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Event: Become a Dog Detective

Join Underdog’s Triumph and the Boone Area Humane Society (BAHS) for a children’s program called “Become a Dog Detective. Learn All About Dog Body Language” this Thursday, Sept 6th from 6 pm to approximately 7 pm at the BAHS. During this fun interactive session, children and their parents will learn all about how to read a dog’s body language and the many safe ways to interact with dogs. Afterwards, the kids will make fleece tug toys for the shelter animals; time permitting, they may also make one to take home for their own dog too! Please sign up at the following link to reserve your FREE spot as space is limited: https://www.allforgood.org/projects/9kA6O2Qz. You can also like and share our Facebook post out about the event to get the word out: https://www.facebook.com/events/2175557949140325/

Surprisingly 77% of all bite case come from dogs the children know. These are often family pets or friends of the family who despite trying to tell their beloved humans they were feeling uncomfortable were pushed past their tolerance level and bit someone. Through this program, kids will learn safe ways to approach and interact with dogs (familiar and unfamiliar), and how to minimize their bite risk. Underdog’s Triumph will be presenting an interactive slide discussion where kids (and their parents) will learn to look for stress/calming signals that dogs display hen they first start to feel uncomfortable.

These key warning signs come before a dog growls and before they bite, and can help kids and parents know when their dog is telling them they need a break. Knowing and recognizing these signs can help kids avoid pushing their dogs or their friends dog past their tolerance level to where the dog feels a bite is their only hope. Take a sneak peek at Shelby’s photos below. These are of the same dog at two different times. Which of these two dogs is okay to pet?

 

Photo Credit From: Doggonecrazy.ca

 

To a child (or other dog ethusaist) it is oftentimes hard to see the signs, especially when the child (or adult) is eager to meet a new friend. But looking closer at these two still photos you can pick out some of the signs.

 

Shelby (left): DO NOT PET

  • Ears are forward and alert,
  • Eyes are staring and intense,
  • Body is leaning forward causing the leash to go tight,
  • Mouth is closed.

 

Shelby (right): Okay to Pet, but please ask an adult first

  • Ears are back, relaxed, and flop naturally to the side
  • Eyes are soft and brow is relaxed,
  • Body is sitting, relaxed
  • Mouth is open slightly and relaxed

 

 

Through interactive discussions, the children (and parents) will learn how to see these signs and learn how to avoid pushing a dog past his or her tolerance. Parents will also be getting a handout discussion packet to take home to continue working with their children on recognizing these key signals.

If you and your child are interested in joining us, please use the link below to register for this free program: https://www.allforgood.org/projects/9kA6O2Qz

If you are interested in hosting another event similar to or like this, please use our contact form here to set something up. We’re eager to work with other organizations, like schools and libraries to get this important information out there!

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The Story of a Brumby Stallion

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.

~ The Lorax (Dr. Seuss)

 

We’re going to take a break from doggios for this week and look at a brumby stallion. What? Have I gone crazy? What the heck is a Brumby? Well read on!

A Brumby stallion is a term in Australia for a wild or feral un-neutered male horse. In Australia these wild, roaming horses are considered pests as they destroy and eat the native ecosystem. The government of Australia has been struggling to determine what to do about all these feral horses having performed mass cullings semi-recently to reduce population. They have also attempted a few times to move larger herds with some sterilization to other areas less intrusive areas but without much success.

Organizations like the The Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse Association are stepping up in order to rehome and relocate these horses in the hopes that mass cullings like the one from 2000 will never be needed again. However, as you can imagine, few people want to take on the challenge of adopting a wild, feral horse – let alone a stallion. They can be dangerous when frightened or scared and their size greatly out-masses their human caretakers.

As you see in the dog training community, the horse training community too struggles with adoption of modern methods. Old time training methods or “traditional” methods includes “breaking” a horse using aversive (painful) methods and tools to “break” the spirit of a horse and force them to obey their new human owners. The goal of the aversive training was to get the wild “rebellious” nature of out a horse and transform them into an obedient, mild mannered domesticated horse. Just like with dog trainers,there are those horse trainers who remain in the dark ages using tools that inflict fear and pain to control the wild tendencies of these creatures and then there are those who have become educated in the ways of learning theory, behavioral study and positive training methods.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a blog about a four year old wild, feral Brumby stallion named Lumos who was adopted & rescued by a young lady name Jaclyn. Jaclyn is a dog trainer by trade and runs the “The Dog Nose” dog training and behavior facility in Australia. She had always wanted to adopt a horse, instead of buying one, and was looking forward to earning this spunky Lumos’ trust throughout the coming months as she introduced him, using positive training methods, to the modern world.

I’m always impressed with how quickly animals, of any species, respond to positive training methods. When we treat these magnificent creatures with respect they deserve, they in turn reflect that trust and respect back onto us. By listening and respecting their body language, we can show them that we will never ask them to do anything they are uncomfortable with and that if they work with us they will be rewarded for their efforts. By doing so, within just seven days, Mr. Lumos was happily eating right from Jaclyn’s hand. She had earned his trust and he understood that she meant him no harm.

After the first week of training, seeing the positive bond that was forming, Jaclyn made a promise to Lumos:

I will never hit you, whip you, kick you, force you, chase you, scare you, pull you or hurt you. Your body is your body, and you will always have a choice.

You can say “yes,” and you can always say “no,” and I will always listen.

I am beyond excited to see you progress, and I cannot wait to reach milestones with you,

like when you let me pat you, and ride you!

If you are interested in following Lumos’ journey and see many of the wonderful positive, force free training methods Jaclyn uses to teach Lumos the skills he will need in the modern world, please give their facebook page a like: https://www.facebook.com/Lumosthegoldenbrumby/ and continue to be impressed with their amazing journey together. I know I sure am!

Jaclyn with Lumos just over a month after being rescued.
                              Jaclyn with Lumos just over a month after being rescued.
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Traveling with your Pets

This week I’m on vacation out on the lovely, surface of the sun, Death Valley. While out here in the blistering of temps, I do think back to my own three furry canine companions and wonder what they’re doing while I’m away. Did I get them the a responsible pet setter? Are they thinking about how I have clearly abandoned them forever? Are they happy, healthy and well cared for?

Stress in leaving your canine companions behind is a real thing. Our day to day lives literally revolve around their care and well being. We make sure they get their breakfast and walk before work. We make sure we don’t stay too late at work or we make arrangements to have a neighbor or friend swing by to take care of them. Vacations too are no easy task. We have to decide whether to take them with us, leave them with a friend or family member, board them, or have someone stay in our home while we are away.

While out here, I marvel at those who have decided to take their pets with them. Out here, most of the national parks prohibit pets, so their canines are stuck in an unfamiliar hotel room all by themselves. Others take their furry companions with them on the trails that are allowed and their fur-ladened companion looks even more miserable than I did hiking back up and out of the canyon during the 108 “dry” heat.

You know your pet best and you alone get to decide their how they are cared for. But do try to think about your vacation from their prospective. While it’s easy for us to understand that this vacation away from home is only temporary. We know this blistering heat will soon be relieved by an full powered AC drive back to the hotel. We can choose when we need to take a break on a hike, when we’re thirsty and more, but our canine companions are mostly just along for the ride. Seeing new sights and sounds can be fun for many, but scary for others.

Whether staying at home or taking them with, make sure you have all their contact information on their tags updated. It’s easy for a pet in a new area to get lost or confused about where their “home” is. Microchipping, where a small grain of rice sized computer chip is placed under the back of the skin, can greatly assist in the reuniting of a lost pet. These can be digitally scanned by special readers that can give full contact info and medical issues the pet might have to the device that scans them. Plus microchips won’t fall off or get lost, like collars or harnesses. These are fairly affordable and most vets charge $20-$40 per chip and they last the pets lifetime.

If you’re traveling via airport, some airlines to allow pets to make the journey as well for a fee. But these types of travels I would not recommend for your pet. Airplanes are loud, scary, environments for pets. There’s little “practice” you can do beforehand to help your pet get accustomed to the sounds, sights and smells before your grand adventure. And once you’re up in the sky, there’s little options for either of you if things go poorly.

Options for pets flying via airfare is pretty limited. There’s either under the seat in front of you or under the plane in with the rest of the cargo. Both options can have severe, life threatening dangers for your pet. There have been numerous stories recently of dogs (and other pets) dying from stress, overheating or lack of oxygen on their flights. Short nosed breeds like pugs, boxers, shihtzus etc are most at risk due to the nature of how their face is structured which already restricts oxygen flow. Under the seat is cramped, overhead bins lack air flow, and cargo bays are devoid of people and cramped with luggage. Plus pets have to sit out on the tarmac in the hot sun or cold winter waiting to be loaded on with the rest of the luggage.

If you decide to leave your pet at home, finding a family friend is normally the safest bet. Someone who can either stay with your pets in your home (most ideal) or someone who can take your pets with them to their home for the duration. It is helpful to have a pre-written care document that has all their critical information written out. Include things like feeding instructions, medical applications, walks, cues they know, emergency contact info and vet/hospital numbers and addresses. Having this document can assure that your caretaker will know what to do should something happen.

Options like Rover.com are popular if you’re new to an area or your friends and family cannot take your pets. This online service matches you with a nearby pet sitter who can swing by for visits each day, perform daily walks and/or stay with your pets the entire vacation. I’ve used Rover a few times now, and have had mixed successes. Some of the folks on there are very reputable and perform their duties exactly as described, others take a more lenient route and show up just when they’re needed to let the dogs out and then return back to their own homes.

Boarding should be done selectively as many boarding facilities are ill equipped to deal with shy, fearful or elderly pets. Boarding facilities can be loud, busy places that can easily overwhelm the nervous, frighten older or handicapped pets. Make sure when selecting a boarding facility you ask around to get where other’s board their pets and tour the facility well in advance of your trip so you can switch if necessary. Word of mouth and recommendations from friends work well for weeding out the good and the bad facilities.

Travel, for business or pleasure, happens, and as a pet owner we need to make sure that we have a blast and so do our pets. Ensuring their basic needs are cared for and they are safe and secure will help ease your mind while you’re away. Enjoy yourself, relax a bit, and take a break from the daily tasks of pet care.

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Reactivity in Dogs

This past week we had three new arrivals to the Underdog’s Triumph family. We welcome the little standing husky, our politely sitting boston and our happy-go-lucky terrier. Why would a training center need some fake stuff dogs you might ask? Reactivity – that’s why!

Reactivity is a term I use for dogs who are experience some intense emotion that causes them to react in what we would call an inappropriate manner. A reactive dog might lunge or bark, sometime they might nip or bite, some if pushed to far can even kill. Dogs who are reactive, lack the skills of knowing alternative behaviors when they get into this emotional state – which is typically cause by fear and sometime over excitement.

The interesting thing is that dogs typically don’t start out reactive, they start with smaller, oftentimes overlooked behaviors like avoidance or lip licking (stress signals) and progress upward to these overt displays of behavior which are quickly noticed by other dogs, their owners and other people. And as I’ve written about before, dogs do what works. They don’t know right or wrong, they just repeat what was successful in the past or they try something new.  If overt displays of a crazy dog at the end of the leash work to get what they want (most often the other dog/person to go away), then they’ll continue to do that next time.

Quick note, if you have a reactive dog, I’d recommend getting professional help from an educated dog trainer. You can check out my blog posts here and here on how to find a good one. Reactivity training requires a keen sense of dog body language and observation on the owner’s part and is greatly aided by a force free professional helping them spot what their dog is trying to tell them.

For dog to dog reactivity training, we would aim to teach the other dog an alternative behavior and then reward that alternative behavior more than what the dog would have gotten simply by lunging or barking at the other dog. But for those of you who have reactive dogs, have you ever tried to ask your dog to do any command while they are flipping out and bouncing all over at the end of the leash? It just doesn’t work. When the dogs get into that reactive state of mine, I always like to say their ears go closed and their brain turns off. They are in such an emotional state that they can’t even process that you’re trying to get them to do something else.

So what’s the trick? The trick is to start working at a great enough distance before they get into the crazy flipping out stage. The part when they first notice the other dog or person and yet the dog/person is far enough away they don’t feel threatened. Then we have to practice those new techniques. Practice not only helps the human learn skills like how to hold a leash correctly, or how to recognize when their dog is in the beginning stages of becoming reactive, but it helps the dog as well.

Using these fake stuffed dogs as practice offers the owners and their dogs the easiest possible scenario. These fake dogs don’t move, they don’t bark, they come free of an owner and yet they still look like a dog. With a stationary “dog” the owners and their dogs can practice different styles of scenarios, like walking up to a dog, walking around another dog, walking away from the dog, all the while knowing that if their dog were to get loose no one would be harm, and knowing the fake dog will always stay right where we left them.

My own adopted dog Luna came as a feral dog (meaning she had never really been around other people). She started with a 75 foot required distance from the another person or she would flail and panic at the far end of the leash trying to get away from them. Yesterday, almost two years after I adopted her, she passed by a jogger with only a five foot distance between us and him.

Reactivity training takes time, effort and consistency for the dog to begin to learn a new behavior when meeting a dog. It also takes a lot of patient and practice on the owners part as well. Overtime the dog (and the human) will start naturally falling back to these new behaviors and you’ll be able to get closer and closer to the other dog or person without having them react.

If you need help with reactivity, feel free to reach out, we can help you work with your dog on reactivity training or we can help you find someone in your area qualified to do the same. Trust me though, these three little amigos are up to the challenge and look forward to helping many other dogs and their humans in the future!

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Understanding Fear

There’s an old superstition that if parents comforted their babies too much, they’d learn to cry for attention and become spoiled. Instead, parents were told to simply let their children cry it out. Unsurprisingly people apply this same old superstition to their dogs too. Dog’s who show signs of being scared or startled by things, we’re told to ignore or turn away from so we don’t encourage that behavior. As the fireworks season is still upon us (sorry doggios!), I think it’s important to look at what are doing to help our poor, terrified four legged friends cope with what I’m sure they think is the end of the world…

You can apply something a dog likes or enjoys to a behavior in order to increase the likelihood that behavior will happen in the future. In dog training lingo, this is called positive (because you added something) reinforcement (because you want to behavior to happen more frequently). Giving a dog a treat after a behavior is exactly how this training works. It’s not (as some believe) used as a bribe, which typically would be used before the dog performed the desired behavior. Instead it’s used after, as a payment for them doing what you asked.

This type of reinforcement works great for getting the dog to perform a trick or learn a new command. However what about when your dog is scared or frightened by something? Can your comfort make them more scared or more frightened the next time? The answer is kinda yes and kinda no.

The first big difference with a dog who is scared is that what they are experiencing is an emotion which shows itself in various behaviors. Your dog might slink down to the ground, have their tail tucked and have white “whale” eyes. These are all behaviors, many unconscious, the dog displays to show their emotion. These behaviors may be reinforced, but the fear itself cannot be.

A human example would be if I asked you to “be afraid.” You might open your eyes wide, open your mouth, you might add some kind of scream or sound to indicate you were startled – these bodily displays are all deliberately chosen based on what you think fear looks like. Now imagine if I snuck up behind you & lit off a firework. *BOOM*

What you experience in the second is involuntary. It’s natural. It’s instant. A high pitch scream, a jump, your heart will race, and a sense of panic fills you (plus a lot of distrust towards your new found dog trainer!). These reactions stem from the actual emotion you were feeling. They caused those bodily reactions.

Petting, feeding and/or talking softly to a dog who is scared helps the fearful feelings dissipate. The same way yours might when a friend or loved one gives you a hug or a pat on the back. Comforting this fear and helping them calm down after being startled or frightened is 100% the right thing to do. You’d do it for your human friend, so do it for your canine friend as well. Give them somewhere to hide at, talk soft, comforting words to them and make sure they feel secure in wherever they have taken refuge.

Now for the flipside. Behaviors on the other hand can be reinforced and repeated. A perfect example of this is a dog whining. The dog whines and it’s owners reach over to comfort the dog with some pets. The dog whines later while dinner is being made so the owner toss him a scrap to keep him out of your hair. Repeated over time, the dog learns that whining gets him or her attention and therefore will do so again, not to annoy you, but simply because it gets him what he or she wants.

Emotions are strong in animals, just like they are in humans. They feel a lot of the same feelings we do and we should do our best to make sure those feelings are good ones. Fireworks seasons is still active and booming away, so try to do all you can to make sure your pet feels safe and secure wherever they are. Esther enjoys taking refuge under the bed, so I make sure she has easily accessible water and food nearby so she doesn’t have to feel so exposed when the world is ending. These small adaptations you can make for your dog can help them through dealing with all the fearful emotions of fireworks season. Take comfort in knowing it will only be a few more days before its over! Stay safe and have a great week!

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Program Updates & Happy 4th of July!

Underdog’s Triumph will be switching it’s training articles to be the 1st and 3rd week of the month. We’re starting up some new educational programs with the local Boone Area Humane Society over this summer and we’re going to use the “time off” to work on developing out these programs. We hope to have these programs finalized soon so we can share them with all of you!

This week is also 4th of July – one of the worst times for lost and traumatized pets. Please especially ensure that during these coming weeks that your dog:

  • Is wearing identification on a collar or harness
    • This should include their name and your phone number at a minimum
  • Has a safe, quite, dim place that they can hide at during the fireworks
  • Are secure and supervised whenever they are outside
  • Keep ALL fireworks away from dogs:
    • This includes both discarded fireworks refuse as well as the lighters used to set them off.

Take a current photo of your pets in case they do get lost you have a recent photo that will look most like them.

I also highly recommend the Canine Lullabies music for dogs. For whimpering puppies, sick or injured dogs, or even just hyperactive pets, it is a life saver. For more information go to www.caninelullabies.com. You can also stream these from Spotify using these links (https://open.spotify.com/album/720unplZaQChtc1bTf2sEe) and (https://open.spotify.com/album/0QXGxWJyMtWqVfSqZtJseH) for free with commercials or without commercials if you already pay for a Spotify account.

This has been used at our sister shelter the TLC Canine Center in Newell, IA and it works great! I have also used this the last few years and while it doesn’t cure their fear it does help dramatically during periods of high stress.

Stay Safe & Happy Holidays!

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Adversive Effects of Adversive tools

Photo Credit: https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/04/25/dog-training-reward-based-training-versus-aversives/

At Underdog’s Triumph we believe in promoting (and using!) positive, force free dog training methods and tools. These tools are designed to help us work with our dogs and not against them. In the dog training lingo, we promote the use of LIMA – Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive approach to modifying dog behavior. We advocate for giving the dog a choice and guiding him or her to the desired behavior. However there are many organizations that still do not follow these principles.

The prevalence of a popular dog show, The Dog Whisperer, (which I have written about in the past here) has revitalized a generation of up and coming dog trainers to the belief that dominance, pack theory and other outdated-no-longer-relevant theories are truth. They watch this show, see the super quick change in behavior and, despite the warning at the beginning of the show, try it on their own dogs. Even worse are the trainers who determine, they are not only experts at training their own dogs, but other dogs as well.

In my interactions with the various trainers in the area, I have run into many dog trainers with zero actual experience other than “working” with dogs for X years. Working and training are two vastly different things. And teaching people those skills is an even greater skill gap! The issue is due to a lack of education and understanding, these people continue to spout off outdated and incorrect information which owners accept as truth given they are coming from the mouth of a “professional.” Such things I’ve heard and seen recently include:

  • Alpha rolls to show an aggressive dog who’s the pack leader
  • Pinning the dog to the floor and holding the dog there until he “relaxes”
  • Using shock collars/e-collars, prong collars, pinch collars, choke chains etc. to control their dominant dog. (Check out my post on what shock collars are here)

More and more countries are actually having to come out and ban these tools because of improper use by both professionals and the general public. Dog Training is (sadly) an unregulated industry which means anyone anywhere can call themselves a dog trainer without needing any training or certification. This also means that anyone can create any certification program and “certify” dog trainers without any regulatory process. So countries have had to step up to protect their animals. The following countries, as of this writing, have banned the use of e-collars/shock collars in dog training:

  • Austria,
  • Denmark,
  • Finland,
  • Germany,
  • Norway,
  • Slovenia,
  • Scotland,
  • Sweden,
  • Wales,
  • Australia (some parts)
  • England (working on legislation)

In a recent paper written by the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology (found here and the summary of that paper by Companion Animal Psychology found here) they highlighted some of the risks and dangers associated with using shock collars on dogs. While the focus of their study was only on shock collars the same concerns they bring up in the article can be applied to any other positive punishment or in negative reinforcement situation. Keep in mind the “positive” and “negative” here do not equate to good or bad like people think but rather the “addition to” or “subtraction of” some stimulus. The second word punishment or reinforcement again doesn’t equate to good or bad, but rather the “decreasing” or “increasing”, respectively, the likelihood that behavior will happen in the future. For shock collars, positive punishment would be the shock being added after every incorrect behavior. Negative Reinforcement would be the shock being applied continuously until the dog performs the desired behavior and the shock is removed.

I encourage you to read both especially before selecting a trainer or following the advice of a trainer (read more about finding a good dog trainer here or here). But after listing off all the (unproven) pros and cons to using tools with positive punishment or negative reinforcement, they conclude with this:

In conclusion, e-collar training is associated with numerous well documented risks concerning dog health, behavior and welfare. Any existing behavior problem is likely to deteriorate or an additional problem is likely to emerge, when such a collar is used. This becomes an even greater risk when this aversive tool is used by an unqualified trainer [or owner!]

Additionally, the efficacy of these collars has not been proven to be more effective than other alternatives such a positive training. Hence, ESVCE encourages educational programs which employ positive reinforcement methods (while avoiding positive punishment and negative reinforcement) thereby promoting positive dog welfare and a humane, ethical and moral approach to dog training at all times.

So love your dog (and yourself) and choose a method that promotes a strong, healthy bond between you and your dog.

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Questions to Ask Your Dog Trainer

In the past I have written about how to find a good dog trainer (see my past post here). First off, I LOVE it when my prospective clients ask me questions about my methods and techniques BEFORE agreeing to see me in person. I also truth be told, I do the same thing to them. At Underdog’s Triumph we start off all new clients with a consultation visit. This 1 to 1.5 hour visit includes a pre-questionnaire detailing what the client and their furry friend are experiencing and goes briefly into what they want to get from the training. Then that first session is almost entirely a question/answer and discussion session.

So many people want to just jump right in. Start training on day one. But I firmly believe that every dog, must like every client, is different. It’s important to hear them out and make sure they are comfortable with the decisions you are making together for their family. While I have a boatload of questions I like to ask my prospective clients to learn all about their situation, experiences with dogs and training, there are also some great questions to ask me as your prospective trainer! You can read more about these questions and other questions from Victoria Stilwell’s article about “How to find a Good Dog Trainer” I picked out my top four favorites from the article to share my opinion on what would be a good response!

Questions to Ask Your Prospective Trainer:

 

Note: ALWAYS be prepared to walk away from training if the trainer EVER suggests something you are uncomfortable with doing. Just because they are an “expert” doesn’t make them 100% right all the time. Suggesting things that hurt the dog or cause you to feel uncomfortable doing is a perfectly acceptable reason to stop immediately. Remember YOU are your dogs voice so use it for the both of you!

 

“How do you correct behavior?”

Ideal Response:

  • Avoids the use of any aversive techniques or tools – prong collar, shock collars, e-collars, choke chains, pops/jerks on leash, tapping or hitting the dog with a foot or hand, etc
  • Manages unwanted behavior to prevent it from continuing to happen.
  • Selects a new alternative (desired) behavior which will replace the unwanted one
  • Designs a training plan using reinforcement to increase the likelihood that the alternative behavior will be performed (and eventually replace the unwanted behavior).

More Info: Oddly enough a lot of people who are against using only force free or positive training methods seem to think that these types of trainers (of which I am one) are pushovers when trying to stop unwanted behavior. Since we can’t “correct” the dog with a harsh jerk or some other additive of pain, the dog jumps/walks all over us right? What they don’t understand is the dog doesn’t mean to do the wrong thing. To the dog, jumping all over guests isn’t wrong. It’s fun! They are excited to see a new person and jumping expresses this excitement and gets them closer to the visiting guests hands and face for pets/licks.

 

“Do you have liability insurance?”

Ideal Response: ABSOLUTELY! Ideally providing you proof this liability in the form of a card or written document.

More Info: A lot of trainers do not carry any kind of insurance and I don’t think that’s being responsible. For all the training and education we have, we’re still dealing with another living creature. We can do our best to predict what might happen in a training session, but we can’t predict everything and accidents can happen. Make sure your trainer has you both covered by having additional liability insurance to protect you both.

 

“Do you use rewards in training, and if so, what kind?”

Ideal Response: Yes! Absolutely!

More Info: A fantastic response should go on to talk about using different motivators inorder to find out what works for each dog. While almost all dogs are motivated by food (we all have to eat right?!) some also get a lot of enjoyment from toys or other creative things. My own dog, Luna for instance, LOVES blankets. Trainers should use these high value motivators and help you incorporate them into training. Life rewards are also great motivators – these are everyday things that dog enjoys. An example of a life reward might be having the dog sit by the door and after that sit, opening the door to let the dog out into the yard (aka granting access to a desired area). These types of rewards work great to incorporate into daily routines for daily activities.

 

“Can I speak to your past and current clients?”

Ideal Response: Of course! And provide a list of potential options.

More Info: I typically have ask past clients if they would be able to chat with new clients when requested. I like to pair past clients with potential clients based on the issue both dealt with. For example I did some new puppy socialization classes a while back, pairing up this client to a client with a fear aggressive dog would just be silly. The situations aren’t the same and the training for sure won’t be either. Apples to Apples works much better.

 

I strongly encourage you all to check out the article above (“How to find a Good Dog Trainer”) it has loads of great advice about finding the perfect fit trainer for you situation. And as always if you have questions, we’d love to hear from you 🙂

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Finding a Reputable Breeder

I have written in the past about where you should get your next furry family member from (see post about Puppies here) but I know that some folks still desire the “purebred” puppy route. While there are tons, and tons of puppies (and dogs!) available at your local shelter, you might need to be patient and search a larger area to find one that meets your lifestyle and desires for a companion. I will always say SAVE A LIFE and adopt your next family member.

There are so many terrible dog breeders out there that it’s difficult to determine even where to begin if you do decide to purchase a dog or puppy. Some reasons for doing so might be if you desire to show a dog or compete in certain dog competitions that require a “purebred” dog. I use “purebred” in quotes only because a lot of the so call purebred dog that are acquired from these unreputable breeders are anything but.

This facebook post had a great summary of thirteen things you should evaluate breeders of dogs on. I’ve highlighted the ones I especially like below (the ones I skipped don’t apply to the US).

 

  • Unethical breeders tend to sell via the internet. Facebook, Preloved, Gumtree and others are all places that they advertise. Google the person’s phone number, username or email address. See if you can find other ads posted by them.

 

Unethical breeders breed for profit. They mass produce dogs, sometimes on an infeasible scale and ship their puppies all over the country/world to make the quick buck. They don’t care about where their dogs end up, or if they live out a life in pampered comfort. They want the cash for their “crop”.

 

  • They don’t ask anything about you. Ethical breeders want to know everything about you, your family, your experience with dogs etc etc. They will insist that you visit the pups several times. If you are not questioned lots then you need to worry.

 

Again, that buck is calling. They don’t worry about who you are or what you want to do with the dog. They won’t tell you about the breed your buying or ask if you’ve had these dogs in the past. A lot of folks have run into issues with that getting a breed they are totally unprepared for because a) they didn’t do their own homework first and b) the breeder sold a puppy to an unprepared family purely for profit. The so called “wolfdogs” are a great example of a breed that quickly gets people in over their heads. Turns out owning a wolf is 10,000% different than owning a dog.

 

  • Sheds… Don’t buy a puppy that has been reared in a shed at the end of the garden. That pup would have missed out on essential socialization and habitation.

 

Money. Money. Money. It costs to afford a fancy facility or to convert your own home into an area that can support, care and raise/socialize new puppies. Those who mass produce dogs or even who just do a few litters a year in their back yard or shed away from all the “normal” experiences a dog will encounter (children, adults, vacuums, laundry machines, tv, etc) stunt their puppies socialization period significantly. This stunted level of experience leaves you at a disadvantage and at risk of developing a reactive or fearful adult dog.

 

  • Meeting places. Unethical breeders and dog traders will sometimes offer to meet you somewhere to ‘save you the trip’. Always insist that you go to their home. Never buy a pup in a car park (parking lot).

 

ALWAYS ask to see where the puppy was raise. Check out the other liters (if present). See how the mothers and fathers are treated. So many breeders will offer to meet you elsewhere to avoid having you see the squalor your puppy was raised in and the hell the puppy’s parents are trapped in.

 

  • Ethical breeders will never ever sell a pup before it is 8 weeks. Check the puppy that you are buying to make sure that he or she is over 8 weeks.

 

Seriously. 8 weeks minimum. 12 weeks preferred. Good breeders know all about how important socialization is for their pups, and keeping them a bit longer with their parents gives the puppy a headstart on knowing how to be a dog. Plus good breeders have socialization programs in place to provide you with a puppy who has had a great, diverse positive experience in his or her life so far and is ready and prepared with the skills necessary to tackle the real world.

 

  • Worming and flea treatment should have been done. Ask for dates and products used.

 

Lack of shots or vaccine records is an indication of a breeder that is cutting costs to maximize profit. They don’t care about their wards and are only in it to make a quick buck. Ask for the parent records too. A few of the terrible breeders I know of in our area only vaccine the puppies and the parents are left to suffer from untreated flea/tick and worm infestations.

 

  • Ask to see photos of your pup from birth until now… puppy farmers and dealers won’t have those photos.

 

For those of you who currently have a beloved furry family member, I challenge you to open up your phone. How many dog/cat/pet pictures do you have? If you’re like me, I bet it’s a totally reasonable amount 😉 Puppies especially have tons of photos because they are so damn cute! Breeders who raise their puppies in sheds have their “for sale” photo and maybe a photo of their parents. And that’s it. The breeders weren’t present in their puppies’ lives and the lack of photos shows that.

 

  • Question at length…. and walk away if you are concerned about the answers, or lack of answers.

 

Seriously. Walk away. I know it’s hard. I know you want to “save” the sad little puppy in the window of a car or in the walmart parking lot. But do not. Your money goes right back into ensuring these breeders stay in business. That they create more puppies with more parents who suffer their entire lives trapped in a cage. Do not let the cycle continue.

 

  • Always see Mum- the actual Mum. The real Mum will have milk and will be interacting with her pups. Fake Mum wont. Ask to see photos of Mum over the years.

 

Mom and puppies should be together. Mom should be in good health and happy. She shouldn’t be bred ever cycle or trapped in a cage. Check out her behavior. Is she nervous or fearful, overexcited or panicked? These are all signs that she’s not been socialized and is definitely not a member of the family and lives her life trapped making puppies for her owner’s profit.

 

  • Genetic testing- ask what has been done and ask to see the results.

 

I cannot state this enough. The breeders I know that are terrible do NOT do genetic testing, as a result their puppies grow up to have terrible genetic diseases and disorders that end up costing you money or even your puppies life. The one breeder of Norwegian Elkhounds has a breeding line in which ALL of the adults have severe (and very painful) glaucoma. She was still breeding them despite the clear issue with the breeding line because “no one had ever complained.”

 

  • Reduced prices for the last pup in the litter.. it’s just a way to pull you in and make you feel sorry for the remaining pup. Ethical breeders do not reduce their prices and often have homes lined up for their pups before they are born!

 

This is sure sign that the breeder is trying to dump their stock to make room for more. They want this puppy out of their care so they stop losing money trying to keep it alive. They’re willing to take a slight loss in the sales price to make an empty space for the next puppy which they can sell at full. The “last pup” sales tactic works well too and tugs at the heartstrings of new pet owners who can’t bear to think of a lone sad puppy all by him or herself.

 

In summary, the best way you can make sure you aren’t going to be supporting a terrible breeder and furthering the suffering of those puppy’s parents is to adopt. You’ll save a life and get an adorable fluffy as a bonus. Additionally, I challenge you to try and find a breeder who adheres to all of the above rules. It’s surprisingly difficult.

A person tale, to show that even with a strict vetting system you can still get into trouble buying from a breeder. My first ever family dog was a purebred sheltie name Kayla. I researched dozens of breeders in the area (and some that were 500+ miles away) with a very strict list of requirements. She was the only one who passed my inspector and we agreed to met her.

The one thing I had forgotten to ask her, as a child of only 15, was about the genetic testing of her line. Turns out her breeding line had a genetic marker for having severe drug sensitivities. These drug sensitivities result from a mutation in the multidrug resistance gene (MDR1 gene). As a result the heartgard medicine used monthly to prevent heartworm as recommended by our vet, killed her.

It still hurts to know that her death could have been prevent simply if the breeder had taken the time to test her own breeding stock. My mom had called her to tell her of Kayla’s death and she casually mentioned that a few of the other dogs in Kayla’s liter had also passed away from “unknown” causes. I would bet money that it was because of this genetic predisposition to drug sensitivities.

Kayla was only three years old at the time. One simple test could have saved her life, but to minimize expense this was skipped and we lost a beloved family member as a result. Adopt don’t shop people. Save yourself from the heartache.

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New Fad: Board & Train

There’s a new craze in dog training called board & train. Supposedly more convenient than the “old school” do-it-yourself dog training, board & train programs typically offer to take your dog for a certain number of weeks or months and train them for you. After a set upon time, you then pick up your newly trained, amazingly behaved dog and you’re set for life! Seems to good to be true, right?

The first issue I have with many of the standard board & train programs is, as I wrote about in my previous article (here), dog training is like 5% teaching the dog and 95% teaching the human. Board & Training programs do this in reverse. They teach your dog a specific set of skills in THEIR board & train facility then hand the reins back to a novice, untrained owner who takes the dog back into THEIR old house. If you recall, dogs are TERRIBLE at generalizing behaviors – one of the reasons you as their teacher have to proof their behaviors by training them in so many different environments and situations. Plus they go back to their old environment, so it’s so easy to fall back into old habits and routines.

There was actually an interesting trend (written about in Risë VanFleet in her book The Human Half of Dog Training) that dogs put into this situation typically get worse overtime. Humans too suffer from this same issue. The behaviors we didn’t want from our dogs (aka the reason we sent them to the board & train program in the first place) are improved, so we relax our rules. We start to let things slide. We fall back to our old routines, because they’re easy, familiar, and comfortable. We stop (or at least slack) some of the things the board & train trainer told us to always do. And shortly after we slack, our dogs fall back to what is familiar (and likely unwanted) behavior.

Secondly, you have 100% NO control over what methods the trainers use nor any control over which trainers do the training. Is the trainer a 20+ year old dog training “pro” who hasn’t read a modern dog training book in the last two decades? Or is it the kennel tech who’s fresh out of high school with aspiring dreams of being the next world famous dog trainer? I’m not saying you can’t have a good experience with either of these two hypotheticals, but the point of the matter is you simply don’t know who’s doing what.

Is your slightly timid or reactive dog having their symptoms masked using punishment instead of having the proper counter conditioning program setup and completed? Is an incorrect application of a punishment going to trigger a new fear in your dog? You won’t know because you aren’t there to be their voice!

Case in point, a recent news story about 41 dogs who were rescued from a kennel in Hancock, Iowa supposedly doing board & train for gun dogs. Three dogs were also found deceased with their owners having never been notified. Many others supposedly being trained at the facility shipped in from all areas of the country are still missing. There fate remains unknown. Of the dogs who were rescued, their kennels were completely lacking any food or water. The build up of feces in the kennels proved they’d been living in these poor conditions for some time.

You can read more about the developing Young Gunz Kennel story here: http://www.omaha.com/news/iowa/officials-find-dogs-dead-in-poor-health-at-pottawattamie-county/article_f348a5b8-dbf1-5ff3-8de5-71d7459f35c4.html

On top of all these issues, these programs cost thousands of dollars. Even Young Gunz Kennel charges $550 per month for a facility that can’t even provide the basics of food, water and clean shelter to the dogs in their care.

Dog training should be a team effort between canine and human(s). It should build the trust and bond between the two species using safe, positive, force free, scientific methods. Having the training done by someone else without your consent or knowledge is a recipe for disaster.

Training is also a never ending process. We all grown, learn and expand our knowledge everyday and our dogs are the same way. Even my 11 year old dog enjoys a good game of hide-the-treat! Also much like kids you don’t just stop giving them advice or helping them out when they hit a certain age. To this day, my mom still reminds me to “buckle up” despite me being a religious seatbelt wearer 😉

Take the time. Make it fun. And enjoy the opportunity you have to bond with your canine friend!