Male dogs can be really annoying. You take them out for a walk and they have to pee on every. single. thing. It can make you 20 minute walk into an hour long bathroom break. Frustrating and kind of gross when you think about it. So how do you deal with it?
The best way to reduce the number of marking stops while out on a walk is to just not allow it. You don't have to stop just because your dog does. Allow your dog one opportunity to pee at the start of the walk, and you can also allow one at the end of the walk, outside of that just keep walking. If your dog wants to slow down and sniff and mark, increase your own speed and "walk with purpose." This will increase the pressure on the leash and your dog will often see your speed increase as a sign to come along quickly. You can also 'pop' the leash several times to encourage your dog to keep moving and make stopping to mark an unpleasant experience. Eventually in doing this our boys learn that there is a time and a place to pee, and otherwise they should concentrate on smelling the flowers instead of peeing on them.
To be off-leash or not to be off-leash.
Stand-by for a very long but informative lecture on leash laws.
Three times this week, I have been approached by off-leash dogs with my on-leash dogs in hand. Every time I had to worry for the safety of my dogs and attempt to control the interaction with a strange animal. Owners stood back and watched or repeatedly attempted to call their dogs off, and left me to deal with these dogs on my own. Its frustrating, it can be frightening, and in every case it wasn't necessary.
Leash laws are rules that municipalities and parks have. These state that all dogs must be on-leash and under control at all times. Bummer, right? No. Leash control is enforced for the safety of all people, animals, and vehicles in the area. An off leash animal is a potential hazard to their environment and themselves, even if they have excellent training. A few reasons dogs can be a risk when off-leash include:
1. Altercations with other dogs. An off-leash dog may be inclined to approach other dogs, whether out of friendliness, curiosity, or aggression. But the other dog is also a variable in the situation. If either dog is fearful, aggressive, in training, under-vaccinated, working, or injured; an interaction with another dog could be dangerous. Unless you know every dog your dog is off-leash with you are taking a huge gamble with their safety. Additionally if a dog fight occurs, the off-leash dogs' owner is legally liable for the damages occurring from that fight.
2. Unwanted interactions with people. Not everyone likes dogs. And some people only like their own dogs. So being approached by a strange dog is unpleasant and can be scary to people. Even if your off-leash dog is friendly some people still won't want them in their space. Some people may reflexively strike at strange dogs that are invading their space. Don't allow your dog to approach people when you don't know what they may do.
3. Involvement with vehicles. Off-leash dogs present a risk when anywhere near vehicles (motorized or non). There are several things that could send your dog running in front of a car or after a bicycle. This is a direct danger to your dog, because they risk being struck, and to the vehicle because many accidents are caused by either hitting or trying not to hit an animal.
4. Damage to flora and fauna. National and provincial parks often have strict leash laws because dogs can easily damage fragile ecosystems by trampling or urinating on endangered plants or harassing/killing resident animals. This damage can sometimes be irreversible. Other areas have animal populations (like livestock and horses) that can become seriously ill from contact with dog waste or become stressed from the harassment of dogs.
"BUT MY DOG IS GREAT OFF-LEASH!" Wonderful! You've put in a lot of time and work with them and you should be proud. But no matter how good your dogs are you should still be a good ambassador for dog owners everywhere and use a leash. It is the law in many places so be sure to know before you go anywhere.
So you want to go off-leash? There are lots of great options for this if you trust your dog and want to have fun off-leash:
1. Load up and go to the country! Quiet country roads can be a great place to burn off some steam with your pooch. As long as you keep them off of other people's property you can have a great time.
2. Public land use areas! We have lots of amazing public back country areas in our area (https://www.alberta.ca/public-land-use-zones.aspx). There are great hiking trails, water bodies, and scenery. Some of these may have leash rules so do some research, but if you like to get out with your dog this can be a great way to go.
3. SniffSpot. This is an application where you can rent out private spaces to exercise your dog in. This can be a great safe way of playing off-leash because you know you won't have people or other animals using it at the same time as you. (Also if you have a private yard you could make a few bucks by renting it out to people.) This could be an awesome option for people with reactive/aggressive dogs or young puppies.
4. Talk to some locals about using private properties to walk your dogs. If you know someone with a lot of land where you might be able to walk a dog, it can't hurt to talk to them about it. As long as you are respectful of people's spaces they are often happy to accommodate you and your pup.
5. Off-leash dog parks. I am NOT a supporter of dog parks in general. I think there are a lot of poorly mannered dogs and people who could negatively impact your dog. Under-vaccinated dogs can get sick there. But with that disclaimer, off-leash dog parks are obviously a legal place to take your dog off-leash, even if you only use them while they're empty. You have lots of space to toss a ball and run your dog out.
My [Insert Breed] shouldn't do that!
My collie shouldn't be afraid of or mean to kids. My Doberman shouldn't be skittish. My Pyrenees shouldn't be trying to eat my chickens. My mastiff shouldn't be jumpy and nippy.
Maybe your breed shouldn't but YOUR DOG does.
Don't get me wrong, there is a lot you can know and prepare for based on breed. Breed tendencies are strong and purposefully bred into the DNA of these dogs, but every dog also has an individual personality and history that influence their basic instincts.
Early development and socialization as they grow is one of the biggest deciding factors for how a dog will behave. For example, you may own a breed that is traditionally very good with children. But if you purchased a puppy from a breeder who doesn't have children around and then raise your puppy in a child free environment you can't assume they'll even understand what a child IS the first time the meet them. Sometimes these dogs react fearfully or fear-aggressively on their first meeting with these "tiny aliens" and we don't understand why.
But if you think it through completely a young dog is constantly seeing things for the first time (something a lot of us don't understand anymore). They need time and space to feel comfortable with anything new in the environment.
The same theory applies to other breeds and their archetypes. A Pyrenees who has never seen livestock could be more likely to chase/attack. In theory if a young dog learned that it can chase the feral cats and hunt the rats in the yard, why wouldn't it make some sense that they could do the same to the chickens?
How do you fix it?
First of all pay attention to YOUR dog. If your dog doesn't fit their breed archetype, make note of it. Watch you dog and see what scares them and what they like. Keep an inventory and don't force them to be uncomfortable. You have to watch for early warning signs so that your dog doesn't feel the need to growl or bite to get away. Work with the dog you have, not the one you wanted.
There is a lot to how they are raised and what they learn about when they're young. If you are planning to introduce a new element to the environment, do so carefully and purposefully. Set your dog up for success. First time meeting kids? You can start with calm kids, or at a distance (go sit on the opposite side of a street at lunch time). Let your dog observe and if they choose to move forward you can reward that, if they move backwards let them. Your dog should only be near the kids if they are relaxed and happy. Keep interactions short and in control. Tell people to move if your dog starts to get upset (you are your dogs only voice). If all goes well do it again another time, if not take your dog back to the most recent step they were happy at.
Your dogs breed can tell you a lot, but your dog as an individual can tell you a lot more. Remember that they are individuals, meet them at their level, and strive to help them learn about their world in a safe and positive manner.
Why obstacles are the best part of dog training...
What is considered an obstacle? Obstacles are one of my favorite training challenges to do with any and every dog. Obstacles are anything that is novel, or new, in your dogs environment. It does haven't to be extravagant but it has to be new, or at least approached in a new way.
What can you do? You can ask your dog to anything you like with the new object such as: look at it, sniff it, step on it, walk through it, jump over it, crawl under it, etc.
But why? The short answer is obstacle work,when done right, builds confidence and improves trust on both ends of the leash. Your dog learns to do something he wouldn't do naturally, and often with things that start out looking scary. For example a rolling cart; it moves when you touch it, it makes rattly noises, and generally looks strange to your dog. These objects can start out as a point of potential fear or anxiety but when you change the way your dog feels about them, and reward them for bravery these objects become magical sources of snacks. The more often your dog approaches a strange object and gets rewarded for it the more likely they're going to be to not fear new things in their daily life. They will be braver all around. And since they are braver and less stressed you'll be less stressed too. In addition to bravery, obstacle training is excellent mental stimulation and can be added into daily walks (empty playgrounds are the best). It also helps your dog workout muscles they wouldn't usually use making them stronger, more agile, and more coordinated as they learn to deliberately place their limbs.
How to do it: Start SMALL. Introduce something new, it could be a different textured mat on the floor, a cardboard box, a singing fish decoration, or even a rolling cart. Let them look at it. When they do that, reward them with treats or praise. Telling them "yes! I want you to pay attention to how fun this is!" Then let them sniff or touch it and reward for that too. "Isn't this new thing amazing?" From there depending on what you're working with you can try having them step on it paying them with treats and praise IMMEDIATELY. Make sure to start with a stable surface though. Tiny steps will be important here. One paw forward is still forward. And let them step back if they need to, its not supposed to be stressful. Every new inch of ground they gain should be paid. IF SOMETHING SCARY HAPPENS, your cart moves weirdly or the fish head jumps up singing, PAY YOUR DOG. Reward them when they're nervous and unsure and you're telling them "Hey that was weird but see its still good!" If they are a little nervous go back a step and make it fun again, there's no pressure. As they get better and better you can get more creative with what you ask for. But always keep it fun, and when they're done they're done and save it for another day.
Add in obstacles to training with any dog of any age, breed or size. The benefits are numerous, and its a great source of fun and relationship building for both of you. Its not about doing competition
Let's admit it, we've probably all gained a little holiday weight the last few weeks. I know for sure that I have.
There is also a possibility that your pup might have put on a little weight too. Winter tends to get us more and more indoors and sharing snacks more often.
But its important to keep your pet in shape so that they stay healthier overall and longer.
"Keeping your pet at a healthy weight lowers the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory disease and more. In fact, excess weight can reduce your pet's life expectancy by more than two years, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association."
In addition to organ health, keeping your dog in shape helps to prevent injuries by strengthening muscle and tendons, reduces the impact of arthritis by helping them distribute their weight safely and lower the extra weight they're carrying, and helps them recover from injuries faster.
The dogs pictured are dogs that are in a healthy weight range. The first is muscled and lean and is likely trained in sports or work to keep them active. The second is at a pet weight. They are lean and sleek and at an excellent weight for a normal home.
The easiest way to identify what your dogs weight at is to feel a few key points.
- Ribs. Should be felt through a thin layer of fat. This means that with light pressure you should feel the waves of the ribs. If it feels like a xylophone your dog is likely thin. If its difficult to feel the ribs with light pressure they likely have too much weight.
-Hips. These are the two peaks of bone on top of your dogs rump near the tail. You should be able to feel these. However they shouldn't feel sharp/pointy. If you can't feel your dogs hips they are overweight and need help.
-Spine. You should be able to feel your dogs spine with light pressure but not see it. If you can't feel the spine with light pressure your dog is also likely a little overweight.
Would you like to see tips and games for helping your dog get fit?
If you have any questions about feeding your dog or designing a program to help them get to their goal weight let us know and we'd love to help!
What is sibling syndrome? Sibling or Littermate Syndrome is a fancy name for one family adopting 2 or more dogs of the same age, usually from the same litter.
What's the issue with that? In many documented cases owning multiple dogs from the same litter results in behavioral issues in these dogs. Common problems include: separation anxiety from one another, aggression between them, fearful reactions to outside stimuli, and an intense bond that can eclipse any relationship with a human. Some dogs can develop relationships with their siblings that involve protecting their "pack" even if this means acting out aggressively against people or other animals.
Why does it happen? Dogs are generally predisposed to bond more closely with other dogs. When they are raised with a dog of the exact same age as them it makes it that much easier. Oftentimes these puppies end up far more focused on each other than on their people. They learn to be codependent and feed off of each others emotions, so if one dog reacts in fear to something the other could react fearfully as well.
How to prevent it? The first and best advice is try to avoid getting sibling dogs, or even dogs of a close age range. It sounds like a great idea for them to entertain each other but in reality generates a LOT more work. If you want two dogs consider spacing them at least 6 months apart so that each dog goes through their socialization period on their own. Even when bringing a new puppy into an established home, be aware that you are the first and strongest bond of your puppy before the other dogs. That way you will have their trust and bond when you need it.
"I already have siblings, what next?" Okay, no worries but be ready for some hard work. These dogs need to be separate. Everything needs to be separate. Separate crates, feeding, pottty breaks, training time, playtime, and socialization outings. This doesn't mean they can never play together but make a conscious effort to spend dedicated time on each dog. You want to see who they are, what they are afraid of, and work through it independently so they learn to be brave on their own. There will always come a time when siblings will be separated so make sure they know how to do it in advance. If you are dedicated it is possible to avoid Sibling Syndrome.
How can a trainer help? I can help you build a program that reflects these separation goals. Sometimes making time to train two dogs separately can be a challenge so you can always send pups away for training so they learn to be calm and confident on their own.
The pups featured below were a pair from a family conscious of Sibling Syndrome. They came for training and outings in town, and were worked separately on all basic skills and taught to work with people first and ignore their sibling when asked. These dogs soared through private training, learning to work both separately and together with great confidence. They were exposed to many great socialization experiences and proved that they weren't dependent on one another, but instead were responsive to human guidance.
Littermate issues are a huge possibility when getting two puppies so try to plan for getting your dogs staggered (6 months minimally, and ideally 1-3 years even). If you have siblings, they NEED to be worked with and cared for separately in order to be confident and capable. Any pairing of dogs has the potential for codependency so always make sure you are the No.1 relationship in your dogs life.
"How do I turn this thing off?!" is a common complaint with young and energetic dogs. You run them until you pass out, play with them for hours, and they are still wild all evening. It's exhausting and frustrating... and surprisingly easy to correct.