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.

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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 – 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!

Puppy Nipping

Everyone loves a puppy right? Well, what do you do when that puppy goes through the nipping stage? I have been getting that question a lot lately so I thought I would write about it this week.

This is 4 week old Azzy, him and his siblings will be available for adoption through Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue at 7 weeks!

This is 4 week old Azzy, him and his siblings will be available for adoption through Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue at 7 weeks!

Nipping is a normal stage for your puppy to go through. Puppies explore with their mouths, so it is up to you to let them know what is okay to chew on and what is not. Nipping can also be brought on by teething pains, similar to a human child. To alleviate this pain, you can freeze a wet towel or some teething toys for them to chew.

To help with your puppy’s nipping habit, you are first going to teach them bite inhibition. They start learning this with their littermates at a young age. When a pup bites their brother or sister too hard they yelp and often the play stops momentarily. You are going to be imitating this behaviour so the dog can learn the pain limitations of human skin. This will also help in the future if your dog ever bites someone outside of play, because of fear or pain, they are less likely to bite hard or break the skin. When you are playing with your puppy, let him mouth your hands and as soon as he bites too hard, imitate a yelp or other sound, pull your hand away and let let it go limp. Praise the puppy for stopping or for licking you. You can repeat these steps for about a 15 minute period before moving onto something else. If he will not stop trying to bite you too hard, use a “timeout” method of completely ignoring the puppy until he leaves you alone. Then praise him and keep playing or give him a toy.

When a pup or adult is excited they do not know the difference between a happy human and a mad human. Saying “no” or pushing away still feels like play to them, so do not give any eye contact and keep turning your back to the puppy until they stop. Once your pup starts to decrease his pressure, you can continue to do this process until your pup is putting no pressure on your skin at all.

The next step is to teach the pup that skin isn’t for chewing! You need to have TONS of toys and bones for your pup to chew on around the house. This will be frustrating as you walk around and keep tripping over and stepping on toys, but it will be worth it in the end. Make sure there is always something to pick up and give to your dog when they start to nip at you. This will teach them what is appropriate for chewing and what is not. Start playing no-contact games such as fetch or tug of war, when they start nipping, to redirect their focus onto the tug toy or ball. Eventually your puppy will begin to look for these toys when wanting something to chew on.

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If your pup is chasing you around the house nipping at your legs, go into a room and close your pup out of it. You may have to stay in the room for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or may have to do this a few times before they stop nipping and calm down, but once they do make sure to give them lots of attention and a toy. Reward for the good behavior! Once they begin stopping almost immediately, make sure to have a toy to redirect and reward them.

Are you having issues with puppy nipping? What methods have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!

MUR Adoptables – Fia “Leave It”

Hello again!

Last week I talked about Manitoba Underdogs’ Adoptable, Fia. In addition to her separation anxiety, Fia was also having issues of counter surfing and garbage can diving. These are common behaviors found in any dog.

Leave it

The first step in fixing this behavior was for Fia’s foster mom to take away all of the temptations. Move the garbage outside, closed off in a cupboard, or under the sink, and keep the counter and sink clear of all food, wrappers, and dirty dishes. Anytime she gets to eat garbage, or something off of the counter she is self rewarding and reinforcing the behavior.

To change this habit, we are going to use the “leave it” technique. Once your dog has mastered “leave it” with food and objects inside the house, you can start applying it on a larger scale outside with other dogs, critters, people, or even when barking at something out the window or fence. “Leave it” is also handy for health reasons, choking and disease, when you see your dog eyeing that dead bird on the side of the road, or a bone that fell out of the garbage.

Remember to set your dog up for success; work in an area where your dog will be completely focused on you. If you own other dogs, you will want to keep them in a separate room or space where they can’t distract from your training. Begin without using the term “leave it” at all, once the dog starts to automatically do the behavior you will add in the verbal cue. You never want to use the word more than once, because then the dog won’t understand it, or learn that they do not have to listen to it the first time, they know it will come again.

Teaching Your Dog “Leave It”

  1. Start with some treats. Put a treat in a closed fist, once the dog stops sniffing and trying to get the treat out, use your verbal marker, “YES” and reward FROM YOUR OTHER HAND. You will never be giving your dog the “leave it” treat. If you are using a clicker, once they stop sniffing and licking, click and treat. Remember to do this as soon as they, even for a second, back off.
  2. Once the dog is consistently leaving the treat alone, start to add the verbal cue “leave it”
  3. Once the dog understands the term “leave it”, you can up the criteria using an open hand
  4. Does your dog have that down pat? Now move onto putting food or toys on the floor, “leave it” and then releasing them with the command “OK” or “Break” or whatever you choose to use to release them.

If you are feeding your dog off of the counter while cooking dinner, or off of your plate while eating, it is making your dog to think that there are treats for him on there, therefore causing him to beg or counter surf. Giving your dog treats from your dinner is OK as long as you wait until you are done eating, and give it to them in their dish or away from the eating situation. Remember that your dog is always learning and you are always training!

Fia has found her “Furever” home but if you are interested in adopting check out the other dogs available at Manitoba Underdogs Rescue!

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Have a dog who counter surfs? What did you do change the behavior? Let me know in the comments below!