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May I help you? …or not?

On October 15th Reisner Veterinary Behavior Services addressed an issue that has been of concern to me for a long time: dogs who really shouldn’t be therapy dogs. Not every dog can be molded into a dog who relishes visits with children, Alzheimer’s patients, or nursing home residents. As much as I admire someone’s desire to give light and joy to those individuals, very few dogs really have the right temperament to do this work, and those that do may well have institutions they do not like, types of people who make them uncomfortable, or days they just don’t feel like doing the job.

Hudson at the ready to meet and greet!

Hudson at the ready to meet and greet!

Or, it could be that your therapy dog is ready to retire. Our Golden Retriever, Hudson, was the dog I used for Bite Prevention workshops in schools. When he was about 7, I was invited to a first grade class to talk about dog safety. One of the things I did in these visits, was have the kids hide a stuffed Kong in the classroom and then let Huddy find it. He never failed to retrieve it and then settle down amongst the children to clean out the Kong. On this day, the kids hid the Kong, Hudson got it, and promptly walked away from the kids to settle under a desk to eat his treat. I knew right then that it was Hudson’s last day as a classroom dog because he was telling me quite clearly that he no longer enjoyed the situation, but was only tolerating it. Therapy dogs need to love their work, not just put up with it.

As Reisner puts it so very well:

Many of us see therapy work as a desirable goal, where we and our dogs can work as partners to help others less fortunate than we are. But it’s not typically our dogs’ choice to do this work; some of them just aren’t meant to do so.

 

Socialization, training and even ‘testing’ don’t guarantee that a particular dog will do well in an institutional or hospital setting, and with children or elderly people. Very elderly people may be stiff and fragile, or may not be able to follow instructions. Children can be impulsive, loud, and can crowd dogs. Any institution is crowded with equipment, noises, staff and smells that can intimidate dogs.

 

My beloved red Aussie, Zev, was Therapy Dog International certified, well socialized to a variety of human sizes, shapes and abilities and very easy-going. Neither of us was prepared when, in a nursing home, a woman with Alzheimer’s approached him very slowly, and with a direct stare, while he was in a small room visiting with someone else. Understandably, he growled; I almost growled myself. That was the day he retired from therapy work, much to his relief. And there have been dogs presented for behavior consultations because of fearful behavior in such environments.

 

Every therapy setting is unique, as are the temperaments of individual dogs. It pays to think twice before putting a dog in a setting that neither you nor the dog can control. Consider your dog’s temperament and, most important, his attitude and posturing in the therapy setting. Protect him from situations that might trigger fear and, if needed, be willing to walk out for his sake.

 

If your dog is sketchy or the setting is challenging, remember that you can choose to spend weekend afternoons visiting a nursing home and enriching the lives of its residents without your dog, while he stays home working on a frozen food-filled Kong.

Finding the right dog to do therapy work is a major challenge, especially with rescue dogs whose backgrounds and socialization maybe murky at best. That might lead you to think that purebred dogs are the answer. Not necessarily. Even well-socialized pure bred dogs, raised from puppyhood to be comfortable with a variety of people, may not have the temperament for this line of work. Challenging situations might trigger discomfort and reactivity that would put him and others at risk. This is why it is imperative to pay close attention to the signals your dog is giving you that may indicate that he is unhappy and would prefer to be doing something else. If your dog does rise to the challenge of being a therapy dog, congratulations! But, don’t feel bad if he doesn’t, just allow him to spread joy in his particular fashion.

This dog was lovely with my grandson, who gently put his arms around him. He wasn't a therapy dog, but spread joy wherever he went!

This dog was lovely with my grandson, who gently put his arms around him. He wasn’t a therapy dog, but spread joy wherever he went!

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Exercise can be your dog’s best friend.

Hudson and Bingley wait for instructions from headquarters.

Let’s play!

Dogs, like people, need regular exercise to keep their waistlines trim, reduce health problems, and moderate their behavior. For people, living the sedentary life can lead to a variety of health problems, including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, colon and breast cancer, heart disease, dementia and more.* It is no different for our dogs (and cats). According to the Dog Nutrition Center:

[R]ecent findings by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), [show] more than 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats can be classified as overweight or obese. A gain of even a pound or two of additional fat on some dogs and cats can place significant stress on the body.

 

Some of the conditions that can occur as a result of excess weight are:

 

  • Exercise intolerance, decreased stamina
  • Respiratory compromise (breathing difficulty)
  • Heat intolerance
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes or insulin resistance
  • Liver disease or dysfunction
  • Osteoarthritis (lameness)
  • Increased surgical/anesthetic risk
  • Lowered immune system function
  • Increased risk of developing malignant tumors (cancer)

If these things weren’t bad enough, “overweight dogs die at a younger age than those maintained at an optimum weight.”  According to a study by WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, obesity can reduce the length of a dog’s lifespan by up to 10 months.** At particular risk are Labradors, Beagles, Shih Tzus, Goldens, and American Cocker Spaniels.

In addition to preventing obesity, regular aerobic activity has a myriad of other benefits. There is an adage among dog trainers that “a tired dog is a well-behaved dog.” Most dogs do not get enough physical exercise or mental stimulation so they get bored and restless (especially young dogs) and go looking for something to do. A well exercised dog is more likely to settle, sleep better and longer, and refrain from nuisance behaviors such as barking and destructive chewing.

tennis-ball-dogSimply walking on a leash however, may not be enough exercise for some dogs, particularly among breeds who “are built to spend the entire day working outside with their owner, and they have the physical ability and energy required for constant thinking and moving for hours.” (From Decoding Your Dogpg.179). Having your dog run and chase a ball or another dog, go running with you, go swimming, or take an agility class may  provide him with the aerobic activity he needs to be a better behaved dog. Chapter 9 in Decoding Your Dog has tables of canine activities, sports, and jobs that you might consider for your pup.

IMG_2353To get your dog to go from crazy to calm, it is also important to provide him with mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. Figuring out the right intelligence toy as well as the right amount of exercise may require some experimentation on your part and will change with the age of your dog. (For suggestions, check out my blogs on intelligence toys.) As you find toys and games that Bowser loves, keep them interesting by picking them up after a play session. Limited access keeps them special.

I found it!

One way to keep toys interesting, as well as provide some fun for both of you, is to play hide and seek with them. This was one of my dog Bingley’s favorite games and a great rainy day activity. Start by teaching your dog to sit and stay in front of you. When he can hold a stay for 10 seconds or longer, take one of his toys (be sure he sees and sniffs the toy so he know which one he is seeking) and put it behind your legs. Ask him to “Go find it!”  When he gets it, make a big deal about it, give him a treat (so he releases the toy), and ask him to sit and stay again.  After a round or two of this, next walk a few feet away, put the toy behind your legs and ask him to find it again. As he gets the idea of staying until told to “Go Find it,” begin to make it harder. For example, I have an island in my kitchen so I would put Bing in a sit-stay on one side of the island, walk to the other side, put the toy down, walk back to him and tell him to go find it. As your dog gets better at waiting to be released venture farther afield and get creative where you hide it. I would put the toy behind doors, under sofas or pillows, in a basket, on the stairs, etc., until it got to to the point that I could hide the toy anywhere in my house and he would seek it out.

You should find that this game is both physical as well as mental as he will run all around the house looking for his treasure. This might not be enough physical activity for an adolescent Weimaraner, but it might be for a small or elderly dog, and it certainly is plenty of mental stimulation for any age of dog.

Whatever you choose to do with your dog, remember that you’ll both feel better when you take the initiative to get involved and active with him everyday.

Let's play ball!

Let’s play ball!

 

 

*See: “Risks of Physical Inactivity” and “Sedentary Lifestyle is Dangerous to your Health

** An article on PetMd stated: “A recent analysis of veterinary records revealed that dogs under 20 pounds had an average lifespan of 11 years while those over 90 pounds typically lived for only 8 years. Medium and large dogs fell in the middle at around 11 years.” Therefore, depending on the life expectancy, obesity may take anywhere from 7.6 to 10.4% off of your dog’s lifespan. [If your dog is expected to live 8 years  (96 months) and his obesity takes 10 months off his life, that’s a 10.4% reduction in his lifespan. If your dog’s expected life span is 11 years (132 months), and he loses 10 months due to obesity, his life span is reduced 7.6%]

***For specific instructions for getting your dog to go from crazy to calm, see: “Fun”nel of Activity!

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Just for fun!

It’s been awhile since I posted some of my favorite stories, comics, etc about dogs and other animals. So I think the time has come for a bit of fun!

Here are some comics that I have enjoyed of late:

These two are by Eric Decetis:

gulity-dog

If dogs felt guilty…

 

Duck has his day!

Duck has his day!

And, I found this on Reisner Veterinary Behavior Services Facebook page:

knock-knock

 

A favorite comic strip of mine is Rhymes with Orange, by Hillary Price. She has wonderful insights into the canine world which rarely fail to make me laugh and love dogs all the more. (Her other comics are equally amusing to me but, sadly, this is not a blog about pirates, literary mix ups, or astronauts). Here are links to a few of my favorite dog comics:

“The Practice”: http://rhymeswithorange.com/comics/september-18-2015/

“Holistic Medicine”: http://rhymeswithorange.com/comics/march-31-2016/

“The Stage Name”: http://rhymeswithorange.com/comics/september-13-2015/

“The Swab”: http://rhymeswithorange.com/comics/june-30-2015/

“Hades: http://rhymeswithorange.com/comics/june-23-2013/

 

imrsI’ve heard a lot about the Hungarian Family Dog Project and the interesting work they are doing, but teaching family dogs to lie still in an MRI is a truly amazing testament to the power of positive dog training, being creative with reinforcements, and using what we know about the importance of social interactions to teach dogs specific behaviors. Click here for a link to the Washington Post article.

 

 

 

And just to round off the post, here are some of the dogs who have crossed my path the last few years. Some are strays, some are clients, some are just my buddies, enjoy!

 

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img_1748 img_1751

img_1890 img_2089

 

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gus-and-me

And lastly, the sign at my desk:

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Forced friendship

Reisner Veterinary Behavioral Services posted this on August 20 and I think it contains important information about “safe” dogs, and that you cannot force dogs to like anyone (emphasis mine):

This news item was noted on my feed: “A dog that was being trained to be friendly with children bit an 8-year-old child in the face Sunday and will be put down after a quarantine period…A veterinarian at XYZ Animal Hospital told the officer that one of her employees took the male Shepherd mixed dog to a location “in an effort to make the dog friendly with children.” The deputy spoke to the employee, whose son was bitten, and she told the officer that everything was fine with the dog for about an hour, but when they went to leave the yard the dog attacked and bit the child on the face.

 

The wording of the news story is interesting: this was “an effort to make the dog friendly with children.” We can’t ‘make’ dogs be friendly to anyone. Forced social interactions with an anxious dog can make things worse.

 

There was a recent discussion among veterinary behavior colleagues about anecdotal stories of [large, national pet supply chain] trainers taking dogs around a store and asking children, whose parents were shopping, to give the dog food. Of course, these exercises sometimes result in snapping or biting.

 

It’s simply not always possible to distinguish “safe” dogs from those at risk of biting. Whether a dog is new to a family or not, there can be unforeseen bite triggers in interactions with children – who stand closer to eye level, who giggle and jump, who may try to kiss or hug, and who may be intimidating just because they’re unfamiliar. And as we’re repeatedly reminded in the news, asking an owner for permission to pet a dog does not guarantee safety, because the owner himself/herself may be unaware of those risks.

 

If you’re a dog owner/guardian with a mildly anxious dog, or a parent of young children, keep the two at a safe distance from each other. The dog person can counter-condition with food and reassurances without setting the dog up to fail; the parent can explain why this is the kindest and safest strategy with a nervous dog.

 

So, can you ever trust a dog around children? It depends on the dog, it depends on the child, and it depends on the circumstances. But, the safe answer is unfortunately “no.”

Toddlers can be very scary to dogs as they move erratically, make odd and often loud noises, and may appear threatening as they lurch toward the dog. Elementary age children run, yell, race around, and do all the things that they should do as kids, but are confusing to dogs. Children may find a dog so irresistibly cute, that they cannot resist hugging Fido, and that is not something most dogs enjoy. Babies are particularly vulnerable, so dogs should never have access to a newborn baby, unless the baby is held in an adult’s arms. (Even better, have the dog on a leash as well when around a baby.)

This was one of BIngley's safe havens, my chair in our den.

This was one of Bingley’s safe havens, my chair in our den.

However, there are things you can do to make life with kids and dogs run smoothly:

  1. Learn what your dog’s stress signals are, so you understand when he is telling you that he is uncomfortable with the situation.
  2. Allow Fido to say no to meeting people. If he backs away, turns his head, averts his eyes, or does not move to meet the new person, he is clearly saying that he does not want to interact with this human. Do not let the person try to pet your dog if he says no. Letting him have a choice in who he meets will help him to be more comfortable with the world, and will reduce the chances he will growl, snap or bite.
  3. Make sure Fido has a safe haven to go that is his alone. Sometimes your dog will need to re-group, so give him a bed or crate in a quiet, comfortable place where he can go and not be disturbed.
  4. Don’t let your dog get pinned into a corner! In addition to a safe haven, make sure you dog has an escape route so he can leave a situation that has become uncomfortable.
  5. Teach your children how to correctly meet a dog and supervise, closely, the meeting. (See: A Parent’s Guide to Dog Bite Prevention by Colleen Pelar.)*
  6. Family Paws has a lot of good information for parents as well as terrific handouts that clearly define what supervision is and is not and which illustrate safety procedures that will help to keep everyone, dogs and kids, safe.
  7. A jackpot can be anything your dog loves, as long as it is wonderful and plentiful!

    Give your dog positive attention when the kids are around, so that he learns to happily anticipate their presence. As I stated in one of my blogsYour goal should be to have your dog not just tolerate, but actually enjoy the presence of your child. This is best accomplished by pairing the presence of the child with the presence of things the dog enjoys. Perhaps Fido gets a stuffed Kong while the baby eats, or you can scratch his ears while the baby is sleeping in a bassinet nearby, or you can toss his kibble piece by piece around the room while you sit on the couch with Junior.

You are your dog’s best advocate and the one to whom he should be able to turn for help navigating the human world. Forcing a friendship between your dog and anyone is not a good idea for either the dog or the person seeking his attention. Instead, allow your dog to have some control over his life (thereby reducing some of his anxiety or nervousness) by choosing who he wants to meet and rewarding him for making the effort to be social.

Bingley, at 5 months of age. Notice that he has plenty of room to move (or escape) and has eagerly sought out the attention of the teenagers.

 

*Colleen also has a wonderful book, Living with Kids and Dogs, without losing your mindthat I recommend to all parents trying to negotiate the blend of canines and small humans.

 

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“Bone” Appetit 2

101_dog_birthdaycardCrunch_Page_2Someone once told me, “Junk food in, junk behavior out.” I don’t remember who told me this, nor if it was in reference to my children or my dogs. Nevertheless, I have found, in general, that this maxim is true for both species. If, for example, my younger daughter, Emma, has saccharin, then she goes from active to manic. The same thing would happen to Bingley* when he ate ground yellow corn. Moreover, food can have profound effects on health and behavior issues as far ranging as ear infections and dandruff to attention issues and separation problems.

For example, my grand-dog Tex has some sort of seizure disorder. We think it might be linked to having Rocky Mountain Spotted fever as a puppy (since no other dogs in his litter have this issue), but we don’t know for certain the origin. His first owner wanted him as a hunting dog and seizures disqualified him from active duty, so he became available for adoption. We jumped at the chance to have another flattie in our family, so Tex** came to live with Emma and her husband.

75C_dog_thanksgiving-01Tex’s seizures have been well managed in part because he has a very specific diet. Tex is grain free, and does not get any beef, poultry, venison, or fowl. His kibble is fish based (or other exotic proteins such as kangaroo) as are his treats! (It does no good to control your dog’s basic food if you allow him to eat junk treats. Therefore, I keep a handy supply of Tex approved treats for his visits.) He also gets regular chiropractic treatments, plenty of exercise, and regular naps on comfy couches. Due to his well managed diet and lifestyle, Tex has not had a seizure in over 7 months, and is being weaned from his seizure meds.

Food can influence behavior in other ways by helping your dog to maintain a calmer demeanor. The Whole Dog Journal recently sent an email with this excerpt from Nicole Wilde’s book Don’t Leave Me! that talks about the relationship between diet and anxious behavior:

You’re probably wondering what on earth your dog’s diet has to do with his stress levels when left alone. The answer is, plenty. Have you ever drank one cup of coffee too many and gotten that jittery, wired feeling? You might have snapped at your co-workers, been more impatient than usual when waiting in line, or reacted with vitriol when someone cut you off in traffic. Likewise, have you noticed the way kids act when they’ve eaten too much sugar? They can become cranky and hyperactive. What we ingest has a direct effect on our nervous system. A long-term diet of sweets and processed foods will surely impact our health, but it may also cause us to feel less emotionally balanced, and even depressed, anxious, or angry. By the same token, eating a healthful diet contributes to a state of well being both physically and emotionally. It’s no different for dogs.

 

Dog food that is built on inferior protein sources and laden with unhealthy chemicals, preservatives, and excess sugars can contribute to issues such as hyperactivity, restlessness and nervousness. A healthful diet will go a long way toward allowing your dog to feel physically calmer, which will set the stage for a tranquil emotional state. Making wise nutritional choices will also result in better overall health for your dog, which will be especially beneficial as he ages.

Zen Dog 2

My objective with food is to build the best dog possible from the ground up. We cannot eliminate all health or behavior problems with a good diet, but we can maximize our dogs’ ability to cope with the challenges they encounter when we support them nutritionally. I firmly believe that one reason why both Bingley and Buckley, got cancer relatively later in life (for their breeds), tolerated chemo as well as they did and remained active until the very end is because underneath the cancer they were strong, healthy dogs.***

If you are interested in learning more about high quality foods and what makes them different from what you find in the grocery store, check out last week’s blog, “Bone” appetit 1 for links to The Whole Dog Journal’s standards for food, their 2016 List of Recommended foods and more. For those of you who live in Granville, we have two terrific pet food stores: Bath and Biscuits, and the Village Pet Market, both of which are fully stocked with foods recommended by the WDJ.

Dream of biscuits

 

*Mr. Bingley, my flat-coated retriever, was a picky eater, so we tried a lot of different foods and had the opportunity to see how various ingredients could affect behavior as well as health issues such as dry skin and ear infections. Unfortunately, his cancer came back and on July 6, he crossed the Rainbow bridge.

**For more on Tex and his introduction to our family see: Bringing Home Your New Best Friend

*** Bing and Buck both had histyocytic sarcoma, a cancer that, unfortunately, is common to both their breeds. For more on facing health challenges see: The Big “C”: Weighing the costs of medical treatment

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“Bone” appetit 1

There are many dog foods on the market, with a variety of price points, ingredients, and nutritional levels. I am a big advocate of choosing your dog’s food wisely to insure high quality ingredients that help to build the best dog possible. People often ask me what I recommend, and my standard reply is that I recommend anything that the Whole Dog Journal (WDJ) recommends. Each year they do a comprehensive survey of both dry and wet dog foods, and they have exacting standards for what they consider to be good enough to included in their list of recommended foods. To get a copy of their list of recommended foods, you need to be a paid subscriber, but it is worth the price for this information alone, not to mention the many wonderful articles they offer.
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Though I could write several columns about the importance of high quality nutrition for your dog, I actually wanted to write about two other aspects of dog food: 1) Meals vs Free-feeding your dog; and 2) the effects of poor nutrition on behavior. This column is about the advantages of designated meal times. Next week we will look at food and behavior.

Pat Miller is a wonderful trainer and has written many books that are worth checking out. In a recent email from the WDJ, they had an excerpt from her book, Positive Perspectives 2*, discussing meals versus free-feeding your dog. I couldn’t agree with her more, or state it better (my comments in italics):

I cringe internally when a client tells me she free-feeds her dog – that is, keeps the bowl on the floor filled with kibble all the time. I’m a strong believer in feeding meals for a number of reasons, in addition to the medical fact that a dog’s digestive system is designed more to gorge than to graze. There are numerous advantages to feeding your dog specific amounts of food at specific times:

• You can monitor intake. If you feed meals, you’ll know the instant Buster goes off his feed – sometimes the first sign that he’s not feeling well.
• You minimize your dog’s opportunities to guard his food.
• You can utilize feeding time as training time.
• You can take advantage of feeding time to reinforce your role as the higher-ranking member of your social group. You can’t be the “alpha dog” – your dog knows you’re not a dog – but you are a member of his social group. (To this end, I recommend to all my new owners that they feed their dog by hand 2-3 meals a week so that Fido learns that all good things come from his people, not the magic circle on the floor!)
• You know when he’s full, and when he’s empty. Your training sessions are more likely to be successful if you train when Buster’s stomach is empty rather than full.
• You can use his meals as training treats. (Have fun when feeding his meals by hand. Go through his repertoire of tricks: sit, lie down, shake, spin, etc. Toss a couple of treats across the kitchen floor, then call him back and give him 5-6 from your hand.)
• You can control your dog’s weight.
• You may spark his appetite. People with fussy eaters often make the mistake of leaving food out constantly. The dog grazes all day, never gets hungry, thus never gets eager for food. (And having a food motivated dog makes training so much easier!).

Make the most of mealtime for both you and your dog. Consider it an opportunity to improve your training (and your relationship, who doesn’t like the person who buys you dinner?). And, if you want to make meals that don’t come from your hand more interesting check out these blogs on intelligence toys: http://apositiveconnection.com/?s=intelligence+toys.

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*Positive Perspectives 2  can be found at The Whole Dog Journal (http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/subscribe/main3.html?s=p_Blog042116&st=email&t=article1&v=&), Dogwise.com (http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB984); or on Amazon.com.

 

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10 Essential Things to Teach Your Puppy.

I opened the July issue of Whole Dog Journal (WDJ) and the first article to catch my attention was: Essential Knowledge, The 10 most important things to teach your puppy, by Pat Miller.* Luckily, this article is one that is accessible online without a subscription to the WDJ. In addition to an overview of the 10 essentials, she includes links to additional articles that expand on each topic. Her 10 essentials** are as follows (please note that anything in quotes is from the article by Pat Miller, and where applicable, I have added links to some of my blogs which go into detail about the particular item):

Pat Miller’s 10 most important things:

  1. The world is a safe and happy place. I emphasize in my puppy classes that the single most important thing you can do for your young pup is to socialize him to a wide variety of people, places, substrates, animals, etc in a positive way. One thing to keep in mind is that the socialization window is very small, “from three to four weeks to about 13-14 weeks.” There is nothing better for your puppy than a well run puppy class for socialization and early training. Be sure to find one with a positive reinforcement trainer.
  2. Being alone is sometimes is fine. Dogs are social creatures and don’t think to themselves, Great, she’s gone for a few hours so now I can get some work done on the great American novel. Dogs would much rather be with us at all times, so it is important to teach them that being alone is really ok. “Include crate or exercise-pen training during this process [of introducing her to alone time] so she can be left safely confined while you are away.”
  3. 61_dog_peeing on mailboxGo to the bathroom in designated places and/or times. As I have mentioned in other posts house training is the bane of many puppy owners. Consistency and using crates, tethers, leashes, gates and constant supervision are the key to success in potty training. Be sure to reward well for success and clean up mistakes without punishing your dog.
  4. Chew only on designated chew objects. Dogs will “develop preference for certain things to chew on. If you manage your pup’s environment…so she has opportunity to chew on only ‘legal’ chew objects, you will be able to give her house freedom much sooner, with much more confidence that your valuables are safe.” Click here for intelligence toys for your dog that will help with chewing and/or provide mental stimulation (which will help him to be happy alone!)
  5. Dogs get lots of treats when they do what their humans want them to do. Positive reinforcement for a job well done will insure your pup will do more of the desired behavior. Studies “indicate that force-free training is faster and more effective than old-fashioned force-based methods.” So don’t be stingy with the rewards and consider having some treats on you at all times so you can take advantage of your dog behaving well.
  6. _CSG3316-EditIt’s fun to learn new things. Your dog should be eager to learn. Clicker training is a great way to bond with your dog and for both of you to learn new things. When my dog Bingley was young he would hold a clicker in his mouth and poke his head around the corner into my office. Then he’d click it and take off running with me in pursuit. He loved training when I had the clicker, and apparently when he had it as well! If you need help using any force-free method, find a local positive reinforcement trainer, take a class, and gain a lifetime of learning.
  7. It’s super rewarding to come running fast when your human calls you.  “Recalls (coming when called) may just be the single most important behavior you can teach your dog.” As I mention in my blog on recalls: Know what he loves and use it in abundance to reward this V.I.B. (Very Important Behavior), as this is no time to skimp on reinforcement! Reward him as if his life depends on it, because it might someday. Using the best you’ve got, in quantity, and with lots of praise, lets your dog know, without a doubt, that coming to you is the best thing ever!
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    Bodhi enjoys his human’s touch.

    Human touch, all over, is really great. Over the course of his life, your dog will have to endure a lot of humans touching her, some of which (think Vet’s office) she is likely to find unpleasant, if not constraining and painful. “You can make life a lot easier for your dog if you teach her as a pup that human touch makes good stuff happen…and minimizing restraint to that which is only absolutely necessary.” Pairing treats with touching your dog in a variety of places will help her to accept everything “from nail trimming to grooming to treating injuries.”

  9. Tex in the car

    Tex loves the car!

    Riding in the car is fun! For many dogs the car is a wonderful adventure and they are eager to go “bye-bye.” Some dogs, however find the car terrifying and nausea inducing. This, understandably, limits the places you can take your dog. If your puppy is one of these, there are some things you can do to help her learn to love modern transportation, but it does require some patience on your part to slowly re-condition her.

  10. Your human will always protect you. “After her puppy socialization, this could be the most important thing you teach and affirm to your dog throughout her life.” It is your responsibility to be your dog’s best advocate and to not allow anyone to treat her in a way that goes against your best instincts about what is right and good for her. Do not let anyone insist that a force-based or painful training method is the only way to handle your dog. “There are plenty of professionals out there who will support and respect your wishes…She cannot speak for herself; she is counting on you to speak for her.”

Puppyhood does not last terribly long, so doing all this seems like a lot of work in a remarkably short period of time, and it is. But, if you follow these guidelines, your puppy will most likely become the wonderful, happy, well adjusted adult dog you know is in there, and can enjoy for many years to come.

Bingley, age 4 months, plays puppy twister

 

*Pat Miller is a wonderful trainer, author, and regular contributor to WDJ. I have cited her work several times, and consider her advice to be some of the best around. Click here to learn more about her.

**See also: 10 Principles for a well behaved dogmy blog on Emma Parson’s book Click to Calm. These principles are a good idea for all dogs, puppies or adults, and are particularly important for behaviorally challenged dogs.

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