Changing Bad Behavior

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.

Ways to Keep Your Dog Active During Winter

Ways to Keep Your Dog Active During Winter

Cold, rain, snow, and ice can complicate our dogs’ exercise and training plans – but winter weather shouldn’t cancel them!

It can be very challenging to keep your canine family members happy during the ravages of winter. Even those who live in the warmer southern states may face long stretches of forced idleness from winter rains. Without ample enrichment activities, weeks and months of short, dark days can turn even a calm canine into a hyper hound.

Fortunately, the ever-creative modern dog training world has come up with countless ways to keep our dogs happy in inclement weather, so that dogs and humans can spend more time snuggled together in front of the warm fireplace and less time worrying about frostbite or drowning (see “Winter Warnings,” next page).

adorable animal canine cold

KEEPING ACTIVE IN THE WINTER

One of the best ways to stave off your dog’s winter crazies is to provide her with a wide variety of enrichment activities. Some are easy and can be implemented immediately, while some take a little more investment in time and resources. Let’s start with easy:

Indoor Fetch. If there’s only one of you and your dog will fetch, you can stand at the top of the stairs and toss her ball or toy to the bottom, have her run down to get it, run back up to you. If she will chase it but not bring it back, have a laundry basket full of toys or balls, call her back, and just keep throwing new ones. When you have thrown them all, go down the stairs, collect them, and bring them back up. If you don’t have stairs (or she can’t do stairs) use a long hallway. Get added benefit by putting barriers across the hall for her to jump over as she runs back and forth.

Jump the Jumps. When I was a wee child, I used to take broomsticks and mop handles and lay them across chairs all around the house, and then run with my Rough Collie, Squire, as he sailed over my makeshift jumps. You can do the same! If you prefer, you can get sections of PVC pipe at a hardware store. Start with the poles on the ground and use a treat to get your dog to walk over them, then trot over them.

When she is ready for more, use poles to make low X-shaped jumps before you use straight poles to make higher jumps. (Note: Young puppies shouldn’t jump until they are old enough not to be harmed by the repeated impacts. Check with your vet to make sure jumping is a safe activity for your pup.)

Round Robin Recall. You need at least two humans and a dog who loves to come when she’s called for this game. The larger your house and the more humans (within reason!), the better.

Put Billy (B) on the third floor, Janey (J) on the second, Mom (M) on the ground floor, and Dad (D) in the basement. (If stairs are not safely carpeted or dog has trouble with stairs, put all humans in different rooms on the same floor.) Each human has yummy treats and a toy that the dog likes for reinforcement when the dog arrives. Write up a random calling order and give each person a copy to ensure two humans aren’t calling her at the same time, and let the fun begin.

Be sure each person has a fun party with the dog when she gets there! This not only burns off dog energy, it gives the kids something to do, and it helps improve your dog’s recall.

huskey sled reverse

Ball Pit. For this one you need a kiddie wading pool and a generous supply of non-toxic, sturdy ball-pit balls. Put a towel down to cover the bottom of the pool (so the sound doesn’t startle your dog), fill the pool with balls (no water!), and let the fun begin! If your dog doesn’t take to it immediately, toss treats and favorite toys into the pool and let her – or help her – dig for them.

Snuffle Mat (and other food toys). Interactive food-dispensing toys are a simple solution to many dogs’ winter blues. We particularly like “snuffle mats,” where you bury treats in the cloth fingers of a textured mat and let your dog go to it. If you have a dog who wants to eat the mat or, in contrast, just isn’t interested, there are many other options, including treat-dispensing toys your dog pushes around, and puzzle toys she has to solve to get the treats. (See “Play with Your Food,” WDJ April 2019).

Flirt Pole. This is simply a sturdy pole with a rope fastened to one end and a toy fastened to the rope. You can make one or buy one. To play, stand in one place and swing the toy around for your dog to chase. (You can also practice “Trade” to get the toy back once your dog has grabbed it; see “Trade Agreements,” WDJ February 2017).

Woody chases the Tail Teaser with typical intensity. Be careful about baiting your dog into too many tight turns with these toys if she has knee or other joint issues.

If your dog tends to bodyslam you (or your kids) while playing this game, stand inside an exercise pen for protection while your dog chases the toy around the outside of the pen.

These toys are available in better pet supply stores and from online sources such as Chewy.com and Amazon.com. Outward Hound makes one called the “Tail Teaser” and sells it with an extra replacement toy for about $13; Chewy.com also sells one called the Pet Fit for Life Plush Wand Teaser Dog Toy for $11.

Nose Games. Scent work is surprisingly tiring, and because most dogs love to sniff, it’s also very satisfying for them. It’s also usually an easy game to teach. Have your dog sit and wait (or have someone hold her collar). Hold up a treat, walk six feet away, and place it on the floor. Return to your dog, pause, and then say “Search!” Encourage her to run out and eat the treat.

After a few repetitions, let her watch you “hide” the treat in an easy spot (on the floor behind a chair leg, etc.). Return and tell her “Search!” Gradually hide the treat in harder places, then multiple treats, and eventually have her in another room while you hide treats. This should keep her quite busy and tire her out nicely. (For much more information, see “How to Teach Your Dog to Play Nose Games,” WDJ September 2019.)

Treadmill. Now we’re getting into activities that require more investments in time and resources. First, of course, you need a treadmill. Be sure to get one that is safe to use with dogs. Dog-specific treadmills generally are smaller than human products (some are made just for small dogs!) and have appropriately sized siderails (for safety, to keep the dog from falling off on the sides).

You will need to do a very gradual introduction, associating the machine with treats and toys until your dog is very comfortable being near it, and then on it, before you even think of turning it on. Be sure not to overdo the exercise; check with your veterinarian about how much exercise is appropriate for your dog to start with and how you should increase the time (gradually!).

Cognition Training. Those winter shut-in months are a perfect time to experiment with cognition training for your dog. You don’t need a lot of room, and this brain exercise is surprisingly tiring. You can teach your dog to imitate your specific behaviors (see “Copy That,” October 2013); explore choice (see “Pro-Choice,” November 2016); learn to demonstrate object, shape, and color discrimination and even read! (see “Are Canines Cognitive?” October 2017), and much more.

Indoor Parkour. If you really want to get creative, you can set up an indoor parkour course for your dog, made out of household items. After you’ve taught your dog each of the various obstacles, put them all together into a complete course. Here are some suggestions for obstacles that you can train your dog to navigate:

Laundry Leap: Get a laundry basket that’s an appropriate size for your dog, and teach him to jump into and out of it.

Hoop-De-Do: Best use of a hula hoop ever! Hold it up for your dog to jump through, or wedge it between a chair and a wall for a fixed jump.

Sweet Roll: Roll up a carpet runner and let your dog unroll it with her nose. (Teach this one by placing treats inside the rug as you roll it so she finds them as she unrolls it.) This would be especially fun if you had a red carpet that your dog could unroll for special guests!

That Was Easy: A smack of the paw lets your dog share her editorial opinion. These buttons are available from Staples stores and its website – or you can find a variety of wonderful talking buttons online.

Go ’Round: A simple orange traffic cone makes a perfect loop-stacle to send your dog around the bend in a different direction.

Walk the Plank: Place an eight-foot long 2×8 board across two low stools and let your dog walk the plank! Increase the level of difficulty with narrower planks.

Tunnel o’ Chairs: If you have a smaller dog, start by teaching her to crawl under one folding chair, then add a second chair, then a third, eventually making your crawl tunnel as long as you want it to be!

Whatever your fancy, there should be some activities here that you and your dog can enjoy together when the weather outside is frightful. Stay warm, stay safe, and have fun!

Holiday Safety for your Dog

hurray before santa get here

The holidays are all about family, friends, fun and food – but sometimes it’s easy to forget about holiday safety for your dog. We all want our dogs to be part of the celebration, but there are some important guidelines to follow. Keep your dog safe this holiday season – no one wants their holiday celebration to end up at the veterinary emergency clinic!

No table scraps! Just because we humans like to indulge in the feast does not mean it is good for our dogs. Rich, fatty foods can seriously upset your dog’s stomach and even be toxic. Most dogs love food and especially yearn for “people food”. Dog experts have discouraged the feeding of table scraps to dogs for years because of the potentials for toxicity, obesity and general poor health. While healthy, well-balanced diets can be prepared for dogs using human food, it is essential to feed the right foods. Know what foods to avoid so you can prevent poisoning and keep your dog healthy. If you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic food, seek veterinary attention immediately.

It is especially important to keep your dog away from the following dangerous foods:

Grapes and Raisins can cause irreversible damage to the kidneys, possible resulting in death.

  • Ingesting as few as 4-5 grapes or raisins can be poisonous to a 20 pound dog, though the exact toxic dose is not established.
  • Signs of toxicity include vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, decreased urine production (possibly leading to lack of urine production), weakness and drunken gait.
  • Onset of signs typically occurs within 24 hours (though they can start just a few hours after consumption)
  • Your vet may start by inducing vomiting, or the stomach might be pumped (gastric lavage). Treatment involves aggressive supportive care – particularly fluid therapy and medications

Onions can cause a form of hemolytic anemia called Heinz body anemia, a condition that causes the destruction of red blood cells. Kidney damage may follow.

  • Toxicity may occur from similar foods such as garlic and chives.
  • It is not clear what quantity of onions is poisonous, but the effects can be cumulative. Poisoning can result from raw, cooked and dehydrated forms. Avoid feeding table scraps and any foods cooked with onions (including some baby foods). Check your ingredients!
  • Signs are secondary to anemia, such as pale gums, rapid heart rate, weakness and lethargy. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea, and bloody urine.
  • Treatment: blood transfusions and/or oxygen administration may be necessary, followed by specific fluid therapy.

 

Chocolate and cocoa contain a chemical called theobromide that can adversely affect the heart, lungs, kidney and central nervous system.

  • Pure baking chocolate is most toxic, while milk chocolate requires a higher quantity to cause harm. A 20 pound dog can be poisoned after consuming about 2 ounces of baking chocolate, but it would take nearly 20 ounces of milk chocolate to cause harm. Ingestion of cacao bean mulch can also be toxic.
  • Signs include excitement, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate/rhythm, drunken gait, hyperthermia and coma.
  • Your vet may induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage. Treatment includes administration of activated charcoal and aggressive supportive care with fluid therapy and medications.
  • Caffeine is quite similar to the toxic chemical in chocolate. It can damage the heart, lungs, kidney and central nervous system.
  • Commons sources of toxicity include caffeine pills, coffee beans and coffee, large amounts of tea, and chocolate.
  • Signs typically begin with restlessness, hyperactivity and vomiting. These can be followed by panting, weakness, drunken gait increased heart rate, muscle tremors and convulsions.
  • Your vet may induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage. Treatment includes administration of activated charcoal and supportive care with fluid therapy and medications

 

Macadamia nuts, while generally not considered fatal, can cause your dog to experience severe illness.

  • The actually toxin is not know, nor is the mechanism of toxicity.
  • Ingestion of just a handful of nuts can cause adverse effects in any dog.
  • Signs include vomiting, weakness, depression, drunken gait, joint/muscle pain, and joint swelling.
  • Onset of signs typically occurs within 6-24 hours.
  • Dogs are typically treated symptomatically and recover within 24-48 hours. In-hospital supportive care may be recommend for dogs that become very sick.
  • Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener most often found in chewing gum and candy. In dogs, it stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Xylitol ingestion can also cause severe liver damage.
  • As few as two pieces of gum can be hypoglycemia to a 20 pound dog. A pack of gum can cause liver damage.
  • Signs of toxicity can occur within 30-60 minutes and include weakness, drunken gait, collapse and seizures.
  • Your vet may induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage. The affected dog will likely need to be treated intravenously with dextrose (sugar) and monitored closely for 1-2 days. Many dogs improve with supportive care if treated early enough, though liver damage can be permanent.

Alcoholic beverages contain ethanol – a seriously toxic chemical compound that causes central nervous system and respiratory depression.

  • Uncooked yeast doughs also produce ethanol.
  • Even small amounts of ethanol can cause toxic effects.
  • Signs include sedation, depression, lethargy, weakness, drunken gait and hypothermia (low body temperature).
  • Ethanol is rapidly absorbed into the system, so it is important to seek medical attention quickly. It is not usually helpful to induce vomiting. Treatment includes aggressive supportive care with fluid therapy and medications.
  • Under controlled circumstances, alcohol is used by veterinarians as an antidote for antifreeze (ethylene glycol) poisoning.

 

Apple seeds, cherry pits, peach pits, and plum pits contain the toxin cyanide.

  • Signs of cyanide poisoning include vomiting, heavy breathing, apnea tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, coma, skin irritation.
  • In some cases, antidotes are available. Other treatments include oxygen therapy, fluids and supportive care.
  • Also take note that the leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Also, the fat content is not healthy for dogs.

Moldy or rotten foods can cause many problems for your dog, some more serious than others. Any food that seems “past its prime” should be kept out reach. Be especially careful to keep your dog away from trash cans.

  • Botulism, often from garbage, can cause paralysis, slow heart rate, constipation, and urine retention. An antitoxin is effective only if poisoning is caught early enough.
  • Rotten fruit produces ethanol, causing the same effects associated with alcohol or dough ingestion.
  • Moldy foods contain toxins that may cause muscle tremors, convulsions and drunkenness.
  • Therapy depends on the toxin. Your vet may induce vomiting. Sometimes, treatment includes activated charcoal. Supportive care with fluids and medications is often necessary.

Certain foods, while not considered toxic, can still be unhealthy for your dog. Avoid any foods that are high in fat, sugar or sodium. These foods can contribute to indigestion, obesity, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and more. Dairy products may be difficult for dogs to digest. Corn cobs and bones can cause GI obstruction. Cooked bones may splinter and break easily, risking GI damage.

Like people, too much junk food can cause poor condition and decreased energy.

Remember that your dog is smaller than you and may be sensitive.

What seems like “just a bite” for you is more like a small meal for your dog.

If you want to feed homemade food, seek advice from your vet.

You may wish to meet with a nutritionist for diet recommendations.

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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

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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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.

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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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Puppy Nipping and Chewing: How to Stop the Biting That Hurts

Nipping & Chewing

Puppy Nipping and Chewing: How to Stop the Biting That Hurts

Love that new puppy, but don’t love what she is doing to your sofa, sneakers, or fingers? Then it’s time to intervene. While nipping and chewing are natural behaviours that occur when a puppy is between two and six months of age, they can be stopped!

Puppies will teethe, just like human infants. Chewing and nipping is investigative behaviour. It is how they learn about their world…and it is completely normal. But it is important, to direct the puppy to chewing appropriate items.

Look for specially designed pet toys. Rubber toys that have an opening for food, such as Kong®, can keep a puppy happily occupied for a long time. Spay any and all none moveable on objects with a No Chew Spray (Bitter Apple works well), remember to SPRAY EVERY DAY.

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Dog Nanny Special Tip – Take any leftover Bones and place them in your crock pot with plain water, simmer over night, to get all that nice flavour out.  Soak a plain rope toy, in the now flavoured water, then put in a Ziploc bag and FREEZE.  Now you have a cold and crunchy toy your puppy will love to chew instead of you or your furniture.

Beware of items that may hide a choking danger. Don’t offer your pup anything with a squeaker that can be ripped out and swallowed.

Examine toys regularly for tears, breakage, or stuffing leaks.

Rotate toys. Puppies love novelty. Different items will help make playtime special.

As you would with a baby, supervise your puppy at all times.  If you can’t be with your dog, protect her in an exercise pen or crate. Puppy-proof your home.”

Put away items that you don’t want chewed or that could be harmful.

Install a safety lock on the cabinet under the kitchen sink.

Keep human snacks and candy out of reach. Remember: Chocolate is toxic to dogs.

Use Bitter Apple / Bitter Yuck / Fooey (brand names), sprays on objects you cannot put away.  Remember these sprays must be applied Daily, so that the object ALWAYS tastes bad.

 

When it’s more than play

Puppy biting and chewing are generally not aggressive. However, it is important to be aware that some puppies can be aggressive. If you have a puppy that seems deadly serious or is snarly or if you are afraid of the puppy, it is important to learn the reason. Videotape that behaviour or have The Dog Nanny make a personal house call to view & investigate the behaviour and it’s cause. If you are concerned about it, there may be a reason to be concerned.”

Puppies should remain with their litter until seven or eight weeks of age to learn how to communicate with other dogs. When they rough and tumble, they learn that they will have fun if they bite gently.

Reinforce positive play

To teach the puppy appropriate play behaviour, “hard biting should elicit a correction sound from a human companion, sending the message that this behaviour is unacceptable. Stop interacting with the puppy for a few seconds. You have removed the rewards (you and playing), and you are teaching bite inhibition.” This is best done between two and four months of age. “Only ever allow teeth touching only pressure of a bite you permit and add a cue before yelping to teach a signal to the dog.

“The only biting you should allow is soft biting on bare hands or clothed body parts.

Other biting, such as the lure of a pants leg or shoelace, can be handled by distractions such as throwing a toy or a simple clap. “Don’t engage the dog verbally. It reinforces the negative behaviour.” “Reinforce only the positive behaviour.” OR simply ignore the behaviour, no re-action from you is not fun and puppy will learn to get your attention a different way.

It is important to remember that as much fun as a new puppy may be, children and puppies should NEVER be left together unsupervised. Work with children to teach them how to teach the dog to play correctly. Hide-and-seek is a terrific beginning. It introduces the concepts of the “come” command. Teach children not to roughhouse or wrestle. Like a human baby, puppies get overtired and over stimulated. They need time to rest and calm down.   Always provide you puppy/dog with a safe zone, such as his/her crate, where they can get away from bothersome children.  Ensure all children know when the dog goes to their safe zone, they are off limits.

“Control the game, control the dog.”

 

 

The Dog Nanny

Things to Consider for Dogs Riding in Cars

 

There’s nothing quite like seeing the joy a dog experiences when he gets to go for a ride in the car. But, for dogs riding in cars, there are safety and health issues you should be aware of before you put the car into drive.

The mere mention of the word “car” to your average canine, often sends him into paroxysms of joy. Many dogs quickly associate “car” with that wonderful sensation of being carried at great speeds, with the wind blowing through their hair.

But, there are things to consider for dogs riding in cars, such as ensuring that your dog is comfortable, calm, and, of course, safe.

Feeling Queasy
Just like you, dogs can get motion sickness from being in the car. Many people are aware of the nauseating signs of motion sickness and the effect it can have on a relaxing vacation. But, did you know that motion sickness could also affect your dog? A sick dog is not a happy traveling companion.

Motion sickness is an illness associated with motion — as in a car, a boat, or an airplane. Since vacations typically involve traveling, dogs prone to motion sickness don’t always enjoy the trek to the final destination.

The cause of motion sickness is stimulation of the vestibular apparatus located within the inner ear. When this apparatus is stimulated, your dog feels dizzy and nausea may develop. Usually, the signs of motion sickness stop when the vehicle stops moving. Dogs afflicted with motion sickness begin drooling, feel nauseated, and may even develop vomiting or diarrhea. If your dog is known to experience motion sickness that is not easily treated, you may want to reconsider bringing him along on vacation.
Buckle Up
When driving, a seat belt can be the thing that saves your life. This goes for dogs, too. Giving dogs free range in the car is unsafe and can be deadly. Traveling with your dog can be made safer and easier by the use of automotive restraints. Like you, your dog is safer when he is properly secured in the vehicle in the event of an accident or unexpected distraction.

We’ve all seen dogs riding in cars and trucks that had free range of the vehicle. This is a tremendous risk for injury. Dogs that sit in their owner’s laps or bounce from seat to seat can disrupt your field of vision or attention span. Hanging his head out of the window can cause serious eye injuries. A sudden stop with your dog in the back of an open vehicle can send him flying into traffic. Or he may make the decision to jump out at something he finds appealing with no warning.

Even dogs who are well behaved in the vehicle benefit from proper restraints. In the event of an accident, a restraint can keep your dog within your vehicle. Many dogs will run away if they are disoriented or injured. The last thing you want is to have to look for your scared or injured dog in unfamiliar surroundings. Check out your local pet supply store for dog safe automotive restraints.

Driving Dangers
A fun car ride with your dog can quickly turn dangerous if you’re not careful. Be aware of common dangers that can occur with your pooch in the car.

Dogs love to go for car rides. For many dogs, their favorite words are “bye-bye.” Some dogs jump, prance, smile, and bark with delight at the thought of a car ride. How many times have you seen dogs hanging out the car window? Or on the owners lap looking as happy as can be?

Yes, going for a ride in the car can be fun, but driving with dogs can also be very dangerous to both you and your dog. There has been several cases of owners that were in an accident — caused by their dog — in which they were injured, the car they hit had some severe injuries, and their dogs were killed.

There are some very common dangers and causes of injuries that can be prevented — and if you understand them, it will help keep you and your dog safe.

The First Ride
How should you transport your new puppy home in the car? This is probably one of the first questions you ask yourself after you have signed off on your new puppy. Should he be transported in a crate? Should he be allowed to gallivant around between the seats? Should he be on your lap? Is it better to have him in the front or back? What are the issues? What are we trying to achieve and what risks are we trying to avoid?

For starters, make sure the pup has had an opportunity to urinate and/or defecate before embarking on the ride. No solid food should be given to the pup for 2-3 hours prior to a short trip. It may be necessary to bring food for the pup on longer trips. If a pup is not nauseous or fearful, he may want to eat.

Have the pup ride in the rear seat of the car on one person’s lap (yes, you need two people to make this work). He should be rested on or wrapped in a familiar blanket and have at least one familiar toy to play with. Use a crate for older, confident, non crate-shy pups. Again, supply a familiar blanket and toy. Whatever you do, don’t allow the pup in the front seat and don’t allow him to perambulate freely. Quite apart from any possible injury to the pup, he may become a missile in the event of an accident.

Be Prepared
If your dog suffers an injury while you’re driving together, it’s important to be prepared. Emergencies can occur anytime and the best thing to do is to be ready for anything. Having a first-aid kit ready will help to reduce anxiety if an emergency does happen. Keep the kit readily available and periodically check to make sure all the items are up to date and present. A small plastic toolbox or fishing tackle box works well to hold all the necessary equipment.
On the outside of the box, write your name, address, and telephone number in case you lose it. Also include the telephone number of your veterinarian as well as the telephone number of a local veterinary emergency facility.

Once the emergency information is complete, it’s a good idea to have separate information sheets for each pet. Include a photo of each pet with the name, age, breed, sex, identification (micro chipping information), and any health problems. This can help if your pet is lost or if someone unfamiliar with your pet is needed to care for him.

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Dog Paw Cuts and Scrapes: How to Treat a Paw Injury

Five things to do when your dog injures his paw pad.

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Your dog’s paw pads act much like the soles of sneakers, protecting your dog’s foot and cushioning each step. Paw pads are tough, but they can still be cut by sharp objects or worn off if your dog runs hard on rough terrain. What should you do when your dog cuts or tears a pad?

1. Clean the wound.
Gently flush the wound with water or an antiseptic, such as diluted chlorhexidine solution. If there is obvious debris, such as rocks or glass, remove it carefully. Don’t force anything that is lodged deep into the foot.
2. Control bleeding.
Apply pressure to the wound to stop any bleeding. Use a clean towel and an ice pack if available to encourage blood-vessel constriction. If only the outer layer of the pad has been worn off, there may not be much bleeding, but deeper wounds and punctures can bleed heavily. The time it takes for bleeding to stop will vary with the severity of the wound.
3. Evaluate the damage.
Minor paw injuries can be managed at home, but more severe ones require veterinary attention. Uncontrolled bleeding is an emergency – if your dog’s foot continues to bleed after several minutes of pressure, call your veterinarian and head for the clinic. Deep or jagged cuts may require sutures for optimal healing. Your dog may need to be sedated for sufficient cleaning of the wound if there is persistent debris, such as little bits of gravel, and something that is firmly lodged in the foot will need to be surgically removed. Your dog may also need antibiotics to protect against infection. If you are at all unsure, err on the side of a vet visit – your veterinarian can give you peace of mind and can give your dog the care he needs.
4. Bandage.
Place nonstick gauze or a Telfa pad directly over the cut. If available, a dab of triple antibiotic ointment is a good idea to prevent infection. This can be secured with paper tape. Then wrap your dog’s foot using roll gauze, Vetrap, or an elastic bandage. The bandage should be snug enough to stay on, but also needs to be loose enough to allow for proper circulation to your dog’s foot. You should be able to slide two fingers under the bandage. To prevent the bandage from slipping off, wrap all the way up to and including the next joint on your dog’s leg: carpus or wrist in front, hock in back. You can also place more tape around the top of the bandage.
Keep the bandage dry. Moisture provides an entrance for bacteria to get through the bandage and into the wound. You can use a commercial bootie to protect the bandage when your dog goes outside or just tape a plastic bag over it. Most paw bandages need to be changed daily, especially if there is still bleeding or a discharge present.
For minor scrapes that look like a rug burn, a liquid bandage can be used to cover the exposed nerve endings without needing a full traditional bandage. Keep the foot elevated while the liquid bandage dries, and don’t let your dog lick it.
5. Allow time for healing.
Your dog’s paw will heal faster if it’s protected until fully healed. Keep him quiet, and prevent him from running or chewing at the bandage (this may require the use of an Elizabethan collar). Even after your dog’s pad has healed enough that it isn’t painful to touch, it will still be tender and vulnerable to reinjury. Avoid activities that could damage the healing pad, or use a bootie to protect the foot. Healing time will vary depending on the size of the cut.

The Dog Nanny Website

The Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat

Dog Diet & Nutrition

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what dogs can’t eat

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

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

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

 

Safe Food for Dogs

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

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Safe Treats for Dogs

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

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

 

Safe Foods and Treats for Dogs

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

Almonds

Apples – small amounts without the seeds

Asparagus

Avocado –small amounts without the seeds

Bananas

Blackberries

Blueberries

Broccoli – cooked or raw clean/washed

Brussels sprouts

Cantaloupe

Carrots – cooked or raw clean/washed

Cauliflower

Celery – cooked or raw clean/washed

Cheese

Chicken – cooked

Clementine

Cooked fish such as salmon

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

Cooked ground beef or steak

Cottage cheese

Cranberries

Eggs

Fish

Freshly cooked lunch meat

Iceberg Lettuce

Kiwis

Oatmeal

Oranges

Papaya

Pasta

Peanuts

Pineapple

Popcorn

Pork – cooked

Potato – raw or cooked plain or sweet

Pumpkin – cooked

Rice or rice cake

Shrimp

Strawberries

Spinach

Tangerine

Turkey – cooked

Yogurt

Watermelon

Tips for Giving Human Food as Treats to Your Dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Treats for Dogs

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

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