Here’s How to Pick the Right Dog For Your Family

DDB Puppies Log

 

You’ve determined the source from which you want to acquire your next dog, or at least identified which sources are the most likely candidates for you. The next question is how. How do you decide which dog is the right one?

Let’s assume the family has come to agreement about breed, or at least variables like size and type. If you’re purchasing a pup from a responsible breeder, she will guide you in selecting the best pup for your circumstances and dog-owning goals. If you want to show or compete, she’ll have a good idea which of her pups are best suited for that. If you want a family companion, she’ll identify which pups in the litter are best suited for that role

On the other hand, if she thinks your situation is totally unsuited for her breed – an active Border Collie or vocal Sheltie in a small apartment – she’ll tell you that too, and then decline to sell you a puppy. Take her advice to heart, rethink your adoption choice, and don’t just go get a puppy of the same breed from a less responsible source.

If you’re adopting from a good shelter or rescue, they will already have performed behavior assessments on your pool of prospective adoption choices, and will help you make an educated selection. If you’re doing a private adoption or looking to a group that doesn’t assess, you’ll want to do your own assessment to explore a few behaviors before you adopt. Ideally, you will share your home with your new dog for the next 10 or more years, so make sure he’s the dog you really, really want, not one you just felt really sorry for at the shelter.

If you are a novice dog owner, we recommend taking along a more knowledgeable friend, or a behavior/training professional who offers pet selection services, to help you with your decision. If you are reasonably knowledgeable about dogs and dog behavior, you should be able to determine at least some basic important qualities about your prospective adoptee on your own.

Things to look for include:

Does the dog happily approach to greet you? A fearful dog is probably not well-socialized, and it will take a lot of work (behavior modification) to help him become “normal.” Love is not enough! Unless you are very skilled in training and behavior and ready to commit to a significant behavior modification program, we suggest you resist the temptation to rescue a shy dog, and instead adopt a friendly one. Friendly dogs need homes, too!

Does the dog play well? He may or may not play with toys (some dogs need to be taught how to play with toys), but will he follow you and romp a little with you? Does he get too aroused while playing, mouthing you, jumping on you, and unwilling to calm down when you’re ready to stop? Does he have a playful world view, or does he seem very serious? Again, a playful dog will be easier to train and bond with; a serious one may be more challenging to motivate and interact with.

Is he easily aroused? Most pups bite some, as they explore their world with their mouths. But adolescent dogs and adults should have learned that putting teeth on humans isn’t acceptable behavior. If the dog in question gets over-aroused easily, to the point of hard biting, non-stop biting, biting clothes, or growling, snapping, and snarling, he’s a good one to avoid.

If the dog will take treats, can you get him to sit? Put the treat right at the end of his nose, and slowly move it back over his head. If he jumps up to get it, whisk it out of sight for a second, then try again. When he sits, say “Yes!” and feed him a bit of the treat, then try again. If he starts offering sits for your treat after a few repetitions, you have a solid-gold winner. If it’s difficult to get him to sit, and/or he doesn’t seem to get the idea after several repetitions, he’ll be a more challenging dog to train.

Try holding him close and looking at his teeth a few times in a row, then (carefully!) hugging him. If he resists restraint and becomes aroused, pulling away from you, perhaps even using his teeth, he probably won’t be a warm, cuddly dog – which is fine if that’s not what you want. Probably not a good choice for kids, though, who tend to want a lot of physical contact with their canine pals.

Speaking of kids, the dog will need to meet any human youngsters in your immediate family, and should absolutely adore them. Any reluctance on the dog’s part to engage with the kids should rule him out as an adoption prospect. Dogs who live with kids need to love them, not just tolerate them. You should also introduce your adoption prospect to any dogs you currently own before making a final commitment to adopt. Again, ideally you’ll see joyful acceptance on both sides of the canine equation. Anything less is a sign that behavior work might be necessary to keep peace in the pack.

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Bonding with Your Puppy

DDB Puppies Log

When a puppy is born, it knows nothing of the world around it. However, it knows enough to stay close to its mom and her milk bar. The only important task for the pup during the neonatal period is to maintain a degree of physiological balance. Nursing and sleeping are about all the pup is capable of at this stage.

After a week or ten days of hanging around “the great one,” the pup’s eyes and ears open and it begins to process information about the world outside. Reflexes and mother’s care have brought the pup thus far, but increasingly, know-how, including the establishment of proper relationships with others, becomes necessary for continued success in life. The first and most important relationship a pup makes is with its mom.

If a pup is separated from its mom, she will retrieve it. If it cries, she will attend to it. If it is hungry she will feed it. The pup’s trust and reliance develop quickly as mom invariably finds a way of providing for the youngster’s every need.

This mutual interaction brings satisfaction and relaxation to both the mother dog and puppy. A strong bond develops and the pup no doubt feels at one with its parent. For pups, mistrust of unfamiliar individuals begins to develop around 8-10 weeks of life and is a reflection of the pup’s strong bond with its canine family.

The original bond a pup has with its mom is the most important one it will ever have. If, when the pup cries, its mom routinely responds, it will develop confidence. If she grooms it regularly, its nervous system will positively sprout. If she’s always right there when the pup turns around for assurance, it learns trust. Well-tended pups have higher (what might be called) self-esteem, are smarter, and seem to regulate their emotions better. A “functional” pup – one that can make its own way in the world – is the end result.

Over time, a pup’s relationship with their mom progresses from one of hopeless devotion to a more voluntary affair. Their association becomes more like an enjoyable friendship between two individuals who seek each other’s company for the pleasure it brings. Somewhere along the development road, usually between 3 and 6 weeks of age, pups develop relationships with their siblings and begin to learn social etiquette from their playful interactions.

But an interpersonal cataclysm lies in waiting for most young pups. At the relatively tender age of 8 weeks, most pups are adopted by well-meaning humans, who try their best to make the pup’s transition from it mom and littermates as painless as possible. But strangers are no substitute for the pup’s own family. Some early separation distress is almost inevitable and will be witnessed by the pup’s new family as whimpering and whining, especially at night. Ill-informed friends advise, “Let the puppy cry. He’s got to learn. You don’t want to make a rod for your back, do you?” Nothing could be further from the truth.

At this stage, you (the parent stand-in) must meet all the pup’s demands, just as its mom did. This way, you keep the pup on the right track of intellectual and social development. One of the great spins-offs is that the pup will re-attach to you, its new great provider, and will turn out every bit as confident and self-sufficient as its real mom would have liked.

A researcher at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine set out to explore the nature of the human-animal bond between young pups and their new human caregivers. A child psychologist by profession, this researcher used a modification of the “strange situation” (SS) test employed in child psychology to plumb the depths of the bond. The setup was as follows:

Young pups and their owners were introduced to a novel environment. The environment was enriched with toys and food.

After a set time, owners were asked to leave the room for a prescribed time.

Pups’ reactions were monitored.

Owners were then asked to return to the room.

Pups’ reactions to their owners’ returns were monitored.

Three categories of puppy responses were noted to the SS test.

  1. The pup willingly left its owner’s side to explore and entertain itself with the toys lying around. When the owner left, it hardly paid any attention, remaining absorbed in its activities. When the owner returned, the pup did not pay much attention to them.

 

  1. The pup hesitated before leaving the owner’s side but eventually played with the toys. When the owner left the room, the pup ran to the door to follow and stared at the door for a short time before resuming play. When the owner returned the pup greeted its owner enthusiastically before returning to play.

 

  1. The pup never left the owner’s side either to explore the novel environment or play with the toys. It acted distraughtly and whined or whimpered when its owner left the room. The greeting on the owner’s return was exuberant.

 

The first category of response (1) indicated that the puppy had not developed a proper bond with the new owner (under attachment).

The second category of response (2) indicated that the pup had a healthy bond with the new owner (normal attachment).

The third category of response (3) indicated that the pup was overly dependant on the owner and foreshadowed future separation distress.

Pups in response category (1) had not developed a bond with their owner because the owners had not spent enough quality time with the pups.

Owners of pups in response category (2) had most likely played their cards just right, by paying their pup attention when attention was due, providing the requisite social experiences, and protecting them from lengthy periods of time alone.

Owners of pups in response category (3) likely overindulged their pups when they were around but, for whatever reason, had left them unattended for overly long periods, either at night or when they went to work. This “emotional roller coaster” experience seems to set the stage for separation anxiety and general lack of confidence.

Imprinting, an elemental form of bonding, occurs most readily during a sensitive period of development. If the time and circumstances of an initial introduction of animals is appropriately staged, it is quite literally possible to have a lion lie down with a lamb. With this in mind, it’s almost child’s play to have a dog bond with a cat – subsequently learning to be accepting of cats in general.

All you have to do is arrange for benign introductions to occur during the sensitive period of development. The sensitive period for such learning to occur in dogs is between 3 – 12 weeks of age. During this time period, owners can engineer all kinds of useful friendships between animals of the same or different species.

As many owners already know, dogs don’t just bond to their moms or to their human owners. They can also bond with other dogs. So powerful can such bonds be between one individual and another that they may show separation anxiety or frank depression if separated.

This is not a bad arrangement until longterm separation through illness or death becomes inevitable. In such cases, dogs must be trained to develop new bonds with either other dogs (a new puppy, perhaps) or new human acquaintances. In severe cases, antidepressants may be needed to help such formerly bonded dogs around this sharp corner of life.

If all has not gone according to plan for a pup, by way of bonding experiences in early life, all is not lost. Many dysfunctional dogs who start out overly dependent on their human caregivers can be retrained to develop confidence in themselves, they can be trained to be independent i.e. to stand on their own four feet. It’s damage control, sure enough, but it works. Whatever people say, you can teach and old(er) dog new tricks, though it often takes considerably longer.

The Dog Nanny website

Your Adolescent Dog

October 21, 2019 – CKC Articletangledinleashes

You WILL survive this phase with some knowledge, tricks and

many withdrawals from your pool of patience! 

“What happened to my good puppy?” countless dedicated owners have asked themselves once their beloved pet turns 6 months mark and enters their “teenage months”. This period where your dog begins sexual maturity involves a ton of changes to your dog’s biological, physical, and psychological makeup. As a result, their behaviour is affected.

As mentioned above, your dog’s adolescent period typically begins around six months of age, and ends when a dog reaches physical maturity around the eighteen months to two years old mark, depending on the breed. The most pronounced behavioural issues will usually be noticed between six months to one year of age.

At this point, you may wonder why you even gave your dog a name because they rarely listen when you call it. You might wonder if your dog has suffered amnesia, because you swear that gorgeous pup knew all their basic commands a mere month or two ago. While having a “teenage dog” can test your patience, the good news is it is a phase. With some tricks and tips, the both of you will survive.

Too much freedom too soon

In my opinion, many puppy owners give too much freedom, too soon. Just because your pup is mostly housebroken doesn’t mean they should have free range of your home, especially when you aren’t there. Impulses run rampant through a teenage dog and the temptation to destroy a shoe, chew an electric cord or show a throw pillow who’s the boss could easily get the best of your pup. It’s no secret to regular readers of my blogs that my favourite puppy accessory is an exercise pen (aka an “ex pen”). An ex pen provides both freedom and security without putting your valuables or your puppy at risk.  The ex pen should continue to hold your dog while you’re away during the adolescent phase. All dogs are different and mature at various rates. I personally don’t begin to leave a dog unsupervised out of the ex pen until their first birthday has passed, and even then, I still limit access to the home using baby gates and closed doors.

Keep it social

Socialization must continue during the adolescent phase. Don’t assume that because your four-month-old pup was great with all other dogs that they will stay that way without any further meetings with new dogs. This goes with new people and situations as well. Practice makes perfect. Keep bringing on the new situations and your dog’s social skills will continue to grow. Same goes for new people. Get out and let your pup continue to interact with strangers.

Don’t chill on the training

As with socialization, your teenage dog will need regular refreshers on basic skills and would also love to learn new tricks and commands at this age. Remember- teenagers don’t like to work for free, so keep the praise, treats and toys on hand during these training sessions.

Impulse control needs some work at this phase. I like to make it a game. Use your rope toy to teach “give”, a treat on the ground to teach “leave it” and hide and seek to teach “wait”. All these activities work well with a teenager because they are fast, fun and offer a reward.


Keep in touch with the breeder 

Sometimes when an adolescent dog is driving you nuts, you need to talk to someone who has experienced the teenage phase dozens of times. Your dog’s breeder knows your dog’s breed and family line very well and is a great person to call when you’re at your wits end. They can provide you with their own tricks and tips, as well as reassure you that it is only a phase.

Keep your head up

As someone who owns a 7 month-old Terrier, I can say to anyone going through the “teenage period” that 1. I feel you. 2. Pour me a drink. However, I am an optimist, so I will give you some good news about this phase. Providing you bought your puppy as an 8 -12 week old baby from a reputable CKC member breeder, by this point some positive things have happened.

  • Toilet training is about 90% done. Apart from the occasional accident, your puppy should be able to only go to the washroom outdoors providing you stick to schedule and are aware of all signs they give you to tell you they “gotta go”.
  • Teething is almost over. Rejoice! Teething generally happens before adolescent and tends to wind down around the 7 month mark. That being said, your dog still requires toys to chew on and they will need to be stronger now that they have their adult teeth.
  • You can leave your puppy alone for a bit longer. While you only had a one to two hour limit while leaving your puppy in their crate or ex-pen a few months ago you can now go a couple more hours provided they’ve had exercise and gone to the bathroom.
  • They can walk properly on a leash. My Dandie Dinmont Terrier is getting better and better on the leash. It’s so much easier to take your dog for a brisk walk to burn off some steam when they get into one of their energetic moods. If you use a dog walker, this is the time where you might be able to switch from solo puppy visits to pack walks, which will save you a bit of money and allow your dog to socialize daily.
  • If you show your dog in conformation, you can now enter the Puppy Classes and try to earn points. You can also compete in some other CKC events like Earthdog Tests and Field Dog Junior Tests. Other events require your puppy to reach 12 or 18 months due to avoid injury.
  • Your bond is stronger with your dog. If you got your puppy when they were an 8 -12 week old youngster, time has been on your side and you now have developed a good relationship with your dog.

The adolescent phase of your dog’s life can test your patience, but by this time next year it will be just a memory. With these tips and a good sense of humour, you will have a well-adjusted adult dog as your best friend for years to come.

 

Are There Cues Your Dog Doesn’t Like?

I was teaching a “teen dog” class last night, and we were working on the “stay” behavior. In the training center where I teach, we instruct the students on the “four Ds” of stay – distance, duration, distraction, and disappearance (the last one, very advanced, when the handlers can leave the room and their dogs will “hold” the stay). We teach that when you increase the difficulty of one of the “Ds,” you should decrease the others – so, in the high-distraction environment of the training center, with other dogs in the class, to help your dog succeed, you should reduce the distance and duration of the stay you ask of your dog. So far, so good.

As the handlers and their dogs practiced, I noticed one dog doing exactly what my younger dog, Kane, does when we work on the stay behavior. Every time this dog’s handler gave the hand signal and verbal cue for “stay,” his dog turned her head away, jumped to her feet, and looked around for something else to do. Clearly, there is something about the stay behavior that she found either aversive or perhaps just far less rewarding than the other behaviors we practiced in class.

 

Kane Doesn’t Like the Stay Cue

In Kane’s case, he loves doing all the “action” sort of behaviors I might ask him for: sit, down, stand, back up, spin, go through my legs. And he enjoys the eye contact that we usually share while we are working on these behaviors. But, just as the dog in class last night, often, when I cue him for “stay,” his head will immediately swivel and he will look away, like, “Did I just hear the doorbell? Maybe I should go check!”

 

Unhappy face when told “down stay”

As an active dog, I think Kane finds the stay behavior extremely boring – and what’s more, it’s more difficult for him to do than the far more fun, active, exuberant behaviors. Not difficult physically – difficult mentally. To counter this, and keep solid stays, I really need to increase the quality and quantity of the rewards he gets for good stays, keep the length of the behaviors extremely unpredictable (if they are all long, no reward is good enough to make it worth his while!), and not over-practice. This is one of his behaviors that gets worse with more practice, not better, since he finds it to be extremely not fun.

 

Resist the Urge to Over-Practice!

It’s human to want to keep practicing the behavior your dog is not very good at – especially when she’s really good at almost every other behavior you ask for! But resist that urge! – unless you can find a way to change how you ask for or practice the behavior, so that your dog actually loves to hear your cue for that particular behavior. Kane loves to come find me when I hide, so I guess I will start cueing him to “stay” before I release him to find me (with a whistle, from my hidden location). I hope that will increase his interest in and desire to “play” the “stay” game.

Are there any behaviors that your dog hates being asked to do? How can you tell he or she doesn’t enjoy it? How have you countered your dog’s unhappy reaction to the cue?

The Dog Nanny websitestop that get back here smile dog

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Dog Owners

training

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 professional dog trainer, 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.

The Dog Nanny Website

Losing a Dog is Hard: Pet Loss Support for Dog Death

The loss of a close friend can be devastating, and pets can be among our dearest companions. A pet frequently provides unconditional love, emotional security, and loyalty. It can be difficult to understand dog death and even harder to grieve and eventually move on.

Routine activities with an animal companion often provide structure, fun, relaxation, and social contact in our daily lives. The death of a cherished pet can mean the loss of an entire lifestyle as well as a devoted companion. Lack of understanding and support from people around us can make this period even more difficult.

Depending on the nature of the relationship with the dog you’ve lost and on the effectiveness of the coping skills you’ve developed in your life, the time it takes to feel better after losing a dog can vary widely. What I tell people is that if after one year you feel no different from your worst emotional pain right after the loss of your dog, then you’re a good candidate for individual counseling.

Seek medical help if a few days after your loss you still feel so depressed or sad that you cannot handle even the basic tasks of your life. If you ever feel so hopeless as not to want to continue living without your dog, tell your doctor about these feelings as soon as possible.

it never just a dog

Dog Death: Handling the Loss of a Dog

Here are some tips to help you handle dog death.

Be prepared. In some instances, the death of a pet can be anticipated; the animal may be old or suffering from an extended illness. Other pet owners will be faced with a sudden loss, the result of an accident or short-term illness. Things that will need to be considered with a gravely ill or seriously injured animal include the pet’s quality of life, emotional and financial cost, and when, or if, euthanasia should be considered. It is best to have contemplated these difficult matters beforehand.

Accept and express your feelings. It is important to understand that grief is a personal experience and there are no right or wrong ways to express it. The most important part of healing is to acknowledge what you are feeling and somehow release it. Try writing your thoughts in a journal or talking with family and friends. A good long cry can help, too.

Perform rituals. Many people find comfort in rituals, like paying their final respects with a service or setting up a small memorial with photos and objects that had significance in their pet’s life, such as a collar, bowl, or toy. It is important to set aside time to think about the good times and remember to pay extra attention to surviving pets. They may need consolation during this difficult period too.

Seek support. You may be admonished by well-meaning friends saying, “He was only a dog.” Others may encourage you to “get another one,” as if your longtime companion could easily be replaced. This can make expression of your pain even harder. It is important to realize that you are not alone. Speaking with a counselor, joining a support group or participating in an Internet chat room can act as a wonderful resource for consolation and affirmation.

Feeling connected to other people or animals makes it easier to cope with dog death. The more emotionally isolated you are, the harder it can be to heal.

Pet loss support groups are available throughout the country. If you have specific questions about euthanasia or you would like more information about pet loss support groups, contact your veterinarian or check your local telephone directory or pet store.

One such group – Pet Loss Support Hotline at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine – was co-founded by Bonnie Mader. See the list of options below.

Deciding that you want to feel better is healthy. Some people think that feeling better will take them further away from the relationship they had with their pet. What might be helpful in cases like this is to learn to realize that recovery from grief doesn’t mean forgetting about your beloved dog.

Talking to someone can help you to deal with dog death.

lossing a dog

Understanding Dog Death: The Stages of Grief

Recognizing the stages of grief can give you landmarks on the path to resolution, and help you recognize that your feelings are normal. The term “task” is used rather than “stage” to avoid giving the impression that grief is something marked by well-defined milestones. The mourner should not feel that he or she must follow some pre-set list, each lasting a determined period of time.

Remember that the grieving process for each individual is as unique as each lost relationship. There is no set pattern or time period for recovery, but there are some general patterns.

Denial. Most people will experience a period of denial, refusing to believe the pet is dying or has died. Denial usually is strongest when there is little time for preparing, such as with an accident or short-term illness.

Bargaining. For pets facing imminent death, many people will try to make a deal with God, themselves, or even the pet, in a desperate attempt to deter fate.

Anger. In frustration, anger may be directed at anyone involved with the pet, including friends, family, veterinarians, and even the pet owner himself. Blame directed at oneself often can lead to guilt.

Guilt. Guilt is probably the most common emotion resulting from the death of a pet. As the pet’s primary caretaker, all decisions regarding care are the pet owner’s responsibility. When a pet dies, the owner often feels guilty about actions taken or not taken – even about things that happened before the pet became ill. The most attentive caretaker may feel he or she should have somehow done more. It is important to try not to second-guess the decisions you made, and to remember that you tried to act in your pet’s best interest.

Depression. Depression can indicate the start of acceptance. It is normal to withdraw and contemplate the meaning of the relationship in solitude. Deep and lasting despondency, however, requires professional help.

Acceptance. Now is the time to remember the good times. The daily reminders become a little less painful. You find you can start to think about the future.

Considering Another Dog After Losing a Dog

A new pet is just that – a new pet. He or she can never replace the pet you lost. If you decide to get another pet, you will be entering into an entirely new and different relationship. Be sure that you are psychologically, physically, and financially ready and willing to commit the time and energy needed to care for a new animal companion, without resentment or unrealistic expectations.

 

Pertinent Reading to Help You Cope with Dog Death and Loss

A Final Act of Caring, Mary and Herbert Montgomery, Montgomery Press, Minnesota 1993.

Caring for Older Cats and Dogs, Robert Anderson and Barbara Wrede, Williamson Publishing, Vermont 1990.

Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet, Moira Anderson, Peregrine Press, Colorado 1991. Chapter 5: “The Final Decision.”

When Your Pet Dies: How to Cope with Your Feelings, Jamie Quackenbush, Simon & Schuster, New York 1985, Chapter 3: “Your Reactions to Choosing Euthanasia.”

Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults & Children, Herbert Neiburg and Arlene Fischer, Harper & Row, New York 1982.

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How to Stop Poor Dog Behavior

Poor dog behavior is one of the most frustrating problems that veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and pet owners deal with. Because it is “behavior “ and not an underlying medical problem such as vomiting or diabetes, many pet owners think it will be “easy” to fix. However, it takes dedication to stop poor dog behavior. Some dogs have their owners trained and inadvertently encourage poor dog behavior.toy destroy

Understanding and correcting poor dog behavior is important because it is one of the most common reasons that people abandon their dogs or give them back to humane societies and shelters. Some studies suggest that by the age of one year, a large percentage of dogs have been in 5 to 6 homes before finding forever homes. Much of this relocation is due to poor dog behavior.

Let’s learn a few tips about understanding your dog, common causes of poor dog behavior, and tips on what you can do at home.

 

Understanding Your Dog

If you have a dog that behaves badly, it is easy to wonder why. It is important to remember that a dog is a pack animal. This is an important point because many behavior problems can be corrected by understanding this, respecting this, and ensuring you are the pack leader.

As you understand more about dog behavior, you will understand that in some situations training is critical. For some dogs this is easy and for others it is hard. Training your dog takes intentional effort. It can take days, weeks or even months of consistent time communicating with your dog in a way he understands to have a well-trained pooch.

Another important point is to understand that training is not the same thing as punishment. In fact, training is about responding to your dog in a way he understands and doesn’t reward his behavior. Sometimes attention is bad. For example, if a dog is barking and you keep yelling “bad dog”, that is attention. He doesn’t understand your words.

 

Most Common Poor Dog Behaviors

Below are common poor dog behavior problems and tips to help.

 

Inappropriate Chewing

Chewing is a natural behavior in curious puppies as they learn about and explore the world with their mouths. Chewing does have benefits to the teeth and gums. However when chewing is excessive, is on inappropriate objects, or leads to swallowing objects that are not digestible, it then becomes a problem. Some dogs chew when they are bored or stressed.

Veterinary behaviorists suggest that if you see your dog chewing on your favorite shoe, to immediately redirect his chewing to an appropriate item, like a durable Kong® toy or another chew toy. Just as it is critical to redirect his behavior, it is critical for you to praise his good behavior when chewing on the toy.

Ensure your dog has plenty of physical and mental stimulation with toys and playtime.

Begging at the Table

This may be an adorable behavior to some but annoying to others. Some people decline a dinner invitation at someone’s home because they have a dog that sits there begging and staring at you the entire meal. If you decide to fix this poor dog behavior, it is critical that everyone in the home is consistent with this training. It is confusing to a dog to have some members of the family feed him from the table and the other half yell at him.

One option to deal with begging behavior is to crate train your dog or feed your dog in a different room. You can also provide your dog with a food puzzle during dinnertime.

Digging in the Yard

Some dogs love to dig and find it to be great fun. Some of this behavior is based on instinct as they follow a scent, play, or release energy. However when digging is excessive and destroys your yard or flower garden, then it becomes a problem.

One way to deal with this behavior is when your dog is digging, redirect his digging activities to something you find appropriate. Play a game of fetch. Provide a treat toy. Go for a walk. You can also replace his inappropriate digging to a location you find acceptable such as a sandbox in your yard. Remember to reward good behavior when he is digging in the appropriate area.

Barking at Strangers

Dogs may bark at noises, doorbells other animals, or strangers. This can be acceptable in small doses but when it is excessive or you live in an area where everyone is a stranger, this can be downright annoying.

Your dog might bark at the doorbell because he is anxious or excited about visitors. Some dogs believe that their barking is what makes you open the door, so by barking they are trying to train you. Redirect your dog’s attention from the doorbell. Get your dog to sit quietly on the doormat and wait for you to open the door by rewarding this behavior with a treat.

 

Dogs on Furniture

Dogs may love the feeling of a comfy piece of furniture and while some pet parents encourage their dogs to be on the sofa, on the chair or sleep on the bad, other pet parents do not want this behavior in their dog. An important part of dealing with this behavior is to help your dog understand where you find it acceptable and where you do not.

Urine Marking

Urine marking can be a difficult behavior to tolerate. Dogs will urinate to mark territory and/or to communicate with other dogs. While this behavior is acceptable when they are outside, it is not tolerable in the house. The best thing to do is if/when you catch your dog marking urine in the house, firmly tell him “Eh,Eh” and take him outside directly. After you are outdoors and your dog urinates or marks, give him praise or a reward such as his favorite treat.

Compulsive Behavior

Compulsive behaviors in dogs can include chewing, digging in the yard, barking, whining, pacing, and/or tail-chasing just to name a few. Compulsive behaviors are repetitive sequences of behavior that are fairly consistent in their presentation. These behaviors do not serve any purpose and can be destructive.

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8 Simple Rules of Dog Park Etiquette

grayscale photo of person wearing coat walks on snow
Photo by Kylie Flores on Pexels.com

Dog parks offer a way for owners to give their dogs the social interaction with other dogs that they crave (and need), while providing a fun place to get some great off-leash exercise.

But, dogs don’t always get along, and owners don’t always observe basic etiquette and safety guidelines.

Don’t assume that your dog is ready to mix and mingle at a dog park. First, can he handle being around other dogs? Second, do you know how to keep him from biting or being bitten by another dog?

To ensure you and your dog enjoy your next outing safely, here are eight simple rules of dog park etiquette.

 

  1. Recognize the Danger Signs

Before letting your dog off the leash at a dog park, be sure you know how to distinguish friendly dog behavior from threatening behavior. When you notice play is escalating into aggression, you need to be ready to take your dog out of the situation.

  1. Leave the Treats and Toys at Home

Dogs can become aggressive when they see something they want, or if another dog is trying to take their toy or treat. Only take these items if you are sure your dog will be far away from other dogs. Some parks ban toys and treats because they always pose a risk when they are present, so make sure you know the rules of the park you are visiting and be extra careful.

  1. Blow Off Some Steam First

It may seem like a good idea to take your dog to the park after he’s been cooped up all day, but this may be asking for trouble. Many dog owners view the park as the place for exercise. It’s understandable to think this way, but don’t make this mistake. Take your dog for a walk or play in the yard for a few minutes before heading to the park.

Dogs who have not had recent exercise will arrive at the park with too much excess energy, which often results in aggressive behavior toward other dogs and humans. An overly-aggressive dog, although he may be “only playing,” can cause fights or be viewed as prey by larger dogs if he is running around with too much frantic energy.

  1. Scope Out the Situation

When going to a park for the first time, it’s best to leave your dog in the car for a brief moment and assess the park before going inside. If you’re not driving, find a place to tether your dog for a few moments. If there are dogs behaving badly or small children that may bother your pup, you may reconsider taking your dog to that park.

  1. Don’t Bully or Be Bullied

Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and how other dogs are treating him. If another dog is being too rough, ask his owner to control him, then get your dog out of harm’s way. Make sure you are able to recognize when your own dog is being overly-aggressive, and be ready to take him away from other dogs.

If your dog lacks manners when meeting people and other animals, you might not want to take him to the dog park. If he has a tendency to charge up to, mount, or incessantly sniff other dogs, keep him away from the crowds.

  1. Lose the Hazardous Training Devices

Choke chains, harnesses, and prong collars should not be left on your dog when he’s playing in the park. Dogs nibble when they play, and the metal equipment can cause broken teeth or other injuries. Also, if a dog gets stuck in a harness, it can lead to a fight. Safe alternatives are breakaway nylon or leather collars.

  1. Don’t Bring Females in Heat, Unvaccinated Dogs, or Very Young Puppies

Make sure you recognize when your female dog is in heat, and don’t bring her to the dog park. This most often leads to fights among male dogs or aggression toward the female. Also, make sure your dogs are vaccinated so they don’t catch anything from other dogs. Puppies that are less than 12 weeks old should not go to dog parks either, because their immune systems are not strong enough to handle some of the germs circulating in the dog population.

  1. Be Careful With Small Dogs

A dog park can be a dangerous place for smaller dogs. Larger dogs sometimes see smaller ones as prey, especially if the little one is running around in a frantic prey-like manner. If a large dog is harassing your small one, don’t pick him up. This actually triggers a predator instinct in the large dog, and is likely to escalate the problem.

omg is that a new collar

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How and Why Dogs Play

Play, by definition, is fun. When play stops being fun it stops being play. Play is a pleasurable activity during which animals engage in behaviors that are not part of the immediate business of life, but rather are performed in mimicry, rehearsal or display. During play, dogs behave without real seriousness – running, jumping, chasing, mouthing, chewing, wrestling, biting, hiding and even humping. In play, all behaviors are a game to the players and are performed for fun. There is no hidden agenda.

shredding newspaper

Dogs have a unique gesture, the play bow, that signals “play mode.” The signal involves dogs going down on their elbows with their rear end elevated, tail raised and wagging. During such posturing, they have on their “play face,” with mouth open and ears pricked. They may bark to signal their wish to solicit another’s involvement, and may approach or withdraw from a potential play partner while pouncing and leaping about.

Play is usually, but not always, between two or more individuals. Sometimes dogs without partners will play by themselves. Solitary play is a rather sad event and may even have unwanted long-term repercussions.

 

Why Do Dogs Play?

It has been suggested that play is a necessary part of growing up for all young social animals and that without it they may not develop to their full potential. This does not appear to be the case, as animals deprived of play for reasons of sickness or ill health grow up to be behaviorally indistinguishable from their play-satiated peers. This is not to say that “players” may not develop more rapidly than their play-deprived peers, just that the end result often turns out to be more or less the same.

 

If play is not absolutely imperative for normal development to develop, what good is it? Well, play is a role-playing rehearsal for adult behaviors and as such will prepare a youngster for what lies ahead. During play, pups exercise their bodies and minds, making them healthier and smarter for it. In nature, this may give players the edge over their unrehearsed counterparts who may be still struggling to learn the Ps and Qs of canine etiquette or the rudiments of the chase. Note that different types of play unfold in parallel with sensitive periods of learning, so that play learning is most efficient. Mouthiness is first seen at 3 weeks of age, right after the transitional period. Then come play solicitation, play fighting, scruff holding, deference, and finally sexual play.

All these forms of play start in the socialization period between 3 and 6 weeks of age and they intensify as the pup approaches adolescence. Object play, chewing and chasing objects, occurs a little later, becoming most intense after about 16 to 20 weeks of age.

Types of Ways Dogs Play

Social Dog Play

Social skills are honed by playful interactions between individuals. One pup may jump on another pup, pin him, and then mouth him around the head and neck. If the pressure of the pup’s bite exceeds tolerable limits, the temporary underdog will roll over, yelp or run away. Both parties learn an important lesson. The biter learns to inhibit his bite if he wishes the fun to continue, and the pup that is bitten learns that deference or escape will cause the unpleasant experience to come to an end. Of course, sudden role reversal is also a feature of play, with provisional subordinates suddenly becoming pursuers and “attackers.” A happy medium is reached when truly dominant dogs learn their gift for mastery, and subordinates learn how to avoid or deter unpleasant exchanges. This dynamic may explain why dominant dogs are less successful than their subordinates in soliciting play. Aloof pups that don’t play much, and orphaned pups, often grow up to be socially inappropriate. In repelling borders, they may send a message that is too profound, failing to inhibit their bite – and they may not be able to deliver convincing messages of deference.

Sexual Dog Play

This mostly takes the form of mounting, clasping and pelvic thrusting (“humping”). The lack of seriousness is indicated by the somewhat haphazard orientation of this behavior, initially. Male and female pups are equally likely to be targeted, or in their absence, peoples’ legs and cushions may have to suffice. Dogs that have had no humping experience will not be as immediately successful in mating as previously rehearsed counterparts. Also, dogs without playmates may imprint on inanimate objects or human appendages as substrates for humping behavior, and become an embarrassment to own if not neutered. In addition, the relationship between humping and dominance must be born in mind if the correct human-companion animal relationship is to be preserved.

 Oral Dog Play

Young puppies have a biological need to mouth and chew malleable objects. It seems to give them almost undue pleasure. Unlike social and sexual play, this type of play does not require a partner, though socially-testing tug-of-war games sometimes evolve as a spin off. Of course, by teething time, at around 6 to 8 months of age, object chewing becomes an extremely useful adjuvant to assist with tooth loosening and dental eruption, and may even provide some relief from gingival discomfort.

Predatory Dog Play

Chasing moving objects is a sure way of fine-tuning predatory skills. Ball chasing, stick chasing, and leaf chasing, are all ways in which this play form is expressed. With appropriate opportunity and guidance, pups will learn the ins and outs of the chase – how to accelerate, turn on a dime, brake suddenly, and how to pounce with accuracy and alacrity. If deprived of play predatory opportunities, dogs may resort to vacuum chasing of imaginary creatures, may pace, circle, or chase their own tails. This is a sad state of affairs.

Playtime as Dogs Age

In many species, like wolves, play is pretty much restricted to juveniles and adolescents. Adults do not normally have the time or energy to waste in such trivial pursuits. Domestic dogs, however, seem to be enduringly suspended in a juvenile frame of mind. Thus play is not something they outgrow but rather an activity they keenly pursue throughout their lives. Unhealthy and unhappy dogs do not play, so play serves as a barometer of well being, indicating that a dog is well fed, in good health, and content. Dogs, like humans, do not play when they’re sad or distressed. Dogs that do not seem to enjoy playing should be carefully scrutinized to make sure all is well in their lives.

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What Is Your Dog Saying?

A Key to Canine Body Language

adorable animal canine cold

Every dog, whether Akita, bichon, or beagle, knows the same language. You and your dog probably pick up on each other’s signals without thinking much about it. But if your dog begins to behave differently, if you are getting to know a new dog, or if you encounter a dog you don’t know, it helps to be able to read the universal body language of dogs.

If you and your dog landed in Tokyo or Timbuktu tomorrow and were greeted by a local person and his dog, it would take only a few minutes for the two dogs to understand each other. Hours later, you would still be wondering if you were bowing properly, making acceptable hand gestures, or using the right table manners. The dogs, on the other hand, would know just what to do – the lead dog eats first.

 

Signals Dogs Use to Communicate

Although a dog can’t speak and has no hands and fingers for gesturing as humans do, you can watch key parts of his body to determine how he’s feeling and reacting to the world around him.

close up photo of brownish labrador retriever puppy

Face. Although the dog’s facial muscles are not as refined as a human’s, he can wrinkle or straighten his forehead to show confusion or determination. If your dog wants you to give him further direction, he may raise his eyelids quizzically and tilt his head to one side.

Eyes. A dog’s eyes brighten when he looks at a creature he considers friendly and when he wants to play. If he is afraid, his pupils dilate and he shows the whites of his eyes. He averts his eyes to avoid confrontation. But if he is angry or ready to defend himself, his eyes narrow and follow your every move. At this point, it’s particularly important not to look the dog in the eye because he sees that as a challenge to defend his position.

Lips, teeth and tongue. A relaxed dog in normal posture may let his tongue loll out of his mouth. If he wants something from you, if he is happy or wants to play, he may pull his lips back in what appears to be a smile and show his teeth, an expression, by the way, dogs show only to humans and not to other dogs. But beware the dog that bares his clenched teeth and wrinkles his nose. He is ready to attack.

Ears. The dog’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours and even dogs with floppy ears have the ability to move and turn them to follow sounds. If a dog’s ears are raised, he is relaxed, listening, or showing acceptance. If they are back, he may be signaling submission and deference or may be frankly fearful.

Tail. A dog wags his tail when he is happy or wants to play. It is really an energy indicator. When he is submissive, he tucks it between his legs. A taut tail, held down rigidly behind him, may show that he is prepared to spring since he uses his tail for balance when jumping.

Voice. Dogs are vocal animals. They yip, bark, whimper, howl, and growl. The pitch or volume of their sounds can increase with their level of emotion. A bark may be playful or aggressive. Unlike body signals, dog noises can mean different things from different dogs.

barking together

 

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Dog Posture Speaks Volumes – What Your Dog is Saying

When two dogs meet, as long as their human companions aren’t tugging tight on their leashes, they carry out a series of actions that looks like a choreographed dance. With their bodies tense and tails taut, they circle and sniff each other, silently gathering and exchanging information, ready to defend themselves at any moment if necessary. They hold their ears back and the hair on their back may stand on end. They often avoid direct eye contact at first, sizing each other up to determine if the stranger is strong or weak, male or female, hostile or non-hostile. One dog may place his head on the nape of the other’s neck or nip at his nose. It seems they are getting ready to fight and then, one lies down. Soon, they may separate and urinate. At this point they have agreed on which dog is dominant.

Dogs learn body language from their mothers during the first 8 weeks of their lives and they test out this form of communication with their littermates. If a dog misses out on such training, he will have trouble communicating with other dogs throughout life.

Normal posture. The dog appears alert with head held high. His tail moves freely. His jaw is relaxed.

Invitation to play. The dog happily signals his desire to play by wagging his tail and dipping down into a “play bow.” His front legs are in a crouch and his backbone swoops up, leaving his rear haunches high. His head is held up expectantly to capture your attention. He may raise a front leg or lean to one side with his head.

Submission. The dog crouches down further and still appears relaxed. He may lift a front foot as in a play invitation, but his ears are back and his tail is down. He may yawn, scratch, or sneeze, which is meant to calm him and the dogs or people confronting him.

Fearful aggression. A dog who is afraid tenses his body and holds his tail rigid, though it may be wagging. His rear legs are ready to run or spring. He bares his teeth, draws back his ears and the hair on his back stands on end. He growls or snarls constantly to warn off the subject of his fear.

Dominance aggression. Teeth bared, this dog stares you down and advances confidently with his tail wagging slowly and his ears in the forward (alert) position.

Total submission. The dog drops his tail and curls it between his legs. He drops his head to avoid eye contact. He rolls over on his side and bares his belly, with one hind leg raised and urinates. If he isn’t afraid, he’ll tilt his head up a bit and raise his ears to show trust.