Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Please don't visit the dog park if...

In the last two days I've witnessed a number of things at the dog park that have made me cringe. Here's my handy list of dogs that shouldn't visit public off leash spaces for their own safety as well as the other park users.

1. If your dog is aggressive to ANY other dog including puppies. Aggressive means your dog will bark, lunge, nip, sit on or other intimidate another dog. This has happened three times in two days to my clients with puppies. One of the incidents left the puppy with a cut on the nose and lip. Simply saying my dog doesn't like puppies isn't an excuse. Please seek out a dog trainer right away.

2. If your dog is aggressive to ANY person including children. Aggressive means your dog will bark, lunge, nip, jump all over, bang into and other intimidate another person. Simply saying my dog doesn't like men in hats or children isn't an excuse. Please seek out a dog trainer right away.

Please remember in these above examples you are responsible and liable for your dogs behaviour. These are not behaviours to be tolerated. Dog parks are for everyone and it is your job to ensure your dog is able to act like a well mannered individual.

3. If your dog is in season aka in heat aka swollen vulva aka bleeding. DO NOT come to the park. You are putting other dogs and people in a dangerous situation and also being unfair to your dog.

4. If your dog is ill or has a medical concern that puts him/her at risk of being in pain if they interact with another dog. Basically use common sense your dog could get hurt or become aggressive. Keep him or her at home and take on leash walks or visit areas where you won't run into others.

5. If your dog is an out of control, crazy excited kind of furry friend. Please seek out some dog training classes before unleashing your hyper hound on the rest of us.

6. Do not allow your children to run wild at the park either. Carrying toys or treats can also make them a target for someone else's aggressive or out of control dog. Teach children how to interact with dogs safely. Do not assume other dogs are friendly.

It's pretty simple but for some people it's really hard. You need to have a well manners, under control dog in order to visit off leash areas. If you don't there are other options like taking training classes, hiring an in home trainer, going for leash walks and playing dog sports where you can improve your dog's obedience.

Be smart and be safe!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dog Safety & Calgary

There's been a lot of hysteria over a number of recent dog incidents in Calgary. These incidents were severe and included two canine deaths and a number of children that were bitten. Of course this has lead to the media calling for breed bans and a uneducated city counsellor suggesting all dogs should be muzzled for their first year and then subjected to a bandana system after that. I have some actual solutions that would solve our dog safety concerns.

#1 - Every single person who owns a dog should at the very least attend a series of dog training classes this includes puppy classes, basic manners, canine good neighbour class and more. Dog training should be an ongoing process that takes your pet from puppy to adult (not just 6 weeks or a do it at home job). I might add that I am a Professional Dog Trainer (certified by the CCPDT) and I still bring my own dogs to classes. This provides a stimulating environment to learn in and some constructive feedback from my peers. All dogs of all ages should go to classes.

#2 - If your dog has behaviour issues that include poor recall, aggression, anxiety or any sort of guarding behaviour please have a certified trainer come to your home for private sessions. This is incredibly important and should be a top priority.

#3 - Do not take anxious or aggressive dogs to the park. This is not the venue to socialize them. In fact aggressive dogs should wear muzzles in public and always be kept on leash. I've had a number of dogs who are running off leash in on leash areas attack my own dogs. These dogs should be taken from their owners.

#4 - Irresponsible owners (people who have complaints due to running at large, aggression, ect.) should pay higher licensing fees and should have to prove attendance with a trainer.

#5 - Don't allow your dog to be off leash in on leash areas. Other people and dogs may not want to interact with your dog. Keep your own pet safe by abiding by Bylaws as they exist for a reason.

Things for the public to keep in mind:

#1 - Breed doesn't mean a thing. It's all about socialization, genetics and good training. Every dog should be judged individually and anxious/aggressive dogs should have access to behaviour modification just like a sick dog should have access to a vet.

#2 - Muzzling puppies will stunt bite inhibition and learning. Also most of the aggression incidents we see as trainers do not include dogs under 1 year old. Most are adult dogs who have an escalating history of aggression.

Please be a responsible owner and spread the message. I've personally passed the Canine Good Neighbour test with ALL of my dogs... that's 6 CGNs now. Please take the time to teach your dog to be a good neighbour and to share our city safely.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Things I learned at the Agility Trial

I've taken two years off from dog shows. This was due to Marco having a knee injury and then my house fire. So I've spent the last 10 months training my dogs pretty hard in agility for our comeback and in Ari's case his first agility trial. 

The time off has allowed me to really think about why I do shows/trials and how to best prepare my dogs for them. And this past weekend I learned a lot. I love going to these events because it pushes me to work with my dogs several times a week and to grow my relationship with them. We're constantly learning together and I find that very rewarding. I believe they do too as they appear to love agility specifically. It's a really hard sport and just when you think you're ready something will come up and prove that no you're not. 

During this particular trial I had the most success I've ever had with Marco. He has had a marked improvement over previous trials. By success I mean he was the least stressed I've ever seen him at a trial, he was able to complete behaviours that he previously couldn't (although not as well as he does in practice) and he had some great success in the Jumpers events. He also had a pretty nice Steeplechase run but alas we still can't hit those weave poles on the first go in a trial (something to continue to practice). 

This was Ari's first trial so I wasn't sure what to expect. I wasn't sure how to warm him up (how early to take him out, how excited to get him, etc.). We were brand new and while at practice he has been extremely reliable and well behaved the trial environment is pretty different. I had mixed results to be honest. His first run on Saturday was great. He was the very first dog to go and while he made a mistake on course (ran by jump #3) it was because he was fast and I was out of position aka no big deal and I was really proud of him. Throughout the weekend I didn't know what was going to happen. He had a run in Gambler's where he qualified but the dog before us got Zoomies and raced around the ring. Ari watched this was great interest and as a result when it was his turn he wasn't listening very well until mid-way through. Luckily for me in Gambler's the end closing is really the most important part and he scored enough points before that. I did learn how to calm him down when he was wild in the ring (big score). He also had a Steeplechase run where he took one jump and then left the ring to go play with another dog. This has never happened to me ever... not with another dog, not in practice and definitely not in a trial. When he came up we leashed up and I took him for a time out. His next run he was great. I've learned that Ari can't really watch the dog before him or he gets either too excited or loses focus. I've learned he needs a food reward before he goes in the ring. And I've learned not to bring him out until almost the last minute as he gets stressed. I also learned some of the things I was worried about didn't come to fruition. On 5 out of 7 runs he listened perfectly and made some baby dog mistakes. He tried really hard to please and seemed to really enjoy himself. 

For both boys I realized that while spending a lot of time on weave poles is necessary I also failed to reinforce my contacts enough and both my boys were nervous on the dog walk (not the teeter which we practice a lot). This means I really need to practice that more as both boys would have had a Standard Q if I had. So lesson learned. 

We had fun and I left feeling good about my dogs and our training. I can't wait for the next one and to see where else we can go! 

I'm going to be attending two seminars this summer which should also help me a lot. I'm going to be attending an Agility Workshop with Kim Boyes in July and a Drive and Motivation seminar with Amanda Labadie in August. Both seminars are being hosted by Two Paws Up. I can't wait. All three of us have a lot to learn from this awesome ladies. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Up Trading

Have you ever tried to play fetch with your dog only to find Fido happily chases the ball, grabs it and then forgets all about the bringing back part?

Many dogs love to chase toys and they do really want you to throw them. They also adore having a "special" object in their mouth that is theirs. This can include toys, sticks and even prized possessions that your child will spend the next few hours screaming about.

So what's a fun loving dog owner to do? You want to play but Fido only gets half the game. Plus you don't really want your furry pooch stealing stuff around the house and playing keep away.

It's really important to teach your dog to up trade. Now what does that mean? The just is that they give up something and get something better. This encourages them to relinquish objects readily. And it does work even when you don't have a trade item down the road.

A great example would be my dog is fetching a ball. He brings it back. I say "Out" and show him a new ball. He drops the ball and I throw the new one. We can continue to play using two balls so there's always something exciting to chase and my dog doesn't feel conflicted about relinquishing the one he has.

Another example would be my dog retrieves a stuffed toy. I say "Out" and show my pup a treat. He drops the toy for the treat. I throw the toy and we resume "trading".

A really important note is to avoid taking the toy from your dog or chasing your dog around. You need to make them excited about your item and not worried about you taking something from them.

Give it a try!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What Dogs Need

I'm pretty lucky in that in my line of work I get to meet the Pet Parents who are absolutely committed to their dogs and truly want what's best for them. They are willing to invest time, money and love into ensuring their best friend has the best possible life. What does catch me off guard if how many of them feel guilty that they are in some way screwing up their dog or not being a good Pet Parent. 

This is always a hard one for me as I worked for the Calgary Humane Society for 4.5 years and met some of the worst pet owners in this city. This includes people who felt that dogs were disposable and not worthy of the basic necessities of life. The Pet Parents I meet are polar opposites. 

Let's break it down a bit... why do you feel guilty? 

1. You feel as though your dog isn't getting enough exercise. 

This may or may not be true depending on the family I see and why the dog might not be getting exercise. If your dog is aggressive and a danger to the public then yes exercise is most likely something you put off or are very nervous about. If your dog gets too tired after a 20 minute walk this is also a reason people feel guilty. So let's break it down a bit... depending on the breed and age of your dog you may be over or under exercising. 

Puppies (8 to 16 weeks) are often not great candidates for long walks. I find 15 minutes for most puppies is more than enough. You can do 2-3 of these shorts walks in a day. And possibly for your puppy 5 minutes at a time is enough. They are often quite happy to sit outside with you and explore the world around them. You can try taking them new places and letting them sniff and explore. This will allow their brains to process new eliminates of the environment and for them to be socialized in a variety of places. 

Seniors are also often not great candidates for long walks but it does depend on the individual dog. Senior dogs may get sore from walking on pavement too. Try a park where you can allow your dog to walk on a long line at a slow pace on grass. Tailor your walk duration so that your dog does not get sore. 

High Energy Breeds - so let's face it I could walk my German Shorthaired Pointer for 4 hours straight on leash and he wouldn't be tired (not even a little bit). His exercise needs to be off leash running (Quadding seems to work well), hiking off leash so he can explore and smell or physical activity found in dog sports like agility or tracking. If you own a high energy working breed then you need to be participating in a diverse amount of activities that work the brain and the body. 

2. You work a long day (8 to 10 hours away from the home). 

This is another concern but a reality for most pet parents. You have to work to pay the bills so you and your dog can have a roof over your head and food on your plate. This is more than many dogs around the world have. You can only do your best. Great options for friendly, well adjusted dogs can be dog daycare 1-2 times per week or a dog walker everyday or every other day. If you can't afford that then try a walk in the morning where your dog can do lots of sniffing, followed up by interactive feeding with a Kong, Treat Stix or Tricky Treat Ball and another walk or dog sport activity once you're home from work. Most dogs (especially those in dog sports) need around 19 hours of sleep per day. Does that make you feel less guilty???

3. A few times a week you like to go out with friends, play human sports or eat dinner out. 

This is true for most pet owners and can be a real stress. Your dog is a part of your life but for most of us your dog isn't your whole life. If you want to do activities in the evening try to mix it up so your dog has had a great day the day before. This is another time when a dog walker, dog daycare or family friend can help you out. Try not to feel guilty and occasionally even my dogs have to put up with a boring day when I have other stuff on the go. This is usually when they'll get a nice awesome bone to snack on.