Author Archives: renee

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SHELTER DOG TO ADOPT

Do your research first! You want to make the proper selection by researching the breed(s) that may work well for your family’s lifestyle. Two very helpful books to help you figure out which breed (or mixed breed) to adopt for your family’s lifestyle are: Animal Planet’s “Complete Guide to Dog Breeds” by Diane Morgan (available in paper and digital (ibooks), and “Meet Your Dog,” by Kim Brophey (available online in e-book and also as audio). Nothing is 100% guaranteed, but this sure is a good way to get started before you walk through the shelters.

The problem with going to the shelter prior to doing your research is… you will fall in love with a dog! It’s very easy for all of us to make an impulsive decision. This happens a lot, and then within the first couple of weeks, adopters may already be feeling remorseful about having made a bad choice. Doing your research and making good decisions can prevent you from having to return a dog back to the shelter. 

Observe the dog’s behavior and demeanor with everyone in your family. When you’re observing the dogs in their cages, look for the dog that seems happy and excited to see all of you.  However, some dogs can’t stop barking because they’re so anxious and miserable in that environment. It’s a good idea to ask to meet and interact with a dog outside where he’s feeling less confined.

I know it’s very sad to see a dog hunkered down at the back of the kennel, but I would avoid that dog unless you are experienced working and living with very fearful, and possibly aggressive dogs. Don’t think that your love will cure him and all will be fine!

Remember that there is always a ‘honeymoon period’ when adopting a dog. That honeymoon normally lasts anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 months (I adopted a dog years ago that took one solid year before I learned exactly who he was). Little by little your new dog will eventually show some behaviors that you hadn’t seen before. As he becomes more secure in his new home and environment, and as you develop a relationship with him (based on trust!), he will become the dog he was. This is why early on, you must train your new rescue with positive methods! You must set some rules (sit for everything he wants and all food, and no attention on demand), create some boundaries from the start (no sleeping in your bed for at least a year!), and no spoiling tactics because his past life was most likely very bad!

Watch for soft body language when considering a dog. Is the dog playful? Does he seem happy to be around you, your husband and your children? If he seems anxious during your entire visit, but you still like him, try coming back the next day or at least a second time. He may remember you and feel calmer. I visited my last dog at the shelter 3 times! I also walked him each time. If you want to do that, and a shelter staffer says that “you’d better decide because other people are interested in him,” don’t feel under pressure! Take your time!

Is he very quiet? Quiet doesn’t mean he’s a calm dog or that he will be calm always.  Many times those quiet dogs are actually “shut down” from being extremely stressed or having gone through some trauma. This is called “learned helplessness.” They’ve lost their home and are now in a very anxiety-producing environment. Again, come back and meet him a second time!

Does he accept petting from you and your family? When you are petting him, does he maintain that friendly demeanor, or does he freeze? Some dogs do have handling issues. To help that dog, he will need some behavior modification training.

Sometimes adopted dogs are fearful around men and have a difficult time adjusting to them after adoption. Make sure all the males in your family are with you when you make this very important decision to bring a dog home. I’ve met families who adopted a dog when the husband was on a business trip at the time. Or, the husband was at work and came home later in the evening after the dog had been there for several hours. What a disaster that can be! Dogs can see this “new person” as an intruder!

Do You Already Have a Dog? If you do, you’ll need to bring that dog to the shelter to see if your dog and the prospective new dog get along. Remember that nothing is 100% guaranteed. Sometimes dogs will play with each other at the shelter, but once they’re home and together, squabbles can occur, often due to competition for owner-attention or other resources.  Your dogs will need you to provide excellent guidance and leadership skills to keep peace between the dogs at all times.

When determining if both dogs are going to get along at home, an obvious red flag would be that one or both immediately show inappropriate behavior during their initial meeting. Another red flag to look for is if one or both completely ignore the other.  Ignoring doesn’t mean things are fine and dandy.  It means there’s a problem!  Don’t assume that things will change once the adoption is finalized. Also, don’t let anyone at the shelter try to convince you that everything will eventually work out, even when you see these red flags! The truth is, there is never a guarantee that those dogs will accept one another later on!  What you see is potentially what you can get! You don’t want to experience the heartache of returning the dog.

If you already live with a female dog, consider adopting a male. More than one female in the house can a bit risky because serious fights can break out. They don’t call them “bitches” for nothing 😉  If you already have a male and you want another male, the risk is not quite as high as two females, but you may see some competitive behaviors and/or urine marking in the house once they’re living together. If you already have two males living successfully in the home, the best dog to adopt would be a female.

When you bring your new dog home, and you do have another or more dogs, keep the new dog behind a gate for at least 1 week. When feeding your dogs, let them see each other during meals through that gate!

Walk your new dog with your resident dogs (1 at a time if more than 1) preferably with a second handler. One dog walks behind the other and then switch that up. Each dog will become familiar with the other dog’s scent and will get more and more comfortable with him. Place a towel or sheet that has your resident dog’s scent on it and place it in your new dog’s crate (do the same with your own dog). When you feel it’s safe to allow the new dog to interact with your resident dog(s), keep a short leash tab attached to each of their collars in case you have to quickly re-direct one of them. If everything seems okay, supervise them when they’re together for a week or two. Don’t rush any of this!

Be sure to ask questions about the dog you’re thinking of adopting.  Here are a few suggested questions you might ask:

  1. What history do you have on this dog’s past?
  2. Was he or she an owner surrender? If so, what were the reasons the owner brought him to the shelter? More often than not, former owners avoid stating the reason or they lie.
  3. Was the dog a stray? If so, he may be an escape artist, so you’ll need a secure fence (not invisible).
  4. How long has the dog been at the shelter? Dogs that spend several months to a year in a shelter can deteriorate over time (especially Pitties). They haven’t been in a normal home environment for a long time, and have experienced a lot of stress. Your prospective dog may need extra time to adjust to your home and you’ll need a lot of patience and understanding during that adjustment period.
  5. Has he ever been adopted out and then returned? Hopefully, the shelter staff will know why he was re-surrendered. If the dog was returned because he bit someone or because he couldn’t get along with someone in the family, you’ll need to seriously consider those reasons before making your final adoption. Please remember, it is a heartbreaking experience to return a dog!
  6. Did anyone at the shelter do a temperament test on a dog you want to adopt? Unfortunately, I’m learning that several shelters are no longer doing temperament tests.
  7. The most significant part of temperament testing is to find out if the dog guards his food, bones, toys or people (known as resource guarding). Dogs can guard anything. Ask someone to test the dog before taking him home. Resource guarding requires some behavior modification, so you’ll need help with this and it isn’t something to punish!!!
  8. If you have a cat, some shelters state they cat-test the dog and he was fine. I caution you against adopting a hunting dog or herding dog if you already have a cat! 

Once you make a decision to adopt a dog, seriously consider taking your new dog to a group training class early on if he’s comfortable around other dogs. My recommendation would be to attend classes at Wonderdogs in West Berlin, NJ (www.wonderdogs.com). If you find that your new dog has any serious issues (biting, resource guarding, separation anxiety, leash reactivity, etc.), consider hiring a positive reinforcement Certified Behavior Consultant who is very experienced in doing behavior modification. Positive training is critically important. Your trainer can help you resolve serious issues early on.

My last blog was titled, “Advice to Adopters of Shelter or Rescue Dogs.” It’s a little bit further down my Facebook page and also on my blog page. I strongly recommend you read this also!

Good luck 🙂

Copyright: Renee Premaza, 2018

ADVICE TO ADOPTERS OF SHELTER OR RESCUE DOGS

Very often, when we adopt dogs from shelters or rescue organizations, we wind up feeling sorry for them. We spend much of our time trying to make up for all the bad times they may have experienced before they found us.  Please read the following advice and information as it is very important for us to set our new dogs up for success in their new homes.

  • Avoid pitying your newly rescued dog or he will become and remain pitiable forever!
  • Gradually introduce her to friends and family members within the first 2 days and continue socializing.
  • Dogs have no morals. They will not know proper behavior unless they’re taught how to behave appropriately in your home.
  • Begin training your dog in obedience and manners shortly after adopting.
  • Often there’s a honeymoon period lasting from 2 weeks to 6 months before the dog feels comfortable enough to be himself. Expect to see some changes in his behavior as time goes by and he becomes more confident that your home is his home.
  • Your dog may feel stressed for awhile. He may be pretty quiet reserved.
  • Assume that s/he may have housetraining accidents.
  • Crating a dog is not cruel. Dogs usually enjoy the feeling of being in a den. But rescues may not be able to accept crating.
  • Beginning on her 2nd day home, teach your dog to be alone for short periods of time, and then lengthen those periods a little each day. If you do not do this, you could create a dog who panics if he’s alone!
  • Avoid all physical and verbal punishment! Harsh punishment interrupts all learning & creates distrust.
  • If you discover your rescue has a serious issue, get professional help as soon as possible!
  • Never let your dog think that your hands are weapons OR chew toys!
  • Always acknowledge good behavior, either with treats, toys, praise or petting. That’s how he will learn what you expect from him.
  • Do not compare your new dog with any dogs you had previously! Dogs are not clones of one another.
  • Feed your dog twice a day and provide fresh water all day long.
  • Walk your dog twice a day, even if you have a fenced backyard. Walks provide both physical and mental stimulation. Allow her to sniff her new world.
  • Do not leave your dog out in the yard unsupervised, especially in the beginning.
  • Never leave your dog chained or tethered unless you are right with him!
  • Do not allow your dog to bark or chase people along your fence line. Bring him inside.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Dogs do not have human reasoning ability!
  • Do not spoil him by allowing him up on furniture or to sleep in your bed! This privilege can be given only after she learns how to behave politely through positive obedience training.
  • Teach your children to respect your dog. Do not let them pull tails or ears or sit on your dog.
  • Give your children a dog-free safety zone to play with their toys or run around.
  • Provide your dog with a kid-free safety zone to rest and/or enjoy a favorite chew toy.
  • Supervise your children and involve them, if possible, with your dog’s training.
  • If you have a baby, never allow ANY dog to be on the floor with your baby! Remember, dogs do not have morals. If baby grabs, pulls or throws a toy, your new rescue may not accept that!
  • Be patient with your newly adopted dog. Most times there is little or no known previous history about rescues. Set her up for success by training her and providing the necessary mental and physical exercise that ALL dogs need every day.

Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation for Dogs

As a dog trainer, I’m always reminding my clients about the importance of exercising their dogs. But physical exercise alone isn’t always quite enough, especially with breeds such as the Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, or  Jack Russell Terrier. Retrievers and Terrier breeds come with with their own batteries that are on the charger all day long! Most of our dogs were bred to work. We have herding dogs, hunting dogs, protection dogs, flock guardian dogs, sled dogs, etc. It’s alarming when people tell me they don’t have to take their dogs out for walks because they have a backyard to run and play. Relying on the backyard to provide exercise stops all socialization since there is zero interaction with the world at large. That means the dog never gets to see or play with other dogs, s/he never gets to greet the neighbors or see children of all ages, s/he never gets used to hearing traffic or seeing moms walking their babies in strollers. Isolating dogs causes boredom, fearfulness and sometimes aggression.

Here are some ideas to get your dogs to be more active, and also to help them use their brains:

  • Sports Activities (Agility, Flyball, Canine Musical Freestyle, Tracking, Dock Diving, Lure Coursing, Sheep or Duck Herding, Hiking).
  • Group Training Classes (AKC Canine Good Citizen, Pet Therapy, Tricks, Rally-Obedience, Nosework).
  • Best Toy for Super High-Energy and Herding Dogs (Flirt Pole) See video below.

If you live around South Jersey, check out some of these sports activities and group classes at Wonderdogs in West Berlin, NJ: http://www.wonderdogs.com/store/scripts/index.asp

See for yourself how much fun you and your dogs can have. Fetch games are okay, but dogs actually become stressed when they play fetch for too long! Yes, Really! Look at some of these terrific ideas how to physically and mentally exercise your dog:

  1. Here is a video showing dogs having the time of their lives doing Flyball: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=youtube+videos+of+flyball#id=2&vid=8ac55be219183275308a0053e91c0042&action=click
  2. Watch how these dogs are being taught to do Nosework: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=nosework+videos#id=24&vid=5941d5737cd668dbcab204d3211b6a49&action=view
  3. This is a beginner doing Rally Obedience: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=videos+of+rally+obedience#id=1&vid=78dbaec77bbf1646d7730d8e6324f1b3&action=click
  4. Watch how beautiful Canine Freestyle is: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=canine+musical+freestyle#id=4&vid=dddeaead4b481ea863e73c11087d84e2&action=view
  5. If you have a Sight Hound, try doing Lure Coursing: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=video+of+lure+coursing#id=2&vid=30b748f2c5f4bb9e37d67ec721b9082b&action=click
  6. Here is a video showing how to use the Flirt Pole: https://vimeo.com/26279876
  7. Have you heard about the Kong Wobbler? Watch this video of Louis, The Dog Toy Critic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-9Q0_BPUHM
  8. Have you heard about the Snuffle Mat? Watch this video of Louis, The Dog Toy Critic: https://beaglefanclub.com/dog-toy-critic/
  9. One of my favorite games to recommend is called The Muffin Tin Game. Watch this video: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=videos+of+muffin+tin+games+with+puppies#id=6&vid=8c5037c6d7a2ca3aac687fd2e964e078&action=view
  10. Make your dog’s meal a hunting expedition. Take his bowl of food out on your lawn (grass should be cut short. Ask your dog to sit and stay. Take out a few kibbles from the bowl and toss them on the lawn. Tell him to “Go Find It!” Make it easy for him to find them at first. Call him back to you and place her back in a sit/stay. This time take a slightly larger amount of kibble out of the bowl and toss them over a  larger area, but it should still be easy for him to find his food. Once he knows the name of this game, It shouldn’t take too long before your dog learns how to hunt for his food. I promise she’ll love it!

This is just a small sampling of how to provide very fun and stimulating activities for your dog. I hope you like them!

 

 

 

ON-LEASH REACTIVITY

Does your dog turn into Cujo as soon as he sees (1) another dog; (2) a white man or a black man; (3) a woman walking with a stroller;  someone riding a bike; or a jogger? Unfortunately, this is not a unique issue. We’ve discussed the importance of early socialization recently to prevent such behaviors, but what should a pet parent do when their dog is behaving this way? Should we yell at the dog? Should we do a leash correction or use a shock collar so the dog knows he’s being bad? Or, should we just tell the dog to “SIT!” until the stimulus that’s causing the reactivity goes away? NOOOooooo!

Keep in mind that reactivity is based in FEAR. When a dog is scared, he can make one of two choices: FIGHT or FLIGHT. That decision is based on the dog’s temperament. Without getting boringly technical, let’s just say the dog is having an adrenaline rush. If the dog looks like the one in the photo above, he probably can’t even hear you when you’re speaking to her. There are very good behavior modification protocols available to us to help make the dog feel better when faced with scary stimuli. But I want all of you to know that your default behavior should be to CREATE DISTANCE!

Purchase a well-fitted Freedom harness or a Gentle Leader head halter. Each of these can help you gain good control of your dog so you can make an “Emergency U-Turn” in order to get the heck outta Dodge. Check these items out at Amazon. Never ask your dog to sit when faced with fear. Help your dog and let him know you are the one who can protect him! Your dog needs to have that confidence in your ability to keep her safe and out of harm’s way.

Good luck!

 

 

 

toy dog

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!