The Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat

Dog Diet & Nutrition

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what dogs can’t eat

There are human foods that are completely safe for dogs and also foods that are dangerous and even potentially fatal. Many pet owners learn about toxic foods only after their dog has ingested something and started having abnormal symptoms.

Since dogs are naturally curious and have an amazing sense of smell, this combination often leads to them getting into purses, getting food off of counters, getting into trash cans, stealing food from grills, and sneaking food from plates. Other times, well-intentioned pet owners offer tables scraps or human foods without understanding that they are toxic.

Below, we will review what can’t dogs eat as well as list what is safe. It is important to have healthy alternatives once you know what is not safe.

 

Safe Food for Dogs

There are many human foods that are “safe” for dogs. However, dogs do not need human food. What dogs need is a good quality food formulated for the size, age, body condition, activity, or for any underlying medical problems they may have. Learn more about Nutrition for Dogs.

lab eat garden

Safe Treats for Dogs

The ideal dog treat is one made of good quality ingredients that is moderate to low in calories, consistent in ingredients (thus unlikely to cause stomach upset from bag to bag), very appealing to your dog, and safe. Higher-quality treats tend to be more consistently produced, so it is best to avoid discount and supermarket brands if possible.

There are also many human foods that you can feed your dog safely. By safely, I mean the foods listed below are not toxic to dogs. However, large quantities of any food or food given to dogs with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts can lead to problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and/or pancreatitis. Treats should make up less than 5% of your dog’s caloric intake.

 

Safe Foods and Treats for Dogs

Human foods that are safe for dogs include those in the list below. These foods are considered to be fresh, seedless, shelled, sliced, peeled, and in some cases, washed, and/or cooked depending on the particular product. Butter and seasonings can create their own dangers.

Almonds

Apples – small amounts without the seeds

Asparagus

Avocado –small amounts without the seeds

Bananas

Blackberries

Blueberries

Broccoli – cooked or raw clean/washed

Brussels sprouts

Cantaloupe

Carrots – cooked or raw clean/washed

Cauliflower

Celery – cooked or raw clean/washed

Cheese

Chicken – cooked

Clementine

Cooked fish such as salmon

Cooked green beans. In fact, some pet owners give green beans to aid in weight loss. Learn more about the Green Bean Diet for Dogs

Cooked ground beef or steak

Cottage cheese

Cranberries

Eggs

Fish

Freshly cooked lunch meat

Iceberg Lettuce

Kiwis

Oatmeal

Oranges

Papaya

Pasta

Peanuts

Pineapple

Popcorn

Pork – cooked

Potato – raw or cooked plain or sweet

Pumpkin – cooked

Rice or rice cake

Shrimp

Strawberries

Spinach

Tangerine

Turkey – cooked

Yogurt

Watermelon

Tips for Giving Human Food as Treats to Your Dog

Treats are never a replacement for a good quality core dog food.

Consider low-calorie treats for dogs with weight control problems.

Give only fresh food. Moldy or rotten food can cause gastrointestinal upset.

What Dogs Can’t Eat: Foods Not Safe for Dogs

Any food in large pieces or chunks can cause difficulty chewing or swallowing and can be a choking hazard.

Specific foods that veterinarians commonly recommend NOT to give to dogs include the following:

Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches, and Plums. Ingestion of large amounts of stems, seeds, and leaves of these fruits can be toxic. They contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include anxiety, dilated pupils, labored breathing, fast breathing, and shock. Small pieces of cleaned apple without the seeds can be safe.

Avocados. The leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds of avocados have all been reported to be toxic in some animals. The toxic component in the avocado is “persin,” which is a fatty acid derivative. Symptoms of toxicity include difficulty breathing, abdominal enlargement, abnormal fluid accumulations in the chest, abdomen, and sac around the heart, which can occur in some animals such as cattle and horses. The amount that needs to be ingested to cause signs is unknown. The biggest danger of avocado in dogs is the ingestion of the pit that can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Learn about the safety of avocados here.

Baked Goods. The products which are made with xylitol are highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol is a sweeter used in place of sugar primarily because it is lower in calories. Xylitol is also an ingredient in many different types of gums. It is in many products designed for people with Diabetes due to its low glycemic index. Xylitol can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda. Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. A leavening agent is a common ingredient in baked goods that produces a gas causing batter and dough to rise. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Baking powder consists of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar, calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate or a mixture of the three. Ingestion of large amounts of baking soda or baking powder can lead to electrolyte abnormalities (low potassium, low calcium and/or high sodium), congestive heart failure, or muscle spasms.

Bones. There are many bones that aren’t safe for dogs. This can be due to the danger of them getting stuck or caught in the mouth, sharp splinters injuring the intestines, risk of constipation when passing relatively indigestible bone fragments, as well as possible bacterial contamination on the bone that can lead to illness. Learn more about The Danger of Bones.

Bread Dough. The dough contains yeast which rises in moist, warm environments, such as in the stomach. After ingestion, the rising dough can expand the stomach and decrease blood flow. Fermentation of the yeast can be reduced to alcohol causing signs of intoxication.

Chewing Gum. Gums that are made with xylitol can be toxic. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.

Chocolate. Chocolate, in addition to having a high-fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog in high amounts. Learn more about the specific amount of each toxin that is based on body weight in this article: Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs.

Coffee (grounds and beans). Dogs that eat coffee grounds or beans can get “caffeine” toxicity. The symptoms are very similar to those of chocolate toxicity and can be just as or even more serious.

Dairy Products. Human dairy products are not highly dangerous but can pose problems for two reasons. One is their high-fat content and like other foods with high-fat content, there is a risk of pancreatitis. The second reason is that dogs poorly digest dairy products since they lack the enzyme required to digest lactose. This affects some dogs more than others and can cause issues from gas to diarrhea. Small amounts of plain yogurt or cheese are tolerated by most dogs but it is probably safest to avoid dairy products altogether.

Diet Foods. Foods made for weight loss or diabetes may have the ingredient xylitol.

Fatty Foods. Rich and fatty foods are favorites of dogs. They often get them as treats, leftovers, or from getting into the trash. These fatty foods can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can affect any dog but miniature or toy poodles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers are particularly prone. Signs of pancreatitis generally include an acute onset of vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is often evidenced by the hunched posture or “splinting” of the abdomen when picked up. The dog may become very sick quickly and often needs intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy.

Grapes and Raisins. Ingestion of grapes and/or raisins can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Some pet owners feed grapes thinking they are a healthy treat or give a piece of a cookie with raisins. Aggressive, and sometimes prolonged, treatment may be necessary to give the affected dog a chance at survival. Despite testing, the reason for the kidney failure and the amount necessary for toxicity remains unknown. Learn more about Grape and Raisin Toxicity.

Onions and Garlic. Dogs and cats lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions which can result in gas, vomiting, diarrhea or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion or garlic are ingested or onions are a daily part of your dog’s diet, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. This is due to the toxic ingredient in onions and garlic, thiosulphate. Learn more at Why You Shouldn’t Feed Your Dog Garlic.

Peanut Butter. Some peanut butter manufacturers add xylitol to peanut butter, which is toxic to dogs. Learn more about Peanut Butter Toxicity in Dogs.

Rawhides. Like bones, rawhides can also get stuck in the esophagus or stomach of dogs, causing problems. There is also a risk of bacterial contamination. Although this is not human food, it is worth a mention with the goal to prevent your dog from getting sick. Learn more about The Good and Bad of Rawhides.

Table Scraps. Scraps, especially those that are fatty can cause gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis in dogs. Some dogs tolerate table scraps well but others can become very ill.

Best Treats for Dogs

When shopping for treats, look for the seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which publishes feed regulations and ingredient definitions.

The Dog Nanny website

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Kids and Dog

The formula for keeping children and canines safe is simple: Parents need to be attentive, meticulous about management, and quick to separate them at the first sign of the dog’s discomfort.

teach kids to respect dogs
These days, it seems that every time someone posts a picture on social media of a child with a dog it is immediately followed by a spate of posts expressing horror at the anticipated savage attack likely to follow.
Granted, some of those photos do, indeed, show dogs displaying body language signals that suggest a significant amount of discomfort at the proximity of the child, and real potential for injury. But many of them also, in my opinion, depict normal, healthy interactions between dogs and young humans.
Dogs and kids have been happy buddies for centuries. While dog bites to children are nothing new (I was bitten by a stray puppy at age five, in 1956) we seem to be much more reactive to them as a culture than we used to be. When did we become a society so phobic about any dog/kid interaction? And, perhaps more important, how do we help people recognize and create safe, healthy relationships between dogs and children?
A commonly quoted statistic states that some 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. annually, with 42% of the victims age 14 or under.
As staggering as though those numbers may be, and as sensational as the “Dog Mauls Toddler” headlines are, they are also somewhat misleading. A very large percentage of those millions of bites are relatively minor, so the situation isn’t nearly as dire as it first appears.
Still, even one preventable child-mauling incident is one too many, and many of them are, in fact, quite preventable.
Supervisor Needed
Supervision of interactions between dogs and children is, indeed, critically important, at least until it is crystal clear that the child and dog are safe together. The “You must supervise kids and dogs!” mantra has been repeated so many times I would be surprised if there’s even one parent in the Western world who hasn’t heard it.
But here’s the rub: A significant number of kids suffer from dog bites even when the parent or other caretaker is directly supervising the interaction. If “supervision” is the holy grail of dog-kid interactions, how does this happen?
It seems that, over the years, as we trainers and behaviorists have repeated “Supervise, supervise, supervise!” until we’re blue in the face, we have somehow neglected to do a thorough job of helping parents and caretakers understand exactly what they are looking for when they are supervising.
It’s not just about being present, it’s also about watching closely, preventing the child from interacting inappropriately with the dog, and watching the dog for body language signals that communicate some level of discomfort with the child’s presence and/or interactions.
Upper Level Management
Management – controlling your dog’s environment and access to unsafe or undesirable things or practices – is a vital part of any successful behavior and training program. With kids and dogs, it’s even more critical. When you aren’t able to actively supervise (no TV! no texting!), you must manage. The price for management failure is simply too high.
Even if your dog adores children (and especially if she doesn’t!), management and supervision are vitally important elements of successful dog/baby/child-keeping. There are a staggering number of serious child-bite cases (and fatalities) where the adult left the room “just for a minute.”
That’s why dog training and behavior professionals are well-known for repeating the warning, “Never leave dogs and small children together unattended.” This means, not for a moment. Not while you take a quick bathroom break, or run to the kitchen to grab a snack. Even if the baby is sleeping! Take the dog with you if you leave the room where the baby is sleeping or the child is watching a video. Put the dog in her crate. Shut her in another room.
Training
Of course, you want to do everything you can to help your dog love children. Even if you don’t have small humans of your own, your dog is likely to encounter them at some point in her life, and things will go better for all involved if she already thinks kids are wonderful.
Ideally, every dog should be well socialized with babies and children from puppyhood. Many young adults adopt a pup at a time when children are, if anything, a distant prospect, without thinking about the fact that kids could easily arrive within the 10 to 15 years of their dog’s lifespan. Even if there will never be children in the dog’s immediate family, chances are she will encounter small humans at some point in her life. By convincing her very early on that children are wonderful, you greatly reduce the risk that she will ever feel compelled to bite one.
If an adult-dog adoption is in the works and there will be (or are) children in your world, remember this critically important caveat: Dogs who are going to be around babies and/or children must adore kids, not just tolerate them. A dog who adores children will forgive many of the inappropriate things young humans will inevitably do to dogs, despite your best efforts at supervision and management. A dog who merely tolerates them will not.
Teach Your Children
Safe child-dog interactions start with teaching children – even very young children – how to respect and interact appropriately with dogs. If a child is too young to grasp the information, then the supervising adult must physically prevent the child from being inappropriate.
Babies and toddlers often flail their hands at new or exciting stimuli – like dogs. Not surprisingly, many dogs are likely to find this quite aversive! When young children are introduced to dogs, the adult needs to hold the child’s hand(s) and guide them in appropriately using their hands to touch the dog appropriately (gently and slowly) and without any flailing.
It’s equally important to teach children that dogs are not toys to be treated roughly. Even if your family dog tolerates – or even loves – being hugged, allowing your young child to hug your dog can prompt her to hug the next dog she meets – with possibly disastrous results. Until your child is old enough to understand that some things that are okay with your dog are not okay with other dogs, you are far safer not allowing her to do those things with your dog, either.
Ideally, engage your child to assist with your dog’s training at the earliest possible age using positive reinforcement-based methods that teach your child the importance of cooperation and respect, so your child learns how to interact appropriately with other sentient creatures. At the same time, you will be strengthening the positive association between your dog and your child.
Watch that Body Talk
Any time your dog shows any sign of being uncomfortable with your child’s presence, you must separate the dog and child to protect them both. Of course, in order to do this you must understand dog body language well enough to recognize when a dog is expressing discomfort.
People often say, “If my dog could only talk…” They actually do communicate! But their mode of communication is body language – and too few humans take the time to learn that language, or “listen” to what the dog is telling us.
In the sidebar below, we share some different ways your dog may be telling you she’s uncomfortable. This is an extensive list, albeit not necessarily a complete one. Study it, and then watch your dog for any of these behaviors, both with children present and absent. Any time you observe stress signals from your dog in the presence of children (or elsewhere!) it’s wise to take immediate steps to reduce her stress.
If, while you’re managing, supervising, and training your dog around kids, you’re having trouble determining what your dog is trying to tell you with his body language communications, ask a force-free dog training professional to help you. It could save your dog’s life. And your child’s.
It’s Not Cute, It’s Abuse
There is a truly horrendous video on YouTube of parents encouraging their very young child to abuse their Rottweiler. The child runs over to the dog, who is lying on the floor, climbs on his back, hugs him violently – and when the dog gets up to try to move away from the abuse, the adults call him back and make him lie down for more child torture. Meanwhile the child has lost interest and walked away and the parents insist that he come back and interact with the dog more.
This time the dog is lying on his side, and for the remainder of the two-minute clip the child climbs on and violently bounces up and down on the dog’s ribcage; grabs his jowls, cheek, and nose; and puts his face directly in the dog’s face, all the while with encouragement and laughter from the parents. Through it all, the dog is giving off constant signs of stress and distress – whale eye, panting, tongue flicks, gasping for air, and more. (If you really want to see it, we made a shortcut to a copy of the original video that someone captioned with notes about the dog’s warning signs: tinyurl.com/WDJ-abuse.)
This should be prosecutable child endangerment as well as animal abuse. Someday, if the incredibly tolerant Rottweiler has finally had enough and bites the child, the parents will be aghast. “We don’t know what happened – he was always so good with little Bobby!” And if the defensive bite is serious enough, the dog is likely to lose his life as a result . Meanwhile, if the child tries this incredibly inappropriate behavior with a less tolerant dog (which would include most dogs on the planet), he’s likely to be very badly bitten, and again, the unfortunate dog might easily pay with his life. What were these parents thinking?

A DICTIONARY OF CANINE STRESS SIGNALS
• Anorexia Stress causes the appetite to shut down. A dog who won’t eat moderate- to high-value treats may just be distracted or simply not hungry, but refusal to eat is a common indicator of stress. If your dog ordinarily likes treats, but won’t take them in the presence of children, she is telling you something very important: Kids stress her out!
• Appeasement/Deference Signals Appeasement and deference aren’t always an indicator of stress. They are important everyday communication tools for keeping peace in social groups and are often presented in calm, stress-free interactions. They are offered in a social interaction to promote the tranquility of the group and the safety of the group’s members. When offered in conjunction with other behaviors, they can be an indicator of stress as well. Appeasement and deference signals include:
o Lip Licking: Appeasing/deferent dog licks at the mouth of the more assertive/threatening/intimidating member of the social group.
o Turning Head Away, Averting Eyes: Appeasing/deferent dog avoids eye contact, exposes neck.
o Slow movement: Appeasing/deferent dog appears to be moving in slow-motion.
o Sitting/Lying Down/Exposing Underside: Appeasing/deferent dog lowers body posture, exposing vulnerable parts.
• Avoidance Dog turns away, shuts down, evades touch, and won’t take treats.
• Barking In context, can be a “distance-increasing” stress signal – an attempt to make the stressor go away.
• Brow Ridges Furrows or muscle ridges in the dog’s forehead and around the eyes.
• Difficulty Learning Dogs (and other organisms) are unable to learn well or easily when under significant stress.
• Digestive Disturbances Vomiting and diarrhea can be a sign of illness – or of stress; the digestive system reacts strongly to stress. Carsickness is often a stress reaction.
• Displacement Behaviors These are behaviors performed in an effort to resolve an internal stress conflict for the dog. They may be performed in the actual presence of the stressor. They also may be observed in a dog who is stressed and in isolation – for example a dog left alone in an exam room in a veterinary hospital.
o Blinking: Eyes blink at a faster-than normal rate
o Nose-Licking: Dog’s tongue flicks out once or multiple times
o Chattering Teeth
o Scratching (as if the dog suddenly is very itchy)
o Shaking off (as if wet, but dog is dry)
o Yawning
• Drooling May be an indication of stress – or response to the presence of food, an indication of a mouth injury, or digestive distress.
• Excessive Grooming Dog may lick or chew paws, legs, flank, tail, and genital areas, even to the point of self-mutilation.
• Hyperactivity Frantic behavior, pacing, sometimes misinterpreted as ignoring, “fooling around,” or “blowing off” owner.
• Immune System Disorders Long-term stress weakens the immune system. Reduce dog’s overall stress to improve immune-related problems.
• Lack of Attention/Focus The brain has difficulty processing information when stressed.
• Leaning/Clinging The stressed dog seeks contact with human as reassurance.
• Lowered Body Posture “Slinking,” acting “guilty” or “sneaky” (all misinterpretations of dog body language) can be indicators of stress.
• Mouthing Willingness to use mouth on human skin – can be puppy exploration or adult poor manners, but can also be an expression of stress, ranging from gentle nibbling (flea biting) to hard taking of treats to painfully hard mouthing, snapping, or biting.
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders These include compulsive imaginary fly-snapping behavior, light and shadow chasing, tail chasing, pica (eating non-food objects), flank-sucking, self-mutilation and more. While OCDs probably have a strong genetic component, the behavior itself is usually triggered by stress.
• Panting Rapid shallow or heavy breathing – normal if the dog is warm or has been exercising, otherwise can be stress-related. Stress may be external (environment) or internal (pain, other medical issues).
• Stretching To relax stress-related tension in muscles. May also occur as a non-stress behavior after sleeping or staying in one place for extended period.
• Stiff Movement Tension can cause a noticeable stiffness in leg, body, and tail movements.
• Sweaty Paws Damp footprints can be seen on floors, exam tables, rubber mats.
• Trembling May be due to stress – or cold.
• Whining High-pitched vocalization, irritating to most humans; an indication of stress. While some may interpret it as excitement, a dog who’s excited to the point of whining is also stressed.
• Yawning Your dog may yawn because he’s tired – or as an appeasement signal or displacement behavior.
• Whale Eye Dog rolls eyes, flashing the whites of his eyes.

 

Plan ahead to socialize your puppy early!

Recently, I witnessed an older couple struggling to carry a crate into a puppy class. Once inside, they opened the crate and a large and beautiful Poodle puppy emerged – a pup who was not particularly young, nor disabled in any way. When asked about the puppy and why they carried her inside the training center inside a crate, the couple said she was 14 weeks old, and had received three “puppy” vaccinations so far, but that their veterinarian had told them that the puppy shouldn’t be taken anywhere until she had received her last puppy vaccination at 16 weeks. They looked a little guilty, as if they expected to be admonished for bringing her to a puppy kindergarten class before the last “shot.
It’s 2019!
Why are veterinarians still telling this nonsense to dog owners?!!
The owners were reassured they had absolutely done the right thing to bring the puppy to class, and encouraged to allow her to walk into and out of the training center on her own four legs, and given assistance to show the very able puppy how to get back into her owners’ car after class without them having to struggle to lift her in a crate into the back seat. And I vowed to write this post, which I seem to recall writing every few years for the past 22 years!
Don’t Keep That Puppy in a Bubble
Folks, please tell your friends and relatives: The risk of dogs developing serious behavior problems (and subsequent relinquishment and/or euthanasia) due to inadequate early socialization and minimal exposure to the outside world is far, far higher than the risk of contracting a fatal disease before the pup has become fully immunized. While parvovirus and distemper certainly still exist in the world, and are still quite problematic in pockets of certain communities, there are many steps one can take to prevent a puppy from becoming exposed to disease while taking the very important steps to carefully and positively expose the pup to novel places, people, and other animals.
Puppies should absolutely be taken out into the world before the age of 12 weeks, and ideally, would be attending a well-run puppy play/puppy kindergarten training class as early as 8 weeks old! They certainly should not spend this incredibly critical period of development wrapped in cotton wool in their new owners’ homes!
Don’t believe me? That’s fine. Take it from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB): “Because the first three months are the period when sociability outweighs fear, this is the primary window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals, and experiences. Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression. Behavioral problems are the greatest threat to the owner-dog bond. In fact, behavioral problems are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters. Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”
AVSAB’s position statement on puppy socialization also says, “The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli, and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over-stimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated [our emphasis].”
What Do Veterinarians Say?
Strong words from the veterinary behaviorists… Do “regular” veterinarians agree? Here is a quote from a literature review from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “By 8-9 weeks of age most dogs are sufficiently neurologically developed that they are ready to start exploring unfamiliar social and physical environments. Data show that if they are prohibited from doing so until after 14 weeks of age they lose such flexibility and may be forever fearful in these situations. Such dogs may function well within extremely restricted social situations but will be fearful and reactive among unfamiliar people, pets or in environments outside of the house.”
The AVMA paper goes on to explain how one should ideally socialize and expose puppies safely, as well as how to provide remedial socialization to puppies or dogs who were not given these opportunities. No, all is not lost when owners fail to properly plan ahead and sign up for a class well before they procure their puppy. But as any trainer or good breeder can tell you, there is usually an astounding difference in the amount of confidence displayed in a puppy who has had well-managed, positive exposures to many different persons, places, and things – and especially opportunities to meet and play with other puppies and dogs of appropriate size and play styles – and one who has only begun to interact with the world in a meaningful way after the age of 16 weeks (or older!).
It takes forethought and planning, however, and many families don’t even think about training and socializing until the puppy is four months old or so. Then they look for a trainer and try to book the next class and find out that the next available spot is for a class some six or eight weeks hence. It’s not “too late” to socialize or train them at that stage, but it’s somewhat akin to signing up a third- or fourth-grade kid for kindergarten. It’s great that their education will finally get underway, but what they could have been already had they started their education on time!

So, how should it be done?
1. Plan ahead: Find a good positive trainer early, before you ever get a puppy. Find out about his or her schedule and get signed up for a class that will start when your puppy-to-be will be 8 or 9 or 10 weeks old.

2. Plan ahead: Find a veterinarian who will administer your puppy’s vaccinations on a schedule that will facilitate the pup’s timely admission to puppy kindergarten – and who can speak to the importance of your puppy’s behavioral health and support your efforts to build a behaviorally confident puppy through a well-run puppy class. (If you can, interview vets before you procure your puppy. Younger, more recently educated veterinarians tend to be more aware of the AVMA’s and ASVAB’s recommendations.)

3. Do as much thoughtful, structured socializing as possible with the puppy at your home, and/or in the homes of friends or family members who have no dogs or healthy, vaccinated, reliably dog-friendly dogs who can be trusted to not scare or harm the puppy. Here are some past articles in WDJ on this topic:
4. Educate yourself about puppy diseases and how to keep your puppy safe without sequestering him or her. Here are some past articles that have been published in WDJ on this topic.

What to do – Dog Fights

DOG FIGHTS

UNPROVOKED ATTACKS ARE ACTUALLY EXTREMELY rare but very dangerous.

When they occur, there is usually a considerable size difference between the two dogs—the attacker is large and the victim small—and the attack is usually eerily silent, rapid, and often predatory.

Often both the attacker and the victim are un-socialized. Sometimes the attacker picks up and carries and shakes the victim. This is a dire emergency: scream blue murder! Create as much noise as possible to convince other people to shout and help chase down the dog and get him to release the victim. I once chased down a neighbour’s Golden Retriever to rescue a Yorkshire Terrier. Sadly, the Yorkie died a few days later.

Dog fights, on the other hand are extremely common but rarely dangerous.

Dog fights occur between all dogs but most usually between male dogs less than two years of age.

Most people assume one dog is a dominant bully and the other an innocent victim but more usually both dogs are under-socialized and lack confidence and social savvy.

Frequently, the two dogs will eyeball each other and the tension will progressively escalate as each dog is incited by the others reactivity. The resulting dogfight is often noisy and protracted; however, a few of these altercations necessitate a trip to the veterinary clinic.

The dogs are reactive but not dangerous because, during puppyhood, they both developed bite inhibition and learned to settle differences via Marquis of Dogsberry Fighting Rules: only biting the other dog from the neck forwards (scuff and soft part of neck, muzzle, head, and ears) and never puncturing the skin. Learning bite inhibition and socially acceptable stereotypical fighting patterns are the most important reasons for dogs to attend off-leash puppy and adolescent classes.

The best, safest, and most effective way to break up a dog fight is by pushing a “pig board” (a 36” x 30” piece of plywood with a handle in the top) between the two dogs. Maybe this should be standard equipment for all dog parks, boarding, and day care facilities. Certainly do not try to separate the dogs with your hands or feet. Even though dogs may have good bite inhibition towards each other, they may or may not have developed sufficient bite inhibition toward people depending on the degree of puppyhood play with humans.

Standard dog park procedure is for as many people as possible to quickly approach and circle the dogs (to prevent other dogs joining in the fray) while shouting, “Sit! Sit! Sit!” and then praising the dogs as soon as they stop fighting.

Breaking up dogfights is never without potential danger to people so the best strategy is to never let your dog get into a fight.

Prevent the desire to fight by thoroughly socializing your dog during puppyhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Routinely condition your dog to enjoy the proximity of other dogs.

Never let your dog eyeball, lunge towards, or vocalize at other dogs.

Simply ask your dog to sit and shush and look at you. Three basic obedience commands—Sit, Shush, and Watch Me—will go a long way to prevent your dog from getting into trouble.

If your dog sits and shushes, he cannot bark and lunge, and if he looks at you he cannot eyeball and amp up the other dog.

But more importantly, if your dog sits and looks at you, he presents the aura of a calm and confident dog, one that has a much more important mission (paying attention to you) than being concerned with the growly silliness of other dogs. Basically, you are training your dog to emulate the behavior of a true Top Dog.

Remember, calm and confident dogs are seldom picked on, but under-socialized insecure dogs are attack/bait.

 

Here’s How to Treat It A Dog Stung By A Bee

As Summer is here, I thought this a good article to share.

Dogs stung by bees can be hurt or even killed – bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants may all cause allergic reactions. Learn what you should do if your dog gets stung or bitten by these flying insects.

Spring is springing forth all over the country. Flowers, grasses, and trees are blooming, and the pollinators are out in force. This is great news for plants, and less great news for our canine friends. Dogs are more prone to being stung by insects than we are, given that they aren’t always aware that some of the buzzing, flying insects they love to chase can hurt!

The most likely sting suspects are the Hymenopteraspecies, which include bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants. As an emergency veterinarian, I often treated dogs who suffered bee and wasp stings, with reactions ranging from very mild localized swelling and pain to anaphylactic shock. These symptoms were sometimes caused by a direct sting to the muzzle or paw, but in some cases, they occurred when a dog ingested a bee! It’s important to know what is normal and what is not when this happens.

The typical dog bee stinging event leaves the dog with a single sting on the muzzle or foot. This is because of dogs’ horizontal, four-footed orientation and their innate curiosity. The feet often find the insects when running through the grass, and the curious muzzle will follow.

What to Do If Your Dog Gets Stung

In the case of most stings, there will be very mild redness and swelling. Your dog may suddenly limp and/or favor a paw, or have a red, swollen spot on the face. In some cases, a stinger can still be found in the wound. This is extremely difficult to find without a still, calm dog and a magnifying glass. In some cases, removal of a stinger must be done at a veterinary office. You can try to visualize and remove it at home, but it may not be possible.

Initial treatment for a sting or bite of this severity can consist of rest and a cold compress to relieve swelling and pain. Do not administer over-the-counter medications; these are generally not safe for dogs. If you are concerned that your dog is in significant pain, contact your veterinarian to discuss a pain-management strategy.

Hives, wheals, and welts are a moderate reaction to stings. Just like their human counterparts, dogs who have been stung can break out in unsightly hives. These are usually very itchy and uncomfortable. The first sign often noticed is the dog rubbing along furniture or scratching at the face and eyes. The hives may manifest as bright red streaks or lumps all over the body or be confined to a single place.

As long as there is no attendant vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, or collapse, this can be managed at home successfully. Diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl) can be given at 1 to 2 milligrams per pound of body weight. If using a Benadryl product, check to make sure there are NO other active ingredients. Some Benadryl products contain decongestants as well, and these can be dangerous for dogs.

Diphenhydramine can be repeated every six to eight hours as needed to help with hives. They can sometimes take hours to a few days to completely resolve. Diphenhydramine can cause drowsiness, but in some dogs, it can cause excitement (called a paradoxical reaction).

Severe Bee Sting Reactions in Dogs

In the most severe cases, dogs can develop anaphylactic shock. In canines, the shock organ is the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (in contrast to cats and humans, in which it is the lungs). Dogs in anaphylactic shock do not necessarily develop difficulty breathing. They are much more likely to develop sudden onset of vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse. The diarrhea and vomit can both be extremely bloody, in some cases.

This is an absolute emergency and should be treated as such. Once evaluated by a veterinarian, your dog will be treated with intravenous (IV) fluids, epinephrine, possibly steriods, oxygen, and very close monitoring. Diagnostic testing will likely include blood pressure monitoring, bloodwork, and maybe an abdominal ultrasound.

hymenoptera species

Dreamstime

Often, when dogs are stung, it is not witnessed, so it can be difficult to determine the cause of the signs. Anaphylaxis can also look like an Addisonian crisis; severe, acute hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE); or mesenteric volvulus. One helpful test is the abdominal ultrasound. Gallbladder wall swelling (edema) can be used to determine if anaphylaxis is the true cause of the signs. Another indicator is that anaphylaxis is a very sudden onset in a previously healthy dog that has just been outside.

With rapid and aggressive treatment, most dogs will recover from this type of shock, but early treatment is essential. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend carrying an EpiPen Jr for future outdoor travels with your dog. Despite having this on hand, any suspicion of an anaphylactic event should prompt immediate evaluation by your veterinarian.

When Your Dog Suffers Multiple Bee Stings

Initial symptoms in dogs include multiple bites, marked pain and swelling, hyperthermia (temperature can elevate to a deadly 107 degrees), heavy panting, rapid heart rate, and in some cases, muscle tremoring.

There is no antidote, so treatment is aimed at supportive care. This must be aggressive, as dogs can later develop systemic effects such as kidney failure. The kidney failure develops due to generalized muscle trauma from the stings and hyperthermia. When the muscle is damaged, extra myoglobin (a muscle enzyme) is released into the bloodstream. This must be metabolized by the kidneys, and excess amounts can cause renal damage. This will lead to a dark brown color to urine and elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine.

Treatment is centered on maintaining hydration with IV fluids, pain relief medications (generally strong drugs like opioids), and close monitoring of vitals and bloodwork. NSAIDs like carprofen and meloxicam should be avoided due to the risk of kidney failure.

A different and less-common scenario is a sting to the inside of the mouth or the tongue. These stings can be more severe because of the amount of pain and swelling. In rare cases, swelling in the mouth could lead to airway inflammation, obstruction, and labored breathing. While this isn’t common, it can happen. If you know that your dog was stung in the mouth or on the tongue, monitor closely for any signs of respiratory distress. These include wheezing or other noisy breathing, coughing, and difficulty pulling air into the lungs (inspiratory dyspnea). Seek veterinary care!

In these cases, your dog may need to receive respiratory support. This might include an oxygen mask, nasal oxygen prongs, or in serious cases, where the upper airway is obstructed, the placement of an emergency tracheostomy tube. This allows the veterinarian to bypass the swollen upper airway and provide the patient with life-saving oxygen. These are temporary and will be removed when the swelling has resolved enough to allow normal respiration.

Most reactions to bee stings are mild, but it is important to recognize the more severe symptoms so that immediate treatment can be started and systemic effects minimized.

dog stung by bee

What About Killer Bees?

A special note about Africanized killer bees should be made. These are a hybrid of two honeybees: the western honey bee and the Iberian honey bee. They were hybridized in Brazil in the 1950s with hopes of increasing honey production. Unfortunately, swarms escaped quarantine and migrated through Central America and into the Southwest and Florida. These bees are still largely isolated to those areas, but with global temperatures in flux, they can be expected to spread.

Unlike the usually docile honey bee, these bees can be very easily aggravated and aggressive and even chase victims. When annoyed, they tend to attack in large swarms. Interestingly, the venom is the same as other honey bees, which are rarely fatal. It is the multiple stings that can be fatal for animals and humans.

By Catherine Ashe, DVM

What’s The Importance of Socializing Pups

There are two things that determine a dog’s behavior, nature and nurture (in other words, genetics and experience). There’s not much we can do about genetic influences except select the right breed for our lifestyle and exhort breeders to breed their dogs responsibly and with temperament in mind. Once a pup has been born, he is on a certain trajectory of life that is determined to a large extent by his genetics.

DDB Puppies Log
But this trajectory can be altered, for better or for worse, depending on the pup’s experiences, particularly in an early “sensitive” period of development. With optimal experiences, the pup can become all that he can be. Under these circumstances, his social and behavioral progress will be augmented or constrained only by his genetic potential. A pup without innate flaws of temperament can become a super dog if properly raised, and a genetically challenged pup can be made quite livable. But the reverse is also true. Potentially good pups can be ruined by adverse experiences early in life and those with inbuilt character flaws can become living disasters.
The contribution of nature and nurture is thought to be about 50:50, with adverse early experiences probably accounting for the greatest proportion of temperamentally flawed adult dogs. Faulty raising practices are rife and unfortunately are almost the rule rather than the exception. In general, neither breeders nor new puppy owners understand when to start socializing a puppy, or indeed how to do it. Puppy mills and their pet store outlets are incapable of providing what is needed and some veterinarians add fuel to the fire by advising against social contact for the first 3 to 4 months of life. Their reasons center around vaccination status and the potential for disease. While it is true that attention must be paid to health aspects, it is also true that one half of the pups born in the United States do not see their second birthday largely because of behavioral problems that stem from improper nurtural experiences in early life. Clearly this matter must be understood and addressed if viable, socially compatible pups are to be produced.

When to Start
The answer to this question is as early as possible, even before a pup’s eyes have opened. The process of acclimating a pup should begin at this time and continue through the first 12 to 14 weeks of life and beyond.

The Goal
When pups are young, their minds are like sponges and ready to absorb almost anything we throw their way. This super-absorptive power can be used for the good, but can also lead to lifelong problems in attitude and behavior if the wrong kind of learning occurs during this period. The idea of socialization is to acclimate the young pup to people of different ages, sizes, genders, colors, and deportment while the window of rapid learning and acceptance is still wide open. When pups are first born they trust everyone and everything. At this time they should be exposed, under pleasant circumstances and with positive consequences, to people and animals of all sorts. The window of rapid acceptance begins to close toward the 8th to 10th week of life. If adverse experiences occur during this stage, the negative connotation is exacerbated and is likely to become indelible.
In socializing young pups, part of the mission is to prevent such negative experiences. I am not suggesting that because socialization is so vitally important we throw all caution to the wind and expose new pups in public places from the time they are born. This practice would this pose an unacceptable health risk to an unvaccinated pup and would not accomplish what is required. Veterinarians are right to recommend a degree of isolation but it should not be total. To have friends visit your house and interact with your pup, to pick him up, feed him, play with him, and talk to him soothingly, are all good experiences for him.
Also, it is helpful to have the pup interact with fully vaccinated and well cared for animals of the same or different species, as long as it can be assured that they are friendly. “Puppy parties,” as advocated by Dr. Ian Dunbar, are helpful to teach your dog confidence and social acceptance of other people and their pets. In these perhaps bi-weekly “parties,” people and their pets can form a circle of friendship, presenting mild passive challenges of novelty that can be escalated modestly from week to week. The process is one systematic habituation until all strangers and their pets are accepted as normal and non-threatening.

How do I – All about Puppies

The world of puppies is filled with questions for new owners, but this exciting and confusing time can be easily managed when you have the answers. Here are responses to the Top 10 questions we’ve been asked over the years.

DDB Puppies Log

How do I housebreak my puppy?

In a nutshell – supervise, schedule and praise. Get him outside frequently for bathroom breaks, especially if he’s been crated or involved in strenuous play, and right after eating. Crate your pup when you can’t supervise – dogs don’t like to soil their beds. Most can comfortably wait one hour for every month of life, plus one. This means that your four-month-old pup should be fine if left for five hours. Always praise lavishly when your pup eliminates outside. Do not punish him for accidents when you weren’t supervising.

How do I socialize my pup and introduce him to strange situations?

Socializing your pup means to the world he lives in, not just his four-legged buddies. Walking down the same streets to the same parks to visit the same people is not enough. Get him into the car for road trips, let him accompany you on your next trip to the pet-supply store, and make sure he’s accustomed to the noises of the real world. Feed him part of his meal or a tasty snack when he’s in a new environment, to show him in dog language that when the situation changes, good things happen.

My puppy pees almost every time I come into the room. How do I stop him?

Submissive urination is quite common in young pups. This is rarely a housetraining issue, so should not be considered an “accident.” The good news is that pups often grow out of it. The bad news is that in order to eliminate it, you have to ignore it. Ask your family and guests to pay attention to your pup only once they are well inside your house and not in the doorway. Teaching your pup some simple obedience words, such as Sit and Stay, will increase his confidence.

silence is golden unless puppy

How do I teach my puppy to not chew our things?

This can’t be stressed enough: Supervision is the key. A pup with the run of the house will get into mischief. Make sure your pup has regular physical and mental stimulation. Put him into his crate or a puppy-proofed area of your house when you can’t supervise. Supply him with an assortment of chew toys and put away your shoes and valuables.

My puppy is aggressive and bites me. What should I do?

It is even more important to understand what not to do. Aggression does not lessen with more aggression. Keep the scene from escalating by being calm but clear. Immediately give your pup a time out so he’ll start to realize that if he bites, he loses out on all the fun. In severe cases, consult a professional dog trainer.

My puppy is so rough. How do I get him to play nicer with other dogs?

Playing with the other dogs is lots of fun if it is done with a few rules and manners. Watch your pup closely and if he’s getting overexcited, take him out of the group. Put a long line on your pup so you can be ready to step in and stop the roughhousing when necessary. Do a time out and re-focus him with a few obedience exercises before you allow him to rejoin his buddies.

How can I stop my puppy from jumping up?

The more a behaviour is rewarded, the more likely it is to occur. Teaching your pup what you want him to do is far more effective than yelling at him for what you don’t like. Teach a solid Sit and reward him for sitting quickly. Now, when he starts to jump, ask him to sit and reward him for doing as he’s told. You’ll soon see him race toward you and screech into a sit. Always remember to acknowledge him for what he’s doing right.

Should I take my puppy to obedience school? When is a good time?

Most trainers suggest starting classes when a puppy is between 10 and 14 weeks old – as soon as he gets the go-ahead from his veterinarian. Avoiding naughty habits is far easier than having to correct them later, and pups that learn at a young age often keep those learning skills throughout their lives. As well, your pup will have the oppor-tunity to interact with others his own age. Puppy classes are for the pet parent, too, and will start you off on the right paw. The trainers will be able to identify normal puppy behaviour, and give you the confidence to be successful in training.

My puppy is bothering my adult dog. Should I stop him?

Many dog owners think that the dogs should be left to sort it out. But not all adult dogs stop their young charges, and senior dogs deserve to have us step in and give them a break. Pestering an adult dog at home may inadvertently also teach the lesson that this is an acceptable way to interact with all dogs. Teach your pup manners in his own home first. The lessons learned now will serve him well in the future.

Will playing tug make my puppy aggressive?

Playing tug will not make your pup aggressive. Years ago it was thought to create aggression. We now know that playing tug is a great outlet and a great reward for many dogs. Of course, with tug comes “Drop it” and your dog must learn that you can end the game as quickly as you started it, which is a great lesson itself. So, go and have some fun with your pup!

The Dog Nanny’s website

When It Comes to Dog Training, Practice Makes Perfect

Anyone who has ever learned to do something physical – hitting a baseball, sewing a garment, driving a car, you name it – understands that you gain competence only through practice and repetition. At first, your movements and timing are clumsy and imperfect. You probably over correct, making crooked or zig-zagging seams or driving the car over the centerline bumps. But over time – and especially if you have some expert guidance – your movements become smooth and coordinated, and it seems to any observers that you’re a natural!
Ha! If only they could see you at the beginning!

training

Learning new skills is hard work – for people AND dogs
Now, think about learning something new with a partner who is also learning the same skill, such as a new dance or perhaps sign language. The difficulty factor goes way up!
It’s going to take a bit longer for the result to look smooth.

Now imagine that your dance partner or sign language conversation partner speaks a different language! If this is the case, all of your clumsy efforts require that much MORE patience, creativity, and humor with each other as you try to figure out how to communicate while simultaneously managing intricate dance steps or movements of the hands.

This latter scenario, you may have already guessed, is exactly what’s at play with new dog owners and their new dogs or puppies!

Every new owner wants their puppies or dogs to behave well – to stop doing uncomfortable or naughty things like chewing shoes, jumping on people, or barking at the leaves falling in the back yard, and to perform good behaviors on cue, such as sit, down, wait, and leave it. It adds quite a layer of difficulty to teach them to do what we want, in a language that is not their own, while we are simultaneously learning to use our posture and movements (body language!) for cues and the timely delivery of reinforcers!

Using markers and reinforcers
In the late 1940s, pioneering animal trainers Keller and Marian Breland started teaching other animal trainers to use a marker and the immediate delivery of a reinforcer to teach animals to perform behaviors. They found that chickens were a great species to use to help trainers learn the physicality of cues and reinforcement delivery – especially, the timing of the marker and reinforcer delivery, as well as the location and presentation of the both the cue and the reinforcer.

Chickens who were raised around people aren’t afraid of humans, they notice very minute differences in the appearance of things, they are very quick to react when they notice these differences, and they are very motivated by food to try new behaviors. They also don’t carry a lot of behavioral “baggage” along with them, resulting from living with sometimes-intemperate humans! They make amazing practice partners for anyone who is learning how to observe animal behavior and learn to change it swiftly and without force, and there is a long legacy of trainers who still use chickens to teach dog trainers how to refine and improve their training technique.

Don’t blame the chicken!
Another brilliant thing about using chickens to teach people how to train: people don’t get mad at chickens when they are failing to get the chicken to perform a specific behavior! They don’t tend to start calling the chicken “stubborn” or “spiteful” – or blame the chicken’s breed, origins as a “rescue chicken” or anything else. They are able to easily see that training the chicken is just a matter of presenting the training challenge to the chicken in a precise way that makes it easy for the chicken to do the behavior (or some approximation of it), for the behavior to instantly be “marked” (with the click of a clicker or a verbal marker, such as the word “Yesss!”, or the flash of a penlight, or what have you!) and be reinforced for it immediately.

They are also able to see that if they are late with the marker, or fail to deliver the reinforcer in a timely fashion and in a location that doesn’t pull the chicken out of the position the trainer wanted her in, that it’s impossible for the chicken to “get” the point of the exercise! They see that it’s their own clumsiness or bad timing, not the chicken being “bad.”

stop that get back here smile dog

Get a second set of eyes
If you are having trouble teaching your dog some new behavior, consider taking a little video of yourself as you work with your dog, or ask someone who you consider to be a good trainer to watch you. It might develop that you simply need a little coaching on how you are presenting the cue, or marking the desired behavior, or delivering the reinforcer. Strike that: It is undoubtedly a problem with one of those things, not that your dog is being dumb, lazy, or a non-native speaker of English.

Honestly, if you are motivated to learn how to more effectively teach your dog new behaviors quickly, sign up for a class or even just a private lesson or two with someone who is experienced with positive reinforcement-based training (and who does NOT use punitive, physical “corrections”). With a few pointers, you will be amazed at how quickly you and your dog or puppy will be happily speaking the same language as you dance through life together.

The Dog Nanny Website

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Dog Owners

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Dog Ownersdog-humor-your-move-dummy-book

These powerful lessons can improve your overall relationship with your dog and improve his behavior as a positive side effect.

Almost 30 years ago, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey was published for the first time. The self-help book went on to be called the “most influential business book of the 20th century.” To date, more then 25 million copies of the book have been sold.

As a small business owner, I found the book very enlightening and helpful, but I mostly found myself relating to Dr. Covey’s “7 habits” as things that would really help anyone who lived with and worked with dogs!

As a Certified Professional Dog Training Instructor, I get to work with people from all walks of life and the dogs they love. Interestingly, no matter who they are, what they do for a living, or what kind of dog they have, their issues are similar: They call me because they want their dog to stop doing “X.” Usually, they say they have “tried everything, but the dog just won’t listen.”

I love the opportunities I have to work with so many amazing dogs. But a lot of what I do comes down to coaching the dog’s owners on how to look at things differently to obtain a new outcome.

With Dr. Covey’s “seven habits for success in business” in mind, allow me to apply them to people who want a more successful relationship with their dogs.

 

  1. Be proactive.

Much of the old-fashioned dog training we were exposed to growing up focused on waiting for the dog to make a mistake and then harshly correcting him. While most of us simply accepted this as “how you train a dog,” we were missing the bigger picture. This method never taught the dog what he was supposed to do in that situation the next time.

It doesn’t make sense to let an untrained dog loose in your house and then follow behind correcting him with “No! Don’t! Off! Stop! Get down! Quit that!” for every wrong decision he makes. It is much more effective and productive to take the time to teach this new family member how to act appropriately in your home.

 

In modern, science-based animal training we understand the importance of teaching the learner, in this case the dog, what to do by being proactive. To use the example above as what not to do when you bring your new dog or puppy home, start things off on the right foot by first showing your new family member where she is supposed to go potty – before you ever bring her indoors! Stay out there until she goes, and immediately reward her with treats and praise!

Then, instead of turning her loose in her new home, allow your new dog to have access to just one room or area in the house at first – a place where she won’t be able to make mistakes like jumping up on the bird cage, soiling a precious rug, or chewing up a family heirloom. Allow her to relax in an area where it’s safe to explore without being able to make any major mistakes and where her water, food, toys, and beds are located. Reward her for sitting politely as she meets each member of the family and each visitor to the home!

Dogs do what works for them and what’s safe for them. If you introduce behaviors that are safe for the dog and work for you both, your dog will begin to choose them naturally.

 

  1. Begin with the end in mind.

To change an unwanted behavior, you first need to decide what you want your learner to do instead. It is very easy to say, “I want my dog to stop jumping” or “I don’t want my dog to bark at the mailman.” You need to turn that around and decide exactly what you’d rather have your dog do in those moments.

To modify the unwanted behavior, we must be able to picture the final goal. If your dog is jumping on guests, you would probably prefer that he sit politely instead. If your dog is barking, you may decide you want him to play with his toy or go to his bed while the mailman passes by. These are the finished behaviors you can have in mind so you know exactly what you’re going to teach your dog to do.

If you don’t have a goal in mind and you’re only focused on stopping a behavior, your dog will never learn what he’s supposed to do the next time a guest comes to visit or the mailman delivers a package. This will set up an endless cycle of wrong behavior, harsh correction, confused and scared dog, frustrated guardian. This cycle can be broken easily if you begin dealing with your dog with your end goal in mind.

 

  1. Put first things first.

Prioritizing is a necessity in all aspects of our lives. Working with your dog is no exception. There will probably be several things you wish to change or work on with your dog, but certain ones should take precedent. Any behavior that is necessary to keep your dog and other family members safe should be a top priority. This could be teaching your dog to come when called because you live near a busy street. It may be working on creating positive associations for your dog with babies because you’re expecting. If you’ve recently brought home a new puppy, proper and humane socialization should be your number one priority due to the brief window of time puppies have to learn about their world and whether it’s safe.

Focus on teaching your dog whatever behaviors meet your immediate needs; usually, the rest can be handled with proper management such as baby gates, fences, a leash, stuffed food toys, etc. There is nothing wrong with using management to keep everyone safe and happy until you have a chance to work on that next issue with your dog.

 

  1. Think win-win.

Always think in terms of mutual benefit when working with your dog. I doubt you added a dog to your family to spend the next 10 to 15 years in an adversarial relationship. Therefore, it’s not helpful to think in terms of dominating your dog or expecting your dog to spend his life trying to please you.

Instead, make the things you ask your dog to do just as beneficial for him as they are for you. Thankfully, this couldn’t be easier, since most dogs will gladly work for food, toys, praise, and/or petting.

Your relationship with your dog should be like any other in your family, built on mutual respect and love for one another. If you stop and consider how your dog must feel in a given situation – just as you would for your partner or child – you can then approach it in a way in which you both receive what you need in that moment: a win-win.

 

  1. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Humans are quick to demand full and complete comprehension from our dogs. It’s surprising when you consider we expect this from an entirely different species – one that doesn’t speak our language! On the flip side, consider that dogs speak to us all day long with their ritualized body language. Sadly, the majority of humans have never learned this language.

Dr. Covey wrote in his book, “Seek first to listen with the intent to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, then seek to effectively communicate your own thoughts and feelings.”

We must remember that our dogs have their own thoughts and feelings and that the environment we subject them to affects both. If you cue your dog to sit or lie down while at the vet clinic or on a busy street corner and he doesn’t do it, it’s not because he is being stubborn. Your dog may be scared, anxious, or overwhelmed in this situation and feels that it would be unsafe or uncomfortable to sit or lie down. He is not defiantly disobeying your orders. He is responding to his instinct and emotions in the moment. Every one of us does this when we feel scared or threatened.

 

Learning how your dog communicates with his body means you care about this family member with whom you share your life. It also shows your dog that he can trust you to help him out of overwhelming moments and you will understand what he needs. What an amazing gift to be able to offer him!

 

  1. Synergize.

This means recognizing your own strengths and celebrating the strengths of those around you. You may have adopted a dog because you thought it would be nice to visit nursing homes and cheer up people with a sweet, fluffy therapy dog. However, the dog you end up with might be full of energy and better-suited for an agility field.

Instead of seeing this as a failure in your dog’s ability to be a therapy dog, consider the amazing possibilities you could have doing something more active together. Perhaps this unexpected development will open up a new world to you, with like-minded friends and fun travel. (And perhaps your dog will grow to share your interest in providing comfort to people later in his life!)

Just as you would with a child, try meeting your dog where he is, accepting him for who he is today. Be open to discovering the wonderful gifts he can bring to your life right now.

 

  1. Sharpen the saw.

There isn’t an individual on this planet that ever stops learning. In fact, learning is always taking place, even when we don’t realize it.

If you think of training a dog as something you do haphazardly (when you find the time) for the first few weeks he’s in your home, you will not be happy with the results. Alternatively, if you weave training into your everyday life with your dog, thinking of each brief interaction as a teaching moment, you will be amazed by the outcome. Your dog will receive clear and consistent messages from you in all types of settings and situations. This will allow him to develop into a calm, confident dog who truly understands what is expected of him and which behaviors are appropriate to choose on his own.

It’s not uncommon for someone to ask me, “How long will it take before my dog is trained?” The truth is, there really isn’t an answer to this question because there should not be an “ed” on the end of the word train. As long as we are alive, learning is always happening and none of us is ever fully “trained.”

Instead of being disappointed by this and thinking that you will have to train your dog for the rest of his life, I encourage you to flip that narrative and become excited about the opportunity to share a mutual journey in learning alongside each other – a journey that builds a bond like no other.

Is your dog bored? How can you tell?

Bored dogs are usually pretty easy to spot. They mope around the house and don’t seem to want to get up. Other times they pace frantically, panting and even drooling. Sometimes you can find them by following the trail of shredded papers, pillows, and shoes they leave in their wake, they jump at you, bark at you, whine/cry, Basically a Bored Dog Acts Out/Up.

toy destroy

Boredom can lead to a variety of problems such as inappropriate urination, destructive behaviours such as scratching, aggression, depression, lethargy, over-vocalization/crying, increased or decreased appetite, and sleeping more.

Dogs have a much better time of it these days. No longer do they have to while away hours in the doghouse outside; they are more often kept indoors and treated like family members. But, although we may have changed our attitude toward our pets, we have changed our lifestyles, too, and we are now less available.

Frequently both parents work away from home and the kids are at school. So, although dogs no longer have to battle the elements outside, they do have to contend with being home alone during the day, sometimes all day, with little to occupy their time. From the owner’s point of view, the home may be ideal: plush rugs, elegant furniture, and chic décor, but dogs do not appreciate such environmental refinement and would by far prefer to be socializing with people or other dogs, or chasing a blowing leaf outside. Like children, dogs have an agenda that is subtly different from that of adult humans, and have likes and dislikes that can be diametrically opposed.

Some “Type-B” personality dogs may nap during their owners’ absence, arising lazily with a yawn and stretch upon their return. Other more compulsive “Type-A” dogs may suffer extreme boredom and stress during their owners’ absence. The telltale signs are easy to see: the garbage can contents may be strewn across the floor, cupboard doors opened, food stores raided, paper or pillows shredded, and so on. While there is a well-known syndrome of separation anxiety, the bored dog scenario is distinct from separation anxiety and represents the sometimes ingenious attempts of a dog that is “bored out of his mind” to find something time-filling to do.

In attempting to distinguish between a dog with separation anxiety and one that is just bored you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you acquire your dog from a shelter or pound?
  • Has he had multiple owners?
  • Did you get him when he was over three months of age?
  • Is he a “Velcro dog”? (Does he follow you around constantly?)
  • Does he appear anxious as you prepare to depart?
  • Does he whine or bark after you have left?
  • Does he urinate or defecate ONLY in your absence?
  • Does he destroy things ONLY in your absence?
  • Does he refuse to eat when you are away?
  • Does he greet you over-exuberantly when you return?

    A score of five or more “yes” answers is highly suggestive of separation anxiety. If any doubt exists as to the precise cause of the dog’s unrest or agitation when you are away, a video recording will serve as the tiebreaker. Dogs with separation anxiety are visibly anxious, pacing, panting, and whining or barking, whereas dogs that are bored simply wander around searching for something to do. Also, they may get up and down frequently and act in an unsettled, restless way as if experiencing a dilemma (which they probably are).

    The key to managing an otherwise bored dog is “Environmental Enrichment” (the big E’s). Below is a list of measures that owners can employ to reduce their dog’s tedium during long stints home alone.

  1. Get a dog for your dog. Although getting a dog for your dog rarely works to improve separation anxiety, this can help your bored dog – as long as the two dogs get along. However, introducing an overly dominant, oppressive dog may have exactly the opposite effect. If in doubt, ask an expert to help you select the right dog for your dog and lean toward a younger individual and one of even temperament.

    2. Hire a dog walker. Most dogs really appreciate the lunchtime visits of a dog walker who provides a much welcome respite in the middle of an otherwise long day of nothing to do.

    3. Doggy day care. One better than a dog walker is doggy day care. The problem here is that sometimes it is expensive and that cheaper facility looks and smells dirty or the Daycare staff seem to lack those doggie communication skills, etc; Check out the day care center thoroughly as you would child day care for young children.

    4. Crates. Providing a dog with a crate gives him a room of his own, a place in which to hang out and to get away from it all. If you don’t provide a crate, most dogs will improvise, finding solitude under a table or bed or behind a couch. I think it is rarely, if ever, appropriate to shut a dog in his crate all day while you are away but an open crate is another matter.

    5. Food puzzles/sustained release food. Most people have developed the habit of feeding their dog before they leave in the morning. The dog wolfs down his food and then has nothing to do all day. It may be more appropriate to feed the dog as you leave and/or to arrange for the food to be discovered by the dog after you have left.

    6. Radio/TV. Many people already leave a radio or television on for their dog when they leave. The “white noise effect” does seem to have a soothing effect and thus may have some redeeming features. Think of it this way; any lilting/melodic sound (not “heavy metal”) or even just background gibberish is probably better than the sound of silence or a clock ticking on the mantelpiece. Most animals seem to prefer seeing images of other animals or nature programs.

    7. Room with a view. Some of the best visual enrichment that a “home alone dog” can enjoy is the “real TV” experience of observing the world outside through a window with a panoramic view.

    8. Transitional object. Some people report that leaving out an article of their apparel comforts their dog. The dog can then snuggle up to the item in their absence and be reminded of better times.

    9. Rotation of toys. Well-meaning owners leave toys out for their dog to play with, in their absence. This is a valuable enrichment strategy but will not work well unless the toys are interesting and novel. Toys that move or are good to chew are apparently the most fun and the way to keep them riveting is to rotate them so that they don’t lose their appeal.

    10. “A brain tired dog is a good dog.” You could also say, a happy dog. Exercise generates serotonin in the brain and thus has a calming and mood-stabilizing effect on man and beast. A dog that has had a good run for 20 to 30 minutes before the owner departs will be less anxious, more composed, and prepared for a little R & R in the form of a good nap.

    11. Dog door/fenced in yard (except perhaps in the big city). Another idea, if you live in the suburbs and have a reasonable-sized fenced in yard, is to fit a dog door to allow your dog to come and go at will.

    There are many ways that we can try and make our dogs’ lives more interesting and engaging during our absence. Some dogs will fare quite well with the application of just a few of the measures listed above. Nevertheless, the wisdom of getting a highly social pet like a dog must be considered if you know in advance that you will be required to be apart from that pet for many hours each day. It is preferable to choose the right time in your life to acquire a dog and the right breed for your lifestyle – a time when you are in a position to spend sufficient quality time with your pet and not wind up a latchkey parent. For those of you for whom this advice is too late, take heart, adopt the some of the big E’s, and look out for your old pal.

The Dog Nanny website