Friday, August 11, 2017

Stubborn dog?

Would you be comfortable if your child’s math teacher described her as headstrong or stubborn because she wasn’t doing well in class?  Would you assume the teacher is right and your child is willfully choosing not to learn her multiplication tables?  Or, would you consider that your child may not fully understand her lesson and needs additional help?

If you’re like most parents, you will do whatever you can to help that child learn and understand more easily. I am thankful that my parents did just that when I was struggling with my multiplication homework as a young girl. Math simply wasn’t my strong suit and I needed a bit of extra help and patience from the adults around me.

I am also grateful my parents understood that labeling a child stubborn, stupid or headstrong does nothing to assist her in her learning process and actually affects the way others see her. Labels are very sticky, you know.

Now I’d like you to consider a similar situation, but with another family member, your dog.  She isn’t coming when you call her.  She’s jumping on guests, even when you shout “No!”  She is such a headstrong dog and must be so stupid because you have told her a thousand times!

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017


 The Problem with Punishment

Fortunately today, thanks to force free advocating organizations like Pet Professional Guild, there is much more awareness of the detrimental effects of punishment.  Sadly though, in some quarters it still prevails and is even advocated by some and perpetuated by the media.  So what actually is the definition of ‘punishment’?, what constitutes it? What are the alternatives? Let’s take a look.

What Is Punishment?

Speaking scientifically, there are two forms of punishment – positive and negative. Let’s deal with positive punishment first. Positive punishment refers to when something is added into your pet’s world that he/she deems unpleasant.  This ‘something’ will suppress your pet’s behaviour and your pet will work to avoid it.

What Constitutes Positive Punishment?

Obvious examples are electric shock devices, physical corrections such as smacking or hitting the dog and so called ‘alpha dog’ techniques such as ear pinching, nose blowing and rolling etc.  To be effective, if we can call it that, punishment must be gradually increased over time since an animal will gradually habituate to its effects.

Punishment is not always obvious

This is a problem I often encounter. Owners I work with are sometimes horrified when it is gently pointed out that what they are actually doing is construed by the dog as positive punishment.  Nose taps delivered to a mouthing puppy are perhaps a less subtle example, but leash jerking a pulling dog, shouting at a dog for something the owner deems inappropriate, body shaping a dog into position whilst training, yanking a dog whilst pulling towards another dog or whilst jumping etc.

What’s The Problem Here? – Emotional and Physical Levels

The problem we have with punishment is multidimensional. We have the physical aspect of jerking, yanking, shocking, pulling etc. which of courses causes pain in various aspects of the dog’s body.  This may be exacerbated if the dog already has complications such as musculoskeletal disorders or skin complaints for example or is an older individual or growing puppy.  But we must also consider positive punishment at an emotional level.  Consider anthropomorphically, what would your reaction be should you be electrically shocked, hit, yanked, pushed to the floor, jerked away from something you really wanted to look at?  My guess is a mixture of emotions and feelings including anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, a good risk of aggression resulting from these last two emotions and pain.  These are not positive feelings!  This is the crux of the problem with punishment, the animal is left feeling bad to put it very simplistically.  What is very sad is that in many cases, emotional shutdown results – we call this learned helplessness.  The animal simply completely mentally and emotionally shuts down and appears to comply with the human. Most times passive posturing will be observed. Of course, the animal is not at all complying but has just lost all emotional resilience to respond in any other way – the human usually responds with glee that their techniques are working…very sad.  I recall one dog I worked with whose behaviour had progressed so far due to a near lifetime of positive punishment, it was symptomatic of post traumatic stress disorder.  Read the entire article

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Separation Anxiety-2nd dog

One of my recent separation anxiety clients asked me a common question during our initial call, “Will getting a second dog help?”

My heart swells with appreciation for guardians whose dogs display separation-related anxiety.

There’s a technical difference between separation anxiety, when the dog is anxious when not in the presence of a specific person; and isolation anxiety, when the dog is anxious when left alone without any person. Either way, the dog is experiencing anxiety similar to a panic attack. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to use the term “separation-related anxiety” to refer to both.

These folks are some of the most caring, compassionate and committed dog guardians I’ve ever worked with.

They’re usually frustrated because they love their dog to the moon and back, but they also feel trapped in their own home because every time they leave, their dog displays one or more of any number of separation-related behaviors including continued and progressive vocalization, serious damage to the home, and even self-mutilation.

These guardians are heartbroken and often nearly at their wit’s end.

By the time they find a certified separation anxiety trainer, they’ve also read and/or received some pretty ineffective and often downright harmful advice on how to help their beloved dog.
It’s no wonder that they’re ready to reach for a solution that’s seemingly as simple as adding a second dog. In reality, it’s not simple or easy. So when clients ask the second-dog question, I offer the two most repeated words in dog training: “It depends.”

Here’s a hypothetical human analogy: If your spouse or significant other passed away and you were feeling terribly anxious while home alone, would any other unknown person relieve your anxiety? Bringing a new dog into your home would be like asking a stranger to hang out in your home to relieve your anxiety. I’d venture a guess that even good friends might not alleviate your anxiety. One or two of your friends (you know, the ones you love but who seem to find a way to get on your last nerve) might even exacerbate your anxiety.  Read the entire article

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Monday, July 31, 2017

A Lesson of Respect and Empathy

By:  Drayton Michaels, Urban Dawgs

I agree with Dr. Overall, dogs co-evolved with human beings and the reason why dogs are so intertwined with humans all throughout our history is to teach us a very simple lesson, be kind and and gentle and empathetic towards innocent creatures that for the most part could kill you, yet don't, despite being subjected to stress on a daily basis. 

This is the lesson of respect and empathy towards creatures that helped us in our evolutionary process. We humans were able to acquire life supporting resources like food, water and shelter more reliably than dogs after some time, but at the start dogs had the survival advantages, and it was humans that needed dogs, not the other way around. That's a debt we owe dogs not the other way around. 

Considering how remarkably few dogs kill humans despite all the stress humans create for them, dogs return the respect and empathy 100 fold. Do we though? Dogs co-evolved with humans and they provided us with safety, hunting for food, entertainment and warmth and for that we all owe them respect, empathy and protection.

The human race, as in every single human on this planet owes the entire canine species their lives because without them, the human race would not have evolved as quickly or as efficiently or as well as we have, so we might not be as far along right now if it wasn't for dogs.

To some humans, dogs are special, valued beyond a thing to have, to some humans dogs are to be cherished and prized. To some humans dogs are evil, to some humans dogs are an afterthought, not even considered.

Every single human on this planet owes a part of their existence to dogs and it's about time that dogs bare minimum were appreciated and respected and given considerations to be safe and well cared for and not hurt or scared intentionally in order to teach them anything. Ever.

Dogs are here to teach humans by way of a test, which is; what do you do when you have innocence in your care? What are you made of then?  
Click here to watch Karen Overall Video

Additional information here: 

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Barking Dogs

Is Your Dog Barking and Annoying Your Neighbors? Here’s What to Do

If constant dog barking is disturbing your neighbors, here’s how to fix the problem without punishing your dog. 

Whether you live in an apartment or share a fence with a neighbor, dog barking or other aggressive behaviors toward people and other dogs in your neighborhood are a nuisance and a potential liability. So rather than being “that” neighbor, what can you do to modify your dog’s behavior and become the neighbor everyone wants?

Avoid situations that could cause your dog to bark

First of all, management is key. Try not to set your dog up for failure (and risk someone getting hurt) by putting him in a position where he barks all day or reacts negatively toward someone who comes into your home. If your home association allows, make sure you have a sturdy, tall privacy fence that hands and paws cannot get through.

Steer clear of using electric fences

 The electric shock can be traumatizing to dogs, and some become fearful of going outside at all after they’ve experienced even just one shock. This could result in a plethora of other behavior problems developing both inside and outside your home. Some dogs also ignore the shock and run right through an electric fence when they see another dog, person or small animal they want to get to on the other side. This is especially dangerous if your dog has already shown reactivity in response to any of these triggers. Read the small print! Electric fences are not classed as a viable containment system, and you will be liable if your dog goes through the fence and injures someone.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Focus on the Positive in Dog Training

By:  Robin Sockness, Canine Behavior Consultant

As a dog trainer and behavior consultant, I  always remind my clients to focus on and reward for positive behavior.  I have to remind myself routinely as well,  I am human after all... when training and also when things in life test me or frustrate me, to focus on the positive.  What holds true in dog training holds true in real life.

As humans, we sometimes focus on the behaviors and things we don’t want in our dogs – how to get our dogs to not jump, how to get our dog to not counter surf, how to get our dog to pay attention on leash.  We often don't notice the dog's behavior until s/he has gotten it wrong and then we are quick to punish or correct, missing all the times the dog got it right. How often do we focus on the positive? Not often enough!

How often do we capture the moments when our dogs are just lying quietly and being lovely dogs and we don't notice and reward it? Try to notice how often you reward your dog big time for when he is being calm, gentle and exhibiting the behaviors you want.  What do you see?  How often do you see it?  Capture those moments when your dog spontaneously sits or is lying down in his bed being calm whether you’ve asked for it or not. Reward it!  When you are out walking on leash and your dog is walking perfectly, notice it and reward it!  When your dog sees another dog and is calm, reward it!

Take some time today and focus on the positive.  When it comes to dog training, it's not about perfection, it's about percentages of the time your dog gets it right.  If you look at it that way and reward good behavior, instead of waiting for the wrong behavior to come and punish it, you’ll notice things seem calmer and happier for both you and your dog a great percentage of the time.

Try this:  Ignore an unwanted behavior while also hugely reinforcing the acceptable behavior instead and see what happens!  Instead of working to get your dog to stop doing something, work to teach your dog the behavior that you would like to see him/her do instead…then reinforce the heck out of it!  What is the opposite of jumping on people?  Sitting!  Reinforce those auto sits and watch how fast your dog will repeat them!

What behaviors make you want to reward your dog?  I love to point out and reward automatic sits, automatic polite greetings and automatic settles.  When you focus on what your dog does right and reinforce it, your dog will offer those behaviors much more reliably.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Training Treats


If we could change anything, it would be to add more enjoyment and fabulous stuff to Griffin’s life, not less. Here are a few more benefits to using treats!


Food is an incredibly powerful form of motivation, like a paycheck that keeps you coming back to work. When a dog performs a requested behavior and is given the consequence of a mouth-watering morsel, they are motivated to repeat the behavior that earned them the delectable reward. Other types of rewards include chasing a ball, playing a game of tug, going into the back yard, sniffing an interesting spot on a walk, and so on. However, you can train much more quickly using food and it is the best paycheck for many dogs.


For some new behaviors, food is used as a lure, to show our dogs what we would like them to do. It is important to fade the food lure as soon as possible. Fading the lure and keeping food out of site (like behind your back or in your pocket) are good practices to help your dog learn to do what you’ve requested, even when food is not visibly present.


Food is used to create positive associations. For example, if your dog has never worn a harness, it is a good idea to condition your dog to like the harness. You would do this by splitting “harness wearing” up into small increments. The first step might be to show the harness to your dog. You would then deliver some fantastic goodies and happy talk. Sometime later that day, you would repeat this process. The harness predicts a party of delicious snacks. Once your dog sees the harness, then looks happily and expectantly for his fabulous treats, you might move to the next step of placing the harness partway over your dog’s head. You could use a similar process (called counter conditioning and desensitization) if your dog is afraid of something, such as nail clippers. And guess what? The use of food in training creates a positive association with training, the trainer, the training space…


Different foods have different values to your dog. Although dry kibble might be sufficient at home when working on easy behaviors, a higher value training treat is needed when working around distractions and with important or difficult-for-your-dog-to-do behaviors. (Coming when called, perhaps…with a pesky squirrel in the yard.) High value treats are also necessary when working to change emotions and associations (see previous paragraph).


  • Mix it up! Variety is good and keeps things interesting.
  • Balance out the calories by feeding a little less at meals.
  • You can use some or all of your dog’s meals as training treats.
  • Soft and stinky treats tend to be higher value.
  • You get what you pay! Behaviors that are reinforced are more likely to be repeated.
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