About Marcia – The Dog Nanny
Marcia is not new to dog training. She qualified as a professional dog training instructor in 1984 and gained behaviour certification in 1985. She has been around big dogs all of her life. She grew up in England with Harlequin Great Danes and as an adult began breeding and competed in confirmation, obedience and agility with her Dobermans.
She is a professional member with The Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers (CAPPDT), The Pet Professionals Guild (PPG) and a Authorised Mentor Trainer for The Animal Behaviour College (ABC). Marcia is also a Canadian Kennel Club Member and the Director of Evaluators for Therapeutic Paws Of Canada.
As Certified Canine Behaviourist & Certified Professional Dog Training Instructor she stays informed by continuing to advance her current knowledge in the field and is familiar with the latest, most effective training techniques and equipment.
Marcia started breeding in 1985 and today breeds and competes in confirmation shows across Canada & the US with her Dogue de Bordeauxs.
She came to Canada in 1991 and resumed her private dog training and issue resolution business under the name “The Dog Nanny” in 1998. Prior to that her clients were from word of mouth only, and that’s where the idea for the Business name came as many clients said she was just like Jojo from the TV series Super Nanny only for dogs.
Due to the restrictions in local by-laws, she was unable to open her own Dog Training school in Innisfil, Ontario. Therefore, when she was asked by PetSmart, in Barrie, to come on board as the lead/head trainer, Marcia saw an opportunity to teach group classes and improve the standard of training. She was with PetSmart for 5 years. Due to company regulations Marcia had to attend PetSmart’s 2 week course, so has an additional certification in dog training as an Accredited Dog Trainer.
In September of 2011 Marcia met Claudia from Dogs Scouts Day Camp, and Claudia was kind enough to offer Marcia the use of her facility and grounds thus the beginning of The Dog Nanny’s Canine Training Academy. Marcia has had clients travel from as far as Orillia, Collingwood, Alliston, Vaughn and Newmarket to attend her classes there.
Marcia also volunteers for Therapeutic Paws of Canada (www.tpoc.ca) and has been the Director of Evaluators since 2004. Therapeutic Paws of Canada is a non-profit organization of volunteers providing animal Therapy for human needs (physical, mental, educational, motivational, socialization) through regular visits to hospitals, residences, schools. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life and health through the animal/human bond. Marcia speaks at all TPOC Events/Seminars some of which are open to the public and those in the Pet/Dog Industry.
Marcia is also a member of several web based groups as an Expert Panel member and has done several Web Conferences on Canine Behaviour and Training.
Why the so-called “3-3-3 decompression rule” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – and how to best help your shelter or rescue dog adjust to her new home.
Have you heard about the 3-3-3 decompression rule? We’ve seen memes about it everywhere on social media. It says your new dog will likely feel overwhelmed for the first three days, will settle in and feel more comfortable in your home by the end of three weeks, and after three months will be feeling secure in her new home. By this time, according to the adage, you and your dog will have developed a secure loving bond and trusting relationship.
This sounds lovely – but there is a huge problem with it. It’s a formula, and dogs are living, thinking, sentient individuals who don’t follow formulas.
Certainly there is wisdom in the advice to give your dog time to settle in. He needs time to recover from the stress of life in a shelter kennel or foster home – and then adoption and rehoming! There is no doubt that most dogs will go through an adjustment period when they come to live with you. It’s important to know this before you adopt a dog; your new canine family member may ultimately act very differently than when you first met her.
Phases of a rehomed dog’s decompression
Rather than set expectations for specific time frames, let’s discuss how to help your new dog cope during three big adjustment phases:
The Shellshock Phase. When you first bring her home, your dog may be overwhelmed. She may shut down, refuse to eat or drink, soil her crate, vocalize, try to escape, and/or otherwise behave inappropriately. And it may take her much longer than three days to get through this phase! Try to let go of any forecasts you’ve heard for how long it will take for her to decompress and de-stress.
Do everything you can to minimize her stress: Give her space; don’t overwhelm her with attention; remove anything that is obviously fear-causing; be calm, quiet, and gentle with her; and do everything slowly – for as long as it takes. (Note that some dogs skip this phase altogether and walk in your door and start behaving as if they have lived with you their whole lives; that’s the best! – but not that common.)
The Settle-In Phase. Your dog has worked through her initial stress and is settling in, getting used to the routine and opening up more. If she was shut down in the first phase, you’ll likely see new behaviors now – the “real” dog! Some of these behaviors may be undesirable ones, so you might have to increase your management. On the plus side, now that she’s more comfortable, you can interact with her more and begin your force-free training program.
The Rest-Of-Her-Life Phase. Your dog has settled into her new life, and the two of you truly have that secure, loving bond and trusting relationship. It may have taken three months – or three years! In any case, enjoy the rest of your lives together.
What’s better than a pet dog? Two pet dogs. It’s no surprise that millions of pet parents can’t stop at just one four-legged family member. Introducing additional pups to the household is not a decision to make lightly. Just because you’re ready for a new pet doesn’t mean your first dog is quite so enthusiastic about the idea.
Before the Meeting
A little preparation goes a long way in promoting smooth, stress-free interactions between your current dog and new puppy.
Know the dogs: Dogs are social animals, but that doesn’t every dog is itching to see a new puppy introduced to their home. Make sure you understand the personalities and proclivities of both dogs before attempting to make an introduction. Enthusiastic and energetic as most puppies are, some won’t appreciate being asked to share the spotlight with another dog. An adult dog, on the other hand, may not like being asked to engage with a high-energy young puppy. Before bringing a new puppy home, make sure you’ve carefully reflected on both you and your dog’s readiness for a new addition to the family. That’s the first step in ensuring a peaceful multi-dog home.
Work on leash training: Both dogs should be familiar with wearing a leash and understand the proper etiquette for interacting with people and other dogs while leashed before they’ve met. When picking out a new dog, try to learn about how they’ve been socialized and how their communication skills have developed. The team at a shelter or adoption center can help paint a picture of how your pup may respond to a new environment.
Set the scene: Find or create the perfect location for a smooth introduction. Whether you’re indoors or out, create a space that’s free of clutter and offers plenty of room for dogs to engage one another or spend time on their own.
During the Initial Meeting
A proper introduction is just as important in the canine world as it is in the human world. You can’t just assume that two pups meeting for the first time will make fast friends. Here are some dos and don’ts to help you with the initial introduction as well as future interactions.
Dog Introductions: What to Do
Pick Neutral Ground: Making an introduction at home, surrounded by familiar objects, could encourage territorial feelings in your current dog. This could mean a testy introduction or even a serious fight. Look for a neutral territory like a dog park, a friend’s house, or a neighbor’s yard next time you’re introducing two dogs.
Keep Verbal Cues to a Minimum: Offer praise and verbal corrections when necessary, but try not to overwhelm either dog with too much sound. You can reward good behavior more emphatically once the first meeting is complete.
Take Breaks: A little quality time can go a long way. It’s never a good idea to force unfamiliar dogs together for extended periods. If it seems like either dog’s energy is flagging, don’t be afraid to call it a day.
Dog Introductions: What Not to Do
Don’t Allow Dogs to Fight: If you notice that your puppy playdate has taken a turn for the worse, step in immediately to separate the two dogs. While fights may be short-lived, it’s best not to take any chances.
Don’t Leave Dogs Alone: Dogs should not be left unsupervised. If you must leave dogs alone for any period of time, ensure they’re kept in separate areas. For indoor intros, a baby gate, dog crate, or closed door can provide a useful barrier.
Don’t Get Frustrated: It takes time to build strong bonds between dogs. Even if the first few introductions don’t go as planned, persistent pet parents are more than capable of enforcing house rules and helping pets get along.
What to Watch For
A dog’s body language during introductions and other meetings can tip you off to potential conflicts before they occur.
Watch out for these potential warning signs:
Raised tails or hackles (the hair at the back of a dog’s neck)
Standing perfectly still
Either dog putting their head over the shoulders of the other
Always remember that wagging tails do not always indicate happy dogs. A straight tail that’s wagging stiffly is potentially a signal of dominance and aggression.
After the Initial Meeting
Patience and persistence are everything when it comes to ensuring pet relationships start off on the right paw. Supervise interactions closely during your dogs’ initial weeks together, offering praise and positive reinforcement along the way. Keep an eye out for signs of conflict like those noted above and be ready to intervene if necessary. You’ll want to exercise special care around food and favorite toys, which may inspire tussles between your dogs.
Throughout the introductory phase, don’t forget to give plenty of attention and affection to both of your pets. Neither your puppy nor your older dog should ever think that they’re getting any less love than their new sibling.
The most commonly used lawn care products are of fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. When applied according to package instructions or by a qualified lawn care service most of these products are not harmful. Pets are primarily poisoned by contact with concentrated products. This may occur from inappropriate storage, failure to read package instructions, or by intentionally using more product than needed. Dogs are especially good at finding poorly stored containers, chewing them up and drinking the contents. Pet owners should be especially vigilant when using insecticides as these tend to have a higher degree of toxicity.
Dogs may be exposed by digging up treated earth, chewing on pellets, or rooting around ant mounds shortly after insecticides are applied.
Many pets chew on plants in the yard and garden. Fortunately for dogs, who for some unknown reason seem to enjoy eating grass and then vomiting, most grasses are non-toxic. Holiday ornamental plants such as poinsettias and Easter lily are often put outside for the summer. Ingestion of poinsettia stems and leaves may cause some mild gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting but is not deadly. Ingestion of all parts of the Easter lily causes depression, vomiting and diarrhea in cats. Left untreated most cats die of kidney failure. Tulips (bulbs), Lily of the valley and azaleas are all springtime plants that can be deadly to pets if ingested in large enough quantities. Dogs should be watched carefully when these plants are being cared for.
Most lawn seed and Mulch products are generally not associated with toxic problems in pets. Cacoa bean mulch is perhaps the only product known to cause poisoning in dogs. This mulch is made from the hulls of cacoa beans and when fresh has a rich, chocolate aroma associated with it. Some larger breed dogs have actually eaten several pounds of the mulch, more than enough to develop poisoning associated with the chocolate remnants. These over eager dogs should be kept away from the mulch until the aroma has dissipated. Generally a heavy rainfall or thorough watering is all that is required.
As you work outside be sure to take an extra moment or two to protect your pets. Read all package instructions carefully before any applying products to your lawn or garden. Be sure not only that it is safe to use around your pets but that you are mixing or applying it correctly. Check with your local garden center about the safety of plants you are putting in your garden. Finally, be sure to close the top tightly on all containers and put them in an area where your pets do not have access to them.
With a little careful planning, you and your pet can enjoy a safe and relaxing garden environment. Whether you’re planning a large garden to feed the family or decorating a small space with hanging baskets and containers, here are a few factors to be considered.
Plants and flowers are nature’s attention getters. Their fragrance, appearance, and cool shade they create are natural attractants for you and your pet. Curiosity often leads pets to consume the flowers and foliage of ornamental plants, which can produce irritating and sometimes life-threatening side effects.
Plants for a Sunny Location
If the location of your garden, gives you 4 or more hours of direct sunlight, a day, you have a long list, of annuals and perennials from which to choose. Annuals grow from seed and last one growing season. They are good choices for fast, instant color impact. Garden and discount centers will offer a wide variety of annual plants at economical prices. Perennials return year after year from growth at the roots, they are a little more expensive, but do not need to be planted every growing season. Most gardeners have their favourites and mix both types for the longest possible color show. Safe choices for sunny locations include:
Zinnia (Zinnia sp.)
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum sp.)
Cosmos (Cosmos sp.)
Calendula (Callendula sp.)
Petunia (Petunia sp.)
Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)
Phlox (Phlox sp.)
Roses (Rose sp.)
Catmint/catnip (Nepeta sp.)
Coneflowers (Echinacea purpura)
Plants for Partial Sun
If your garden receives less than 4 hours of direct sunlight a day, the following list of non-toxic annuals and perennials requires less sunlight.
Butterfly flower(Schianthus sp.)
Spider flower (Cleome sp.)
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp.)
Coral Bells (Heuchera sp.)
Turf Lilly (Liriope sp.)
Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)
A shade garden receives little to no direct sunlight, although the sun may filter through the trees for dappled light. Plant selection for these areas may include the following:
Begonia (Begonia sp.)
Impatiens (Impatiens sp.)
New Guinea Impatiens
Violet (Viola sp.)
Coleus (Coleus sp.)
Bugbane (Cimifuga racemosa)
Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea)
Astilbe (Astilbe sp.)
Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria)
If you’re interest is vegetables, you’ll need 4 or more hours of full sun for most plants. Keeping your pet out of the vegetable garden may be your biggest task, especially when plants are young and fragile. Some clearly visible fencing may help. Avoid hardware cloth as pets can become entangled. Motion detector sprinkler systems can be useful in keeping pets and wildlife out of newly planted areas, and are not harmful. Most vegetable plants do not pose toxicity problems with a few exceptions. Onions, chives and garlic, which a lot of pets do like, contain compounds that, if ingested, can cause anemia. The leafy part of the potato plant, and the green part of the potato skin contain compounds that are toxic if eaten in sufficient quantities. Fruits also contain toxic chemicals in their seeds/pits. Apple, plum, cherry, apricot and peach seeds/pits contain cyanide, which can cause fatal seizures.
The 10 Least Wanted
The following is a list of plants that is best to avoid altogether due to their toxic nature. It is not a comprehensive list, if you are considering any plant of which you are unsure; consult your local plant nursery.
It is very easy to reach for a chemical pesticide, fertilizer or fungicide when faced with a problem in the lawn or garden. Fortunately for the average home gardener, safer alternatives are available for most commonly encountered problems, reducing the risk of a toxic exposure for your pet. You would not think that your pet would have any reason to consume these products but sadly they do, either intentionally or inadvertently and these types of poisonings are all too common. Remember before applying any product to your lawn, vegetables, or ornamental plants to read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Many of these products are designed to persist in the environment days to weeks after application, so a pet can have an exposure days to weeks after initial application.
Alternatives to Chemical Pesticides
If you notice damaging insects on your plants such as aphids, spider mites or thrips, these insects can be eliminated or reduced by a simple spray of water. These soft-bodied insects are easily dislodged. Adjust the nozzle of your hose so a firm spray will not harm your plants and wash them away. If you have only a few plants, use a good stream of water from your watering can and a little hand washing. It may take a day or two but an infestation can be cleared by no more than a good shower!
Soap and Water
If your insect problem is more serious, add a teaspoon of dish soap to a gallon of water and use it in a garden sprayer. The soap is an irritant to a lot of insects and can help break down the protective barriers of their external skeleton. There are commercial insecticidal soaps available that are less toxic than most chemical alternatives.
The “black gold” of the garden, recycled kitchen and yard waste can be combined to produce the best garden fertilizer at no cost and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. It can be applied to the lawn and garden twice a year and it will replace the essential nutrients that growing plants and grasses require.
And Don’t Forget
Sometimes we forget the simplest things! Put your pets inside when mowing the lawn. A lawn mower can make a projectile out of a stick or rock that can injure your pet. Paint your garden tools a bright color such as red or yellow so you can see them out in the yard. Many pets step or trip on sharp garden implements. Store your chemicals out of reach and in their original containers. Don’t assume your pet will not be interested in consuming these products. If there is a toxic exposure or consumption, call your veterinarian immediately with the information from the product label. Keep your pets inside when applying any chemicals to the lawn or garden. With a little planning you and your pet can enjoy a safe
Fix these little things to make your dog far more comfortable
If there was something simple you could do that would make your dog much happier, you’d do it in a flash, right?
Every day I see owners going to great lengths, and spending small fortunes, to indulge their dogs. That’s why I’m perplexed when I see those very same folks ignoring the smaller, easy-to-rectify issues that diminish their dog’s daily quality of life, causing anything from mild irritation to major pain.
Some of the most important keys to our dogs’ happiness are free or low-ticket items that nobody advertises – so they can often go under the radar. Here are five simple things that you can fix to greatly improve your dog’s quality of life:
1. LONG NAILS. Ready for the hard truth? You need to be clipping or grinding your dog’s nails every three weeks.
I know. Your dog hates it. You hate it. So you put it off, and ask the vet or groomer to do it whenever your dog goes in. Unfortunately, unless you’re in the habit of monthly visits, that’s not nearly enough.
Here why too-long nails have a giant impact on your dog’s day and can become a true emergency:
* Each step your dog takes on those nails puts inappropriate pressure on the toes. That makes them twist unnaturally – and hurts!
* The pain causes dogs to compensate by adjusting their posture. That can cause orthopedic issues and can eventually be the source of hind-end weakness/soreness.
* Long nails give dogs even less grip on slippery wood or tile floors, increasing the likelihood of muscle strain. This is particularly hard on older dogs who’ve lost muscle tone. Imagine trying to walk across an ice-skating link wearing shoes with a smooth sole. That’s how your dog feels on slippery floors!
With a few exceptions, if a dog’s nails are clicking on the floor, it’s time. And if you’re thinking that’s not true for your own dog because clipping that short would absolutely mean cutting the quick, I have more bad news for you. The quick – the nerve inside the nail that bleeds when you cut it – grows along with the nail. So if you let the nails get too long, the quick gets too long, too.
The only remedy is an intense phase of even more frequent trimming! The quick always recedes back from the edge of the nail. After six weeks or so of weekly careful trimming, you should have a quick short enough that you can keep those nails from clicking on the floor.
Maybe you’ve always known how important nail trimming is but want to leave it to the “experts” because you still remember that time you cut a nail too short and made it bleed? My own “Aha!” moment came when my daughter interned at the local vet, and let me know that there is not some kind of perfect nail magic happening in that back room. Instead, they do their best, and sometimes they mess up. The difference is that you don’t see it happen and they use styptic to stop the bleeding. It’s a pain-free experience – but only for you.
That information was huge to me. I realized I was putting my dogs through extra stress so that I could avoid the drama myself. I decided that if this is to be done every three weeks, surely it’s better for my dogs to experience it with me, in the comfort of their own home. So, I worked on this skill; it’s not brain surgery! I’m pretty good at it now, and you can be, too. Here’s what will help:
* Make sure your clippers are sharp! Dull blades compress the nail before they cut through and so they can cause discomfort, even when the quick isn’t nipped. As soon as you notice that they require more force to snip through your dog’s nails, buy some new ones. I buy new clippers regularly since I clip a lot of dogs.
* Try a grinder! I was always afraid of these but have come to adore this option which leaves the nails with nice soft edges and avoids the possibility of cutting the quick with a single snip. (For more tips on using grinders, see “Grinders vs. Clippers,” WDJ October 2020.)
* Take the time to condition your dog to the experience. Pair even just the sight of the clippers or the sound of the grinder with something delicious. Dried fish! Feta cheese! Do that as frequently as you have to until you see that happy head swivel at the sight of the tool. Next step: Touch the tool to the paw, then treat. A baby-step approach can work wonders. While this may sound like it will take tons of time and patience, each interaction like this takes only seconds.
* Start small. Remember there’s no rule that you have to do all of the nails at once. With some dogs, I do two nails and call it a day.
I implore you to work on this. You’ll screw up at first and you’ll want to give up. Stick with it because the more you do it, the better you get. And once you are skilled, you’re going to hit that every-three-weeks mark. It may never be your favorite part of the day, but you and your dog can get to the point where you don’t dread it. The sooner you get brave and learn to deal with this, the sooner your dog will find walking to be much more comfortable.
Some owners enjoy hearing the jingle-jangle of their dog’s ID tags; some use the sound to help keep track of their dog’s whereabouts in the house or yard. But consider that your dog may be irritated by the constant noise.
2. CLINKING TAGS. Does the sound of your dog’s clinking tags ever bug you? Now imagine those tags were around your own neck 24/7, and you had incredibly acute hearing. Sad, right?
Sure, maybe most dogs get used to it. But why in the world should they? There are fantastic products out there that make clinking tags a torture device of the past.
Before you examine those new options, take the easiest step: simply reduce the number of jingling objects. Remove outdated license or rabies tags, and ponder whether you really need that rabies tag. Most counties do not require them as the license itself indicates an up-to-date vaccination history.
Once you’ve minimized the number of tags, it’s time to make them quieter. One option is to bundle them so that they don’t bang against each other. Plenty of do-it-yourself-ers have always done this using rubber bands or electrical tape. Sure, it’s not easy to get to those tags, but if your dog never gets lost nobody will ever need to read them! However, if you’re looking for a cuter option, there are now great little pouches that can slip on, and wrap those tags together in silence.
Another thought is to take advantage of silicone. You can opt for a silicone ID tag rather than a metal one, or buy rubbery silencers that fit around the edge of the tags. Easily available online, they come in all sorts of colors and in the typical tag shapes.
Finally, there’s the no-dangling-ID-tag approach. There are slide-on tags that loop over the collar and lay flat. (I use these, with our generic family ID information, for my foster dogs, because I can easily move them from collar to collar.) You can also order a custom collar with ID information either engraved on a metal plate that’s riveted to the collar, or stitched on the collar itself.
Even if you don’t really want to change anything about your dog’s tags, give mealtime a consideration. I had a client who was perplexed about why her dog was finicky about eating at home, but happily wolfed down the exact same food at the pet-sitter’s house. A little investigation revealed the difference: The pet-sitter used a low plastic plate rather than a high steel bowl to serve the dog’s food, reducing the noise that was interfering with the dog’s ability to eat in peace! Now that he has a new dish at home that tags don’t bang against, that pup eats normally.
Many owners find it handy to leave their dogs’ harnesses on all the time, especially for dogs who are difficult to “dress”. This practice not only poses the risk of rubbing a raw place on your dog but also is not as comfortable as being “naked” when he’s home.
3. ILL-FITTING, 24/7 HARNESSES. Harnesses have many uses, but they must fit perfectly, and in most cases, they should not be left on 24/7.
While it’s easy to get a collar to fit well, a harness is another thing entirely. There are so many contact points – so many spots where, depending on how the dog is sitting, moving, or lying down, there may be rubbing, pinching, and discomfort. When you get a harness, it’s critical to invest the time needed to figure out exactly how it’s supposed to fit. Many manufacturers have posted video instructions on YouTube – those are always worth watching. After that, make sure you check and adjust regularly, particularly if you have a growing puppy.
Even if you have a perfectly fit harness, though, remember that in most cases it is specifically for leash walks. It feels like you need a PhD to get your dog into some of these contraptions, which is one reason people simply leave them on. But … gosh. Would you want to wear that every minute of your life? Many dogs just tolerate this, but why do we ask them to do that if we love them so much?
4. MINOR SKIN/COAT/EAR ISSUES. We’ve all had that moment when we discover something on our dog that we should have found earlier: a tick, an infected ear, a mystery cut, a burr tangled deep in fur. No matter what it is, the sooner it’s found, the easier it is to fix. That timing can mean the difference between a simple at-home treatment and an expensive vet bill. More significant is the amount of discomfort your dog had to endure for goodness knows how long!
When your life is busy and your dog is active, though, it’s easy to miss things. The more you groom your dog, the more you have a chance to catch all sorts of things: new lumps and bumps, changes in fur texture, hair loss, parasites, mats that could be painful.
Whether you use a groomer or not, it’s a great idea to get into a once-weekly home exam routine. I now keep my tools (brush, nail clippers, little scissors, ear cleaner) in a basket near the TV so that when we’re relaxed at night I can slip over and make sure everybody’s in good shape. If I had to walk over and get it, I probably wouldn’t, because I’m lazy! This way, grooming has become a habit and I feel I’m always well aware of each dog’s status – and confident nobody’s suffering in silence.
All the previous “fixes’ we’ve proposed are inexpensive or free. Providing your dog with regular dental care can be costly – but not as expensive as treating the health problems that neglected dental issues can cause.
5. NEGLECTED TEETH. If your dog’s breath is super stinky and her gums are red, please contact your vet’s office and schedule a dental exam!
Dental problems not only cause daily discomfort but also can have serious downstream health effects, like endocarditis from a chronic bacterial infection caused by the buildup of dental calculus. Endocarditis is six times more likely to occur in a dog with advanced gum disease as a dog with healthy gums.
Dental problems also cause chronic pain, which can make a dog cranky, reactive, and/or anti-social. Those of us who work in rescue have seen formerly neglected dogs with dental problems who seemed unfriendly and shut-down transform into seemingly younger, happier, and more engaged dogs after they had a veterinary dental cleaning and extractions or repair of broken or rotten teeth.
I’m all for indulging dogs with luxuries to make them happy and comfortable, but I think if we asked our dogs, they’d ask us to address the issues above first. It’s the low-hanging fruit of canine quality of life!
I am very happy to Announce, that I am NOW OPEN for Group & Private Classes.
Our dogs have loved that we are home with them
The year 2020 & the beginning of 2021, was challenging for most of us, with one notable exception: pets. Not only did a record number of dogs and cats get adopted into new, loving homes, but established pets enjoyed the 24/7 companionship of their families. Many folks worked and attended school remotely, with everyone taking breaks throughout the day to lavish Fido and Fluffy with attention.
However, this new normal will eventually come to an end.
As province and city governments begin to lift COVID-19 restrictions and people prepare to return to the workplace, one big concern many pet owners share is how their dogs and cats will fare when they’re back to being left at home alone for most of the day. After all, many pets adopted during the pandemic never experienced the “old normal” and have no idea that in many households, family members typically leave for work or school in the morning and are gone the better part of the day.
Tips: 1) Crates – Making use of the crate while your home, for a bit each day.Your taking a Shower/Bath, Cooking, Helping kids with school wok, etc.So, they do not associate the crate with your absence.
1a) Then start introducing your absence, stand outside, start the car (noise recognition), go for a short drive (keep that car battery alive & noise recognition). Increase time slowly, until you reach just beyond what would be the normal amount of time your gone in a day.
(Remember, for dogs under 6 months, the expectancy is 1 hour per month of age).Dog Walkers & Dog Daycares are OPEN, for those that would need a Potty break.
As we have been distancing and keeping too our family units, our dogs are missing out on getting a full and proper experience of the world, sight, sound, smells, people, other dogs etc.
The crucial age for social skills starts to close around 16 weeks of age. Thus why Puppy Group Classes are so important.
Keeping those Social experiences into and through in too Adult brain is also a major priority, as dogs will forget about some of those experiences, as the brain ages up into Teenage and then Adult. Don’t forget training is a major part of maintaining that wonderful puppy you had. Think along the lines of – How well would a child fair in the world in general if they only attended Kindergarten/Grade 1-2.
A long term repeat client & close friend of mine Debra, has been working with a 5 month old, that had not been given the proper social skills and training. She provided this list for me of stores that allow Dogs in:-
Pet Stores – PetSmart, Ren’s, Pet Valu, Global etc.
Other Stores- Canadian Tire, Rona, Staples, Winners, Home Sense, Bed Bath & Beyond, Designer Show Warehouse and Calbel’s
So, if you need to go out to grab something from one of these, Take the Dog.
The use of Therapeutic Grade 100% Pure essential oils, has become very popular, with the emergence of several MLM Companies offering Essential oils. The has also been in the news feed lately a lot of concern about Dogs & Cats, getting sick, from owner diffusing essential oils, some even dying. What these articles do not seem to state is if the oil in used were 100% Pure Therapeutic grade. So I caution everyone, if your using Essential Oils be sure what you buying from an MLM or herbal store is certified as 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade.
However, there are a few oils, that are not good for dogs, no matter the grade, so here is a list, of No No oils.
Here is a list of essential oils NOT to use
if you have a dog at home
Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
Bitter Almond (Prunus dulcis)
Boldo (Peumus boldus)
Calamus (Acorus calamus)
Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
Cassia (Cassia fistula)
Chenopodium (Chenopodium album)
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Goosefoot (Chenopodium murale)
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Hyssop (Hyssopus sp. with the exception of Decumbens)
Juniper (Juniperus sp. with the exception of Juniper Berry)
How a little bucket can improve a dog’s quality of life – and your
relationship with that dog.
My wonderful Dogue De Bordeaux Cadbury, suddenly did not like her nails trimmed. She was relatively tolerant of my insistence on trimming her nails, except when it came to her hindquarters. When I would try to trim her back feet, she tensed up and sometimes even growled.
Then she learned the Bucket Game, and as a result of her learning a new way to communicate her feelings to me about being groomed – one that didn’t require the escalation of aggressive behaviors – her attitude during grooming went from tolerance to complete relaxation and enjoyment. She was a classic study in the behavioral value of giving our dogs choice and control in their world through cooperative care.
Cooperative care involves training an animal to not only tolerate handling and husbandry procedures, but also to be an active, willing participant in these experiences.
All dog owners need to perform basic husbandry tasks on their dogs at some point – pull burrs out of the dog’s coat, examine and clean a wound, administer eye drops, clean ears, brush teeth, and so on. To gain their dogs’ willing participation in these tasks, first, dog owners teach their dogs some basic behaviors for cooperative care – skills that will ease your way through almost any dog-care procedures that owners are likely to face. Teachs these essential skills in a specific order, so the dog learns them in a systematic and progressive way. “10 Essentials” for cooperative care are:
1) Chin Rest (or Bucket Game)
2) Lie on Side
4) Wear a Muzzle
5) Foot Handling
6) Mouth Handling
7) Taking Medication
8) Injection or Blood Draw
9) Eye Exam
10) Ear Exam
THE BUCKET GAME – A GAME OF CHOICE
There are a variety of protocols that can help your dog learn to enjoy these procedures. The Bucket Game is one of the most inventive and versatile. The Bucket Game was developed and introduced to the dog training world by trainer Chirag Patel, owner of Domesticated Manners, a training business in London. Once taught, the Bucket Game can be used for several of the 10 essential behaviors, as well as for everyday husbandry procedures such as grooming and nail trimming.
This fun and easy dog-training protocol empowers the learner, by creating an environment where your dog has choice and can communicate her willingness to participate. Using the Bucket Game, your dog can tell you:
• When she is ready to start
• When she needs to take a break
• When she wants to stop
• When you need to slow down
All you need to play the Bucket Game is a little bucket or some other container to hold treats and a lot of small, high-value treats.
STEP 1: TEACHING IMPULSE CONTROL IN THE PRESENCE OF THE BUCKET
1. Start by holding the bucket out to your side. Reward your dog (feed a treat from the bucket) for looking at the bucket but maintaining some distance from it (two to four feet).
Usually, once your dog has seen you reach into the bucket, take out a yummy treat, and feed it to her, she’ll look at the bucket again, wondering what it’s all about. Be ready! When you see her glance at it, take a treat out of it and give her one. You’re on your way. Repeat a number of times.
If your dog tries to jump up or dive into the bucket, don’t admonish her; just hold it higher. It shouldn’t take long for her to realize that the best way to get more treats is to keep returning her gaze to the bucket without trying to jump up and help herself to them.
2. Put the bucket on the ground, a chair, or a table, and reward the dog (feed a treat from the bucket) for looking at it but not trying to get it. Your dog can be in any position; you are simply rewarding her for looking at the bucket. Repeat several times.
3. Gradually begin increasing the duration of her gaze, by rewarding her with treats from the bucket for looking at it for longer and longer periods. Don’t wait too long, increasing the duration too much, too quickly, as this may cause the behavior to extinguish.
Remember, this is a game of choice; your dog is allowed to look around between focusing on the bucket. Don’t call her, tap on the bucket, or do anything else to draw her attention to it. Let your dog choose to engage to participate.
STEP 2: INTRODUCING THE CONCEPT OF CHOICE
1. Practice until your dog is able to focus on the bucket for a duration of at least 10 seconds. Remember that it doesn’t matter what position she’s in; it could be a sit, down, or stand.
2. Choose what procedure you want to introduce to your dog as part of the Bucket Game, such as being groomed or looking in her ears. I’ll describe the steps as if we were working on brushing the dog.
3. When she is focused on the bucket and able to hold her focus for at least 10 seconds, start moving your hand toward her side (not touching her). If she continues to look at the bucket, stop moving your hand toward her and feed her a treat from the bucket. If she looks away from the bucket, probably to look at your hand or face (“What are you doing?”), just draw your hand back.
Remember, this is a game of choice. She may not yet understand that she can communicate to you that she is uncomfortable – she may have just been curious, but she will come to understand as you continue the process.
4. When she re-engages with the bucket, the game begins again. This time, don’t move your hand so fast or far. If she is able to maintain focus on the bucket, reward her with a treat from the bucket.
Repeat this process with your hand moving toward her, closer and closer, giving her a treat every so often as long as she continues to gaze at the bucket, and withdrawing your hand if she looks away from the bucket.
5. Eventually, you should be able to touch her as she gazes at the bucket. The first time you make contact with her, she will likely look at you. Just withdraw your hand, and try again after she gazes at the bucket again. She should be starting to figure out that the only way to get treats is to keep gazing at the bucket, no matter what you do with your hand. Touch her with increasing pressure at various locations on her body where you will be grooming her, rewarding her every so often. Again, don’t wait so long that she starts to think it’s not worth playing the game, but she should be able to hold her gaze on the bucket for at least 10 or 15 seconds while you touch her.
6. Now pick up her brush and repeat Step 3, this time with the brush in your hand. After several repetitions with the brush held near her, start touching her with the brush. This continues until you are able to groom your dog with her looking at the bucket.
THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE OF THE GAME
When your dog has learned the game for one procedure, you can easily generalize it to others, including ear and mouth exams, foot handling, nail trimming, etc.
However, this game of choice will only work if you allow your dog to communicate that she wishes to begin, take a break, and stop the game. If your dog looks away from the bucket, stop the game. When she re-engages with the bucket, the game continues. It’s imperative that you honor her request to stop and only use the procedure when you are able to honor her request to stop.
If you use the Bucket Game while working with other animal-care professionals, they also must be willing to stop any procedure when your dog looks away from the bucket. If they are not willing to do so, don’t use the Bucket Game with them. If they are doing a procedure that cannot be stopped once it has started, don’t use the Bucket Game with that procedure.
The year 2020 was challenging for most of us, with one notable exception: pets. Not only did a record number of dogs and cats get adopted into new, loving homes, but established pets enjoyed the 24/7 companionship of their families. Many folks worked and attended school remotely, with everyone taking breaks throughout the day to lavish Fido and Fluffy with attention.
However, this new normal will eventually come to an end. As province and city governments begin to lift COVID-19 restrictions and people prepare to return to the workplace, one big concern many pet owners share is how their dogs and cats will fare when they’re back to being left at home alone for most of the day. After all, many pets adopted during the pandemic never experienced the “old normal” and have no idea that in many households, family members typically leave for work or school in the morning and are gone the better part of the day.
A survey conducted by Rover.com found that a majority of dog owners (58 percent) are worried about their pets experiencing separation anxiety when they return to work, and 63 percent said they think their dogs will suffer stress once they start leaving home more often. The Wall Street Journal tells of one office returnee who was so anxious about leaving her dog that she had her teenage daughter, who was still attending remote classes, arrange Facetime calls several times a day.
It’s unclear whether these “visits” did more to relieve the dog’s or owner’s separation anxiety. Still, it does illustrate the depth of concern many people have about leaving their pets when they move back into a normal routine.
This is where I can step in and offer help and support to nervous owners. I can show clients how to prepare their pet for the family’s eventual return to work and school—and make the transition back to normalcy as anxiety-free and happy as possible for everyone.
Gradual Social Distancing
The key to a successful transition is to start prepping the pet for the new routine before work or school schedules change. I would suggest to my clients that they begin by gradually social distancing themselves from their dog or cat. In many cases, the pet might have spent months curled up beside a family member with little or no physical separation. Instill a sense of independence in your pets by spending small amounts of time away from them—going into a separate room, closing the door, stepping outside, etc.
These sessions should be very brief at first, lasting just a few minutes. Upon reuniting, your clients should praise their pets enthusiastically and give them a treat. Distancing exercises should be done throughout the day, gradually increasing the amount of time spent apart. Eventually, you should work up to leaving your home, going for a walk or a short drive. This way, the pet will get used to being left alone at home, secure in the knowledge her owner will return.
As with any behavior-shaping exercise, positive reinforcement is essential to weaning pets from constant togetherness and helping them overcome separation anxiety. For example, the rewards should be extra delicious and used only for social distancing exercises so that the dog will develop a special association with the owner’s absence.
Ease into a Routine
Along with social distancing, my clients should start easing back into a daily routine similar to the one you will be following when you return to your “normal” lives. As months of COVID Restrictions dragged on, many of us have slipped out of a consistent routine, but now is the time to reverse course. You should start getting up when you typically would for work and go through your usual morning routine.
Dogs and cats should be put on a schedule where they are fed and walked or played with at the same time they will be when the family returns to work. If you have plans to use a dog walker or a pet sitter for midday visits, now is the time to introduce them.
One activity you should include in the daily routine is at least 15 minutes of brisk exercise—walking, running or vigorous play—before you leave the house in the morning. This will help pets burn off excess energy and remain calmer and more relaxed throughout the day.
There are other things you can provide to keep your pets calm, happy, and busy during the workday. Interactive toys that can be stuffed with treats to keep dogs and cats challenged and occupied. Leaving on music or the TV can be comforting to some pets. There are also numerous animal videos available that are designed to keep pets engaged while watching TV.
Pet Cams: A Helpful Tool
One of the best pieces of advice I can give to returning-to-work clients is to invest in a pet cam. This will allow you to monitor their pet’s behavior and alert you to signs of stress and separation anxiety such as panting, pacing, whining/meowing, chewing and other destructive behavior. For example, if a dog tends to chew on a particular sofa pillow, the owner can move it out of his pet’s reach.
A pet cam can also be a valuable tool in determining which things make a pet happiest while home alone. Owners can see how their dog or cat reacts to different interactive and puzzle toys, which ones are her favorites, whether she likes watching videos, where she feels the coziest sleeping, etc. This will allow you to provide more of the things that make your pet feel safe and happy.
You can also see how your pet responds to dog walkers and sitters you have hired and how these individuals treat her. Not to be underestimated, having a pet cam can help owners deal with their own separation anxiety. After all, you too have to adjust to no longer being with your pets 24/7, and just “seeing” them during the workday can lift their spirits immeasurably.
Dominance Term Defined The use of dominance and pack theory in explaining dog behavior has come under a great deal of scrutiny as of late. The Dog Nanny wishes to inform the dog owning public about the ramifications of a reliance on dominance theory as it relates to understanding dogs, interpreting their behavior, and living harmoniously with our canine companions.
Theory and Misconceptions Contrary to popular thinking, research studies of wolves in their natural habitat demonstrate that wolves are not dominated by an “Alpha Wolf” that is the most aggressive male, or male-female pairing, of the pack. Rather, they have found that wolf packs are very similar to how human families are organized, and there is little aggression or fights for “dominance.” Wolves, whether it be the parents or the cubs of a pack, depend on each other to survive in the wild; consequently, wolves that engage in aggressive behaviors toward each other would inhibit the pack’s ability to survive and flourish. While social hierarchies do exist (just as they do among human families) they are not related to aggression in the way it is commonly portrayed (incorrectly) in popular culture.
As Senior Research Scientist L. David Mech recently wrote regarding his many years of study of wolves, we should “once and for all end the outmoded view of the wolf pack as an aggressive assortment of wolves consistently competing with each other to take over the pack.” (Mech, 2008) In addition to our new understanding of wolf behavior, study into canine behavior has found that dogs, while sharing some traits with their wolf cousins, have many more significant differences. As a result, the idea that dog behavior can be explained through the application of wolf behavior models is no more relevant than suggesting that chimpanzee behavior can be used to explain human behavior. Unfortunately, this idea that dogs are basically “domesticated wolves” living in our homes still persists among dog trainers and behavior counselors, as well as breeders, owners, and the media. Although, dogs are descended from an Asian species of Wolf and maintain a 99.99999% DNA sequence. Dogs have developed to work with and alongside humans.
One of the biggest misconceptions we find ourselves faced with is the definition of “dominance.” Dogs are often described as being “dominant” which is an incorrect usage of the term. Dominance is not a personality trait. Dominance is “primarily a descriptive term for relationships between pairs of individuals.” and moreover, “the use of the expression ‘dominant dog’ is meaningless, since “dominance” can apply only to a relationship between individuals. (Bradshaw et al., 2009) Dominance comes into play in a relationship between members of the same species when one individual wants to have the first pick of available resources such as food, beds, toys, bones, etc. Even between dogs, however, it is not achieved through force or coercion but through one member of the relationship deferring to the other peacefully. In many households the status of one dog over another is fluid; in other words, one dog may be the first to take his pick of toys, but will defer to the other dog when it comes to choice of resting places. Dogs that use aggression to “get what they want” are not displaying dominance, but rather anxiety-based behaviors, which will only increase if they are faced with verbal and/or physical threats from their human owners. Basing one’s interaction with their dog on dominance is harmful to the dog-human relationship and leads to further stress, anxiety and aggression from the dog, as well as fear and antipathy of the owner.
Living with Dogs: What’s Important? When it comes to living and working with dogs, the concept of dominance is largely irrelevant. This may come as a surprise to many dog owners. The truth is, when working with dogs that have a training or behavior issue, the goal of the dog professional is to develop a behavior modification or training plan that will address the problem at hand. This generally does not require understanding a dog’s motivation and emotional state, but rather focuses on what the dog is doing (behavior), and what we want the dog to “do,” helping the dog understand how to perform the desired behaviors and then rewarding him for doing so.
Far too many times dog owners have been given advice to “show the dog who’s boss” and “be the alpha.” The unfortunate side effect of this thinking is that it creates an adversarial relationship between the owner and their dog with the belief that the dog is somehow trying to control the home and the owner’s life. Such misinformation damages the owner-dog relationship, and may lead to fear, anxiety and /or aggressive behaviors from the dog. Dogs cannot speak our language and they can find themselves thrust into situations in our homes that they find difficult to comprehend, by owners trying to behave as they mistakenly believe “alpha” wolves do. Rather than dominance, it is most often a lack of clear interspecies communication that leads to behaviors we find troubling. It is the human’s responsibility to teach our dogs the behaviors that we find appropriate, and reward them when they do the things we like. Just as importantly, it is our role to show them which behaviors are not appropriate in a constructive and compassionate manner that does not lead to further anxiety on the dog’s part.
Aggression is Not the Answer Actions such as “alpha rolls” and “scruff shakes” have no basis in fact when studying wolf or dog behavior, and they only lead to creating unnecessary fear on our dog’s part toward us, fear that ultimately can lead to aggression because the frightened dog knows of no other way to protect itself other than using its teeth. We all owe it to our dogs to see the world from their point of view in order to create a more harmonious relationship. Whether we are looking at a dog or a wolf, actions such as grabbing a dog and forcing it into a down, growling at the dog, and other aggressive behaviors directed toward the animal will only lead to the animal developing a “fight-or-flight” response where the animal fears for its life. In this situation, the dog will either freeze out of fear, flee far away from the threatening animal or person if an opportunity presents itself to get away, or, fight to save itself. When we engage in such behaviors toward our dogs, we are not telling the dog we are “boss,” instead we are telling the dog we are dangerous creatures to be avoided or fought off. There is no “dominance” in these scenarios—only terror and the instinct to defend oneself against attack.
Fortunately, many trainers and behavior professionals now present concepts that focus on building a caring and happy relationship with your dog, instead of relying on dominance.
If Not Dominance, Then What Do We Use? Fortunately, many trainers and behavior professionals now present concepts that focus on building a caring and happy relationship with your dog, instead of relying on dominance. Some trainers refer to the term “leadership” or other similar terms that are less adversarial than “dominance”. What these trainers have in common is a desire to explain effective, non-confrontational and humane ways of living successfully with dogs. These educated approaches aim to strengthen the bond between the owner and the dog and teach owners more effective ways of communicating with another species. For dogs with behavior problems, trainers employ programs such as “Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF)” which works along the principal that the dog must “do” something to earn what he wants (i.e. sit to get dinner, walk on a loose leash to move forward, etc.) These programs are effective because the dog is issued a structured set of rules that are consistently reinforced and the dog learns what he needs to do in order to get the things that he wants such as food, petting, playtime, etc. Because dogs do not have the power of human speech and language, behavior problems and anxiety can result when they are left to fend for themselves in deciding how to live in our world without guidance that makes sense. Just like with people, we behave better and thrive in a world that “makes sense” to us and has a clear structure.
Few dog owners handle this frequent and often-tense encounter in a way that protects their dog and preserves his good behavior and positive feelings about other dogs.
Given that our canine companions are a social species, you might think introducing two dogs would be a simple matter of turning them loose together and letting them take care of the rest. If only it were so?! If you have ever been present when a canine meet-and-greet suddenly exploded into a whirlwind of growling, snarling, lunging dogs, you are probably aware there is more to it than just “Go play!”
Certainly, there are some dogs who are so socially adept that they can easily meet and greet new canine playmates with ease, but a significant percentage of our dogs can benefit from some assistance to effect successful introductions.
ORCHESTRATE GOOD GREETINGS
So then, how do you successfully introduce your dog to new canine friends?
For starters, you’ll want one handler per dog. One skilled handler, that is. Someone who panics and intervenes unnecessarily can botch the whole job by adding stress to dogs who are still sorting out relationships.
Barring skilled handlers, at least find handlers who are good at following instructions and don’t succumb easily to hysterical behavior. If you can’t find those, you’re better off with fewer handlers, although you should have at least one other person present, if for no other reason than to call 9-1-1 if the situation gets out of hand.
You probably already have a pretty good sense of your own dog’s canine social skills, and hopefully the other dog’s person does as well. Do they play well with others at the dog park? During playtime at good manners class? With their own canine family members? How do they act with doggie visitors to their homes? During chance encounters with other canines on the streets?
If you’re not reasonably confident that introductions will go smoothly, you might do well to engage the services of a qualified behavior professional to help your dog meet new friends, at least the first time or two. She will be able to help you read and understand the dogs’ body language and optimize the potential for success.
Your best bet is to find a neutral, safely fenced, outdoor area in which to begin the relationship. Indoors is too cramped and confining – a less-than confident dog can easily feel trapped as the other dog backs her into a corner. Wide open spaces tend to work better.
A neutral spot (neither dog’s home) is ideal, so that neither dog feels defensive of his yard or people. If you can’t find neutral, your own yard might work, as long as your dog doesn’t have a history of reactive behavior in that space.
But maybe you don’t have a safely fenced yard, or your dog does have a history of reactive behavior in your yard. A large, uncluttered garage or warehouse space might work. Perhaps a friend, neighbor, or co-worker has a fenced yard you can borrow for a bit.
Absolutely No Nose-to-Nose, Leashed Greetings!
The Labrador on the right is a gregarious, friendly dog who gets overexcited every time he sees other dogs – and highly frustrated when he can’t dive in and greet them boisterously. Unfortunately for him, many dogs misinterpret his “incoming missile” approach as an attack, and he’s provoked many dogs into defensive aggression. Leashed, nose-to-nose greetings like this just add to his frustration.
It seems intuitive that it would be safer to hold your dog’s leash during greetings, so you can separate the dogs easily if it doesn’t go well. However, there are a number of reasons why this practice is fraught with hazards (and why I don’t allow this at, my training center):
* Leashes restrict a dog’s ability to behave naturally during greeting. If a dog is uncertain about meeting another, she might normally move away. But if she is restrained by a leash and knows she can’t move away, she’s more likely to behave defensively aggressive. In a normal, leash-free greeting, dogs might circle and sniff, retreat, and then approach again. Leashes get in the way of all that – and also tangle quickly if one dog suddenly tried to initiate play – and the other dog might panic at the sudden proximity she’s forced into by the tangle. Ack!
* A tight leash adds stress, and stress causes aggression. I have seen more than one greeting that appeared to be going well until one or both humans tightened their leashes and – boom! – triggered an aggressive response from their dogs.
* Routine on-leash greetings can create an expectation for your dog that she will be able to greet every dog she sees. This may result in frustration reactivity on those occasions when she isn’t immediately allowed to meet and greet. Often, these dogs get along beautifully with others off-leash at the dog park, but become extremely aroused – even at a considerable distance – when they are on leash and see another dog that they can’t run up to greet. I’d estimate that about one-third of the dogs who come to my Reactive Rover workshops exhibit this frustration reactivity. These are almost invariably dogs who frequently have been allowed to do on-leash greetings with other dogs.
START WELL APART
With the space secured, the process I use and recommend to clients is to start with dogs on leashes on opposite sides of the enclosed space. Keep the leashes loose, if possible. Watch the dogs’ behavior. They should seem interested in each other, alert without excessive arousal. Ideally, you’ll see tails wagging at half-mast, soft, wriggling body postures, play bows, ears back, squinty eyes, and no direct, hard eye contact. These are clear expressions of non-aggressive social invitation.
Warning signs include stiffness in the body, standing tall, ears pricked hard forward, growling, hard direct eye-contact, stiffly-raised fast-wagging tails, perhaps even lunging on the leash, and aggressive barking.
If you see appropriate social behavior, proceed with the approach until the dogs are about 10 feet apart. If they continue to show unambiguous signs of friendliness, drop the leashes and let them meet.
Yes, I said drop the leashes. I prefer not to let dogs meet and greet with handlers holding the leashes. Leashes tend to interfere with the dogs’ ability to greet normally, and can actually induce dogs to give false body language signals. For example, a tight leash can stiffen and raise a dog’s front end, causing her to look more tense and offensive than she means to be, which in turn can cause the other dog to react offensively. A defensive dog who wants to retreat may feel trapped because of the leash and act aggressively because she can’t move away.
Leave leashes on the dogs initially, dragging freely on the ground, so you can grab them and separate dogs easily if necessary.
Keep monitoring the greeting. You are likely to see some normal jockeying for position and some tension, as they sniff and circle and then erupt into play.
As soon as you can tell that they’re getting along, remove their leashes and let them play unencumbered.
Choose Your Dog’s Friends Wisely
When you select your dog’s playmates, it’s important to consider what sort of dogs might make good personality matches – and which might be a disaster.
If your dog likes to assert herself, you’re wise to choose a play pal who’s happy to maintain a lower profile. If your dog is a shrinking violet, she’ll be happiest with a new companion who doesn’t come on like a freight train or bully her playmates mercilessly. If you have one of those canine gems who gets along with everyone, then you have more playmate options. If you want your gem to be able to be “queen of the hill,” then look for soft, appeasing-type dog friends.
If you don’t care where your easygoing dog ends up in the new relationship, then you have the entire canine personality continuum to choose from. Of course, you should avoid dog-aggressive dogs who might give yours a bad experience that could color her future canine relationships.
IF IT STARTS TO GO BAD
Watch that the play doesn’t escalate into excessive arousal (which can lead to aggression) but remember that it’s normal and acceptable for dogs to growl and bite each other in play. As long as both dogs seem to be enjoying the action, it’s a good thing.
If arousal levels escalate, especially if one dog starts to appear concerned about the arousal level, cheerfully call the dogs away from each other for a calming time-out. Take a break until they are both quite calm, then release them to play again.
If you see warning signs as you approach with the dogs on leash, you’ll need to go more slowly. If you observe behavior that looks like outright reactivity or aggression, you’ll need to make a judgment call about whether the intensity of the behavior is such that you need to stop and seek professional assistance, or mild enough that you can proceed with caution.
If you do decide to proceed, interrupt prolonged hard eye contact by having each handler divert her dog’s attention with bits of tasty treats. Continue to work with the dogs in each other’s presence, watching for signs of decreasing arousal.
Walk around the available space with the dogs at maximum distance, gradually bringing them closer together until they are walking parallel to each other. You might take them for a walk around the block, maintaining safe parallel distance. It’s important that you stay calm and relaxed during this process. If you jerk or tighten the leash, badger one or both of the dogs with a constant stream of warnings (“No … no! Be nice! Don’t even think about it! No growling!” etc.), or yell at them, you’ll add stress to the situation and make it harder for them to relax.
When you see signs that the dogs have relaxed with each other, spend a few (or several) more minutes sitting quietly near each other, far enough apart the dogs aren’t trying to interact. When they continue to appear reasonably relaxed, you may choose to end the introduction for the time being. Do several more on-leash sessions over a period of several days before dropping leashes. Alternatively, you may decide to proceed with dropped-leash greetings. This is where your experience and instincts come into play. It’s generally better to err on the side of caution and do several more on-leash sessions to make sure the dogs are comfortable with each other.
Again, if you’re not confident in your judgment about canine body language, you may choose to enlist the help of a professional at this point.
Keep in mind that while dogs are a social species, humans are, too – and we don’t get along with everyone we meet! It’s unreasonable to expect our dogs to want to play with every dog they meet. Respect your dog’s opinion and don’t try to force a relationship between on a dog who is clearly saying “I don’t want to hang out with that guy!”
If tensions between the dogs escalate or maintain at the same level of intensity despite your on-leash work over several sessions, the wise choice may be to look for a different playmate. If, however, you are trying to introduce your dog to a dog that you really hope will become a compatible friend – perhaps because the dog belongs to a good friend, dating partner, relative, or co-worker (in the case of dogs who come to work), or perhaps even one you’re considering adopting – this would be a good time to do ongoing work with a behavior professional to try to make the relationship work, knowing that management may be a large part of the relationship for the foreseeable future.
Be careful if you see no interaction between the two dogs you’re trying to introduce. What appears to be calm acceptance may in fact be avoidance behavior – neither dog is comfortable with the other, and they choose to deal with it by not dealing with it. The problem with this is that sooner or later the dogs will interact if they’re in each other’s presence frequently, and the discomfort may well develop into aggression. I really want to see some interaction between dogs in order to be comfortable that they will play well together.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
I’ve had clients ask me, “If dogs are a social species, why don’t they all just get along with each other?” My response is, “We humans are a social species, and we certainly don’t all get along!”
Fortunately, the majority of our dogs can have canine playmates, although we sometimes need to help them be friends. Even dogs who don’t normally do well with other dogs can, with careful introductions, learn to accept new canine friends and family members. And if you have a dog who can’t, accept him for who he is. He’ll probably be much happier if you stop trying to get him to like other dogs.
Use extra caution when introducing a puppy to an adult dog to avoid physical injury or psychological trauma to your pup. While many adult dogs recognize the importance of being gentle with baby dogs, some do not. Some will play too roughly and some will be actively aggressive. A bad experience with an overly exuberant playmate or an aggressive dog can have a significant negative influence on a pup’s future social behavior.
Use extra caution when introducing a new dog to a senior dog, especially if the new dog is a high energy adolescent or a puppy. Protect the senior dog from being physically damaged – bumped, bruised, body-slammed, or knocked over by a rambunctious pup. Keep the youngster on leash or use baby gates to keep them separated until the pup learns to modulate his behavior around the fragile, perhaps grumpy senior. Geriatric dogs shouldn’t have to defend themselves from overwhelming attentions from fractious youngsters. Unless this is a new dog you are introducing to your own family, you are better off selecting more appropriate playmates.
Consider size. Noted trainer and behavior professional Jean Donaldson recommends no more than a 25-pound difference in size between dogs in a household or play relationship. More than that, she warns, and you risk injury to the smaller dog if the larger one is too energetic or aroused.
When working with particularly large or strong dogs, or dogs who have been involved in any past incidents involving aggression, it’s a good idea to have some tools within easy reach, in case you need to interrupt an aggressive interaction. These tools might include:
• Loud noises, such as a loud yell, banging two metal pans together, or a marine air horn.
• Aversive sprays, such as lemon juice in a spray bottle, Halt! dog repellent spray, or a blast from a hose or a fire extinguisher.
• A separating board. Keep your hands out of the danger zone by using a physical object to break up a fight. (You have to plan for this in advance.) Attach two handles to a sheet of plywood. When a fight happens, lower the board between the sparring dogs. The board will push them apart and provide a physical barrier between them to prevent a new grab.
• Blankets. Tossed over fighters, one over each, blankets muffle outside stimuli, reducing arousal. This also allows humans to physically separate the combatants by picking up the pups-in-a-blanket and pulling them apart with less risk of a serious bite; the blanket will cushion the effect of teeth on skin if the dog does whirl and bite.
• A “parting stick” (also known as a “break stick”). This tool can be inserted into the mouth of a dog who won’t unclench his jaws and let go of another dog. Often carved from a wood hammer handle, the stick is tapered to a rounded point at one end. When dogs are locked in combat, the parting stick is forced between a dog’s teeth and turned sideways to pry open the jaws. Caution: Parting sticks can break teeth, and a dog whose jaws have just been “parted” may turn on the person doing the parting.