Dog-Dog Introductions – February 26, 2011

It’s important to introduce new dogs to each other slowly and control the interactions. This is especially important if one dog is fearful or reactive. Here’s a simple way to make the introductions go smoothly.

• Dogs are walked on a sidewalk, one in front of the other (the calmer dog in front first).

• The dog in the back is allowed to come close and smell the dog in the front while walking

• A quick u-turn and positions are reversed

• Again the dog in the back smells dog in the front

• If the dogs are happy, parallel walk and dogs can smell together on the ground.

• No eye contact and dogs are handled by people with loose-leash skills.

• If possible, use a clicker to reinforce good behaviors.

• If everything goes well, dogs can meet and play off leash but closely supervised.

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Children and Dogs Part 2, February 24, 2011

Here is part two to last week’s post on living in harmony with children and dogs.

Helping Dogs Tolerate Children

Dogs must learn, through socialization and training, how to be at ease around kids and behave appropriately around them. Socialization to children is easiest and most effective during puppyhood—between 6 and 12 weeks of age—and may prevent adult dogs from being fearful or aggressive toward children. Read the Pamphlet for Pet Parents on socialization to learn more about this important phase of your puppy’s life.

Under supervision, have children handle the puppy and give the puppy treats. A good trainer can help you teach your puppy not to mouth or nip at children. Older dogs without much experience with children need to have supervised, gentle, careful interactions with them by associating good things with children. To acclimate your dog to being around children, both how close the children are to your dog and what they do, should be controlled.

First, have the kids sit quietly at a distance as you give your dog treats and pet him quietly. Have the children come gradually closer and toss treats as they walk by your dog. Eventually they can offer your dog a treat from an open palm rather than holding the treat in their fingers. Watch your dog’s reactions for signs of fear or threat. Go slowly and don’t force him to endure more than he is comfortable with. The goal is to make good things happen for your dog when kids are present. If you see any sign of fear or aggression, you may need professional help to acclimate your dog to children. Talk to your pet professional about help or a referral. You can find out more about trainers and behavior consultants in the Pamphlet for Pet Parents of the same name. Learn more about fears and aggression by reading the Pamphlets for Pet Parents on these topics. Not all dogs can live safely with children. In some cases the dog may need to be rehomed to a family without children.

What Not To Do
Never, ever leave young children and dogs together unsupervised no matter how well behaved you think both of them are. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and either the child or the dog can be injured.
Even though children and dogs can play together fabulously, your dog is not your child’s personal play toy. You must set reasonable limits for both your children and your dog.

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Children and Dogs – Part 1, February 22, 2011

Children and dogs can make great companions for one another. Dogs can help kids learn to respect life and to care responsibly for another being. Children can enrich dogs’ lives by being social companions, friends, and playmates. However, if both are not taught to behave properly around each other, dogs and kids can frighten and injure one another.

Potential Problems Between Children and Dogs
Dogs often view children’s quick and unpredictable movements as either threatening or an invitation to play. Dogs may think of small children as playmates because kids are often at eye level with dogs. Either the child or the dog, or both, may become too excited and out of control during play, and either may be injured or frightened. For example, when children and dogs play chase with each other (not a recommended game!), the dog may jump on the child and knock him down or the child is frightened, falls on the dog, and the dog is hurt.

In addition, children are still learning about their world, and may pull a dog’s tail, ears, or otherwise handle him roughly without realizing they are hurting the dog. Children may throw things at the dog, just as they would throw things at each other, again without realizing this will frighten the dog or even cause the dog to bite them. These examples illustrate why constant parental supervision and guidance is critical to ensure children and dogs can be safe with each other.

Helping Children Be Good to Dogs
Children must be taught how to approach and interact gently with dogs. Tell your children to always ask the dog’s owner if they can pet the dog. They should stand still and let the dog come to them rather than walk into the dog’s space. Dogs communicate through body postures and to dogs, reaching over their heads, facing them, leaning over them and staring are all threatening behaviors. Instead, a child should allow the dog to sniff a closed hand held close to the body and then scratch the dog under the chin instead of reaching over the dog’s head.

Teach children how to play fetch with dogs and to use toys to play rather than wrestling or playing physical games with the dog. You will also need to train your dog to “drop” a toy when requested. While there is nothing inherently wrong with tug-of-war games (contrary to popular media, this doesn’t cause dogs to be aggressive), you’ll need to gauge the temperament of both your dog and your children to determine if both could play tug without becoming uncontrollable. Your dog must know the “drop” or “give” command to play this game and must know to stop when told to do so.

This article was written by Drs. Suzanne Hetts and Daniel Q. Estep, Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. and Ms. Lori Holmberg, M.A. Drs. Hetts and Estep are Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists and international award-winning speakers and authors.

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How to Have a Better Behaved Dog – February 18, 2011

We all want wonderfully behaved dogs, but it doesn’t happen on its own just because we wish it. It takes time and effort to create the kind of dog and relationship you want. Here are some basic principles that can help you have a better behaved dog.

• Have realistic expectations about your dog. No matter how good your dog is, things will get peed on, chewed or scratched/dug up. Barking / meowing, door dashing and/or pulling on the leash can happen with even the best animal. Accept the fact that dogs are living beings and not china dolls to sit in the corner. If you have a dog, some time during his/her life, you will loose something of value.

• To change behavior you have to be patient and persistent. Change will not happen over night. Sometimes it can take weeks or months to change behavior. The more time you spend and the more often you work with your dog the quicker the change. Despite what some books say, most puppies can’t be housetrained in 7 days.

• Recognize and meet your dog’s behavioral needs. Dogs have needs for exercise, social contact with people and other animals and mental stimulation. Problem-solving toys, can provide mental stimulation. Games such as ‘find the hidden object’ and events such as agility can provide all three.

• Make it easy for your dog to do the right thing. Arrange the environment so that the behavior you want is easily produced. The more often desirable behavior happens the stronger it becomes. For example, minimize distractions when you’re trying to teach your dog something new. Put scratching posts where they are easy for your cat to find and use.

• Make it difficult for your dog to do the wrong thing. Arrange the environment so it is hard for your dog to make mistakes. The more often unwanted behavior happens the harder it is to change. Close the blinds to keep your dog from barking at those that pass by. Scoop out your cats’ litter boxes every day.

• Realize that animals don’t do things out of spite, for revenge or just to make your life miserable. They do what works – that is, what meets their behavioral needs, gets them rewards or allows them to escape or avoid bad things. They sometimes do some things because they are ill. Dogs counter surf because they occasionally hit the jackpot of a sandwich or chicken leg. Cats sometimes pee out of the box because they are sick even when they don’t act sick.

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Help for Your Fearful Dog – Part 4

If you’ve been following the previous posts, you may feel like this is a lot of work. It is. But the more you practice, the more automatic and natural your interactions with your dog will become, as will his with you.

It’s important to practice certain things when you are out on walks when there are no other ‘triggers’ around. This will help provide a solid foundation for alternate behavior when other dogs or triggers do appear.

First, practice your dog’s name response and ‘watch me’ whenever you are out. You want this behaivor to be solid and automatic. This will make it more likely that this behavior will be easier to achieve when triggers do appear.

Next, practice turning in the other direction. This seems very basic but if you are out with your dog and a trigger appears, often your best option is to just turn and walk the other way. To do this, use an upbeat command such as “Let’s Go” or “This Way”. Just practice quick, easy, relaxed turns when there is nothing going on, adding this command and using a food lure at your dog’s nose to help him change direction. This will make changing direction easy and automatic for the both of you.

Finally, stay relaxed. Try to breath and not hold your breath. Keep your arms and body relaxed. If you tense up when you see one of your dog’s triggers, they will pick up on that and think there is something to be concerned about. This probably the hardest thing for an owner to do, but one of the most important.

Good luck!

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Help for Your Fearful Dog – Part 3

Once you’ve been able to work with your dog around his triggers and can get him to focus his attention on you easily with lots of treats and happy talk, its time to ask him to actually ‘do’ something such as Look at you, Sit, Touch, etc.

If you’ve had trouble keeping your dog’s attention on you, you are working too close to his triggers. Increase the distance and continue to work at a level where your dog stays calm and can focus his attention you.

Now, when your dog sees another dog (or whatever his triggers are), say his name, cue a ‘Watch Me’ or ‘Look’ and praise and reward with treats. Still use a high rate of food rewards, but now we are asking for a specific behavior. Your dog will start to learn – see a dog, look at you – instead of barking and lunging.

Watch for that magic moment when your dog sees another dog and automatically turns towards you before you say his name. That’s what you are working towards. Then you can start to praise your dog the moment he sees another dog and stays calm (you might only have a 2 second window to catch this calm behavior before your dog starts barking so be observant and quick with your praise). Your praise should cause your dog to look at you since he knows that praise predicts treats.

As your dog’s reaction improves, you can start to get closer to other dogs but do this very gradually. Check out www.fearfuldogs.com for additional information.

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Help for Your Fearful Dog – Part 2

OK, so how do we help your fearful dog?

Our goal will be to create a happy association with the things that your dog thinks are scary. We want to teach your dog a new emotional response to these things. We want your dog to see one of his triggers and instead of thinking – ‘danger’, to think – oh goodie, where are my treats?

To do this, we want the sight of the ‘trigger’ (other dog, kids, stranger with a hat, etc) to predict happy talk and treats from you.

First, make sure you are aware of your dog’s triggers and are working at comfortable distance (per your dog’s ‘threshold’ discussed in Part 1). If your dog’s triggers are other dogs, you can work at a Vet or Pet Store parking lot at a distance where your dog does not react. Ideally, you want to work some place where the triggers appear and then disappear. We’ll use other dogs as the trigger example.

Have your dog hungry and have lots of very tiny, very high value food rewards. The instant you see another dog, observe your dog to catch him the instant he sees or senses the dog (this takes practice as often your dog will be aware of another dog before you are). The instant your dog notices the dog, act happy, say his name and say ‘cookies’ and feed your dog. Feed him continuously as long as the other dog is visible. The moment the other dog is out of sight, say ‘all done’ and stop giving your dog attention.

Practice this only for 15-20 minutes at a time depending on how often ‘trigger’ dogs appear. You want to keep your dog’s arousal level low and ALWAYS QUIT WHILE YOU ARE AHEAD! Your goal is not to test your dog to see what he’ll do or how close to the other dog you can get. Your goal is to keep your dog calm and happy in the presence of the other dog. Your goal is to PREVENT your dog from reacting as you are trying to teach him this new happy association. If needed, increase the distance from the other dogs by calmly walking away.

Next time we will discuss additional options for when you spot your dog’s triggers.

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Help for your Fearful Dog – Part 1

This is an all too common problem and most owners instinctively try to push their dogs towards the things the dogs are scared of.

Whether your dog runs into another room when you have visitors, hides behind you when out on the street, or barks and lunges at other dogs or strangers, these behaviors all stem from fear. The first 2 are obvious but the 3rd behavior, while it may seem agressive, is most likely your dog trying to tell the scary thing to go away.

We like to call these dogs ‘reactive’ vs. aggressive since they are reacting to what they perceive as scary. It may be other dogs, kids, certain people or even things blowing around outside. Whatever causes this reaction we’ll call your dog’s “triggers.”

There are behavior modification techniques you can practice when you spot your dog’s triggers. The first thing to take serious note of is – how far away or close can the trigger be before your dog ‘reacts’. This is is your dog’s “threshold.”

Our goal will be to work under your dog’s threshold (ie, far enough away from the trigger so your dog does not react). Our goal will also be to prevent these reactive outbursts from occuring as we are trying to change them.

Check out www.fearfuldogs.com for more information and I’ll will provide more instructions for you in my next post.

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Sharing My Interview – February 6, 2011

Hi All,

With all of this recent promotion of my new iPhone App, Puppy Coach 101, I thought I would share a recent interview which highlights a bit of how I started with dog training and some of my philosophies.

I hope you enjoy it!

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Puppy Coach 101 App for a Puppy Training Primer

The reviews are in!! Puppy Coach 101 gets 5 stars across the board.

Is your super adorable, fun-loving new pup slowly but surely destroying your suede sofa, favorite shoes, and hardwood floors? Barking, nipping, yelping, peeing everywhere… and making you a little bit crazy in the process?

Puppy Coach 101 includes 9 topics with 30+ videos featuring Joanne Lekas, Certified Professional Dog Trainer of Happy Dog Behavior Training.

PC101 is geared towards helping a new puppy owner with the basics and provides quick and easy references by allowing users to have bite size reminders at their fingertips. It is a great way for owners to get started on the ‘right paw’.

Check out a preview and description of the App at this link:

Link to the App on iTunes: http://bit.ly/eCa9Vk
or search Apps for Puppy Coach 101 on iTunes.

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