Monday, November 22, 2010

Be Part Of The Solution Not Part Of The Problem

I recently had a conversation with a woman whose dog is very dog aggressive.  They adopted her when she was  2 years old and over the past few years her behavior has gotten worse.  They can no longer walk her outside and she only gets quick bathroom breaks outdoors because she will attack any dog she sees, so exercise is not an option.   To prevent her from bolting outside and chasing after other dogs a friend advised them to use a shock collar.  They have watched a few episodes of a dog training show and tried some of the techniques recommended but found that it made her more aggressive.  While the woman felt bad about the problem she concluded that there isn't any point in trying to change her behavior. 

I shared with her that when dealing with a behavior problem we are either 'part of the solution' or 'part of the problem'.  She seemed a little surprised by my response and said 'so you think that her behavior problems are our fault'?   I explained that while they clearly didnt' have any control over their dogs early socialization and training, which most likely contributed to the problem,  they do have control over dealing with the problem now.  By not seeking professional help,  their dogs behavior has gotten worse, so yes, you are now part of the problem.  

It's common for families to ignore behavior problems, even dangerous aggression issues because they don't realize how serious they are or because they hope the problem will go away on its own.    In reality,  few behavior problems go away without professional intervention.   The consequences of ignoring the problem impact the family and the dog so it's a losing situation for everyone involved. 

How do we become part of the problem?
  • Ignoring fearful, reactive or aggressive behavior, especially in young puppies
  • Assuming behavior problems of any kind will go away as the dog gets older
  • Believing that our dogs behavior problems are 'his way of getting even with us or trying to dominate us'
  • Using punishment to correct the problem
  • Taking advice from unqualified persons
  •  Re homing the dog in the hopes someone else with figure it out
How do we become part of the solution?
  • Socialize and train puppies, help them get off to a great start in life
  • At the first sign of behavior problems seek professional help from your Vet or a qualified Behavior Consultant.
  • Educate yourself about dogs and dog behavior
  • Don't rely on Television Shows to solve your dogs problems, work with a professional
  • Don't resort to 'quick fix' approaches
  • Be patient, behavior problems are complex and take time to resolve

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is Your Dog Ready For the Holidays?

The Holidays are upon us and with them come house guests, parties, travel, decorations and much more.  With all the preparation and excitement we tend to forget how the Holidays impact our dog.  There are a number of things you can do to help prepare your dog for the Holiday Season.

Teach Your Dog A Proper Greeting With House guests
Many a dog is banished to their crate or backroom when house guests arrive because they go CRAZY jumping, barking and mugging everyone in their path.    If your dog does not know how to greet guests in a calm manner don't wait until company has arrived to start working on this skill.   The majority of people assume that dogs should instinctively know to keep four on the floor, which of course is not true.  It's also common for people to encourage dogs to jump by petting them and working them into a frenzy every time they greet a dog.    So start practicing with your dog now before the Holiday rush begins.  I receive many phone calls in early December for Private Lessons to address this very issue. 

Calm Dogs Get To Hang With the Gang
Not only does your dog need to learn a polite greeting, they need to be able to settle and relax around guests.  This is a skill most dogs struggle with and needs to be taught.   We have a number of training videos on our Face Book page on teaching your dog to 'Settle' and relax.  We highly recommend the Fido Refined DVD by Virginia Broitman and the book Chill Out Fido by Nan Arthur.

Help Your Dog Learn To LOVE Their Crate
If you're going to be traveling or there will be times when your dog needs to be in their crate at home,  make sure they are comfortable and able to relax when crated.  If it's been a long time since your dog has been crated don't wait until the last minute to find out that they no longer can tolerate being confined.  It can be extremely stressful for a dog to be crated for long periods of time if they're not used to it so prepare them ahead of time with short periods of time in their crate every day.   If you pair being in the crate with a wonderful frozen Kong, your Dog will quickly learn to 'enjoy' being in their crate.

Pick The Best Pet Care For Your Dog When You Travel
If you need to board your dog take the time to visit the boarding facility prior to leaving your dog there.  Ask questions and tour the facility to ensure that it is well run and safe.  If your dog has any behavioral or medical issues be sure that the staff are trained and equipped to deal with them properly.    You will also want to check with your Vet to be sure your dog is up to date on all their vaccinations.

If your dog can not tolerate being crated or has other special needs it may make boarding them difficult so consider having a Dog Sitter stay at your home.    In Home Pet Care is a great alternative for puppies and elderly dogs who need a little TLC. 

Deck The Halls
Holiday decorations are REALLY fun to chew on, tear apart, pull off trees and knock over.   If this is the first Holiday Season with your dog assume they are going to have fun 'undecorating' your house.  Many Christmas tress are pulled down, knocked over, peed on or dismantled by unsupervised puppies and dogs.  All of these new sights and smells are amazing to your dog and they have no idea they're off limits especially if you place them at nose level.  Take time to plan where you will place your tree and decorations.  If you have a puppy or exuberant dog bring out the baby gates or keep doors closed during your absence.  Teach your dog "Leave It' and practice daily.   To encourage your dog to leave your things alone buy them a few new exciting chews or toys such as food dispensing toys.

Not Everything Is Edible
Whether it's an ornament on the tree or a holiday plant, beware of hidden dangers in your home.  A small ornament can become a choke hazard.  There are some holiday plants that can be poisonous so check with your Vet or the ASPCA Poison Control  Department when in doubt.  

Brush Up On Your Training Or Take A Class
You still have time to brush up on your dogs training, just a few minutes each day can make a huge difference.   If you have not taken a class with your dog or it's been a while consider enrolling in a group class or working with a trainer one-on-one.