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5 Must Do’s During Your Dog’s First Year

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Sammy loves Starbucks

1 Introduce your puppy to lots of humans
I’m not sure that it’s possible for your puppy to meet too many people in the first few months. Invite friends, family, coworkers and neighbors to your home to play with your new puppy. Introducing treats during the interaction will help your puppy associate humans with wonderful things.

A quick trip to a place like Starbucks is a great method to introduce your pup to a more diverse range of humans. Bring a friend and some treats with you. While your friend is securing your beverage order, you can socialize your puppy. I mean who can resist a puppy? If anyone even makes the slightest cute comment about your pup, ask them if they would like to give your puppy a treat. Your pup is likely to love strangers after a few of these events.

2 Arrange for play dates for your puppy
Safely introducing your puppy to other dogs and puppies is crucial to keep the from becoming dog reactive or dog aggressive later in life. If your puppy has not completed all of his puppy vaccinations, be very careful to go on play dates with dogs and puppies of good health. In addition, a young puppy should never be exposed to dogs of questionable temperament. Allow your dog to play with well mannered, “good” dogs.

3 Take a group class
Group classes are perfect for learning communication skills, making friends, and having some fun in a controlled environment. Your dog will learn to give you focus even in some very distracting conditions. You may need a private lesson or two if you are having trouble with translating what you learned in class to your behavior management issues at home.

4 Send your puppy to sleepovers with trusted friends or family
I know its tough for every pet parent to let go, but a sleepover at a friend’s home teaches puppy that “I’m going to be ok without mommy.” A dog that loves you is wonderful, a dog that is co-dependent is… not so wonderful. Even in a dog friendly world there will be times that you can’t take your dog on vacation or on business trips. Give your puppy the life skill of being ok without you. And of course… allow your friends to spoil the baby with walks, play and games to make good associations with being away from home.

5 Take overnight trips with your puppy
Whether its a dog friendly hotel, staying overnight at a friend’s, or for the really brave… a camping trip, will acclimate your puppy to changes in environment. Many of our Broward County Parks have camping facilities. Make it fun and keep it short.

Dawn’s Top 5 Dog Friendly Places & Events (Greater Fort Lauderdale & Broward County)

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#5 Boater’s Park (accessible only by boat)
North side of the Dania Cutoff Canal, west of Anglers Ave. / Ravenswood Rd., Dania Beach, FL 33312
http://www.broward.org/Parks/BoatersPark/Pages/Default.aspx
ImageBoater’s Park is one of those totally underused gems in the park system that I hate to share with the public. The park can only be accessed by boat, which keeps it quiet and clean. With shelters, electrical outlets, clean restrooms, and grills, you and your dog friends can have a perfect day under the shade trees. The iguana population tends to congregate on the seawalls of Boater’s Park, so hang on tight to leashes of prey driven dogs.  Don’t have a boat?  Club Nautico is also dog friendly.  They rent boats.

#4 Markham Park
16001 W. State Rd. 84, Sunrise, FL 33326
http://www.broward.org/Parks/MarkhamPark/Pages/Default.aspx
markhamMarkham Park has a lovely 3.5 acre off leash dog park, “Barkham atMarkham” that is usually well maintained and landscaped. Remember that visitors of off leash dog parks assume a lot of risk. Use some common sense when deciding to bring your dog. Check the area from the parking lot for aggressive or confrontational dogs. Make sure everyone is supervising their dog(s). If you are comfortable with the dogs and owners, spend some time making new friends. Try to walk the pathways and don’t wait for an incident to occur. Get in and out of there in 20 – 30 minutes. The park also has a rarely used nature trail that is great for reactive dogs. I suggest limiting your visits here to cloudy days as there is ZERO shade in this part of the park. In addition to camping facilities and just a ton of open space, you can also desensitize your dog to gun fire noise here! There is a target range at the far end of the park, so don’t let the noise catch you or your dog off guard. The biggest drawback about this park is that it is located in the evil city of Sunrise. Sunrise carries some draconian ordinances on their books regarding pit bulls. Their ordinances require that pit bulls be muzzled and kept on a six foot leash.

#3 Pine Island Ridge Nature Center
3900 S.W. 100th Ave., Davie, FL 33328
http://www.broward.org/Parks/PineIslandRidge/Pages/Default.aspx
???????????I normally access this park from Tree Tops Park. This area is the highest natural elevation in Broward County and is surrounded by the Forest Ridge community. One of my favorite elements of this park is the abundance of trees and shade. If you are not an early bird, the ridge is a good choice is you want to beat the heat of the south Florida sun. Hang on tight to your dog’s leash; you may encounter Gopher Turtles or horses and riders on the equestrian trail. This is a beautiful place, but sometimes the noise from planes on final approach to Fort Lauderdale Airport can be annoying.

#2 SunTrust Sunday Jazz Brunch and Riverwalk Linear Park
20 N. New River Drive, Fort Lauderdale, FLangelina
First Sunday of the month, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
http://www.fortlauderdale.gov/events/jazzbrunch/jazzbrunch.htm
Riverwalk Park, Fort Lauderdale
Whether you are setting up a canopy and chairs (get there early), docking your boat (get there earlier), or just walking through, this event has it all. There are 4 stages, each featuring musical performers. There are food and drink vendors, although many people choose to bring their own picnic or grill. This dog friendly event has plenty of space and shady park areas if you need a quiet space too. The pathways near the stages often get crowded, so be careful. This is a great event to visit with your friends or to meet new dog and human friends. The linear park is a great place to walk your dog on any day of the month, and ends at Las Olas Boulevard where you can grab a bite to eat at a dog friendly outdoor café.

#1 Plantation Heritage Park
1100 S. Fig Tree Lane, Plantation, FL 33317
http://www.broward.org/Parks/PlantationHeritagePark/Pages/Default.aspx
ph maddieAside from the fact that this park is just minutes from my house and is the park where I teach group dog training classes, this park is my favorite. With a large fishpond and fruit trees, this county park has a neighborhood feel to it. There are people that walk and socialize their dogs at Plantation Heritage daily. For dog owners with reactive dogs, there is a nature trail that is rarely visited, and there are only a few blind corners on the walking paths. There are plenty of ducks and geese to entertain your dog (beware of the poop on the pathway). On Tuesday evenings, the park does a food truck event that is family and dog friendly. There are no off leash areas in this park, but it is a short car ride to Happy Tails Park. One drawback, a disc golf course was recently constructed at this park. If your dog is a Frisbee fan, this may pose a big challenge for you.

What are you waiting for?  Get out there with your dog!!

What is that Rescue Group Telling You?

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Maddie

“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.


What is dog socialization?

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Socializing Sammy

Dog trainers like me forget that we sometimes speak our own language.  Yesterday, after I kept repeating that her puppy needed socialization urgently, my client asked what that meant.  My bad.  Not everyone knows.  When I searched my usual resources to find a succinct definition, it wasn’t easy to find.  Everyone expects you to already know.  So, thanks for the great question.

Dr. Ian Dunbar, the founder of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers defines it as, “Socialization is the process of becoming familiar with all kinds of animals, people, places, and things; as well as learning how to behave in society.”

People want their dogs to feel safe and comfortable in all of the situations that they encounter in the future.  Dogs should be happy to explore new places, meet new people, and meet new dog friends.  There should be no fear associated with these encounters.

Socialization is one of the most urgent priorities of puppy owners because their is a window of time where puppies are most accepting of this process.  I have written a few articles on socialization, and I can see the need to do more.  Basically we expose puppies to new people, places, and things at an intensity where the pup is comfortable.  We also pair the experience with delightful things like toys, play, and food.  Dr. Dunbar and another one of my heroes, Dr. Sophia Yin have written many books and articles on the subject.  Stay tuned for more blogs about socialization from Oh Behave too.

Finding Time To Maintain Your Training

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Play with me!

Working training into your daily schedule doesn’t have to be a chore.  As a dog trainer that completely understands the busy lives of her clients, part of my job is to help my clients find time to make training a part of their daily life.  Admittedly, when you get your new puppy or a dog that is new to you and your home, a lot of time has to be devoted to housetraining, socialization, bite inhibition training, basic obedience, and addressing special needs of rescues if needed.  Teaching your new dog or puppy how to get a long in your life takes a lot of up-front time and dedication.  For those of you that have trained with me, thanks for making that commitment to your new family member.  I know it was sometimes frustrating and emotional, but I’m sure most of you will agree it was worth it.  So what happens after all of this exhausting work during the first year?   Well, a few (very few) will get the training bug and go on to intermediate or advanced levels, competitive activities, or therapy work.  But most dog owners forget to maintain their new found skills and then find themselves in embarrassing situations at dog friendly events or out in public when they least expect their skills to fail them.

The key to maintaining your basic skills is to practice them often and in different environments. My best advice about remembering to practice and finding time for it is… MAKE IT FUN!  First think about some of the fun things you do with your dog.  A quick training session can take place in or near the parking lot of your favorite venue.  Some of Maddie’s favorites are:  a county park, a nature trail at a county park, dog friendly events, Sunday morning Jazzfest, or a quick trip to Starbucks.  Keep your practice session short.  The reward is getting to do whatever activity you came to do, once your dog completes a couple of quick cues.  Start with something easy.  Hopefully you’re not so woefully out of touch that your dog forgot ‘sit’ or ‘watch me’.  If you are in that category, you’re going to need a few remedial trainings at home in a distraction free environment first.  What else do you do for fun?  How about playtime in the backyard?  There’s no rule that says that playtime can’t include some practice too.  Why not incorporate a ‘down stay’ in exchange for throwing the ball?  How about a ‘drop it’ in exchange for a tug game.  Most dogs consider walks to be pretty fun.  Why not try some snazzy heeling in the driveway in exchange for a brisker than usual pace on the walk, or trying a new and previously unsmelled route?

I will leave you with my personal favorite for finding time every day to practice with Maddie:  training while multitasking.   Maddie has figured out that while I blow dry my hair is a great time to drop a toy at my feet and give me that pathetic look so I’ll kick it to her.  Currently, I am working on ‘back up’ in exchange for me to kick a toy.  There are no rules against multitasking while training.  You can also incorporate this into your TV watching rituals and cooking tasks.  Be creative and have fun!!

Building a Great Foundation with Basics

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Success!

So you got through housebreaking.  You managed to survive those painfully sharp evil little puppy teeth. You even followed the suggestion of your dog trainer and you have been taking your puppy on play dates and visits with friends to socialize him properly.  Whew.  Like many owners of adolescent or older pups, you’re probably exhausted and ready to try to get your life back.

It seems there is an endless “to do” list associated with puppy and dog ownership, but taking the time in the first year to get a good foundation, will pay off in amazing ways.  Meeting the developmental deadlines to housetrain and socialize your dog, as well as mouthing management, is crucial to your puppy’s success in the home.  The next important step is to learn the basics.  Getting all of this training in the first year can be the difference between a biter or a confident, happy dog; the difference between a runner or a dog that knows to check in with you, the difference between surrendering your dog or keeping him.

Learning the basics is not just for your dog.  The basics (at least in my programs) involve learning to communicate with your dog without using force or coercion.  It is as important for the human to learn communication skills as it is for the dog.  Basic obedience exercises teach your dog to deal with frustration and to look to humans for direction.   Building a foundation of communication that does not involve force or coercion will payoff in plenty of happy and peaceful days in the future.