Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Oh No, my dog needs drugs!

So often when I'm doing behavioral work, we decide it would be in the best interest of the dog to get on some form of calming drugs.  Yes, I've been know to try oils, etc.  But most of the cases I see are way beyond that.  (I use lots of oils for myself - love them, love them on my dogs for various reasons).  Please remember that taking the edge off your dog will allow him to "hear and respond" to you better.  The drug alone isn't magic, and won't work without doing behavioral modification in tandem with it.  So if the vet says your dog would benefit from a calming med, be sure to IMMEDIATELY contact a behavioral trainer to help you with the modification portion.  There are some vets who are wonderful at remembering this, there are some that aren't. 

Also make note of how your dog may change during the initial six weeks of trying to find the right dosage.  Just like people, there is an adjustment period when a new drug is introduced.  You may see for the first 2-3 weeks that your dog is sleeping more, seems a little lethargic, etc.  Remember, you are now seeing him RELAXED, and if he truly hasn't been able to do that lately, it will look different to you.  My dogs sleep a lot during the day - and they are not medicated, they are just being relaxed dogs!  If indeed after your first month you are concerned he over medicated, talk to your vet and get his dosage changed.  Yes, we WANT to see a difference in his behavior, but if he's been a zombie for 3 weeks, then his body isn't adjusting and we need to drop it down a bit.

Just being on drugs won't help him with aggression, or reaction.  He will still have them, but it may be in a lighter dose than before.  This is why we want to use training during this period, to help him actually "feel" how doing an alternative behavior works for him (i.e. treats and love!).   Before meds he would most likely get into a reactive zone so fast  you couldn't possibly step in with modification exercises!

So be aware that meds can be helpful.  I always start folks out saying we'll readdress the med's in six months to see if he needs to continue, or if he's modified his behavior enough to be off them.  It's always about the dog - not the handler! 

Enjoy your day folks - hoping to get some warm weather now that we're nearly into June!

Deb and her crew, Evereee (BC), Eli (Bloodhound), Cosby (Basset) and Kizzie the torie cat!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The right breed for you!

Finding the right breed of dog for you takes more work than most people ever consider or put into!  Often I see dogs and folks who, individually, are very nice, but together just don't mesh.  Just like any relationship, you need to be sure you're giving as well as receiving what you and your dog needs.  Certain breeds need stronger leadership skills than others.  Some don't do well in crowds, some do great in crowds.  Breed temperament plus personality temperament need to be taken into consideration. 

We take more time choosing friends and loved ones than we do a dog.  Yet, the dog is a family member, and is expected to behave as one.  

So do your homework, know your dogs breed and temperament.  Don't go by what a friend said, or that "one" dog you met that made you love this breed.  The beauty of the internet is we can find out just about anything.  So be careful how you choose this new pup, because this is a relationship that for your dog, is a lifetime!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Containing your Dog Safely outside!

When I talk to folks I'm always surprised when I find out they live in a house, but do not have a fence for their dog.   Containment for your dog is so very important.  Dogs need to have a yard, and if they're lucky enough to have one, they should be able to wander around it safely.

Many folks get a dog and later get a fence.  That's cool.  But truly it should be the other way around.  Just like we prepare for a baby, things need to be in place before the dog comes into your house.  Containment can be either a fence or Invisible Fence, whichever fits your yard the best.

Having to leash your dog when he's outside will eventually make your pup more reactive on leash, as well as on his tie out.  Dogs who are tied know they are literally stuck there.  If something comes in that scares them they have no ability to run.  Dogs have a fight or flight instinct, most have flight.  But if they can't "flight" then they will fight or sound off in a scary manner. 

Please please always remember that having a dog requires more than just wanting a dog.  Keeping them safe, balanced and happy is our job. 

So what can you do when you live in an apartment or townhouse with no yard?   It's important to find a place where your dog can be off leash safely.  Dog parks can certainly be an option for our dogs with no yards, but be very careful out there.  Not every dog at the park should be there.  Daycares are great as they give your dog a safe place that is supervised and dogs are usually screened for health and behavior as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Be the Change to make the Change!

You've all heard the saying "to make change you must be the change" or something along that line.  Well, believe it or not, it also is true for dog training!  In my class, over and over again, I am telling my students to do this, or that.  I take their dogs and let them see that when I do "this" the dog gets it.  In order to work with another living thing, there are understandings that need to be in place.  A dog can only be as good as his handler, plain and simple.  Of course that is barring some heavy behavioral issues of which we need to address outsid of an obedience class.

People often say "my dog flunked obedience school". Oh contrare my friend, it wasn' the dog!  Could be many reasons why folks don't do well in class.   It could be they are not understanding what the trainer is telling them to do - in that case it is up to you to question the trainer!  Never leave your class not "sure" of what you are suppose to be practicing or doing that week.  Talk the trainer after class if need be.    Another reason is they just couldn't do what was being asked because it wasn't comfortable for them to do "that" to their dog.  That's OK, but guess what, if indeed you had done your homework on this training facility by coming to watch a class, talking to folks who have been there before, you woud have known what their philosophy is before hand and kept looking for a school that was a better fit for you.  Yep, again, it's us!   Lastly there are the folks that think they know more than the trainer.  They are the ones that don't listen to suggestions, and then get frustrated when "their way" isn't working, but instead of owning it, blame the program.  That's a tough one for sure, for all parties involved, including the dog.  I am all for a student to say to me, I am going to do it this way because.....why?  Because then I can respond to them about the why's and wherefores of our way, and how his way may not work.  It's important to have conversations with your trainer.  If indeed you and your trainer can't see eye to eye, then a parting of the ways is the best.  You won't get your money back from your class, but you will have learned a life lesson, which is priceless. 

When you do find the perfect class, learn to change.  Your ways may have worked with your last dog, but this one needs something different.  Change is good and will make your relationship with your dog so much better!  Learning to come at your dog with new ideas on training will turn your training from boring to fun!  So be the change and have fun with them their pups!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dog Walkers, the do's and don'ts!

I love the fact that there are dog walkers.  For folks who work long hours and don't want to leave their dog unattended for 9-10 hours, it's a great break for the pups and certainly enjoyable.  However, there are some things to keep in mind when you hire a dog walker.

Other than the usual background checks, i.e., calling other clients, checking with the Better Business Bureau, asking your vet if they have heard of this particular dog walker, et.  there is more to consider.

Be sure the dog walker you hire understands and can walk the dog they way YOU want him/her walked. In otherwords, if you normally walk your dog in a nice heel alongside you, require your dog walker to do the same, especially if they are walking your dog on the city streets and sidewalks.  If there are places that you don't require them to heel, like the park, let your walker know that as well.  Let your dogwalker know that he should not let your dog stop and pee on every mail box post or bush in someone's yard.  Be sure your dog walker understands how your dog will react when he sees another dog or person and how you handle it if they are excited, etc. 

The more information you can give to your dog walker, the better prepared they are to take him out and about in public.  You, not the dog walker, will be responsible for anything that may happen on the walk as this is your dog. 

There is a person in the area I live that must do some inhome boarding as I've seen her walking various dogs around.  She always has them on a flexi (yuck!), the flexi is always extended to it's max so the dog can go anywhere it wants, including yards to poop (yep, seen that).  The dogs actually walk down the middle of the road and I've seen her have to try to "haul" in a dog before the car runs them over.  So this person, meaning well and probably takes great care of them in the house, is doing more harm than good for this dog.  Now these dogs are learning to pull, to do their business in other folks yards, and no street smarts. 

So take your time finding that perfect person.  They are out there! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Don't Blame the Trainer!

Often I hear folks tell me their dogs' were "ruined" by a trainer, who used approaches that were not comfortable for either the dog or their human.  I agree whole heartedly that certain dog training approaches may or may not work for each individual dog and person.  But what I don't agree with (and here is where I will put on my flame suite!) is the owner blaming the trainer completely.  Remember folks, you are your dog's voice and only advocate.  If YOU don't speak up, he certainly can't, except in behavior that could be construed as aggressive or fearful.  When you working with someone, it's your responsbility to know what kind of trainer you have hired.  It's also your responsbility to stop this person from doing something you are not comfortable with.  I know, I know, folks always say "well, I trusted him, he was the expert not me".  But it doesn't take experience to know that what is happening to your dog (or might happen) isn't right for him.  You know your dog better than anyone else, and as a trainer I actually trust that you'll be able to tell me if you think he can or can't handle something.  If you say he can't, we'll come up with a way that he can!   You, not the trainer, have your dog's lead in your hands.  Be sure before your trainer takes your dog that you know what is going to be happening.  I love to take student dogs for demo.  I'll ask the owner if I can, and let them know I won't be harming their dog in anyway and what we'll be doing.  The owner has the right to say no, although I usually get the leash tossed at me before I even get through my schpeel!  It's always fun to see your dog out with the trainer learning!

So do your homework before you hire someone or pay for a class.  As them to explain the Why's and Wherefores of an exercise if you're not comfortable with it.  Sometimes I will push your dog harder than you will, and it's good that I do.  Folks will always say "I can't believe he did that"!!  So be your dog's advocate, be sure you know what your trainer will be doing before you start classes and enjoy being with your dog!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Dangers of a tied out Dog

A dog that is tied up outside is a dog at risk.  Restraining a dog from being able to do it's natural instinct of flight or fight will always result in a problem.  Dog's don't do well on tie-outs, plain and simple.  It's not natural for them and it will always play with their brain, and for some in not such a good way.  Yes, your dog may seem ok on it, watching the world go by in the front yard.  But your dg is VERY aware of his/her limitations, which include just how far he can go on his lead.  Space within that circle is all his to take care of as he sees fit.  Most often we hear of dogs that when approached on a tie out will be calm until you step inside his circle.  Then the trouble can insue.  It could be just a lunge and bark, or a full blown bite.  In the dog's brain he knows he can't run away, and since his world has shrunk to just this circle, he will defend it and himself with whatever means he thinks he should.  The other backfire of this is that often the dog will take to resource guarding inside the house as well, over toys, bones, beds, etc.  He practices "claiming" his space every minute of the day he is tied out, and is very good at barking at things as they walk by. 

Does this happen to every dog?  Of course not, just like people dogs have different coping skills.  But know that being tied out for time anylonger than 20 minutes is just plain hard for a dog.  They will accept it, but will not truly like it.  A fence yard it the safest place for your dog.  He can run and play without the worries of someone coming into his space.  Invisible fences are ok, but I like to see them looped so the dog cannot get from the back yard to the front yard unless he goes out with you.  Never want to "loose sight" of your dog in your yard, so keeping them in one area or the other is much safer! 

Enjoy those pups!