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Posts Tagged ‘reactive dog

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
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
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
???????????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.
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
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!!


Building a Great Foundation with Basics

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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.

Don’t Wait to Call Me!

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Maddie looks scary, but in this photo, she is just vocalizing. However, she does have a bite history and it was addressed immediately.

Dogs learn from every interaction they have with their environment, people, and other animals.  When a dog sticks her nose in the face of a cat, she may get a clawed swat on the nose.  The dog learns that it may be painful to stick her nose in the cat’s face and it may not be a good idea to repeat that behavior.  When an owner rewards a sit-stay by putting on a leash and releasing the dog so they can take a walk outside, the dog learns that sitting by the door is a great way to get the human to open the door and take him for a walk.  There are consequences both good and not so good associated with your dog’s behavior.

When your dog growls, snaps, and/or lunges at a human, it is usually fear based.  The dog is seeking space because a human is doing something to make the dog feel uncomfortable or stressed. The typical human response is to recoil and give the dog space so the human can keep his fingers, ankles, face, or whatever other part may be in danger.  What does the dog learn?  That growling, lunging and/or snapping is a good strategy to get people to give him the space he wants.  If that doesn’t get the human’s attention, the dog may move on to landing a bite.

When I talk to potential clients on the phone and at our first lesson, I get a details about the dog’s bite history.  I can’t tell you how many are on bite #3 or 4 when the owner finally seeks help.  My concern with waiting is that the dog has learned that the aggressive behavior works for him.  It’s easier to teach desirable behavior than un-teach (extinguish) undesirable behavior and then teaching a desirable behavior in its place.  Furthermore, I usually have to use more safety equipment like a muzzle to keep everyone safe.  This makes the process longer and the owner management even more complex.  I sometimes lose clients because they give up citing the behavior modification program is “too hard”, “too time consuming”, “too slow”, “too expensive”, and many other reasons.

The takeaway is, if you observe your dog exhibiting aggressive behavior toward a human or another dog, you should call a Certified Professional Dog Trainer immediately.  A skilled dog trainer can help you and your dog, without force or pain.  You want to change your dog’s emotional state when presented with humans.  Work with a qualified trainer to begin the process of trust.

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.


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

How To Handle a Bad Day

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2013 Walk for the Animals

Another Walk for the Animals has come and gone.  It’s a great feeling to have the support of friends and family, generously donating to a cause that I love.  The weather couldn’t have been better; nice and cold so we didn’t have to worry about heat stroke.  How could anything about this day be bad?  Well my walk partner Maddie had more than the usual number of reactive outbursts which was frustrating and disappointing.

The day was not a total write off.  We were able to sit for our pack photo without incident.  I had a few conversations with friends accompanied by their dogs without any reaction.  While I lamented over several reactions with small dogs and dogs running in the FunZone, we recovered with a nice walk along the river just the two of us.  When we were done, we said our goodbyes to our friends without incident and called it a day rather than pushing our luck.

Ironically, when I came home, I read a Facebook post from a fellow dog trainer proclaiming she was “guilty of bad dog training”.  I actually laughed out loud because I know she is an outstanding dog trainer.  The reason I’m sharing my setbacks with everyone is because we all have room for improvement (even dog trainers).  We all can do things better.  We all have good days and bad days.  The good thing about positive reinforcement training is that although your cues, markers, timing, rewards, etc. may be way off, you are not going to do anything to ruin, traumatize, or hurt your dog.  My fellow dog training friend is going back to foundation work for her sport with her dog, and I will go back to some threshold work with Maddie.

People often ask me how Maddie could have possibly earned a Canine Good Citizen Award with her reactivity issues.  I always smile and tell them that it only represented a thin slice of time and everything just happened to fall into place that day.  So if you encounter a bad day when things fall apart, remember that it only represents a thin slice of time in your dog’s life.   There will be better days.  On this day, with the help of my friends and family, we raised over $1,500 for the Humane Society of Broward County.  That’s a victory by any standards!

Nosework is Amazing!

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Duke taking a break

I began offering K9 Fun Nosework classes in 2011.  I have seen amazing positive changes in some of my students that I would not have believed were possible one year ago.  K9 Fun Nosework is a class and sport that is increasing in popularity because it appeals to a wider range of dogs and owners than many other dog training classes and sports.  Nosework focuses on encouraging and developing your dog’s natural scenting abilities by using their desire to hunt and their love of toys, food and exercise.  Originally, my thought was to offer this class to provide dog owners that were unable to participate in more traditional obedience sports and classes, another option to enjoy working with their dogs in a safe and social environment.  What I learned is that participating in Nosework has had profoundly positive effects on many of my students.  I’d like to share some of our success stories.



Lexie – I first met Lexie in a private session.  She was apprehensive with me and uncomfortable with my presence in her house.  Sharee, her owner, indicated that she was fearful around children, men, strollers and stressed by certain situations.  After suggesting some behavior modification exercises, I also suggested she try my Nosework class to work on Lexie’s confidence.  During searches, Lexie really excelled.  She was even able to find treats that I had overlooked from previous searches.  Lexie’s confidence improved tremendously from the search exercises and the behavior modification she and Sharee practiced during class when Lexie was not searching.  Lexie’s body language during most of class was that of a relaxed and happy dog.  Sharee and Lexie are working on extending Lexie’s confidence to other situations in her daily life.



Harley – Debbie came to Nosework to address her dog Harley’s  reactive behavior around other dogs.  While working our first class, I realized that we would need to work on his confidence as well.  I inadvertently caused Harley some stress while rushing to him to reward a find.  Harley also excelled at searches and was able to search for birch scent without being paired with meat. To make it fun we had him search for keys with birch scent.  Harley became much more relaxed around people.  Although he had some reactions to other dogs, his threshold improved and his demeanor around the dogs in class was much more relaxed.  Debbie continues doing Nosework searches with Harley at her truck maintenance facility where Harley searches for birch scented truck keys.  You can read more about their fun on our Testimonials Page.

Duke (pictured above) – I have been working with Duke in private training sessions with his owner, Jamie.  We are lucky to have her big yard with lots of hiding places where we can work off leash.  Jamie’s goal with Duke was to have a constructive outlet for his energy.  His history includes some other behavior issues that the family has been managing successfully. Duke is not really enthusiastic about fetching or going on walks, but he sure is excited about Nosework!  We started indoors hiding meat in boxes and under other objects. We worked our way through pairing meat with birch scent and now, birch scent only.  Jamie will wait with Duke inside while I hide a business card scented with birch oil out in the landscaping.  I’m careful not to encourage digging or any undesirable behaviors.  Typically, Duke takes less than 5 minutes to find the scented card.  He works hard, and is very excited about his search job.  An interesting side note: while searching outside, the next door neighbor’s yard crew was working close to the fence line.  Jamie indicated that normally, Duke would display reactive behavior barking at the activity next door.  While searching, Duke was not at all distracted by the yard crew.



Maddie – We recently took Maddie on vacation to Key West.  She takes a while to warm up to new places and has been known to whine incessantly or nip at any strangers that comes close during the adjustment period.  So, to take Maddie’s focus off of the adjustment, we did some Nosework upon arrival at our B&B.  Before Maddie entered our room, I set up some boxes and treats for her to do a little search exercise.  She began to focus on the search rather than our unpacking activities and the stress of a new environment.
Since Nosework is so new to everyone, it seems that we are all discovering new applications and amazing successes from participating in this fun sport.  The class has no prerequisites and is suitable for a wide range of dogs.

For details on K9 Fun Nosework, visit our website.  Nosework will be offered in Fall 2012 on Saturday mornings.  Stay tuned for dates!  Check out our videos below!


Why Aren’t You Walking Your Dog?

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In addition to the cardiovascular benefits to you and the dog, a walk with your dog can be an enjoying and enriching bonding experience.  Why then are many dog owners are still unable or unwilling to partake in this activity?  There are a variety of reasons that I have heard from clients and there are also ways to overcome these barriers. 

I let my dog out in my backyard.  While this is a good practice for potty breaks and playtime, it does not replace the enrichment a dog receives from processing the fresh and novel aromas outside of your home and yard.  Walks are mentally stimulating for dogs.  Walks also keep your dog well socialized to humans and other dogs.  For dogs, the difference between being let out in the yard and a walk around the neighborhood is like the difference between me eating lunch in a cubicle under fluorescent lighting and eating lunch on the Champs Elysees.

My dog pulls.  By far, this is one of the most common reasons that dogs are left inside or in the yard.  A multitude of No-Pull harnesses have been developed to discourage dogs from pulling on their leashes.  The “Gentle Leader” is my favorite because it gives the handler the most leverage to prevent pulling.  For small dogs that are not powerful, the “Easy Walk Harness” is another option.  Both products come with DVDs that explain how to fit and use the products.  There are also some behavior modification techniques that can be implemented with the help of a trainer.

My dog is reactive to other dogs.  A reactive dog can present dangerous scenarios in public.  It is important to use appropriate leashes and collars and to stay under your dog’s threshold.  If you are not ready to manage the behavior with a dog training professional, there are some options to offer your dog a change of scenery and smell.  Try walking your dog during off peak or low traffic hours. Walk in a wide open park where you have more options to keep your dog from getting close to other dogs.  Go off the beaten path.  I have been to the nature trails at Markham Park and Plantation Heritage Park.  During off peak hours, I have not seen another person or dog on the trails.  Enlist the help of a friend to serve as lookout for other dogs to be safe. 

My dog is too old.  The amount of exercise a dog needs in his senior years should be determined by a veterinarian.  A senior dog will benefit from a leisurely stroll down your driveway and down a few houses if your veterinarian approves.  Again, dogs benefit from the mental stimulation of processing novel scents.  There are a multitude of strollers available for physically challenged dogs to partake in the sights and smells around the neighborhood.

It’s too hot.  During the winter months in South Florida, dogs and their owners can enjoy brisks walk on a cool days.  In the summer, a walk could be dangerous to brachycephalic (short nosed) dogs.  Products like the Kool Collar can keep your dog from overheating, but keep your walks short, shaded, and in the evening or morning.

I don’t have the time.  Pay now or pay later.  Many of the behaviors that my clients want me to “fix” can be attributed to lack of exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization.  The behaviors include barking, destructive behavior, aggression, fear, and more.  There is time and money involved in cleaning up after, or addressing these behaviors.  There are many professional dog walking companies that offer this service if you cannot find the time. 

So many people begin the new year with healthy resolutions that include exercise.  Why not include your dog?

Written by dawnhanna

December 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm