is going to look for you every time.
  • When your dog is a hide and seek expert, you can start hiding in more difficult spots inside the house, and move to play in the backyard or at the park where there are more distractions.

Hide and Find the Treat

This game is similar to the first, except you will be hiding treats around the house. If you have multiple dogs that can be aggressive around food, play with each of them separately.

  • Grab some treats, go into a room without your dog and hide them. Make sure to use really smelly treats the first few times.
  • Hide the treats in pretty easy spots until your dog learns how to play the game, you may even have to point them out for him at first.
  • Call your dog into the room and let him at it!
  • Once your dog gets really good at the game, start incorporating some training! Get your dog to come into the room and “sit”, “stay”, and “find it”!
  • If this game becomes to easy for your dog, start hiding the treats under different types of tupperware containers.

Tricks and Obedience

Work on your dog’s obedience training! Sit, stay, down, shake a paw, etc. Take a class with your dog, this does not only work your dog mentally, but it also creates a great bond with you and your pet. There are so many different tricks you can teach your dog, not only to impress your friends, but also as a calming method when they get overly excited or nervous.

REMEMBER mental stimulation is very important, but needs to be paired with physical exercise, you cannot do one or the other.

How do you keep your dog happy? What is your dog’s best trick? Let me know in the comments below!

Collars, Collars, Collars

As you already know, I am a Positive Reinforcement (Force-Free) Dog Trainer. Something I see ALL of the time is people using abrasive collars on their dogs such as pinch, choke, or shock collars. As a PRDT, I do not use, nor train people to use, these methods as it is scientifically proven to be detrimental to your dog’s training success. It may seem like your dog is walking nicely, but he is only doing it to avoid punishment. Once you put on a regular harness, or collar, you will be right back where you started. This is also associating events that happen on your walk with a negative experience, such as other dogs walking by, children playing, or whatever it may be. You can see how this can have a negative effect on your dog’s psychological well-being.

These forms of collars can cause not only psychological damage to your dog, but also some pretty serious medical issues. Dog’s (same as people) have very sensitive necks that many medical issues, such as hypothyroidism, ear and eye issues, nerve damage, etc, can be linked. If you are interested in learning some of the more serious medical issues that these collars can cause check out this article here. I always walk my dogs on some sort of harness, whether it be no pull or regular, depending on your dogs walking style, and I always recommend my clients to do the same.

Pinch/Prong Collars

Pitbull-prong-dog-collar-pinch-collar-prong-collarWhen we first got Kali, she was terrible on leash, a huge puller, very typical Malamute. I hadn’t tried any forms of “no pull” devices yet, and wasn’t very educated in the subject. Off I went to the pet store to ask some questions and see what they recommended for us to try. The FIRST item that they recommended was a pinch collar. Not only, did they not give me any other choices, they also said that this is a “humane and pain-free” option to teach your dog not to pull. Pain-free??? I would like to see her put it on her neck and give it a good yank. When there are are tons of pointy pieces of metal jutting into your neck, it is not “pain-free.” Thankfully, I questioned it, and ended up trying out an easy-walk harness instead. ALWAYS QUESTION PEOPLE IN THE PET INDUSTRY, INCLUDING TRAINERS. If you think something is off, or are not feeling comfortable with a certain technique or recommendation, ask as many questions as you need to. Also, go with your gut, it will usually guide you in the right direction.

Many people say that the prong collar “emulates the correction of a mother’s teeth.” This is A MYTH and is not correct. These collars can cause many health issues, as mentioned in the article above, and can go as far as becoming embedded in your dog’s neck. One quick jerk is all it takes. The more pressure you are putting on your dog’s neck, the more pressure they will feel emotionally. You want your dog to remain under threshold the entire time you are on your walk, this will be next to impossible with this type of tension on their neck. Dog’s have a natural instinct to pull forwards when something is pulling them back, therefore making the entire experience painful and frustrating. The behavioral issues that this can cause your dog are limitless.

If you would like to take a more in depth look on the effects of this type of collar, check out this article here.

Choke Collars

choke-dog-collarChoke collars have basically the same negative effects on your dog’s mental and physical health as the prong collar. One of the big differences is however, that they can choke themselves to death. There is nothing stopping this type of collar from tightening to the point of actual choking on your dog’s neck. Again, the natural instinct of your dog to pull away from something putting tension on their neck comes into play, causing a negative experience on walks, as well as a negative experience relating to the surroundings. For more information about the effects of the choke collar, check out this article here.

Shock Collars

D58134All of these collars have similar negative effects on your dog’s well-being, however the shock collar is a whole other ball game. Some people say that the shock is just like a tap on the shoulder, while others say that it is more of a zap, similar to sticking your finger in a electrical socket. Well, which is it? It seems that only a dog can answer this question, and since they can’t tell us, it is important for us to know their body language. A dog who is being trained positively has a loose body, tail wag, open mouth, and they show a willingness to learn and please you. A dog being trained with a shock collar will have a closed mouth, possibly yawning, stiff body and tail, ears back, whale eyes, and a general nervousness about them.  For more information about shock collars, check out this article here.

Notice the body language of the dogs in these pictures? Stiff postures, ears back, and on high alert. If you ever see a dog wearing one of these collars, compare their body language to that of your positively reinforced dog. There will be a huge difference between them.

Wouldn’t you rather focus your training sessions and walks on the positive, rather than on the negative? You especially do not want to use any of the aforementioned training methods with a fearful or aggressive dog. These techniques will just enhance their issues and very likely cause more harm than good.

What kind of collar does your dog wear? What worked for you when training your dog to walk on leash? Let me know in the comments below!

Weekend Crate Training Plan

Crate training is seen in two lights; it is cruel to confine your dog to a kennel, and it is good for them to have their own safe place for down time. I believe that the crate is a great retreat for your pooch, as well as an amazing training tool.

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A few positive aspects to using a crate:

  • Can be used as a training tool for house training, and preventing him from being destructive.
  • As a safe and effective way to transport your dog.
  • Creates a place of their own, which is especially important for dogs with fear and anxiety issues.

A few tips about crate training:

  • Never use the crate as a punishment, you do not want your dog to be afraid to go in there.
  • Always associate the crate with something good, feed him in there, give him a special bone, chew, or toy that he only gets when going into the crate.
  • Put the crate somewhere permanent, dogs thrive off of consistency. If you keep the crate in the dining room, your dog will get used to that being “his place”. Once you move it for a dinner party, he will get confused and be unsure of what to do.
  • If you’re dog is having a lot of trouble adjusting, try a different type such as wire vs plastic. Sometimes this small fix can make a world of difference.
  • Make sure to make it comfortable with blankets, a dog bed, or even a shirt with your scent inside.
  • Always exercise your dog before he goes into his crate. 30-60 minutes of physical exercise, paired with mental stimulation (obedience training, treat games, etc) is preferred.
  • Leave the door to the crate open so that your dog has access to it whenever he wants. He now feels comfortable here, and it will be his safe place if he ever feels uncomfortable, or just wants to take an uninterrupted snooze.
  • Make sure to let your dog out to the bathroom before he goes in and after he comes out of the crate.

Recommended time lengths to crate your dog:

  • 8–10 weeks 30–60 minutes
  • 11–14 weeks 1–3 hours
  • 15–16 weeks 3–4 hours
  • 17+ weeks 4–5 hours

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, a crate can be detrimental to their issues depending on the severity. If your dog is having a lot of uses in the crate, defecating or urinating, soaked with saliva, damage to the crate, moving the crate, or excessive howling, please contact a professional trainer near you.

I have had great success with the Weekend Crate Training plan as have my clients, so here it is:

Friday

During this phase, the crate door always stays open.

  • When your dog isn’t looking, toss a few tasty treats inside the crate to spark their investigation. Make sure to use something extra tasty that they only get during training time.
  • Leave the crate door open and every time your dog looks towards it, walks towards it, takes a step in, etc, give him a lot of treats and praise.
  • Periodically leave extra special treats inside like a kong, bone, or toy.
  • Feed them their dinner inside the crate. If they are too uncomfortable to go all the way inside at this point, try leaving it just inside by the door or even just outside the door.
  • Over the next couple of days you will be rewarding your dog for going towards and into the crate, make sure to have a bunch of training treats ready because you will be using them!

Saturday Morning

Get your treats, toys, and bones ready!

  • Decide on the verbal cue you will use to send your dog to his crate. You can use “Go to your bed” or whatever you would like. Start using the verbal cue once your dog is going inside every time. If you add it in too early, they will get confused and not understand what you are asking.
  • Start by either sitting on the floor or in a chair beside the crate. Show your dog one of the treats and toss it in. Once he goes in to eat it, give a lot of praise and feed her another treat while inside.
  • Use your release cue, again, “okay” or “break” whatever you would like to use, so they know they can come out again. Don’t reward when they leave the crate so he learns that good things happen when he is inside.
  • REPEAT these steps about 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. After you have finished the two, end the session.

Later on in the morning….Now you are getting your dog to earn the treat. Instead of tossing a treat in for them to follow you will be using your verbal cue and rewarding once he goes inside.

  • First, warm up with a few reps of tossing the treat in and using the verbal cue.
  • Give your cue and point to the crate instead of tossing in the treat. If he is being stubborn, try your “point” in the same motion as tossing in the treat.
  • Once your dog goes in, then give a lot of praise and treats while he is still inside.
  • Use your release command for your dog to come out.
  • REPEAT these steps about 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. After you have finished the two, end the session.

If your dog isn’t catching onto the cue or seems nervous, step back to tossing the treat in first and wait until he understands and feels more comfortable.

Saturday Afternoon

During this phase, you will start getting your dog used to being in the crate with the door closed.

  • First, warm up and do a few repetitions of the last step, remembering to release him every time.
  • Do the same thing, reward him for going in, and then gently close the door, give him a few treats and praise with the door closed
  • Give your release cue, open the door, and let your dog out
  • If your dog seems to be too nervous with the door closed all the way, break this down into two parts, start with the door halfway closed and then transition to fully closed.
  • REPEAT these steps 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. As you go through your repetitions, increase the time the door is closed. Do 1 second, then 5 seconds, then 8 seconds, then back to 5, then 10, then 8, and so on. Make sure to mix up the times.

Saturday Evening

Once your dog is comfortable sitting the crate with the door closed you are going to start getting them ready for alone time.

  • First, warm up with a few repetitions from the last step, but each time start to slowly move away and then back to the crate.
  • Release your dog, go through the same steps, once the crate door is closed, treat.
  • Now, with the door still closed, stand up, treat, take a few steps away, then go back and treat again.
  • Open the door and release your dog.
  • REPEAT these steps 10 times, each time walking in a different direction. After a short break, start again increasing the time your dog is left alone in the crate. Do 5 seconds, then 10, then 8, 15, and so on. Be generous, give a lot of treats for now, and as your dog gets more comfortable being in the crate, you can gradually start giving less.
  • After these repetitions, take about a half hour to an hour break, and repeat the steps again. Start leaving the room, only for a second, and then releasing your dog. Gradually build up the time as we did before, try to get to him being in the crate for 1 minute while you walk around the room, briefly leave, and come back. REMEMBER if you go through the steps too quickly, you will have to step back or even start over.

Sunday Morning

Now you will be working on getting your dog comfortable with longer periods in the crate. Grab your treats, and a kong stuffed with something delicious, or a favorite bone or toy as well as something to occupy yourself.

  • Ask your dog to go in the crate and close him in with the kong, bone, or toy and get yourself comfortable watching TV, reading a book, or whatever you choose to do in that room. Leave him in there for about 30 minutes.
  • If your dog finishes the kong or bone, you can continue to give him a few treats here and there as long as he is staying quiet.
  • After the half hour is up, release your dog and take away the bone, kong, or toy. DO NOT give him any treats when he comes out or make a big deal out of it. You want him to learn that good things happen while he is inside the crate, not when he is released.

At this time, your dog may start to wine, or bark while being left alone inside. My suggestion here is to ignore him completely. If you release him, or treat him for this behavior he is learning that if he makes noise he will get your attention. Once he has stopped, then reward him with a few treats.  This step can be frustrating in some cases, but if you are consistent, your dog will learn that it is in his best interest to be quiet and relax.

Sunday Afternoon

Now it is time to give your dog some alone time in the crate. Make sure to exercise your dog before this step, take him to the park, for a walk or run, play fetch, and also do some basic obedience training and maybe even some mind games. .

  • Ask your dog to go into his crate. Give him his kong, bone, or toy, and leave the room.
  • Stay out of the room for 10 minutes, then return and release him. If he hasn’t finished his kong or bone, take it away (he only gets these treats while in the crate). If your dog is making noise, don’t return until he has stopped for 5-10 seconds.
  • REPEAT the exercise, after a short break.

Sunday Evening

If your dog can calmly stay in his crate for an hour while you work around the house, it is time to try leaving completely.

  • Ask your dog to go in his crate and give him his special treat.
  • Without saying any goodbyes. leave the room and house for 10 minutes.
  • When you return, calmly let your dog out of the crate and take away his treat.
  • REMEMBER your dog will feel more comfortable going in and out of his crate if it seems like no big deal. Don’t give him any indication that you are leaving, or be overly excited when you return home.
  • REPEAT this exercise as often as possible before going to bed with bathroom breaks and exercise between. Gradually increase each time you are out of the house until you get to about an hour or even longer.

THAT’S IT! You have (hopefully successfully) completed the Weekend Crate Training plan. Now you are ready to start crating your dog every time you leave the house, and overnight (if you wish).

REMEMBER if you are having any issues at all, don’t hesitate to consult a professional in your area. For a more in depth look at crate training check out the ASPCA website.

Is your dog crate trained? How was the process for you? What worked and what didn’t? Let me know 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.

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  • 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!

Resource Guarding – Ginny

Today, my good friend asked me for some advice on resource guarding. There are many different types of resource guarding so I thought I would make this into a two part series.

Meet Ginny, an adorable 6 year old Lhasa Apso, Poodle mix. who her mom describes as “sensitive, competitive, vocal and very bossy, but sweet and snuggly when she’s not feeling pressured.” Ginny lives in a unique situation with 4 other doggy siblings, big and small, a cat, and 3 horses. It is very common for a dog to guard food, toys, and bones, but in this case Ginny is guarding her mom’s attention. When the other dogs come into the room to jump on the bed, Ginny growls and let’s them know that she DOES NOT want them up there. We decided on a technique called Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) to try with Ginny.

BAT, developed by Grisha Stewart, MA, CPDT-KA, “rehabilitates dog reactivity by looking at why the dog is reactive and helping them meet their needs in other ways. This method is a dog-friendly application of ‘functional analysis’ that gives the dogs a chance to learn to control their own comfort level through peaceful means. It is very empowering to your dog, in a good way.” If you are interested in doing some reading about dog training, I highly recommend anything by Grisha Stewart.

We often use BAT for dogs who are aggressive with other dogs or people, and train while on leash, in this circumstance we will be using it for Ginny’s behavior while on Mom’s bed.

  • First, they began with another dog (on leash) slowly walking into the room.
  • Once Mom sees Ginny begin to get agitated (body signals), she distracts her with a “YES” verbal marker and gives her some love while Dad removes the other dog – Remember that if you miss this warning stage and your dog reacts, remove the dog from the situation immediately and start over. The reward in this situation is removing the other dog.
  • As this goes on, Dad brings the other dog closer and closer to the bed until Ginny starts looking to Mom for confirmation on how to react.

Ginny3

This training method can be used in any situation where your dog gets agitated or anxious, ideally you want your dog to look to you for guidance when they get nervous. For example, if they see a rabbit, you want them to look to you to see if they should chase it or not, or confirmation that they will be ok while that kid zips past on his bike.

Do you own a resource guarder? What methods did you use to change this 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!