Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Canine Meet and Greet

The reason why dogs typically have trouble meeting new people is that they didn't have enough positive experiences with a variety of unfamiliar people during puppyhood. From three weeks to three months of age, puppies are most receptive to forming bonds. If they meet a variety of people and have positive experiences, they believe that all people will treat them well. Dogs who don’t receive the type and number of experiences they need often end up being fearful of some or all unfamiliar people.

Fortunately, Morris K9 Campus provides plenty of opportunities to socialize dogs--our Levels Training Program, Daycare and social events that incorporate a variety of dogs and people. But just in case your dog or someone else's hasn't be properly socialized, here are some tips for a doggie meet and greet.

How We Make It Worse
People can unintentionally make the situation worse by forgetting to let a dog approach them rather than barging into their space. In this case, some dogs will freeze or shrink, pretending it's a bad dream, while others bark or growl. A sweet, slightly insecure dog can quickly turn into a defensive, growling one at the least convenient moment.

Some owners respond to this behavior by reprimanding or punishing their dog, but this just teaches him to hide his fear from you. As a result, your dog might repress his barks and growls until he reaches his breaking point, resulting in a bite.

Why Are Dogs Afraid of Me?
Many of us can’t understand why dogs are afraid of people who are making friendly human gestures. But try to think of things from a dog’s perspective. Imagine your child is afraid of dogs and a friend allows their dog to bound right into your child’s face. Telling your child the dog is friendly isn’t likely to make her feel any better. Instead, your child would appreciate being able to greet the dog on her own terms. 

So how should we meet a dog? Stand straight up or crouch down on one knee while looking slightly away so the dog can approach and sniff you at his own pace. You can speed up the friendship if you drop some tasty treats close to where you’re standing. If the dog takes the treats without any hesitation, you can try holding the treats in your hand for him to take.

The trick to ensuring that you don't frighten a dog even after an initial positive greeting is to gradually get him used to you in different positions. Avoid leaning over him, reaching over his head or grabbing and hugging him. Instead move slowly and smoothly in order to give him a chance to back away.

What Is the Dog Telling Me?
Often the biggest mistake we make in meeting a dog is failing to recognizing body language. For example, a dog may be tense with eyes darting back and forth or looking away while he's cowering. Yawning, licking lips, panting, moving in slow motion, moving ears down or to the sides, tail between his legs or a furrowed brow are all signs that the dog is stressed or anxious. If you see any of these signs in a dog, quickly move away so he's out of range. The goal is to change the dog’s emotional state from scared to happy so that he can eventually learn to associate unfamiliar people with good things

A Happy Ending
The body language you want to see when greeting a dog includes relaxed posture and a steady, soft gaze. His tail should either wag or hang loosely down. The experience should seem very familiar to the dog and be fun and pleasant for you! 

If your dog is struggling with meeting new people or dogs, give us a call. We'd be happy to work with both of you to make meeting new friends a positive experience.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Hey, That's My Shoe!

While your dog may never steal your money (unless there’s some peanut butter on it), other household objects that are lying around like your brand new heels are attractive chew toys for your canine companion. If possible, avoid leaving these valuable objects lying around for the taking. If it cannot be avoided, realize that the motivations behind your dog’s behavior are far simpler than you would think. 

Entertain and Engage
If your dog spends a lot of time home alone watching the minute hand tick she may resort to undesired behaviors. We may not understand the appeal of rifling through old smelly garbage, but to your lonely dog, it’s a gold mine of activity. However, if you make an effort to exercise your dog by taking her on walks or playing fetch in the backyard, you are expending some of the energy that would be used to steal your belongings. After physically entertaining your fuzzy friend, you should engage her mentally. Play with her and her favorite squeaky toy. When you sit down to watch a movie, hand her a food dispensing toy that will keep her occupied for a while.

The Cold Shoulder
If you’ve already physically and mentally stimulated your dog and she still goes after household items that are better left alone, there are a few techniques you can try in order to nip that behavior in the bud. Resist the urge to run after her screaming when she steals your fabulous new throw pillows. This can be extremely hard, but if you do, she will think you are playing a game or that whatever she has is in her mouth is very valuable, (it might be) and is worth holding onto. Instead, walk the other way or turn around and ignore her. Part of her motivation is to capture your attention, so don’t reward her with it.

Create a Diversion
While your canine companion is going to town on your treasured belongings, yell in a happy excited tone a catchphrase she loves to hear such as “Let’s go for a walk!” or “Go check your bowl!” Of course after she stops chewing, you actually have to follow through with a walk or food. If you don’t, she will eventually become hip to your lingo and learn not to trust you. You can also try squeaking or throwing her favorite toy to create a distraction and get her involved in some playtime.And there's always daycare at Morris K9 Campus, where she'll have free roam and lots of playmates.

Tricky Treats
If all else fails and your new shoes are one step away from being destroyed, give your dog a treat or distract her with food. Just remember that this behavior may reinforce the behavior, so be diligent in your efforts!

Pat Miller, CPDT-KA, CDBC, is WDJ's Training Editor. “Five Things to Do the Next Time Your Dog Grabs Your Stuff and Runs.”

Friday, January 7, 2011

Six Resolutions for Dog Owners

There's no doubting the talk of the town at the beginning of every new year is health and fitness. After ignoring our stress levels and indulging ourselves over the holidays, we suddenly realize that something must be done! But what about your dog? Doesn't he or she deserve to be healthy, too?

The staff at Morris K9 Campus know how important the well-being of our clients' dogs is, so we decided to share some tips for getting your dog back into shape and feeling their best in 2011.

1. Explore Your Options. This is the time to lock in good pet care resources before you actually need them. Take the time now to visit highly-recommended facilities like Morris K9 Campus and Morris Animal Inn to find the perfect fit for your dog.

2. Make Time for Exercise. Walking your pup at least three times a day will burn off extra calories, release pent-up energy and keep your dog healthy. He or she will love it, and it’s good for your health, too. You might also consider taking a refresher training, agility or Canine Good Citizen class. And of course, there is always time for a good game of fetch.

3. Spend Quality Time Together. You can engage your dog in mental exercise with activities like puzzle toys and games of hide-and-seek. Vow to teach your dog of any age a new trick on a regular basis. Agility and pet training is also time well spent with your dog.

4. Visit the Vet. Dogs should visit the vet at least once a year, so schedule your dog’s 2011 appointment now to make sure he or she is fit as a fiddle! While there, be sure to inquire about your pup’s vaccinations, and maintain a regular schedule of heartworm, flea and tick preventives throughout the year.

5. Provide Nutritious Foods. You can ask your veterinarian to recommend the best foods and treats for your dog’s age, size breed and any health conditions. Nutritional treats can be good motivators!

6. Get Your Groom On. Take time in 2011 to maintain a good grooming schedule for your dog. Regularly scheduled brushing, bathing, nail clipping and teeth brushing wards off health problems, provides comfort and keeps dogs looking good!

We can't wait to make 2011 the best year ever at 
Morris K9 Campus...see you soon!