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Sunday, December 29, 2013

When Your Holiday Guests Leave

All of our out of town Holiday guests left several days ago and our home is now returning back to normal.  The one thing that has not turned back to normal is Wolfie, our dog.  Although he has been perfectly house broken for several years, he is not going into the guest bedroom and going to the bathroom.  What gives?

Remember when we were little and our parents would drop us off at Uncle Bob’s and Aunt Lizzie’s for the weekend?  Uncle Bob would take us to the movies, the local amusement park, and the ice cream parlor.  Aunt Lizzie would make us our favorite goodies and we could stay up late watching all the TV our parents never let us watch. 

The funny thing is that when we got home, everything we had smelled like Aunt Lizzie’s rose peddle perfume.  Mom had to wash our clothes several times until we finally got that smell out.  Until then, we refused to wear those clothes.  They smelled “icky”.

The same thing happens when our house guests leave our home after the Holidays.  They leave their natural smells in our home’s guest room.  We really don’t care because we understand that is just “Uncle Bob and Aunt Lizzie smell” and will go away after a few days. 

Our dog does not react to this different smell in the same way as us.  He expects “his territory” to smell one way, the way it smelled before our guests “invaded his territory”.  He needs to reestablish the prior smell (smelling like him) and he only has one way to accomplish that.  He goes into the guest room and raises his leg.  We really don’t want this to occur and need it to stop as quickly as possible.  We need to remove the foreign smell from the territory.

First of all, we need to neutralize the foreign smell.  As opposed to our dog’s urine smell, we will introduce another, natural smell that we and our dog can “live with”.  We suggest the scent of lavender.  This is a calming scent and also introduces a neutral smell.  Get a lavender Glade plug-in, a lavender candle, or a bamboo lavender oil vase and place it in the guest room.  If you have carpet in the room, vacuum the room after sprinkling lavender carpet dust on the floor.  If you have a tile floor, clean the floor with lavender Fabuloso.  To make sure that everything is consistent, place some lavender Glade plug-ins in other rooms in the house.

Shampoo your dog with a lavender dog shampoo.  You have now removed the “Uncle Bob and Aunt Lizzie smell” from the guest room and have reestablished a singular smell that is like Wolfie, your dog.  He no longer has the need to raise his leg.

Leave the door to the guest room open for several days but don’t allow your dog in the room.  The best thing to do is to place a doggie (baby) gate in the guest room doorway.  This allows the room to “air out” and to allow your dog to pass by but not go in the room until all the old smells have dissipated.

Remove the doggie gate after about a week and you can probably stop using the lavender products after another week.  The house smells have now returned to normal and you have reestablished the natural smells of the pack.  The potty issue should now be resolved.  If you have any questions, you can always contact us at TheBest Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Last Minute Tips Keeping My Dog Safe for Christmas

By now I have been given multiple tips to keep everything great for my doggie and guests during the Holidays.  I have had a few people over up to now.  The main event is about to occur.  Is there anything else I should think about now that we are finishing the tree and taking all the presents out of our closets and putting them around the tree?  EVERYONE is coming over on Christmas day, so it will be very busy and crazy.  What are my last tips?

The Holiday Season has been going on for the last few weeks, but for many of us, it is now “show time”.  Without trying to overwhelm you with an entire list of every possible thing you might experience, we would like to focus on just a few items.  These are the items that you and your dog are about to experience within the next two days.  So let’s get going:
  • Your Christmas Tree: 
    • Decorations…
      • Now is the time that you are finishing decorating your tree with balls and tinsel.  If your dog is “ball crazy”, you could be encouraging him to “go after” your Christmas ornaments and try to pull or “catch” them.  This could cause your wonderfully decorated tree to fall over.
      • Remove all Christmas ball ornaments from your tree to eliminate any “grab the ball” issues. Replace them with ornaments that aren’t round.
      • If you see your dog focusing on the tinsel, remove it.  Your tinsel can also gain your dog’s attention when you have the tree’s Christmas lights turned on.  Check this too and remove the tinsel, if necessary.  You could use ribbons and bows to decorate your tree in place of the tinsel.
      • Eating tinsel can possibly be harmful to your dog.
    • Presents…
      • Christmas presents introduce new objects and smells into the house.  Right about now, you are probably putting out the remainder of those presents around your tree.
      • The sights and smells of the presents can stimulate your dog to investigate and possibly steal.
      • If you are giving your dog presents, do not put them under the tree.  This will probably insure that he will explore and dig through everything under the tree.
      • Give your dog his current toys on the other side of the room from your Christmas tree to redirect his interest.
      • Place your presents tightly around the base of your tree.  This will minimize the visual distraction and will make it very difficult to “investigate through the presents”.
      • If you see your dog approach the tree and presents, correct him with a low toned “No” and have him come to you.  Give him his toy and engage him for several minutes.
  • Christmas Dinner:
    • You do not want your dog bugging you and your guests for all the great things that will be on your plate.
    • Do not feed your dog from the table or give him any of your “fixins” in the kitchen.  As soon as you have done it once, you have told him it is OK to demand food from you.  If he approaches, ignore him.  If he continues to bug you, stand up and tell him “No” in a firm, low tone.
    • Do not leave food unattended.  Your dog will think that you are relinquishing ownership of the food and he can how have it.
    • Feed your dog at the same time that you are having dinner.  This will redirect him away from you and your guests.  It will also fill his stomach so he won’t approach you because he is hungry.
    • Remove foods that raisins and fruit cake from your menu.  These items, if eaten by your dog, could cause issues.
  • Last Few Thoughts:
    • Keep your dog on a six foot leash when everyone is over.  If he starts to go crazy or going somewhere you don’t want him, simply step on the end of the leash and guide him back to you.  You will maintain maximum control and focus with the minimum effort.
    • Don’t let your nieces and nephews play crazy with your dog inside the house.  As the kids and your dog ramp up their playing, the adults will start to get them to stop.  This will simply increase the situation’s adrenaline and will increase your dog’s craziness. Chances are, things will be broken or spilled before you can get control of the situation.
Just use come common sense with your dog and you will have a great Christmas Eve and Day.  If you have any questions, please contact us at The Best DogTrainers in South Florida.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Stop Your Dog Nipping at Your Heals

Every time I walk past my dog, he lets me pass and then nips my heals or pant legs after I have walked by.  This is annoying and putting holes in my pants legs.  I don’t think it is right to kick him.  What should I do?

When a dog is overly playful or demanding of attention, he will try to do whatever he can to have you pay attention.  Nipping at your heals gets your attention.  You now stop doing what you were doing (walking down the hall) and turn to address his “request”.  You have now responded to your dog’s demand for attention and have submitted to his authority.

You cannot yell, hit, or scream in response to your dog’s nip.  These actions will often escalate the situation to where your dog will start to jump, bark, or even bite.  You must deescalate the situation and address the issue before it actually occurs.  You must show leadership to your dog in a consistent and repetitive manner.  Here is what you must do to correct the situation:
  • As you approach your dog in preparation of passing him, stop, face him, and (in a very low tone) say “No”.
  • Begin to slowly pass him.  As you are doing this, constantly face him.  When you are facing another person (or animal), that portrays dominance or assertiveness.  If your dog starts to move towards you, stop, continue to face him, and say (in a very low tone) “No”.
  • Continue to move away from him and continue to face him.  This means that you will probably be walking backwards.  Do not practice this near a stoop or stairs.
  • Once you are about ten feet away from him and he has not approached you, give him one more (in a low tone) “No”.  Turn around and continue walking.  Now you will be walking with your back to your dog.
  • Just to be on the safe side, glance back to make sure that he isn’t making his move to nip.  If he is, correct him again while facing him.  Back away from him while you are facing him until you are another ten feet away.  Repeat this process, if necessary.

Practice this little exercise five to ten times a day for a few weeks.  Very shortly, you will notice that this “let’s nip daddy’s heals” has vanished.  Every family member that is experiencing this issue should perform this exercise.  If you have any questions, please contact us at The BestDog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dog Safety at Home with Workmen

I am pretty sure that my dogs will be fine when friends come over, but sometimes I am not too sure that they are “happy” when we have a plumber or electrician come to fix something.  Should I keep them out so that they can “get used” to the contractor or should I put them away?
You must remember the one thing that our dogs want more than anything else in the world.  They want to feel safe.  As their leader; their teacher; their boss; it is my top priority to make sure that they always feel safe in any situation.

Let’s first look at the situation when we have some family friends or neighbors over. These are people that I know and I have a pretty good idea how they are going to react with my dogs.  If they have been over in the past, I also have a pretty good idea how my dogs will react to them.  Are they good friends or “Oh, it’s you again”?  When I am answering the door, I am greeting them with a relaxed, safe body language.  My dogs can read this interaction and understand that I am in charge and that these “new animals” entering our house (territory) have been approved by me.  Since my guests have already met my dogs on a prior visit or understand that they are coming to a house with dogs, they are already prepared for the situation and they won’t communicate inappropriate posture in their body language.

When we have people visit, we are normally with them most of the time. Because of this, we can constantly reassure our dogs that everything is OK.  We can also demonstrate the appropriate way for our guests and dogs to meet to determine the level of interaction that would be appropriate between the two.  The bottom line is that when we have guests over, we have already (knowingly or not) prepared for the event so that our dogs will feel safe through our leadership.  Everything is fine.

Now, let’s change course and talk about having workmen or other contractors in our home.  The first thing that we should understand is that the reason we have workmen over is because something is broken.  We are already slightly stressed over that.  When we greet them at the door, we are not greeting a friend, but a stranger.  As we are trying to assess this individual, our body language communicates that we are not completely confident and that we have a little bit of a “defense mechanism” in place.  All of this puts our dogs on warning that they might need to come to our rescue.

We also have no idea if the contractor likes or is afraid of dogs.  They might have dogs, but beat them on a regular basis.  The contractor will display that aggressive/disrespectful body language to our dogs.  On the other hand, they might love dogs and our dogs might just want to play with them while they are there trying to fix our problem.  All of this adds confusion to the situation and diminishes our dogs’ focus on our leadership abilities.

With this said, we have found that it is best to put our dogs in a secure location in another part of the house when we have contractors over.  This allows us to be in control of their experience so that we can continue to show our leadership and keep them safe.  It also allows the contractors to work in peace and to get their job done as quickly as possible. 

It would be best to be with your dogs while the contractors are there.  Have them in your office with you or in the back yard playing with you.  This allows you to redirect their attention back to you if they start to become too focused on the sounds the contractors might be making.  It is your way to confirm “It’s OK, you are with me”.  Maintain your leadership and role of caregiver and you will secure your dogs’ respect, love, and obedience.  If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in Weston.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Make Time for Doggie!

With the Holidays upon us and all the extra things taking up my time, I just don’t have as much time to spend with Wolfie.  Is this going to cause a problem or can I just make it up by getting him a bunch of great gifts?

First thing, you can’t bribe dogs like you can bribe your kids.  Just getting Wolfie a bunch of great gifts is not going to make up for the time you are neglecting him.  Dogs are social animals and need companionship to maintain the bond between you and him that is so critical in your relationship.

When you don’t give him the time needed to maintain your relationship, your dog will start to test you to see “what he can get away with”.  Let’s say that you have taught him that it is not OK to jump on people.  He will challenge you by taking a few “test jumps” to see what will happen.  If you are distracted with guests or out of town family members, you probably won’t react to his “breaking of your rules”.  You have now shown your dog that he can start to do whatever he wants.  You are not correcting, so why should he obey your rules?

When you leave Wolfie alone at home or in his crate for longer than normal, you are going to increase his need to play and get all of that pent up energy out.  Not being outside with him throwing the ball or going for a jog means that he will have to find another way to release all his “crazy”.  That normally means that he will be far more active in the house, demanding your attention and the attention of your guests.  Since you are already engaged in other activities, this normally means that he is going back in his crate or outside. 

With no bonding and interaction, Wolfie will have to escalate his actions to, “in his mind”, continue the bond you had established.  This normally means that he will start stealing things, showing you that he has them, and then run like a crazy dog around the house as you chase and scream at him.  This only puts you in a bad light as his leader and care giver.  It builds up your dog’s canine perception that he better be the boss and take charge.

If you notice, I am not painting a very rosy picture.  If you simply ignore or minimize the play and bonding time between you and your dog during the holidays, you will have an unpleasant holiday and a crazy, internally focused dog for the New Year.  Let’s make sure that this doesn't happen.

The answer is organization.  You must be organized enough to take the minimal free time you have during the holiday season and use it wisely.  Here are some simple steps:
  • Write down your schedule for the upcoming week.  Put in your work, shopping, family obligations, church, parties, etc.  Now, find 45 minutes every day (broken down in 15 and 30 minutes) that you will devote to your “best friend”.  If you have to take some time away from another event, so be it.
  • Make a promise to yourself and Wolfie that you will not miss those two times daily where it will be your bonding time.
  • Make sure that those times are for you and Wolfie!  Do not be throwing the ball while you are on the phone. 
  • After each play time, make sure that Wolfie is still with the family.  Do not simply put him back in the crate and say “Adios”.

As your dog’s leader and care giver, it is your responsibility to maintain a constant bond so that he will respect and obey you.  When you break that bond and trust, you are minimizing your relationship with him.  I know that you are going to tell me “But I am so busy with this, I am so busy with that!”  My response to you is to ask yourself if “this and that” is more important than Wolfie who gives you unconditional love, is always there for you, always wants to please, and always makes you feel great when you are down. I think you know the answer.

If you have any questions, we will be happy to help.  Please contact us at TheBest Dog Trainers in South Florida.