Friday, April 26, 2013

Happy Dog or Stressed Dog: Do You Know the Difference?

It’s no secret that dogs don’t speak English. So how do we communicate with our pets? Understanding your dog’s body language is key to a good pet-owner relationship. Reading the signals that your dog gives off is important to determine what they are trying to tell you, whether it’s that they are happy, stressed or annoyed.

Dog signals can be complex, but they can be generally broken down into a few categories; “enjoyment,” “stress” and “enough already.” If your dog is exhibiting 3 or 4 behaviors from a category, chances are they are feeling that specific way. Analyzing your dog’s behavior can help you determine whether or not your dog is enjoying a situation or should be removed from it.

German Shorthaired Pointer Jezzabelle is displaying happy &
enjoyment features, including soft eyes and relaxed mouth.

Your dog is having fun and seems comfortable with the situation.
  • Soft eyes 
  • Relaxed mouth
  • Side to side movement (wiggle)
  • Loose body posture  
  • Engaging

Slow down, your dog is uncomfortable with something. Be prepared to remove them from the situation.
  •   Lip licking 
  • Yawning 
  •  Ear Flick   
  • Shaking off 
  • Blinking  
  • Avoidance
  • Panting

Border Collie Gabriel is shown here displaying stress signals. 
Which signals can you pick out?

Enough already
Your dog has had enough. Stop the interaction and remove the dog or give them space.
  • Freeze  
  • Whale eyes or half moon eyes
  • Ears pulled back 
  • Trembling  
  • Drooling    
  • Teeth Flash  
  •  Lunge  
  • Pacing
  • Tail Tuck

Dogs speak with their bodies, and it’s the owner’s job to interpret that language accordingly. Remember that if your dog is showing 3 or 4 signals from a given stress level, chances are that is how they are currently feeling. Also keep in mind that all dogs will display different signals, so look out for a broad range; one dog might lip lick when they are stressed and another might shake off.

Once you begin to understand what different dog body signals mean, you will be able to comprehend what your dog is trying to tell you. It is your job to step in and speak up for your dog by responding in the appropriate way.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dog Park Goes Digital: iPhone App for Taking Your Dog to the Park

With summer fast approaching, everyone wants to get outside with their four-legged friend. The dog park can be an enticing place, a wide open area where your dog is free to play off leash and with other dogs. But the dog park can also be a place for concern, where different dogs with different personalities come together with little to no supervision. By preparing with the necessary tools, however, you can set your dog up for success in this situation.

One great tool is an iPhone app launched and created by well known dog trainer and shelter advocate Sue Sternberg called Dog Park Assistant. The app is designed to help control the park environment that you have introduced to your dog. It allows you to better understand your dog’s behavior and play signals by breaking down specific play types, so you can see what category your dog falls into. It also points out behaviors that you as a dog owner should be following while at the dog park in order to ensure the safety of you, your dog and others at the park.

Before going to a park, you can set up a profile for your dog on the app. This will include their breed, age and size as well as their play type. When you get to the park you can check in, similar to how you would check in on an app like Foursquare or Facebook. This lets the app know that you are at the park. After a few minutes, you will start receiving push notifications to your phone in order to make sure that you are paying attention and staying focused on your dog. One of the major issues at dog parks is that owners treat them as socialization events for themselves. They meet new people and talk, completely disregarding their dogs. While there is nothing wrong with getting to know other dog owners, remember that you are bringing your dog to the park to socialize them, therefore your undivided attention should be on your pooch.

The app will also show you a variety of behaviors that may be encountered at the dog park, broken down into different behavioral threat levels, with the highest levels labeled as red alerts. Every behavior includes photos, a detailed description and a video in order to help you better assess your dog’s behavior. Do your homework before you go and read up on red alert behaviors, so when spotted, you can quickly break up play before things get out of hand.

Navigating dog parks can be tricky, and poorly managed parks can be dangerous to your dog. Professionally supervised play is always recommended, as it includes individuals who have been trained to read dog behavior and know how to handle all dog play situations. Morris K9 Campus offers supervised daycare Monday through Friday; call to schedule your dog a free evaluation today! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wanna Go for a Walk? Choosing the Right Harness or Head Collar

Spring has sprung, and your pup is probably anxious to pull you out the front door to go for a walk. Even if you don’t have a dog that pulls, choosing the correct equipment can make an ordinary walk with your dog safer and more enjoyable.

Choosing to walk your dog with a harness or head collar can have great safety benefits for your dog. Pet stores have a variety of different items to choose from, which can seem overwhelming. Luckily, there are three that Morris K9 Campus considers the best no-pull devices on the market today, and all of them are available for purchase in our lobby.

Freedom Harness: Made by Wiggles Wags and Whiskers, the Freedom Harness is specially designed to gently tighten around your dog’s chest to prevent them from pulling. The harness features clips in both the front and the back, and is designed for comfort featuring a velvet strap that goes under your dog’s chest to prevent chafing. The harness comes in a variety of different colors, so you can find the one that best suits your four-legged friend.

Austin, a terrier mix and daycare client at Morris K9 Campus, wears a navy Freedom Harness.

Gentle Leader: This product is made by Premier and is marketed as a head collar that stops pulling, lunging and other unwanted behaviors. The Gentle Leader goes around your dog’s mouth and the top of their head and prevents pulling by guiding your dog’s head down when they pull. The device allows for great control of your dog, and is highly recommended for anyone struggling with enforcing proper walking skills. Even though this product goes around the dog’s mouth, it is not a muzzle; the dog will still have free use of their mouth to sniff and eat.

Daycare client Reggie, a goldendoodle, shows off a gentle leader.

Sensation Harness: Designed by Softtouch, this front connection harness is meant to prevent your dog from pulling while focusing on solving common behavioral problems typically run into by owners. Since the harness clips in the front, where the dog’s chest moves, their body will follow, eliminating pulling.

Oliver, another daycare client, models the Sensation Harness.

These items are made to prevent your dog from pulling and have safety benefits unlike other devices such as flat buckles, prong and choke collars, which can often cause physical damage to your pooch when not used properly or used for the wrong dog. A dog who repeatedly pulls on a regular collar risks conditions like a collapsed trachea with repeated wearing. 

These selections mentioned above should not cause damage, will help you while walking, and can greatly benefit both you and your dog. Stop by our lobby and have one of our experts fit your dog for any of them.

A pull harness can quickly improve your dog’s walking skills, however, training classes complement these no-pull harnesses and head collars nicely and do more to change the pulling behavior of your dog. For a list of our upcoming training classes, visit our website at

Friday, April 5, 2013

Outdoor Dog Games

With beautiful weather finally arriving, it’s a great time to get out and be active with your dog. There are many different ways to play with your pooch. A fun game will not only help improve the bond between you and your dog, but it will also help stimulate your dog mentally and physically.

Playing with your dog doesn't have to be complex, and it is a great way for them (and even you!) to get some exercise. Every dog has a different activity that they love, so try out a few to see which one your dog prefers. Here are some of the most common ways to bond, exercise and play with your furry companion:

  • Tag, You’re It!: Tag is a great game to play with your pooch that also reinforces good recall. The point of the game is simple; while your dog is distracted, give them a slight tap and run in the opposite direction. This will encourage your dog to run towards you, and reinforce their recall. You can also add in your dog’s name with the tap, which will only further reinforce this good behavior.

  •  Puzzle Games: Puzzle toys provide a way to stimulate your dog’s mind. They force your dog to think as well as use their nose to solve problems. Puzzle toys can be indoor or outdoor games. They provide a great way to keep your dog occupied while you relax. Remember that it’s important to supervise your pooch while they are playing with puzzle toys; dogs who solve them quickly can turn the toy into a chew toy. For tips on creating your own puzzle toys, check out last week’s blog post on DIY dog toys, here.

  •  Fetch: Fetch is a high-energy game that not only exercises your dog, it can train your pooch to learn the foundation for crucial skills like “drop it.” If your dog is known for taking the toy and running away with it after you throw it, play fetch with two toys. Once you throw the second toy, your dog is apt to chase that toy and drop the first one. Most dogs will learn to anticipate the second throw and begin to come to you and drop the toy regularly.

There are so many different games that you can play with your dog. These examples provide a good place to start. Try them out and see which one your dog loves, or make up your own fun game!