Sunday, October 22, 2006

Welcome Home Your Puppy with Preparation and Planning By: Stacey Moore

If you're thinking about surprising that special someone with a huggable puppy this season, think twice before tying the bow on Rover's collar. While your intentions are noble, selecting and caring for a puppy is a significant commitment that should not be made in the flurry of holiday spirit and excitement. "Puppies require constant care and attention. The holidays are a wonderful time of family gatherings and trips to see relatives but the hectic activity makes it a less-than-ideal time of year to begin training a pup," said Melissa Brookshire, DVM, director of veterinary technical services for Diamond Pet Foods. Dr. Brookshire recommends taking the element of surprise out of the gift by discussing the idea with the recipient. Selecting a puppy should be a careful and personal process. Gift givers can give a collar and leash or other items that represent the intent to purchase a dog and allow the dog's owner to select the timing and desired breed to best suit his or her lifestyle. Picking a puppy is only the beginning of a long process. Follow Dr. Brookshire's top five tips for puppy preparation and care to keep your new pet healthy and your household happy. Do your homework. To choose the best dog for your family, consider personality and temperament, not beauty or popularity. Be aware of breed-specific health concerns and consider adopting a mixed-breed puppy. Ask questions such as "How often will the pet be alone?" and "How much time do you have to exercise your new dog?" and work with your vet to determine the best breed for you. "Puppy-proof" your home. Make sure the puppy will not have access to electric cables he can chew, patch any gaps or holes in outdoor fencing and enclose garden ponds and pools. When your puppy is alone, a crate or other safe enclosure is critical. Begin housebreaking immediately. Be prepared for the time that proper housebreaking requires. Young puppies will need to go outside every two to three hours and immediately after eating or drinking. Be consistent with training. Training your puppy is a good learning experience for the whole family, but for training to be effective, everyone must use the same method, commands and rewards. Letting a puppy grow up without proper training is one of the main reasons that dogs are surrendered to animal shelters. Help your puppy eat right. Puppies grow quickly and require different nutrients than adult dogs, so they should consume a specially formulated diet for their age and size. That's why Diamond Naturals provides puppy formulations specifically for large and small breeds. For large and giant breeds, excess energy or fat can lead to unhealthy rapid growth, which is linked to developmental orthopedic disease. Large-breed formulas, as a result, have less fat and calcium. All Diamond puppy formulas contain DHA, an essential fatty acid for optimal brain and eye development in young mammals. Article Directory: More information about puppy health, behavior and nutrition is available at Puppies as presents look adorable, but gift givers should realize selection is a personal choice and puppy care requires large amounts of time and a serious commitment. Technorati Profile

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Why Does My Dog Growl at Me? By: Marc Goldberg

Guarding is an instinctual behavior for dogs. It is useful to us when they warn strangers who intrude on their (and our) territory. One of the earliest benefits dog provided to man was to serve as an early warning intruder alert system. Territoriality is, simply stated, guarding space. It is the dog’s way of saying “this space has value and it belongs to me and my pack.” In fact, dogs guard all sorts of things, some tangible, such as food, others intangible such as space. When they guard these items from outsiders it can be helpful. I leave my home knowing my dog will be alert to an inappropriate intrusion. Dogs also guard tangibles and intangibles from one another. You shouldn’t expect to see a submissive dog take a bone or scrap from the alpha or dominant dog. Should he try, he’ll face a swift correction. But that’s rarely necessary because in the structure of the dog pack, it is clearly understood who is entitled to what and when. But what happens when that clear understanding is lacking between a dog and members of his human pack? The results can be a disaster…a dog who guards something against his very owners. In this article we’ll concentrate on space guarding behaviors. In the dog pack, if the dominant dog wants to walk from point A to point B, he will do it even if he has to nudge a lesser dog out of his way. If the more submissive dog protests, what he is actually doing is challenging the authority of his leader by trying to guard the space he occupies. The same event may transpire in our homes. Your dog helps himself to a place on the sofa. You either sit down next to him, or try to take his collar to pull him off. Your own dog growls or snaps at you. He’s guarding space. Moreover, he’s stating in dog language that he believes he is dominant to you. You need to open a cabinet and the dog is blocking your way. You take his collar to move him, and he growls or bites. The same thing may occur when you want to push the dog out a door, pass him in a narrow hallway, or get too close to him laying in his favorite spot. In many households, the human occupants do not realize that their dog is guarding space until the dog becomes completely out of control. In fact, we excuse the behavior. That’s because too often people apply human standards to canine behavior. Among our species it is impolite to pull someone out of a chair or shoulder them aside when you need something. So if the dog growls when you sit by him on the couch, many people wrongly think the dog is just being grumpy, or that he was too comfortable to be disturbed. I have actually seen adults chastise children for being “impolite” to a dog for sitting next to him on furniture, or for wanting to remove the dog from their place. People subconsciously try to accept these problems as “quirks” of the dog. Many owners try to just work around the issue by not disturbing the dog under whatever circumstance causes the dog to guard. Unfortunately, this sends precisely the wrong message to the dog. Humoring him confirms that he is dominant, and is, therefore, entitled to guard more and more space. That’s why guarding behavior escalates for many dogs. Often, I hear from owners who’s dog began to growl at them under very limited conditions, say when being pulled off the sofa. But eventually the behavior escalates to the point where the dog growls when they even get near him on the sofa. The owner thinks the dog is getting worse. The dog simply thinks he’s getting stronger. For some dogs, dominance is a self-rewarding behavior. You want to remove him from the couch. He growls. You back off. The behavior works. So eventually he growls when you even look at him on the couch. “They just don’t seem to get it,” the dog is thinking. “I’ll have to warn them earlier.” This can become very problematic for some pet owners, particularly those with young children in the house. Kids often don’t realize that they’re not “supposed to bother the dog.” They just figure they have liberty to safely toddle wherever their little legs will take them. And if you ask me, they should have that right. Older children must be taught to respect dogs. And younger children must be observed very carefully when they interact with a dog, to be sure they do not accidentally pinch him for example. But no one can expect a two year old child to understand she should avoid Rover when he’s laying on the sofa. Willy is a three year old German Short Hair Pointer. His owner, Lisa, called me very concerned. Willy had been growling at her baby every time the child approached him in his dog bed. Sometimes Willy would climb on the couch, and he would also growl at the baby on those occasions. Apparently this behavior had been going on for over a month. And just recently, the dog had growled at Lisa when she sat near him on the couch. Lisa was very confused because this entire set of behaviors was only about a month old, but it was getting worse fast. “Did your baby start walking about a month ago?” I asked her. The answer was yes. That made it all clear to me. Willy always felt Lisa was dominant to him. So he never growled at her before. But when the baby started walking, this impudent little human would intrude on his space, and Willy did believe himself dominant to the baby. Not understanding the behavior, Lisa had spent an entire month showing Willy how dominant he was by not correcting him and not letting the baby disturb him when he was comfortable. The unintended message to Willy was that he was more dominant than he had originally thought. That’s why he began to guard space from Lisa too. While not all dogs progress from growling to snapping, or from air snapping to contact biting, that does happen with some dogs. And it’s tragic because it usually doesn’t need to reach that point. Left untreated, most dogs who effectively guard space will eventually scare or hurt their owners enough to be removed from their homes, or be put down. Willy became a client of the Chicagoland Boarding School for Dogs. In the time he spent with us, we used our Forcefree Method to show him that space was not a resource he should guard from his human family. We taught Willy a series of exercises using a vibrating training collar delivering a series of low level taps. The vibration, while not at all painful, was attention getting. (Before we put the collar on Willy, we let Lisa feel the the collar on her hand so she understood they were not painful. Lisa described the feeling as a mild tickle.) During the initial phase of training, our goal was to teach Willy that when he felt the taps, he could stop them by altering a behavior. We started out with leash pulling, showing him that pulling on a tight leash turned on the tapping sensation, and that walking nicely on a loose leash turned them off. Then we went to the sit stay. We showed Willy that getting up when he was supposed to be sitting turned on taps that he could turn off instantly by re-sitting himself. The reason we didn’t go right to the space guarding issue was simple. We didn’t want to overwhelm the dog by immediately training for the most difficult behavior first. Also the guarding behaviors are very specific to the family. They might be tough to reproduce without his sofa, his baby, and his owner. But once Willy understood that he could stop collar taps by altering a behavior, we were ready to confront the real issue, the guarding of space. By this point in the training, we had established a bond of trust and affection with Willy. That was critical because now we were teaching him to yield his personal space to us under the pressure of the taps. In short, by sometimes invading Willy’s personal space, while tapping, we showed him that he could turn off the tapping, as usual, by giving us a desired behavior…in this case, moving out of the way. Starting on leash, we held the dog close to our body, literally turning into him, and tapped as we moved through his space. Using a combination of leash pressure and body movement, we moved Willy out of the way. The second he began to yield his space, the taps stopped. Willy began to understand very quickly. Space wasn’t worth guarding anymore. In fact, each time we asked him to give up space, he became very willing to do so at once. After all, as far as he knew, any space we asked him for became slightly annoying anyway. We brought this dog home at the conclusion of our ten day program, reoriented him to his family and his environment, transferred the behavior modification techniques to his owner over the course of two hours. Then we left. Lisa called two days later. She reported that Willy was leaving his dog bed as soon as the baby approached. We were happy with this report, but Lisa was concerned. She wanted the dog and the baby to be friends and she was worried that the dog was now “fleeing” from the baby. We explained that this was progress given that the dog had modified a major behavior and was now yielding space, rather than guarding it. We advised her to give it some more time to see if the dog would eventually find pleasure in sharing space, time and bonding with the baby in his new submissive role. We did warn Lisa that not all dogs bond with all people, but that it was still a distinct possibility. Two weeks later Lisa called again, and she was very happy. She found Willy and the baby curled up together in the dog’s bed. Apparently, Willy had calmed down enough to realize that while he was no longer able to guard space, there was a wonderful pleasure in sharing it. Trust is something that grows over time, and with experience. Every day that passes as Willy continues to show the right reaction is one more day in which the trust between he and his family grows. Willy has been home for several months now, and all the reports are good news. Here is a dog who was at severe risk for re-homing and possibly might have injured a child, curled up in bed with his little master. Article Directory: Marc Goldberg is a dog trainer specializing in the rehabilitation of difficult dogs and improving relationships. He is Vice President of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and Editor of SafeHands Journal. The author also educates professional dog trainers in his techniques. Visit him on the web at

Training With Treats: Do It Right! By: Marc Goldberg

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Hey even I’m willing to learn new things if there’s a broiled lobster in it for me. When I’m hungry that is. If I’m not hungry, or if I’m so distracted that a lobster won’t tempt me, then I’ll blow you off to continue doing what I want, not what you want. That’s pretty much how your dog sees the issue when you train with food. If he’s hungry at the moment, and if there’s nothing more compelling going on, food can be a great way to reinforce behaviors you teach your dog. On the other hand, if Fido isn’t food motivated, or if he’s got something “better” to do, he won’t be interested. Nonetheless, training with food has its benefits when used as a motivator and a reward. For those dogs who just aren’t normally interested in treats, you can substitute play with a toy if that motivates them. The first thing you have to know about using food in training is how NOT to use it. The primary rule is not to use it to stop an unwanted behavior. Instead, use it to create a new behavior you want to teach. With those rules in mind, you won’t teach your dog to stop growling at other dogs by using food. But you may be able to teach him to sit more quickly if there’s something tasty in it for him. Before I tell how you to deliver food treats when training, let me tell you WHY you should not use food to try and stop an unwanted behavior. The answer is because you can accidentally reinforce the very behavior you’re trying to stop. For example, let’s say Fido growls at other dogs on his walks. If you tell him to stop growling, and distract him with a treat, what has he really learned? Here’s what YOU’RE thinking…he stopped growling so I rewarded him for that with a cookie. He won’t growl again. Here’s what FIDO is thinking…this is cool, I growl, then mom pops me a cookie. Let’s see if this works…let’s growl more! Think of food as a directional reward. How, when and where you deliver it all determine whether the treat teaches your dog what you intended, or something else altogether. For example, you tell Fido to sit, and you hold a treat six inches over his head, while pushing down on his butt. Sound about right? Wrong! By holding that treat six inches over his head, you’re really teaching Fido to sit then immediately break that position in favor of jumping up to get the cookie. Instead, start Fido standing on a closely held leash. Show him you have a cookie, by holding it at nose level—only an inch from his sniffer-- while he’s standing up. Direct his attention, and nose, slightly higher by raising the cookie only enough so that he must tend toward a sit to view it. While he’s focusing upward only a couple of inches over his nose, use your other hand to push his butt down, while your cookie hand keeps the treat only a couple of inches from his nose as it moves. As soon as he is sitting, deliver the treat to him just slightly above nose level, and slightly toward his rear. This means that to collect the treat, Fido must actually lean back into the sit more to reach it. Mission accomplished! Food hasn’t been just randomly delivered to your dog, leaving him wondering why he got it. Instead, the food has clearly communicated how he can get this treat even faster next time, by sitting when you ask. Anyone getting hungry? Article Directory: Marc Goldberg is a dog trainer specializing in the rehabilitation of difficult dogs and improving relationships. He is Vice President of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and Editor of SafeHands Journal. The author also educates professional dog trainers in his techniques. Visit him on the web at

Dominant Dogs: Are You a Leader or a Follower? By: Marc Goldberg

You live with a predator. He is not human. He is armed with fangs for slashing flesh and molars for crushing bone. His jaw may exert nine hundred pounds per square inch of pressure. He has forty-two teeth in all. His sense of smell is so powerful that we, with our human limitations, can barely comprehend. Our olfactory sense does not detect odors unless they are painfully obvious. The nose of this more efficient hunter collects and concentrates minute traces of scent until they create a mental picture more detailed than a visual image. When he smells the ground, he knows every thing that has passed within many, many hours, days even. While our human eyes process a wealth of colorful detail, his eyes are specialized organs tuned to detect movement above all. Aligned above his eyes and nose, aimed forward, preternatural ears detect frequencies and sound which easily escape us. Noises such as the softest rodent squeak beneath a thick blanket of snow do not evade him. The footfall of a stranger on an outside porch step does not escape his attention. He hears the breath of large prey even from a distance. He is swift. The fastest of his kind can sprint at forty miles per hour, covering ten feet in a single bound. He is agile and he is strong. He can crawl. He can jump. He has a high ratio of muscle to fat. He is an efficient predator. A carnivore designed to detect prey, catch it, to kill, to eat, to reproduce. He is a social animal. Left to his own kind, he will live in a clearly organized pack led by a dominant male and a dominant female. Serious challenges to the social structure will be met swiftly and violently. Yet a strong survival and social instinct inhibits this killer from harming his own kind unless necessary to maintain order. Thus, he speaks a complex and rich language with which he can advertise his intentions. He assures his pack mates that he means no harm, but that he will defend his rank within the pack. He is an animal. He is a predator. He is opportunistic. He understands social order, his place in that order, and lacking strong leadership from above, he is ready to assume control of his pack. He is ready to defend his pack from outsiders. And he is ready to protect it from social unrest within. He is your dog. He has forsaken life with his kind to inhabit your world. But he has not forsaken his nature. He retains his predatory nature. He remains a social animal. You and your family members are his pack mates. You are his leader. Or he is yours. Make no mistake about it. Your dog understands the hierarchy in his pack, the organizational flow chart if you will. He will yield to pack mates above him on the chart, but not below. For example, if you give your dog a high value treat such as a meaty bone, can you take it away? Does your dog remove the bone and run away with it as soon as you’ve given it? That is a low level form of resource guarding behavior. Higher up on the scale is when your dog freezes and stiffens over the bone. In his language, your dog is very clearly stating an intention to guard the resource. The only question is to what length he will go in order to retain it. Perhaps he is bluffing. If you reach in closer to touch the bone he may give it up. Or perhaps he will begin to growl, stiffening further over the treat, revealing his fangs. Whether he decides to bite you is a question determined not only by his perception of your ranking versus his, but also by the level of aggression he is willing to employ in defending this resource from you on this day. If he is your leader, then he decides whether or not you touch the bone, and if that act will cost you an injury. If you are his leader, then when you make clear your intent to take the bone, he drops it into your hand without protest. Dogs do not bite by accident. They decide. They choose. They make conscious decisions in a split second. If your dog permits you to take food and other valuable resources away and is willing to follow your direction, chances are good that he regards you as his leader. Therefore, he will give you all the privileges due your rank. However, you may find that the dog does not treat all members of your family the same. If he respects you, but not your spouse or children, this can lead to serious problems. Be on the look out for ranking issues in the family. If you find that your dog does not accept your leadership role, consider contacting us or another professional dog trainer to assist you. Not all dominant dogs are aggressive. Some dogs are very benign dictators who never bother to reinforce their rules upon you. But if your dog is the leader in your home, things can go wrong in this backward relationship. The beauty of dog training is that, much like counseling, it can put the relationship back on track so the love affair can flourish. Article Directory: Marc Goldberg is a dog trainer specializing in the rehabilitation of difficult dogs and improving relationships. He is Vice President of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and Editor of SafeHands Journal. The author also educates professional dog trainers in his techniques. Visit him on the web at

Housebreaking 101 By: Marc Goldberg

Remember that dog who just knew you didn't want her piddling in the house? Some dogs just need a slight sense of disapproval from you, and they virtually housebreak themselves. But you don’t have one of those dogs…or you wouldn’t be reading this! So how do we house train the dog who just doesn’t seem to get it? Believe it or not, it’s simple. I have two key words for you: Confine and Observe. While there is a great deal to know about food and water scheduling, timing can vary from dog to dog. So we’ll just concentrate here on the main concept which is to confine your dog to an appropriately sized crate when you cannot observe her. A properly sized crate is large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around, but hardly bigger than that. If you have a puppy in a large crate, she’ll think she’s got a bedroom with a bathroom built in. She’ll wee in one corner and sleep in the other. The correctly sized crate consists of bedroom only with no “bathroom.” So if your crate is too large, go to the pet store and purchase a crate divider so you can temporarily reduce the accessible area. Fido should be in her crate unless you can observe her 100%. This means that when the dog is loose, she has your undivided attention. Consider attaching a 6 foot light cord to the collar so you can more easily locate the dog, and prevent her from leaving the room without you. Simply step on the cord to stop her. At the first sign your dog needs to go, whisk her outside. Those signs include circling, sniffing, anxiousness, whining among other symptoms. When you’re not observing your dog with full attention, you confine her to the crate. That being said, you do need to ensure your dog has liberty periodically so she’s not all day in the crate. By being diligent now, you’ll be able to give Fido years of liberty with no worries. So it’s well worth the investment in time at this stage. Be sure you spend time playing with your dog, and also let her wander outside the crate. Avoid tossing her in the crate as punishment. Alleviate your guilt feelings by placing bones smeared with peanut butter in with her. This method makes it impossible for your dog to have an accident. You’re either right there to take her out, or she’s in the crate where she won’t want to go. When you’ve had a month with no accidents, you can begin to let the dog earn a little more liberty, five or ten minutes at a time. That means she can be out of your sight for a few moments at a time. But only a few. You want to build slowly on a record of success until your dog literally forgets that the house ever contained a bathroom. For each week with no accident, you can give Fido a few more moments of liberty at a time. However, if there is an accident, go back a step, and reduce that liberty. One accident in the house erases progress made for the several previous days. Confine and Observe your way to house breaking success. In the course of just two or three months, you’ll have a dog you can trust in the home. It’s going to be worth the effort! Article Directory: Marc Goldberg is a dog trainer specializing in the rehabilitation of difficult dogs and improving relationships. He is Vice President of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and Editor of SafeHands Journal. The author also educates professional dog trainers in his techniques. Visit him on the web at