Friday, May 31, 2013

Road Trip - Helping Your Anxious Dog in the Car

So you want to get outside with your dog? There are so many options for outdoor fun as the weather warms up, but the problem may be that you have a dog that doesn’t enjoy car rides. Getting there is certainly NOT half the fun if your dog shows signs of stress, barks out the window or even vomits. Working to solve your dog’s issues in the car can be beneficial to both you and your pooch.
Try to determine what it is about the car that is causing your dog’s stress. Though you may never know what the exact issue is, there are always methods of improving the car ride. Some dogs will do better riding in crates, some can do better in a fixed position with a dog seat belt, and some might even need a frozen Kong in the car in order to keep the visual stimulus down. You can experiment to find out what works best for your furry family member before taking your dog on longer trips.

Start by getting your dog used to the car. Whether you have a puppy or an older dog, there are steps that you can take to help them adjust. If you have a puppy that is in its socialization window, which is before 20 weeks, it’s important to get your dog in the car as much as possible. Bring your puppy with you when making short trips. If you are running to the bank or picking your kids up from school, take them with you on these trips to get them used to the car. With puppies, you have the added benefit of adding different environments to your “socialization checklist” when bringing your dog in the car to run quick errands. Every place you bring them is a new environment that will help increase their confidence outside the home.

This process can be slightly different when dealing with adult dogs. For dogs that are afraid of the car, short trips as simple as driving around the block are key. Just once around the block and heading back home can help your dog better adjust to the car. It’s also important to end the short car trip with something that your dog loves, like a long walk. This method can also work for a dog that gets an upset stomach when riding in the car. The idea is to keep the ride short, and again end it with something that your dog goes crazy for, like a walk. This needs to be continued until your pet seems “over it,” and then you can begin starting longer trips with your dog. This process can be done with any dog that is having any type of problem in the car.

If your dog is clearly stressed out in the car, the best thing you can do is work on it over time. However, if you are looking for other things to help, they could benefit from the following:
  • A Crate: Crates are a great tool for the car and can take some of the stimulus away that could be causing your dog‘s stress, like movement or sounds out the window. They can also serve as a safety measure; keeping your dog in a crate or in a single position through the use of a seat belt can help reduce risk of injury should you have an accident or even just need to slam on your breaks.
  • Rescue Remedy: There are pheromone sprays similar to ones that a mother dog would naturally produce in order to help calm her puppies. These “Rescue Remedies” can be sprayed in your car in order to help your pooch calm down. Remember that it’s not a cure, but it can help your dog quite a bit.
  • Thundershirt: The thundershirt is designed to help calm your dog by making them feel more secure. It’s important to first put the thundershirt a few weeks prior during feeding times and other random “good” times. You don’t want to just use the shirt as a way to calm your dog down. If you only put the shirt on the dog when they are going in the car, they will begin to associate the shirt with the car, which could hamper its effectiveness.

If your dog vomits in the car, there are steps that you can take in order to prepare them for the car ride. Don’t feed them before they go for a car ride, and make sure they aren’t consuming a large quantity of water before getting in the car. Keep a cleaning agent with you just in case, and remember that it is easier to clean up if your dog is in a crate.

With the weather heating up, it’s keep in mind your dogs safety when being left alone in a hot car. A car’s interior heats up very quickly, even in lukewarm weather and with the windows down. If it’s 70 degrees or hotter outside, it is definitely too hot to leave your dog in the car alone, even for a short period of time.

Remember to address the issues that your dog has in the car before your drive. You should never address an issue while you are driving; not only does it put you and your dog in danger, it also endangers other people on the road. By addressing your dog’s fears and stress prior to the trip, you can help improve the car ride for yourself and your dog, and move on to enjoying outdoor activities together.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dog Safety: Dog Bite Prevention

This week is national bite prevention week, and according to the American Veterinary Medical Association 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States alone. If you know how to read a dog’s signs and educate young children on how to properly greet a dog, those numbers could significantly change. There are two things that every owner should consider when their dog encounters a situation with new people or situations that make them nervous. Remember that you are your dog’s voice, and you must interpret what the dog is trying to tell you.

One: Remember to be your dog’s advocate. Know when they look stressed, and be ready to remove them for the situation when necessary. Most dog bites are preventable and dogs show signs before resorting to biting. Look out for signs of stress in your dog that could lead to them eventually to biting. A great reference for this an article about reading stress signs in your dog. Don’t be afraid to appear like the “bad guy” in situations. This just means you are being an advocate for your pooch and you are making sure you don’t make the dog feel like they have to handle the situation themselves.  Preventing a negative incident is as simple as taking your dog away from a situation or not allowing someone to meet your dog.

Two keep in mind that, every dog has the right to say no. Know that every dog has a certain limit; know that no matter how squishy your dog is there may be a person that frightens your dog when they meet. If your dog is saying “no,” you have to respect that. You don’t want to force your pooch to meet people in situations where they are clearly trying to get away. Read your dog’s body language and let your dog be able to tell you, “no I don’t want to meet that person.”

It is important to educate yourself on ways to prevent dog bites, which would include knowing the proper way of greeting a dog. If you have young children it is also important to make sure that they know how to properly greet a dog as well. The more we educate ourselves and others on proper dog etiquette, the more efficient we will be at preventing dog bites. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

I'm Trapped and I Can't Get Out-What to do when you and your dog are in a confined area

Every dog needs a certain amount of space. This means you need to assess what your dog needs in the moment and take into account any prior history.

When taking your dog in public it’s easy to run into situations where your dog can feel confined and trapped. Whether it be in the waiting room at the vets office or in the lobby of your dogs training school, knowing how to properly deal with the situation is important.

Removing your pooch from the confined situation is always the recommended first option. When in a confined situation, make sure you know where the exits are located to make sure that you are not trapping your dog. It’s your job to provide your dog with the proper space before the problem arises.

Both dogs pictured are wearing Freedom No-Pull Harnesses and short leashes providing more control for their handlers.  While both dogs are alert and aware of each other this situation is going well.
If you know that a certain situation, like waiting in your vet’s office lobby for your appointment or waiting for a daycare attendant to escort your dog into the playroom may cause an issue, prepare and have a plan before you and your dog enter. The proper equipment is an essential tool to help manage this circumstance.  A standard 4 to 6 foot leash will help you better control your dog in a confined situation, so it is better to leave the Flexi leash at home. Do you use a No-Pull Harness or Gentle Leader for training class or walks through the neighborhood?  Then you should absolutely be using them in a situation where you would need more control.  How about treats?  If you can do some focus work before stepping foot in the environment you are on the road to a successful visit.  Are you more worried about other animals versus your own or your dog gets stressed when other dogs are barking?  Use your treats and play some obedience game to get them to focus on you rather than what is causing them discomfort.
A waiting area can be a scary place for a dog and owner

Another important aspect if you see a negative situation forming would be to make sure you do not translate to them through your body language that there is a cause for concern rather communicate to the lobby receptionist that you’ll wait outside until it is your turn or leave your dog in the car (assuming the temperature allows) until the lobby is clear.

It’s important to remember that you are responsible for your dog’s well-being and should not be setting your dog up by putting them in a scary situation. Becoming educated about your dog’s body language and reactions are important as we always want to set up our dogs for success.  If you are not sure what to do or cannot interpret what you are seeing consult a professional for help from your educated Morris K9 Campus staff. Visit our website or call us at 973-252-5100 to find out what we can do for you and your pet. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Stages of Fear: How to Help Your Dog When They're Afraid

Dogs tend to wear their emotions right on their, well, paws. A happy dog is easy to spot, but can you tell when your dog is even the slightest bit afraid? Once you have learned to read the signs of stress in your dog (see our blog post “Happy or Stressed Dog: Do You Know the Difference?”), you can begin to tell what their fears and phobias are as well as how to properly deal with them. Severe stress in dogs can be caused by both fear and phobias, but it is important to know the different signs depending on the dog.

A phobia is when a dog is anticipating something and experiencing unease during the build up. For example, if your dog had a bad experience with a dog on a particular road and now won’t go down that street or barks and thrashes when taken to that area, that has become a phobia.
A stuffed Kong toy can be a good distraction for a dog that is beginning to show signs of fear.
Fears are when a dog is afraid of a current situation. For example, when a stranger comes into your home and your dog barks and backs away, that is a clear sign of fear in your pooch.

There are different stages that dogs go through before their fear becomes extreme. These can be broken down into four general stages, but it’s important to recognize that some of the stages can be more complex, and not all dogs will display or feel all of them.

Many people can recognize when their dog is feeling fearful, but you can help your dog feel safer in unsure situations by learning to recognize the early signs of mild fear. You can start by learning to understand the process and stages that your dog’s mind goes through when facing this kind of situation. The stages start with avoidance and go all the way down through shutdown.

Avoidance: When a dog turns away from what they are interpreting as “bad.”

Tolerance: A tolerating dog will withstand the “bad,” and is willing to put up with it for a good amount of time. The dog is coping, but doesn’t like it. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between enjoyment verses tolerance; just because your dog is tolerating something doesn’t mean they are actually enjoying themselves in the situation.

Enough Already: A dog in this stage will display a negative reaction to the “bad” thing. They may become aggressive or lash out, leading to negative consequences. You do not want your dog to get to this stage if you can prevent it, which you can do by picking up on your dog’s signs in the earlier stages.

Shutdown: You will essentially get no reaction from your dog in this stage. A dog that is shutdown will appear to have a complete disconnect from the situation. This is where your dog turns off and shows no signs whatsoever.

All dogs don’t react the same way, so signs can be different in different dogs. The best way to help your dog is to recognize the signs at the beginning stages and address your dog’s issue before they move to the next stage. Recognizing fear is crucial in order to help solve the issue that your dog is facing.

Thundershirts aren't just for showers... these cozy coats help nervous dogs feel secure. Hood optional!
You can lower the stress by removing your dog from the situation, removing “the bad,” pairing the bad with something good, and doing things that you know calm your dog. Remedies can range from ThunderShirts, which a dog can wear to help them feel secure, to calming music to stuffed Kongs. Many of these products are available for purchase in our lobby at Morris K9 Campus If your dog has high anxiety and you can’t seem to solve it, it is always best to consult a trained professional. Taking your dog to private lessons can help pinpoint your dog’s fears and help you both to move past them. Call us at 973-252-5100 or visit our website to learn more about our private dog training today.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Prepping and Planning for Summer Pet Activities

The weather is getting warm and there is no better time to get outdoors and explore new things with your dog. Whether you are the adventurous type or just want to enjoy a casual outing to get some fresh air, there are plenty of fun activities that both you and your pup can enjoy. Before you take in the scenery together, you should gather the summer essentials necessary to keep your pooch safe in the great outdoors.

Essentials for Summer Outdoor Activities with Your Dog:

  • Travel bag: The perfect place to carry all of your dog’s necessities; from water to treats, a good travel bag can hold everything.  
  • Collapsible bowl and water: Dogs need to be kept well hydrated in the summer weather. Whether the activity is extremely strenuous or not, be sure to have plenty of fresh water on hand.
  • Toys made to maximize summer fun: From toys that float to puzzle solving toys, you can keep your dog occupied in the warm weather with toys made to withstand the elements outdoors. 
  • Proper leash and collar: Whether your dog rocks a harness or wears a delicate leash and collar, make sure these tools are in good condition before heading outside with your dog. For tips on purchasing these items, read our recent blog post on harnesses, head collars, and more, here.
Once you are packed and prepared, you're ready to hit the trails, pavement or even sand with your pooch. Looking for someplace different but still dog-friendly? Try any of the following options:

Hiking: If you are looking for a workout for both you and your pooch, hiking is a great option. Not only will you be exercising your dog, but you can enjoy the benefits of a good hike as well. If you want to go hiking but can’t find a good place where you can bring dogs, check out the list of dog-friendly hiking trails in New Jersey.

Dog Beaches: If you have a dog that loves the water, you are in luck; a variety of beaches along the New Jersey shore line are dog friendly. Make sure that you check the beach hours beforehand because beaches that do allow dogs tend to have limited hours. You can go to for a list of dog-friendly beaches.

Flea Market: If you want to get outside with your dog but don’t want to do anything too strenuous, flea markets can be a great place to bring your four-legged friend. The flea market is a great place for a walk that also introduces your dog to new social situations.

With the proper essentials, you can take on a new adventure with your pooch this summer. Stop by our lobby for even more advice on summer preparedness.