Monthly Archives: May 2015

Toy Dogs

Do you live with a toy dog? Toy dogs are classified as being 20 pounds or less. I have some helpful hints for you if you’re raising a little dog and you want to have a happy and healthy, well adjusted companion.

First, keep in mind that a little dog views the world much differently. EVERYTHING looks huge to a little dog. This is why they seem so much more reactive to their environment. Some of these little dogs don’t know they’re little, based on their behaviors. Many of the small breeds seem like they’re very big dogs in small bodies. Movement also creates a lot of excitement to them – they’re always afraid that they’re going to get stepped on.

Begin socializing your puppy as soon as you get him home. Each week introduce your new puppy to all sorts of different people, but not all at the same time. Introduce him to people coming into your home. Introduce him to your neighbors. Take him for walks in a park and teach him to sit politely for a greeting from a stranger. Hand the stranger a treat, and tell this person to wait for the dog to sit first, and then they can kneel down and offer the dog the treat reward. Try to find other friendly puppies or dogs of the same size or similar sizes to play with your dog. Put your dog in the car and take him with you on your errands. Take him to get gas in your car so that he gets used to someone reaching inside the car to give you change. Introduce your little dog to people in uniforms, like the mailman or a police officer.

THE WINDOW OF SOCIALIZATION CLOSES AT 12-14 WEEKS. If you do not give your dog sufficient socialization, your dog will never reach his full potential of being a friendly dog.

Little dogs seldom like it when people lean over them, or pet them over top of their heads. The best way for someone to greet your dog is to kneel down along their side, and pet them along that same side where they’re standing. If your dog shows any shyness or fearfulness, tell people NOT to make eye contact with your dog. Dogs consider staring as a threatening behavior.

When you’re housetraining a small breed puppy, don’t lose your patience, because it may be more of a challenge to housetrain him than it would be with a German Shepherd, or a Golden Retriever. First, they have very little bladders, so don’t expect your toy dog puppy to hold it in for long periods. As soon as he’s finished a meal, take him out to relieve himself. If you’ve been training him with treats, take him out immediately following your training sessions because he’ll have to go for sure. Take extra special care in getting your puppy out very often to go to avoid accidents.

So many people think that their little dogs don’t have feet! Put your dog down on all 4’s so that he can exercise. Sometimes, when you carry a little dog around all the time, you can give him a Napoleon Complex. Did you ever try to pet a Chihuahua or Pomeranian when their owners were carrying them around? You just might get bitten! Be very cautious about what dogs you introduce your little dog to. Big dogs sometimes see little dogs as DINNER!

One thing you should consider before bringing a toy dog home. Toy dogs and little children don’t make the best combination. Children can accidentally injure little dogs, and some dogs have been killed because a small child has picked up the dog and dropped it. Many of the small dogs, as mentioned before, are more reactive to things, and they can be a little nippy and growly. Teach your children to respect your dog by not pulling tails, ears or jumping on the dog. Teach children that not all dogs like to be hugged or kissed on the face! Many times, children will get nipped or bitten on the face because of this very same thing. Teach children not to chase the dog, nor allow the dog to chase the children. All dogs have, what is referred to as, PREY DRIVE. Little children often behave like wounded prey! Running, screaming, arms flailing get dogs all excited, and will create inappropriate behavior in the dog because of that instinctual prey drive. Remember to supervise ALL interactions between the dog and your children. NO MATTER WHAT BREED OF DOG, ALWAYS SUPERVISE THE CHILDREN AND THE DOG WHEN THEY ARE TOGETHER. If you can’t supervise, please crate your dog or put him behind a baby gate until you can watch everybody. Once your dog matures to adulthood, you will have a perpetual 2 year old living with you!

When walking your little dog, use a harness instead of a collar. I get very upset anytime I see a tiny dog being walked with a choker collar. Little dogs are prone to having a collapsed trachea, so putting any pressure on that area should always be avoided, especially with any of the toy dogs.

Teach your toy dog obedience. Obedience is the way to let your dog know that you’re his leader. When dogs don’t have confidence in their people, they will assume the role of pack leader themselves. If your dog is growling at you, biting you or your children, OR, if he is demanding your attention and pretty much, ruling your house, your dog is telling you that he is in charge. Become his leader by making him earn his privileges. Do this by making him sit before being fed treats, playing with toys, going for walks and rides, and being petted, and generally before he gets any attention.

Little dogs are also prone to dental disease because their mouths are crowded by their teeth. Learn to brush your dog’s teeth to avoid dental disease, which can also cause other problems.

If you own a toy dog, I would urge you to purchase a book called, “The Irrepressible Toy Dog, by Darlene Arden. This book is available at www.dogwise.com

Enjoy your toy dog and good luck!


Getting Dogs Off of Food Rewards

A common complaint that people make when training their dogs using food rewards is, “my dog won’t do anything that I ask him to unless I have food in my hand.” Well, first you have to ask yourself if you’ve trained your dog to follow a command while you are showing him a piece of food while you’re asking him to do something. If you have that food right in front of the dog’s face, your dog will see that food as being part of the entire cue for doing that particular behavior. That’s why he isn’t following your request when you omit that cue.

You may be at a point in your training where your dog is doing a particular behavior very well every time you ask him for it. Figure out what behavior(s) your dog is excelling at, and begin putting that behavior on a “Random Reinforcement Schedule.”

Have you ever sat in front of a slot machine? If you have, you know that sometimes the machine pays you, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we might win 50 cents and sometimes we might win 50 dollars. A random reinforcement schedule is based on the “Slot Machine Principle” which states, “sometimes you get paid and sometimes you don’t!”

I’m going to give you a random reinforcement schedule below to help get you started. You can then develop your own random schedules as your dog gets further along with other types of rewards. These subsequent RR Schedules should use less and less food treats and more of other types of rewards.

Ideas for other types of rewards could be:

  • Belly Rubs.
  • Praise
  • A short game of Tug
  • A short chase game (he chases you)
  • A short game of fetch
  • A chance to chase a squirrel
  • Chasing a squeaky toy

Make a list of all the things your dog loves and use them in your reward schedules. Here is your sample of a Random Reinforcement Schedule. The numbers listed are those times that a dog does a behavior in which he is rewarded with food. All other times are rewarded with alternatives.

1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 18, 21, 22, 23, 26.

Here’s one more to follow:
2, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 26.

By: Renee Premaza

Critical Periods of Socialization

Ages 3 weeks to 12-14 weeks are THE most critical developmental stages of life for puppies – This is the SOCIALIZATION PERIOD. Dogs MUST BE EXPOSED to other dogs from ages 4 to 6 weeks. Dogs MUST BE EXPOSED to people from ages 6 to 12 weeks. Experts used to think we had until the dog was 16 weeks to socialize him to people, but they’ve discovered this to be inaccurate. If we fail to sufficiently socialize our puppies at this age to all sorts of dogs and all sorts of people, we will wind up having a dog that is always scared of other dogs and people. Now you can see why it’s so important for breeders to do what they’re supposed to do during these critical ages. I’ve gone into homes to train puppies where they didn’t get the puppy from the breeder until he was 12 weeks old. This happens a lot with the toy dogs. But if the breeder didn’t expose the dog to enough people, guess what happens? The dog becomes shy and fearful, which can lead to aggressive behavior. Irresponsible breeders set the dogs up to fail if they keep them too long and don’t socialize them.

During the socialization period, puppies need to be exposed to all situations that it’s likely to encounter during its life. THIS is the time to take your puppies to puppy kindergarten classes. Don’t let your vet talk you out of going to classes at 9 weeks. Although there is SOME risk of health problems, the risk of your dog developing fear and defensive behaviors due to lack of socialization is much too risky. MORE DOGS DIE TODAY, NOT FROM DISEASE, BUT FROM BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS DUE TO LACK OF SOCIALIZATION.

If we miss the opportunities to socialize our puppies and to teach them certain things at this age, we can retard their development and ability to learn in the future. Much of the aggression we see in dogs is the result of insufficient socialization to other dogs and humans by the time the dog is 12 weeks old. Socializing your puppies doesn’t mean just casually introducing them to your family and friends. You need to get these dogs out and about and in as many public settings as you can. However, don’t do this all in one day, PLEASE. You should be introducing your new puppies to 5 new people every week, and then 5 more, and so on as he goes through the socialization period.

Researchers, Drs. Scott and Fuller state that puppies should never be adopted before 6 weeks of age, and best not before 7 weeks. The puppies need to be interacting with their littermates prior to those weeks is very important in their development.

At around 8 to 10 weeks, puppies go through a fear period where it’s very susceptible to physical and psychological trauma, and if something bad happens during that 2 week period, the effects could be permanent and irreversible. That’s why it’s best to get your puppy around the 8th or 9th week, so that YOU can control what’s going on in his life. Dog’s who experience abuse at this age, or if they have bad experiences with vets or other dogs, or ANYTHING that causes them emotional or physical harm, this poor dog will be traumatized for life by those scary events. Maybe now you’ll realize that punishing your puppies for housetraining accidents when they’re going through this fear period can cause terrible problems with your relationship. If you scare him by punishing him now, he will never fully trust you.

Here is a list of ALL of the things you need to expose your puppies to during that socialization period of 8 to 12 week period:

Textures, like pavement, rugs, cement, metal, sand, grass, gravel, vinyl flooring and dirt.

Sights would include trees, insects, other animals, men with beards, women in hats, people in wheel chairs, people with canes, and many children. Sounds like traffic, airplanes and trains, railroad crossing signals, construction and the sounds of children playing. Various recordings of sounds are commercially available and very useful for this. Especially important is to get your puppies used to the sound of rain and thunderstorms. CD sound effects are great for this. You can purchase these CD’s at: http://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=DTB653

If your 8 to 12 week old puppy is kept in his kennel most of the time, he’ll become fearful and hard to rehabilitate!! This would equate to the infant who is given little or no mental stimulation. They become mentally disabled for life.

Now we come to the time that will try men’s souls – the canine period of adolescence – YIKES! This is when you want to go on a cruise around the world and not come home until your dog is at least 2 years old! When your puppy becomes 4-5 months old, you’ll notice that he becomes VERY independent. The puppy that wouldn’t leave your side now won’t come to you anytime you call him. When he was a bit younger, he was so easy to train, but from 4 to 10 months, he may become fearful and cautious even to people and novel things he was fine with before (this is the 2nd fear period that dogs go through). If you were training him early on, that will pay off now because he will trust you to guide and protect him through this.

NEVER  PUNISH YOUR DOG FOR BEING AFRAID OR YOU CAN TOTALLY RUIN THE DOG!  Your dog is always looking to you for guidance and encouragement, especially if he’s fearful. If you scold him because he isn’t comfortable meeting Uncle Joe, you will only convince him that Uncle Joe is not a good thing!

So…there you have it. If you can get through your puppies first 18 months you can get through ANYTHING. Now, if you’ve got kids that are growing up with your dog, and THEY’RE going through their adolescent periods, I don’t envy you one bit!

Training a Dog to Wear a Muzzle

There may be times in your dog’s life when you need to use a muzzle. Teaching your dog to like wearing a muzzle is something every dog owner should do, not necessarily just for aggression problems, but in case you need to muzzle the dog in an emergency situation. God forbid, if your dog was injured in an automobile accident, or if another dog attacked him, he might not allow someone else to pick him up or move him to the vet’s office for treatment. So, be prepared for this by desensitizing the dog to wearing a muzzle. Here’s how to do it:

Generally, I prefer using the basket style muzzle; it has wire openings that are large enough on the sides to feed the dog treats, and the dog still has the ability to pant and to drink water. Sometimes these muzzles are available in Petsmart or other large retail pet supply stores; but, you can also get one directly online at: http://www.morrco.com/wirbasdogmuz.html Be sure you get the correct size for your dog. You’ll see a page that will help you decide which size is best.

When you finally have the muzzle, show it to your dog, and keep your voice very happy and upbeat. Let the dog sniff it, and praise him to the skies for any positive attention he shows to the item. Next, place his favorite dry treat at the bottom of the muzzle, and let your dog put his nose inside of it to retrieve the treat. Praise him and encourage him to do this. Feed him some treats a few more times, and then put the muzzle away. While he’s wearing the muzzle, you keep praising him, BUT…when you take the muzzle off – ignore him for at least 3 minutes each time you work on this! That will help him associate good attention while wearing/working with the muzzle, vs. things getting kinda boring when you take it off and put it away.

Next day’s session, you’ll want to repeat this procedure again. Offer him treats that take a little longer to chew, and attempt to hold the muzzle up on his nose for a bit longer than the prior day’s lesson. Praise him, and keep adding a treat at a time while holding the muzzle on his nose for a longer period of time. Tell your dog how great he is for being so cooperative. ONLY when you’re satisfied that the dog seems very comfortable when he sees you bring out the muzzle, and he readily eats from it, you’ll be ready for the next step. Stay on this level of training for a day and practice at least 2 to 3 times for no longer than 3 minutes each time. Remember to keep things a little boring right after you put the muzzle away.

To prepare yourself for the next lesson, practice feeding slivers of treats through the side wires of the basket, but not while the muzzle is on the dog. You want to do this because it takes a couple of times to get this right. I know it was very awkward when I first started trying to feed my dog treats and fit them through fast so he could eat them.

Now, for the most important segment of muzzle training: Be prepared with about 20 treats, but instead of using the dry treat, use a much higher level of food; i.e., use bits of chicken, cheese, liver, roast beef, hot dog slices or steak.

On this 3rd day, always start out with a review of the last day’s level of training, and of course, don’t forget to praise him. Then, place the treat at the bottom of the muzzle, allow him to chew it, and then fasten the strap behind his head. IMMEDIATELY, start feeding him the soft meaty or cheese treat THROUGH THE SIDE WIRES. Continuously feed the dog one treat right after the other, and praise him like crazy in a very happy voice. FEED, FEED, FEED! Then unhook the strap, STOP FEEDING, and DO NOT PRAISE HIM once the muzzle is removed. Keep him at this last level of training for about 2 days and work on getting him used to wearing the muzzle for longer and longer periods of time.

When you see your dog wag his tail every time you bring out the muzzle, you know you’ve accomplished your desensitization work. However, don’t stop training. You’ll need to remind him once in awhile that wearing the muzzle is always a good thing. If you stop working on it, and you don’t use the muzzle for a very long time, you’ll only have to go back and work on it again from scratch. You want your dog to be prepared at any time to have a muzzle placed on his nose. With any training of any behavior, dogs are like we are…if they don’t use it – they’ll lose it!

One last thing: never put your dog’s muzzle on him when you’re showing any anger or frustration. The muzzle ALWAYS has to be associated with your being happy about giving it to him to wear.

Set Rules for Dogs Without Punishments

Dogs are happiest when they know there are rules and boundaries to live with. But… it’s imperative that we teach those rules to our dogs and not to take for granted that they already know them. Dogs that lack confidence in their humans to implement rules and define boundaries can become extremely anxious and stressed. All sorts of problematic behaviors develop in our dogs when we spoil and coddle them, when they’re allowed up on furniture, such as beds and sofas without getting our permission first, and when we allow them to practice all sorts of inappropriate behaviors as puppies because we think they’ll just grow out of it. Remember that “practice makes perfect.” If dogs get to practice all the wrong things, serious behavior problems will be the end result.

Show good leadership skills by NOT punishing your dog! Hollering and screaming at dogs, hitting and smacking them with newspapers and pointing fingers at them saying “BAD DOG!” will not teach them to behave appropriately. These tactics will only teach your dog that (1) you have poor leadership skills, (2) you can’t handle him, (3) you can’t make good decisions for her, and (4) you can’t be trusted. Implement the following program and your dog will become a well-mannered and polite companion pet.

Do not give your dog attention when he/she demands it! Do not allow your dog to jump all over you or push his/her toys into your leg. Do not give your dog attention or affection when he jams his nose under your arm. Do not give your dog attention when he paws at you or he barks in your face or if he mouths you. If any of these behaviors are part of your dog’s daily routine, learn to remove yourself immediately by walking away from him/her every time he/she behaves in a pushy and demanding manner.

Teach your dog to sit and look up at you the first time you ask him without repeating “sit, siT, SIT!” You can teach this effectively by giving him a treat when he sits and looks at your face during the first week of your training. Once your dog knows how to sit and focus on you, here’s how to establish a structured and predictable life for him:

1. Sit & wait before getting all meals (avoid all free-style feeding).

2. Sit before getting any treat (never offer a treat just because your dog is cute and he’s breathing).

3. Sit before getting a new toy or chewie.

4. Sit to get the leash put on.

5. Sit & wait before going out the door (don’t let your dog drag you out or push past you!)

6. Sit before coming back in the house from a walk

7. Sit before you initiate any games with him.

8. Sit before getting in the car (put him in a seatbelt harness for his safety!)

9. Sit & wait before getting out of the car (wait helps keep your dog from bolting out).

10. Sit & wait to get out of his crate (he should wait for your release (“OK”)- not for the door to open)

11. Sit before getting anything he wants or needs in his life.

12. Sit before being allowed to sit on the sofa (or bed)* You may want to think twice about giving this privilege in the first place! Remove this privilege if your dog is showing any aggressive behaviors.

13. Your new motto should be “SIT HAPPENS!” You will notice that your dog is a lot calmer after about a week of living with this structured and regimented routine. He will begin to offer sits on his own, which tells you he is actually asking you for permission!

© Renee Premaza 2009

Puppies 101 – Getting Off on the Right Paw

It is vitally important that you begin socializing your puppies NOW! The window for socialization closes at 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, you will be doing remedial work and your dog may never reach his/her full potential for being a normal, friendly dog! Gradually introduce your puppy to all sorts of people: tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people, men, women, children, men with beards and who wear hats, girls and boys who wear baseball caps, black people, white people, and DOGS. When you’re socializing your dog with children, watch your dog carefully to see if he’s getting tired. If he is, remove him from the children and let him rest somewhere, like his crate. Put him in there with a chewy or a favorite toy so he doesn’t see this as a punishment.

Begin this week by taking your dog to 5 new places. Put your puppy in the car and take him/her for rides in traffic. Speak to your dog along the way in a happy voice. Go and get gas at the gas station so your puppy gets used to someone reaching into the car to give you change. Ask the attendant if he’d mind offering your dog a treat through the window. Introduce your puppy to the mailman, to policemen, and anyone you see wearing a uniform. Have these people give your puppy treats. Each week increase the amount of people you introduce your puppy to.

Expose your puppy to many different novel stimuli. Let him see the hose outside, or the rake, or your feather duster and vacuum cleaner. Familiarize him with all different sights and sounds. Let him walk on all sorts of surfaces, like concrete, grass, sand, tile, and asphalt, etc. Purchase a CD that has the sound of thunder on it, and gradually let him hear this recording at louder and louder volumes. Have some toys and treats, and play with him while he’s listening to your thunder CD. If there is a real thunderstorm, play with your puppy and feed him delicious treats during the storm. Even if there is a loud, scary clap of thunder, clap your hands and laugh about it. Expose him to other sounds, like the vacuum cleaner, the dishwasher and clothes washer and dryer. Turn on the food processor and let him get used to that. If your dog shows any fear or discomfort from hearing those sounds, don’t console him because he’ll think you’re rewarding his behavior. Just speak to him in a happy tone of voice, as he will be very affected by your own emotions. This is important to know, folks — your dogs will be very affected by your feelings about all things in general. If your puppy suspects that you’re nervous or upset about something, he will respond in kind. Remember that for the future.

Once your dog has had its first set of shots, try to arrange play-dates with other vaccinated puppies of similar age and size. Make sure you know and trust the owners of these dogs when they tell you their dogs are healthy and friendly! Be careful not to overwhelm your dog at first. Do this very gradually. Most vets recommend that you keep your puppy off of any surface that might have been soiled by unknown dogs.

If, at anytime, you see your puppy begin to look stressed or anxious, please give him a break. Puppies can become ill if they are feeling overwhelmed.

If you notice that your puppy seems afraid of anything, DO NOT CONSOLE HIM by picking him up, petting him and cooing to him. This will only reinforce the behavior, making your puppy think you LIKE his behavior! Speak confidently and offer him treats as you desensitize him to the things he’s afraid of. Help him learn that SCARY THING = GOOD THINGS HAPPEN by pairing up a negative with a positive (treats or toys/games).

This is the time you should begin handling your puppy all over his/her body. Message your puppy’s feet and give him treats while you do this. This will get him ready for grooming and nail clipping. Bring out the nail clipper and put treats around it. Make his association with this instrument a positive one. Pretend to clip his nails with the clipper, but don’t actually cut them yet. You might want to take your puppy to a professional groomer the first time to make sure his first nail cuts are done without incident. Let the groomer show you the right way to trim nails to avoid accidentally cutting too close to the quick.

LEARNING RESTRAINT & ACCEPTING HANDLING

Some of you may have puppies who don’t like being restrained, handled or being picked up. Do NOT become alarmed. Work on these problems by using food rewards to encourage him to like these things. Pair up being handled or restrained with being given very tasty morsels of food so that the dog will learn to associate being handled as a good thing! If you pick your puppy up and he squirms, DON’T put him right down! Hold on to him GENTLY, but firmly until he settles down and stops fussing. THEN put him down. Here are some handling exercises you should begin doing with your puppy to accustom him to being restrained and touched all over his body.

Bring your left arm around the front of your puppy’s chest while your right hand and arm supports him under his chest and belly. Gently restrain him with just a tad of pressure and then release him. Praise and reward him with a nice treat if he remains unaffected. Reward him each time he accepts what you’re doing. Little by little begin to lift him up while you support him against your body. For each step you take, praise and reward your dog. You will be shaping behavior that you may need in the future for veterinary exams, lifting him onto a vet or groomer’s table, and in general, getting him used to being held, picked up and moved around. Touch your puppy all over his body, including his ears, paws, belly and genitals. Get him used to your putting your finger in his mouth to brush his teeth and stroke his gums. Touch him around his collar and do gentle collar-tugs. The more handling you do now, the more he’ll accept being handled by the vet or by other people.

A word of caution here: Please do not take anyone’s advice when they tell you to flip your puppy on its back and restrain him to settle him down if he becomes overly excited. This will scare your puppy, and he will learn that you can’t be trusted. A puppy will feel very vulnerable to being attacked while he’s got his belly exposed. This is instinct here. If you try to flip an adult dog on its back, be prepared to get bitten!

Many people like to pet puppies and dogs by reaching over their heads. Desensitize your pup to this now so he won’t feel afraid when a stranger decides to extend a hand and place it over his head. So, pet your puppy by placing your hand over his head and patting him, and then give him a tasty tid-bit for a reward.

Always praise and reward with treats when your puppy doesn’t show fear or alarm at being handled anywhere on his body. If you notice that he’s sensitive in certain areas, begin to SLOWLY desensitize him to touch by touching him gently and then offering some treats. The more you handle your puppy, the better he’ll like it.

Believe it or not, many puppies and dogs don’t like being hugged or kissed. If it’s going to be important that your puppy accept our human affectionate behavior, teach him to like it by giving quick gentle hugs and then offer a treat reward each time you do this. If you have children that love to hug your puppy, make sure you desensitize the pup well to avoid nips on childrens’ faces.

Practice putting your puppy on a high surface, like on top of your washer. This will help him get used to being on a vet’s table. While he’s up there, do a physical examination of him, much like the vet would, checking his ears and feet and his teeth. Begin cleaning your puppies teeth using special doggy toothpaste – not human toothpaste! Good dental care is important, especially for the small breeds of dogs that are prone to dental disease. Dental problems can lead to other physical problems.

SETTLE DOWN!

If your puppy becomes over-active and obnoxious — AND HE WILL…– Here’s an exercise that will teach him to settle down:

Put your dog onleash and a flat buckle collar or harness. Sit in a chair in a quiet room with your dog. Watch what your dog is doing, and anytime he behaves calmly, say “Good Boy/Girl!” and toss him a treat. If he gets all excited again, and starts jumping on you or pawing at your clothing, IGNORE HIM or get up and walk out of the room leaving him alone! The instant he stops this behavior, say “good boy/girl” and give him some very tasty tid-bits of food. He will learn that a good default behavior is being calm and quiet. Set these training sessions up a couple times each day. Just sit there and wait for behaviors to reward him for. Remember to ALWAYS ignore your dog when he’s demanding your attention. If you put your puppy in his crate, and he immediately starts to whine or bark, put cotton in your ears and don’t run back to him. Otherwise, you’ll have a dog that knows he can get out of his crate by barking and whining. If, however, you’ve put your pup in his crate for the night, and later you hear him whining or barking, you’d better check to see if he needs to go out and potty.

ALONE TRAINING

One more important suggestion is to get your puppy accustomed to being left alone. Even if you are home everyday, all day, do not neglect to teach puppy that it’s okay for him to be in his crate by himself for short periods of time. Leave him with a nice chew toy (e.g., filled, frozen Kong). Make sure you do this everyday while you extend his alone-time little by little. When you do put him in his crate, pretend to go out by opening the front door where he cannot see you, and then close it. Quietly go to some other area of the house for about 20 minutes at first. Return to your puppy WITHOUT FANFARE and release him. Do not make the mistake of getting all excited when you come back to greet him. This actually is one thing that can create separation anxiety in dogs. When you leave him, make it a non-event, and when you return to him, that also should be a non-exciting ritual. If others live with this dog, please have them get involved in his alone-training. Separation anxiety is not something you want to reinforce in your puppy or any dog! It can be very complicated and involved to modify a dog’s behavior once he is displaying symptoms of this disorder, and it can be very expensive in terms of dealing with possible destructive behavior. Let’s prevent the behavior from happening NOW.

DOGS & KIDS

If you have young children in the family, please teach your children safe and proper handling of your puppy. Do not allow very young children to pick your puppy up while they’re standing. Chances of dropping the puppy can cause his death or serious injury. Many puppies do not like being picked up because they feel vulnerable to being dropped. Have your child sit on a chair and then place puppy in the child’s lap to pet gently. Do not allow children to pull your dog’s ears or tails. Do not allow children to lay all over your dog and jump on him. Some dogs will NOT tolerate this childish behavior and will snap or bite children for doing this. An excellent website to visit to learn about how to avoid dog bites with children is: www.doggonesafe.com Be sure to click on all the links as this site is packed full of very important information.

Do not allow your young children to lie on the floor with your dog! Make sure you supervise both kids and dogs whenever they’re together. All too often, kids and dogs get into trouble with each other because the dog gets overly excited around the child, or he misinterprets the child’s behavior, and then bites the child on the face. When children play with puppies or dogs, the children should be standing up or sitting on a chair or sofa and the dog should be on the floor. This eliminates all possibilities of child and dog being at face level. If you cannot be there to supervise, then your dog should be in another room behind a baby gate with a toy or chewy to occupy him. When kids and dogs are together, the keyword is SUPERVISE, SUPERVISE AND SUPERVISE! If your child is mature enough, allow that child to begin issuing sit commands to your puppy. Place a treat in your young child’s hand to offer puppy while your own hand holds onto your child’s. Many children inadvertently tease dogs by offering a treat and then pulling their hand away before puppy gets the food. Puppy then grabs at the child’s hand and might nip. Again, SUPERVISION WITH YOUNG KIDS AND PUPPIES/DOGS IS CRUCIAL.

GOOD MANAGEMENT

Attached is a section on teaching bite inhibition. Please begin this training NOW. All puppies bite, because they’re teething, and because that’s how they’ve played with their littermates. It’s important to teach your dog to have a soft mouth. All dogs are capable of biting! If your dog has been taught good bite inhibition, if he’s ever provoked to bite during his lifetime, he will not do any damage because you will have taught him to bite without pressure!

Do NOT wrestle and roughhouse with your puppy. You will be teaching him that physical aggression is a fun thing to do when he reaches maturity. I watched a situation where the owner of 3 Pomeranians enjoyed teasing his dogs and he thought it was funny when they’d come back and try to bite him. Two of the 3 poms in this household have both shown serious aggression toward the owners and toward each other. Always think about what behaviors you are reinforcing! Again, use good common sense when you’re raising a puppy. Whatever behaviors you reinforce now will follow through into his adult life. Reward appropriate behaviors and he will behave appropriately!

When the mailman comes or the UPS driver pulls up to your house, give him a treat to give to your puppy everyday! By doing this NOW, you will avoid having a dog who wants to kill the mailman or someone else wearing a uniform or hat. Let your puppy know right from the get-go that the mailman is a good thing because he represents treats. Take puppy for a walk around the neighborhood and let him meet and greet anyone who is willing to politely greet your pup. Have treats on you so you can give your neighbors and/or their children treats to offer the puppy. If you see a patrol car or fire truck anywhere, seize the opportunity to introduce your puppy to a police officer or fireman.

If you don’t want your puppy to learn to chew on or steal socks or other laundry items, do not make them available! Keep laundry items in a closed hamper. Keep all food items off the kitchen countertops from the very beginning, so your puppy won’t want to “counter surf.” If you start out doing the right things, you won’t have to “fix” these training problems later on. Use good common sense when training and interacting with your puppies. Keep tight lids on all trash containers. Puppies LOVE toilet paper, paper towel and used tissues.

I know that many of you have had to get things out of your dog’s mouth – maybe your dog has stolen your children’s toys, or the dog has tried to eat something he found in the trash. Many of you have been told that it’s important to pick up your dog’s food dish so that he knows you’re “the boss.” I want to caution you about forcefully taking things away from a dog. Now…I fully understand that when there are small kids in the house, you need to teach your dog to relinquish items just in case the child tries to take something from the dog. But there’s a better way to teach a dog to relinquish something rather than grabbing it from him. If you work on training your dog to obey a DROP IT cue, he’ll relinquish anything you ask him to. If you continue forcefully taking things away from him, you might create a dog that becomes a resource guarder. Dogs who guard their food bowls, bones, or certain locations, or people, or their toys are resource guarding. Sometimes this behavior is instinctual, but sometimes the dog learns to do this because he feels he has to protect his stuff from everyone who keeps taking things away from him. I usually see this type of behavior develop in puppies at around 6 months of age, which is the very beginning of adolescence. Learn to make food exchanges with your dog. If you need to take something away from him, put a treat right on his nose; when he opens his mouth to take the treat, tell him, “drop it” and then reward him with that treat. You might want to do this a lot with his toys so he’ll learn a drop it command very quickly. You can reward him with that treat, but also give him his toy right back! You’re working on developing a good trusting relationship.

When your puppy is young, get him accustomed to being lightly stroked as you approach him and his food bowl while he’s eating. Toss something really delicious into his bowl when you do this so he looks forward to people being around him when he’s eating. Include your children of all ages when doing this work, but make sure to closely supervise them during this training. Watch your puppy’s body language to see if puppy seems stressed when approached around his food, bones or special resources

Playing Tug of War by the Rules

If you are the kind of person who doesn’t like setting rules down for your dog to follow, then playing tug is not a good game for you to play. Tug of War is a very competitive, but excellent game to play if you want to teach your dog to have self-control. Many trainers and vets advise people to avoid playing tug because “it will make the dog aggressive.” Believe it or not, I taught my own very aggressive Border Collie to stop biting and use good self-control by allowing him to play his most favorite game in the whole world — Tug of War! If played correctly by using very strict rules, your dog can enjoy tugging with you for hours, if you want to play for hours. As you will read below, at no time during this game is your dog permitted to put his teeth on your skin — even if it’s an accident. If your dog mouths you, the game must stop. If you don’t want to follow through with playing by the rules, avoid playing this very fun game. Here are the rules to follow:

Does your dog have a drop it command? If not, first teach him to drop things out of his mouth by placing a treat over his nose when he has a boring toy in his mouth and say “drop it” as he opens his mouth to take the food. Praise him and give him the toy back. As he gets better and better at this, begin having him drop more valuable items out of his mouth, like his chew bones.


  1. Start the game off by commanding the dog to sit!
  2. Ask the dog, “wanna play tug?”
  3. Cue him to “take it.” and then give it to her
  4. Play for a little while, and then ask for a “drop it.” The dog should have a bomb-proof drop it and should release the toy immediately. If the dog doesn’t release it, just hold onto the toy and don’t pull on it or look at her. She’ll realize that “well… this is boring” and then should release the toy. Praise her for the release, but put the toy away.
  5. You can re-start the game in about 5 minutes or so (this serves as a time-out for her ignoring the drop it command.
  6. Play again, and then ask for a drop it. If she drops it, praise her and give her the toy immediately with a take it command.
  7. It’s recommended that once in awhile, after commanding her to drop it, that you do a couple of obedience maneuvers before re-starting the game.
  8. With any dog who has shown aggression toward an owner or other humans, never let that dog win a round. If you find that sometimes the dog has gotten the best of you and was able to pull the toy out of your hand, let her think you planned it that way, and say “Take it!”
  9. Whatever toy you choose for playing tug should always be put away and out of the dog’s reach. Remember that it is your toy, as are all others. Put the toy away until YOU decide when to bring it out again.
  10. If the dog makes any mistakes, like touching your skin with her teeth, the game ends immediately, the toy gets put away, and she gets ignored for about 3 minutes or so. Wait several hours after a mistake like that before re-starting the game. Then, put the toy away.

Note: If you are playing tug with a puppy, do not pull too hard. Your puppies teeth are not strong enough yet, and you do not want to strain or sprain any of your dog’s muscles, tendons or ligaments. When playing tug with puppies, do not jerk her head from side-to-side. You may cause spinal misalignments in a very young dog. Allow your dog to pull in any direction she feels comfortable. Let her do most of the pulling. Have fun 🙂

Introducing Fearful Dogs to Visitors at your Home

This article addresses fearful dogs, but not dogs who will automatically go into attack mode at the sight of a stranger!! If you live with a dog who displays this behavior, please contact a professional in-home behaviorist/trainer to work on this issue!

The dogs I will be describing below are dogs who choose a flight response when faced with fearful stimuli.

Since I’ve been training dogs professionally, I’ve come to realize that we humans often exacerbate our dogs’s behavior problems. One thing that most of us do is allow our fearful dogs to run wildly to the front door when the doorbell rings. By the time we arrive at the door to answer it, our dogs are already in such a lather that they can’t think straight! We’ve actually taught our dogs to behave this way because we wind up rushing to the door in an excited state, and our dogs have picked up on this.

Then we compound the problem by opening the door and holding the dog back by grabbing his collar to avoid having the dog either jump on, lunge or attack whoever is standing on the other side. We’re now causing our dogs to feel completely frustrated because we’re preventing them from investigating what’s on the other side of that door. Doesn’t this sound like a situation out-of-control? Well… it is.

During one occasion, I was to train a fearful Shih Tzu who was always spooked when anyone arrived at the house he didn’t know. When I rang the doorbell, the owners opened the door, picked up their dog and attempted to hand him to me! Yikes! The dog was already scared out of his little mind, and now his humans were trying to push him into the arms of a person he thought might want to harm him.

So, let me offer some suggestions on how you can create a less stressful way of introducing your shy or fearful dog to a visitor at your home.

Most fearful dogs react strongly to the sound of the doorbell. The doorbell has become such a negative stimulus to the dog because it always represents something scary is about to come through the door! What has worked well with my own clients is (1) putting an “out of order” sign on the doorbell; (2) asking an expected visitor to call right before they arrive at the driveway. This way people have time to put the dog in a nice quiet room with a filled Kong toy or a healthy chew toy (e.g., bully stick or veggie nylabone). Train your dog beforehand to go into this room a couple times/day. First put him in there and stay with him for about 15 minutes. Each time you put him in there, stay less and less, and get him used to being in the room and feeling good about being in there. Also, put a TV or radio on for company. Then, when you know someone is coming, he’ll be very willing to go into this safe room without an “argument.”

Now you can go and let your visitor enter your home without having the doorbell ring or someone knocking on the door. Have this person sit down and get comfortable and ask them if they’d be willing to help you socialize your dog. I find the best place to seat myself is right at the kitchen table. I get lots of treats ready and place them on the table. When the dog enters the room, I already smell like a human supermarket of doggy treats. I sit there like a statue! Give your visitor the following instructions:

1. Do not make eye contact with the dog.
2. Do not speak to the dog.
3. Do not reach a hand toward the dog.
4. Do not try to pet the dog.

Bring your dog into the kitchen onleash and keep him under your control. Try to keep the leash as loose as possible. Avoid holding the leash with a death-grip, or your dog will sense that you’re feeling nervous and he’ll respond in kind! Have a seat yourself at the kitchen table, but at a distance from your visitor. Have your dog sit right beside you while you continue to hold his leash. When you sense that he’s calming down and not feeling anxious about the visitor, allow him to approach this person if he so wishes. If the dog then wants to sniff and investigate this person, here are additional instructions to give your visitor:

1. Begin slowly and quietly dropping treats on the floor for the dog to eat (provide soft and very tasty food treats; e.g., cheese, bits of lunch meat, freeze-dried liver, bits of garlic chicken, bits of hot dogs, etc.). If the dog does eat the treats, you can be relatively certain that his stress levels are lowered. If he chooses not to eat, he is still quite nervous.

2. If the dog is eating, after a few minutes, tell the visitor to put a treat in an open palm and put that hand down by their side. If the dog eats the treat from this person’s hand, you’re probably on your way to a good introduction.

3. Once the dog is accepting hand-fed treats, your visitor can start to speak softly to the dog. Your visitor can begin looking at the dog, but not directly in the eyes. *You* be the judge as to whether your dog should continue staying in the room with this person for the duration of the visit. If your dog seems to be relaxing and gaining trust in this person, that’s a very good thing. If your dog starts to back away from this person, it would probably be best to give him a break in that safe room you’ve created for him. He can always come back out in a little while for a re-introduction.

4. For first-time visits with anyone, I would suggest that you not encourage petting. Sometimes I don’t pet a dog until I’ve worked with him 3 or 4 times. Petting is not always seen by every dog as rewarding! When dogs are fearful, they may resort to nipping a person for trying to touch them. You always want to avoid having your dog practice any inappropriate behavior with anyone. Each time he’s allowed to practice inappropriate behaviors with people, he’s learning to strengthen those bad habits. Both you and your visitor should praise him to the skies for showing friendly behaviors.

5. Instruct your visitor to not get up without first telling you that they’re going to get up. If someone wants to get up or leave the house, *first* call your dog over to you, and take him into another room. Keep him facing *you* and get his attention focused on you! Get his attention by feeding him those delicious treats continuously until the person is gone. Nervous dogs generally get nervous again as soon as the stranger stands up and moves around. That’s probably because the dog doesn’t know what this person is going to do. If you make a practice of feeding your dog when people leave, he’ll again begin to change his association of that behavior from negative to positive because of the prediction of food happening.

The more visitors you introduce your dog to (on a one-to-one basis), the better he’ll get at accepting strangers to the house. What you’re doing here is changing your dog’s associations with strangers. At first it looks like: STRANGERS = SCARY STIMULUS-BAD FEELINGS. After you work on this for awhile, it will look like: STRANGERS = GOOD FOOD-GOOD FEELINGS. He’ll begin to look forward to meeting people at home because they will predict “good things happen.”

Be patient! This will not happen overnight! Depending on your dog’s age, his past learning experiences, and his overall temperament, this could take a couple of months or it could take a year or more.

Housetraining Procedures for Puppies & Adult Dogs

If you’re having problems housetraining your puppies or older dogs, are you:

Leaving your dog’s food bowl full all day long? “Free feeding” prevents your dog’s digestive system from having a specific schedule of elimination. Your dog is not a cat! Feed your dog a good quality dog food and feed him twice/day. Keep his food bowl down for no longer than 20 minutes. Whatever he doesn’t finish within that time period, put the rest away and add it to his next meal.

You need to take your dog outside onleash for elimination everytime you think he has to go. This way, you’ll be able to monitor what he’s doing and what he’s NOT doing. If you just let him out and don’t watch him, how will you know if he’s done his business?

Take your dog out:

  1. First thing in the morning
  2. Within 5-10 minutes after every meal
  3. Immediately after every nap
  4. Take your dog out after being played with for awhile. This is very stimulating to many dogs and they will need to eliminate soon after something exciting happens.
  5. Take the puppy out on an average of every 45 minutes to an hour. You might want to keep a log on this to determine just how often he needs to go from how many times you can get him to eliminate when you take him outside. If you have an older dog, you can lengthen this to every hour to hour and a half.
  6. Before taking the dog outside, say to him, “wanna go potty?” and bring him outside on leash to your designated spot. Keep treats on you, so you can reward the dog immediately after he does his business. Within half a second after your dog pees or poops in the right spot, offer a treat and praise him to the skies. You can reward good house training behaviors by then letting him run around outside with you or taking him for a walk or run. Throw him a puppy party ANYTIME he eliminates in his spot.
    Caution: Avoid giving your dog his treat reward when you go back in the house. All you will have rewarded him for is going in the house! A reward must be given with 1/2 second of the behavior for the dog to learn what it was that he was being rewarded for.
  7. If you’re out with your puppy for awhile and he’s been running around and playing, make sure you bring him back to his “toilet” area before going inside. He might have to go again.
  8. When you’ve established a fair amount of success in getting the dog to go in this spot, begin putting a command word on the behavior. For example, when you bring the dog to his spot, as he starts to eliminate, say your phrase, like “go potty.” Then reward him with a treat right after he’s finished.
  9. If you cannot keep your eye on him all the time, (1) put him in his crate, or (2) tether him to your waist with his leash or long-line.
  10. Watch him for certain signals that he may have to go: (1) sniffing the floor, (2) looking a bit anxious or worried, (3) coming to you and just staring at you, (4) preparing to squat or lift leg, acting excited and a bit obnoxious.
    Caution: Don’t expect young puppies to clearly indicate when they have to go potty! Look for more subtle signs as listed above in item 10.
  11. Take the dog outside to potty before bedtime.

IF YOU TAKE HIM OUT AND HE DOESN’T GO, FOLLOW THESE PROCEDURES:

  1. Do not allow him to play outside.
  2. Bring him inside and put him in his crate for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour. This is not a punishment. Give him a toy or a chewy to occupy him until you take him out again for another try.
  3. Take him out again, and repeat all procedures you’ve been instituting. (generally, the dog will go after having been crated for an additional 1/2 hour.)

Please be aware that it is more difficult to train a toy or miniature dog. These tiny dogs have very small bladders and need to be taken out much more freqently.

DO NOT PUNISH HOUSE TRAINING ACCIDENTS!

When adopting shelter or rescue dogs, you may experience housetraining accidents in the very beginning. Just implement these procedures to get the dog back on the right track. Keep in mind that sometimes our dogs regress in housetraining because (1) they may have a urinary tract infection; (2) they may be experiencing separation anxiety; (3) females that have been altered may develop spay incontinence. Speak to your vet and he can give the dog medication to control this; (4) male dogs may mark on vertical surfaces and females may also mark as a way to establish territory. Within a multi-dog household, you should reduce competition for resources (food, toys, you), by teaching the dogs that you all good things come from you and belong to YOU, not them. Use good leadership skills and your dogs won’t feel the need to be competitive with one another.

The success of teaching a dog to go potty outside depends on your management of the situation.

By punishing the dog, he will not learn that going outside is what you want him to do. Punishment will only teach him that you are dangerous. This can result in a dog that will (1) refuse to potty outside in the presence of his owner; (2) come inside and eliminate where nobody can see what he’s doing. Dogs that are not completely housetrained and still have accidents in the house are not spiteful dogs! They are merely looking for an absorbent surface to eliminate on without suffering the consequences of being threatened. Management is key in housetraining any dog. If you don’t have the time to watch your dog or take him out very often, you’re going to have a much harder time of housetraining him!

REWARD ALL GOOD BEHAVIOR AND THAT BEHAVIOR WILL INCREASE!

Getting Your Dog Accustomed to Having A New Baby in the House

One of the biggest mistakes that young couples make is failing to get their dog used to having a new baby live in the house, when the dog has been an ”only child.” Sometimes the ”new arrival” is seen as an intruder into the pack, and this can have disastrous effects. Here are some very important steps you should follow when you are expecting a baby. Keep in mind that you should do these training steps well before the baby comes into your lives.

  1. Purchase as life-sized a baby-doll as you can find, preferably one that cries. If you can’t find a doll that comes with sound effects, you can purchase a CD that has baby sounds, which include crying.
  2. Wrap the doll in a clean diaper or blanket, preferably one that already has the scent of a baby on it. If you can’t get one that has a baby’s scent on it, sprinkle the diaper or blanket with some baby powder, and add a few drops of baby lotion too.
  3. Get into a routine where you’re carrying the ”baby” around the house with you. Talk to the baby much like you would if your real baby were in your arms. Pretend to feed the baby, and talk to the baby. Put the baby on your lap and watch TV. Try to make a daily routine with your new ”baby” and follow it so that your dog gets used to your new behavior.
  4. Allow your dog to sniff the new ”baby.” Praise him to the skies for calm and friendly behavior toward the doll.
  5. Put the doll into a stroller and start taking walks with baby and dog. Never forget to praise your dog for accepting the presence of the baby and for being well-behaved while you’re following your new routine as new mother.
  6. If your dog has been allowed on the sofa, you may want to re-think his having this privilege. Keep in mind that you may have your child in your lap, and your dog may now be wanting to jump up on the sofa when you now don’t want him up there while you’re holding your baby. Suppose you want to nurse your baby while sitting on the sofa? How will you react to the dog when he’s jumping up to sit with you? Plan ahead for situations like this, because if you need to change any of your dogs habits that you’ve accepted before, you need the time to do this now, not after the arrival of the baby.
  7. Another item you may want to have in your house during this desensitization period is the baby swing. Put the doll in the swing and turn the swing on. Watch your dog’s reaction to the swing. He may need to get used to this piece of equipment. He might start barking at it, or he may feel afraid of it.
  8. Play your CD with the babies crying everyday. Start out by playing the tape with a very low volume. Gradually accustom the dog to hearing the loud volume of crying babies and watch for any negative reactions. If the dog doesn’t tolerate high-pitched crying, turn the volume down to the level where he’s okay with it. Then begin to turn the volume up again until he’s completely okay with the sounds.
  9. Do not forget that you’ll still need to keep a normal routine with your dog. If you can keep a routine with the dog throughout this early period, the dog will be more inclined to accept everything else that’s going on in the house. Continue taking the dog for his regular exercise. Don’t slack up on this. If your dog isn’t able to expend his own excess energies, his behavior will deteriorate from boredom and loneliness.
  10. Teach your dog to keep all 4 on the floor. If you haven’t devoted too much time to obedience training, NOW is the time to really work on this. If you don’t know how to train the dog not to jump, please visit the Obedience Course at K9U.com and get help in this area. The last thing you want is your dog jumping when baby is in your arms.
  11. Remember that when you first bring your baby home, you may not feel like going out jogging with the dog everyday. You may want to start asking some dog-savvy kids in the neighborhood to begin walking the dog, or playing frisbee or fetch games with him. Get the dog used to new things like this early on instead of waiting until last minute.
  12. Keep in mind that you’re going to have times after the baby arrives when baby is screaming for his meal, and your dog has to go potty. Things can get pretty chaotic for awhile after the baby arrives.

Just as you are planning ahead for the arrival of your new child, please plan ahead and think how you’re going to help your dog become comfortable with the baby. If, during these early days of getting the dog used to the doll, you see any signs that your dog is experiencing severe stress, or he’s showing any indications of wanting to bite the doll, PLEASE enlist the help of a professional trainer who can come to your home and create a program for you to follow with the dog. It’s better to find these things out now rather than have a disaster occur when the baby comes. If you think you need a trainer, you may want to visit http://www.apdt.com to get a list of trainers in your area. If you live in the south Jersey area, I’d be more than happy to get you started on your dog’s training program.

Don’t wait until the last minute!

Good luck!

Renee

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

SOME SIGNS OF SEVERE SEPARATION ANXIETY

  • Scratch marks or actual digging by the entrances of any doors leading out of the house.
  • Scratch marks at windows or on window sills.
  • Drooling in the front of the dog’s crate by the gate.
  • Drooling by the doorways or windows.
  • Destruction of blinds, draperies and woodwork indicates the dog may want to escape the house to look for you.
  • Destruction of household furnishings (e.g., torn sofa cushions).
  • Bowel excrement and urine anywhere in the house, including inside the crate. Sometimes dogs that are so severe might eliminate on walls and/or on furniture.
  • Crates that have openings where the dog has tried to get out of it.
  • Injuries that the dog might have inflicted upon himself, including wounds on his paws or other parts of his body done to reduce his own anxiety (akin to someone biting his nails).
  • Neighbors that complain about the dog barking for hours anytime he’s left alone.
  • Dog will not leave you alone for even a minute when you are home (aka Velcro Dog).

SOME SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS FOR REDUCING CANINE SEPARATION ANXIETY

  1. Avoid making any fuss over your dog when greeting him after coming home from work or anytime you re-enter the home.
  2. If the dog is able to remain safely in his crate during the time he’s left alone, give him a filled Kong toy or other high-value chewy to keep him occupied during your absence.
  3. If your dog cannot stay safely in his crate without trying to escape it, or injure himself, try confining him to an area, such as the kitchen, using well-constructed baby gates or decorative metal gates high enough to prevent him from jumping out of it.
  4. Put a radio or TV on to provide background noise so your dog won’t feel quite so alone and isolated during your absence.
  5. If at all possible, ask a neighbor or a trustworthy teenager or professional pet sitter to stop by your house once or twice/day to give your dog a potty break and to take him for a walk or have a 1/2-hour play session with him.
  6. Consider taking your dog to a doggy daycare center for one or two days/week, if that’s a possibility. Even though it may be a bit costly for just one or two days, it might actually save you money in repairing damages done by the dog, and it will save you some grief and aggravation because the dog will become happier and more self-confident.
  7. Put your dog on a “Say Please” program This is a benevolent program where structure and non-physical discipline provides predictability in the dog’s life. Check out the article I’ve written on the website about this.
  8. AVOID PUNISHING THE DOG FOR ANY OF THESE BEHAVIORS! Your dog is already anxious. If you punish him, you will only increase the amount of anxiety he’s already experiencing, and his behaviors will only worsen. Please do not attribute his behavior to spitefulness or willfulness! Even though his behavior doesn’t make sense to you, dog behavior doesn’t have to make sense!
  9. Make your routine of leaving the house varied so the dog cannot ever really know the exact time that you’ll be exiting the house.
  10. Work hard on doing obedience training in a very positive manner (e.g., clicker training or any reward-based training method that avoids any and all corrections or punishments). Obedience training will motivate your dog to do behaviors that please you. This will strengthen your leadership role with him, and it will also help him become more confident that he can survive until you return to him.

If your dog is showing severe SA behaviors, please discuss this at length with your veterinarian. There are pharmaceuticals he or she might recommend to help alleviate your dog’s feelings of stress and anxiety. .

An over-the-counter product that you can use without any prescription is called “Dog Appeasement Pheromones.” It looks like a Glade air freshener, and it also plugs into a wall outlet. Here is an article that talks about a scientific study that was done on the “DAP” product. You can get it on the net here at a reasonable price.

Many separation-anxious dogs that I’ve worked with improved greatly when the DAP diffuser was plugged in. But of course, it depends on how severe the situation is.

Purchase one or both of the following books: (a) The Canine Separation Anxiety Workbook, by James O’Heare or (b) I’ll be Home Soon, by Dr. Patricia McConnell. Both of these books are available at www.dogwise.com

There are a few Yahoo group discussion lists on the web that deal with Separation Anxiety. You might benefit from subscribing to one or all of these lists to discuss your own issues and get advice from other owners who have experienced similar situations with their own dogs.

Science vs. Training on TV

If You’re Aggressive, Your Dog Will Be Too, Says Veterinary Study

ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2009) – In a new, year-long University of Pennsylvania survey of dog owners who use confrontational or aversive methods to train aggressive pets, veterinary researchers have found that most of these animals will continue to be aggressive unless training techniques are modified.


The study, published in the current issue of Applied Animal Behavior Science, also showed that using non-aversive or neutral training methods such as additional exercise or rewards elicited very few aggressive responses.

“Nationwide, the No. 1 reason why dog owners take their pet to a veterinary behaviorist is to manage aggressive behavior,” Meghan E. Herron, lead author of the study, said. “Our study demonstrated that many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them or intimidating them with physical manipulation does little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses.”

The team from the School of Veterinary Medicine at Penn suggest that primary-care veterinarians advise owners of the risks associated with such training methods and provide guidance and resources for safe management of behavior problems. Herron, Frances S. Shofer and Ilana R. Reisner, veterinarians with the Department of Clinical Studies at Penn Vet, produced a 30-item survey for dog owners who made behavioral service appointments at Penn Vet. In the questionnaire, dog owners were asked how they had previously treated aggressive behavior, whether there was a positive, negative or neutral effect on the dogs’ behavior and whether aggressive responses resulted from the method they used. Owners were also asked where they learned of the training technique they employed.

Of the 140 surveys completed, the most frequently listed recommendation sources were “self” and “trainers.” Several confrontational methods such as “hit or kick dog for undesirable behavior” (43 percent), “growl at dog” (41 percent), “physically force the release of an item from a dog’s mouth” (39 percent), “alpha roll”physically — rolling the dog onto its back and holding it (31 percent), “stare at or stare down” (30 percent), “dominance down” — physically forcing the dog down onto its side (29 percent) and “grab dog by jowls and shake” (26 percent) elicited an aggressive response from at least 25 percent of the dogs on which they were attempted. In addition, dogs brought to the hospital for aggressive behavior towards familiar people were more likely to respond aggressively to some confrontational techniques than dogs brought in for other behavioral reasons.

“This study highlights the risk of dominance-based training, which has been made popular by TV, books and punishment-based training advocates,”Herron said. “These techniques are fear-eliciting and may lead to owner-directed aggression.”

Prior to seeking the counsel of a veterinary behaviorist, many dog owners attempt behavior-modification techniques suggested by a variety of sources. Recommendations often include the aversive-training techniques listed in the survey, all of which may provoke fearful or defensively aggressive behavior. Their common use may have grown from the idea that canine aggression is rooted in the need for social dominance or to a lack of dominance displayed by the owner. Advocates of this theory therefore suggest owners establish an “alpha” or pack-leader role.

The purpose of the Penn Vet study was to assess the behavioral effects and safety risks of techniques used historically by owners of dogs with behavior problems.

aggro-dog-at-penn

Aggressive behavior. Many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them or intimidating them with physical manipulation does little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses, according to authors of a new study. (Credit: iStockphoto/Yuriy Zelenenkyy)


Journal reference:

1. Herron et al. Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2009; 117 (1-2): 47 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.12.011

Adapted from materials provided by University of Pennsylvania.

Understanding What Your Dog Tells You

Turid Rugaas, a Norwegian trainer and behaviorist has been studying dogs for well over 25 years. She has done incredible research on how dogs communicate with other dogs, and also how they also attempt to communicate with us. If you want to get better acquainted with how dogs definitely communicate their feelings, please click on this link: http://www.canis.no/rugaas/gallery.php

Once you get to view these pictures, you can then click on each individual photograph to see a larger picture that shows a lot more detail.

Please note that many of these calming signals are very subtle signs given off in body language. Next time your dog goes to greet a dog, notice how he behaves. You’ll see calming signals for several minutes, such as look-aways, nose-licks, sniffing the ground, play-bows, and many other behaviors. The more familiar you become with dog calming signals, the better you will be able to understand how your dog is feeling about events that are taking place daily in his life.

What I find incredibly interesting and important is how dogs respond to our human body language. Take a look at your dog next time your young child goes to hug him or kiss him. Can you honestly say that your dog is actually enjoying this closeness? Believe it or not, many dogs only tolerate our getting up front and personal. And many dogs don’t tolerate it, and then nip at children’s faces!

Dogs are incredible creatures. They’re extremely honest and they don’t hide their feelings. As dog owners and guardians, it’s our responsibility to learn how to determine what makes them happy, and what makes them very unhappy. I think you’ll be quite surprised about what you learn from these photographs.

Links to Find Positive Trainers & Behavior Consultants

If you need to find a trainer or behavior consultant outside of the southern New Jersey area, you can click on the links below. Do your research! Do not hire the first person you speak to. Ask these professionals what methods of training and behavior modification they use and avoid hiring anyone who uses aversive methods. Aversives would include (1) shock collars, (2) prong collars, (3) severe choke chain corrections, or (4) any harsh punishments.

The links I’m providing for you will take you to sites that are primarily for positive reinforcement professionals in this field. Good luck!

http://www.iaabc.com/ (This link is for the International Association of Dog Behavior Consultants)

http://www.apdt.com/ (This link is for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers)

Links to Excellent Books on Dog Training

The following is my recommended list of books on this subject; all of these books are available at dogwise.

Culture Clash
by Jean Donaldson
Don’t Shoot the Dog
by Karen Pryor
bc-aggression Aggression in Dogs: Practical Management, Prevention & Behaviour Modification
by Brenda Aloff
bc-canine Canine Aggression Workbook
by James O’Heare
bc-cautious Cautious Canine
by Dr. Patricia B. McConnell
bc-feeling Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage & Enjoy a Multi-Dog Household
by Dr. Patricia B. McConnell
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Positive Dog Training
by Pamela Dennison

(this easy to read guide to clicker training is available at Amazon.com)

BOREDOM BUSTING IDEAS TO HELP KEEP YOUR DOG PHYSICALLY & MENTALLY STIMULATED

 

                                       Tired Gino 600 x 450

This picture is of “Gino” DeCarlo. He is a very tired & happy 6 month-old Boxer who just had lots of mental stimulation. He wants you to know that A TIRED DOG IS A GOOD DOG!

Does your dog spend much of his day running around your house stealing your underwear and chewing your shoes? Do you go out in your yard and discover that he’s tried his hardest to dig to China and beyond?  Have you gone practically bald pulling your hair out trying to figure out why your furry friend is doing these things?  Well, I’m here to tell you, he’s more than likely bored out of his little mind. So what’s a pet parent to do?

It’s really important for all of us who live with dogs to provide both physical exercise and mentally stimulating activities for dogs. We need to be challenging our dog’s mind by directing his attention to interesting stimuli rather than his having to create ways of exercising and entertaining himself inappropriately.  Afterall, dogs were originally bred to do a job of some kind, whether it’s herding sheep, hunting birds and other prey animals, performing in the show ring, protecting property and even sitting pretty on the laps of royalty.

Your dog should be walked regularly to facilitate continued socialization with people, places, other dogs and his world at large. So many people think a dog shouldn’t be permitted to sniff the ground, but that’s not true. Let your dog sniff during your walks. Mind you, he doesn’t have to smell every blade of grass, but give him opportunities to use his nose to figure out who has been at that very same spot and to discover if it was a male or female dog, or a cat or some other critter that may have visited the neighborhood. Teach your dog to sit politely when someone approaches to greet him while you’re out walking together. Do some obedience training during your walks, like teaching him to look up at you when you say his name, or training him to touch the palm of your hand, which can help keep him walking right by your side on a loose leash. I like to train dogs to stop and wait at curbs until I give a cue to move forward. The more you pay attention to your dog, the more he’ll pay attention to you.

I believe more than 50 percent of dog behavior problems are caused by extreme boredom.  There are lots of sports activities that you could actively participate in with your dog, such as agility, flyball, canine freestyle (dancing with dogs), hiking, herding and hunting.  If your time is limited to consider the above, there are activities you can do right at home.

If you have a dog who loves to dig, you can purchase a child’s sandbox and bury all sorts of goodies in the sand for him to dig up and enjoy. Bury some biscuits and inexpensive stuffed squeaky toys so he’ll be so excited to dig in that sandbox and won’t even bother with digging up your prized vegetable garden.  Keep things interesting for him by rotating the toys you bury in that sandbox each day so he’ll always be interested to see what treasures he might uncover when he’s digging.  Make use of your dog’s innate instincts to want to dig and explore.

If you have a herding dog or a super energetic dog, there’s a fantastic interactive dog toy on the market just waiting for you to bring home to that energizer bunny you live with.  It’s called a Flirt Pole or Push ‘n’ Pull.  It looks like a fishing rod and it has a fleece lure at the end of it. You can entice your dog to chase after that fleece toy as you keep moving it in all different directions, as well as raising it up high and then lowering it.  Be kind and let him grab the toy once in awhile to keep him very interested. Trust me that you won’t have to break a sweat while playing with your dog and the Flirt Pole: http://www.amazon.com/KONG-Chase-It-Squeaking-Assorted-Characters/dp/B00AEJANCW/ref=sr_1_3?s=pet-supplies&;ie=UTF8&qid=1384561833&sr=1-3&keywords=flirt+pole+for+dogs

Have you used your muffin tin lately? Maybe it’s buried underneath your tupperwear containers and all those lids that don’t seem fit any of them 😉  Take that muffin tin and put an especially tasty treat at the bottom of each opening. Then get some of your dog’s favorite toys to sit on top of each of those treats. Call your dog over and encourage him to sniff around the muffin tin. Get all excited and clap your hands when he picks out one of those toys and uncovers a treat. Then get him to do the same thing with all of the toys sitting on top of the muffin tin.  You’ll never guess what this activity is called; “The Muffin Tin Game.” Check out this video to see how busy and happy your dog will be when he’s playing this really fun game:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhIWa_W3QxY&;feature=related

One of the dogs I’ve recently worked with is a very smart and energetic Boxer who has separation anxiety. One of the owner’s complaints about her dog was that he would destroy anything made out of cardboard she might have around the house. I smiled and I looked over at the dog who seemed to be smiling back at me. I told my client to go to the supermarket and get some cardboard boxes to leave with him in his room when she had to leave him alone. All he had to do to earn getting the boxes everyday was to sit, and then do a handshake with his mom. She’d then toss a box or two into his room and told him to “go find it.” I had her tape him for a few days after she implemented this protocol and she said he seemed very pleased with himself after he got to rip them all to pieces. Yay!

Do you have a dog who likes to tip his bowl over and then his kibble goes all over the place? Have you noticed your dog takes pieces of kibble out of his bowl and then brings them to a different area to eat? I have a very unscientific theory that these dogs are actually “pretending” to hunt for their food. Hey, nobody says a dog has to eat his food out of a bowl. The only reason we feed them out of bowls is because we humans eat out of dishes! There are several different types of food-release toys on the market that would enable your dog to hunt for his meals. Why not use one or two of these when it’s time to offer Fido his breakfast or dinner.  Click on these links to see what food-release toys and games your own dog would enjoy:

http://www.amazon.com/KONG-Classic-Kong-Dog-Small/dp/B0002AR15U/ref=sr_1_5?s=home-garden&;ie=UTF8&qid=1295991064&sr=1-5

http://www.amazon.com/Omega-Paw-Tricky-Treat-Large/dp/B0002DK26M/ref=sr_1_24?s=pet-supplies&;ie=UTF8&qid=1314199559&sr=1-24

http://www.amazon.com/Kong-PW1-Wobbler-Dog-Toy/dp/B003ALMW0M/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&;ie=UTF8&qid=1297989832&sr=1-1

www.amazon.com/KONG-Chase-It-Squeaking-Assorted-Characters

http://www.amazon.com/Deer-Antlers-Dog-Chew-Treats/dp/B004YFY0Q2/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&;qid=1417195034&sr=8-5&keywords=deer+antlers+for+dogs

http://www.amazon.com/BULLY-STICKS-Standard-Regular-Downtown/dp/B004B3W4N8/ref=pd_sim_petsupplies_2

I hope I’ve given you some good ideas for keeping your canine companion happy and busy.  Always remember how important it is to keep your dog mentally stimulated and physically exercised.  If you do, I strongly doubt you’ll ever need to call me or any other behavior consultant because your dog is destroying things in your home or because you’re convinced he’s become out of control.  Trainers have a favorite expression; “A tired dog is a good dog!”

Renee Premaza
Copyright: 2012

Your Aggressive Dog

All dogs are capable of biting. Aggression is normal canine behavior. What provokes a dog to bite depends on his genetic makeup and what he’s learned will work for him. Aggression is not curable. However, with behavior modification training, and sometimes with medication, we may be able to raise the dog’s bite threshold so that he can handle more stress in his life without getting to the point of exploding.

You can think of your aggressive dog the way you would view an alcoholic. An alcoholic is always said to be in recovery. Once you begin to work with your dog, you should consider him also to be “in recovery” for the rest of his life.

If you decide to embark on helping your dog become a safer, happier companion pet, you must recognize that this will take time, patience and consistency. You must also recognize that if medication is indicated, this could be costly. Anytime we interact with an aggressive dog there are risks involved. If you have young children in your home, are you willing to put those children at risk? What would happen if one of your children’s friends came to visit and your dog bit that child? You could be sued. Will you be able to teach your children how to properly interact with your dog so as not to provoke a biting incident? These are all things to consider if you want to make the commitment to rehabilitate your dog.

In many instances, while you work on modifying your dog’s behavior, everyone who lives with your dog will also have to modify their behavior in order to prevent your dog from becoming reactive toward them, or to other people your dog will encounter in his life. While it may be heartbreaking to make this decision, you may have to consider euthanasia as a viable alternative. If you attempt treatment and it proves unsuccessful, euthanasia may be your only choice.

In order to teach your dog more appropriate behaviors to use in place of aggressive behaviors, you must prevent him from ever showing aggression again. Each time a dog practices aggression, he learns this is a very powerful strategy to use to avoid something negative or to get something he wants. To help your dog avoid showing aggression, you must avoid putting your dog into any situation that would trigger that response. Since stress is a huge factor in creating aggressive behavior, recognize situations that may cause your dog to feel stressed. Author and trainer Turid Rugaas has written a book called, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals, published by Legacy By Mail, Inc, 1997. The following is a list of situations that stress dogs (Rugaas, p. 25):

  • Being threatened directly by us or other dogs
  • Being exposed to violence, anger or aggression
  • Jerking his leash, forcing him down, yanking on his collar to move him
  • Making unrealistic demands on him in training and in life Over-exercising young dogs
  • Not enough exercise and activity
  • Hunger and thirst
  • Not having access to outside potty area when necessary Temperature extremes
  • Pain and illness
  • Noise
  • Being alone and feeling isolated
  • Sudden and frightening situations
  • Overstimulation from playing with balls or other dogs
  • Always being disturbed and not getting enough down time
  • Any sudden changes in his routine or his life

The following is a list of indicators your dog might give when he is feeling stressed (Rugaas, p. 26):

  • Restlessness
  • Over-reacting to something happening; i.e., doorbell, an approaching dog, etc.
  • Scratching himself; Biting himself
  • Chewing on inedible items, such as furniture, shoes, etc. Barking, howling or whining
  • Bouts of Diarrhea
  • Dog smells bad, both mouth and bod
  • Tenseness of muscles
  • Sudden onset of dandruff and shedding
  • Shaking
  • Change of eye color
  • Dog licks himself
  • Tail chasing
  • Raised hackles (piloerection)
  • Constant panting
  • Lack of concentration
  • Shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent urination/defecation
  • Allergic reactions
  • Fixating on certain stimuli; i.e lights, flies, crackling firewood
  • Appearing to be nervous
  • Use of displacement behaviors

You will benefit by being able to identify those calming signals dogs give when they are experiencing stress (Rugaas, pp. 5-14):

  • Turning of the head: Dog swiftly turns his head to the side and back or the head can be held to one side for awhile.
  • Eyes shift from side to side while the dog’s head remains still. Turning away: dog turns to the side or back
  • Nose licking
  • Freezing in place
  • Walking slowly and using very slow movements
  • Quick sits
  • Quick downs: dog lies down with his belly to the ground Yawning
  • Sniffing: quick movement with head down to the ground Splitting up: dog goes between people or other dogs
  • Wagging tail

Finally, you will recognize the following signs of aggression as preludes to a possible biting incident (The Canine Aggression Workbook, by James O’Heare, published by Gentle Solutions, 2001, p. 13):

  • Growling
  • Snapping
  • Lunging
  • Snarling (lips raised and teeth bared)
  • Barking furiously
  • Staring Piloerection (raised hackles)
  • Stiff, high tail wag
  • Dilated pupils
  • Freezing in place
  • Dog closes his mouth prior to biting

Learn to Understand Your Dog!

Avoid “humanizing” your dog (known as “anthropomorphism,” which means giving human qualities to animals)! Your dog is not a human child wearing a furry suit. He’s a dog, and behaves like a dog. He doesn’t do things out of spite, he doesn’t get jealous, and he doesn’t choose not to listen to you. Dogs do only behaviors that for them. If he’s learned that a particular behavior (i.e.,jumping up on people, nipping and biting) gets him reinforced in some way, he’ll continue to do that behavior until he’s taught that a more appropriate, alternative behavior will become more rewarding than the one he’s been doing all along.

Here are some facts for you to consider:

  1. Physical punishment is inhumane, and it doesn’t work anyway!
    Yes, he might stop doing whatever you punished him for in order to stop the punishment; but he won’t trust you when you show aggression toward him. Punishment can suppress a behavior, but all too often, it can come back in some other form (biting!).
  2. Your dog never feels guilty about anything!
    When your dog stands in front of you with that look of “guilt,” he is merely responding to your negative, angry demeanor and is trying to calm you down so you’ll go back to being the “you” he feels safe with. You say things like, “what did you do?” and he looks away, he lowers his head and his tail goes between his legs. Sometimes he runs away and hides in order to avoid punishment. Dogs view things as either safe or dangerous. When you’re screaming at him, all he wants to do is get things back to normal as quickly as possible. If your dog continues to “misbehave” over and over again, surely he’s not intentionally trying to bring your wrath down on him. He just needs to be taught a more appropriate behavior.
  3. Teach your children to behave properly with your dog.
    Never allow children to pull tails or ears, or to sit on your dog. Many puppies and adult dogs do not like when children get in their face. Dogs can nip or bite children who continually hug them or try to kiss them. Always supervise children and dogs when they’re together, and never leave them alone together without an adult to supervise! woman-walking-dog
  4. Always praise and reward your dog when he’s behaving well.
    We tend to punish dogs for doing what we don’t want them to do, but we neglect to acknowledge and reward them for doing something that is good. Give your dog that feedback whenever he’s doing something that you like. Otherwise, his good behavior will fade.
  5. Avoid using choke chain collars and shock collars.
    Choke collars can cause injuries to a dog’s trachea. They can also cause ocular hemorrhages. Shock collars do cause pain and using pain to train a dog is always inappropriate!
  6. Never chain a dog outside and leave him unsupervised!
    Chained or tied up dogs become frustrated and angry because they are prevented from being where the activity is. Dogs are pack animals and enjoy being a part of what’s going on. Each time your dog runs toward the end of his chain, he gets a major leash correction. This creates anger and barrier frustration. If you don’t have a fence, bring your dog inside the house, or put him in an outside kennel where he has room to walk around. Also provide him with a doghouse or other shelter so he can escape from the elements.
  7. Avoid free-feeding your dog.
    Do not leave food in his bowl all day. He will become a fussy eater, and you won’t be able to establish a routine of good housetraining, because his digestive system will not become regulated. Your dog will not value his food, and will just nibble at it like a cat. Dogs in the wild have to hunt for their meals. They are not grazers!
  8. Provide plenty of opportunity for your dog to receive daily exercise. Most of all behavior problems can be elminated or improved when a dog is able to release pent-up energies. A tired dog is a good dog!

©2009 Renee Premaza

Introducing Shy/Fearful Dogs to People

 This article addresses shy/fearful dogs, but not dogs that will automatically go into attack mode at the sight of a stranger! If you live with a dog who displays this behavior, we will use other methods to re-socialize him, including using a muzzle. 

We humans often exacerbate our dogs’ behavior problems. One thing that most of us do is allow our fearful dogs to run wildly to the front door when the doorbell rings. By the time we arrive at the door to answer it, our dogs are already in such lather that they can’t think straight! Then we compound the problem by opening the door and holding the dog back by grabbing his collar to avoid having the dog either jump on or lunge at whoever is standing on the other side. What do we do then? We scold the dog for misbehaving. 

The truth is, no dog should have the job of being the main greeter at the door, particularly shy and fearful dogs. We need to set our dogs up for success rather than cause them to fail time and time again. Their behavior should not be construed as misbehavior; they are having panic attacks when they hear the doorbell ring or when someone knocks and enters!

Here is how to prepare to introduce your frightened dog to strangers and other visitors that enter your home:

  1. Whenever possible, allow your visitor to enter without ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door.
  2. Have your visitor sit down and get comfortable and ask if they’d be willing to help you re-socialize your dog. I find the best place to seat myself is right at the kitchen table.
  3. Get lots of delicious food treats ready and place them in a bowl on the table.
  4. Bring your dog into the room wearing his leash,
  5. Keep him with you until he is totally calm and relaxed.
  6. Never force your dog to socialize with anyone!
  7. Always leave it up to your dog to decide if he wants to investigate your visitor.
  8. If he is not able to relax in this situation, remove him to a room where he feels safe and comfortable. 

Here are the instructions you need to give to everyone who wants to meet your shy/fearful dog:

  1. Do not make eye contact with the dog.
  2. Do not speak to the dog.
  3. Do not reach a hand toward the dog or lean over him.
  4. Do not try to pet the dog!
  5. Do not get up and move around unless they tell you they’re getting up! Then remove the dog from the room FIRST!
  6. Basically IGNORE THE DOG!!
  7. Allow your dog to approach someone new only when he’s ready.
  8. If your dog seems interested in investigating the visitor, have them toss treats on the floor but at a distance away from your visitor. If the dog accepts those treats, that’s a very good sign that he’s not terribly stressed.
  9. If YOU believe your dog is accepting this person, they can offer a treat to the dog directly from their hand which should be flat against their side, not reaching toward the dog!
  10. Nobody should pet your dog during this first meeting!

You will have to be firm in giving these instructions! You will hear people say, “Oh don’t worry! I love dogs and they love me.” This will be a challenge because you will have to set these rules in stone, even when you’re giving them to your close family members and friends. We tend not to want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so we allow people to lean over the dog, reach out to pet the dog, etc. When dogs are frightened and undersocialized, if someone pushes them past their comfort zone, we can cause these dogs to bite defensively!  If you do not trust your visitors to observe these protocols, keep your dog in his safe-room and give him a tasty chewy to keep him occupied and happy until your visitors leave.

© 2009 Renee Premaza

Important Advice for All Parents of Young Children

  • A dog is a dog, not a human child.
  • A dog has no morals and doesn’t recognize right from wrong.
  • A dog sees a young child as a “littermate” not a leader.
  • Both dog and child need constant supervision when they’re together!
  • Do not expect your dog to tolerate childish behaviors that cause pain and/or discomfort to your dog!
  • Your 5-year-old will not understand why he is not to pester your dog when he’s sleeping! A 5-year-old child does not understand that his dog could wake up startled by his sudden approach and bite him. A 5-year-old child does not think that his dog could bite him if he pulls on his tail or ears or sits on him. A young child needs constant and close supervision when he’s with his dog. You can tell him not to do something until you’re blue in the face. He may not listen to you.
  • Physically remove your child from the dog if the child is behaving inappropriately. If you do not do this, your child could get bitten.
  • Teach your child to behave appropriately with your dog and make sure to reinforce your rules!
  • Never allow your child to be on the floor at face-level. Young children should be sitting on furniture or standing when interacting with any dog.
  • Dogs play-bite! When they are with their doggy littermates, that is how they play with one another. When children get on the floor with a dog, the dog automatically behaves toward the child the way he would a littermate. Avoid facial injuries by keeping children on furniture when the dog is in the same room.
  • Never allow children (or husband) to roughhouse with your dog. This will cause your dog to play-bite and he will learn to play rough with everyone! Rough play will produce biting behaviors and you will find it difficult to undo this habit later on.
  • Every time you or your children interact with your dog, you are training him!
  • If you have a puppy, whatever you allow your puppy to do when he’s young will follow through when he becomes an adolescent/adult.
  • If you think a particular behavior is amusing when your dog is a puppy, do not think he will “grow out of it” when he matures! By laughing at him or allowing him to practice a behavior, he will learn this behavior gets him positive attention, and he will choose that behavior all the time.
  • Think more than twice before allowing your dog to sleep in the bed with your children. Dogs belong in their own beds on the floor!
  • Avoid spoiling your dog, as well as your children. Both species will become demanding and obnoxious!
  • You send your children to school to learn how to become well-behaved and knowledgeable adults. Take your dog to school for those same reasons. A well-behaved and mannerly dog is a pleasure to live with!
  • Involve your children in your dog’s training and supervise them during their lessons together.
  • The more your children work with your dog to educate him, the more your dog will see them as valuable leaders in the home.
  • Do not place inappropriate responsibilities onto the shoulders of your children. Give a child 1 or 2 easy and fun things to do with/for the dog and supervise to make sure things go smoothly. Avoid making those responsibilities drudgery for the child. Be sure to positively reinforce your child if he is doing a good job!
  • If either the dog or the child are behaving inappropriately with each other, your responsibility is to prevent those behaviors from ever happening. Bad habits develop easily. Bad habits are hard to break!
  • Never, never, never physically punish your dog! Your dog will learn you cannot be trusted and he may develop defensive behaviors.
  • Never, never, never punish your dog in front of your child. He will associate punishment with the child and develop negative emotions toward him or toward other children of similar appearance, sizes/ages.
  • Never, never, never scold or punish your dog for growling. Growling is a warning to tell you or your children (or another dog) that he is feeling uncomfortable about something so please stop what you are doing!
  • A dog that is punished or corrected for growling will learn to bite without giving any warning signals!
  • Allow your dog to have a “child-free” safety zone. This could be his crate or a specific corner of a room. Instruct your children that they are never to disturb their dog when he chooses to escape to that safety zone.
  • If your children love to run around the house screaming and flailing their arms, do not be surprised if your dog chases after them and nips their feet or clothing. Childish behaviors like this may cause a dog to go into prey-mode. Squealing kids who run around erratically can evoke hunting behaviors in many breeds. Do not lose sight of the fact that dogs are hunters. Terriers are bred to hunt and kill prey.
  • If you have a young child or children and are contemplating getting a dog, choose your breed carefully. Learn what job that breed was originally bred to do and you will know what behaviors will be typical for that dog. If your life is already hectic and a bit crazy because you are busy with your family, please think carefully about whether having a puppy or dog in your home is a good idea.
  • If you have a hectic schedule and do not have time to sufficiently exercise your dog, you will have a dog that will develop behavioral problems. Exercise is critically important to dogs. Most dogs are born with high energy levels.
  • If you are experiencing any serious problems with your dog, especially around your children, please contact a professional as soon as possible.

 

Copyright: Renee Premaza 2009

Game for Teaching Self-Control

“Go Wild & Freeze”

This is a game that is all about having a great time, but teaching your dog that he MUST remain in control of himself. You will also enjoy this game because you can now act like a total idiot with your dog and this dog trainer won’t even raise an eyebrow about it 🙂

Take your dog outside or down the basement to play where there is plenty of room to run around. Remember to have your dog’s leash or a long-line attached to his harness or collar before you begin playing.

Before you play this game:

  1. Hold onto the leash
  2. Ask your dog to sit
  3. Once he’s seated, ask him, “wanna go wild?” in a real excited and happy voice
  4. Start running around, but only for a very short distance (maybe a foot)
  5. Immediately stop running and tell the dog to sit!
  6. Give him a treat if he sits instantly!
  7. Repeat all 5 steps for a good 3-4 times before lengthening your run.

As you and your dog really get into the game, as long as he is sitting for you as soon as you ask him to, you can begin lengthening the distance and time that you’re both running around. Run around in a straight line at first. Then begin running around in circles. You can now discontinue the food treat for sitting, as the reward for sitting will be playing the game.

If you notice that your dog is getting too revved up, go back to the last level where he was able to control himself. Once he’s doing well at that level again, slowly raise the bar by allowing longer wild playtimes before you again ask him to sit for you.


I have had owners successfully play this game with very jumpy dogs. Require that your dog use good self-control, and his reward will be getting to play for longer periods of time.

Canine Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic – the practice of using one’s hands to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases. Chiropractic spinal manipulations have been done on both people and animals in this country since 1895. History indicates that spinal manipulation was used on animals as far back as ancient China.

Misalignments of the vertebrae are called subluxations. When a chiropractor manually performs a spinal manipulation on an animal, he is attempting to correct subluxations in the spine in order to restore the proper functioning of that animal’s nervous system.

Spinal subluxations in dogs may be caused by any physical injury, stress, faults in conformation, excessive crate confinement, leaping from or running down stairs or other high places, using leash corrections with choke chains, chaining your dog out on any collar, poor diet, insufficient exercise, sporting activities, such as agility, herding, lure coursing and playing rough with other dogs.

If a dog has a subluxation, he may or may not experience some form of pain, ranging from moderate to severe. Symptoms that you may observe in your own dog might include any of the following:

  • Shows any signs of lameness
  • Refuses to have his collar or harness put on
  • Does not want to be touched on specific areas
  • May no longer desire to jump up on the bed or sofa when previously happy to do so
  • Shows sudden change in behavior, such as aggressiveness or depression
  • Becomes stiff anywhere on his body
  • Appears weak or unable to walk or move about
  • Excessively licks his paws causing sores to develop
  • Drags his hind leg behind as he walks, or becomes paralyzed
  • Favors sitting on one side
  • Becomes incontinent (urinary and/or fecal)
  • Develops problems with digestion
  • Shows poor performance in sports activities or a decreased interest in playing
  • Dogs who suffer from hip dysplasia, IV disc disease and Wobblers Disease are excellent candidates for chiropractic care.

Ray E. Derman, D.C., C.V.C.P. Equine & Canine Chiropractic 401 W. Somerdale Rd., Hi-Nella, N J 08083 Office: (856) 309-1991 Cell: (856) 889-7729 drray@peoplepc.com

Advice to ALL Dog Owners

  1. Make sure your expectations of your dog are reasonable. Don’t expect your dog to acquire good behaviors until you train him to do what you want.
  2. When you begin extinguishing attention-seeking behaviors (e.g., jumping, barking in your face, pawing at you, stealing, etc.) expect these behaviors to get worse before they get better (known as an extinction burst). Be consistent in your training, and be patient!
  3. When saying English words to your dog (e.g., his name, commands like sit or down, etc.), do not repeat these words more than ONCE. When we nag our dogs by repeating and repeating, they learn to stop listening to us.
  4. If your dog ignores you, it is not because he’s being stubborn! It can be because whatever you’re saying might be confusing to him, or you might be using words that have become meaningless to him because you’ve repeated them over and over again.
  5. When asking your dog to sit, or when asking him to do anything, please stand up straight. Avoid leaning over your dog to address him as he may back away from you.
  6. WOMEN – avoid sing-songing commands to your dog. When you tell your dog to sit, say the word in a firm, but neutral voice. You’re not asking the dog to sit — you’re telling him to sit.
  7. Remember that when you reward your dog for a behavior, that behavior will tend to increase. This is known as positive reinforcement.
  8. If your dog is hyper, reward him for sitting, lying down or doing ANY calm behavior he voluntarily offers by giving him treats . You’ll notice that your dog will begin sitting and lying down more and more on his own.
    If your dog starts to show inappropriate behaviors, and those behaviors get worse and worse, you will have to figure out who or what is reinforcing those behaviors. Remember that what can be rewarding to a dog is not necessarily rewarding to humans.
  9. Consider the breed of your dog when fretting over his behaviors. If you have a herding dog, this dog will tend to nip at children’s ankles, he’ll be more likely to chase children, cars, bikes, rabbits and squirrels and anything that moves quickly. If you have a dog known for protecting, your dog will bark at strangers. If you have a dog that has been bred to hunt rodents underground, this dog will enjoy digging.
  10. Never physically punish your dog for anything! Your dog will not trust you if you slap him. He will think you’re a bully and he will not respect you. He might learn to be afraid of you, but he won’t respect you! Also, someday he may choose to defend himself against your aggressive behavior toward him. His behavior toward other people may also be affected by your aggression toward him. Physical punishment creates a lot of fallout.
    MEN – when speaking to your dog it is not necessary to yell. More often than not, a word spoken in a non-threatening way will get more of his attention than hollering.
  11. Your dog needs to know that you’re a good leader. When dogs do not have confidence in their humans to make good decisions, dogs instinctively feel that they need to “take over” and make decisions on their own. Your dog wants to know that you will never place him in harm’s way. Your dog wants to feel confident that his survival is your responsibility. If your dog feels the need to make decisions on his own, he will always resort to doggy-behavior. Dogs that think they have to rule the roost become hyper and nervous. Many times they develop very bad habits, like biting people, growling and snarling when they don’t get their own way. Help your dog to feel more relaxed by controlling all of his resources (e.g., food, toys, shelter, and all good things). He will become much calmer when he knows it’s not his responsibility to make important decisions. Follow the Nothing in Life is Free Program.
  12. Do not leave your dog’s food in his bowl all day long. “Free-feeding” causes dogs to lose their appetite. Dogs that have food out all day do not feel that their food is valuable. They think food grows in the bowl just for them. By offering two distinct meals per day, your dog will learn to eat when his bowl is placed on the floor. He will also see YOU as the giver of his food. If you have a puppy, feeding at definite times will help his digestive system become more regulated and you will be able to housetrain your pup much more easily.
  13. If you have young children in your home, and you have a computer, please go to the following website for extremely important information about how to keep children safe with dogs, and how to keep dogs safe with children: www.doggonesafe.com
    1. Never allow small children to play on the floor with any puppy or adult dog. When dogs get overly excited they tend to nip children on the face! Avoid making this mistake. Young children should either stand up or sit on furniture when playing with their dogs.
    2. Never leave young children with puppies or adults dogs without an adult to supervise — do not leave them alone even for one second!!
    3. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 12 year old boys are more apt to be bitten by their own dogs. Never allow your children (or your husband) to rough-house with your puppies or adult dogs.
    4. Teach your children to behave appropriately with your puppy or dog. Never allow children to pull tails or ears or to lay on top of your dog! Teach children that when puppy or dog wants to go into his crate for a rest, they should respect his need to do so.
    5. Learn to recognize stress signals that your dog tries to communicate. When your dog becomes stressed around your children, allow him to escape to either his crate or another room where he can chill. Teach your children never to bother your dog when he’s in this “safe space.” **To learn how dogs communicate that they are stressed, purchase the book, “ON TALKING TERMS WITH DOGS,” by Turid Rugaas. Also purchase the companion video with the same name. You can purchase these items at: www.Dogwise.com
  14. When purchasing puppies, do not take them from their littermates until 8 weeks of age. If you purchase a pup younger than 8 weeks, it will be difficult to teach him to have a soft mouth. Puppies removed from their litter too early tend to be nippy and play bite with hard-mouths. A pup needs to learn bite inhibition from his littermates before he’s brought into the home. You then must teach him to use his mouth softly (see my Puppy Packet for more information).
    Begin training puppies as early as 9 weeks of age. The earlier you begin training, the less likely your puppy will be to develop inappropriate behavioral habits as he goes through his adolescence and enters adulthood.
  15. If you adopt an adolescent dog or adult dog from a shelter or rescue organization, be sure to start obedience training ASAP. The majority of dogs that wind up in shelters or rescue have not even been trained to sit.  
    1. When adopting a dog from a shelter or from rescue, expect a “honeymoon period.” This period can last anywhere from 1 week to 4-6 months. This might all depend on how long it takes for your adopted dog to feel comfortable and secure in his new home. Once this honeymoon period comes to an end, your dog might begin showing some inappropriate behaviors that he had developed in his previous life. Be patient with your dog and teach him more appropriate behaviors by rewarding him heavily for doing what you want him to do.
    2. Start training your adopted dog in obedience after only a few days of arriving at your home. Let him know from the very beginning that you’re going to be a firm, but benevolent leader!
  16. When you train your dog, teach him the word you want him to learn AS HE’S DOING THE BEHAVIOR. For example, if you want your dog to understand the word, SIT, say the word “SIT” as he goes to put his butt on the floor. After about 5 times, test him to see if he understands the word by saying it first. If he sits then you’ll know he now understands what that spoken word means. Dogs will always respond quicker to hand-signals, as they communicate with each other using body language.
    When using reward-based training, give your dog his reward within 1/2 second of his doing that good behavior. If your timing in incorrect, you might be rewarding him for the wrong behavior. For example, many people will take their dog outside to potty, but will then give the dog a treat after he comes back inside the house. The dog has only learned that he’s been rewarded for coming back in the house — not that he’s done a good thing by going potty outside!
  17. If during the life of your dog you notice any sudden change in his behavior, take him to the veterinarian for a complete physical examination. There are many serious illnesses that might cause a dog to change his behavior.
    I wish you good luck with your dog, and I hope this article will help you understand your canine companions.

© 2009 Renee Premaza

Adopting a Shelter Dog

Many people have made decisions to adopt shelter and rescued dogs and provide them with a forever home. If a dog has been surrendered, or if a dog was found as a stray and placed in the shelter environment, they have experienced certain events in their lives that we may never become fully aware of. I don’t think it’s too common to get a complete history of most shelter dogs because sometimes people just don’t want to elaborate on these issues, being afraid that the shelter may not accept the dog or may disapprove of the owner’s responses toward their dog. Some of these people may not realize just how they did affect their dog during the time they lived with him, and so don’t even realize what circumstances would even be important to relate when discussing the dog’s history. Many people drop a dog off at the shelter and want to leave as quickly as possible without being grilled about why they want to surrender their dog. Of course, if a dog is found as a stray, and nobody claims him, there is no past history to make any assessment of the dog.

Dogs that have lost their homes for one reason or another may enter a new home equipped to deal with their new lives based strictly on how they lived their former lives, what their experiences taught them, and how those experiences affect their behaviors.

Our dogs definitely do let us know about their life’s experiences, but we need to pay attention to what they’re trying to communicate to us about that. Dogs are extremely adaptable and become a reflection of their environments and experiences. They, like us, are creatures of habit and behavioral patterns. What this means is how they react to things in life is determined by past learning, and also by their genetic makeup. A dog’s coping skills is partially governed by hia basic innate personality.

Sometimes, in my own practice, people will complain that their rescued or shelter dog is nothing like the dog they had before, even though their previous dog was the same breed and also a rescued dog. I have to remind them that dogs are not clones of one another. We’re not clones either. I have one brother and we share the same parents. My brother and I are actually complete opposites in most of our behaviors, even though we shared many of the same experiences in our early lives. I can’t help teasing him by saying he was adopted!

Dogs also react differently from each other, even though they might be related, or they might be of the same breed, or they might have lived in the same environment. Every animal is a distinct individual, and will react to his experiences as an individual, not as part of a group. That’s why it’s a mistake to expect your new dog to behave the same way your former dog did.

Dogs are very impressionable during the early months of their lives. During early puppyhood, whatever they experience influences much of their emotional responses and behaviors as they go into their adulthood.

Certain triggers to things that remind them of their previous life affect shelter and rescued dogs. Even the people at the shelter may not have witnessed these triggers from the dog prior to your adopting him. Once he goes to his new home, there is often a “honeymoon period.” Anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months, these triggers may emerge as life goes on for the dog. How many times do we hear about a dog becoming very reactive when a family member raises a hand to toss a ball or a stick? It’s not uncommon for people to realize that their newly adopted dog is afraid of men, including the husband in the family. Something has occurred in this dog’s life to trigger a negative response to a particular stimulus or an event.

My own dog became extremely reactive when his trainer lifted her leg over a baby gate to go into another room to answer a phone. Jack went nuts on her, and thankfully he was already wearing a muzzle when this happened. We were working on his known triggers, and then this hidden trigger reared its ugly head. We’ll probably never know why he saw a leg-lift as being so threatening to him.

This is not to say that we have to be afraid of adopting a shelter or rescue dog! I just want you to understand that these dogs have past experiences that they may be affected by. Once you bring your dog home to live with you, these triggers can extinguish as you help the dog realize that he can trust you to provide his basic needs, that you’ll not put him in harm’s way (meaning also that you won’t physically punish him), and that you’ll provide structure and benevolent leadership in his life.

Most shelter and rescued dogs are adolescents when a lot of undesirable behaviors begin popping up. Anyone who raises kids knows that the teenage years can present many challenges to the parent. When dogs become adolescents, they will also test all sorts of behaviors to see which work and which don’t. It’s during that adolescent stage that some dog owners lose patience with their dogs and decide to give them up. Most shelter dogs are untrained adolescents and don’t know how to control themselves very well either.

If a dog lives with a family who practices loud yelling, or physical or bullying type behaviors, and the family interacts like this with each other and their dog, this type of environment will make the dog very stressed and anxious, and may possibly cause the dog to behave with similar responses. Again, I’ll use my own dog as an example here. Jack came from a family where there were 2 young daughters who were not well disciplined. The girls got most of what they wanted, and if they didn’t, they learned to make a huge fuss until they finally got what they wanted. When Jack arrived at my home, I saw an amazing similarity between his attitude and behavior with those of the girls. Jack learned that if he made a fuss by biting somebody, he’d also get what he wanted.

When dogs live within a dog pack, they must learn to adjust their behaviors to fit into that pack in order to be accepted. Otherwise, they will be killed or expelled. So, if that pack doesn’t practice behaviors that the dog has already learned to do from his own past experiences, he must change and adjust his behaviors to conform to the rules of his new pack. Sometimes this leads to confrontations, but the dog knows if he wants to survive, he needs the support and help of his new packmates, so he has to make changes. We’re talking about instinct here.

When we adopt a shelter or rescue dog, we must understand the mental and emotional processes of the instinctual nature of the dog. We have to recognize that the new family constitutes a “new pack” having new rules, structure and hierarchy. We have now learned that the dog only knows how to interact and react by the rules of his previous pack, that being his previous owners. Our rescued dog might now offer some inappropriate behaviors with us since those were appropriate behaviors with his previous pack. What we consider inappropriate had been appropriate and worked well for him before.

Dogs experience many of the same emotions that we do. But, they react to them like dogs, not like humans! We humans can ask someone NOT to do something that annoys us or threatens us. We can yell, we can argue with somebody in order to make our feelings known and understood. We can put our hands on our hips, or slam a door shut or shake our finger in someone’s face. Dogs communicate too, but they growl and show their teeth or they snap or bite. They can’t just sit down and discuss what’s on their minds. They just have a different mode of communication, and we have to recognize that for what it is.

I’m sure you have tried to break some of your own bad habits at some point in your life. If you’ve smoked cigarettes like I did, and decided to quit, I’m sure you’ll agree that this was a very hard habit to break especially if you smoked over 2 packs a day for 20 years! Our dogs develop behavioral habits too, but we have to teach them more appropriate habits to replace the ones we don’t like. Please remember that a dog behaves like a dog. He doesn’t see ANY of his behaviors as being immoral, illegal or unethical. It’s just dog behaviors! When we adopt a dog that shows inappropriate behaviors in a domestic setting, it’s up to us to modify those behaviors. This is not accomplished overnight. Our dog is still under the assumption that he needs those previously acceptable behaviors to survive, based on the rules of his former “pack”. So, his behaviors have become habits and patterns. We will need to take the time to recondition these habits to become more acceptable in the dog’s new environment. We will need patience and understanding to accomplish this. We must always be consistent in our rules so the dog gains an understanding of what those rules are.

Suppose you adopt a dog and discover that he’s food aggressive? It’s hard for us to understand this behavior because most of us are happy to provide our dogs with a bounty of food everyday. Yet the new rescued dog protects his food bowl and rawhides and pigs ears. Why is that? Remember that somewhere down the line, your dog may not have been provided with ample food. And if they did have enough food, quite possibly there was a member of his previous pack who kept trying to take food away from him. Some people think they have to teach the dog to relinquish food items by grabbing things out of their mouths, or by removing the dog’s food bowl before the dog is finished eating. Or, like in the case of my dog again, the young girls Jack lived with often fought with him because he kept stealing their Barbie Dolls. Off he’d go with Barbie or Ken, and then the girls had to struggle with him to get the dolls out of his mouth. When Jack came to live at my house, he was severely food protective and I couldn’t even play with him because he’d guard every toy he had. If there was a ball lying on the floor, and I wanted to have a game of fetch with Jack, he’d snap at me when I would reach for the ball. Here is a prime example of how past learning experiences with a previous pack affects a dog’s behavior with a new one.

When you bring your shelter dog home, teach him that YOU control his food, which will also teach him to rely on YOU for his survival. Avoid keeping food in your dog’s bowl all day long. Your dog will think that it just grows in the bowl. He’ll also become a fussy eater because food won’t be as important to him –he knows it is always there so why should he worry about it’s availability? Let your dog know that food comes from you. Feed him twice a day, and whatever he doesn’t finish within a 1/2 hour, put it away for the next meal or throw it away if it won’t stay fresh. Your dog will see you in a real leadership role once he learns that YOU control all of his important resources.

Let’s not forget that some shelter dogs come from a previous pack where they’ve had to assume the responsibility for taking care of themselves, rather than being able to rely on a pack leader to do this for them. It’s important to a dog to recognize someone as a pack leader for him to feel confident that his pack can survive. You may have to now recondition your dog to trust that you’re going to assume this responsibility. If your dog seems anxious and stressed out, examine your own leadership skills. If your dog doesn’t trust you to take on this job, he’ll assume that you can’t properly take care of him or the pack. Dogs don’t fare well under these circumstances. It makes them nervous.

Help your dog see you as the giver of all good things. Control his most important resources, like food and water, toys, exercise opportunities, attention and affection. Let him know that only appropriate behavior will gain him access to everything he wants in his life. If he’s crazy about going for walks, make sure he sits before you put his leash on. If he doesn’t sit when you ask him to, just put the leash away for a few minutes and go do something else. In a little while, bring out the leash again, and ask him to sit. I’ll bet he sits really pretty for you the second time, and he’ll sit most assuredly more willingly on subsequent trials. Does your dog want to play tug? My dog would rather play tug than any other game. He knows that he has to sit before he gets to tug, and he also has to drop the toy from his mouth when I ask him to. He’s also very careful NEVER to touch his teeth to my skin, or the game is over! No ifs and or buts about it. I control the game. I am the giver of his toys and I can put those toys away when I want to stop playing. My dog knows what rules I want him to follow, and he’s become a pretty calm and relaxed dog — at least as calm and relaxed as any border collie can hope to be. So…figure out the things that your dog loves the most and control those things. By doing this, your dog will trust your ability to do other things, like protect him and make good decisions for the safety and well-being of his pack.

Most shelter dogs, especially here in my area in south Jersey, are temperament tested very carefully to screen the dog for aggressive tendencies. Dogs are assessed for food guarding behaviors; they’re tested to see how well they can deal with children’s behaviors, especially like pulling ears or tails, or accidentally being stepped on to see if the dog will become overly reactive to that type of event. It’s unfortunate that we have to put the dog through some of these very stressful tests, but most shelters and rescue recognize the need to keep the public safe and to allow people to feel comfortable about adopting a dog. Once in awhile, though an adopted dog might show aggressive behaviors with their new pack members. Is this a bad dog? Haven’t we just said that a dog learns to do behaviors in his life that works for him? Many of you have adopted dogs that were severely abused by people. A dog like this may have learned that he needed to use aggression in order to survive. Can we blame him? Suppose a dog has been kicked around, smacked, yanked by his collar or hung by his leash? A dog such as this needs a ton of compassion in order to teach him to trust humans. This dog now has to learn that nobody is going to inflict pain on him or subject him to any unsafe situation ever again in his life. Do you think you can convince a dog to trust us in a couple of weeks? Odds are it will take quite a lot longer. One needs to be very patient with this dog. Don’t let anyone, and I mean anyone, tell you that there’s a quick fix for aggression. If someone tells you that, they’re going to sell you on the idea of using aversives to rehabilitate your dog. What are aversives? Here are just a few of them: choke collar or prong collar corrections, shock collars and e-collars, doing alpha rolls, which means forcing a dog onto his back to submit, and any other maneuver that requires getting physical with the dog. Then there are things like squirting a dog in the face with water, scaring him by using a shake can, grabbing him by his cheeks and screaming at him, doing ear pinches, kneeing him in the chest for jumping, or stepping on his paws.

So, if your dog is behaving aggressively, know that if YOU react toward them in an aggressive manner, you will only be adding fuel to the fire. Choose a behavior for yourself that will douse this fire. Talk to the dog calmly and let your dog know that you can still be trusted. Refocus your dog’s attention where he can think of something other than what he’s got on his mind at that time. Whatever you do, don’t threaten him; don’t yell and don’t use human body language that your dog will see as scary. Do NOT get in your dog’s face or yell or grab. Keep things as quiet as possible, even if you have to walk out of the room.

If you don’t have a strong background in dog behavior, and if you aren’t familiar with how dogs learn, please consider getting professional help from a trainer or behaviorist who IS experienced in dealing with aggression. Had I not asked for help from an experienced trainer, I doubt my dog would have survived. Truthfully, if he’d gone to a shelter, he wouldn’t have survived! He would never have passed a temperament test. Jack was truly an interesting study. Here was a dog that was disciplined with hitting, yanking on his collar and being hollered at. Jack was also crated a lot, and the older of the 2 girls smacked him on the head when he didn’t listen to her commands. I saw this for myself. Remember too that he was physically forced to give things up that he had in his mouth. Like many dogs, Jack wasn’t desensitized very well to nail clipping, and on one noteworthy occasion, a nail was clipped much too short and he bled. Way before I adopted my dog, I had visited his family and noted that his collar was extremely tight on him and he needed to have a larger size collar put on. Now, let’s look at the behaviors this dog arrived at MY home with: (1) severe food/object guarding, (2) severe collar aggression–if anyone went to grab his collar he’d bite them immediately, (3) I couldn’t clip his nails unless he was muzzled, (4) he didn’t want to be touched on various parts of his body, which meant I couldn’t clean or medicate his ears, (5) he would snap if anyone leaned over him or reached over him him, and (6) he didn’t enjoy the company of children. If you examine his history, he practically constructed a blueprint of his entire life’s history with his behaviors.

Was this family a bad one? Not really — they meant well, but they were terribly uneducated about dogs and knew nothing about modern training methods or proper ways of interacting with their dog.

Dogs are incredibly honest creatures. They will never lie to us. They don’t waste their time skirting issues or letting you know when they’re really happy or very upset. They adapt incredibly well to the human/dog world despite the amazing misunderstanding most of us have of them. Since I’ve adopted my own dog, and since I’ve been able to learn so much about dogs and their behaviors, I am constantly amazed and impressed with how smart and clever they are. If you look at your own dogs, whether they’ve been adopted or not, and you get frustrated with them for various reasons, don’t ever say your dog is dumb! They are resourceful, they know how to get things that are important to them, and they spend a lot of their time trying to communicate with us.

We just need to learn how to listen to them!

Why Do Dogs Misbehave?

Actually, dogs don’t really misbehave. To them, no matter what they do, it isn’t wrong — it’s just dog behavior. Dogs only do what works for them! If your dog jumps on you (and other people), it’s because they want your attention. Even if you knee them in the chest (not recommended!), or push them off of you, or you holler at them for jumping – They’ve still gotten your attention!

How about when your dog steals your socks or some piece of laundry you’ve left on the floor or in your laundry basket? You watch him chasing around the house with the socks, or he hides under the table with his booty. What do you do? You chase after him attempting to get the stolen item back, right? How clever your dog is! He’s gotten you to play a very fun game with him, and he got your attention again. Take the dog that barks at us constantly until we acknowledge him, or we play with him, or we scream at him. What’s this dog trying to accomplish by barking in our faces? He wants our attention!

Does your protection dog bark like a nut when your mailman comes to your door? Does he go crazy if the UPS driver pulls up to your house to deliver a package? Well…your dog has learned that every time these guys show up, he barks and they leave. Wow, that works, right?

Keep in mind that when your dog has developed a behavior that you don’t like, there is always something or someone reinforcing that behavior to make it work for him.

So …how do we teach our dogs to behave better? We teach them alternative or incompatible behaviors. We make the new behaviors more rewarding than the ones we’re trying to extinguish. That’s it in a nutshell, folks.

To increase a behavior – reward it!

To decrease a behavior – reward a new and desirable behavior!

© Renee Premaza, 2009

Things to Remember During the Life of Your Dog

By: Renee Premaza
Obedience Trainer and Certified Behavior Consultant

Your dog is a dog – not a human child in a furry suit!

  1. Your dog has the same emotions that humans have – he just reacts to them very differently.
  2. Unless you teach your dog what behaviors YOU want him to use, he will not know that ANY of his behaviors are wrong.
  3. Dogs do ONLY those behaviors that work for them! If peeing on your carpet provides an absorbent surface, he will pee on your carpet UNTIL you motivate him to pee outside.
  4. If you put newspaper or wee-wee pads on the floor, you will teach your dog to pee on the floor!
  5. If you show aggressive behavior toward your dog, he may decide to show aggression toward you. He will want to defend himself!
  6. Dogs do not feel guilty about ANYTHING they do. If your dog seems like he looks guilty, he is only trying to calm you down. He will cower and put his tail between his legs in an effort to look smaller – so you won’t notice him.
  7. You will NEVER be able to train your dog not to do the behaviors he is genetically programmed to do for his breed. You can, however, train him to do alternative or incompatible behaviors.
  8. Barking is a self-reinforcing behavior. If your dog is allowed to bark for long periods of time, it will be difficult to stop him. If you holler at him for barking, he will think you are also barking!
  9. If you notice that an inappropriate behavior is increasing, try to establish what is “feeding” (reinforcing) that behavior.
  10. When a behavior is rewarded (either by you or by the environment), that behavior will generally increase.
  11. When the reward is removed from an attention-seeking behavior, the behavior will extinguish. But it might get worse before it gets better (known as an EXTINCTION BURST).
  12. It is near impossible to extinguish fears, phobias and aggression. However, you can desensitize and countercondition the dog to help him change his emotional state.
  13. When extinguishing an attention seeking behavior (i.e., jumping, barking, stealing), ignore the dog. If someone comes along and shows your dog attention, the behavior will come back (called SPONTANEOUS RECOVERY).
  14. If you want to make a behavior stronger, put the dog on a random reinforcement schedule instead of a continuous reinforcement schedule. If you see a particular behavior increasing, it is probably because the dog is getting reinforced for it “sometimes” and sometimes he is not!
  15. Most aggression is fear-based. Most fears are due to lack of socialization before puppy is 12 weeks old.
  16. Aggression is NOT curable. An aggressive dog can be rehabilitated and managed to lower the dog’s stress levels and raise his bite threshold. If your dog is aggressive, REMOVE ALL TRIGGERS THAT CAUSE HIS AGGRESSION!
  17. More dogs die of behavior problems vs. diseases and disorders.
  18. Lack of exercise is responsible for the occurrence of most behavior problems. A tired dog is a good dog!
  19. During adolescence, which begins around 5 months, a dog will try out all sorts of behaviors to see which ones work and which ones don’t. Train your dog so that he learns appropriate behaviors work for him vs. doggy behaviors.
  20. Most spoiled dogs are not happy dogs. Dogs look for leadership. If they don’t see YOU as being a good leader, it behooves the dog to take on that responsibility himself. This makes many dogs feel stressed and anxious, causing behavioral problems to occur.
  21. Teach your dog that you are in charge of all of his valuable resources in his life. Teach him he must do SOMETHING (i.e., sit, lie down, do a trick, etc.) before he gets anything that he wants.
  22. If a dog doesn’t recognize YOU as having good leadership skills, it is instinctive for your dog to become the leader in your home. Many little dogs, for example, are permitted to “rule the roost” because we tend to spoil them so much. Dogs who are “given” this responsibility become stressed and anxious. Sometimes, having all this responsibility creates aggressive dogs.
  23. There are 4 ingredients in the making of an aggressive dog. They are: stress, anxiety, anger and frustration. Any one of these ingredients can cause a dog to show aggression.
  24. If you treat your dog like a human, he will treat you like a dog.

The History and Misconceptions of Dominance Theory

The following article was written for www.clickersolutions.com by Melissa Alexander. It is copyrighted and is reprinted with permission:

Note: The information in the following article came from an interview with Dr. Ian Dunbar, who spent nine years studying the social behavior of dogs during the study mentioned below. In an earlier version of this article, Dr. L. David Mech was credited with the 30-year study. This was a mistake. The researcher who conducted the study was Dr. Frank Beach. An effort has been made to correct this error. However, if you know of a place where the original article was published, please notify the editor and request a correction.

The original alpha/dominance model was born out of short-term studies of wolf packs done in the 1940s. These were the first studies of their kind. These studies were a good start, but later research has essentially disproved most of the findings. There were three major flaws in these studies:

  1. These were short-term studies, so the researchers concentrated on the most obvious, overt parts of wolf life, such as hunting. The studies are therefore unrepresentative — drawing conclusions about “wolf behavior” based on about 1% of wolf life.
  2. The studies observed what are now known to be ritualistic displays and misinterpreted them. Unfortunately, this is where the bulk of the “dominance model” comes from, and though the information has been soundly disproved, it still thrives in the dog training mythos.

    For example, alpha rolls. The early researchers saw this behavior and concluded that the higher-ranking wolf was forcibly rolling the subordinate to exert his dominance. Well, not exactly. This is actually an “appeasement ritual” instigated by the subordinate wolf. The subordinate offers his muzzle, and when the higher-ranking wolf “pins” it, the lower-ranking wolf voluntarily rolls and presents his belly. There is no force. It is all entirely voluntary.

    A wolf would flip another wolf against his will only if he were planning to kill it. Can you imagine what a forced alpha roll does to the psyche of our dogs?

  3. Finally, after the studies, the researchers made cavalier extrapolations from wolf-dog, dog-dog, and dog-human based on their “findings.” Unfortunately, this nonsense still abounds.

So what’s the truth? The truth is dogs aren’t wolves. Honestly, when you take into account the number of generations past, saying “I want to learn how to interact with my dog so I’ll learn from the wolves” makes about as much sense as saying, “I want to improve my parenting – let’s see how the chimps do it!”

Dr. Frank Beach performed a 30-year study on dogs at Yale and UC Berkeley. Nineteen years of the study was devoted to social behavior of a dog pack. (Not a wolf pack. A dog pack.) Some of his findings:

  • Male dogs have a rigid hierarchy.
  • Female dogs have a hierarchy, but it’s more variable.
  • When you mix the sexes, the rules get mixed up. Males try to follow their constitution, but the females have “amendments.”
  • Young puppies have what’s called “puppy license.” Basically, that license to do most anything. Bitches are more tolerant of puppy license than males are.
  • The puppy license is revoked at approximately four months of age. At that time, the older middle-ranked dogs literally give the puppy hell – psychologically torturing it until it offers all of the appropriate appeasement behaviors and takes its place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The top-ranked dogs ignore the whole thing.
  • There is no physical domination. Everything is accomplished through psychological harassment. It’s all ritualistic.
  • A small minority of “alpha” dogs assumed their position by bullying and force. Those that did were quickly deposed. No one likes a dictator.
  • The vast majority of alpha dogs rule benevolently. They are confident in their position. They do not stoop to squabbling to prove their point. To do so would lower their status because…
  • Middle-ranked animals squabble. They are insecure in their positions and want to advance over other middle-ranked animals.
  • Low-ranked animals do not squabble. They know they would lose. They know their position, and they accept it.
  • “Alpha” does not mean physically dominant. It means “in control of resources.” Many, many alpha dogs are too small or too physically frail to physically dominate. But they have earned the right to control the valued resources. An individual dog determines which resources he considers important. Thus an alpha dog may give up a prime sleeping place because he simply couldn’t care less.

So what does this mean for the dog-human relationship?

  • Using physical force of any kind reduces your “rank.” Only middle-ranked animals insecure in their place squabble.
  • To be “alpha,” control the resources. I don’t mean hokey stuff like not allowing dogs on beds or preceding them through doorways. I mean making resources contingent on behavior. Does the dog want to be fed. Great – ask him to sit first. Does the dog want to go outside? Sit first. Dog want to greet people? Sit first. Want to play a game? Sit first. Or whatever. If you are proactive enough to control the things your dogs want, *you* are alpha by definition.
  • Train your dog. This is the dog-human equivalent of the “revoking of puppy license” phase in dog development. Children, women, elderly people, handicapped people – all are capable of training a dog. Very few people are capable of physical domination.
  • Reward deferential behavior, rather than pushy behavior. I have two dogs. If one pushes in front of the other, the other gets the attention, the food, whatever the first dog wanted. The first dog to sit gets treated. Pulling on lead goes nowhere. Doors don’t open until dogs are seated and I say they may go out. Reward pushy, and you get pushy.

Your job is to be a leader, not a boss, not a dictator. Leadership is a huge responsibility. Your job is to provide for all of your dog’s needs…food, water, vet care, social needs, security, etc. If you fail to provide what your dog needs, your dog will try to satisfy those needs on his own.

In a recent article in the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) newsletter, Dr. Ray Coppinger – a biology professor at Hampshire College, co-founder of the Livestock Guarding Dog Project, author of several books including Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution; and an extremely well-respected member of the dog training community – says in regards to the dominance model (and alpha rolling)…

“I cannot think of many learning situations where I want my learning dogs responding with fear and lack of motion. I never want my animals to be thinking social hierarchy. Once they do, they will be spending their time trying to figure out how to move up in the hierarchy.”

That pretty much sums it up, don’t you think?

A Message from an Aggressive Dog

Dear Humans,

For some reason, my humans have decided to tie me up outside everyday on a chain for hours and hours. Everyday I feel lonely and isolated. While I’m tied out on this chain, I watch as the world passes by. I see children playing and running around. Sometimes children throw sticks at me, but there’s nothing I can do to protect myself from them. They scream at me and tease me by coming close and then running away. Sometimes I watch people walking their dogs. Other times I see dogs pass by without any humans. They try to get near me. I get nervous and growl and bark at them so they’ll go away. Everytime I try to run and sniff someone or run toward another dog, the chain holds me back. I get a sharp pain in my neck. Ouch! That hurts a lot! It makes me very angry and frustrated. Now I don’t like children and I don’t like other dogs because they make this pain happen. I am getting angrier with people. I am living a miserable existence.

I wish my family would let me come inside with them. I want to be with the rest of my pack, and not out here so isolated. I wish my family would take me for walks and play with me. I want to be with them. Why did they bring me here in the first place? If I am a problem, they should have me trained. I want to do the right thing, but I need to be shown what I’m supposed to do. They punish me instead. I am a dog and do not think like humans. I do not speak English. I speak “Doglish.”

Today I bit a child who came too close to me! The police were here to talk to my family. They said a judge may say I have to die! Please don’t let this happen to your dogs! Please, please don’t tie your dogs out on a chain.

A Message About Christmas Puppies

For those of you who are planning to purchase puppies this season, please give this idea a lot of thought before you make that final decision. Puppies are a lot of work! Ask yourself if you will have the time to devote to this new baby in order to get him housetrained properly. Will you be able to take him for potty breaks every 1/2 hour to 45 minutes throughout everyday? If you are planning to keep puppy in a crate for 8 hours every weekday while you’re at work, your puppy will not be able to hold his water or bowels for that long. Puppies have a bladder the size of a pea! He may wind up soiling his crate and get very upset about having to sleep in a mess. Puppies that are crated for too long will not become emotionally stable dogs! They need both mental and physical stimulation every single day. So… all that being said, will you be able to provide your beautiful new puppy with all of his needs during this very hectic time of the year? Please think carefully about this before impulsively getting a puppy.

Puppies need to be thoroughly socialized. They need to meet 100 people by the time they are 12 weeks old! They need to meet other puppies and dogs of different colors, sizes and breeds too. Puppies need to be exposed to everything in their environment that they will experience in their life by 12 weeks of age. Will you have the time to devote to getting your pup sufficiently socialized throughout this holiday season? Most people would have to answer, “No.”

Sadly, June of every year is a month when shelters begin to fill up with adolescent dogs. These surrendered animals were the puppies purchased during the holiday season. People surrender their dogs at this age because (1) they are now showing shy, fearful and aggressive behaviors due to insufficient socialization, (2) they have not been completely housetrained because nobody took the time to get the dog out often enough for potty training, and (3) the novelty has now worn off for the children to whom these puppies were given as Christmas presents.

Puppies are living, breathing creatures. They have special needs just like human infants. Please think carefully whether bringing a puppy into your home during this holiday season is an appropriate decision to make for you and your family. A better choice might be to wait until spring when the weather is warmer and you won’t have to worry about housetraining your puppy during a snow storm. Also, you’ll have more time to research the breed that will be best for your lifestyle.

©2010 Renee Premaza