What’s better than a pet dog? Two pet dogs. It’s no surprise that millions of pet parents can’t stop at just one four-legged family member. Introducing additional pups to the household is not a decision to make lightly. Just because you’re ready for a new pet doesn’t mean your first dog is quite so enthusiastic about the idea.
Before the Meeting
A little preparation goes a long way in promoting smooth, stress-free interactions between your current dog and new puppy.
Know the dogs: Dogs are social animals, but that doesn’t every dog is itching to see a new puppy introduced to their home. Make sure you understand the personalities and proclivities of both dogs before attempting to make an introduction. Enthusiastic and energetic as most puppies are, some won’t appreciate being asked to share the spotlight with another dog. An adult dog, on the other hand, may not like being asked to engage with a high-energy young puppy. Before bringing a new puppy home, make sure you’ve carefully reflected on both you and your dog’s readiness for a new addition to the family. That’s the first step in ensuring a peaceful multi-dog home.
Work on leash training: Both dogs should be familiar with wearing a leash and understand the proper etiquette for interacting with people and other dogs while leashed before they’ve met. When picking out a new dog, try to learn about how they’ve been socialized and how their communication skills have developed. The team at a shelter or adoption center can help paint a picture of how your pup may respond to a new environment.
Set the scene: Find or create the perfect location for a smooth introduction. Whether you’re indoors or out, create a space that’s free of clutter and offers plenty of room for dogs to engage one another or spend time on their own.
During the Initial Meeting
A proper introduction is just as important in the canine world as it is in the human world. You can’t just assume that two pups meeting for the first time will make fast friends. Here are some dos and don’ts to help you with the initial introduction as well as future interactions.
Dog Introductions: What to Do
Pick Neutral Ground: Making an introduction at home, surrounded by familiar objects, could encourage territorial feelings in your current dog. This could mean a testy introduction or even a serious fight. Look for a neutral territory like a dog park, a friend’s house, or a neighbor’s yard next time you’re introducing two dogs.
Keep Verbal Cues to a Minimum: Offer praise and verbal corrections when necessary, but try not to overwhelm either dog with too much sound. You can reward good behavior more emphatically once the first meeting is complete.
Take Breaks: A little quality time can go a long way. It’s never a good idea to force unfamiliar dogs together for extended periods. If it seems like either dog’s energy is flagging, don’t be afraid to call it a day.
Dog Introductions: What Not to Do
Don’t Allow Dogs to Fight: If you notice that your puppy playdate has taken a turn for the worse, step in immediately to separate the two dogs. While fights may be short-lived, it’s best not to take any chances.
Don’t Leave Dogs Alone: Dogs should not be left unsupervised. If you must leave dogs alone for any period of time, ensure they’re kept in separate areas. For indoor intros, a baby gate, dog crate, or closed door can provide a useful barrier.
Don’t Get Frustrated: It takes time to build strong bonds between dogs. Even if the first few introductions don’t go as planned, persistent pet parents are more than capable of enforcing house rules and helping pets get along.
What to Watch For
A dog’s body language during introductions and other meetings can tip you off to potential conflicts before they occur.
Watch out for these potential warning signs:
Raised tails or hackles (the hair at the back of a dog’s neck)
Standing perfectly still
Either dog putting their head over the shoulders of the other
Always remember that wagging tails do not always indicate happy dogs. A straight tail that’s wagging stiffly is potentially a signal of dominance and aggression.
After the Initial Meeting
Patience and persistence are everything when it comes to ensuring pet relationships start off on the right paw. Supervise interactions closely during your dogs’ initial weeks together, offering praise and positive reinforcement along the way. Keep an eye out for signs of conflict like those noted above and be ready to intervene if necessary. You’ll want to exercise special care around food and favorite toys, which may inspire tussles between your dogs.
Throughout the introductory phase, don’t forget to give plenty of attention and affection to both of your pets. Neither your puppy nor your older dog should ever think that they’re getting any less love than their new sibling.
Fix these little things to make your dog far more comfortable
If there was something simple you could do that would make your dog much happier, you’d do it in a flash, right?
Every day I see owners going to great lengths, and spending small fortunes, to indulge their dogs. That’s why I’m perplexed when I see those very same folks ignoring the smaller, easy-to-rectify issues that diminish their dog’s daily quality of life, causing anything from mild irritation to major pain.
Some of the most important keys to our dogs’ happiness are free or low-ticket items that nobody advertises – so they can often go under the radar. Here are five simple things that you can fix to greatly improve your dog’s quality of life:
1. LONG NAILS. Ready for the hard truth? You need to be clipping or grinding your dog’s nails every three weeks.
I know. Your dog hates it. You hate it. So you put it off, and ask the vet or groomer to do it whenever your dog goes in. Unfortunately, unless you’re in the habit of monthly visits, that’s not nearly enough.
Here why too-long nails have a giant impact on your dog’s day and can become a true emergency:
* Each step your dog takes on those nails puts inappropriate pressure on the toes. That makes them twist unnaturally – and hurts!
* The pain causes dogs to compensate by adjusting their posture. That can cause orthopedic issues and can eventually be the source of hind-end weakness/soreness.
* Long nails give dogs even less grip on slippery wood or tile floors, increasing the likelihood of muscle strain. This is particularly hard on older dogs who’ve lost muscle tone. Imagine trying to walk across an ice-skating link wearing shoes with a smooth sole. That’s how your dog feels on slippery floors!
With a few exceptions, if a dog’s nails are clicking on the floor, it’s time. And if you’re thinking that’s not true for your own dog because clipping that short would absolutely mean cutting the quick, I have more bad news for you. The quick – the nerve inside the nail that bleeds when you cut it – grows along with the nail. So if you let the nails get too long, the quick gets too long, too.
The only remedy is an intense phase of even more frequent trimming! The quick always recedes back from the edge of the nail. After six weeks or so of weekly careful trimming, you should have a quick short enough that you can keep those nails from clicking on the floor.
Maybe you’ve always known how important nail trimming is but want to leave it to the “experts” because you still remember that time you cut a nail too short and made it bleed? My own “Aha!” moment came when my daughter interned at the local vet, and let me know that there is not some kind of perfect nail magic happening in that back room. Instead, they do their best, and sometimes they mess up. The difference is that you don’t see it happen and they use styptic to stop the bleeding. It’s a pain-free experience – but only for you.
That information was huge to me. I realized I was putting my dogs through extra stress so that I could avoid the drama myself. I decided that if this is to be done every three weeks, surely it’s better for my dogs to experience it with me, in the comfort of their own home. So, I worked on this skill; it’s not brain surgery! I’m pretty good at it now, and you can be, too. Here’s what will help:
* Make sure your clippers are sharp! Dull blades compress the nail before they cut through and so they can cause discomfort, even when the quick isn’t nipped. As soon as you notice that they require more force to snip through your dog’s nails, buy some new ones. I buy new clippers regularly since I clip a lot of dogs.
* Try a grinder! I was always afraid of these but have come to adore this option which leaves the nails with nice soft edges and avoids the possibility of cutting the quick with a single snip. (For more tips on using grinders, see “Grinders vs. Clippers,” WDJ October 2020.)
* Take the time to condition your dog to the experience. Pair even just the sight of the clippers or the sound of the grinder with something delicious. Dried fish! Feta cheese! Do that as frequently as you have to until you see that happy head swivel at the sight of the tool. Next step: Touch the tool to the paw, then treat. A baby-step approach can work wonders. While this may sound like it will take tons of time and patience, each interaction like this takes only seconds.
* Start small. Remember there’s no rule that you have to do all of the nails at once. With some dogs, I do two nails and call it a day.
I implore you to work on this. You’ll screw up at first and you’ll want to give up. Stick with it because the more you do it, the better you get. And once you are skilled, you’re going to hit that every-three-weeks mark. It may never be your favorite part of the day, but you and your dog can get to the point where you don’t dread it. The sooner you get brave and learn to deal with this, the sooner your dog will find walking to be much more comfortable.
Some owners enjoy hearing the jingle-jangle of their dog’s ID tags; some use the sound to help keep track of their dog’s whereabouts in the house or yard. But consider that your dog may be irritated by the constant noise.
2. CLINKING TAGS. Does the sound of your dog’s clinking tags ever bug you? Now imagine those tags were around your own neck 24/7, and you had incredibly acute hearing. Sad, right?
Sure, maybe most dogs get used to it. But why in the world should they? There are fantastic products out there that make clinking tags a torture device of the past.
Before you examine those new options, take the easiest step: simply reduce the number of jingling objects. Remove outdated license or rabies tags, and ponder whether you really need that rabies tag. Most counties do not require them as the license itself indicates an up-to-date vaccination history.
Once you’ve minimized the number of tags, it’s time to make them quieter. One option is to bundle them so that they don’t bang against each other. Plenty of do-it-yourself-ers have always done this using rubber bands or electrical tape. Sure, it’s not easy to get to those tags, but if your dog never gets lost nobody will ever need to read them! However, if you’re looking for a cuter option, there are now great little pouches that can slip on, and wrap those tags together in silence.
Another thought is to take advantage of silicone. You can opt for a silicone ID tag rather than a metal one, or buy rubbery silencers that fit around the edge of the tags. Easily available online, they come in all sorts of colors and in the typical tag shapes.
Finally, there’s the no-dangling-ID-tag approach. There are slide-on tags that loop over the collar and lay flat. (I use these, with our generic family ID information, for my foster dogs, because I can easily move them from collar to collar.) You can also order a custom collar with ID information either engraved on a metal plate that’s riveted to the collar, or stitched on the collar itself.
Even if you don’t really want to change anything about your dog’s tags, give mealtime a consideration. I had a client who was perplexed about why her dog was finicky about eating at home, but happily wolfed down the exact same food at the pet-sitter’s house. A little investigation revealed the difference: The pet-sitter used a low plastic plate rather than a high steel bowl to serve the dog’s food, reducing the noise that was interfering with the dog’s ability to eat in peace! Now that he has a new dish at home that tags don’t bang against, that pup eats normally.
Many owners find it handy to leave their dogs’ harnesses on all the time, especially for dogs who are difficult to “dress”. This practice not only poses the risk of rubbing a raw place on your dog but also is not as comfortable as being “naked” when he’s home.
3. ILL-FITTING, 24/7 HARNESSES. Harnesses have many uses, but they must fit perfectly, and in most cases, they should not be left on 24/7.
While it’s easy to get a collar to fit well, a harness is another thing entirely. There are so many contact points – so many spots where, depending on how the dog is sitting, moving, or lying down, there may be rubbing, pinching, and discomfort. When you get a harness, it’s critical to invest the time needed to figure out exactly how it’s supposed to fit. Many manufacturers have posted video instructions on YouTube – those are always worth watching. After that, make sure you check and adjust regularly, particularly if you have a growing puppy.
Even if you have a perfectly fit harness, though, remember that in most cases it is specifically for leash walks. It feels like you need a PhD to get your dog into some of these contraptions, which is one reason people simply leave them on. But … gosh. Would you want to wear that every minute of your life? Many dogs just tolerate this, but why do we ask them to do that if we love them so much?
4. MINOR SKIN/COAT/EAR ISSUES. We’ve all had that moment when we discover something on our dog that we should have found earlier: a tick, an infected ear, a mystery cut, a burr tangled deep in fur. No matter what it is, the sooner it’s found, the easier it is to fix. That timing can mean the difference between a simple at-home treatment and an expensive vet bill. More significant is the amount of discomfort your dog had to endure for goodness knows how long!
When your life is busy and your dog is active, though, it’s easy to miss things. The more you groom your dog, the more you have a chance to catch all sorts of things: new lumps and bumps, changes in fur texture, hair loss, parasites, mats that could be painful.
Whether you use a groomer or not, it’s a great idea to get into a once-weekly home exam routine. I now keep my tools (brush, nail clippers, little scissors, ear cleaner) in a basket near the TV so that when we’re relaxed at night I can slip over and make sure everybody’s in good shape. If I had to walk over and get it, I probably wouldn’t, because I’m lazy! This way, grooming has become a habit and I feel I’m always well aware of each dog’s status – and confident nobody’s suffering in silence.
All the previous “fixes’ we’ve proposed are inexpensive or free. Providing your dog with regular dental care can be costly – but not as expensive as treating the health problems that neglected dental issues can cause.
5. NEGLECTED TEETH. If your dog’s breath is super stinky and her gums are red, please contact your vet’s office and schedule a dental exam!
Dental problems not only cause daily discomfort but also can have serious downstream health effects, like endocarditis from a chronic bacterial infection caused by the buildup of dental calculus. Endocarditis is six times more likely to occur in a dog with advanced gum disease as a dog with healthy gums.
Dental problems also cause chronic pain, which can make a dog cranky, reactive, and/or anti-social. Those of us who work in rescue have seen formerly neglected dogs with dental problems who seemed unfriendly and shut-down transform into seemingly younger, happier, and more engaged dogs after they had a veterinary dental cleaning and extractions or repair of broken or rotten teeth.
I’m all for indulging dogs with luxuries to make them happy and comfortable, but I think if we asked our dogs, they’d ask us to address the issues above first. It’s the low-hanging fruit of canine quality of life!
The use of Therapeutic Grade 100% Pure essential oils, has become very popular, with the emergence of several MLM Companies offering Essential oils. The has also been in the news feed lately a lot of concern about Dogs & Cats, getting sick, from owner diffusing essential oils, some even dying. What these articles do not seem to state is if the oil in used were 100% Pure Therapeutic grade. So I caution everyone, if your using Essential Oils be sure what you buying from an MLM or herbal store is certified as 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade.
However, there are a few oils, that are not good for dogs, no matter the grade, so here is a list, of No No oils.
Here is a list of essential oils NOT to use
if you have a dog at home
Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
Bitter Almond (Prunus dulcis)
Boldo (Peumus boldus)
Calamus (Acorus calamus)
Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
Cassia (Cassia fistula)
Chenopodium (Chenopodium album)
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Goosefoot (Chenopodium murale)
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Hyssop (Hyssopus sp. with the exception of Decumbens)
Juniper (Juniperus sp. with the exception of Juniper Berry)
How a little bucket can improve a dog’s quality of life – and your
relationship with that dog.
My wonderful Dogue De Bordeaux Cadbury, suddenly did not like her nails trimmed. She was relatively tolerant of my insistence on trimming her nails, except when it came to her hindquarters. When I would try to trim her back feet, she tensed up and sometimes even growled.
Then she learned the Bucket Game, and as a result of her learning a new way to communicate her feelings to me about being groomed – one that didn’t require the escalation of aggressive behaviors – her attitude during grooming went from tolerance to complete relaxation and enjoyment. She was a classic study in the behavioral value of giving our dogs choice and control in their world through cooperative care.
Cooperative care involves training an animal to not only tolerate handling and husbandry procedures, but also to be an active, willing participant in these experiences.
All dog owners need to perform basic husbandry tasks on their dogs at some point – pull burrs out of the dog’s coat, examine and clean a wound, administer eye drops, clean ears, brush teeth, and so on. To gain their dogs’ willing participation in these tasks, first, dog owners teach their dogs some basic behaviors for cooperative care – skills that will ease your way through almost any dog-care procedures that owners are likely to face. Teachs these essential skills in a specific order, so the dog learns them in a systematic and progressive way. “10 Essentials” for cooperative care are:
1) Chin Rest (or Bucket Game)
2) Lie on Side
4) Wear a Muzzle
5) Foot Handling
6) Mouth Handling
7) Taking Medication
8) Injection or Blood Draw
9) Eye Exam
10) Ear Exam
THE BUCKET GAME – A GAME OF CHOICE
There are a variety of protocols that can help your dog learn to enjoy these procedures. The Bucket Game is one of the most inventive and versatile. The Bucket Game was developed and introduced to the dog training world by trainer Chirag Patel, owner of Domesticated Manners, a training business in London. Once taught, the Bucket Game can be used for several of the 10 essential behaviors, as well as for everyday husbandry procedures such as grooming and nail trimming.
This fun and easy dog-training protocol empowers the learner, by creating an environment where your dog has choice and can communicate her willingness to participate. Using the Bucket Game, your dog can tell you:
• When she is ready to start
• When she needs to take a break
• When she wants to stop
• When you need to slow down
All you need to play the Bucket Game is a little bucket or some other container to hold treats and a lot of small, high-value treats.
STEP 1: TEACHING IMPULSE CONTROL IN THE PRESENCE OF THE BUCKET
1. Start by holding the bucket out to your side. Reward your dog (feed a treat from the bucket) for looking at the bucket but maintaining some distance from it (two to four feet).
Usually, once your dog has seen you reach into the bucket, take out a yummy treat, and feed it to her, she’ll look at the bucket again, wondering what it’s all about. Be ready! When you see her glance at it, take a treat out of it and give her one. You’re on your way. Repeat a number of times.
If your dog tries to jump up or dive into the bucket, don’t admonish her; just hold it higher. It shouldn’t take long for her to realize that the best way to get more treats is to keep returning her gaze to the bucket without trying to jump up and help herself to them.
2. Put the bucket on the ground, a chair, or a table, and reward the dog (feed a treat from the bucket) for looking at it but not trying to get it. Your dog can be in any position; you are simply rewarding her for looking at the bucket. Repeat several times.
3. Gradually begin increasing the duration of her gaze, by rewarding her with treats from the bucket for looking at it for longer and longer periods. Don’t wait too long, increasing the duration too much, too quickly, as this may cause the behavior to extinguish.
Remember, this is a game of choice; your dog is allowed to look around between focusing on the bucket. Don’t call her, tap on the bucket, or do anything else to draw her attention to it. Let your dog choose to engage to participate.
STEP 2: INTRODUCING THE CONCEPT OF CHOICE
1. Practice until your dog is able to focus on the bucket for a duration of at least 10 seconds. Remember that it doesn’t matter what position she’s in; it could be a sit, down, or stand.
2. Choose what procedure you want to introduce to your dog as part of the Bucket Game, such as being groomed or looking in her ears. I’ll describe the steps as if we were working on brushing the dog.
3. When she is focused on the bucket and able to hold her focus for at least 10 seconds, start moving your hand toward her side (not touching her). If she continues to look at the bucket, stop moving your hand toward her and feed her a treat from the bucket. If she looks away from the bucket, probably to look at your hand or face (“What are you doing?”), just draw your hand back.
Remember, this is a game of choice. She may not yet understand that she can communicate to you that she is uncomfortable – she may have just been curious, but she will come to understand as you continue the process.
4. When she re-engages with the bucket, the game begins again. This time, don’t move your hand so fast or far. If she is able to maintain focus on the bucket, reward her with a treat from the bucket.
Repeat this process with your hand moving toward her, closer and closer, giving her a treat every so often as long as she continues to gaze at the bucket, and withdrawing your hand if she looks away from the bucket.
5. Eventually, you should be able to touch her as she gazes at the bucket. The first time you make contact with her, she will likely look at you. Just withdraw your hand, and try again after she gazes at the bucket again. She should be starting to figure out that the only way to get treats is to keep gazing at the bucket, no matter what you do with your hand. Touch her with increasing pressure at various locations on her body where you will be grooming her, rewarding her every so often. Again, don’t wait so long that she starts to think it’s not worth playing the game, but she should be able to hold her gaze on the bucket for at least 10 or 15 seconds while you touch her.
6. Now pick up her brush and repeat Step 3, this time with the brush in your hand. After several repetitions with the brush held near her, start touching her with the brush. This continues until you are able to groom your dog with her looking at the bucket.
THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE OF THE GAME
When your dog has learned the game for one procedure, you can easily generalize it to others, including ear and mouth exams, foot handling, nail trimming, etc.
However, this game of choice will only work if you allow your dog to communicate that she wishes to begin, take a break, and stop the game. If your dog looks away from the bucket, stop the game. When she re-engages with the bucket, the game continues. It’s imperative that you honor her request to stop and only use the procedure when you are able to honor her request to stop.
If you use the Bucket Game while working with other animal-care professionals, they also must be willing to stop any procedure when your dog looks away from the bucket. If they are not willing to do so, don’t use the Bucket Game with them. If they are doing a procedure that cannot be stopped once it has started, don’t use the Bucket Game with that procedure.
Are dogs stubborn? Here’s what you need to know about training a ‘stubborn dog’.
I laugh whenever I hear someone refer to a dog as “stubborn.” It is patently unfair to label a dog as stubborn.
Dogs do what works for them (as we all do), and when they aren’t doing what we ask, they have a good reason.
When your dog doesn’t respond to your cue, perhaps he’s come to associate it with something aversive, perhaps he doesn’t understand what you’re asking, or perhaps he’s too distracted or stressed and your request doesn’t even register in his brain.
In any case, it’s our job, as the supposedly more intelligent species, to figure out how to get our dogs to want to do what we want them to do.
Some people believe dogs should do what they are told, simply because we tell them to. “Because I said so!” hearkens back to childhood, when parental directives were often accompanied by the implied “Do it, or else!”
In these days of a more enlightened dog training philosophy, this coercive approach isn’t what many of us want with our dogs. We prefer relationships based on a cooperative partnership.
If your dog isn’t doing what you ask, consider these questions:
Are you training competently?
Remember, dogs shouldn’t have to do what we say just because we tell them to – or just because they love us. We want them to want to do it. Make sure your reinforcers are valuable enough that your dog will eagerly offer the behaviors you ask for, and that you are marking and/or delivering the reinforcer with good timing so your dog associates the reinforcer with the desired behavior.
Is there something aversive about the behavior?
Years ago, my first Doberman, Karla, started refusing jumps when we were training for obedience competition. I didn’t punish her for not jumping – I took her to my veterinarian and discovered she had bad hips. It hurt her to jump.
A behavior can also be emotionally aversive.
If a car ride always means a trip to the vet, your dog could become very reluctant to jump into the car. Your challenge is to make car rides consistently predict “good stuff” – a hike in the woods, a trip their favorite canine pal for a play session, or? If he’s refusing to enter his crate because he has mild separation distress and associates crating with you leaving, alleviate the separation distress through behavior modification (and possibly appropriate medications), and then convince him that crating is wonderful.
Does he not understand?
You may have taught your dog to respond to a cue for the desired behavior, but perhaps you’ve used body language prompts in the past without realizing it, and now, absent the prompt, he doesn’t understand what you’re asking of him.
Fade all prompts if you want him to respond reliably to verbal cues. Perhaps you’ve always trained in the kitchen in front of the refrigerator, and so he thinks “Sit” means “Sit in the kitchen.” When you ask him to sit in the living room, he doesn’t sit because it’s not the kitchen. He’s not being stubborn – he needs you to help him generalize his behavior so he understands that “Sit” means to put his tail on the ground wherever you ask him to do it.
Your tone of voice does matter. If you usually give cues with a happy voice but your own emotional state causes your voice to sound different, he may not understand.
Is he distracted?
If you haven’t generalized your dog’s behavior to distracting environments, his attention will naturally be drawn to the multitude of exciting things happening around him. He’s not ignoring you; he probably isn’t even hearing you because he’s so focused on the fascinating world around him. Help him hear and respond to your behavior requests by training in various environments with gradually increasing distractions.
Is he stressed?
“Stressed” is an even bigger challenge than “distracted.”
When stress happens, the thinking part of the brain (the cortex) shuts down and the emotional part of the brain (the amygdala) takes over.
We even have phrases in the English language to describe this phenomenon: “I was so scared I couldn’t think straight.” “I was out of my mind with worry.”
When your dog is so stressed, he can’t think straight, it’s unfair to blame him for not doing what you ask. Relieve his stress (remove him from the stressor, and/or do behavior modification to change his association with the stressor) and try again.
Your relationship with your dog will be so much happier when you stop characterizing him as stubborn and realize how you can help him be more responsive to your behavior requests. Now get busy helping him want to do what you want him to do.
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.
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!
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/carates 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
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!
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.
7. 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.
Both dogs and their owners may love to swim but how about swimming with dogs? This can be a fun way to exercise, cool off, and bond with your dog. Below we will share some important water safety and swimming tips that are critical to the safety of you and your dog.
Water Safety Tips
The water can be a fun place to go and exercise but it can also be associated with possible dangers. Hazards include drowning, near drowning, poor water quality, toxins in the water, infectious agents or parasites, exposure to other animals, and possible trauma from things in the water that may not be visible.
Some dogs are really great swimmers and comfortable in the water and others are not. Breeds known to be good swimmers include the standard poodle, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Portuguese Water Dogs, American Water Spaniels, Irish Water Spaniel, Newfoundland, English Setter, Irish setter, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and Spanish Water Dog. Lots of mixed-breed dogs are also good swimmers.
Any dog can be a good swimmer but some breeds that are not known for their swimming abilities including the Bulldog, Pug, French Bulldog, Shih Tzu, Basset Hound, Boxer, Corgi, Chow Chow, Maltese, Pomeranian, and Dachshund.
14 Swimming with Dogs Safety Tips
Some dog lovers jump into swimming pools, streams, rivers, oceans, ponds, and lakes to swim and this can be with their dogs. It can be fun. Some dogs love to fetch balls, Frisbees, or just float around.
Below are 14 tips to help keep you and your dog safe when you are swimming together.
Supervision. Ensure your dog is supervised while he or she is in the water. Things can happen quickly. A dog can get caught on something in the water or caught in a current.
Life vest. Get a life vest or water safety jacket for your dog. Even dogs that are good swimmers can have problems. If you are just floating in the water – it is a good idea to have a life vest on for you as well. Choose a style that is comfortable for your dog and has a handle over the back so you can lift him out of the water if needed.
Have an exit strategy. Ensure your dog has an exit ramp to get out of the water and knows how to use it. Show your dog how to get in and out of the water. Dogs can drown as they struggle to get out of pools or deep lakes without an accessible shoreline.
Restrict access. Prevent water access when you are not around. Dogs can fall in the pool or jump in because there is a duck in the water and drown. Dogs can also run out on the ice and fall through.
Monitor water temperature. Ensure the water temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for your dog.
Monitor water quality. If you are swimming in a lake, pond or stream, it is important to be alert for signs of algae bloom. Some forms of algae can be toxic to dogs and people. Additionally, if you have a pond on your property, consider having the water tested for bacteria or toxins.
Provide quality drinking water. Take plenty of fresh clean drinking water for both you and your dog when swimming together. This will help minimize your dog’s desire to drink from the pool, pond or ocean water. Some of the water can be unsafe to drink or can make your dog sick. Additionally, it is important not to allow your dog to drink too much.
Boat access. If you are swimming with dogs off a boat, make sure that you have a dog-safe ramp to help your dog get out of the water if he jumps in and swims or falls in. Learn more about How to Ensure Safety When Boating With Dogs.
Monitor for signs of heatstroke. Many dogs LOVE the water and what is better than being with you in the water. However, some dogs will overdo it especially if they are working hard swimming in the direct sun. Take frequent breaks and ensure your dog has plenty of water to drink. Signs of heat exhaustion can be excessive panting, fatigue, and/or lethargy. This can quickly advance to signs of heatstroke such as collapse, weakness, vomiting, bleeding, and death. Learn more about Heatstroke in Dogs.
Prevent fishing hook hazards. Keep your dog away from fishing bait and poles. Some dogs will step on or even try to eat the bait and swallow the hook which can be a huge problem.
Monitor the water exits for hazards. Just as it is important to ensure your dog can get out of the water, it is important to understand that there are hazards lurking along the edges. Glass and metal can wash up on beaches and shores, debris can be in the water that can cut the paws of dogs.
Post swim bath. Just as we often like to shower after swimming, dogs can benefit from an after-swimming bath. This helps rid them of pool chemicals such as chlorine, algaecides and baking soda you place in your pool as well as parasites, bacteria, and algae that can be on your dog’s fur from lakes, or the ocean.
Dry out. Dry your dog’s ears after swimming to prevent infections. Some of the adorable floppy-eared dogs have ears that never dry out if they get water in them, making them prone to infections.
Animals and parasites. Depending on where you are swimming, in addition to water dangers, there are other dangers. The ocean can have sea lice and jellyfish that can bother dogs. Sea lice are microscopic organisms that can cause severe itching. Jellyfish can sting dogs causing swelling and pain. Other dangers can be snakes, cockatiels, and alligators depending on your location. Please see your veterinarian if you have any concerns that your dog might have been bitten or infected.
If you don’t have time to go swimming with dogs, one thing you can do is create a doggy pool at your home.
I hope these tips help you know more about swimming with dogs.
What you (and your dog!) should know before you bring your dog to work.
As the saying goes, “Life is better when I’m with my dog.” I can cite a long list of ways that she makes my days brighter – even my work days! From petting her soft fur or listening to her quiet snoring, to how she makes me laugh as she playfully brandishes her toys in hopes of a game of tug and getting me away from and computer every few hours.
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute reports pets in the workplace can make employers more attractive to prospective employees, increase employee engagement and retention, improve relationships between employees and supervisors, and lower absenteeism. There’s also potential health benefits: stress management, a calming effect, and often an improvement in work-life balance.
It’s definitely nice to reach down and scratch my dog’s ears when I’m feeling overwhelmed with project deadlines. Stepping outside into the designated employee pet play yard helps ensure I don’t sit at my desk and work through lunch every day. Sometimes we spend my break walking around the block. Mostly, as an apartment dweller, I appreciate knowing he’s not stuck inside at home when I’m working long days. It’s a very nice job perk.
Despite the reported advantages, the Society for Human Resource Management reports less than 10 percent of U.S. employers welcome personal pets in the workplace on a regular basis.
While the benefits are notable, pets (for the purposes of this article, we’ll limit our thoughts to dogs, specifically) in the workplace can be tricky. Some office cultures might support an anything-goes mentality where people don’t bat an eye at a rambunctious indoor dog park unfolding in the lobby. However, the attitude of “love me, love my dog” does not generally bode well for harmonious happenings during the daily grind. Bringing personal pets to the workplace, especially an office environment, is a privilege that might be more widely considered by employers if they felt it was less likely to be disruptive.
If you’re hoping to lobby for Fido to join you at work, or your company is considering implementing a pets-at-work policy, consider the following:
ESTABLISH BASIC HEALTH AND BEHAVIOR GUIDELINES. It should go without saying workplace dogs should be disease- and parasite-free, clean and well-groomed, and appropriately vaccinated.
In the office, the priority should be healthy workplace productivity. Ill-behaved dogs can be a nuisance almost anywhere, but the stakes are much higher when we’re at work. To keep everyone safe, at a minimum, potential canine colleagues should be of sound temperament, well-socialized to people, and should not have a history of aggressive behavior or biting. Excessive barking, jumping up on people, getting into the trash, marking or repeated housetraining accidents, and inappropriate chewing are all behaviors that should not be tolerated in the workplace.
While the definition of “well-trained” will always be subjective, requiring office-candidate dogs to successfully pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is one way to set a minimum behavior standard. Even better, ask employees to attain the mid-level Community Canine title, a similar, 10-part evaluation, but with elements performed in real-life settings such as busy sidewalks or local parks rather than a training facility.
Attaining these titles requires owners to invest time in training their dogs, and trained dogs are much more likely to be comfortable and behave appropriately in different settings. Plus, owners who participate in dog training programs are more likely to understand dog behavior and dog body language, and are therefore likely better equipped to prevent or address challenges that might arise when bringing their dogs to work.
2.MANAGEMENT MATTERS. It’s always important to set dogs up for success. This is especially true when asking them to cohabitate with colleagues who might not be used to sharing their space with dogs. In our opinion, letting office dogs “free range” throughout the office is a recipe for trouble, as it’s impossible to interrupt or redirect your dog’s unwanted behavior when you have no idea where he is or what he’s doing.
Employees with a private office can use a baby gate in the doorway to keep their dogs from cruising the halls without them. If the workplace set-up and dog’s level of training allows, a crate, x-pen or chew-proof tether can be used when owners are unable to supervise the dog, or when the dog needs a little imposed down-time. Make sure the dog has a cozy bed, and use favorite chew items or food puzzles to encourage the dog to spend time on his bed. An office dog doesn’t need to be on-the-go all the time. Dogs home alone spend much of their day quietly lounging; dogs at work can, too.
TAKE PROACTIVE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR DOG. “Love me, love my dog” might fly when seeking a life-partner, but it’s a selfish mentality when sharing workspace with others. If you’re lucky enough to be granted permission to bring your dog to work, go the extra mile to make sure your dog is never a nuisance to others.
Respect colleagues’ wishes to decline interaction. Some people are afraid of dogs. Some cultures view dogs as “dirty” animals that should strictly live outside. Some people live with varying degrees of dog-related allergies. And some people are just “cat people” or otherwise choose to be pet-free. Be sensitive and respectful to these differences. Personally, I like to aim for the standard of a well-trained service dog in a restaurant, that is, for most people to not even realize the dog is there, because it’s quietly tucked at its handler’s feet.
That’s not to say office dogs should never been seen or heard, but in an age where fake service dogs are rampant and many dog owners feel entitled to regularly bring questionably or clearly untrained dogs into otherwise non-pet-friendly establishments, it’s more important than ever for responsible dog owners to go the extra mile to show how welcoming dogs need not become problematic for others.
Keep your dog well-groomed to reduce shedding. Have lint rollers and hand sanitizer handy for any colleagues or visitors who might welcome interaction but are surprised by the “magical fibers of love” now clinging to their pants or who might want to clean their hands. Immediately address barking or rambunctious play, especially when colleagues are within earshot and on the phone, in a meeting, or on a deadline. If your dog is overly solicitous of attention from others, direct him to “go lie down,” so colleagues can work in peace.
Give your dog ample opportunities to relieve in approved areas and clean up after him. Keep cleaning products on hand for unexpected accidents or moments of illness. Leave the toy with the 16 squeakers and the animal-product chew stick – the one that smells like warm death when soggy after a good chewing – at home.
And whatever you do, if your dog ever happens to counter-surf someone’s unattended lunch from their desk, immediately offer to replace it, no excuses!
REMEMBER, IT’S AN OFFICE, NOT A DOG PARK. Many people enjoy sharing their lives with multiple dogs, but when it comes to dogs in the workplace, there can easily be too much of a good thing. If you have more than one dog, consider rotating which dog accompanies you to the office each day. Even where I work, at a dog-related organization, where everyone’s workspace has been designed to safely manage dogs, and half of the dog-owning employees are trainers, staff are limited to bringing only two personal dogs to work each day.
ADVOCATE FOR YOUR DOG. Not all dogs are good candidates for the workplace, even if they aren’t outwardly aggressive. Shy or fearful dogs might prefer the stability of staying home versus the sometimes unpredictable nature of the workplace and its accompanying sense of “stranger danger.” If your dog gets car sick, he might not appreciate starting and ending each day in the car. If your dog is generally indifferent to other dogs, he might not enjoy sharing relatively close quarters with your cubicle-mate’s social butterfly of a Labrador.
It’s important to carefully consider your dog’s temperament and overall personality. Maybe he’s not right for the workplace at all. Or maybe it’s best to limit office visits to a couple of days each week.
Even if your dog is perfectly suited for life in the office, it’s still important to set some boundaries. If colleagues have the opportunity to interact with your dog, don’t be afraid to request that they follow certain rules. They might not care if your dog jumps on them, but if you care, insist they ask your dog to sit before petting. They might want to shower your dog with Scooby Snacks all throughout the day. If that doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to set some guidelines. Be nice about it, but it’s perfectly okay to ask that your ground rules be followed.
Welcoming dogs into the workplace can be a great way to boost employee morale, but it’s not without its challenges, and it’s not right for every organization. Careful planning and clear expectations can go a long way in setting up people – and their pets – for success when implementing a canine colleague polices.
Take Your Dog to Work Day
Established in 1999 by Pet Sitters International, Take Your Dog to Work Day celebrates the companionship of dogs, encourages adoption, and educates colleagues who don’t have dogs about the joys of the human-animal bond – perhaps they’ll adopt canine companions of their own!
Participating in this year’s event, held nationwide on June 26, 2020, is a great way to introduce the idea of dogs in the workplace on a more regular basis.
My first choice with most clients is this: changing the dogs’ opinion of each other through counterconditioning and desensitization (CC&D).
CC&D for intra-pack aggression involves changing your dogs’ association with each other from negative to positive. The easiest way to give most dogs a positive association is with very high-value, really yummy treats. I like to use chicken – canned, baked, or boiled, since most dogs love chicken and it’s a low-fat, low-calorie food.
Here’s how the CC&D process works:
1. Determine the distance at which your dogs can be in each other’s presence and be alert or wary but not extremely fearful or aroused. This is called the threshold distance. If one dog has a greater threshold hold distance than the other (often the case), work at the greater distance.
2. With you holding Dog A on leash, have your helper appear with Dog B at threshold distance “X.” The instant your dog sees the other, start feeding bits of chicken, non-stop. Your helper will feed chicken to her dog, too, the instant he notices your dog.
3. After several seconds, have the helper step out of sight with Dog B, and you both stop feeding chicken.
4. Keep repeating steps 1-3 until the sight of the other dog at distance “X” consistently causes both dogs to look at their handlers with a happy smile and a “Yay! Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is the physical presentation of the dogs’ conditioned emotional response (CER); each dog’s association with the other at threshold distance “X” is now positive, so they can deliberately look at you to get their chicken, rather than staying intensely focused on each other.
5. Now you need to increase the intensity of the stimulus by increasing the length of time Dog B stays in sight. Continue to feed chicken when they are in view of each other, occasionally pausing to let them look at each other again, and immediately feeding chicken when they do.
6. When length of time seems to make no difference to either dog – you’re getting a consistent “Yay, where’s my chicken?” response regardless of how long Dog B stays in view, increase the intensity again, this time by increasing Dog B’s movement. Have the handler walk back and forth with her dog, still at distance “X,” slowly at first, then with more energy, even adding in some other behaviors such as sit, down, and roll over.
7. Now you’re ready to start decreasing distance by moving Dog A a little closer to the location where the Dog B will appear. When you obtain consistent CERs from both dogs at each new distance you can decrease the distance a little more, until both dogs are happy to be very near each other.
8. Then return to your original threshold distance and increase intensity stimulus by having Dog B move around more and more, as you gradually decrease distance and obtain CERs from both dogs along the way, until they are delighted to be near each other.
9. Now go back to your starting distance and increase intensity again, by having both dogs move more naturally as the distance decreases, offering CERs at each new distance before you come any closer, until they can be within six feet of each other, moving around, still relaxed and happy about chicken.
10. Finally, find ways for your dogs to engage separately in mutually enjoyable activities together. If they both enjoy car rides, take them for a drive, but be sure they are seat-belted or crated far enough apart to avoid any tension. If they love hiking, take them on “parallel” walks, one with you, one with your training partner, with humans between them at first, and eventually with dogs between humans when you’re sure their emotions are appropriate. Parallel swims, for dogs who love the water, can work well too.
When you feel the dogs are ready to finally interact with each other again, be careful not to undo all your hard work. You might first let them greet each other through a barrier, such as a baby gate or exercise pen.
It can be frustrating when your dog misbehaves. A dog’s actions often don’t make sense to humans, and it can be hard to understand why a dog behaves in a destructive fashion.
Let’s discuss the causes of bad behavior and methods for correcting it.
Changing Bad Behavior
If you have a dog that is behaving badly, you need to correct the problem, but to do that, you need to understand your dog’s behavior. First and foremost, remember that dogs are pack animals and your dog sees themselves as part of your pack. If you allow your dog to continue their detrimental behavioral, they will think that they are the alpha dog, and behavioral problems will persist.
How many times have you uttered the words, “No! Bad dog!” only to find that it has no effect on your dog’s behavior? That’s because punishment doesn’t work. Most of the time, dogs don’t understand what they’re being punished for.
Changing dog behavioral problems isn’t quick and easy; it can take weeks or months to achieve. The most important thing to remember is that any attention rewards your dog, regardless of whether that attention is good or bad. If you are trying to change levels of dog obedience, always remember that punishment doesn’t work.
The key to changing behavior is not to allow your dog to be rewarded for it. Instead of yelling, give your dog the chance to succeed, and reward them when they triumph. For instance, if your dog is jumping up, tell them to lie down—and when they do, give them a treat. This is the type of dog training that will eventually stop obedience issues.
Also remember the old adage, “a tired dog is a good dog.” It’s true! A tired dog is less likely to exhibit behavioral problems, so make sure that your pup gets plenty of opportunities to run and play. Exercise is important for all dogs, as it helps them use pent up energy, so they’re less likely to direct that energy toward unwanted behaviors.
What Is a Dog Behaviorist?
If you are having trouble with a misbehaving dog, one option to get them back on the right track is to consult a dog behaviorist. These specialists try to find triggers for a dog’s mischief by examining their environment and noting factors that may lead to bad behavior.
Dog Behavior Training Tips
Did you know that behavioral problems are the number one reason dogs are surrendered to shelters or euthanized?
Here are some training tips for common behavioral issues:
Inappropriate Chewing. Dogs explore their environment with their mouths, so chewing comes naturally. Chewing on its own is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can help relieve boredom and stress, and it can help keep your dog’s teeth clean. The key is to get your dog to chew appropriate items. So, if you find your dog chewing on your shoe, redirect their chewing elsewhere, like to a chew toy or rope. It is also important to praise your dog for selecting the appropriate chew toy.
Digging in the Yard. The activity of digging is extremely rewarding to dogs. Your dog may dig because they caught a scent in the air or simply want to release some energy. If you don’t want your dog to dig holes in your yard, redirect their digging activities. Give your dog a sandbox or section off a portion of the yard where it is okay to dig. Reward your dog with treats and toys to make this new digging spot more exciting than their previous point of interest.
Begging at the Table. Consistency is the key to stopping poor behavior, so it is important to make sure that no one in the family feeds the dog at the table. Try to distract your dog from your family’s mealtime by giving them an appropriate activity, like enjoying a food puzzle.
Barking at the Doorbell. Your dog might bark at the doorbell because they are anxious or excited about visitors. Some dogs believe that their barking is what makes you open the door, so by barking they are attempting to train you. Redirect your dog’s attention from the doorbell, and try to get them to sit quietly on the doormat and wait for you to open the door.
Urine Marking. Dogs urinate on different items and places to mark their territory or to leave messages for other dogs. When you catch your dog urine marking in the house, interrupt the activity with a “no” and take them outside immediately. When you get outside, make sure to reward or praise your dog for urinating outdoors. Also, to prevent your dog from continuing to urinate indoors in the same spot, use an enzyme cleaner to remove the scent.