Eureka! Dog Blog

Dog Training and Behavior weblog

Articles on Dog Agility

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For the past few days, I’ve been providing comments for a series of articles on dog agility.  Cheryl Spencer has been writing an introductory series of articles on www.examiner.com for people interested in starting to learn agility with their dog.  For a sample article, see http://www.examiner.com/x-11581-Dallas-Pet-Training-Examiner~y2009m5d23-Beginning-agility-training–The-high-jumps or use the link on the blogroll on this page.  Cheryl is writing for people who have not done agility before, introducing the various obstacles.  She recommends agility for a wide variety of dogs, not just the pure breeds that usually appear in competitions.  I’ve been enjoying the fun of providing comments without putting in the hard work of writing the articles!!!

We have been doing an introduction to agility for fun class at Eureka!  The purpose is just to give people and their dogs an opportunity to try out the equipment and see if they want to do “real” agility, and also to spend an hour working and playing with their dogs and socializing.
Playtime at Eureka!You don’t have to have a pure bred dog or do competitive agility in order to have fun with your dog.  Teaching the obstacles and going through the course is fun for both of you, and it helps you learn to communicate with your dog.  We meet lots of dogs with problems because either they don’t get enough exercise or they don’t get out socially with their people.  Agility, even just for fun, gives them outlets and experiences they really need!

Written by eurekapaws

May 25, 2009 at 9:39 am

Nipping Dogs

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It seems like everyone has the same viewpoint on this – MY dog nips in play, YOUR dog bites and is vicious.  Well-behaved, well-adjusted dogs don’t nip or bite, period.  If they do, it’s because we have decided to tell them it’s OK to do that.  I do not believe that one breed is more inclined to nip or bite than another, it has far more to do with their conditioning than their breeding.  Of course, the problem is far more obvious and more dangerous if the dog is a large animal with strong muscles and jaws.  However, many small dogs have caused serious injuries.

Some dogs nip or bite because they are afraid.  That’s a serious problem, and you need to see a trainer or behaviorist.  (Unless, of course, the dog is being attacked, when it is a sensible move by the dog to defend himself.)  If your dog has serious fears that make him a danger to the public, eventually he will bite someone, and that may result in him being euthanized.  (And of course, you may be sued.)

Some dogs bite because they are aggressive, and they want to do damage.  We saw a dog like that recently, who would attack seriously and without warning.  If there is an obvious trigger, then it may be possible for a professional to work with the dog and modify his behavior.  If the attack comes with no apparent trigger, the dog continues to be very dangerous.

Some dogs nip or bite because they believe that they are the leader of the pack, and they have the right to discipline other members of the pack.  In your home, it is your responsibility to make sure that the humans are leaders, the dogs are followers.  Otherwise, elderly people and children are at risk of injury.  This is a very common situation – trainers see it every day, and can help you to rectify it.

But most dogs nip because people have encouraged them to do so – or have failed to discourage them.  If a puppy plays hard with his litter mates and causes pain, they will soon let him know about it – and dogs have tougher skin than humans.  People often think it’s cute, and do not consider that it will be less cute when he weighs more than 50 pounds, and the person being nipped is their grandmother or their toddler.  Any time your dog or puppy puts teeth on a person (or their clothing), your response should be immediate and consistent.

  1. Make a sharp noise as it happens – the dog needs to understand exactly what caused your response, and that sharp noise will help him pinpoint it.
  2. Immediately stop playing with or petting the dog, stop speaking to him, turn away from him, and if necessary, put a door between yourself and him.  Your dog wants your attention, even if it means being yelled at.  Do not give him any attention for several minutes, and make sure no one else does either.
  3. After a few minutes, return to the dog.  (If he immediately starts to use his teeth again, just say “No” and walk away again, and wait a few more minutes.)  If he is acting normally, then tell him to Sit (or Down, or Shake, or any similar command) – when he does as he is told, you can praise hm for being a good dog, and you can continue as normal.

This is one of the most important things you can teach your dog.  If you know he will not use his teeth on people, you will feel comfortable taking him places, and letting him meet visitors to your house.  And he stands a better chance of a long and happy life in your home.

Written by eurekapaws

May 5, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Adopting a Second Dog

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Wonderful, patient Libby

Wonderful, patient Libby

This comes directly from my own experience.  I had a wonderful dog, Libby, but the two of us were my entire household, and I was at work (bad old corporate days!) a lot of the time.  I felt that I needed to get a second dog for several reasons, mainly:-

  • As company for Libby, especially during the day while I was at work.
  • To take the pressure of what was an increasingly co-dependent releationship between Libby and me.
  • Purely selfishly, I felt that my world would collapse if anything happened to Libby – I needed another family member.

Since this dog would spend more time with Libby than with me, I made sure she was part of the interview process.  My criteria at the time were simply that the dog be a little smaller than Libby (I was worried about getting a dog too large for me to carry in an emergency), and a young dog 6 – 18 months old (not a puppy, I was not at home enough hours in the day to care for a young puppy, but still not yet fully grown up).  Libby was generally a quiet dog, so I thought she might like a lively dog to play with.  The two of us went to the shelter (Operation Kindness in Carrollton, a great place to adopt a dog, and Libby’s own alma mater) and I selected candidates, and the two of us would meet them. 

On our first visit, I picked out a sweet sandy haired spaniel mix who was very timid.  Libby growled at her.  Then I picked out a little male terrier, who Libby loved – he peed on my handbag the moment I took my eyes off him.  The third dog refused to interact with either of us.  At that point Libby was starting to look stressed, and I took her home.

On our second visit, the first dog I pre-selected was a little female terrier about 10 months old.  She was very sweet and lively with me, and she and Libby started to play together.  The adoption counselor and I stepped out of the room and watched them through a window.  It seemed like a great match.  We went ahead and adopted the dog, who was called Bailey.  As we went through the adoption process I learned that she had been adopted out before, but returned due to “allergies”.  She nipped the technician who clipped her nails just before she left the shelter.

As soon as we walked into my house, Bailey stopped and took a dump on the carpet.  The speed of it took my breath away – I had turned my back on her for less than 5 seconds, and when I turned back, she was squatting.  Still, I told myself she was probably very scared, and I should just let her know that was not the right place, and then go on as though nothing had happened.  Over the rest of the day, Libby and Bailey played happily.

For the next few days, Bailey was in a crate while I was at work, and I came home in the middle of the day to make sure she was OK.  For several days, she managed to have explosive diarrhea while she adjusted to her new life and diet, but that gradually faded.  In the evenings, she and Libby and I continued to have fun.  There were quite a few occasions when I found myself locked in power struggles with a 20 pound dog.

About day 4, Libby started to stare pointedly at me.  It was apparent that she felt our guest had outstayed her welcome.  While I had been interviewing for a lively long-term companion, Libby had been focussed on having fun for an hour or so.  She enjoyed her quiet life, and didn’t want an annoying yappy dog constantly trying to play-fight with her and instigating security alerts all the time.  For my part, I had started to realize that Bailey was a very pushy little dog with no interest in my plans for the household – she had moved in, and she planned to take over.  Although a lovable lap dog when she felt like it, any noise outside would put her on full alert; she would leap out of my lap and charge around barking fiercely.  On off-leash walks, she would torment poor Libby, who would run away from her at top speed.  Bailey’s little legs could not keep up with Libby’s speed, but she would run after her at full speed, barking “wait for me” at the top of her lungs.

In the first month that Bailey was with us, Libby and I were engaged in constant struggles with her for control of the house.  I quickly guessed that her previous home had given her up because of her personality, and just said it was allergies so she would stand a better chance of finding another home.  I did not have the heart to return her from another home – we had to make it work.

Terror Bailey (sorry, I mean Terrier Bailey)

Terror Bailey (sorry, I mean Terrier Bailey)

And several years later (and now with many more dogs in the house), she still torments Libby and she still considers herself in charge of Homeland Security.  She has learned that she is not the leader of the pack, and she did very well in obedience training.  People meeting her for the first time often remark on how cute she is (Libby can be heard muttering “take her, she’s yours”).

There is no guaranteed way to make sure the new dog will fit well in your household.  Of course, it is best to make sure that the potential newcomer gets on with your current dog(s), but the fact that they get on for half an hour on first meeting is a long way from proof that they will be prepared to shared a home, and a pack leader.  I know now that Libby was not interested in having a constant companion, and that she enjoys long, comfortable silences.  Having to adjust for a new dog in the house was really tough for her.

If you want to bring in another dog, that is a great idea.  Be aware of the following:-

  • Any increase or decrease in the household (human or animal) upsets the hierarchy, and your current dog(s) will have to work out who is leader of the pack all over again.
  • Some dogs are not prepared to share a home or a pack leader (you) with another dog.
  • Your current dog(s) need to have met and approved the newcomer before you decide to bring him into your home – but since you can’t explain to them what your plans are, they may still complain when he comes to stay.
  • You have to make extra time so you can work with each dog separately on house rules, obedience training, and walking politely on a leash.  If the newcomer does not follow the rules, your current dog(s) may decide they don’t have to either.
  • When you bring a dog home, his full personality will emerge slowly.  The dog you meet in a shelter or in someone else’s home is usually different from the same dog after he has been living with you for a while.  You will see him change over weeks and months, as he gains confidence in his new home.
  • The dogs will decide pecking order amongst themselves.  No matter how much you want a particular dog to be top dog of the house, you may not be able to make it happen.

Written by eurekapaws

April 19, 2009 at 9:59 am

Case Study 2 – Leader of the Pack

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This is a painful story from one of my first clients.  This experience actually drove me to move to a location where I could bring dogs in for training if necessary.

Mike and Laura are a couple close to retirement age.  They had a very smart little Jack Russell terrier called Jack.  Mike called me in, explaining that Jack had become aggressive at times, biting him and just recently trying to bite complete strangers.  He was afraid that he would have to have Jack euthanized, and he was looking for help to avoid that.

When I arrived at the house, Jack was out in the back yard.  I saw that food was left out for Jack in the kitchen, and also outdoors.  When Mike opened the back door, Jack rushed in, and by way of greeting me, he jumped on to every piece of furniture in the living room.  Jack was a smart little dog, and could do many tricks.  Mike explained that he loved the little dog, who had been his companion as Mike battled cancer, but on several occasions, Jack had been lying in his lap, and had suddenly bitten him, drawing blood.  As he told me about this, Mike played a game of tug-of-war with Jack using a soft toy, and allowed Jack to win.  Laura arrived home soon after, and it was clear that she was avoiding contact with Jack because she expected he might attack her.

We went through a lot of Jack’s history, but the situation was pretty clear.  Jack believed he was in charge of the house, and Mike and Laura were his staff.  He may have started out with respect for Mike, but lost it when Mike became weakened.  There was always food available for him, so he did not see that he was dependent upon them for anything.  He had control of the “high ground” – his jumping on all the furniture made that clear.  He consistently won contests of strength (when I asked Mike why he let him win the tug-of-war game, he said “I thought it would break his spirit if he lost”).  His biting was not an act of aggression, he was disciplining members of his pack who did not act appropriately towards him.  It is likely that he would lie in Mike’s lap, relaxing, but when Mike put a hand on top of him to pet him, Jack corrected him with a bite (the bite would not have done any serious damage to another dog, but Mike was weakened by his illness).

The right approach was also evident.  Jack needed to learn that he was not the leader of the pack.  Until he had learned to follow the lead of the people in his family, he could not be trusted.  If I could have taken him away with me that evening, I would have suggested it.  A few days of boot camp would set him up for coming home to a new world order.  However, at that time, I had nowhere to take him, so Mike and Laura would have to make the changes in his life.  Given that Laura was already afraid of him, and Mike was afraid that he could not control him, I was not sure that they would be successful.  The Jack Russell is small, but full of energy and determined to get his own way.

Sadly, the next day, Jack again attacked Mike, and he was euthanized.  I met Mike and Laura again a few months later, when they were adopting another dog – this time, a calmer, quieter dog – and they assured me that they would make the house rules much clearer from the start.

So, Jack, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.  Now I live out in the country, so that if the situation arises again, I would be able to take the dog away for the first couple of days of the rule change.

For everyone else out there – please take a look at your household from your dog’s perspective.  More than half the time when I go to a new client, the question of who is leader of the pack is behind many of their problems.  If your dog believes he can demand what he wants from you (food, treats, petting, playing, going outdoors, coming indoors, etc.) then he thinks he is in charge of the house.  You don’t have to be mean to him, just make it clear that you are in charge – keep him off the furniture, have him sit before his food goes down, and pick up his food bowl after 20 minutes, have him sit (or down, or high 5, or anything) before giving him the things he wants, make him wait at doors so you go first, then tell him when he can come through.  And if your dog is putting any part of his body on any part of yours (even resting his head on your knee), then make sure that you have your hand on top of him – you are the king of the hill.

Written by eurekapaws

April 13, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Posted in Case Studies

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How Many Dogs are Too Many?

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Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

We’ve seen a lot of problems and questions over the last couple of months around bringing extra dogs into the household. Everyone who loves dogs wants to save more of them from living rough, being abused, or being euthanized. The reality is, no one can save them all. You have to remember the effects on your household, and on your own dogs.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’d love you to adopt as many dogs as you can take proper care of – but please make sure that you have considered the impact realistically first!

Based on personal experience, there is a maximum number of dogs that each dog wants to see in the pack.  For some dogs, that number is one!  Most dogs are happy with a pack size between two and four dogs.  Once you pass that point, you are inviting trouble.  Of course, many people have had large numbers of dogs in their homes and it has been successful – but today, most people find it difficult to find the time to give one or two dogs the attention, care and exercise that they need.  Cesar Millan has a pack with many dogs in it – but he also spends hours every day giving them exercise.

So, let’s talk about a few recent conversations with clients, family, and friends.

“My older dog is getting on in years, and I’m thinking of bringing in a new younger dog to make the transition easier.”  This one sounds so sensible, but isn’t.  The older dog will be less than thrilled to have the new youngster throwing his weight about, being liveley and energetic, and trying to take control or make him play.  The middle dog will still have to adjust to a new dog coming into the household and the old one dying – that’s still two major adjustments, the same as if the new dog arrived after the old one had died.  The people in the household will be trying to teach a new dog the house rules (and making sure that the dog bonds first with the people, and then with the other dogs) while still taking good care of two other dogs, one now senior.  Don’t do it – give your old dog a peaceful retirement, grieve for him when he goes, and then consider a new dog.

“I have two puppies that I am still trying to get trained and under control, but two homeless dogs have followed me home.  They seem like nice dogs – what should I do?”  It’s great that you have a big heart.  But you have two puppies that still need a lot of training, and that are going to be at risk if these dogs have diseases (which homeless dogs often do, alas).  Find a no-kill shelter that will take them, if you can.  They will check to see if these dogs are sick, and will try to find a home for them.  If after mature consideration, you decide you can afford and have time for an additional dog, then go and adopt one.  But when these dogs placed their future in your hands, they were looking for you to do the right thing for them.  The right thing may very well be finding them another home, but it does not have to be yours.  I knew someone who took home a stray dog, and then found it might have parvo – if he had had a puppy in the house, that could have been a death sentence for the pup.

“I adopted a cute puppy from someone who couldn’t keep her, but now she and my dog are fighting – I have been hurt separating them, and I have a child in the house.”  I believe it was Clint Eastwood who said “A man’s gotta recognize his limitations”.  Yes, these were both nice dogs, and with work, they could probably have worked through their differences.  But it’s tough to keep everyone safe when there are children in the mix.  If the dogs will fight over the attention of the child, that is a dangerous situation.  In this case, kudos to Suzanne for finding a new home for the pup.  She didn’t just drop the dog off at a shelter, she took the responsibility and found a good home for her, and has followed up to make sure the pup is doing OK.

Written by eurekapaws

April 6, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Bringing Home a New Dog

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People often call us in after their new dog has been with them for a few weeks, and they are at their wits’ end.  They did not expect it to be this difficult.  Frequently heard words include “He’s a wonderful dog but…” or “Are all puppies like this?”.  Most of these problems stem from a lack of preparedness by the people, and a lack of understanding by the dog.  This post is about how to prepare for a new dog, and how to explain the rules to him/her.  If there is already another dog in the house, there is more to consider – I’ll cover that in a later blog post.

New puppies, whether from breeders or shelters, don’t know your house rules.  They explore the world with their mouths, and you need to puppy-proof everything.  They have needle-sharp teeth, and have not yet learned when not to use them.  They will miss their mother and litter mates, and will cry at night because they are used to being surrounded by warm bodies and familiar smells.  They need to be potty trained.

New adult dogs also don’t know your house rules.  They may also have some very definite ideas on what is acceptable behavior, based on their earlier lives.  They may be scared of everyday objects or people.  It’s common for dogs who have not been properly socialized or who have been abused to growl or bark at certain objects or people.  They may be emotionally distant at first (see the posts on the case study of the puppy mill dog).

Before you bring home your new dog, make sure you have the house ready, and all the equipment you need.

Dogs (especially puppies) chew on things, so look hard at the areas of your house where your new dog will be spending time.  There should be no clothes, shoes or laundry where the dog can get to it, until you know whether those things will tempt him.  Cables should be hidden away.

Your new pet may not be housetrained (a new home is a scary thing for a dog, and any previous housetraining may be temporarily forgotten), so either you must be able to keep an eye on the dog all the time, or the floors need to be easily cleaned.  It is a good idea to have an area like a bathroom, laundry, etc. where the dog can run around and any messes are easily cleaned, and put baby gates at the exit points – you can see and talk to the dog, but he can’t get into too much trouble.

Please make sure you have a crate (or two).  The dog should sleep in a crate, and ideally that crate will be in or close to a bedroom, so doesn’t feel alone, and you will be aware if he needs to go outside.  During the day, until the dog has settled in and follows all the rules, you need to be able to crate the dog for periods when you are going out, or when you are not able to watch him.  That can be in his sleeping crate, but it is good to have a safe place for him where the people are, so he feels a part of what is going on.  Crates should always be big enough for the dog to stand up and turn around comfortably, and stretch out.  The crate should never be a punishment – it needs to be a place where he feels secure and happy.  Puppies should not be left in a crate for more hours than their age in months (e.g. 2 hours for a 2 month old pup, 4 hours for a 4 month old), and no dog should stay in a crate for more than 8 hours.

Decide what your house rules are, and be prepared to start teaching them from day 1.

If you want your dog to sit quietly when people come to the house, don’t encourage him to jump up at people when he is a puppy, instead make a habit of praising and petting him when he is being calm.

Make sure everyone in the house knows the rules.  The dog needs to get consistent information from all members of the household.

No teeth on people.  Most puppies will nip in play, and it is never cute.  With any dog, regardless of age, as soon his teeth touch human skin, the person should say a loud, sharp “Ow!” and immediately stop playing with the dog, and ignore him.  If necessary, they should leave the room for a minute or two.  That way, the dog will learn that using teeth always stops the fun.  For an adult dog, when you return to him, start by asking him to sit, then praise him for doing that.  Any praise or play needs to be associated with something he did right.

Dogs should not be allowed up on furniture (chairs, sofas, beds, etc.).  Once your dog is fully trained, you can choose to invite your dog up on furniture when you want.  Until he is fully trained, he needs to stay on he floor – the high places belong to the leaders of his pack – the humans.  This is especially important if you have young children.

As soon as your new dog comes home, take him around the house so he gets to explore everywhere.  If there are places he is not to go, this is the time to tell him that – let him approach, then correct him (“Uh-uh” or “No” followed by moving him back to the right place).  If he starts to go potty, it is an excellent time to start that training.  There are two parts to potty training – praise when he goes in the right place, and correction (“Uh-uh” or “No” followed by taking him to the right place) when he tries to go in the wrong place.  No matter what you think you see, correcting him for something he did hours ago or even minutes ago does not teach him anything.

From day 1, do not encourage your dog to look for food at the table or in the kitchen.  Any time that someone feeds him scraps while they are eating or preparing food will cause him to beg or try to grab food in those places later.

Set a schedule for when you will feed your dog.  This is especially important for housetraining, because dogs and puppies will need to go potty shortly after eating (as well as after excitement and exercise, sleeping, etc.).  So your feeding time should be set when you have 15 minutes for the dog to eat, then 30 minutes to make sure he has had the chance to go potty.  For this reason, it is not fair to leave food out for the dog, and have him decide when he is hungry.

Set time aside for exercise.  Your dog will not exercise himself, and walking on a leash is an excellent way for your dog to learn that you are his pack leader.  Dogs need to get one or two walks a day for their mental and physical health.  (Puppies should not go on walks in the street, park or other common areas until they have had all their puppy shots – until then, you need to play with them in your house and yard, or at the homes of friends with dogs you know are healthy.)  A tired dog is a well-behaved dog!!!

Start to train your dog as soon as possible.  Even a young pup can learn to sit on cue, and will learn to come to you in the house when called.  Be generous with praise and rewards (rewards can be petting or play or toys or treats).

Watch your dog for anxieties.

Part of getting to know your dog is understanding his emotional baggage and limitations.  Some dogs are scared of men, or children, or sticks, or water, or being alone, or thunderstorms…the list goes on and on.  For most fears, your response should be the same – don’t reinforce the fear by rushing to comfort the dog, just stay calm and cheerful, remove the dog from the thing he was scared of, and engage him in playing or obedience work.  You want to send the message that everything is normal.  Some fears, like fear of people or other dogs that results in aggression, need professional help.

Keep a diary.

Some of the things a new dog or puppy does may seem overwhelming.  Try to keep a diary of the first few days – what happened, what went right and what went wrong, and what changed.  If your dog has housetraining issues, you will be able to see if it is getting better or not, and what changes may have triggered problems.  If the new puppy cries all night the first night, and less the second, and so on, you will be able to see the progress you are making.  This will be a big help if you have to call in a trainer later on for a behavior problem.  The first things the trainer will ask are:-

  • When did this start?
  • Did it start suddenly or was it a gradual change?
  • Did anything change that might have caused it?

Enjoy.

You brought this dog home for a reason.  Enjoy the experience of learning about your dog, teaching him about you, and learning to communicate.

Written by eurekapaws

March 27, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Posted in New Adoptions

Tagged with

Case Study: Puppy Mill Dog Part 4

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Knowing Mary, and knowing Hannah, we went to the shelter and looked around for the right match for them. When adopting a dog, there are obviously some physical criteria (some people can’t afford or manage a dog the size of a St Bernard, some people feel they must have a dog to raise from a puppy, and some people don’t want a dog that is high maintenance in terms of activity level or grooming needs).  But once those have been taken into account, the most important criterion is personality – does this dog have a personality that is compatible with everyone in the family?  I am always distressed when people focus on wanting a pure bred dog, or are concerned about whether the dog looks right for their home.  These things are so minor compared with the need for a good personality match – just as they are when choosing a human friend or partner.

In this case, we were looking for a dog who was less than 20 pounds, young but past puppyhood, upbeat and cheerful, and known to get along with other dogs. We found 3 likely candidates, and then met Mary at the shelter.  Mary had decided that she wanted a female dog, which brought us to one preferred candidate, Jenny.  As advertised, when she was brought out, Jenny immediately started to make friends with Mary.  In normal circumstances, we would introduce the potential new housemate to the incumbent dog before proceeding with the adoption, but these were not normal circumstances.  We already knew from her behavior at the shelter and with her foster family that Jenny was comfortable around other dogs, and we already knew that Hannah would not be comfortable at an introduction in a shelter, surrounded by people.  However, Hannah had met and stayed with many other dogs, and had shown no signs of aggression or intimidation – she was much happier with any dogs than any people!

Mary adopted Jenny that day, and took her home.  Jenny and Hannah became firm friends almost immediately, and Jenny became the active, outgoing dog that Mary had wanted.  The real question was, would this be enough to bring Hannah out of her shell, and get her to relate actively with people?

After a few weeks, the answer was that Jenny was becoming quite bossy, and Hannah was gaining confidence, but the relationship between Mary and Hannah still had not blossomed.  Hannah was still fearful of being trapped, and would not always come into the house when called – and she still did not show any affection towards Mary.  We separated the two dogs for a couple of weeks, giving Mary a chance to bond with Jenny, while we took Hannah for some intensive physical therapy.

Hannah would run away to avoid being trapped by a person, and would become rigid when picked up or cuddled.  However, on leash, she would tolerate being held, and would start to come when called.  She accepted that she could not control the situation, and tried to make the best of it.  After the first couple of sessions where I picked her up and held her on my lap, once I had put her down on the floor, she stood and trembled.  It was apparent that she was dealing with some powerful emotional conflicts.  Surrounded by our dogs, she relaxed a little, and on occasion she approached me when she wanted to be let out of a room.  (That sounds very minor, but for her it was a big step!)

After the two weeks, Mary and Jenny had made progress, and walking Jenny by herself had improved her responsiveness to Mary, but Mary was really starting to miss Hannah.  We brought her back with some trepidation – would Mary see enough progress in her?  Would Hannah continue to be more outgoing, as she had started to be with us?  When Mary picked her up and sat her on the chair beside her, Hannah started out as rigid as usual.  After several minutes of calm petting, while Mary talked with us, Hannah visibly relaxed.  When Mary went into the kitchen to make coffee, Hannah followed her to see what she was doing.  Those were both key indicators that Hannah had made some steps forward in relating to people.

It is still a journey – Hannah will not change overnight, and she may never be very demonstrative.  But she has had the great good fortune to find a home where she is loved and will be taken care of.  And Mary can look back over the last 9 months and see how she has changed in small ways: she used to run to her crate at every opportunity, now she is comfortable sitting in the living room; she used to avoid eating when anyone was around, now she happily eats in the kitchen; she used to sit rigidly upright on her cushion, now she has started to relax.  And of course, now she can play boisterously with her new friend Jenny.  All of those are because of Mary’s commitment to giving her a better life.

Written by eurekapaws

March 16, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Congratulations, Graduates!

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Last Saturday, the Canine Good Citizen class at McKinney Community Center finished. The CGC is a formal certification process created by the AKC, ending in an evaluation (by another evaluator, not the person who has been involved in training!). Each of the dogs in the class had encountered different challenges. It was a fantastic event for me, because all but one of the students who wanted to take the class passed. I was very proud because I know that everyone put in a lot of work.

The CGC test is a great thing to determine whether your dog is well-mannered enough to be accepted by most people.  It is usually part of the criteria used by therapy dog organizations.  To pass the test, your dog must be able to do the following:-

  • Allow a friendly stranger to approach and speak to his handler.
  • Sit politely by his handler when a friendly stranger pets him.
  • Welcome being groomed and examined (e.g. by a vet or groomer).
  • Be under the handler’s control on a walk on the leash.
  • Walk through a crowd while on a leash.
  • Sit or down and stay in place while his handler walks away a short distance.
  • Come when called by his handler.
  • Behave politely around another dog and his handler when the two handlers approach and meet with the dogs on leash.
  • Behave confidently when faced with a common distraction (e.g. noise of something being dropped nearly, someone running across his path, etc.).
  • Stay calmly with a trusted stranger while his handler goes out of sight for 3 minutes.

These are all reasonable things for your dog to be able to do, so that your family, friends, neighbors, etc. feel confortable and safe around your dog.  Even if you don’t take the test, it’s worthwhile to look at your dog and see if he needs help in learning how to do them all well!

Written by eurekapaws

March 10, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Mens Sana in Cane Sano (exercise and socialize)

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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.

Written by eurekapaws

February 16, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Case Study: Puppy Mill Dog Part 3

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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

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