Category Archives: Living with Your Dog

Articles and Links… Living with Your Dog

Renee PremazaPhone: 609-280-9338Email: renee@JerseyDogTrainer.com

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

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

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

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

How to introduce a new puppy to a home with a resident cat. Also, how to introduce a new cat to a home with a resident dog.

Marilyn Krieger, well-known and highly respected Certified Cat Behavior Consultant visits the show today. She talks about the best ways to introduce a new puppy (or dog) into the home that already has a resident cat (& vice versa). Marilyn also talks about the benefits of using clicker training during this process. Great show!!

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