Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pre Purchase Counseling, Is It Right For You?

Are you thinking about getting a dog or a puppy?   Are you well informed before you take this life-altering step?   Yes, your life will change dramatically if you become a Pet Parent.  Most people research the purchase of a new car longer than they do the decision to add a dog to their home.  True a car may cost more, but most people only have their cars 5 years and a dog lives an average of 12-15 years.  Basing your decision to get a dog on solid information can help make having dog an enriching experience that changes your life for the better.  Adding a dog to the family for all the wrong reasons or getting the wrong dog can lead to heartache.


There are many things to consider when adding a puppy or dog to your family, sorting everything out before you're driving home with Fido in the car is the best approach. 

What age of dog would be best for your family?
While puppies are cute and cuddly, they are not for every family.  They require alot of time and attention, will need to be housebroken, crate trained, require alot of management and supervision around children, need alot of exercise and socialization in the first 6 months and don't forget training.  This is a very time consuming adventure, be sure you have time to meet their needs because the 'cuteness' wears off quickly when they are tearing your house apart, biting the kids, and keeping you up at night.  

If you have a young family or a busy schedule, an older dog is a better choice.  The shelters are full of wonderful dogs looking for forever homes.   If you prefer a specific breed, many breeders release older dogs from their programs. 

Are there things to consider when adopting an older dog?
Anytime you adopt an older dog, that means any dog over 6 months of age, you may be dealing with a variety of unknowns.   If you do not have any background on the dog you will not know their socialization history.  This is critical especially for dogs that live with children.   While you will not know everything about an adopted dog, it does help to evaluate the following:
 
What is their comfort level around children?
Are there any behavioral concerns such as resource guarding or separation anxiety?
Are they reactive or aggressive around other animals?
Are they comfortable being handled?
Are they crate trained and/or comfortable with confinement?

Adopting a puppy or dog with behavioral problems requires a commitment of time and money.  It's important to be realistic about your ability to meet their needs.  I've worked with many stressed families who wished they had called me BEFORE selecting their pet rather than after the fact.

The best approach is to be as honest with yourself as possible, look at your schedule,  lifestyle and  budget.  All of these should play a part in helping you make an informed decision.

If you're thinking of adding a puppy or dog to your family, consider Pre Purchase Counseling.  I offer this service via phone, Skype or in person.   We will work together to determine the best dog for your family. 





 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Are You Encouraging Your Dogs Dysfunctional Behavior?

We've all observed our dog doing goofy things.........chasing a shadow, barking at their reflection in a window or mirror, mugging guests at the door, chasing their tail, eating random objects,  etc.  In the moment we may chuckle because some of these behaviors are amusing.   It rarely occurs to people that these types of behavior can take on a life of their own and often do.  Some behaviors are born out of boredom, while others are linked to stress and anxiety.  What ever the root cause, allowing them to persist is not in your pets best interest.   By the time I receive calls from Pet Parents regarding their dogs behavior problem, no ones laughing any more. 

All puppies and dogs act silly and goofy at times and yes, it can be quite entertaining.  We do however have to determine when behaviors have crossed over from being funny to being a problem.  A perfect example is the puppy or dog who barks at their reflection in a mirror or window, this  is setting the stage for them to become reactive when they see other dogs.  It seems so innocent when they do it the first time, everyone laughs as Fido goes crazy, but your dog just learned to go nuts when they see another dog.    If a dog is constantly eating everything in sight, they have a foreign body surgery in their future if you don't manage their environment better. I've had clients brag about the things their dog could ingest, but trust me, you'll feel horrible when your dog suffers a bowel obstruction or worse, dies from eating something like a sock or some other choke hazard.   Behavior problems can develop quickly and practice makes perfect, so the more your dog practices undesirable behavior the more you will see it rearing it's ugly head. 

When should you intervene?  I redirect any behavior that I feel encourages negative or unhealthy behaviors for my dog.  The occasional chasing of the tail is ok, but after a few seconds I  redirect the dog to do something else.  If I am not able to redirect the dog,  that is a clear indication that this is not an appropriate activity or behavior for my dog.  

I once observed a Golden Retriever who loved to shadow chase in the shallow waters of the lake where his family lived.  He would spend hours pacing back and forth chasing light shadows.  It seemed funny at first and everyone joked about his 'fishing',  but he developed a serious yeast infection on his paws from his hours of being in the water.  His family tried to no avail to interrupt this behavior but he was almost mesmerized, unable to come out of what they described as a 'trance'.   At first glance the owners primary concern was treating the yeast infection, but truth be told, they needed to address the shadow chasing to keep him out of the water.  He was evaluated and placed on medication to control the compulsive behavior which kept him out of the water and allowed the infection to resolve. 

If your puppy or dog is exhibiting a repetitive behavior pattern that you are not able to interrupt or redirect, it is advisable to consult with your Veterinarian. There is research linking some repetitive behaviors to seizure disorders in dogs. There are also dogs that have Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. These conditions need to be diagnosed and treated by a Veterinarian and Certified Behaviorist. 

Lets not be entertained at the expense of our dogs physical or mental health. 







Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is Your Dog Wearing The Vest Responsibly?



Do you have work clothes?  Unless you're a Personal Trainer or Gym Teacher, it's unlikely that you would wear sweats and tennis shoes to work, right?  When you see someone wearing a suit you automatically assume that person is 'working'.  You would not walk up to someone wearing a suit and tie or dress and invite them to go jogging, that would seem inappropriate based on how they are dressed.

The same is true for dogs wearing Vets, they are on the job, the Vest is their 'work clothes', a clear reminder to the dog that they are 'on the job'.  This is especially true of dogs that are in training.  When a puppy or dog is in training for either Therapy or Service work the Vest becomes a signal to the dog that they are training/working.  Wearing the Vest helps the dog discriminate between work and play.  What you allow your dog to do during their leisure is very different from what they can or should be doing when they are working and especially when they are in public.  It's really no different for humans, we learn the difference between our leisure activities and our work activities.  When I'm off work I can lounge around, chat online, make phone calls, basically do what ever I choose.  When I'm working I have to learn to refrain from saying or doing things that I typically do when I'm off the clock.  What would my students think if in the middle of a class I sat on the floor, started eating a bag of chips, texting my friends and giving hugs and kisses to all my students?   People might laugh and think it was funny, but it would be odd and totally inappropriate for someone at work.  The same is true for our working dogs or those in training, especially those that wear a Vest.

I recently saw dogs playing at a dog park who were both wearing Therapy Dog In Training Vests.  My first thought was.....how confusing for the dogs, the Vest no longer reminds them that they are training or working.  It was also clear that their owners had no clue what a Therapy Dogs job is, it certainly is not to visit other dogs at the park.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that our dogs should not be allowed to have fun and act like dogs.  What I'm saying is that the choice to place a Vest on your dog means that you are training them for a specific job, you're sending a message to the dog and the general public that your dog is 'In Training' or 'On the Job'.  It raises the standard both for how our dog needs to behave in public and how the humans need to respond when they see a working dog.

When training a dog in public you're not only training your dog how to behave but your educating the general public about how they should or should not interact with a dog who is working.  You may encounter people who 'feel sorry' for your dog because they can not jump on them, give kisses, act silly.  I've had people makes comments like 'oh you poor dog, you never get to have any fun'.  That always makes me laugh because my dogs have a much better social life than I do and are far from sad and lonely.   What's important to remember is that you know your dog is not deprived of human affection and fun, you're just teaching them that there is a difference between work and play.  Instead of allowing people to 'have their way' with your dog or repremanding them for encouraging your dog to act like a goof, try asking them to help you train your dog.  The best training sessions I have are those that I do in public with the help of strangers.  I recruit people to be part of my training process, they learn how to properly interact with a working dog and my dog learns how to behave while working, it;s a win-win!

To better understand WHICH dogs SHOULD be wearing a Vest, see the link below.

http://pawsitivesolutions.org/2012/05/service-dog-therapy-dog-companion-dog-same-difference/

It's also important to note that there is a huge difference between training sessions in public and having your puppy/dog 'tag along' with you on errands, we'll be looking at that in a future post :)













Friday, January 11, 2013

Catch Them Being Good

How often do you stop what you're doing and 'Catch Your Dog Being Good'?    Throughout the day our dogs are doing wonderful things that are often overlooked.  We become so focused on the things we don't like that we fail to see all the wonderful things our pups do each and every day. 

  • Greeting you calmly at the door
  • Watching the squirrels run around in the yard without barking
  • Not stealing food off the table
  • Not reacting to the doorbell by acting like a lunatic
  • Waiting patiently at the door to go for a walk
  • Laying quietly at your feet while you read
  • Sleeping on their dog bed
  • Tolerating your bad mood *grin*
All of these behaviors are worthy of clicks/treats, praise and attention, is your dog getting that from you?

We set our dogs up for failure by not providing them with supervision, management, adequate education and training.  The article linked below is written by Kelly Gorman Dunbar and sums up the confusion surrounding raising, training and living with dogs.

http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/change-your-perspective-and-train-your-dog

If you want to see positive changes in your dog, start by changing your attitude and the way you interact with your dog!  

And yes I did stop what I was doing and praise the 3 dogs in this picture for resting quietly when they could been wrestling around and acting like hooligans :)