Calming the Canine In the Castle

One of the most challenging and frustrating behaviors that many dog guardians experience with their canine companions is when someone knocks on the front door. Dogs seems to go into some kind of medieval warrior role as if their Canine Castle was about to be invaded. God forbid the doorbell rings! And oh my word, don’t even think about letting someone waltz calmly into their home. If a dog has any “dog sense” at all, they are going to freak out a bit when a stranger arrives. They are programmed to respond and protect!

Most dogs will dash to the door in a panic while barking wildly. If you live with more than one dog it’s probably not unheard of to be literally run over by frenzied dogs while you are trying to even get to the door. And forget about even trying to open the door with a dog that’s determined to get to the Stranger Danger on the other side of their Doggie Castle!

Once the door dashing chaos has subsided and you are able to let the guest inside (without a dog escaping), then the fun really begins. The dogs are jumping up on the person as they are entering your home. Slobber is flying. Tails are whacking. You’re utterly embarrassed and equally aggravated. You find yourself yanking and yelling at the dog to “GET OFF!” your frightened and overwhelmed guest.

Well, all of that chaos can be managed and even eliminated.

In the video below, Victoria Stilwell’s teaches you how to train your canine companions to stay calm and stay put when the doorbell rings!

IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE:

  • Victoria never raised her voice.
  • She never became aggravated, irritated, or impatient with the dog.
  • She remained calm and patient throughout.
  • She never forced the dog to do anything.
  • She allowed the dog to have a mental break.
  • She let the dog be a willing participant.

This is how all animal training should happen. I promise you will see faster and more accurate results when you use these positive training methods.

Note: A “release cue” is how you let the dog know that it’s OK to stop doing what you’ve just commanded. For example, if you say “sit” the dog should remain sitting until you say the “release cue” word or phrase. A very common one is “OK”.

Check out more helpful dog training tips from Victoria here.

YOUR Role In Dog Bite Prevention

When you know better you do better. – Maya Angelou

 

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is here!  This entire week is dedicated to educating people of all ages about how to becomes more Dog Aware, and increase the safety of kids and dogs.  We are focusing on the facts, not on creating fear.


NOTE: There is a lot of information in this post. I recommend bookmarking this page, so you can read through it all when you have time, and so you can reference it when you need it later!


Dog Bite Prevention
(Graphic provided by Dr. Yin)

The Humane Society of the United States reports that 50% of children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday.  Children under the age of five are most likely to be bitten and most of these bites come from a dog that the child knows; the family dog or that of a relative or friend.  Children are most likely to be bitten in the face as they are closer to a dog’s eye level making it easier for a dog to feel threatened by eye to eye contact.  Children love to kiss and hug dogs, even though these expressions of affection do not translate well in the dog world.  Fast movements can stimulate a dog’s prey drive and/or chase instinct.  Higher pitched voices can sometimes startle a dog and make it fearful.   A dog can be frustrated through rough play or by teasing and a child can inadvertently inflict pain with the pull of a tail or a poke in the eye.  It is also hard for a child to read and understand a dog’s body language, therefore missing vital signals that can put them in harm’s way.

Here’s the Good News:  We can change the statistics!  And, the majority of dog bites, if not all, are preventable.  That’s where YOU come in.  It’s our duty as dog guardians, parents, educators, and family members to learn how to read dogs better, and teach children how to learn dog “language” and to teach children to respect a dog’s space. The graphic below from Doggone Safe shows us a few signals that dog display when they are stressed.

Dog bite out of nowhere myth
Graphic provided by DoggoneSafe

 Researchers found that “Children from 4-7 years misinterpret dogs’ facial expressions.” They found that a full tooth display from a dog is not an effective way to teach a child to back away and leave them alone.  Their research suggests that young children might be interpreting an offensive tooth display on a dog’s face as an expression of friendliness rather than a threat.  Given that so many bites are to children, this is an important piece of information. ~ Dr. Patricia McConnell


Check out this video about Dog Body Language:



Pet. Pause. Respect.

A very handy technique that I’ve learned, and now share with my clients is the “Pet-Pause-Respect Test”.  This helps everyone in the family to know if the dog really wants attention or NOT.  I highly recommend that everyone use the Pet/Pause/Respect rule when interacting with all pets.

 

This is not cute. This is dangerous.
This is not cute.  This is dangerous.  The dog is being forced to interact with the child, and has limited options to get away.

Doggone Safe shares 5 Important Tips to Teach Kids:

1. Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses — Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face.  Hugging the family dog or other face-to-face contacts are common causes of bites to the face.  Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.

2.  Be a Tree if a strange dog approaches — Teach kids to stand still, like a tree.  Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away.  This works for strange dogs, and any time the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.

3.  Never tease a dog.

4.  Never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating, or protecting something.

5. Teach your kids to Speak Dog, and only interact only with happy dogs! Watch this short slideshow that shows you how to read dog body language, and other safety tips.

press_release_distribution_0200462_37638

Familiar children were most commonly bitten in relation to food or resource guarding and “benign” interactions such as petting, hugging, bending over, or speaking to the dog. 

Dog bite prevention week

What Parents Can Do:

1. ACTIVELY Supervise — Passive supervision is something we are all guilty of, even if you don’t have kids.  But active supervision is a must when there are pets and children in the home!

Supervision means different things to different people. To some parents, supervision means just being home, to others it means watching out the window while the kids play with the dog outside while to others it means having hands on and being part of the interaction between the child and the dog. Many dog bites have happened to children while the parents were ‘supervising’.  – Jennifer Shryock, Family Paws Parent Education

2. Know signals that dogs display.  If you see these behaviors, intervene quickly (but calmly) and redirect the child or dog onto something positive.  These behavior signals include:

3.  Learn the Dog Behavior Continuum:  We hear it all the time, “Kids and dogs should never be left unsupervised”.  That’s great advice, but what else should we be doing??  Supervision only works when we know what to look for and when it’s time to intervene.  We have to know when a dog is going from “Enjoyment to Tolerance, to Enough Already“and back again.

4.  Don’t assume your dog is “good with kids”.  All dogs have their breaking point.  We all do.  Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten before, why take a chance? Toddlers, babies, and dogs don’t need to physically interact!

5.  Train your dog positively Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down, or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson.  Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on other family members.

6.  Involve older children with positively training your family dog (while supervising).

7. Don’t allow children to punish the dog, and don’t punish the dog yourself.

8. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

9. Understand and learn to recognize Trigger Stacking.

10. Understand and recognize the Ladder of Aggression. 

5-types-Supervision-
What’s Your Style of Supervision?

Actively Supervise! Supervise your dog around children at all times.  If visiting children are bothering your dog (or other pets in the house), put the pets away safely, or send the children home.   Be your child and your dog’s advocate.    Parents and guardians must be responsible for their dog at all times, without exception, and especially around children.  A child should NEVER be left unsupervised with any dog at any time and dog and child should only be together when a responsible adult can actively supervise.  This keeps both children and dogs safe.  

A child should never be left unsupervised with any dog at any time
A child should never be left unsupervised with any dog at any time

To learn more about what you can do check out:


“My dog would never bite anyone!” Are you willing to bet your dog on that statement?
“My dog would never bite anyone!”
Are you willing to bet your dog  or your child on that statement?  Why take the risk?

There’s no better time than now to educate each other about how each of us has the power to keep everyone happy and safe. This week is the perfect time to reflect on how we can ensure our canine companions, children, and others steer clear of unwanted and preventable circumstances.  Education is the key to safety and well being for everyone in the home.  Please share this to help educate others so we can all work together to keep dogs, kids, and families happy and harmonious 365 days a year!

 Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ― Nelson Mandela

Gardening 101 with Dogs

 How to enjoy your yard and garden with a dog!

Dog in garden

Dogs dig.  Dogs eat things.  It’s what dogs do.  As a homeowner or renter, we have to keep the yard healthy, clean, and looking great.  As a dog guardian, we also have an obligation to keep our canine companions safe and out of trouble in the yard or garden.  There is a balance between letting the family dog enjoy the yard, and allowing you to enjoy the yard, too!

Doggie School 101

Educating your four-legged companion is one of the best ways to protect the dog from things in your garden, and to protect your garden from the dog.  The best way to do this is to teach your canine companion (in a similar way that you would teach your children) not to put things in their mouths.  We also need to teach them where they are allowed to go, and where they are not go through positive, reward-based training.  It’s not really fair to be upset when a dog acts like a dog, especially when we have not told them what we want them to do.  Scolding or punishing them after the fact teaches them nothing, and only breaks down your bond.  Set your canine companion up for success by setting boundaries and teaching them what you do want.

Teach the “Leave It” and “Drop It” Cue 

“Leave it” is a phrase that you can use when you want your dog to leave something alone.  After he or she learns what “Leave it” means, you can use this cue to help them avoid things in the yard or garden that could hurt them, or things that are off limits.  Victoria Stilwell demonstrates how to teach your canine companion to leave something alone with positively training in this video.

Training your canine companion to “drop it” is just as important as the “leave it” cue.  Learn how to teach him or her to let go of whatever is in their mouth – on cue.   This release (drop it) cue is very important.  It protects them when they have something dangerous in their mouth.  It only takes a few minutes to teach most dogs the release cue “drop it”.   The idea behind this training method is to basically offer your dog a trade  – “Let go of the object in your mouth and something good will happen.”  In this video, Victoria shows you a really effective cue for “Take It” and “Drop It”. 

 

All Eyes on Dog

Another key to keeping your yard, garden, and dog safe is constant supervision.  You may not like the idea, but it’s what you signed up for when you brought that dog into your home. Many dogs need to be supervised in the yard, if they are prone to digging, chewing, or eating “unauthorized” items.  You wouldn’t let your child run amuck alone at the pool or candy store, so why do we do it with our dogs?

In this article from Modern Dog Magazine, Stephen Westcott-Gratton, senior horticultural editor at Canadian Gardening, discusses how to discourage digging, how to avoid brown patches throughout the lawn from urination, the flowers, shrubs, veggies and fruits to avoid, why going chemical free is best, and more!   Below is my favorite tip for avoiding unauthorized digging in the yard.

Dog Sand Box

Excerpt from Stephen’s article:  

To discourage Digger from excavating your flower bed and tunneling through your tomatoes, consider creating a space in your yard designed specifically for “paws-on activity.”  A shaded sandbox or sand pit is a great idea, particularly as many dogs love to dig out a cool space to lie in during the warmer months. Situate it at the base of a tree or surround it by low shrubs, and consider adding a layer of wood chips.    A lot of animals like wood chips because they keep everything quite fluffy and light up top and it’s easier for them to dig and bury than solid earth. Giving Digger a place of his own for his hobby may ensure that you harvest spuds from your potato patch and not a basketful of buried chew toys.

 

Read all of Stephen’s safe gardening tips here to keep your garden or yard safe and beautiful while keeping your canine companion safe and happy as you share during the warm months!

Image

 

Who’s Walking Whom?

 Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.  It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them. ― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog

Dog walking human
Is this what you and your dog look like on walks together?

 

In our family, the evening walk with our dog is our “family time” together.  It’s such a great time to bond with our dog, and it’s a great time for us to talk about our day with each other.  Our dog gets to spend “happy time” with her people, and frankly, its the highlight of her day!  If you are gone all day, I can promise you that the evening walk is your dog’s most exciting time of the day.  They do look forward to it, and it’s the very least that we can do for them when they are stuck inside all day, waiting for their people to come home.

However, walks can be very stressful when we are not in sync.  One of my biggest pet peeves (no pun intended) is when a dog pulls on a leash while we are walking together.  It is incredibly frustrating, and it makes the walk very stressful.  The walk ends up being cut short because it’s not enjoyable for anyone.  This can also be dangerous for older people, or anyone with physical limitations. If a dog is pulling on the lead, you can literally be swept off your feet! (I know this for a fact.)

Here’s another problem:  Dogs need to be walked once a day – at a minimum.  Who wants to walk a dog that walks the person?!  No one does.  If walks are stressful, chaotic, or exhausting, you are probably going to be less likely to want to go on a walk with your canine companion. Avoiding walks because they are stressful is not a productive solution!

So what’s the solution?  Teach your dog how to walk politely on a leash.


dog pulling human
Does your dog walk you?

 

Dogs love to explore their outside world.  Going on a walk is the most exciting (and most stimulating!) part of their doggie day, so their desire to rush ahead of you is very strong.  It’s their nature to want to run ahead and seek out all of those incredible scents, sights, and sounds!

Unfortunately, we don’t make ideal walking partners for high energy dogs, since we only have two legs.  A dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours.  When a dog has to put the breaks on their excitement by walking calmly by their person’s side, this is very hard for them, especially when the only thing our dog wants to do is RUN and EXPLORE!  Our boring, slow human pace can drive them nuts, making them want to get further away from the person that’s holding them back.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not pull on the leash while being walked because they want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha, or dominant over their human.  There is a much simpler explanation that does not give credence to the myth that dogs are on a quest for world domination! ~ V. Stilwell

Walking calmly next to a person while out and about on a walk, requires a great amount of impulse control.  This is often very difficult for some dogs to practice.  People often get frustrated and fed up, so they resort to punishment or tools that are downright dangerous.


Tools of the Old School Trade – What to AVOID

There are a variety of tools on the market today that claim to help with leash walking.  Be Aware: Some of these methods are outdated and downright cruel.

Choke, prong and shock collars can irreversibly damage your dog.  Learn why these collars cause hypothyroidism and other health problems:


FACT:  Modern behavioral science has proven that forceful handling such as physical punishment, using choke chains, shock collars, and leash yanking is psychologically damaging for the dog.

I invite you to do a little test: 

1. Open your hands with your thumbs touching each other. Place the thumbs at the base of the throat and with the fingers pointing back and surrounding the neck.
2. Now, take a deep breath, squeeze and pull back with all your force keeping your thumbs connected.
3. This is how many dogs feel when they are on the leash and collar and they are pulling.

If you are still keen to continue with this experiment, put a choke chain or pinch collar around your neck, attach it to a leash, and ask a friend to pull and jerk on it periodically.  Welcome to the dog world!

pinch collar choke collars

 

 


Tips for Success, and What You Need to Consider First!

Before you begin,  here are a few tips that you need to consider:

Reward:  Do you know what motivates your dog?  Is it verbal praise, toys, or treats?  Once you know what their motivation is, you can use that as a tool for training.  Find out what really excites your canine companion and what grabs their attention.  If your boss at work gave you sauerkraut when you performed well, but your favorite treat is chocolate, you probably won’t perform well again.  Make sure the reward is something that will be worth their effort.

Time Limit:  Remember that you don’t need to spend a half hour doing a training session.  5 to 10 minutes is best.  Do a training session with your dog two or three times a day.  Keep it short! Keep it FUN!

Punishment is Outdated:  Positive training is going to produce results faster and is going to last.  It’s far better to have a dog do what is asked because he or she wants to do it rather than doing it because he or she is afraid of the consequences if they do not.

Set them up for success:  Begin inside! Then you can move outside after both you and your dog have mastered indoors!  You want to start in an environment where there are few/zero distractions.  Once you have mastered that together you can move the sessions outside.  When you go outside, follow the same guidelines: zero distractions, in a boring, small area.  (ex backyard, no squirrels, people, or other dogs, etc.).  Once you master small, boring spaces, progress to moderately exiting spaces.  If that’s too much, take a few steps back, and make the environment less exciting. You want to set your dog up for success in an environment where you are way more exciting than anything else that’s happening. Then you can start to add in outside distractions.

TIP:  You will both succeed more quickly if you find a way to tire your canine companion before a training session.  Dogs pull, in part, because they’re full of excess energy.  So unless you can expend that energy, he or she will find it hard to control themselves.   Before training, play fetch in a hallway or your backyard, play a vigorous game of tug, Get crazy with a Flirt Pole, or let her play with her favorite doggie pal first!

High Note: Always end on a positive note (even if you did not see the results you wanted yet)! Ending it on a good note will help you both; your dog will want to do another session with you if she’s having fun, and you will too!

 

You will have more success during a training session if  your canine companion is relaxed and not full of hyper energy.
You’ll have more success during training sessions if your canine companion is relaxed and not full of hyper energy.

Training TRUTH:  The most successful modern training theories show that reinforcing good behavior with rewards while using constructive discipline is much more successful.   Learn more about why positive reinforcement works.

Hocus walking calmly on leash while surrounded by lots of neighborhood distractions.  She doesn't have to walk parallel to me, but we do continue to encourage calm, relaxed behavior on lead.
Hocus walking calmly on leash (while surrounded by lots of neighborhood distractions). Our Criteria: She doesn’t have to walk parallel to us, if she chooses not to, but we do continue to encourage (reinforce) calm, relaxed behavior on lead. Notice that the lead is loose, not tight, which is the criteria we have reinforced. She can walk ahead, but she has learned that it’s no longer reinforcing to pull on her leash. We never punish unwanted behavior. We REINFORCE the behavior we want to see more of!

 

 

paw prints

Behavior Bite:  We add tension and stress when we pull back on the leash.   Not only does pulling back on a dog’s leash prevent the dog from moving freely and naturally, but it creates tension in our dog.  Most dogs will resist this pressure on their necks/shoulders (that you have created) and they will pull harder!  Loosen up. It lightens the load on both you and your dog!


The videos below demonstrate easy and simple techniques that teach you how to teach your canine to walk politely on a leash.  These methods are using positive, force-free techniques:

Victoria Stillwell demonstrates how to teach Loose Leash Training – INSIDE:


Once you have successfully mastered loose leash training inside, you can train again outside:

 


Loose Leash Walking Outside  -Using Tasty Treats, Outside, with Minimal Distractions: 


 

Loose-Leash-Walking
Tip: The goal is to have a “J” shape in the leash/lead.

 

Remember:

Find their motivation.

Keep the training sessions short.

Always end on a high note.

Positive reinforcement always triumphs over negative consequences.

Set them up for success.

Make it Fun!

 

 


Training Truth + Tips for Success: See Beyond The Surface.

Not everything is what it appears to be. Most dogs who lunge on leash are highly insecure. They may look vicious, but behind many frightening Fido faces are dogs that are are experiencing frustration or FEAR.

This is why it’s never recommended to punish a dog that lunges on the leash.

When we yank, hit, yell, or jerk on the leash of a dog that is *reacting*, we are adding fuel to the fire. We are making the situation worse, AND in the process, we are teaching the dog that they should be afraid of whatever it is they are barking, growling, or lunging at.

Our job as their guardian is to do the opposite: We want to teach the dog to focus on something else, and to change they way they FEEL about the perceived threat.  Learn how to by clicking on the image below.

leash-aggression_dog barks lunges on leash

 


 

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