Does your dog jump up on people?

We all hate it when our dogs jump up on people when they walk through the door. The natural human reaction is to yell at the dog to get off. But the fact that you are getting upset and yelling is actually fueling your dog’s excitement of meeting people and might even encourage it. Not only is Rover getting the attention from your guest but he is getting ramped up with your reaction. As usual, preplanning is essential. If your dog is a jumper, instruct guests to ignore the dog under all circumstances until the dog has all four feet on the ground. This is not an easy task but setting up practice sessions will help instead of waiting until Aunt Myrtle comes over in her new white dress. At the same time, you can teach your dog the off command. An easy way to do this is to teach the dog to jump up on cue then teach the off cue. You can also teach the dog to go to a place mat when the door rings.

There are many things we can teach dogs to do instead of jumping up on people. Let me show you what will work best for your dog.

Socializing Your Puppy

Amazing things can happen when we preplan certain aspects of our lives. If we invest a small percentage of our income now, our money can grow for retirement. If we exercise now, we hope to prevent many health problems as we age. The same kind of preplanning can improve significantly your dog’s mental health as he grows from puppyhood to adulthood. As a puppy and an adolescent, the things he gets exposed to, either good or bad, can affect how he sees the world for his entire life.  Even events that a puppy doesn’t experience can be traumatic in adulthood. This is why socialization is so important. Some dog experts say our dogs are not fully domesticated until they have been properly trained and socialized. As a trainer, I would like to see everybody training and socializing at the same time but if I had to choose which one would be more important, it would be to get your dog out in the world as much as possible. Socialization has a pressing deadline that, if you miss it within the first 8 to 16 weeks of Zippy’s life, you will never be able to fully “domesticate” your dog. This is when we see dogs scared of sounds, some people, skateboards etc.

Dogs, like people, come with their own personalities and this requires that all of them need some sort of behavior modification right from the start. Some dogs lack confidence and some are pushy. Others are sluggish, shy, reserved, rambunctious, asocial, antisocial or lack confidence. This is why that crucial 8 weeks is so important. We can take those inborn “character flaws” and work with them, mold and manage them over that period so that adolescence and adulthood is much more bearable.

What is Socialization? It is simply getting the dog familiar with all sorts of people, situations and other animals so that Zippy will less likely be fearful when he becomes an adult. If dogs aren’t exposed to men, children, people with canes, hats or beards, then the dog could react in a visceral mannerwhen he sees these people for the first time as an adult. Fear is the main reason why dogs bite. But luckily, socialization is a fun and easy thing to do with a puppy. 

Your job as a puppy owner is to get Zippy to not only tolerate but absolutely enjoy everybody whether they are in a wheel chair or walking with a limp. 

How do we do it:

·      Your goal is for your puppy to meet 100 unique strangers in 8 weeks. So keep count.

·      I always ask my clients to gather up some tiny treats that are about ½ pea sized and are something the puppy absolutely goes bonkers over. When I did this with my last puppy, I used little pieces of cheddar cheese or hot dogs.

·      Go to the nearest plaza that has a steady flow of people and is not close to a pet supply store or vet. In Dr. Phillips, the Publix on Sand Lake Road is a perfect place or across the street where My Gym is located.

·      Sit on a bench and wait. You’ll soon realize that puppies are absolutely irresistible. People can’t help but want to pet a puppy.

·      When the first few people show up, feed your puppy treats ever so often and let the strangers feed Zippy, as well. By doing this, your puppy is associating all these strangers with something really great. Cheese!

·      Let children gush over the puppy. Encourage people of all races and genders to pet your little fur ball. One of the toughest demographic to get interested in a puppy is men. Most don’t want to be bothered and when they are with their wives, they hang back and wait. Get them to pet or feed little Zippy, too. Insecure adult dogs can sense the extra testosterone and low voice that a man has and find it threatening

 When my wife and I did this, we went to the Loop in Kissimmee and Home Depot and over the course of about 3 weeks, we had our 100 unique strangers.

A Few Words of Warning:  Before you embark on your daily socialization trip, there are a few things to keep in mind. Puppies are at a risk for getting a deadly disease called Parvo. It is a dangerous and deadly virus that hangs out in dog feces and can live on surfaces and grass for weeks. Because of this, you should keep your puppy away from vet parking lots or pet stores until they have had all their shots. Also keep them away from other dogs because adult dogs can carry it on their paws or body but be immune to Parvo themselves. The risk is low but why take chances.

Also, watch your puppy’s body language. If at any time Zippy looks scared, get him out of there quickly. This would be the opposite of positive socialization and create a phobia.

A Side Note: You should never physically discipline or punish your puppy. This time in Zippy’s life is so impressionable that this antiquated style of training can be horribly traumatic and can make Zippy fear you. In modern dog training, we guide our dogs with kind and calm benevolence. Reward your puppy for the things he does right often and ignore those undesirable behaviors. With consistency, your puppy will get the picture. If you are ever uncertain about how to extinguish unwanted behaviors, always solicit the help from a certified trainer.

But wait, you’re not done! So you have gotten those 100 people to gush over your puppy but at approximately 6 months to about 2 years, your dog has grown into adolescence and most dogs develop another fear imprint period. So it is important to continue getting your dog out meeting people and since by now, your dog has all its vaccinations, you can get them meeting other dogs and going to dog parks and pet stores.

It sounds easy because it is. But believe it or not, so many people completely miss or don’t even know about socialization and unfortunately do their dog a great disservice. Your dog when well-socialized will ensure that he is healthy, happy and free of fear.

Adopting 2 dogs: Don’t create a huge headache for yourself!

As a trainer, I am not a fan of anybody adopting two dogs at once especially if you are a novice dog owner. When you have two dogs, you must train them separately. If you are new to dog ownership, this can be very overwhelming and time consuming. Think about it, you have to train the behaviors sit, stay, come, lay down and walk on a loose leash separately. If you don’t, you will have poorly trained dogs. Getting two puppies from the same litter can also cause problems. Without careful training and leadership, you will have those two puppies build a bond with each other where they have less of a need for the owner thus creating behavioral problems that get worse as they reach adolescence.

It is always better to get dogs one at a time and when you feel you have reached a point where you have a strong bond and established yourself as the provider of all resources, then you can carefully choose another dog.

If you have already adopted two dogs at once, all is not lost and I can still help you get through it.

Check back every Tuesday for more dog training tips.


Mastering the 'Come' Cue

Many people call me and want advice on why their dog won’t come when called. They use the excuses that their dog is stubborn or stupid. Chances are, your dog is neither. When dealing with dogs and training them, the dog many times will infer, “what’s in it for me.” They’re inherently selfish.

In light of this, a typical dog owner will call their dog; Rover, come…Rover….Come! ….and so on and so forth until the owner is so angry that he storms over to his dog and clips on the leash and forcefully says, “let’s go.”

So the dog has a choice. He is enjoyably sniffing grass or an angry owner grabbing his collar and bringing him home. No fun. I’ll take the grass sniffing, thank you.

A great come cue takes practice and a reward when he comes to you. Rehearse your come cue even when you don’t want Rover to come and follow it up with a reward. After some practice, when your really need him to come to you, you’ll get it. Let me teach you to train your dog the perfect come cue.


Finding the Right Puppy

January, February and March are common months for trainers to get calls from clients about puppy problems. Why in these months? Because, people give puppies as gifts to their loved ones and the months following the holiday season are when people get frustrated with their little balls of endless energy. Currently, I have a puppy and it is truly impossible to wear her out. I can’t imagine someone trying to raise a puppy without having the proper tools and knowledge to have success. I’d love to share a few tips for people to read before they even consider a puppy. Hopefully this will encourage further reading and research.

•   Make sure you have lots of time. The minute you bring your puppy home, you need to start training her. Fortunately, new research has paved the way for force free methods of training puppies. The old method of puppy training was to wait until they were 6 months of age to start training by means of using physical punishment. So, the minute you bring your little one home, start training and socializing her everyday. Be diligent and keep this up for at least a year. In fact, dogs find training rewarding and fun throughout their entire lives.

•   Owning a dog is a long term, financial and emotional commitment. Puppies, compared to adopting an older dog, are very expensive. They have to go to the vet often and you may have to invest in equipment such as crates, gates and possibly even fence in your back yard. Because of this commitment, a puppy should never be given as a surprise gift. You are taking in a living thing that relies on you which takes planning and a committed effort for 10 to 14 years.  

•   If you buy a purebred puppy, make sure you buy from a reputable and registered breeder. Purebred dogs generally are very expensive ($500 to $1000 or more). If they aren’t, you could be dealing with a back yard breeder with little experience. Another possibility is your dog is from a puppy-mill. Puppy-mill dogs can be mal-adjusted because they are not exercised or socialized properly. These dogs are hard to rehabilitate. Also, be wary of buying a dog off of an online listing site such as Craig’s list or from a pet store. The reputable pet stores just host shelters to bring rescued dogs to be sold at nominal prices. They don’t sell puppy-mill dogs.

•   Evaluate your lifestyle to make sure the breed you are interested in falls in line with what works for you.  For instance, don’t buy a Border Collie if you aren’t an active person with a huge commitment to giving this breed tons of exercise and mental stimulation. Consequently, if you are really active, don’t buy a sedentary breed such as a Bassett Hound. In other words, don’t buy just on looks. Write down what you might do with a dog and find a breed that fits your lifestyle. If you want a lap dog, the Border collie isn’t it. 

•   Make sure the puppy stayed with its mother for 2 months before taking it home. This is important. Puppies taken from mom before 2 months can also be mal-adjusted and be difficult to rehabilitate. Mom and brothers and sisters teach bite inhibition so the puppy learns cues as to when she bites too hard. That skill translates into adulthood when you don’t want your 70 pound Lab play biting you with full force. Also, puppies that stay with their mother for 2 months are also less likely to be fearful or timid in their adult lives.

•   If you want to get a rescued puppy, be choosy. Don’t go into a shelter and make a quick decision. There are so many dogs that need to be rescued and doing so is a noble act. I am a dog rescuer and I applaud it. But, you still want to find a compatible dog. For as much as this process will involve your heart, you have to have your wits about you. You still must consider your lifestyle and what kind of puppy you are adopting. Consider time, commitment, and a proper breed mixture that fits your life. You don’t always know if the puppy was taken from its mother before 2 months, but you should always do your best to find out as much about the puppy’s history as possible. I volunteer at a local rescue and see certain dogs returned, sometimes multiple times. This frequently occurs because people are adopting solely with their hearts and then get overwhelmed when reality sets in. Many times I feel that it is worse for the puppy to come back to the shelter multiple times as opposed to the puppy staying in the shelter longer to make sure they find the right home. 

How you bring up a puppy will greatly determine what kind of adult dog you end up having. It’s best to stay grounded, be a little less idealized in your selection, and be diligent with training.


Essential things to have when you get a puppy

When you first get a puppy, what are the major things you need to buy? Well first of all, you need a crate. It’s a great place for the puppy to go when you can’t tend to him. Hollow chew toys that you can stuff with food is another good investment. Obviously, you need a collar and a leash. A comfortable bed would be good to redirect the dog if you want him off the couch.

One thing you won’t need is a food bowl. You should be feeding your puppy his entire meals by hand or in the hollow chew toys. When you feed your puppy by hand, you establish yourself as the provider and leader of the household. Anything that you have left over can be put in a chew toy, you turn your dog into a chew toy addict, which is much better than a couch chewing addict or a shoe chewing addict.


Common Assumptions in Dog Ownership

There is a nationally known dog trainer, author and clinician, Chris Bach, whom I admire. If you aren’t a dog trainer you probably won’t know who she is, but she has some great concepts. One of those concepts is the A.S.S.U.M.E. acronym. What Bach asks is:  Is it worthwhile for the dog/owner relationship to ASSUME that dogs must be:

Adaptable to any situation?

Sociable to everyone and everything?

Submissive to all people?

Unaffected by past experiences?

Manageable under all circumstances?

Emotionally stable regardless of anything?

The overwhelming answer is NO.  This is especially true with rescued dogs. Many times we won’t know a dog’s past experience.  In addition to that, Bach questions if humans are able to live by these impossible rules? The answer is also no. So why would we expect that from our dogs.  Therefore, she says that she is letting every person and every dog “off the hook.”  

One common example of humans expecting their dogs to be adaptable would be when I see them at farmer’s markets such as the ones in Winter Park or downtown Orlando that happen every weekend. Many dogs are ok but there are always a few that are just plain frightened of the people and commotion. These owners don’t realize this and are expecting their dogs to be “Adaptable to any situation” and, “Emotionally stable regardless of anything.” If you notice your dog is not happy in a place such as a farmer’s market, you shouldn’t bring him there or expect him to get used to it without time-consuming desensitization. How do you know your dog is frightened or uneasy? Look at the body language. The tail says a lot. If it is between the legs suggesting fear, or if it is up very high and wiggling quickly suggesting alertness and possible aggression, your dog should be taken away from the uncomfortable situation. Other things to look for are very wide eyes, ears perked up or bearing teeth. One of my dogs doesn’t like big crowds so I keep him away from them. There is no reason to put my dog through that kind of stress just because I feel my dog should be able to handle it. I rescued him and I have no idea what his past experience with big crowds was.

Here is another situation. My son used to be involved in a youth theater and few days during afternoon pick up time, a parent would come in with his older German Shepherd to wait for his child at the back of the theater. Naturally, the children gravitated towards this calm and seasoned dog. No less than five children were around this dog petting him and getting in his face. The owner may not have been attuned to what was clearly an absolutely terrified dog. He had wide eyes (sometimes called whale eye), ears were down and he was shaking. This was a recipe for disaster because a good majority of dog bites occur because the dog is fearful. Also, a majority of dog bite victims are children under 10. Many dogs when faced with this type of situation on a recurring basis feel that they have no choice but to say, “GET OUT OF MY FACE!,” and that is when a bite occurs. What we do as humans is blame the dog, when in fact, it was the humans who were truly at fault for not knowing how to approach a dog and read his body language. When these dogs finally do explode, they sadly get put down even though they were only trying to protect themselves. It is horribly sad. The owner should have instead left this dog in the car or left him at home. Luckily, I never saw this dog do anything, but I felt like it was a ticking time bomb. Every dog, no matter how nice and calm, has the capability of being aggressive when put in the wrong situation.

So please consider the anacronym, A.S.S.U.M.E. a dog can handle every person, place or situation. I have now let you “off the hook” and you are now allowed to say that my dog is not comfortable with children or at a super bowl party. Instead you can now leave your dog at home or put your dog up in a dog hotel for the evening if you are having a large gathering.

What should we do when we have no choice but to bring a dog into an uncomfortable situation? The vet’s office is a common place where dogs tend to be uncomfortable and fearful. You have a number of choices. Instead of waiting in the lobby for 15 or 20 minutes you could sign in and then wait with your dog outside or if it is cool, you could leave your dog in the car until it is your turn.

Another idea would be to systematically desensitize your dog to the vet. It is quite labor intensive, but if you put a lot of time into this, your dog’s anxiety could be greatly mitigated. Simply bring your dog to the vet weekly whether he needs medical care or not. Bring some good treats with you. Sit down for a while in the lobby feeding treats every once in a while. Let people pet your dog if he isn’t showing signs of stress. After a few weeks, ask if you can bring your dog to an empty exam room. Again, make sure that there is no anxiety. If there is, go back to the lobby and make visits there for a few more weeks. If the anxiety has abated, hang out in the exam room, again letting technicians pet your dog or even let your dog on the examination table if he is willing. Over the course of a few months, you likely will have a dog that is less afraid of going to the vet. We all too often force our dogs into vet’s offices and from a dog’s point of view, this can be absolutely terrifying.

 Instead of trying to assume that our dogs can live by the above assumed rules, it would be much better to manage the dogs behavior as best we can and let the dogs be dogs. Let their own individual personalities dictate how you train, socialize and interact with them.


Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

For many dog breeds, this is the mantra for keeping your dog out of trouble. You’ve heard the statement, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, a good dose of exercise could reduce your need of a local dog trainer, and in many incidences, can resolve lots of behavior problems.

It’s true, some breeds don’t need a great deal of exercise. Breeds such as the Bassett Hound, Shih Tzu, Bulldog or even some Mastiffs are fine with a leisurely stroll around the block. But if you own a Lab, Golden Retriever, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie or a Pit Bull, prepare to spend lots of time giving these dogs tons of running, retrieving, Frisbee or agility work. These dogs have an inordinate amount of energy even when they are in their mid-lives at 7 to 10 years old.

Some clients I have seen who have herding breeds such as Shetland Sheepdogs and German Shepherds have had problems with excessive barking, digging, and chewing inappropriate things. One client had owned a Shelty with a barking problem and with a little bit of prying, I found that the dog was only getting a leisurely 20 minute walk a day. It wasn’t enough for a dog with extreme pent up energy. It was quite shocking to the dog owner when I said the dog needs at least an hour of vigorous exercise a day. It’s a tough reality because many of these less knowledgeable dog owners realize that their daily lifestyle will have to change just for the dog. In this case for a young herding breed of dog, the leisurely walk just wasn’t doing it. It is another argument that you must choose your dog breed carefully.

 Why do our dogs need exercise? The answer to this question lies in the domesticated dog history and its relationship to us over the course of thousands of years. Possibly 30,000 years ago, dogs would hang around human garbage heaps and the dogs that were friendly were taken in as companions. It was then that we started to learn that we could train these dogs to work for us and in exchange, we would feed them and give them companionship. Over the course of these thousands of years, different dog breeds were developed providing protection, hunting, herding and retrieving. Now the most common job our dogs do is lie around the house and sleep. Our dogs have lost that purpose in their lives.

Many dog owners assume that leaving a dog in the back yard constitutes exercise. We humans have a unique relationship with our dogs. We don’t share this type of relationship with any other species in the world. They were bred to be with us and work for us. A dog left in the back yard to tend to its own devices might run a few laps and then ultimately, wait for you to let him back inside or wait for some sort of human interaction.

So how much exercise does your dog need? Well, that will depend on the breed and your individual dog. But generally, your dog should have an hour of exercise everyday. For some, that exercise might have to be a hour of vigorous activity and for others, it might be more cerebral such as smelling work if you have a Hound.

 There are many ways that your dog can get exercise. The most common way is to take your dog on a walk. But it is important to know that the walk should be lengthy, about an hour a day. But the list of other exercise options is endless.

·      Retrieving provides vigorous exercise for many dogs and you don’t even have to move. If your dog doesn’t bring the ball back, he can be trained to do so.

·      Many dogs have good eye-mouth coordination and these dogs would be good candidates for catching Frisbees.

·      Bring your dog to a dog park and let them interact with other dogs. There is a wonderful Orange County dog park at the Dr. P. Phillips Community Park in southwest Orlando.

·      Train your dog new tricks and behaviors. This gets your dog’s mind working, strengthens your relationship, and renews his sense of purpose.

·      Agility Classes. A neighbor of mine takes her Springer Spaniel regularly to agility class. This is an obstacle course for dogs with jumps, tubes and seesaws. Active dogs usually love this. Google dog agility in Orlando or Kissimmee and you’ll find it is done in many locations.

·      Running or riding a bike with your dog beside you not only gives you exercise but your dog benefits, as well.  Additionally, if your dog likes it, he will make sure you make this part of your daily routine.

·      Dogs like the Bernese Mountain Dog are working dogs originally bred to pull carts. If you had a dog like this, you could teach the dog to pull a cart and the dog would probably love doing something that was part of his genetic make up.

·      There are endless clubs that you can join involving activities like competition obedience, rally, freestyle, tracking and flyball.

All in all, if you want to mitigate the destructive chewing, unruly behavior in the house, excessive predatory behavior, garbage raiding, and attention getting behaviors like barking and whining, then give your dog the exercise it needs. You’ll have an agile, limber, healthy, happy, trim and well-behaved dog in return.

Choosing the Right Dog

In working at a prominent shelter in the Orlando area and advising many dog owners in private lessons, I find that there are a lot of mistakes being made when people choose a dog or a puppy. So here is a list of a few things you might want to consider before getting a dog or puppy.
CONSIDER BREED: Too many people choose breeds for their looks when actually what they should be doing is choosing the temperament of a breed and whether it fits into their lifestyle. For instance, if you want a lap dog and you aren’t much into training, you don’t want a hyper breed such as an Australian Shepherd. Conversely, if you are an active person and want your dog to train easily, a dachshund would not be right for you.
CONSIDER COST: Dogs cost a lot both when you first adopt and throughout the 10-14 years of their lives in medical costs. This is one reason why you should never get two dogs at the same time. Not only is training a bear but medical costs easily double. It is best to get only one canine and get a mental picture as to how much it costs in food and medical costs. Having said that, don’t skimp on the cost of adopting a full breed puppy. See last week’s article on how to get a full breed puppy.
DON’T GIVE A PUPPY AS A GIFT: We are coming into the holiday season and many people decide to give a puppy as a gift to their friend or family member. This is not a good idea. A puppy is not an object but a living thing. Decisions on breed, costs, medicines, vets and lifestyle should not be taken lightly.  Dogs take an enormous amount of daily work which doesn’t stop until they leave us in 10 to 14 years. A puppy can change a person’s life instantly in a good way but also overly burden someone if they are unable or unprepared to do the work.

A few tips on getting a purebred dog

Purebred dogs can be a genetic cesspool and if you aren’t careful, you can end up with either a dog with serious genetic medical problems or worse, genetic behavioral problems. There are many people who are breeding purebred puppies for huge profits and don’t necessarily know what they are doing. Many of the genetic issues have been bred out of certain breeds using rules set by the American Kennel Club.

Reputable breeders know their genetic line are careful with whom their dogs breed. One registered breeder I talked with who breeds standard poodles said that she was so concerned with hip issues, if one male had only a fair rating for hips, then she wouldn’t let that dog breed with her female who had excellent hips. It is responsible breeding and it is a standard set by the AKC.  Likewise, a responsible registered breeder will take a dog out of the line and not breed if that dog has displayed some kind of genetic problem. If you get a puppy from a breeder not registered, you are taking your chances with genetic issues such as hip dysplasia found in bigger breeds and aggression found in other breeds like the Doberman Pinscher. Inexperienced or uneducated breeders are also not concerned with taking a dog out of the line or even knows anything about responsible breeding to begin with. The moral of the storyis don’t go to a so called, “backyard breeder” with no credentials trying to save you some money. Spend the money and get your puppy from a reputable and registered AKC breeder and make sure that dog has papers to prove it.

What should I adopt, puppy or adult dog?

That is a tough question to answer. There are pros and cons to each..  

Getting a puppy?

PRO: You generally have a clean slate and an eager learner. If you start training immediately and are consistent in your training, there is high likelyhood of having a well-adjusted adult dog. You are in control of how the puppy experiences the world.

CON: Yes, you have an eager learner but that puppy needs to learn everything from you over the course of a year or more. Consider potty training; which can take weeks or even months of getting up in the middle of the night to let the puppy out. You also have to puppy proof your home. Training and socialization are exceptionally important and must be practiced daily.

Getting an adult dog?

PRO: Many times you have a dog that has learned all the basic commands, is potty trained and has already learned that chewing on shoes is a no-no.

CON: You many times have no idea what life experiences that dog had as a puppy in the form of socialization and training. From this, many adult dogs can come with emotional baggage because previous owners were not knowledgeable about raising a puppy. I call rescued adult dogs “project dogs” for this reason. As a trainer, all the rescued adult dogs that I have seen need some kind of training or rehabilitation.

The conclusion is, have an argument with yourself  weighing benefits and pitfalls of adopting either a dog or a puppy.  It is always a good idea to enlist the help of a qualified trainer to make sure you start your relationship with your dog or puppy on the right footing.

How Many Dogs Can I Adopt At Once?

The short answer, only one. I have had a few clients who have either gotten two puppies at once or rescued two adult dogs at the same time. Even for the most experienced trainers, this is an true challenge. None of my clients who adopted two dogs at the same time were experienced dog owners and it became overwhelming.  First of all, you can’t train two dogs at the same time. You have to train them separately. Consistent practice and training is essential for both dogs. Some peopledidn’t have the time to do this. If you have ever had a baby and realize how much work it is, multiply that by two and know that this is what happens when you adopt two dogs at the same time. You have twice the expense and twice the time spent training. It is best to adopt one dog at a time and let that dog assimilate into your life.  Later, when you feel you have a handle on training and are readyto invest more time and money, carefully choose a second dog that will be compatible with the first.

Let You And Your Dog Off The Hook

There is a nationally known dog trainer, author and clinician, Chris Bach, whom I admire. If you aren’t a dog trainer you probably won’t know who she is but she has some great concepts. One of those concepts is the A.S.S.U.M.E. acronym. What Bach asks is:  Is it worthwhile for the dog/dog owner relationship to ASSUME that dogs must be:

Adaptable to any situation?

Sociable to everyone and everything?

Submissive to all people?

Unaffected by past experiences?

Manageable under all circumstances?

Emotionally stable regardless of anything?

The overwhelming answer is NO.  This is especially true with rescued dogs. Many times we won’t knowa dog’s past experience.  In addition that, Bach questions if humans are able to live by these impossible rules? The answer is no. So why would we expect that from our dogs.  Therefore, she says that she is letting every person and every dog “off the hook.”  

One common example of humans expecting their dogs to be adaptable would be when I see them at farmer’s markets. Many dogs are ok but there are always a few that are just plain frightened of the people and commotion. These owners don’t realize this are expecting their dogs to be “Adaptable to any situation.” If you notice your dog is not happy in a place such as a farmer’s market, you shouldn’t bring him there or expect him to get used to it. One of my dogs doesn’t like big crowds so I keep him away from them. There is no reason to put my dog through that kind of stress.

Instead of trying to make our dogs, especially rescued ones, live by the above rules, it would be much better to manage the dogs behavior as best we can and let the dog be dogs, letting there own individual personalities dictate how you train, socialize and interact with them.

Breed-ism And The Pitbull

Pit bulls have received a bad rap for many years. Because they were cruelly used for dog fighting and there were a few “bad eggs” in the breed, they have suffered from what I call Breed-ism. Many insurance companies won’t insure you if you have one, some cities, counties and even countries have banned them. When there is a highly publicized dog bite in the press, the offending dog is always called a pit-bull even though there are many of dogs that look like a them. So, even though only a handful of dog bites are done by pit-bulls, most dog bite incidences are always wrongly blamed on the breed. Pretty unfair, huh? Check out this link and see if you can choose the pit-bull from the 25 pictures. It’s hard to pick it out.

In my experience as a trainer, pit-bulls look menacing but are actually a fun, energetic, smart and trainable breed. Like many energetic breeds, training early in their lives is important or they develop bad habits. In fact I have been bitten a number of times by dogs and none of them have been pit-bulls and this is the breed I most deal with when I volunteer at the shelter.

It’s time for us to put and end to the pitbull madness and treat them like any other dog, with respect, kindness and leadership.

My Dog is Barking and He's Driving Me Crazy!

This is a common problem that dog trainers get called for all the time.  If you step back a bit, you’ll realize that dogs bark for many reasons.

  •  There is excited play-alert barking where the dog is having fun and enjoying whatever activity he is engaged in.

  •  Fearful alarm barking is when a dog is scared or stressed at something he has never seen before or is simply under-socialized or shy.

  •  Demand barking is usually from a dog that is being pushy.  

  • Then there is the common problem of territorial barking where this occurs mainly at home.

  • Also, dogs can bark if there’re bored.

I have also mentioned in previous posts about choosing your dog breed carefully. Some dogs have barking in their genetic make up and stopping it in these incidences can be very difficult.

When you’re dealing with barking, it is important to identify the cause of the barking before trying to stop it. For example, if your dog barks every time you put him out in the backyard, you might find that he is bored especially if he is left out there for long periods of time. I have always advocated having an indoor dog. Dogs have been bred to be with us and work for us and not be left alone for long periods of time. Another example would be if you have a dog that is engaging you in direct eye contact or growls or barks at you when you want him off the couch. He could be engaging in demand or dominance barking. A good trainer would put you on a program of relationship/leadership exercises where he/she can put the owner on a routine of controlling resources and submissive body-posturing exercises.

With good leadership, some knowledge and thoughtful guidance from a dog trainer, many a barking problem can be abated or even eliminated

Happy, Sad, Silly or Mad. Become Fluent In Dog Body Language

Anthropologists have really figured out that dogs respond quicker to visual cues than verbal. This makes sense because in the dog world, that is how they primarily communicate. Some people might think they communicate through barking but that is a more minor part of communication. Dogs see other dogs and naturally assess whether their ears are up or forward or down. They’ll look at the tail. Is it wagging and how is it wagging? They’ll also look at other dog's approaching. Is it coming straight for them, suggesting aggression, or is it approaching in an arc and not directly communicating friendliness or no threat? 

Consequently, it is important that every dog owner educates him or herself and becomes fluent in canine body language.  That way you can really know what your dog’s state of mind really is.

Disciplining Your Dog Like a Child

It is widely believed that throughout our dogs’ lives, they could be equated to a 2 year old child. A human 2 year old generally is excited to learn, enjoys simple things, and has to be supervised when you are out and about. This is generally true with adult dogs too. But this belief has its limitations. Mainly, a dog is a different species and has a different language or way of communicating.  I think it is fine to equate Skippy with a human 2 year old to gain a better understanding of dogs but in no way should we be treating him like a human.

One major thing I see when people humanize their dog is spanking or hitting them when they do something undesirable. After all, many people do this to their kids to correct them. However, this is not how dogs communicate. It was thought years ago that this pain inducing method was a way to train a dog and that is no longer the case. Nowadays, we train dogs to get a reward because studies have shown that this is the way dogs learn best.

Also, I see people yelling at their dogs. After all, we also do this to our kids. People don’t realize that to your dog, yelling can be just like barking to your canine. For instance, when I see a dog barking and reacting to a person on the other side of a fence, I see the owners yelling at Rover saying “come” or “Rover, stop.” At this point, the dog has crossed a threshold and any kind of yelling will send the message to the dog, “my owner is barking at this person, too.”

It’s always best to be a kind, calm and benevolent leader to your dog. If you are having these types of issues, call a certified trainer like myself so I can show you a better alternative to yelling or hitting and most of all, let me show you how to communicate effectively with your dog.

Where Early Socialization Can Backfire

Lately, I have seen that members of the average dog owning public are really seeing the benefits of early socialization in puppies. This is an improvement from years ago when many people didn’t know what it was. When you own a puppy, there is a period where socialization is optimal, especially if you want well-adjusted dogs throughout their life. When you socialize a dog or puppy, you are exposing Skippy to as many different experiences as possible.  You want him to meet different people, visit parks, farmer’s markets, busy streets or any situations that he could encounter in his adult life. There is one caveat to socialization, though. If you expose your puppy to something he finds scary, socialization will be counterproductive. It could have the opposite effect and make Skippy fearful of that situation or the circumstances surrounding it. So, make sure you look at your puppy’s body language to avoid any negatives he might feel.  If he does, back off until he relaxes or ease him into situations carefully and slowly, and always bring tasty treats with you!

Is Your Dog Being Dominant?

There has been a long held myth that if your dog is pulling you on the leash, dashing out the door or urinating in the house, he is being dominant. Because of one particular show on TV, this dominance theory has been perpetuated. However, what you might not know is that dominance theory was dismissed by the scientific community long ago. Dominance theory was based on the fact that dogs were related to wolves and wolves roamed in packs that had a dominant male. We now know from further study has been done on wolves that wolf packs actually consist of a mother and father and pups just like humans. Further research has also found that wolves are no more related to our dogs than we humans are to chimpanzees.

Wolves in packs don’t use force when dealing with available resources but actually peacefully defer to each other. When we see domestic dogs aggress toward people or other dogs, it is not one dog trying to be dominant over the other person or dog but usually stems from anxiety or fear.

Also, if Rover is dashing out the door before you or pulling you on the lead, it is not that he wants to be dominant but is simply a canine that just wants to get there wherever ‘there’ is. Walks and being outside for a dog is fun and if Rover can get to the fun quicker, that is all the better.

Although these issues are annoying, it is not a dog being dominant rather it is a dog that requires a little bit of training.


Anthropomorphism And Its Traps

What is anthropomorphism? To put it simply, it is humanizing your cat or your dog. These people think their pet can understand everything they tell them and they have the ability to feel spite, guilt, or think in an abstract way. Honestly, there is no problem with humanizing your dog. I even do it with my own dogs and cats. When I am home alone I often find myself talking to them. It’s fun and for many people, it’s comforting. I believe this is the reason why it has been proven that pets lower our blood pressure and help to lessen stress in our lives.

 But as a trainer, I see the traps that anthropomorphism creates with many people.  Because people get in the habit of humanizing their dog, they can’t understand why they can’t reason with them when things go awry.  Dogs respond according to their nature(genes) and their conditioning(training and upbringing). Many times dogs get hurt emotionally or physically because people don’t understand this one concept. One major thing I see is scolding your dog for something that happened in the past such as finding your slippers chewed when you have been away from home. Dogs don’t think in an abstract way. Scolding a dog by telling him how bad he was is fruitless and your dog won’t understand your words. The only thing he will pick up on is your anger. The real reason why he chewed the slipper is because dogs like to chew and the slippers smelled tasty.

 Another mistake that humans make is that thinking dogs feel guilty after they see that you are mad for chewing your slippers. Actually, all they are doing is reacting to your emotion. If you come home angry enough times, your dog will soon look guilty every time you come home whether you are angry or not or whether he chewed slippers or not. We humanize this cowering as guilt and it is far too complex an emotion for a dog to experience.

 I feel it’s possible to have an emotional and even a spiritual connection with your dog. This is what makes pet ownership so great. When I look at my dogs’ faces and they look back at me, I sense a real consciousness that they are aware of me in a way that I can’t possibly describe. What I don't want to do is to project my feelings onto them but to try to understand them

 All in all, there is nothing wrong  with humanizing or anthropomorphizing your dog just as long as you keep it in check. Continue to tell your dog that he is “handsome and wonderful” because even though he won’t understand the words, he will respond to the tone and it will make you both feel good  Just stay away from, “he pooped on the floor to spite me when I came home late.”  Remember most dogs' love is unconditional.