6/6 2021

Your Puppy’s Brain

By |2021-06-02T16:04:03-04:0006/06/2021|

Puppies are designed to soak up information, a lot of information during the critical socialization period between three and twelve (to fourteen) weeks of age. It is during this period that their brains are very very busy making connections and building millions of synapses between neurons in order to “support the puppy’s ability to rapidly learn about the world,” according to Dr. Jessica Hekman (in her chapter on puppy socialization in the the free e-book, Growing up FDSA: Surviving Your Dog Sports Puppy). She goes on to say:

 “Connections are everywhere! This is chaos, to have everybody trying to connect to everybody else, and ultimately can’t be sustained in an adult brain. Therefore, as the socialization period begins to close, synapses that are used infrequently are removed, while those that are used frequently are kept, through a process called pruning.”

This is why it is incredibly important to pay attention […]

5/29 2021

Why doesn’t Rover love the new puppy?

By |2021-05-29T20:35:31-04:0005/29/2021|

“I don’t understand why Bruno doesn’t like the puppy. I thought he’d welcome a new playmate.”

I hear this lament from clients who are saddened, confused, and sometimes unnerved or scared by the reaction that their current dog has over the addition of a new dog, especially a puppy. Certain that their dog, “who loves other dogs” would enthusiastically embrace the addition of another dog, they can’t understand what went wrong.

In the June 2021 edition of The Whole Dog Journal, Kathy Callahan, CPDT-KA has five tips for introducing a new puppy to your older dog. She reminds us that a puppy is not a full grown dog, and while your dog may indeed enjoy other adult dogs, Bruno may not be all that enthusiastic about having a biting, climbing, toy stealing, toddler, who totally disrupts his normal routine, takes up his peoples’ time, and is there 24/7! When […]

5/22 2021

Rehoming: never easy, always traumatic, sometimes the only option.

By |2021-05-22T22:43:36-04:0005/22/2021|

A link to this opinion piece in the Washington Post, about people rehoming the pets they got during the pandemic, popped into my twitter feed this week. At Your Family Dog podcast, we found this subject to be so important that we covered it twice: Wrestling With Rehoming, and Rehoming: Sometimes It Is The Best Option.

It’s all too easy to assume that those who relinquish an animal are heartless, selfish individuals who, if they are so willing to abandon it, don’t deserve the companionship of a pet. But, before you jump on that moral high horse, named I would never do that!, remember that you do not know all the facts of the situation, nor do you have to live with that particular animal on a daily basis.

Rehoming a pet is not easy. I have been training dogs for eighteen years […]

5/9 2021

An unlikely friendship…

By |2021-05-10T23:55:12-04:0005/09/2021|

As I was tidying up old emails and looking for inspiration for my next blog, I found this video in an old email from my sister-in-law. I was in delete mode and nearly tossed the email without looking at the video, but Connie never sends me gratuitous stuff, so I clicked. I am so glad I did and I hope you will be too!

(But, please note that for us sappier sorts, it might be wise to have a tissue on hand!)

The joy expressed by Bella from doing what labs were built to do (retrieve), is enough to make me happy for the rest of the day, but add to that the companionship of an elephant and I am besotted with joy. Why, I asked myself, does this make me so very, very happy?

I think there are two main reasons. The first has to do with being free to be oneself. […]

4/24 2021

How old should the kids be before we get a dog?

By |2021-04-27T09:21:53-04:0004/24/2021|

In the April 2021 edition of the Whole Dog Journal, Kathy Callahan, CPDT-KA has an article titled: When Are Kids the “Right Age” to Get a Dog? This one page gem points out that it is less about the age of the kids, than it is about the adults in the household, and whether they “are ready to manage the situation.”

Ms Callahan lists five important questions that every family thinking about a dog might want to consider. Honest answers to these questions will help families decide if now is the right time to bring home a canine companion.

Here are the questions:

1. Is at least one adult in the household truly excited about owning a dog? Experience has shown me that, if the dog is being considered “for the kids” without an adult being genuinely excited by the prospect, then […]

4/16 2021

What do opossums and meatballs have in common?

By |2021-04-17T19:41:22-04:0004/16/2021|

Last night around 11 pm I opened the front door of our cottage to let Zuzu, the Flat Coated Retriever, and Clementine, our Clumber Spaniel, out one last time before bed. 99.9% of the time, this three minute ritual consists of them trotting out, doing their duty, and coming right back inside. Needless to say, last night was the .1% exception to this rule. Before I get to that .1%, however, I should probably mention that I had minor surgery on my right foot this week and though I can walk, I am not able to run or move quickly. This, as you will see, is an important element in the story.

So, to continue…

When I opened the door, instead of sauntering to the grass, Zuzu took off like a heat seeking missile into the night. Clementine was still meandering her way up the […]

4/9 2021

New Dog? Start by Prioritizing your training goals!

By |2021-05-29T17:07:50-04:0004/09/2021|

Dr. Zazie Todd, author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy, had a great post this week about how to prioritize training for the rescue dog you have recently brought home. She offers a variety of suggestions for what to focus on, depending on the age and temperament of the dog you have adopted, but she also offers some valuable general principles that should guide your training agenda.

1. Use reward based training.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to commit to using reward-based training methods with your new rescue dog. Even if you have previously used methods such as leash corrections, prong collar, shock collar, etc., don’t do that with your new dog.

I have blogged about this in the past (and Dr. Todd mentions this as well in this post), but fear/force based training methods […]

3/28 2021

Can dogs get Covid?

By |2021-03-28T16:25:43-04:0003/28/2021|

Faithful readers of this blog know that I rely on the Whole Dog Journal for information on a variety of topics relating to the canine experience. In this week’s WDJ blog, editor Nancy Kerns, discusses what has been discovered in the last year about Covid-19 and dogs. The good news is that while the virus “can infect the pets who live with infected humans,… the infection doesn’t seem to adversely affect them. And there haven’t been any documented cases of COVID-infected pets causing infections in their owners.” (WDJ)

On the other hand,  according to an article in the March 19, 2021 issue of Science“[t]wo reports released this week have found the first evidence that dogs and cats can become infected by B.1.1.7, a recent variant of the pandemic coronavirus.” The first incidences of pet infection came from the Ralph Veterinary Referral Center in Britain, […]

3/20 2021

No time to train your dog? Think again…!

By |2021-03-20T16:38:16-04:0003/20/2021|

“Julie, you’ve given me a lot of good information and I want to work with Buddy on all of it, but I don’t have an hour a day to give to it or to him!” lamented Sam, a busy professional and parent of three kids.

I get it.

There are very few people who have a spare half hour every day (much less a full one)  just begging to be filled with yet another thing one has to do. And yet, the puppy needs to be trained…so what is a busy family suppose to do? Drop everything else and devote themselves to 24 hour dog training?

That is an option that would produce a well trained canine, but who can do that? No one I know…

Training your dog, however, doesn’t require an an “all or nothing” commitment, nor do you have to train in one long session. In fact, you and your dog are […]

3/14 2021

Does your dog come to you reliably?

By |2021-03-14T17:26:08-04:0003/14/2021|

Sparky, stood by the fence in his back yard glaring at a squirrel in the neighbor’s maple tree. Clearly, the rodent didn’t understand that tag means “I get to grab you, then you’re it!” Not, as the squirrel thought, “I race up the tree and chatter at you.”

Sparky’s owner, Beth, needed him to come inside. Even though she was about 98% sure that he wouldn’t come if she called him, she asked him anyway, repeatedly. Sure enough, Sparky did not comply and Beth ultimately got a leash and pulled/conjoled Sparky into the house. Understandably, Beth was frustrated and Sparky was confused.

When we met, her primary goal was to get Sparky to come “the first time I call him, not the 15th!” I wanted that for her too, so we worked on improving Sparky’s recall. 

If you also desire increased compliance, less frustration, and more fun for everyone, here are two things […]

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