Eureka! Dog Blog

Dog Training and Behavior weblog

Archive for February 2009

Mens Sana in Cane Sano (exercise and socialize)

with 2 comments

Dogs at Play

Dogs at Play at Eureka! Canine Behavior Specialists

Recently, we have seen a lot of dogs who suffer from severe problems stemming from lack of one or both of exercise and socialization.  Let’s be very clear about this – dogs need exercise, and they need to meet other people and dogs.

Left alone in their own house or back yard, dogs do not develop an aerobic exercise program.  They spend their time either resting, or getting bored and destructive, or on high alert, threatening anyone who comes too close to their house or yard.  Dogs that very rarely meet other dogs become over-excited when another dog appears – that may translate into excited barking, pulling and lunging, or fearful cowering away.  Typically, the person with them attempts to control this behavior, with the result that it is even worse on the next occasion.

Dog parks are a great way for well-exercised, well-socialized dogs to meet each other.  Unfortunately, some people take their dogs to dog parks instead of exercising or socializing them.  When you take your dog to a dog park, make sure you keep a careful eye out for any out-of-control dogs that you want your dog to avoid.  A healthy dog will run, bark, and want to play (although not necessarily with every other dog) – none of these by itself means the dog is out of control.

Taking your dog for a walk every day, or participating in an energetic activity like agility, will make a huge difference to your dog’s mental and physical health.  Apart from the pure physical exercise, and the bonding between dog and human, a dog who has had the chance to go and sniff and explore outside his own back yard is stimulated and content.  A dog who has not had that opportunity becomes bored, destructive, and difficult to control.

Try to include your dog in your life.  You probably go out to work or to meet people almost every day.  If your dog stays at home, and only ever sees you, she may become fearful or over-excited when she meets someone else.  Again, this behavior makes it less likely that you will include her at the next opportunity.  The more you can introduce your dog to other dogs and people, the more comfortable she will become in those situations, and the more welcome she will be the next time.  There are sometimes public events where dogs are welcome, like parades.  On shopping trips, dogs are often allowed into pet food stores, and to sit outside at coffee shops.  Keep these expeditions fun and brief, and be ready to leave if your dog starts to show signs of stress – the point is to let your dog enjoy the interactions, and learn to be calm when meeting strangers.  Your dog would much rather be with you than home alone!

A dog who gets plenty of exercise and frequent opportunities to meet other dogs and people is usually a dog who is a pleasure to be around.  It is not natural to deny your dog these things, and it often results in behavior problems.  If your dog has severe socialization problems, contact a trainer or behaviorist to assist you in fixing these problems – for your sake as well as your dog’s.

Advertisements

Written by eurekapaws

February 16, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Case Study: Puppy Mill Dog Part 3

leave a comment »

Now, Mary adopted Hannah in early July.  By August, Mary had been following our recommendations and she was making some progress, and housetraining was going well.  Mary brought her out to our facility to get to know the place, meet our dogs, and get used to some more social situations.  It was immediately striking that Hannah was not frightened of the other dogs – in fact, she seemed more relaxed when other dogs were around.  She was still scared of people, and after the other dogs had been handled, she would check them out to make sure they were OK.  Although Hannah spent most of the time in a safe corner of the fenced yard, she watched everything, and was keenly aware of where Mary was at all times.

Mary was going away for a few days at the end of August, and she was concerned about leaving Hannah at home with someone looking in on her.  Mary felt (and we agreed) that Hanah needed to be socialized more before she could be left with someone she did not already know and trust.  Hannah spent those few days with us, surrounded by our pack of ten dogs, just separated for feeding, and at night time, and when we were not there to supervise.  She learned how to use the dog door, and she relaxed noticeably around us – but she was clearly missing Mary.  She still avoided physical contact with us, but she would tolerate it if necessary, and she would approach for treats when the other dogs did.

When Mary was back, we worked with her on her body language when interacting with Hannah, and on loose leash walking.  Hannah needed to understand that Mary was her pack leader, and that she should trust her, even though she was human!  Mary had already implemented a structured regime so that Hannah understood how her days were organized; when she would eat, when she would go to bed, etc., so this was just refining that.  We like to see people working with their dogs while the dog is moving – the dog usually finds it easier to relax.  Mary quickly learned how to use the loose leash walking technique, and was able to walk Hannah around the neighborhood with the confidence we like to see in a pack leader!!!

Hannah was still very reserved, and was still not the cheery, outgoing dog that Mary had hoped for.  She was able to eat her food in the kitchen, and she was clearly comfortable on her cushion on the floor beside Mary during the day.  She would go out when Mary let her into the back yard to relieve herself, and come back in when Mary called for her.  But when Mary went out into the back yard, Hannah would not come to her.  Hannah had come a long way, but she still had a long way to go.

Mary had previously asked us about whether she should adopt a second dog to keep Hannah company, and we were not keen – often, people try to correct a problem with one dog by introducing another, and the situation gets worse rather than better.  It is much better to make sure that the situation is under control before introducing another dog into the mix.  However, we had now seen Hannah relax around other dogs, when she was one of a pack rather than a lone dog trying to live with a human.  And Mary had learned a lot about how to live with Hannah, and was subtly building her confidence, so we agreed that the time was right.  We just wanted to help with the process, as we wanted to make sure the second dog was the right match for Mary and for Hannah.

In October, about three months after Hannah came to live with Mary, we started to look for the right dog to introduce into the household.

Written by eurekapaws

February 9, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions, Training

Tagged with

McKinney Dog Pack

leave a comment »

Today we had the first meeting of the McKinney Dog Pack meetup group.  (If you want to know more about it, go look on Meetup.com.)  We had advertised it for anyone in the area who wanted to join us for an on-leash social event and chance to meet other dogs, dog people, and a couple of trainers.  The logic behind it is basically:-

  • We are dog trainers
  • We want to meet local dog people.
  • We see a lot of dogs that are under-socialized.
  • We see a lot of dogs that don’t get the opportunity to go out when their people go out (often because their people are worried about how the dog will react, so it’s a vicious circle).
  • We wanted to have some fun!

Then the response started to get so great we became concerned.  What if a hundred people showed up with out-of-control dogs?  Visions of marauding dogs scaring the other park users.  We limited the meetup group size to 30, and exchanged emails with people who thought their dogs might become scared or aggressive in a crowd.  We asked some of them to hold off for the first meeting, and encouraged others to seek us out at this meeting, so we could help.

In fact, about 15 dogs showed up, and it was a peaceful and friendly gathering.  We separated the small dogs and puppies from the larger dogs, Jan demonstrated doing dog introductions and loose leash walking, and everyone got to do a little solializing.  As expected, some people and their dogs were very skilled, others had a good deal to learn.

Amber Palmer, a local photographer, was there with her dog Sugar, and took photos of the group.  We’re looking forward to seeing those!  Jan and I were there from Eureka!, and one or two of the attendees had clearly had training experience.  Everyone had the chance to show at least one thing their dog knew how to do.

I think it was a good first meeting.  We got a good idea of the kind of mix we would get, and the group was never out of control.  The more meetings we have, the more the established members will be able to help the newer members.  However, next time we’ll go through the loose leash walking again!  (And next time, I’ll get to go on a walk as well.)  Ideally, the group should start to be a regular social event for these dogs.  I’d like to see some of the members come forward with their ideas of how they’d like it to develop.

Written by eurekapaws

February 7, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Case Study: Puppy Mill Dog Part 2

leave a comment »

Mary called us in because she felt that Hannah was unhappy with her, and that she and Hannah would never be able to relate to each other.  Actually, Mary had made a good start in many areas.  She had a crate for Hannah away from the center of the house, where Hannah could go when she was afraid or upset.  She had a regular timetable for the day, so that Hannah could learn the rhythms of the household.  She had a dog bed set up near her usual spot in the living room, so that Hannah could lie down beside her, and get used to relaxing in the presence of a human.

Hannah was still very fearful.  She did not want to be touched or petted, and would run off when people got too close to her.  Mary could not get her to eat in the kitchen, or at all while Mary was watching.  Mary was afraid that she would starve herself (we did not expect that to happen – a dog will not deliberately starve herself).  Hannah would run to her crate when anything out of the ordinary happened, and stay there.  Mary had to call her out to get her into the living room again, and she would not come out if there was someone else there.  When Mary let Hannah out in the fenced back yard, Hannah would keep away from her, and when the door was opened to let her back in the house, she would run in as fast as she could, to get past Mary and go to one of her safe places.  Mary was afraid that if Hannah managed to get out, she would never be able to get her back.  Because Hannah was so reserved, Mary could not see the bond that Hannah was starting to develop.

Hannah’s world was scary and confusing.  We don’t know the details of her previous life, but clearly people were something to be feared and avoided.  She was not accustomed to being touched in a friendly manner.  She had a den to retreat to, and food and water available, so her physical needs were taken care of.  But she was sharing her home with a human, and she did not understand what that human wanted from her.  Mary was talking to her, paying a lot of attention to her, and trying to force her to be in certain places or do certain things.  Hannah was just trying to stay away from danger – keeping a low profile had probably worked well for her in the past, and that was what she was doing now.

We visited with Mary and Hannah, and made some recommendations for change.  First of all, we explained to Mary that Hannah was actually starting to bond with her – she was calmer with Mary than with anyone else, and she had started to adapt to the household schedule.  Any attempt to force her to come out of her shell would just set her back – she would have to proceed at a pace she was comfortable with. 

She would not eat in the kitchen with someone standing over her, watching her – she wanted to be alone.  But with Hannah on a leash in the kitchen, and the human paying no attention to her, she would approach the food bowl and start to eat.  The message was clear – the pressure to do the safe thing while she was being watched intently made her scared.  It is very important with fearful dogs not to stare at them.  Direct eye contact is a very threatening thing for a dog, and usually leads to a fight between dogs.  In Mary’s case, she would need to have something else to do, so that her attention was not focused on Hannah.

We also showed Mary how to walk Hannah on a leash, so that Hannah was not trying to run ahead, but became used to following Mary’s directions.  This was a huge success for both Mary and Hannah.  Dogs are much more comfortable when they are moving, and it was a way for Mary and Hannah to be in touch with each other in a non-threatening environment.  It also allowed Mary to see that she was able to control Hannah and feel that bond developing.

Hannah was still afraid of changes in the house, and still rushing in through the door, and was not ready for formal training.  She needed more time to adjust.

Next week, I’ll write about the next steps.

Written by eurekapaws

February 2, 2009 at 9:18 am

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions, Training

Tagged with