Reading Your Pet’s Reactions

chance_truckAs I drove my truck into the automatic carwash today and put it into neutral, the conveyer belt grabbed my tire and began to pull my truck forward, I felt my heart rate pick up, and a small wave of anxiety pass over me. I looked down at my shifter twice to make sure the vehicle was, in fact, in neutral. After that brief moment passed, I wondered why I had that reaction? I’ve taken cars through washes for years and never had a second thought about it.

Well, I quickly deduced my reaction was in response to my last experience in that exact same car wash from a month previous. I had gone in just like any other time, waiting for the sign to turn from Green-Forward to Stop-Put Your Car Neutral. Only this time I was preoccupied with something, and rather than shift my car into neutral, I accidentally shifted it into second gear. Not realizing this right away because my truck’s tire was blocked and being pulled along on the conveyer system. Suddenly, it accelerated over the block and started moving forward on the track. This wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that there was a car only one half car’s length in front of me. I slammed on the breaks, popped the truck into neutral and waited for the next block to carry me out. Although this wasn’t a life or death situation, or super scary, it was surprising and gave me a jolt.

Which brings me back to today’s car wash. My brain and body remembered what happened last time, and my sympathetic nervous system wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Immediately, I began to think how this relates to our animals.

To the naked eye, I’m sure no one would have known that I had a brief moment of “oh crap this isn’t going to happen again, is it?” But that is exactly what I was thinking. If such a minute experience could have that kind of impact on me, what does that mean for our animals? They may have their own versions of these experiences that we are not aware of.

Reading your pet’s reactions

Our pets can’t articulate to us what it is that scares them. They can’t always tell us about their previous experiences, ones that may have had lasting impressions on them. Situations that may cause them to stop, panic, flee or fight.

It’s up to us as their guardians to keep them safe, and have them feel secure. Taking notice of your pet’s changes based on the environment they are in can give great clues about their comfort level.

These subtle changes can help in guiding you while you journey into doing systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning with an animal that is fearful or reactive in an environment or towards certain individuals.

It’s beneficial for management too. Reading your dog’s body language can alert you as to when he’s had enough social time with his dog friends, or visiting nursing homes… you name it. All animals have their limits, have their thresholds, and need breaks before they reach them.

My take away today was to be more aware of how my animals are responding and acting. If something seems to spook them, or they are acting out-of-the-ordinary, then I need to take a step back and access the situation.

  • What was the trigger(s)?
  • What was my pet’s response?
  • What was the consequence of the behavior; meaning what happened after my pet reacted?

From there I can build ways to prevent the event from happening again, or figure out how to work through it by changing the environment to set my pet up for success.

An example

Large, cargo vans driving within 15 feet of the dog and person while on a walk. The dog’s behavior is to stop, crouch and then try to bolt in the opposite direction of the van, but can’t because he’s on leash. So he makes himself low, ears back, tail tucked.

After the truck has passed, the dog is hyper-vigilant and reluctant to move. If the person allows any slack in the leash, the dog continues to attempt to bolt with low body posture until the truck is at least several blocks away. Then the dog can relax a bit more and resume going on the walk.

What can we do?

We can change the Antecedent (what comes before the dog’s behavior). That could be accomplished by walking the dog in areas where cargo vans don’t travel, taking that option out of the equation.

We could also change the consequence for the cargo van coming near by combining classical-conditioning and desensitization. As of right now, the consequence is that the dog wants to add distance between him and the van, and to do it quickly.

At a distance where the dog has not gone over threshold and is still checking in with his person, the person can positively reinforce the dog for noticing the van. They can do this using treats, toys, and adding distance between the dog and the van, meaning the person and dog walk away from the scary van.

Gradually they move closer to the van, and the person waits for the dog to communicate that he’s comfortable at that distance before advancing to the next level. Watching for body language signals that the dog is aware of the trigger and choosing a different option than the previous panic and flee is key to knowing when the dog is comfortable and ready to progress. This kind of communication with animals, where they have some choice in the matter and are treated humanely through the process, builds the strongest bonds between people and animals.

Obviously this is just a slice of what types of training and behavior modification could be done for this particular case.

Next time you’re out and about with your dog, be mindful of how your dog is responding to the environment. If you notice behavior changes, what are they? What can you do to help your dog, or what have you been doing?

What to do with a Door Dasher

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Either we’ve been there ourselves, or we know of someone who’s  faced the following scenario: you’re running late for an appointment, you grab your keys and start to dash out the door, and right then Fido rushes past you and out into the great beyond. You call his name, along with a few other choice words, but all you get is the tail and the dust left behind. What to do!?!

Prevention:

Through the use of management tools, one can prevent door dashers from escaping by having a double or triple gated system in place.

  • Use of baby-gates and exercise pens can create a second barrier.
  • Tethers and crates are handy for when you know people are scheduled to stop by your home. Prior to the visitors arriving, you contain your dog by leashing/tethering, crating, or closing him into another room of the house. Practice doing this when people are not coming over as well, so that your dog isn’t predicting that crate time means people come over and there’s a chance to escape; he may start evading the containment system you have.

Training:

Management will be necessary when first starting a training program, and for some dogs a form management may always have to be in place, because escaping out the door and running has been to highly reinforced in the past.

  • With your tools in place, have people come in and toss treats away from the door–back towards the inside of the house to get the dog focused on the floor and moving away from the door.
  • Teach a strong “recall” with your dog.
  • Teach a “U-turn” cue as well (turn, face me, and give me your attention).
  • Attach a long, drag line to your pup, and work on recalls from the doorways.

Uh oh, he got out!

If your dog does get past you, have treats and a few favorite toys stashed by each entrance so you can quickly grab your dog’s attention and reward him for it.

  • Do not chase your dog, this will kick in the play drive of “come and get me”, or it may spook your dog if your dog tends to be fearful. Instead, grab the goodies and see if you can distract him.
  • Once you have his attention, move away from your dog. This sounds counterintuitive, but many times dogs will follow you because they’re curious, or if you run from them you may kick in the chase drive. If you can, run into an open garage or fenced in yard before tossing treats on the ground to distract the dog. If you think your dog will follow you right back into the house, awesome, try it!
  • Some dogs LOVE car rides, so grab your keys and jump in your car. Drive around and when you see your dog: stop, get out, open the back door and in your peppiest voice, ask him if he wants to go for a car ride. Many dogs will run right over and jump in.
  • Don’t scold or reprimand him if he turns around and comes back to you! This is hard one for people sometimes, especially if they’re already running late or have something important happening. If you scold a dog for coming back to you, he’ll associate returning to you, not running away with punishment. Next time, he’ll be more leery to return to you.

Last of all, if you know you have a dog that is inclined to be a door dasher, be sure he’s ALWAYS wearing a collar with current ID tags, and is microchipped. That way if the above management, training, and tips to get him home fail, you’ll have some comfort in knowing he has proper ID on him so if someone finds him, he’ll be returned quickly and safely.

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A Wagging Tail Does Not Always Equate Happiness

I hear it daily in my line of work, “Look he’s wagging his tail, that means he’s happy…or he’s fine.” Dogs wag their tails for a variety of reasons, and yes they will wag their tail to show contentment or pleasure, but they also wag their tails when they’re excited, fearful, and about to aggress.

Reading a dog’s tail has more to do with their entire body language. Dogs tell you a lot with their eyes, mouth, and general body position. When trying to figure out if a dog is truly happy or content, learning what their whole body is saying is what’s going to be your guide to understanding what they’re feeling.

For instance, a dog could be wagging his tail, but if he’s leaning away from you, has his eyes averted and his mouth closed; he is not feeling comfortable. Most likely if his body is displaying these behaviors, his tail may be lowered or tucked, but still wagging. This dog is probably fearful and uneasy. How you move forward with this dog will depend upon whether you are able to read the dog’s body language appropriately.

Another scenario you may see is when two dogs are meeting for the first time. Their tails will be wagging, but their tails may be “flagging” in the air. Flagging tails means their tails are above spine level and might display rapid back and forth movements, much like a flag on a flagpole on a windy day. This behavior often means excitement and arousal. Excitement and arousal can tip into aggression if deescalated. When looking at the dog’s overall body picture, you may notice the dog is putting more weight onto his front end, appearing tall, his hackles (the fur on his shoulder blades and spine) are raised and he may also have a closed mouth, but his eyes are probably direct towards the other dog, not averted. These are all signs of excitement and arousal, and should be diffused by the owner as quickly as possible.

 

Again the last two scenario are just brief examples of the various ways dogs can be expressive with their tails. Typically if you want to know if your dog is displaying a tail wag that means he’s happy and content, this is what you look for:

  • *The tail is at spine level, maybe slightly lower or higher
  • The dog will be leaning into whomever is giving him attention or at least standing squarely when meeting another dog.
  • His body will appear to be loose and wiggly.
  • His mouth will likely be open with a smile on his face.
  • His eyes will have a soft look to them. He won’t be staring hard at whomever he is with or completely looking away at all times.
  • His tail will wag in a sweeping motion, back and forth.

A dog who is excited will display similar behaviors as listed above, but the tail movement will be more exaggerated. The dog may try to jump towards a person’s face to get closer, or try to lick or smell another dog’s muzzle.

Tails are an expression of a dog’s mood and the wag of a dog’s tail can mean many things. So next time you’re with a dog, watch their tail movement through their different behavior changes and daily routines. You will see a difference as their excitement, curiosity, fear, anxiety, and happiness get expressed. And you’ll be on your way to better understanding your dog.

*Keep in mind certain breeds of dog’s have tails that carry differently.  Example: Basenjis’ tails curl over their back. Other breeds of dogs may have naturally bobbed tails, like some Australian Shepherds, or their tails may be docked, like Doberman Pinschers. With these dogs, reading their tails can be trickier, but look at the base of the tail and look for changes there.

UnderDog to WonderDog

On August 30th, 2012 the book WALLACE was released and stocked on store shelves all around the country. I had pre-ordered my copy in advance and was very excited when it arrived on my door-step the day following it’s release. I curled up and cracked open the smooth, glossy book cover. Within 48 hours, I finished the book and sat back with a smile, and tears in my eyes.

Wallace’s story written by Jim Gorant, author of Lost Dogs, which told the tragic and heroic story of the Bad Newz Kennel’s dogs previously owned, abused, and exploited by NFL player Michael Vick. During the writing of Lost Dogs, Jim met the Yori’s, who adopted one of the “Victory” dogs, Hector. Hector was not the first pit bull owned by the Yori’s. Clara and Roo had saved the life of Wallace, a troubled Pitty who’s chances of survival were dim if they hadn’t stepped in, along with the help of a few other dedicated dog people to campaign and fight for Wallace.

This story covers Wallace’s life from his first few weeks of life to his time at a shelter—where his life was in limbo—to his rise as a multiple World Champion Disc Dog, once he was given a chance to prove himself and given the proper outlets to do so.

I am passionate about Wallace’s story for multiple reasons. As a pit bull advocate and pibble “parent” myself, I understand the unjust negativity toward owning pit bulls and the obstacles we face every day just because our dogs look a certain way. This story also resonates with us Minnesotans since Wallace is a Rochester, MN resisdent and local hero. It’s also a great story about an individual who faces adversity and has the odds stacked against him, given the breed he is and being in a sport that is normally dominated by agile, fast, furry, small Border Collies and Aussies. Wallace also puts a face to many shelter dogs who don’t make it out of the system alive because of their looks or their drive. Wallace is a Pit Bull—even though Pit Bull isn’t a recognized breed, it’s a generic term given to blocky headed, short-coated dogs.

Pit Bulls have been on the chopping block for several years now, mainly due to the rise of their popularity among people who shouldn’t have dogs to begin with. As a result, pit bulls started to be associated with a group of people that meant trouble. These people raised this sweet, loyal breed to do their bidding and, as a result, dogs with poor temperaments were bred and raised. Although most pitties will rebound and do amazingly well if given another chance at a better life, the general public learned to fear dogs labeled as Pit Bulls. This can be partially attributed to the media, which loves a good fear-factor story, since fear sells. Any time a blocky-headed, short-coated dog did something negative, the media ran with it, often times making national news. They almost always labeled the dogs as Pit Bulls and demonized them as vicious and killers. In many cases, dogs fitting a certain image weren’t given a fair chance. If they entered shelters or were seized during raids, the dogs were automatically euthanized—killed—just based on their looks. Finally, a few years ago, we started to see a change as more and more national organizations like the ASPCA started to campaign for the dogs and say, “Hey, let’s treat these dogs as individuals and assess them as such.”

Wallace’s story is a perfect example of what many shelter workers and pet owners experience when dealing with these intelligent, loyal, athletic, and sweet dogs. It’s also a great example of the subtle changes that are  bringing back the original reputation and image of the Pit Bull as an All-American Heroic icon, a trustworthy canine, and a family member.

As an update, Wallace has been suffering from health ailments lately and just last night had to go into emergency surgery. As a result, the Yori family has been hit hard with medical bills; doubly so since one of their other furry family members, Angus, just suffered from a cruciate ligament tear as well. If you’d like to help this family, please consider purchasing the book WALLACE today! I couldn’t put it down, and I’m guessing for those who pick it up, they won’t be able to stop reading it either.

Purchase WALLACE at your favorite bookstore or from the following sites:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound
iTunes
Books A Million

You can also find Wallace the Pit Bull on Facebook

Added on Sept 19th, taken from another post by Clara Yori

A few people have asked how they can help or contribute to Wallace’s care.  At this point, we are not in a position to turn people down.  On the same day that Wallace had emergency surgery to remove his splenic mass, his best friend Angus tore his cruciate ligament.  Now the diagnosis is confirmed that Wallace has hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer.  We are researching our options and currently have appointments set up with an oncologist and a holistic vet for Wallace.  Angus is scheduled for TPLO surgery on Monday 9/17.  The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming.  We can’t express our gratitude enough.  We can assure everyone that we will make decisions based on his best interest.  We want quality AND quantity.  Here are some ways that people can help.

1.  ChipIn.  So far the vet bills total almost $6000.  If we can get help with even a portion of that we would feel so grateful. ChipIn For Wallace and Angus

2.  Buy Wallace’s book.  Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls– One Flying Disc at a Time   Make sure your local bookstores and libraries have it.  Read our story.  Share it with others.  Wallace has made a positive impact on this world and he has more to do.

3.  Help a homeless pet.  Donate to your favorite shelter or rescue in Wallace’s name, volunteer your time, adopt – Petfinder is a great resource.  Then tell us about it.  Knowing that something good is being done in tribute to Wallace makes us feel happy.

4.  Send stuffies or treats.  Wallace loves to destroy stuffed toys, with or without squeakers (they will be destroyed immediately so don’t bother purchasing expensive ones).  Treats must be grain-free and poultry-free.  Good brands for him are ZiwiPeakRaw Bistro Stix,Wellness Pure Rewards (venison/salmon)Pure Vita (beef liver/sweet potato).  No chews except for Zukes Z-Bones (he hardly has any teeth left).  You can send them to him at 4712 19th St SE, Rochester, MN 55904.

5.  Continue to send him positivity and love.  Say prayers, wish him healing light, reiki, good thoughts… I believe all of that good energy is good for him.

6.  I (Clara) am currently doing a painting of Wallace and I will be selling prints online to help with his medical bills.  Those should be ready next week if you are interested.

7.  Hug your pets and be glad for every moment you have with them.  Their lives are too short and they deserve every ounce of goodness possible.

This is Wallace on his 10th birthday this year. He knows how to live life to the fullest and we want to help him do that for as long as he wants to.

Serendipity

Some things happen for a reason. It may just be coincidence, maybe serendipitous or as I’d like to believe, magical. Whether you believe in any of this or not, here’s a little story I’d like to share.

At the beginning of January, a stray German Shepherd was brought into the Winona Area Humane Society. He was tall, lanky and underweight. He reminded me so much of my Shepherd, Chance, when I first adopted him. As I do with all incoming dogs, I scanned him for a microchip, which he had, but I couldn’t find a registry for it. I then assessed him using the ASPCA’s SAFER assessment. He scored fine on the assessment items, but I could tell from his body language he was a bit fearful during some areas of it. I made a note of these behaviors and carried on with my business of the day, but I kept thinking of him. I was struck by how much he resembled Chance, not only in color, but in his personality. I could see the potential this dog had and I was hoping his owners, if they ever came forward, saw it too.

The next day I was in Rochester with Chance for a dog agility class. Before class we were walking around Rochester Feed and Country Store, which is below the training room we attend. The store was having an event that night so there were quite a few people inside. As we walked around we had a nice couple walk up to us and ask about Chance. They commented on Chance’s beauty and personality. As we talked I learned that the woman had Shepherds in the past and has always loved the breed. They expressed interest in possibly adopting a Shepherd in the future. I shared with them that I had adopted Chance as a ten month old puppy from Mississippi Valley German Shepherd Dog Rescue and that I still help out with the group when I can. Then I told them about the German Shepherd that had just arrived at WAHS. I explained that he was still in his reclaim period so there was a chance his owners would come forward and take him home. I gave them my business card and told them if they were interested in adopting a dog in the future I’d be happy to help them search for one.

The following day, the City of Winona’s Animal Control officer scanned the chip with her machine and was able to trace down where the chip was registered to. It turns out the dog’s name is Charlie and he had been re-homed three times since being chipped. We were finally able to contact his current owner, who came the following day to reclaim him. When Charlie’s owner arrived to pick him up, the man did not seem at all excited to get his dog back. Charlie was excited to see him, but the feeling wasn’t reciprocated. I know if my dog is missing, even for a half an hour, I’m very happy to have them home. So the fact that Charlie’s person seemed to care less bothered me.

Again, I kept thinking of Charlie and finally after two days, decided to call the man and ask how things were going with Charlie. No answer, so I left a message letting him know I’d be happy to offer training sessions for Charlie and him, to build their bond and train Charlie to be the dog he had the potential of being. In the end I also told him that if he ever wanted to surrender Charlie, I’d take him.That was that. I didn’t hear anything from anyone. Charlie would still cross my mind, but there was nothing more I could do.

Then on Valentine’s day morning I checked my email and found one sent from the woman whom I had met at the Rochester Feed store. She asked if I had remembered her and then said she couldn’t stop thinking about the German Shepherd that had been brought into the humane society. She wondered what happened to him and if he was available for adoption. As I was about to reply back to her letting her know that Charlie had been reclaimed, my phone rang. A co-worker from the humane society told me there was a young man wanting to surrender his GSD and he told her I had called him in the past. I knew right away it had to be Charlie! I told my co-worker to go ahead and take him. That I’d actually take Charlie into my rescue group, MN Pit Stop. I could not believe my luck…Charlie’s luck, so I emailed the woman back explaining what had just happened. She responded back immediately saying she had tears in her eyes and that she was very much interested in adopting Charlie. I needed to find out how he was with other dogs, kids and cats, since she had grandchildren that visited often. So I picked Charlie up and brought him home. Over the next several days, I put him through the gauntlet. I introduced him children, cats, other dogs and a lot of people. We walked around town, into businesses and took a ride through the car wash. Charlie handled everything in stride and didn’t show any behaviors that concerned me.

I made arrangements with the couple to come to my home and visit Charlie. True to the breed, Charlie bonded quickly with me, so he was a bit aloof to them when they arrived, but I assured them, all it would take is a few days and he’d be just as bonded to them. They decided to do a two-week trail adoption period with him, so a day later I delivered Charlie to their home. That was two weeks ago today. They are in love with Charlie and Charlie is happy to be a part of their family.

I want to thank the young man who surrendered Charlie to me for understanding Charlie needed more than what he could give and for making the decision to surrender him to me versus just putting an ad in the paper or on Craigslist. I want to thank the wonderful couple who gave Charlie a chance and took him into their family. I want to thank Charlie for letting me help him and for being such a good soul. Last but not least, I want to thank my own family, my cats and dogs for always allowing another foreign dog into their home and giving guidance, and my husband for being supportive and understanding as well.

Rocket Recall: Part III

If you haven’t already, get started with parts I & II:

Rocket Recall: Part I
Rocket Recall: Part II


This is the final installment of Rocket Recall. This week we will talk about pressure and distractions with our dogs. Even with all the best preparation and practice, there will be times when your dog will not want to come away from something. This is where pressure comes into the equation. It is very important that our dog comes when called, like previously stated, this could save his life someday.

Again, we want to make sure our dog is ready for this next step before we get started. If your dog has not accomplished the first two levels of Rocket Recall, then they are not ready to begin this level. Each level can take weeks to accomplish, so don’t be in a rush. Be patient and practice, practice, practice!

Have a long-line attached to your dog when training this next level. 30-40 feet is an appropriate length for the line. Be sure the line isn’t to heavy for your dog. If you have a small breed dog, you may need to make your own long-line, which is easy enough to do*.

You’ll be enlisting the help of another person for this training as well.

Refresher:

  • Have your helper distract the dog with some low-value treats and then call your dog to come.
  • Your helper will stop treating and ignore your dog.
  • You will reward your dog with higher-value treats when he comes to you.

To step this up.

  • Have your helper open their hand with treats, when you call your dog this time, your helper will keep their hand open.
  • If your dog doesn’t respond within 3 seconds and come off your helper, you’ll pick up the long-line and gently reel them in. Again rewarding heavily when your dog comes all the way into you.
  • Do not yank your dog away
  • Do not scold him for not coming on his first try
  • Do not repeat the cue to come multiple times.
  • DO reward your dog heavily when he comes to you–with treats or toys.
  • DO be animated with your dog so that you’re more appealing to them–cheerful voice, clapping hands, kissing noise, and running away from your dog will elicit more attention.

For adding distraction, build on the Running Game.

Refresher:

  • Have your helper run away from your dog and entice them to follow.
  • You call your dog to you, your helper stops and stands still, ignoring your dog.
  • When your dog comes to you, reward.

The next step is to have your dog come even when your helper continues to run. For this, you’ll use the long-line again.

  • Have your helper run at a slower pace or a brisk walk, so that your dog won’t be following at a fast pace.
  • Call your dog, your helper will continue moving forward, but will stop enticing the dog to follow.
  • You’ll give your dog 2-3 seconds to respond, if they don’t, pick up the line and reel them in.
  • Reward your dog heavily when he comes to you.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to use high value treats, such as cut up pieces of meat, as reinforcements for your dog. Or to use high-value toys that your dog doesn’t get to play with on a regular basis. You have to be more interesting and rewarding than the other distractions in your dog’s environment.

*For long-line help, please contact me.

Rocket Recall: Part II

Be sure to check out Rocket Recall: Part I!

Now that you’ve established with your dog that hearing their name and coming when called is FUN! You can move on the next level of training a Rocket Recall. Just as stated in the last article, there will always be competing motivators in your dog’s life. “Should I go to my person or go smell this really interesting bug over here?” We want our dog’s answer to be “go to my person” every time.

During the first level of Rocket Recall training we didn’t want to call our dogs off anything fun or call them to us and then do something non-fun with them. We wanted to build a very positive association with coming to you. We are now going to up our game with our dogs.

In this next level, we will be adding distraction and arousal. It’s important to move onto this next level ONLY if your dog is ready for it.

We will now set our dogs up in controlled environments, practice in fenced in areas or have our dog on a long-line to prevent them from running away.

  • Have a friend or family member assist you for level II training.
  • Your assistant will have some treats on hand (preferably of lower value than your treats at the start).
  • They will lure your dog away from you and feed some of the treats.
  • Then you will call your dog’s name, when you do this, your assistant will stop treating and ignore the dog. This means no eye contact with the dog or motion of any sort.
  • Repeat your dog’s name once more if needed, as your dog turns towards you, use encouraging body language and sounds to get your dog moving in your direction (squatting down, open arms; kissing noises, squeekers).
  • As s/he does, use your Recall word.
  • When your dog reaches you, praise lavishly and give small, high value treats for a solid 30 seconds.

Your dog learns in that moment that coming to you even when there are other distractions is more reinforcing!

We will now do the same exercise but, in addition to distraction, we’ll be adding some arousal too.

  • Have your assistant encourage your dog to chase them, maybe have them entice your dog with toy if they aren’t interested in the chase.
  • As your dog is chasing your assistant, call your dog’s name once.
  • In that instance, your assistant will stop and freeze. Toy goes away and the person ignores the dog.
  • Call your dog’s name once more if needed, encourage your dog to come you using body language and sounds (squatting down, open arms; kissing noises, squeekers).
  • As your dog moves towards you, use your Recall word.
  • When your dog reaches you, praise lavishly and give small high value treats for a solid 30 seconds.
  • Note–If your dog seems to enjoy chasing people, you can run the opposite direction of your dog to encourage him to come into you at a faster pace.

Next: Rocket Recall: Part III

The Jumping Canine

The Jumping Canine

We’ve all been there, you walk into a room and bam, paws are assaulting you. Sometimes this is welcomed, but more often than not, it’s considered rude and can even be dangerous if the dog is large and knocks you over.

So why do dogs insist on jumping on us? Don’t they know it’s rude behavior?! Well, to them it’s not rude and if they’re not taught how to appropriately greet people, they will continue to jump on us.

Dogs jump up on us for multiple reasons, most often out of excitement to see us and wanting to be closer to our faces to smell and lick us like they might do to a dog friend.

If we don’t teach dogs an alternative behavior and just reprimand the jumping behavior, we may not get through to the dog what we want or worse our dog may start to fear us.

We don’t want to punish our dogs for being excited to greet us, but we also don’t want to reinforce a behavior we don’t like. That’s where teaching desirable behaviors to our companions is favorable for both humans and our canines.

The first step is preventing the dog from jumping on us at all; we need to be proactive with our dogs. If they are able to rehearse the action of jumping, they will continue to repeat those actions. And if they are repeating those actions, it is because they find the outcome rewarding.

Preventing the jump is simple, but not always easy. Here are a few tips to help with jump prevention.

  • Keep a leash on your dog when you’re home, so that you can easily step on the leash or take up the leash when people come into the home.
  • Tether your dog when guests arrive and tell your guests to approach your dog in an appropriate manner, if your dog starts to jump, have them turn away from your dog immediately. Turn back towards the dog when he has all four paws on the floor. Do this yo-yo approach until the dog is keeping all fours on the floor to receive a greeting.
  • Keep some of their meal set aside with a few goodies added, when you arrive home or when guests arrive, toss the food on the floor to keep your dog’s attention directed downward whilst creating a positive association with guests coming into your home.
  • Make use of baby gates. If you get home and fido loves to jump on you, use a baby gate or exercise pen to keep him from greeting you right at the door. When his feet are planted, you’ll greet him, otherwise ignore him.
  • Teach him to retrieve a toy. Then keep a few special toys stashed away and only bring them out when people come to the door. Toss a toy to direct your dog’s attention to do something other than jump.
  • Teach a reliable Sit or Down. Known as an incompatible behavior, dog’s can’t be jumping if they’re sitting or laying down.
  • Teach your dog to “jump” on cue. By teaching them to jump, you can easily teach them an “off” cue as well. Not only that, but after dogs learn to jump on cue they are less likely to offer the behavior unless it’s cued up.

Last, but not least, be sure to heavily reward and at a high rate for when your dog is offering other behaviors besides jumping. By rewarding what we like, our dogs are more likely to repeat what we’ve rewarded in the past.

Many of the above tips can and should be combined to increase the chances of your dog succeeding.

For more details about training, please contact me to set up a training or behavior session.

 

New Year’s Resolutions

When January 1st rolls around, everyone seems to have new resolutions on their mind. Whether it’s to lose weight, quit smoking or watch less tv, people are pretty diligent about it for the first few days… and then quickly go back to their old habits. My message for people this New Year is to turn resolutions into good habits and stick to them. In addition to making resolutions for yourself (which I hope you stick to), make resolutions for your pets.

Training our dogs is an ongoing process. We don’t bring a dog home, train it for two weeks and then call it quits. Every interaction we have with our dogs is essentially a training session, which means we are training our dogs throughout the dog’s lifetime. As a New Year’s resolution for my pets, I want to spend an average of fifteen minutes a day working on fun and/or meaningful behaviors with them. The fifteen minutes can be spread out, in fact, it’s probably more fun and effective if the sessions aren’t always blocked into one formal training session time. Instead, training is woven into our day and by keeping it random and spontaneous, the animals never know when they will be reinforced! It’s this same concept that makes gambling on slot machines so addictive for humans!

Let’s not forget about our other furry and feathered friends. Parrots, cats, rabbits, etc. can all be trained using positive reinforcement training methods and most excel with the use of marker signals such as a clicker. So be creative and have fun. Get out there and train with your pets. Not only will it give your pet some mental stimulation and exercise, it will help reinforce the bond the you have with your pets and have them respect and be more attentive to you!

Happy Training!!!

Keep Your Pets Safe this Holiday

With the Holidays upon us, it’s important to not forget about our furry and feathered friends. During the Holidays it can be easy to overlook potential hazards for our pets.For instance, Poinsettias, Holly and Mistletoe are toxic plants if eaten by cats and dogs. Chocolate, artificial sweeteners, grapes and onions are also poisonous for furry companions.

Many people include their pets in their festivities and plans. In doing so, it’s important to understand basic animal body language so you’re better able to read your pet’s mood. Many animals prefer a quiet spot, away from commotion and people they may not know. Give your pets a safe haven that they can retreat to. Provide them with enrichment toys to keep them entertained and stimulated.

Try to keep to your pet’s normal schedule as much as possible during the Holidays. If your dog is used to being walked daily, continue taking him on his scheduled walk. If your cat normally enjoys some cuddle time in the morning, be sure to allow for those extra few moments with her.

For bird owners, be careful to not use air fresheners, scented candles or potpourri, many of which are dangerously toxic for birds. When heated, many non-stick cooking pots and pans emit toxics into the air that are dangerous for your bird as well. Be sure that your bird is in a separate area of the house when cooking and that your kitchen has been well ventilated before bringing the bird back into the area.

Keep an eye on Holiday decorations. Cats, dogs, bunnies and birds often find shiny decorations to be interesting and fun. Bunnies love to chew through cords, cats enjoy tinsel, dogs and birds like plucking ornaments off the tree and then chewing them into tiny bits that they may or may not ingest.

Lastly, it’s best to not feed your pets many leftovers, if any. Most Holiday dishes are rich in ingredients and contain a lot of sweeteners, sodium and fats, all of which are not healthy for your pets. If you have some lean meat leftover, you could use a small amount of it to stuff a favorite enrichment toy or use cut up bits as training treats. No big meals for Fido or Fluffy though, they could get sick and put a damper on the Holiday fun!

Keep your pets safe this Holiday season and everyone will be  happy!

Happy Holidays.