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Posts Tagged ‘dog behaior fort lauderdale

What is that Rescue Group Telling You?

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“She’s just a little shy.”
“This dog just needs some training.”
“Once he’s adopted he’ll be better.”
“These puppies are bonded and shouldn’t be separated.”

Rescue groups and shelters truly do amazing work to find loving homes for surrendered animals.  This article is not intended to bash or undermine their work in any way.  Most shelters and rescue groups do the best they can with the limited resources they have.  I appreciate their efforts!

If a rescue group, foster family, or shelter worker gives you advice about training or behavior, please consider the source.  Does this person have professional experience and training in behavior and dog training skills?  Just having been around alot of dogs and hearing alot of stories is not enough.  Some shelters like the Humane Society of Broward County have amazing behavior experts and trainers either on staff, working as volunteers, or working as contractors.  However, they may not be the ones working on the adoption room floor.

So what’s the harm with taking a little anecdotal advice from a well intentioned rescue worker?  Well if you are truly devoted to the animal, have LOTS of control over your environment, and have tons of resources (cash and time); there is not much risk of harm.  You are devoted and have the means and resources to make a great life for your dog.  You are my perfect client!

But when reality sets in… many adopters realize that they have lives that are not compatible with a special needs dog.  They have commitments and responsibilities and they are tired and have no time.  The really sad stories are the families with children that adopt dogs that are not a good fit.  Children do not fully understand consequences.  When your dog has a bite history, and your beautiful little girl goes for a big dog hug and gets bit on the face, that’s completely irresponsible parenting.  Children should not have access to dogs that bite unless strictly supervised, and using safety equipment when needed.

Last year, I received an email from a shelter that I support.  They wanted me to talk to a family that recently adopted 2 German Shepherd puppies… from the same litter. Click on this link to the article on why adopting more than 1 puppy from the same litter is a bad idea (unless you have super human powers).  Let me give you some insider info: I’m a dog trainer.  Training comes easy and complimentary (that’s free) to me.  I would never WILLINGLY AND OF SOUND MIND take on 2 pups at the same time.  It’s too much work.  Hey if its too much work for a dog trainer, ya think that may be a clue not to take this on?  So what was the problem with the adopters?  Well, on top of all the usual complaints about puppies, the family had a special needs child.  The shelter should have never allowed the family to take both puppies.  I’m not denying anyone the right to a dog because they have a child with special needs, but dogs have needs too.  If your dogs needs are not compatible with your family needs, you are asking for trouble.  Call me before you make a decision that you regret.  And by the way, those pups were real cute and controllable when they were adopted.  By the time they were surrendered, the pups were so big and uncontrollable, that I can’t imagine that they would be adoptable.  I have no information if they had a happy ending or if they were just another euthanasia statistic.

Sadly, this is just one story of the many stories I hear from clients that I work with, as well as potential clients that couldn’t commit the resources to manage the behavior.  Obedience training will help you communicate with your dog, but it won’t help your dog with intense fearful reactions to other dogs or people.  Fear, stress and anxiety related behaviors need to be managed with behavior modification.  Behavior modification is usually a tedious process and requires private lessons.

I will confess, that I too have adopted a dog with my heart and not my head.  Maddie’s rescue group certainly worked the emotional side of adoption (I was emotionally raw and broken hearted from the death of my beloved Liesel).  Fortunately, because I am a dog trainer, I had the resources to do the behavior modification (I didn’t charge myself).  My journey with Maddie is in its 7th year.  For some people, taking on a dog with special needs is truly wonderful.  For others, that may have taken dog behavior advice from a bad source, it could be a nightmare.

Enrichment for Senior Dogs

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Judd is 15

All dogs need enrichment in their lives no matter how old they are.  By enrichment I mean exposure to interesting and novel experiences and things, mentally stimulating activities, and fun, enjoyable activities.  Senior dogs are often denied enrichment because they simply lack mobility and their health may be at risk under extreme conditions.

Fortunately, there are many options to add more enrichment to the lives of senior dogs that don’t require much mobility.

* Just enjoying the outdoors.  Dogs can smell what’s going on in the neighborhood by putting their noses in the air.  A breezy day can bring in even more scents.  Dogs don’t have to walk the whole neighborhood to get to enjoy stimulating smells.  For an added bonus, take your dog outside on garbage pickup day before the truck arrives.  Be sure to avoid extreme conditions like hot afternoons, uneven surfaces, and slippery surfaces.

* A relaxing visit from old or new friends.  Dog or human, seeing a friendly face can brighten even a tough senior day.  Nothing like a head scratch or belly scratch to help a dog feel better.  Throw in a human crotch sniff or a dog butt sniff and a great visit is made.  Try to avoid play that could cause injury or pain.  Keep visits short and sweet.

* An interactive toy or puzzle.  There are great toy choices out there!  Find something that will challenge your dog.  Puzzles are great because most do not require any mobility… just curiosity.

* A little Nosework.  Nosework is an activity that encourages your dog’s scenting ability.  It’s like hide and seek for dogs.  There are certain best practices that will help keep your dog engaged and prevent your dog from becoming an obsessive searcher.  Consult a trainer that has attended a seminar with the K9 Fun Nosework founders for some basic ground rules.

It’s hard to watch your dog get old.  Many senior dogs live with pain and discomfort.  Providing some safe enrichment could get your dog’s tail wagging again.

Mind Your Manners

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ImageTeaching manners to puppies is pretty easy to do, yet many pup parents overlook this important step in puppy rearing.  The fact is that puppies are adorable no matter what they are doing.  However, many behaviors that may be cute now, are not so cute when a puppy grows to be a 75 pound monster. The way to keep your puppy from becoming that monster is to develop manners by teaching some impulse control.

When I get a 4 or five month old puppy in my group class, one of the first skills that I need to teach is a gentle mouth.  Some pups are completely unaware of the sensitive human fingers when gobbling down treats.  I’ll close my treat hand with the treats inside and let the puppy get frustrated.  He’ll bite, paw and try to bully me into releasing my hand.  The pup eventually gives up and backs away. That’s when I say yes and release my hand.

There are so many areas that impulse control can be taught at an early age: greeting guests, walking on a leash, getting out of the door, getting leashed up, coming out of the crate, waiting for the food bowl and many more.  Nobody wants to be knocked down by an exuberant dog during any of these activities.  That’s why it’s important to teach impulse control BEFORE the dog gets big enough to knock you down.

Take a look at the video at the link below of Sammy coming out of his crate.  Through several blocking techniques using the door or my arm, I prevented Sammy from barreling out of his crate. Instead, I taught him to sit and wait to be leashed.  I had already introduced a stay cue with Sammy, so the exercise was pretty simple and he caught on fast.


Of course it’s still possible to teach manners to an unruly 75 pound dog.  I do it all the time.  It sometimes takes tools to give a small owner more leverage and alot of patience to undo a behavior that is ingrained.  It’s oh so much easier to teach a puppy some manners from day one.

How Cute Is That?

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So you have your new puppy and he’s soooo cute.  The little guy loves to jump up to greet you, pounce on you for attention, and explore the world running on leash with amazing speed and enthusiasm!  Isn’t that the cutest thing?!?!

Well, maybe it is now… but if you have a medium to large breed dog, it’s not going to be so cute in a few months.  Even if you have a smaller breed dog, I can attest to the fact that doggie nails on my shins is no walk through the park.

When bringing home the new pup, your rules and the behaviors you teach should be compatible with your expectations of the dog in 5 months, 5 years, and even 10 years.

I will discuss household manners later.  Before etiquette, there are a few priorities you need to address straight away with the pup.  Here are the developmental deadlines according to Ian Dunbar:

The 4th Developmental Deadline
Socialization with People
The Most Urgent Priority-by 12 weeks of age

The 5th Developmental Deadline
Learning Bite Inhibition
The Most Important Priority-by 18 weeks of age

The 6th Developmental Deadline
Preventing Adolescent Problems
The Most Enjoyable Priority-by five months of age

To read more about what to do After You Get Your Puppy, you can download Dr. Dunbar’s free e-book at http://www.dogstardaily.com/files/AFTER%20You%20Get%20Your%20Puppy.pdf

Now, back to household manners.  Teaching your dog a little bit of impulse control at a young age can set you up for tremendous success during adolescence and adulthood.  The best part is that it does not require any formal training or skills, it just requires some impulse control from the owner.

Many pups learn to get things by bullying their way into it.  Pup gets treats from your hands by pawing at and mauling your hands.  Pup gets attention by barking at or jumping on you.  Because it’s so cute (or you’re in pain from those pointy puppy teeth), you give in.

Rather than giving in too quickly, just wait.  Wait until the pup takes a breath from chewing on your closed hand.  Say yes and open your hand.  Wait until the pup puts all four paws on the ground before you give any attention or affection to him.  Pups pick up on this very quickly.

So please.. DO try this at home!

Wait for It…

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I love catchy phrases because people remember them.  Why do you think I named my company after one of the cheesiest lines from a movie?  My favorite phrase these days is from “How I Met Your Mother”s Neil Patrick Harris (still Doogie Howser to me).  Wait for it… has become my new mantra.

I’ve had a lot of time observing dogs and their interactions with their owners.  On a first class or first visit, before I get involved, the humans will typically get out 10 sit commands or come commands while I observe the dog lunging at me and barking at me.  I’ll finally intervene and explain that the dog does not even notice their frustrated owner’s pleas.

*Dogs are not linguists:  Sadly, humans are completely attached to verbal communication.  For dogs it would be best to have different scents indicate different cues.  Verbal communication does not come quickly to most dogs.  Use words sparingly and give your dog enough time to recognize the cue and respond to it.

*Silence is powerful:  Face it.  We babble at our dogs day in and day out.  The simple act of being silent and still is a cue to your dog that it’s his turn to do something.

*Cue recognition and context:  Although your dog may recognize the word “sit” in your kitchen, while waiting for access to the dinner bowl, while you are standing in front of him, and also giving a hand signal…he may not understand this cue out of context.  Small changes in the environment and “background noise” can impact your dog’s cue recognition.  It’s important to generalize the cue in different contexts.

Repeating commands over and over is frustrating to the human and confusing to dogs.  Many times it leads to something called learned irrelevance –  it is the learning to ignore things that have no meaning to the animal’s life.  So do your dog and yourself a favor… Wait for it….  Just give your dog the time to figure out what is expected of him.  You’ll be shocked when you see how powerful it really is.