Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Shape Up Isn't Just For Humans

It looks as though Spring is actually on the way and you know what that means, time to get ready for summer.   The reality hits that in a very short period of time it will be swim suit season.    The health club is overflowing with people wanting to shed those winter pounds.   There is suddenly activity outside, the yard needs to be cleaned up, the car needs to be much to do.

We also are excited about getting back to outdoor activities with our dogs.  This past winter in Michigan was brutal, sub zero temperatures, ice, feet of snow, just plain misery.  It was slippery and cold for humans and I received many reports of paw injury from all the salt on the roads.  As a result there were fewer play dates, only the occasional walk and many dogs were lucky to see anyone outside for weeks at a time.    With less activity many dogs added a few winter pounds, just like their human.  One of the first things we notice when we take Fido for a walk is that his on-leash manners are a little rusty.  Things were going so well in the Fall, walking nicely on leash, no more chasing after squirrels, ignoring kids on bikes.  Well after 6 months of Arctic lock down all of that is out the window.  You find your pooch barking in the yard as people walk by, overly excited to see other dogs or any living creature that moves, life is just down right exciting!!! 

Before you panic and think all your hard work has gone down the drain, stop and remember, you had a well trained, well adjusted dog once, you can have him back again.   Your training is not gone, it's just 'out of shape' so-to-speak and needs to be shaped up.  There are a few common problems when Spring appears:

The Moment Of Truth, My Dog is Chubby!  The Need To Shed Those Winter Pounds
Many dogs, just like their pet parents, have added a few pounds over the Winter due to decreased activity.  This is a very common and many Veterinarians are having this conversation with many of their clients during routine Heart worm visits.  It is important to keep your dog at a healthy weight, overweight pets are at risk for health and orthopedic issues.   A measly 5 pounds of extra weight on a dog can be equal to 25-30 lbs on a human.   If your dog is in need of a slim down, work with your Vet to develop a healthy weight reduction program of diet and exercise. 

What Happened To My Dogs On-Leash Manners?
Leash manners are just like muscles, if you use them and exercise them regularly they stay strong, but if they are put on a break they weaken.  During the Winter months we spend less time walking our dogs on leash due to shortened daylight hours, cold temps, snow, ice, etc.  When the weather breaks and we try to resume our old routine we're shocked at how 'crazy' our dog behaves on walks.  Your once composed pooch is now pulling on leash, barking at other dogs, wanting to chase squirrels, alerting on anything and everything which makes going for walks less enjoyable.   Now is the time to polish up your dogs skills by getting back into your old routine and consider enrolling in a group class.  We offer a variety of short classes for brushing up on skills.  This Spring we are offering a new Outdoor Adventures Class that will meet for 3 weeks at various outdoor locations.

Spring Is A Critical Time For Winter Puppies
If your puppy came to live with you after November then you have a Winter Puppy.  These are puppies who due to our weather conditions had  limited socialization.  If you live in Michigan they most likely have never seen  lawn movers, kids on bikes, skate boarders, roller bladers, strollers, you get the picture.  There are so many things we take for granted, yet they are going to be a regular part of the scenery moving forward.   You'll want to do some remedial socialization and expose your puppy to this new and exciting world.  If you find that your puppy is fearful or nervous of new things consult a qualified behavior consultant.  It's also a good idea to enroll you puppy in a group class, this will provide socialization and ongoing training.  

Spring is just around the corner, get out side and enjoy it with your dog!

**Check our website for a complete listing of Spring Classes**

Monday, March 7, 2011

You Know What Happens When We Assume....................

I recently met a family with a wonderful 7 month old Golden Retriever named Max. When I arrived I was taken on a tour of their home, well actually it was more a tour of the destruction left by Max. There was chewed up furniture and rugs, toys shredded into pieces, paint scratched off walls and a variety of other canine crimes.

The family seemed quite baffled by Maxs behavior and desperate for ways to make it stop.  My first question for the family was "where were you when Max was getting into trouble?" The family replied "we don't remember, we may have been home, but no one was watching Max".  My next question was "Does Max have a crate or area you confine him"?  The family replied "We stopped using the crate a few months ago, we thought he no longer needed to be crated".  My final question was "Can you show me some of the toys Max has to play with ."  The owner showed me a box full of stuffed animals and fabric toys, most of which were torn into pieces. 

If this sounds all too familiar I have some good news!!    Max is a typical adolescent dog who was given too much freedom too soon.    Lets take a look at ways to keep the Maxs of the world safe and out of the dog house.

Use Supervision And Management

Don't give your young untrained dog free run of your home, use a crate or gated area.   If you can't give your dog 100% of your attention,  they should be confined, this keeps them safe and prevents bad behavior from developing.    When you need to confine your dog give them something to chew on like a frozen cheese Kong. 

Provide Appropriate Chew Toys

Young dogs need to learn chewing discrimination, the difference between legal and illegal chew toys .   They chew to exercise their jaws, to ease the pain of teething, to explore their environment and to relieve stress.  The smart owner selects chew toys wisely, recognizing that she is laying the foundation for her dog’s lifetime chew habits.  Stuffed frozen Kong toys, food dispensing toys, and other indestructible but inviting objects are better choices than items that resemble our valued human possessions.    Discarded socks and old tennis shoes teach a pup to head for the closet floor and the laundry basket when the chewing urge is strong.  It’s not Jaws fault that he can’t tell which socks are his and which ones you are still using!  


Be sure that your dog is getting enough vigorous daily exercise.  A leash walk is fine, but off leash exercise (in a safe fenced area) is a better choice.  Boredom is the number one cause of destructive behavior, and lack of exercise causes boredom. 

Training Is Not Just For Puppies

Training provides more than just 'good manners' it provides mental stimulation.    Enroll your dog in a class, try something new like scent work or tracking.   If your dog loves people consider Therapy Dog Training.   K9 Home  Schooling offers a variety of classes, check our website for details.