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Breed Face Off, Ask the Trainer & More!

January 16, 2017

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Eliminating Jumping Up

December 12, 2016

Many dogs jump up when excited or greeting people.  Follow these tips to teach your pup to keep her paws on the floor now; this can be a difficult behavior to break later!

  • Use the word “off” when your dog jumps up on things she isn’t supposed to (humans, furniture etc.)
  • Say “off” and turn your back if your dog jumps on you. Completely ignore him until all four feet are on the floor
  • If your dog has a jumping habit ask him to sit before he tries to jump and reward this good behavior with attention or treats
  • Do not allow anyone to pet your dog if she is jumping. Wait until she sits calmly and then allow new people to greet her.
  • Use a leash if needed to restrain your dog around guests. You can stand on the leash so he is unable to get his feet off the ground to jump.
  • Spraying with a water bottle or shaking a penny can be used if needed to correct jumping. Be sure to say “off” before the correction

Gotcha! Reducing Collar Sensitivity

November 2, 2016

Many dogs are afraid of their collars being grabbed or hands reaching over head. Follow the tips below and you’ll have Fido begging to play the Gotcha game!

Check out the video to see Gotcha training in action!

  • Have high value treats ready.
  • Start with your body turned sideways, at her level or in a chair. Slowly begin by scratching her chest (as long as she is not touch sensitive to this area). Say good or click and reward the relaxed behavior.
  • Next slowly move your hand up to the dog’s collar under her chin or on the side near her ear (do not reach overhead!). Say Gotcha as you take the collar and reward.
  • As the dog becomes more and more relaxed during the sessions slowly progress to taking the collar more firmly, and slowly start to move to being able to reach over the dogs head; always saying Gotcha and rewarding when she is calm.
  • If she starts to stiffen at any time you are moving too fast. Go back to the last successful step and try again. Do not continue to work at the level that makes her uncomfortable.
  • Never pick her up or grab her by the collar to move her. Do not corner her and reach out like you are going to grab her collar. If you need to move her get the leash, leash her up and move her that way.


Tips to Make Halloween Less Spooky for Your Dog

October 28, 2014

While ghosts and goblins may be your thing many dogs find all the ghoulish decor and costumes of Halloween a bit frightening! I can only imagine what they must be thinking… For a month of the year the whole world looks different and there are sketchy characters lurking everywhere! It’s their job to let you know when something is not right and most of them believe body parts dangling from trees firmly falls into the “wrong” category. Try these tips to help your dog cope with this spooky day.

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  • While walking your dog around the neighborhood encourage them to investigate new decor by letting them give a sniff. Treats work wonders to get them close to something they think they should  avoid!
  • After the initial exploration many dogs calm down. If you pup is still worked up spend a few minutes near the “scary” items while feeding their favorite treats to create a positive association.
  • If you dog will be exposed to people in costumes start by acclimating them to your family in theirs. Keep interactions with you in costume positive by giving treats, attention and playtime while donning your masks.
  • Refresh your dog on the leave it command (show a treat, say leave it and reward when your dog doesn’t touch the item and backs away). This will come in handy if your pup outside during trick or treating (think candy on the sidewalk).
  • For dogs who will be sporting costumes of their own acclimate them at home first. Remember to keep the experience positive with lots of treats!
  • When selecting costumes for your dog  look for those that do not cover her face or eyes. If your dog is less than thrilled about being dressed up let him go as himself this year!
  • If you dog will be greeting trick or treaters keep a baby gate across the front door to keep your dog and those at the door safe! Reward good door greeting behavior such as sitting calmly.
  • Last but not least, make sure candy is well out of reach. Chocolate and certain kinds of sweeteners are poisonous to your pooch!

Fearful Fido? Tips to Turn It Around

September 9, 2014

Our newly adopted dog, Mia, came from a home where she spent 24 hours a day outside and was not socialized. She was very fearful of new people and for the first two days in our home, refused to come out of her crate. She has come a long way in a few short months but we are still learning about her and the things that make her nervous. On our outings to the dog beach and park we noticed Mia was very scared and reactive when people approached her holding things in their hands, particularly a Chuckit used for lobbing tennis balls. It took a few times for me to figure out the correlation and to confirm I grabbed a Chuckit at home to see her reaction. Mia hit the ground, tail between her legs and rolled over to show submission. Theory confirmed.

I set out to help Mia through this by slowly creating a positive association with something that was deemed “scary” (desensitizing and counterconditioning).

First, I picked up the stick and put it on the floor. When Mia sniffed it I rewarded her with a high value treat (chicken). Then I picked it up and held it in my hand, again, she received chicken. When she was no longer bothered by me holding the Chuckit I mimed throwing a ball with it. At first she cowered but after a few repetitions she wasn’t bothered. As she relaxed I got closer to her and swung it, always followed by a treat. Within 3 short sessions (3-5 minutes each) she was sitting calmly while swung the stick looking at me with a “yeah, and?” expression on her face.

The fact that she trusts me certainly helped her along, so I expect her to still react the next time a stranger approaches holding a stick-like object. But the training will continue in those situations, a stranger walks by holding a stick, Mia gets a high value treat. In a few months I believe the only association a Chuckit will hold for Mia is chicken falling from the sky.

The next time your dog is nervous around a certain object or situation try turning that fear into a positive experience. A little patience and some high value rewards go a long way!


Buckle Up – Canine Car Safety

September 1, 2014

You may or may not have heard my lecture on always securing your dog in the car. Yes, I know your dog wants to ride shotgun but it’s not safe! No, not even around the block! I was recently in a car accident with my hounds in the car (trust me they fared better than I did) and can now back that spiel up with some personal experience.

Whether with a seat belt harness, a crate or a special barrier that keeps your dog securely in the “hatch” of your car, it is vital that you restrain your pooch when joyriding. Not only could a sudden impact launch your dog causing him injury but dogs are understandably shaken up in these circumstances and most will try to escape the car by any means possible (think an open window). Securing your dog also ensures authorities will be able to help you if you are injured; your dog may become protective of you in a scary situation.

If you and your dog are in an accident here are some helpful tips my vet shared on what to watch for:

  • Obvious signs of injury such as limping, bleeding etc
  • Excessive panting. Panting can indicate pain but is also a sign of anxiety which is a normal reaction to a stressful situation. If your dog’s panting does not subside see your vet.
  • Bruising – especially on the belly which can indicate internal bleeding
  • Temperature –  feel the ears to ensure one is not excessively hot or cold
  • Inability to focus eyes – try having your dog follow a treat to test this
  • Pupil dilation. Again, this can indicate fear as well but should subside quickly in that case. Prolonged pupil dilation calls for a vet visit immediately.

After an accident your dog may be fearful about car rides. Remedy this with short trips around the block and provide your pup with a chew or Kong to work on while you are on the road. This will help rebuild positive associations with car rides.

Safe travels to you and your dog!

Kick Fleas to the Curb – Naturally!

August 26, 2014

Not only is flea season in full swing but the pests are getting harder to ward off as well, with fleas developing immunity to many traditional flea preventatives. Our bigger is better society has swiftly created new products that are extra strength and defend against a wider range of pests, but stronger (ie more chemicals) is not always the best choice for your dog’s health!

Traditional flea preventatives can cause a variety of side effects including vomiting, skin reaction, seizures and in extreme cases, death.

The good news is there is a better way to fend off the little buggers without putting your dog at risk.

  • Give your dog vitamin B-50 twice daily. The smell is not detectable to us but fleas and other bugs (flies, mosquitos, etc) detect and detest it! Vitamin B shots have long been a treatment for humans who always seem to attract bugs!
  • Treat your yard with beneficial nematodes. These microscopic critters are easily applied to your yard using a hose attachment and do not harm pets, soil or any beneficial bugs living in your yard, but will target fleas and destroy them by injecting toxins into them. Nematodes can be found at your local garden nursery. I apply these to my yard 1-2 times per year starting in the spring.
  • Use a natural flea control product, such as Evolv spray, to kill and prevent fleas on your dog without the nasty side effects. The spray kills fleas on contact.

Even if you aren’t ready to kick traditional flea control to the curb completely these natural alternatives can drastically reduce the number of applications you use per year, resulting in a healthier, happier pup!