Disclaimer: American K9 Training Services will gladly respond to any and all mature, respectful, and well intentioned comments, questions, and statements about any information publicized within the realm of dogs and dog training. Open discussion is encouraged and I believe will not only educate dog owners, but to also serve as a bridge of understanding with professionals in the dog service related industry. We all have different philosophies and techniques, but at the end of the day our love of animals and the goal of creating a terrific relationship between owner and dog should help us look past our differences. We all have different formal education, experiences, and real world applications. This is a chance to openly discuss these subjects. Short sightedness, disrespect, and rude behavior will not be tolerated or responded to on any level. Please take this opportunity to truly contribute to this subject matter.
My objective is to educate the unfamiliar, discuss issues of importance, add my opinions and thoughts on subject matter, and attempt to help people maneuver through the overabundance of information out there on everything that has to do with the subject of dog.
I apologize if my comments offend anyone or any entity, but I will NEVER sacrifice speaking about anything in fear of hurting anyone’s feelings. This subject is too important to tip toe around.
Hello! In the next few entries the topic we will cover is something fun! Puppies… How can you not love the topic? They are the cover for many calendars, many people’s conversation piece on social media, and just damn cute. In this week’s blog I will cover the mindset new puppy owners should have, and a great way to eliminate undesired behaviors.
A positive, forgiving, and patient mindset is essential in your dog’s development. It will eliminate needless worry, curb undesired behaviors, and be the foundation for a strong bond forged between you and your new pet. Your puppy is like a new blank canvas. Your love and affection is your paintbrush. You just need the right application to make your masterpiece.
When I go into homes with new puppy owners, I am normally asked these questions: How can I stop my puppy from nipping? How do I stop the bathroom accidents in the house? How can I start crate training when my puppy hates their crate? Should I start crate training? How can I help my puppy sleep through the night? The new holes in my couch make it look very sheik, but how can I save my furniture? How much, when and where should I feed my puppy? Normally to be followed by these statements: My puppy hates the leash. My puppy is making growling sounds and playing rough, I’m concerned. My puppy will not stop whining and above all help!!!!!!! Don’t worry over the next few weeks I will address each of these concerns.
If you are one of the many that have asked yourself these same questions please don’t worry, relax. You obviously care and as long as you have good intentions don’t worry. You will not do anything so wrong that you will ruin your puppy for the rest of their life; it will just be a matter of how long you have to deal with the undesired behaviors. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that some epic power struggle is about to occur and you have to make your new furry butter ball respect his or her place in your home. Your puppy is an immature being whose only social norm to this point is a litter setting with multiple brothers and sisters in a confined space. To get anything your puppy has had to whine, nip, push, flop, and do many other undesired behaviors to get attention, it’s all they know. Oh yeah, they have also more than likely urinated and defecated wherever they wanted to as well. So please keep this in mind, they are now in a completely foreign environment absent the only things they know to this point. It can be traumatic for them.
Calm is the name of the game. Calm tones, calm movements, calm everything. Puppies quickly realize if they can get a loud animated response from their behavior they will continue it (any attention is fine with them). For application of everything on your part think repetition not overbearing. So doing something calmly ten times consistently will be more productive and meaningful than one time with overbearing demeanor, save that for the serious running away from you towards a busy roadway. That’s also a fundamental point I like to stress to my new puppy owners. If you are relaxed and calm with the nipping, excessive barking, etc… Your serious tone will actually mean something when it’s used and a safety issue.
One major thing most people forget is focusing on the right behavior. Most people like to refer to this as positive reinforcement. We can call it that for right now but later on when we go deeper into animal behavior I will talk about how that word is grossly overused, misunderstood, and wrongly applied. If for example your puppy has a history of nipping on your hand, instead of quietly waiting for them to do that negative behavior, focus on the behavior before and the time immediately after they stop that behavior. You will be surprised but observe someone else in your family when this occurs. Most of us are engaged with some other human activity and do not realize that we fail to address the positive, pre negative behavior. If your puppy is circling you, even if you know they are about to nip you, give a calm verbal “good boy/girl.” This will start to let them know what you actually want them to do (be near you and not nip). Your puppy nips, calmly place your puppy on their side, actual side not normal down position (feet away from you). Speak just like you were to a small child. I like “you know better, we don’t do that.” Hold your puppy down for approx. 5-10 seconds, if they squirm and whine, wait patiently until they stop and remove your hands, followed up immediately with a calm verbal only “good boy/girl.” We are going for association. Your puppy was born with a sense of association. You want them to associate the good near you non- nipping behavior with good and the nipping behavior with an uncomfortable I can’t move and I’m stuck on my side association. Life for them until this point has been I can do what I want when I want. By removing those options for them you are creating a sense of loss of control. This whole process is NOT dominance; do not use loud and heavy handedness. Use only enough pressure to be able to keep them on their side (two hands), 5 to 10 seconds and that’s it. Trust me they hate the feeling of being on their side. Remember repetitive over meaningful. I promise those nips will turn to licks in no time.
You can use the association of positive and negative method for any type of behavior. However do not use the negative for every single little thing. If your puppy feels you are being overbearing they will act out just because they feel they can’t do anything. Just use it for the daily needs to leave now behavior, not the things that occur infrequently. A helpful tip to remember during this process DO NOT do anything that your puppy will remember as good while teaching a negative moment. If you are calmly stroking your puppy with one hand while holding them on their side they might associate the negative behavior with attention and the petting. Just make sure to separate the two.
Not looking at everything as a behavior problem can also relieve stress. Being preemptive can also greatly reduce the occurrences of negative behavior. For nipping helping with their teething is also a great way to greatly reduce their want to use those razors. I recommend gel toys that you can throw in the freezer or a damp washcloth (frozen) to help relieve any discomfort they feel with their adult teeth coming in.
Have a great week and be on the lookout for the next installment of the puppy series. As always I will be happy to field any direct questions you have in between blog posts.
Stonewall Jackson (English Mastiff), Dusty (Staffordshire Terrier Mutt)
I apologize for the delay in my second installment. Much like the rest of Rochester NY, I was fighting my old nemesis the flu.
This week’s topic is Dog Rescue and adoption.
There is no greater contribution you can make to a dog’s welfare than through dog adoption. In many cases you are literally pulling an animal away from death and giving it a chance. The individuals who make it their life’s work to help these animals are underfunded, overwhelmed, and under-appreciated. The next time you meet someone who works at a shelter, volunteers, or are associated with pet rescue; please pat them on the back. They fight the good fight every damn day. They literally walk down hallways everyday hoping that someone will save an animal they see so much potential in. If you have a no kill shelter near you terrific. If not, it’s truly an issue of overpopulation and under funding. I would love a world where every shelter in America had a “no kill” policy, but I’m also a realist. Sure, if you have an organization that is doing well to the extreme that its founders are receiving substantial salaries from funding and donations, I believe you have every right to demand that their policies reflect their prosperity. But for underfunded and overwhelmed institutions just trying to stay afloat it’s unrealistic and irresponsible to put your energy towards compounding to the daily problems they face instead of pouring that passion towards their eventual success of being able to fiscally facilitate a “no kill” status. Kill or no kill the people who choose to surround themselves with constant sorrow and occasional happiness of adoption deserve our admiration. They are doing the best with what they have.
The dog that you go to see in a shelter is truly animal that is being stunted socially. Please understand dogs are social by nature. They need social stimulation. They crave it. Regardless of the situation the animal is brought from, they are often confined in a 4×4 space with none or extremely limited social opportunities. That’s why I do not believe in automatically dismissing a dog for adoption by the behavior they show when you meet them. Please understand that you might have been the only substantial social contact that poor animal has received in the past few days, weeks, and sometimes even months. They more than likely will come across as a bit forward or over bearing. On the opposite extreme they may seem reclusive or withdrawn. To truly understand why they act that way please put yourself in their position for a moment.
You want nothing more than to give and receive love and affection. You have this burning internal want and desire, but you are isolated in a 4 x 4 square space. You more than likely cannot see your neighbor and the only stimulation you have is twice a day when someone slides a metal food bowl into your kennel and then sprays out your run with water. Barking…..constant……barking. You rotate from pacing around, sleeping, drinking water, barking, to going to the bathroom right next to the same space you sleep in. Now multiply that in minutes, hours, days, and months. So when your door opens and you are brought into a room after experiencing this day in and out and this kind person is speaking extremely nice to you in a comforting tone you very well may feel like a horse out of the starting gate or you may have reluctance to engage this person because you don’t know how. This is the life of a shelter animal, a socially built companion that is confined and isolated. I have been told by several friends in the shelter community that the phrase “we are losing that dog” is a common theme when discussing a dog’s mental state in a prolonged shelter setting.
What you can expect when you adopt a shelter animal is having a truly amazing family pet. I work with dogs from rescues/shelters on a daily basis. I have an English Mastiff from a breeder and a rescue Staffordshire terrier mutt. I can say without hesitation, rescue animals in general are extremely loyal. There is truly a degree of admiration when you observe a rescued dog and his owner. I can spot a rescued dog a mile away because their eyes are always following their owner as they move around. When I make a midnight snack run to the fridge it isn’t my English mastiff who I hear walk behind me to check on my well-being. My adopted Staffordshire terrier is a dog who thrives on social stimulation. I truly feel that a rescue dog’s loyalty comes from an appreciation of being saved from an environment of a shelter to an environment of undivided love, affection, and social stimulation. Yes, rescue dogs can be a bit rough around the edges in the beginning, but as their new life becomes an everyday routine they will acclimate to you and your home. Rescuing a dog is truly a remarkable thing. Most days you will wonder who rescued who.
So you started having a feeling that there is a something missing in your life? Maybe you grew up with a family pet and now you are finally on your own. Maybe your living situation changed and you are finally going to be able to get that puppy you’ve always wanted. Perhaps on a whim you looked at your local shelter and fell in love with a sad set of eyes. Could a lost and scared dog have found his/her way to your front door? Maybe you are an experienced dog owner whose best friend of 10 plus years of door greeting, tail wagging, following you around your house with unconditional faithful love and affection has left a void in your heart when he or she passed. No matter the scenario your thinking about getting a dog!
I fall under the later. I lasted three days. Three days of waking up without a bad back from my best friend roscoe snuggling against me all night. Three days of looking down and behind me and seeing nothing. Three days of saying the same things I used to say when we woke up, went for a car ride, his smile when I could make a high pitched happy sound, a walk, time to eat, playing, time for bed, sharing my snack while I read, and finally bed again.
I bring up Roscoe, my mutt who was found in the middle of nowhere NC, not because I want to start off on the sadness of loss, but to speak about the joys I found by having my own dog. I had military working dogs before, but it wasn’t the same. Roscoe got me through my twenties and I wouldn’t be the same person today if he had not been in my life. Having Roscoe opened my eyes up to the awesome responsibility of having a pet.
I say awesome because it was that. He brought a smile and laugh to me every single day. I say responsibility because it was that. He depended on me for his basic needs and it was my responsibility to provide them for him. Food, water, shelter, medical care, and my favorite love and affection were a constant necessity.
Let’s briefly talk about the responsibility of owning a dog. I only want to touch on this because I think the demographic taking the time to read this blog does not fall under the category of past, present or future irresponsible dog owner. I also believe too many terrific well qualified dog owners are scared off of the prospect by well-intentioned but unrealistic dog owners, enthusiasts, and providers. Keep in mind I am not speaking of every agency nor am I speaking against the countless individuals who sacrifice so much for stray, abandoned, and abused animals as a whole. They are saints, but in my opinion they generalize too much in their search of potential dog owners. Their methods are the safest, but some really great people are passed over and worse are left feeling like they don’t have what it takes. Many of them live in areas where animals are treated like dirt and over time become jaded in their thinking of humans.
In their defense they witness unimaginable horrors every day when an animal is placed in the wrong home. I am however concerned when a potential individual who has nothing but love in their heart is told they would make a horrible owner because they actually have a job and work or any other pre-loaded immediate disqualifier. DO NOT get frustrated and swear off owning a dog completely if you had a bad experience with an individual or agency. They mean well and provide a commendable service, but that doesn’t change the fact that YOU could make a great dog owner. The responsible thing is to be honest with yourself, if you can put something other than yourself on a higher order of importance and sacrifice doing what you want when you want you have the potential to be a dog owner.
Fiscally responsible is another manner. You have to understand that owning a dog is not only a commitment of time and patience, but also is very taxing on the bank account. A simple bag of dog food once a month isn’t a realistic option. Spaying/neutering, unexpected medical bills, emergencies, special food, allergies, dog walkers, dog sitters, it all can add up. Trust me it always happens at the worst time. You need to be honest with yourself before getting a dog and understand that it is a commitment of financial responsibility over the course of years, hopefully a decade plus.
The joy of having a pet in your life is a really hard thing to explain to people who never had one. I will do my best. Imagine coming home from a long day at the job. In these times the economy sucks. People are quick to lash out about anything and you’ve been yelled at, spoken down to, and underappreciated all day. Your miserable and unlock the door. Even before you open the door you hear a familiar howl, a tail banging against something, a quick movement inside your home. You open the door. You immediately forget your troubles because your best friend has been waiting all day to only see YOU.
Having a dog in your life is like being what a king or queen must have felt like. You become the center of the universe to this animal that would do anything for you. They radiate an energy that makes you feel like the most import person ever. The best news is they do this on a daily basis. You will always have someone to confide in, laugh with, or even to share a cry with. All your experiences and accomplishments will now be shared. Sure they may not know what the accomplishment is, but they will celebrate all the same. Dogs are social beings. They are wired to be an interactive part of your daily life and make you feel better in the process. Many times they don’t have to do anything. Just their mere presence has a reassuring quality. Making the decision to open your heart up to the possibility of owning a dog is one of the best decisions you can ever make.
photo by Viktor Hanacek