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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dog Bites

I usually like to talk about Wolfie in my posts, but today's topic is something that, thankfully, Wolfie has never done.  Over 50% of all my clients who have said that their dog bit them or one of their guests has come about because of this circumstance.  The important thing is that it is completely preventable and does not necessarily mean you have a bad dog.


My dog bites!  My dog bites!  I hear this all the time, but when I dive down into the facts, it is rarely the case...

First of all, you have to understand the difference between a bite and a nip.  I bite is where the dog will grab on to you, pull, shake, and tear away at what he has.  I nip is there the dog will put his teeth on your skin and possibly create a puncture wound (holes in your skin).  Understanding the difference between these two acts, a bite & a nip, is very important in understanding what the dog was actually doing and thinking.

A nip is a heightened warning to cease and desist whatever you are doing.  Sometimes it might take place close to you, but sometimes it might occur with an actual nip on your skin. (Dogs don't understand that a nip on our skin hurts.)  The dog is not trying to be aggressive, he is simply telling you that you really should stop what you are doing.  It happens very quickly and the dog backs off immediately after doing it.  It can also take place out of a quick reaction to fear.  The important item to take away from this is that it is not an aggressive act but a communication of "I really don't want this to continue".

I bite is an act of aggression.  Everything else has failed and the dog wants to "bring you down".  It is a prolonged process of pulling, shaking, and tearing.  The only way it normally ends is through a physical means of separation.  This act shows a very high level of fearfulness and lack of a sense of safety by your dog.  In our experience, under 5% of all the instances where our clients have said that their dog bit them or someone, that it actually was a bite.

Now, we have come to the conclusion that most "bites" are really "nips" that occur out of frustration or fear with no intent on the dog's part of aggression.  I now want to talk about our experience regarding how the most "dangerous nip" takes place.

Our little dog, Fluffy, is happily asleep on the corner of the sofa.  Our six year old daughter who loves and always plays with Fluffy decides that she wants to say "Hi" to Fluffy and have some playtime.  She goes over to Fluffy, puts her nose just in front of Fluffy's nose, and says (in a high pitched voice) "Fluffy, Fluffy, Fluffy, Fluffy"!

Fluffy is startled (and frightened) from his sleep and responds with a nip indicating that he is scared.  Unfortunately, our daughter's face is in the direct line of Fluffy's nip.  Normally the nip sill occur on the cheek, eye brow, or nose.  A lot of crying will entail from our daughter and Fluffy will retreat, unsure of what took place.  

In some instances, we will then punish Fluffy for biting our daughter and our daughter might become fearful of dogs.  A perfect storm of many bad actions just took place.  Without going into all the details, simply do this:

Don't stick your face in front of a sleeping dog's face!

Enough said...

For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

How to Properly Pet Wolfie

You know, it is kind of weird.  Sometimes Wolfie is just fine with people petting him and other times he gets a little persnickety.  What is causing that?


For some reason, we humans think that all dogs want to be petted any time day or night.  We think that we can just walk right up to them, even from behind, bend over them, and start petting.  This is not the case.  Sometimes we dog owners actually force our dogs over to people to be petted.  

When we come directly up to Wolfie or force him to a person, we are unknowingly putting Wolfie on the receiving end of a possibly aggressive act.  The issue that we have to address is Wolfie's perspective of aggression and his feeling of safety.  

The bottom line is that we always must allow Wolfie to approach the person who wants to pet him.  If Wolfie feels unsafe or unsure about that individual, he will hold back, letting us know that he doesn't feel safe in the situation.  If this is the case, that person will not be petting Wolfie today.  If we force Wolfie into the situation where he feels unsafe, the "fight" side of his fight or flight instinct might kick in and he might nip the person who wants to pet him.  And you know what?  It would all be our fault for not watching what Wolfie was telling us.

Let's say that Wolfie walks up to the person who wants to pet him.  How should that person proceed in order to make Wolfie feel safe and comfortable in that situation?  Here are some tips:

  • Never bend over a dog to pet them.  This could be construed as an aggressive move from the dog's perspective.
  • Never move your hand directly towards the dog's face.  Again, this can be viewed as an aggressive act.  All the dog sees is a big hand coming directly towards him.  If he was ever abused, punched, or hit in the past, the last thing the dog saw before that traumatic act was a human hand coming directly towards him.  
  • Let the dog first sniff you and sniff the back of your hands.  Your hands should be motionless at your side.  If the dog continues to sniff and acts submissive, it is your sign to proceed.
  • Lower yourself down slowly, never moving or bending towards the dog.  Outstretch your hand, with the back of your hand towards the dog.  Move your hand to his chest below his head.  This will assure that you can watch the dog to see if any agitation is taking place.
  • Pet him calmly on his chest and then slowly proceed up and around his neck to the back lower portion of his head.  Praise him for being such a good dog by using a high pitched voice.
  • Slowly stroke him from the back of his head to the middle part of his back.  This emulates the grooming that all dogs perform on each other and will provide the dog with a calming experience.
  • When you are done, stand up by moving away from the dog.  
Follow these simple tips and you will not only be able to successfully pet more dogs, but your dog will even be better behaved with your friends and/or out in public.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wolfie Likes to Rip Out My Plants...

It is so strange.  I love to plant my new flowers and plants at this time of year and Wolfie likes to go after them.  Normally, he could care less....



This is an interesting topic that I came across in the last few years, and the stories I have been told about this are somewhat funny.  Let me recant two stories that I have been told and then step back and try and explain what happened and the simple fix.

One of my clients had just been to Home Depot the prior weekend.  He purchased a flat of turf to extend the grassy area of his back yard.  He had all the turf delivered to his back patio right outside his sliding glass door and family room.  His dog loved to sit by the glass door and stare out into the back yard and golf course beyond.  Also, many nights he would let his dog stay outside because the dog loved to sleep on the patio furniture.

So Saturday comes and my client begins to lay out all the new turf in the new lawn area.  It took him most of the day.  During that time, his dog was inside, laying by the glass window staring out at him and whatever else was going on.  That night, he lets his dog out to sleep on the patio and he goes to bed.

The next morning he wakes up to find almost half of all the pieces of turf back on the patio...

Another client of mine had purchased about thirty plants from Home Depot (always great sales around this time of year) and spent the afternoon digging holes and planting them in his back and side yards.  His doggie was out with him while he was doing this. 

The next day when he came home from work, almost all the plants were pulled out of the holes and sitting neatly next to each hole...

Luckily, neither of my clients got mad at their dogs and thought the whole matter rather funny.  They did come to me to ask what had happened.

Here's the deal.  Dogs learn through repetition.  Dogs learn through observation.  In both instances, the doggies watched as the client performed a repetitive and somewhat easy task.  The client simply taught the dog to dig.  In the example of the turf, the client cleared the area and placed the turf.  The dog reversed the process and put the turf back where it came from.  The client with all the plants taught the dog to dig and place the plant.  The dog simply removed the plant.

So here comes the bottom line.   When you are working in the garden and are digging or planting, keep Wolfie out of site.  Enough said.  I hope your garden looks great this Spring!  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wolfie Loves to Counter Surf

Whenever I am cooking in the kitchen and leave the room for a few minutes or if I leave a sandwich on the coffee table, Wolfie almost always steals and eats the food on the counter or my sandwich on the table.  Can I stop this?


The answer is "yes", but the answer is probably not what you think.  First of all, we have to understand why Wolfie is going after the food.  There is no such thing as "ownership" when it comes to food in Wolfie's eyes.  He probably won't try to grab it out of your hand or jump up on the counter to get it while you are working in the kitchen.  In his eyes, seeing you as the "leader of the pack", he understands that you are currently engaged and it is not his place to step in.

When you leave the room, you have given up the food.  It is now perfectly acceptable for Wolfie to retrieve the food if he wants.  Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn't, but in his eyes, it is perfectly fine to take the food.

This behavior comes from his natural canine instincts of "wolves in the wild".  The Alpha Leader will eat what they want and will then walk away, leaving the rest for the pack.  Being a natural behavior, this is a difficult action to break. 

My suggestion to you is to never leave unattended food out that is within Wolfie's reach.  In doing this, you are never "surrendering it" to Wolfie.  If Wolfie starts to go for that sandwich while you are on the couch or jumps for the chicken breasts on the counter, you can correct him and let him know that is wrong.  You can not correct him when you are not there and you can not come back in the room and correct him because he grabbed the food while you were away.

I know that this isn't the answer you might expect, but sometimes we humans must understand that what Wolfie is doing is our fault and we have to adjust.  One more thing about being "our fault", never feed Wolfie from the table, give him a piece of your sandwich from the couch, or throw him a piece of that chicken breast from the kitchen counter.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Problems Walking Multiple Dogs

I take my dogs out for a walk and I can never control them.  I try and tell Wolfie to be good and Whitie starts to act up.  Then, Fido goes nuts.  It seems I am always taking one step forward and falling two steps back.... Literally!



We must remember that walking is still based on a set of rules that you have and that Wolfie, Whitie, or Fido must obey.  You must also understand that they are always testing you to see if you are being consistent with your rules.  If you aren't being consistent, it is a sign to them that they can do whatever they want.  This is not good.

So, what can we do about this?

The answer is simple.  We must start walking each dog by themselves.  The reason is that we must give each dog our full attention and correct them instantly when they are not doing what we require.  This will allow us to send very clear and consistent signals to them.

Shorten your walks so that you still have enough time to walk each by themselves.  Continue this process until each is walking the way you wish.  This might take a different amount of time for each dog, but continue until ALL are walking well.  At this point, each dog knows what they are supposed to do and that you will constantly correct them when they aren't obeying your rules.

It is now time to walk multiple dogs.  I would first suggest to have a second family member walk the second dog with you so that any small issues can be resolved due to dog-on-dog distractions.  Once they are both walking well, I will then remove the second family member and you walk both dogs by yourself.  If there is any issue, still correct.  By now, the issues and distractions should have been dissipated to the extent that a single correction should get everything back into line.  If there are still some issues, shorten the walk so that you can minimize or remove the issues causing the problems.  Once they are walking well, extend the time of the walk, as required.

If you have more than two dogs, simply repeat the above process, using the second family member to initially introduce the next dog into the mix.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.