Monday, November 29, 2010

Visitors & Dogs

The holidays mean that for many of us company will be coming over. For those of us with dogs this can be extremely difficult and frustrating! Every the bell rings the dog becomes more and more excited, jumps all over friends and family and just generally embarrasses you. 

Here's a few ideas for welcoming company and showing off your polite pooch:

1. Teach your dog to go to his/her kennel or bed when the bell rings. A kennel works very well because you can shut the dog inside until he/she has calmed down and guests have gotten settled in. Always reward with a treat when you dog goes to his/her "place". This gives your dog a job to do when this exciting event of company occurs. Make sure to practice A LOT when no one is actually at the door by ringing the bell yourself. 

2. Teach your dog how to settle. Begin by keeping your dog on leash near you when company is over. Whenever your dog lies down reward with a treat. Before long your pooch will have learned to chill out and handle the room full of friends and family. 

3. Teach your dog to sit when greeting people. Practice with several good friends and family members. Ask your dog for a sit/stay and have a person approach. Reward your dog for holding his/her sit. If she/he gets up then have the person back up and start over. Make this a rule for whenever your dog is greeting anyone (yourself, family, kids, strangers, etc). 

Remember our dogs want to be part of the fun but sometimes it is best if they stay in their own room or kennel when lots of people are over to celebrate. Dogs with fear or high arousal should be kept separately for their own well being. If in doubt contact a positive reinforcement trainer in your area. 

Where's Your Sit is currently offering a Holiday Manners training program to help your dog learn the skills described above. Visit for more information.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Enjoy your dog; don't dominate him!

Alright I've been putting this one off but it's time to write about the dreaded "dominance" myth that has been so prevalent in Western culture as of late. 

Dominance theory is largely based on bad science... that's right folks it's not true! I'll give you a source before I carry on: Dr. Sophia Yin explains this very well with videos to boot!

Yet everyday I see people doing things to their dogs that are not only unnecessary but potentially damaging. 

For example you take your lovely, friendly, four legged best friend to the dog park. He/she is happily playing and acting appropriately. Yet some owners feel the need to roll their dog or put them in a long stay for no real understandable reason other than control. This could actually hurt your dog's confidence.

There's no reason not to have solid obedience skills and rules but don't be a tyrant. Dogs want a calm, happy family not an owner with Napoleon syndrome. You can have a well behaved dog without acting that way I promise! 

Positive reinforcement training includes setting rules for your dog to live by. For example if you choose to let your dog on the couch then that's fine. Your family has decided dogs on furniture is alright. If you choose not to then that's fine too... just make sure you consistently enforce that rule and that all family members are following through. Rules are crucial to good pet ownership and training. Just make sure the rules are fair. 

Remember there's always another way than violence. If you're frustrated or upset with your dog chances are you didn't teach them the proper skills yet or haven't been consistent with your rules. Contact a dog friendly trainer in your area to help turn things around. 

Here's Marco in a down position while I listen to the class instructions during our Rally Novice class. Instead of having a dog that barks, jumps up or is generally annoying I just taught him to hang out. Great skill to have in any situation. (And did I mention he's off leash in a room full of dogs here?). 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Best Dog Coats

Well winter has hit and it's time for many dogs to bundle up when going outside. Both my Aussies are fine in just their heavy fur coats but my terriers are another story...

For years Russ and Heidi have been sporting Greenhawk Dog Blankets. I bought theirs a few years and they last! Russ has had the same coat for 5 years now and Heidi if she hadn't changed weights would have been in a similar situation. 

They've added some new styles over time yet this coat remains a great deal! They retail for around $30cnd and are built to last! Visit their store in SE Calgary or check out the website: 

The coats come in a variety of colours, sizes and weights. Dog coats are needed for some of our lighter coated dogs such as terriers, pointers, most lap dogs and short coated herding breeds. Don't let your dog be cold this winter when he/she could be enjoying themselves outside.

Both Russ & Heidi give these jackets 2 paws up!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why I Like It When Dogs Growl

Each time I teach a Puppy Socialization class there's always at least 1 puppy who is terrified to come in the door the first day. The scaredy pup might be growling, hackled or even lunge and air snap. The harried owners look apologetic or get upset with their puppy. They often reprimand their dog. 
I have a better idea... let your puppy express him or herself. We don't want to risk turning off "dog language". Growling is an important part of how dogs communicate to us that they feel threatened or scared. We need to know this! Otherwise you might end up with a dog who bites without warning. 

Dogs and puppies alike talk to us using an assortment of important body language and sounds. We need to respect those so that we don't end up with a dog that can't communicate. A dog or puppy that won't growl or show teeth is just as likely to bite as a dog that does. The only difference is the one who isn't "talking" will catch people and other dogs completely by surprise. 

Puppies come to class and adjust rather quickly. Your best bet would be to let your puppy settle in and just relax for a few minutes. Once they realize that they are safe they might venture around or actually begin to interact with the other puppies. Don't baby your pup but don't get mad at him either. 

Marco and friend Maggie demonstrate play even though it looks like they're fighting. Sometimes dogs practice "fighting" or "aggressive" behaviours in play just like small children play house or war.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Calling All Small Dogs!

Recently a friend of mine decided to open a luxury small dog bed and breakfast. This small facility caters to the discerning canine. Tiny Pawz Bed, Bark and Breakfast also offers dog daycare. 

Small dogs definitely need their own spaces to play. They have a different play style and can easily be hurt by a larger dog with the best intentions. When choosing a daycare or boarding facility for your little one it is important to consider what types of dogs they will be mixed with. 

Visit Tiny Pawz's website for more information:

Friday, November 5, 2010

5 Reasons Kennel Training is Essential

While out working with clients I often get the question "Do you kennel train your dogs?". Well the answer is of course and for these reasons. 

1. In case of medical emergency. My dog Tank recently had knee surgery and has been on kennel rest for 3 months. I can't image trying to get him comfortable with that if he hadn't already been use to staying in a kennel

2. Travel. When on the road I need a place where my dogs can stay comfortably. This means we are more likely to be accepted at friends' homes and hotels. My dogs also get to take their "room" with them and therefore ease some anxiety.

3. Dog shows. Essential for anyone competing in dog sports. My dogs need to be able to hang out quietly in their kennel so I can walk courses, grab lunch and run one dog at a time. 

4. Problem prevention. My dogs are kenneled when I go out. This keeps them from learning/practicing destructive behaviour such as eating garbage or more valuable objects in my home. This especially important with a young dog. They simply don't get the opportunity to learn bad behaviour this way.

5. Practicality. I have 3, sometimes 4 dogs in my home. Kenneling is an excellent way of feeding with ease, giving rest time to my exuberant dogs and giving guests who might not enjoy dogs a chance to visit (important when my infant nephew comes over).

There are so many reasons to kennel train. I highly recommend it and although my dogs spend very little time in their kennels on a day to day basis it's a skill that comes in handy. Even as I write this Tank is lying in his kennel enjoying a bone with the door open. He often chooses to hang out in there.