Puppy-Adult Dog Play

Oftentimes when you adopt a very young puppy and you have an older dog, you worry about the older dog tolerating and not hurting the puppy.  While puppies are, frankly speaking, a bit of a nuisance for older dogs, with a little bit of time, they will adjust to each other and even become fast friends!

Normal behavior:

  • Puppy following the older dog around constantly
  • Puppy cuddling with the older dog
  • Older dog trying to get away 🙂
  • Older dog growling or barking when the puppy gets too frisky

As I said, initially the older dog may be extremely annoyed at this little thing climbing all over his head and body and he may want to play/interact with the puppy, like a dog of equal size; however within a very short period of time, the play should adjust accordingly.  The puppy will be more confident in playing with the older, larger dog and the older dog will adjust the  play to not hurt the puppy.

Occasional growling/barking at the puppy is normal and will occur, because the puppy will do everything in his/her power to annoy:) the older dog. However, if the older dog is lunging or tries to bite the puppy or visibly hurt it, then there is a problem and I would recommend getting a trainer to come and see if the behavior is correctable.

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Harness vs. Collar

While I always desired the discipline and control that a general slip/martingale/choke collar offered, I was always looking for different solutions that would not “go around the neck” but would still enable me to have the same control over my dogs and those of my clients.    While smaller dogs are easier to control and you see more of them in harnesses, I have found that the solution can also work for larger breeds that are harder to handle.  I found the Premier Pet Easy Walk Harness to be a great solution.  While it may take a while for dogs to get used to them I find that it has two benefits: 1).  The leash clips in the front in a martingale fashion which instantly controls the dog’s pulling; 2.) Dogs that have leash aggression issues actually feel less threatened (defensive) while wearing the harness than a typical collar.  While it may take a while for your dog to get used to wearing a harness, I do believe that it is a great alternative for a collar, without loosing the benefit of being able to control your dog.

Dog Park Etiquette/Rules

 All dogs can misbehave, especially when there are a lot of them and the space is running out…however, there are some basic DON’Ts that I wish I could scream at the top of my lungs when I am there and I see them happening.  Namely:

  • Don’t ever keep your dog on a leash when at the dog park.   This is the surest way to start a dog fight.  When all the other dogs swarm to smell the dog on the leash, he/she will become fearful and may strikeout at one of the dogs and start chaos.
  • Don’t let your dog hump other dogs.  While this may be a natural way to show dominance in a pack it may lead to a scuffle if it is not controlled by the owner.
  • Don’t allow your dog to get bullied.  When your dog is consistently under the bench barring teeth and growling profusely…it is time to step in.  In nature this dog would have a difficult time surviving, but since we have domesticated these animals and no longer allow Darwinisim at it’s best, I would step in and help.  You helping your dog will  build trust between the two of you and believe it or not it can build your dog’s confidence.

And lastly, don’t bring children into the dog park.  It is a colossal mistake to bring in a baby or toddler into the dog park.  It is asking for trouble.  Dogs view children as weak and they may play bite, or even attack a child that is not being watched.  In order to avert the possibility of this happening it is best not to bring children into the dog park.  To be safe I would say the child should be at least a teenager and have no fear of dogs when entering the dog park.  If a child is afraid, the dogs can  sense that and the child becomes even more of a target.

Until next time,

Kinga

Leash Aggression

Leash aggression is a prevalent problem in dogs, especially ones that are rescued.  Leash aggression is usually associated with fear, rather than dominance.  Most dogs that have been abused by people and/or have gotten into a fight off or on leash with another dog will most likely begin to exhibit fear aggression when they are on the leash.  When a dog is on a leash and encounters a perceived danger – in this case another dog or human- the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in.  In most cases, dogs will prefer to fight than be attacked and so they choose to growl, bark and even charge what they perceive a threat.

 If you have a dog with leash aggression, you probably noticed that it might not have had this problem before, and now suddenly your dog is leash aggressive and the issue is getting worse and worse.  You are not always going to know why your dog is afraid, but you can do something about it.

Blocking the Bad Behavior

It is important to stop the aggressive behavior, but not only that, it is vital to anticipate the aggressive response way before it gets to the growling/barking/lunging stage.  Typically the stages are as follows:  targeting-growling-barking-lunging.  The correction for the bad behavior should start when you notice your dog is beginning to target.  When the ears are forward and targeted, when the body is stiff, when the dog is not paying attention to you – that’s when you have to take charge and try to refocus your dog.  Make a loud, sharp noise and couple it with a leash correction.  Try to get your dog’s attention to focus on you.  Correct every time he targets so that he doesn’t escalate to a full blown lunging attack.  At this point all that you are trying to accomplish is for your dog to remain calm at a reasonable distance from the threat.  You can either get the dog to sit and get his attention or you can continue moving while correcting.

Desensitization

Level 1

Ask your neighbor or friends to help you with some desensitization techniques.  I often ask passers-by during my sessions to help and most obligeJ.  If your dog has a negative response to a dog on a walk, try to ask the owner of that dog if he would just stop and stand there with their dog while you take several passes.  Your objective is to pass the dog as many times as it takes for your dog not to have a response.  Once he is ok at a certain distance then get a little bit closer with your passes.  Remember, you should only end the exercise once your dog prances by the other dog without a moment’s hesitation, without any fear (stiffness in the body, growling, etc.)  Look for a relaxed body and maybe even a wagging tail.  If you are having trouble controlling your dog, than take it a step back…you might need to start at a greater distance and work in gradually.

Level 2

After your dog is getting better at walking by dogs without a reaction it’s time to meet some.  Dogs that have fear, should never meet other dogs face to face on a leash.  After you have taken several passes, start to walk the dogs together.  After some time and when you believe they are both at ease, allow them to sniff their behinds, one at a time…after a while longer, you can stop and let the dogs meet as they wish.

It is really important to note that these Level 2 techniques are very difficult and if you don’t feel confident about reading aggressive signals or are feeling unsure or nervous, you should not attempt them without a professional trainer.  If you don’t plan on working with a trainer, working on the Level 1 exercise would be sufficient to have a nice calm walk.  If you want to attempt Level 2 exercises I would recommend working with a trainer in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

Why doesn’t my Dog Listen?! Help for Doggie Amnesia.

It is very frustrating for owners when their pets won’t listen to basic commands, like “sit”, especially when you know they know what you are saying!  I hate to be blunt, but the reason this happens is because your dog doesn’t respect you and/or is afraid.  Dogs that don’t perceive their owners as leaders (alpha) or that have anxiety, will not consistently listen to commands.  Sure, your dog loves you and adores you, but in order to consistently get your dog to obey, you must win their respect and in particular in the case of an anxious dog, win their trust!

Winning Respect

The first step to winning respect from your dog is basic – leadership.  Doing everything first:  leading on a walk, leaving the house first, eating first, and making decisions by asking your dog to obey commands rather than allowing your dog to make decisions for you….like deciding where to go on a walk or barking when he is hungry.  In addition to doing all these things, your delivery of commands is important. Your dog needs the non-bullying, calm, non-frustrated, self-assured leadership that he can look up to rather than shrink away from.  The tone of your voice, your body language, the way you are standing and what you actually say all send him a message about listening or choosing to have amnesia.

 Do you ever sound like this?   “Buddy sit”…”Buddy I really wish you would sit down”…”I really don’t see why you are not listening”… “sit”… “sit”… “siiiiiiiiiit”“SIT”…. “Buddy! SIT!!!!!!!!…Oh forget it!”

 It sounds very confusing doesn’t it?  Here is what Buddy might be thinking:

 “Hmmm…she said ‘sit’ but I am not sure that she really meant it…now she is saying a lot of stuff…but I don’t understand…probably not talking to me….ugh, but she sounds angry…I wonder what I did?….Oh, she left…she must have not wanted me to sit after all!  I hope her day improves…she seems very unhappy!”

I know I am humanizing dogs here, but it illustrates how your dog perceives your words and actions.  Having a conversation with a dog is useless; they just don’t understand.  Repeating a command numerous times while getting more and more aggravated and whiny makes the dog think that you really don’t mean it and certainly that you don’t expect him to do it after the first time.   The worst thing you can do is to get frustrated/angry/laugh and/or not finish the exercise – your dog will understand that your expectations of him are not very high…you give up eventually, so why not make the decision to comply or not?

 Here is what you should do:

Get the dog’s attention and when you have made eye contact give him the command in an assertive and loud voice:  “Buddy, SIT”

  • If Buddy is looking at you but not sitting, try to entice him in a different way –treats, cooing, moving your body, patting the floor until the dog to completes the task
  • Never repeat the command
  • Don’t get frustrated/angry
  • Remain cool – try to maintain eye contact and stand your ground – your dog will eventually sit
  • Use a leash when initially practicing, that way he doesn’t just get up and go when he is bored!

Winning Trust

In addition to respect, you also have to cultivate trust between you and your dog.  Sometimes dogs are intimidated by different environmental factors and even though they respect you, when you ask them to “sit” on a busy street they are just not completely sure that you are looking out for their best interest.  Some practical instances of letting your dog know that you are looking out for them include the following: 1). Making sure that you only allow your dog to meet friendly dogs on a leash, 2.) Protect your dog in the dog park if he is getting picked on excessively, 3.) If you have two dogs and one doesn’t want to play, then give him a break.  I don’t want your dog to be a sissy or not be able to work things out for himself.  However, when the dog is getting increasingly defensive…for example:  leash aggression, getting under benches in the dog park for protection and rabidly barking/growling and lunging and the dogs that are taunting him, then it’s time to step in.  You want you dog to know that as his leader you will protect him.

In addition, when you are asking for the dog to obey a command, then say it firmly, but not in a scary tone.  Look at your dog’s body language, when you give him a command, does he freeze, or have his ears back and stares at you blankly?  That might mean that he is scared…it means you need to be firm, but also make the exercise fun for him and care free….a minor “happy” inflection in your voice might make a big difference.

Lastly, Practice, Practice, Practice.  You can’t expect your dog to always obey when you don’t practice.  Dogs need mental stimulation as much as they need physical stimulation!   Practice in a structured way every couple of days or so, but in addition integrate general obedience into every day life. 

 Tips for Integrating Obedience Training To Your Daily Routine

  •  Ask your dog to sit before you feed him, before you go out the door and before he gets petted (‘sit’ becomes a default behavior)
  • When you are at the dog park or in the yard, ask your dog to “come” throughout the time you are there, so that he does not associate “come” with leaving
  • When you are in the house and in another room from your dog, ask him to “come and sit”
  • When you are eating dinner ask your dog to “lay down and stay”

Remember that it will be tough the first couple of times, and your dinner might be completely interrupted the whole way through as you keep getting up and trying to put Buddy in a down stay, but if you don’t give up, the pay off will be huge.  Your dog will start to respect you because you don’t give up after a couple of tries, and it will become a routine that is practiced…and practice makes perfectJ!

 

 
 
 
 

If you have questions regarding this issue or topic ideas, please contact Kinga at Kinga@kk9s.com or 703-868-7857.

 

The Doggie Blues: Separation Anxiety Causes and Treatment

 
 
 

“I came home today and found that Buddy has urinated and defecated all over my carpet, or… my sweet 40lb Lola ripped through a metal crate and ate my sofa, or…my neighbor could hear Lou howling all day while I was gone…” 

When the phone rings and I hear complaints like these my heart sinks a bit.  Separation or any type of anxiety case in a dog is probably one of the most challenging problems to tackle.  In the most severe cases it can be described as a “panic attack”….loss of all faculties, eliminating all over the house out of fear or a dog having the ability to accomplish Herculean tasks, like bending the prongs of a metal gate.  It is not only a terrible experience for the dog, but for the owner…you never know what you are going to come home to!

The best approach it to understand where this comes from, how to prevent it and if it is already present, how to properly treat it.

How the problem arises….

Dogs are pack animals and they thrive on living within a community.  We get dogs because they are our loyal companions and we love it when they follow us everywhere…we go to the kitchen – there is Fido to make sure that the trash compactor service is not needed, we go to get something from the office – Fido is there to make sure that you didn’t forget anything, we can’t even get away in the bathroom…the inspectors often accompany us to make sure that we shower appropriately and that our make-up and shaving jobs are top notch.  And then suddenly you leave.   What a shock!  Where are they????….the pacing, howling, barking, urinating, and all types of destructive behavior typically begin within a very short time of your departure.

There are tons of different reasons dogs experience separation anxiety:  being bounced around from home to home, being left alone when accustomed to constant companionship, or a traumatic event like spending time in a shelter.  It is hard to understand why certain dogs have a negative response under some circumstances while others don’t.  It is therefore important to not only take action after we notice the symptoms, but also take preventative measures.

Preventing the problem…

There is nothing special that you have to do to prevent separation anxiety other than to give your dog what it needs to be physically and mentally healthy.  What does your dog need?  

Leadership.  Most importantly your dog needs leadership.  He needs guidance, boundaries and structure.  He needs to know that you are in charge and you will make the decisions.  Often dogs will take on the leadership role and establish boundaries and make decisions by themselves.  It is a huge burden for a dog to try to be your leader and it creates an anxious, neurotic or even sometimes aggressive dog.  Since dogs are wired to challenge for authority constantly (this ensures that the most capable and strong leader is in charge), they will automatically fill the void when you are not doing it for them.  The more dominant dogs will become aggressive, the more submissive dogs will become anxious.  It is paramount that you act as an alpha dog, creating rules and boundaries.  You tell your K-9 friend, what, when and where…you don’t ask either!  Dogs need clear boundaries, which create a routine, structure and predictability, which then create an environment where they feel safe, secure and confident. 

Exercise.  Your dog also needs enough exercise to keep him mentally healthy.  Can you imagine lying on your couch all day without even a TV day in and day out?  All you know is that you are alone and you might not be sure when or if your friends are coming back.  You try to keep yourself busy. You start counting the paint chips, and then instead of just counting you start tearing them off the wall, and so on… Excess energy can contribute to an anxiety response.  Without a constructive outlet for energy, it can be used to fuel anxiety when your dog is left alone.  Dogs have different exercise requirements depending on their breed characteristics, but they all need it!

Affection at the right time.  Your dog also needs your love and affection, but at the right time and at the right place.  A lot of dog owners feel sorry for their rescued pet or submissive animal and coddle and love him when he is scared and unsure.  What you are doing at that moment is nurturing that state of mind.  When you give affection through coddling, hugging, petting, etc when a dog is in any sort of distress, you are enforcing the way he is feeling.  You are, in effect, teaching your dog that this is how you want him to behave.  Be sure, to only give affection and positive reinforcement when your dog is confident, never when he is scared or aggressive or dominant.

Treating the problem…

If you have rescued a dog that is anxious, you should still take all of the preventative measures as described before.  In addition, your number one objective is to build confidence in your dog through socialization, confidence and independence exercises and gradual introduction to being left alone. 

Socialization.  A dog with separation anxiety might also show signs of anxiety when going to new places and meeting new people or animals.  Taking your dog to as many new places and meeting as many new people as possible, will help your dog feel more comfortable and confident in all situations.   Make sure that these experiences are positive.  When the dog meets new people and has a good reaction you can reward with affection or a treat.  When the dog is having a negative reaction, correct with a loud sound or refocus. 

Teaching Independence.  To teach the dog independence and the ability to survive without you, do not let him follow you around from room to room.  Ask him to stay behind while you go to the bathroom or to the kitchen for a few minutes. 

Preparing for Leaving.  Prepare your dog for you leaving gradually.  Let him in and out of the crate.  Put him in the crate while you are at home when he can see you.  Leave the room for a minute and come right back.  Leave the house for a minute and come right back.  Build on your time away very gradually.  The ability to tolerate being left alone will depend on each dog, but you should not progress to the next step until the dog shows no signs of distress with the current step.

Drug Therapy?

Lastly, in the very severe cases, where the dog is actually not only destructive to your home, but also is hurting himself during the process I would recommend contacting your local veterinarian or behavioral veterinarian.  The medication will calm the dog down while you implement the behavioral modification techniques described previously.  After some time on the medication, the dog will be able to gradually stop taking the meds.

Separation Anxiety is one of the main reasons why so many owners give up their beloved pets.  While it does take a lot of commitment, dedication and patience to overcome this problem, it is possible!  While techniques may vary based on each dog, the basics outlined are a good start for prevention and treatment.  Contact your local dog behavioral trainer for a detailed treatment plan.

 

 

If you have questions regarding this issue or topic ideas, please contact Kinga at Kinga@kk9s.com or 703-868-7857.  View Kinga’s K9s website at www.kk9s.com.