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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!!

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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.


Why Are Leash Manners So Rare?

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Leash Manners Take Practice

I spend alot of time in parks and I’ve noticed that it’s not only my new class participants that lack leash manners.  Let’s discuss some of the “whys” of pulling and “hows” of controlled leash walking.

* The puppy was not introduced to a leash early.  When puppies start out, they are clumsy, their vision is limited, and the owner is just the best thing in the world.  Then you wake up one day and your puppy is speeding through developmental stages and is acting like a 17 year old kid with the car keys.  Puppy’s eyes are wide open, he is confident (good for you) and the world is his!  Getting a puppy used to a leash and teaching him some impulse control EARLY will help tremendously later.

*Since the puppy did not get the impulse control and desensitized to the leash early, your awesome dog trainer suggested a humane “no-pull” head collar or body harness so your huge adolescent pup doesn’t pull you down.  You think, “WOW, this solves all of my problems!”. Well, not really.  No-pull devices are tools that are meant to be faded out, but many owners are happy to simply continue using the device for the dog’s life.  Here’s the part where I give a true confession…  Pictured above is Maddie, my dog, walking like a dream on a no-pull body harness.  Is that cheating?  Of course!  But it’s not cheating as much as using a head collar.  So, I am definitely trying to phase out the training device, but in teeny tiny steps.  There are situations where Maddie will walk nicely on a flat collar, but we need to generalize this to all situations.  If you want to do any higher level training with your dog or therapy work, no-pull devices are not allowed.  If your dog is pulling you on a training device, but doesn’t have the leverage to pull you down, you need to wait for a loose leash from your dog before you step forward.  It’s called “be a tree”.

*Unbeknownst to you, you trained your dog to pull on the leash.  Can you say retractable leash?  Scenario: dog pulls… owner releases lock and rewards the dog for pulling by giving more leash.  For those of you that are saying to yourselves that you lock the leash in one position and never move it, be honest.  As Dr. Phil says, “let’s get real”!  If you always had a retractable leash locked in one position, you would have traded it in for a regular leash long ago.  In order to fix this, you need to get a non-retractable leash and work on loose leash skills using the be a tree method.

*The dog has reactivity or aggression issues.  In my book, this does not fall under the “manners” category, but it is certainly a frustrating and sometimes frightening leash event for not only the owner but the dog too.  Leash issues in this category cannot be resolved with simple “training” because this behavior is caused by fear.  Work with a qualified dog trainer or dog behavior consultant to address the dog’s fear first.

I have read many articles about “lazy owners” and how they should require better leash manners of their dogs.  In cases where the dog is under control using a humane, no pull device, I disagree.  Normally it is a matter of priority rather than laziness.  For example, many of my clients have dogs that are aggressive to humans and other animals.  Clearly, heeling like a champ is not a priority.  The priority is to get the dog past the fear issues causing the aggression first.  It can be a long journey.  Tools like the freedom harness give owners real options for better control while they are on that journey. For those dog owners that are out and about with little or no control over their dogs, something bad is going to happen eventually.  There are humane, efficient, and effective ways to teach your dog some impulse control and leash manners.

Getting the Most From Group Classes

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Enzo, a proud recent grad

Group dog training classes are typically reasonably priced and a great opportunity to learn valuable skills.  There are so many learning opportunities and socialization opportunities involved in taking a group class.  Here are some tips to make the most of your group class experience.

*Find a class taught by a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.  There are plenty of hobbyist dog trainers giving classes.  You will be much more likely to incorporate what you learn in class into your every day life if the teacher is a professional that receives continuing education, and is up to date on the latest training methods and equipment.

*Find a class that uses positive reinforcement methods and does not allow coercive, or aversive methods in class.  The old school jerk and pull leash corrections can lead to aggression or fear aggression in some dogs.

*Make note of any prerequisites and be honest with yourself about if you meet these requirements.  For example, enrolling in my Rally class if your dog doesn’t sit or down on cue would be very frustrating for the student. 

*Follow your trainer or their company on social media.  I post tons of articles, tips, and dog friendly events on the Oh Behave Facebook page and my Twitter page.  It’s free information from reputable sources.  Why not take advantage of it?

*If the teacher and space at the facility allow for it, arrive to class a few minutes early.  It’s a great opportunity to get individual attention from the trainer if he or she is not teaching another class.  In addition, most dogs need some time to acclimate to the environment before they are ready to give you their attention and focus.

*Read your syllabus and handouts, do your homework, and come to class prepared.  Your experience in class will be frustrating if you are not using the right equipment, treats, or have not practiced.

*If space and the teacher allow it, have all adults in the family attend class.  It is best to avoid changing handlers in the middle of class, but the adults in the family should be familiar with all of the practice exercises to provide consistency at home.

*Make friends with your classmates after class.  If appropriate, making friends with other students in class is a great way to continue to socialize your dog.  Some of my students have enjoyed the company of their classmates at dog parks and other venues because they made that connection in my class.  Remember, not all dogs are appropriate for play sessions with other dogs.  Be sure to ask the owner first.

Your group class experience should be fun, informative and a great value.  Make the most of your experience.

Dog Bite Prevention

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All dogs with teeth can bite

I’m writing this blog a few days after Dog Bite Prevention Week.  I saw alot of great information on Facebook from my dog trainer friends, but it never seems to reach enough parents and children.  Bites still happen.  Last month, I went to a dog bite investigation seminar that was targeted for professionals in law enforcement and dog training.  To be honest, I am still shaken by some of the images I saw.

The statistics are staggering.  There are 5 million dog bites reported each year.  Based on my conversations with my clients, there are many bites that go unreported.  Some of my clients call me after several incidents and none were reported.  50% of children will be bit by a dog by the time they graduate high school.  Although fatal attacks are rare, kids are the primary victims.  76% of fatal attacks are on children 12 years old and under.

Why kids? Jim Crosby, the presenter of the dog bite investigation seminar, offered two reasons:
1) Adults, because of their size, are able to absorb a wound better than a small child.
2) Kids don’t read the warning signals from a dog as well as adults.

So how can we keep children and the rest of humanity safe from these adorable creatures that share our homes and lives?  Everyone can help whether you own a dog or not.  Please review the items below and share some of the attached resources with friends, family, teachers, and veterinarians.

For dog owners:

  • Do not buy a puppy from retail puppy store, backyard breeder, or on the internet.  Puppy mills and backyard breeders do not do temperament testing on their breeding dogs (or testing for genetic disease for that matter) and the puppy mill environment is devoid of socialization with humans.
  • If you have a puppy, socialize him early and safely.  Unsocialized dogs are more likely to bite out of fear.
  • If you have a puppy, work with a dog training professional to teach the puppy what’s called “bite inhibition”.
  • Work with a professional dog trainer to learn exercises to prevent resource guarding. Dogs that guard food or other items can be dangerous, especially to children.
  • Work with a professional trainer to teach leave it and drop it.  Bites often occur when taking an item away from a dog.
  • Do not train your dog using aversive or punishment based methods.  Dogs trained with these methods are at risk to develop aggressive behaviors.
  • Properly confine dogs indoors, in fenced areas, or on six foot leash (no retractables).  One of the really shocking photos from the seminar involved four prey driven dogs in a rural area that chased, dragged, and killed a child.
  • Provide proper supervision of dogs in fenced in yards.  Fences can be compromised when owners are not supervising.
  • Never leave babies or small children alone with dogs.

For everyone:

  • Learn about dog body language and warning signs and share the information with others.
  • Learn how to properly greet a dog and share with this information others… especially kids.
  • Learn how to prevent or stop a dog attack and share this information with others.
  • Encourage your local government to adopt and enforce strict neglect and abuse laws including anti tethering laws.  Abused, neglected and tethered dogs are more likely to bite.

Resources:

AVMA Dog Bite Prevention
How to Greet a Dog Do’s & Don’ts
Body Language of Fear in Dogs
5 Tips on Surviving a Dog Attack

Curse of the Good First “Baby”

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ImageSometimes I get accused of using too many human analogies when I discuss behavior, learning and motivation for pet dogs.  I avoid what is called “anthropomorphism”, that is, assigning human characteristics to animals.  However, all living things respond to positive reinforcement training.  In that arena, I find there are many similarities.

Sometimes it’s my clients that give me the good analogy.  I’d like to share with you the “curse of the good first baby” that a client shared with me.  I have seen episodes of Dr. Phil with similar parenting stories involving parental expectations and judgements, but hearing it first hand really amused me.

Sometimes we are just blessed with the perfect dog.  Perhaps a born follower, gentle, very attached to its owners…  This dog just doesn’t seem to need training.  He never jumps on guests (or is too small for that to be annoying), doesn’t run away, not destructive and is easily housetrained.  For those of us that have experienced “normal dogs”, this sounds almost too good to be true.  We have suffered the indignity of finding chewed up belongings, stinky messes, and begging our dogs to come to us in public when they get loose.  At Oh Behave, I don’t get a whole lot of phone calls from the owners of “perfect” dogs.

I get lots of phone calls in my line of work about the new dog that is just evil.  Of course, they tell me it’s a puppy, but it’s really already one and a half years old, not housebroken, destructive, still mouthy, runs out the door every time it’s open, and guests refuse to come to the house because of the jumping, mouthing, and incessant barking.  Just another day at Oh Behave Dog Training.

So I visited the home of one of these “evil” dogs and the owners tell me that they just can’t figure out what’s wrong with their dog. Their last dog never did any of the ridiculous behaviors like barking, jumping, running away, and peeing on the carpet.  I had to give them the doggie parent dose of reality: “most dogs will do what your current dog is doing unless you teach them to do something else.  There is nothing wrong with this dog, we just need to teach him what’s right.”  “Well what about our last dog?”, they ask.  I tell them how lucky they were to have had such a wonderful dog, but most people are not lucky enough to be blessed by the “perfect” dog twice in a row.

The dog mom starts to squirm & turn red.  She starts talking to me and her husband about her sister, brother in law,  and their children.  Evidently, the sister’s first child is an angel: as a toddler she was very sweet, never went through the terrible twos and slept through the night as a baby.  Apparently the sister and brother in law were pretty unforgiving and judgmental about the dog mom’s child parenting skills.  Dog mom would explain that her kids sometimes have tantrums, outbursts, trouble sitting still, and other normal, but not so desirable behaviors.  It’s normal. The judgements went on until the sister and brother in law had the second child.  Baby number two was colicky as a baby and was a terror through the terrible twos, and is still pretty much of a handful.  The sister thought she was such an amazing parent because her child was so amazing.  The sister thought my clients were bad parents because they had a child that just does normal childhood behaviors.  And so my clients had the doggie parent epiphany… even though their first dog was an angel, they basically sucked at dog training.

The good news is that training your dog is a skill that can be learned. My clients and their new dog all lived a much less stressful life by simply introducing some positive reinforcement training!  Now they think their current dog is an angel and I am happy to tell them what wonderful dog parents they have become!   They are truly great at training their dog.