Ask the coach – What breed of dog is hypoallergenic?

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Dear Super Mutts, I have a 6 year old son who wants a dog but has allergies to dogs and cats. I would like him to experience the joy of having a pet, he likes bulldogs but I have read that they shed a lot and are not good for people with allergies.  I also do not want to purchase a dog only to have to rehome it if he is allergic.  What breed is  truly hypoallergenic?  Thanks for any help, Amy

Thanks Amy, this is a great question.  Children love pets and when they have allergies to them it is no fun at all. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, as much as 10% of the U.S. population is allergic to dogs. Pets are great for children not only for the companionship and joy they bring but also to help teach responsibility of caring for another living being.

There is a lot of talk about “hypoallergenic” breeds out there today but in fact no pet is 100% hypoallergenic. Many people assume that it is  pets fur that cause allergies, when in all actuality it is pet dander, not fur that causes allergic reaction.  Pets that shed considerably such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Dalmatians, and Labrador retrievers , shed dander along with the fur so produce a more allergic response in allergy sufferers.  Generally, the curly coated breeds and some hairless ones, that shed little to no fur, shed less dander so produce less of an allergic reaction but all pets have dander.    It depends on how allergic your son is to the dander as to what breed is best for you.

My suggestion is to research the “less” allergenic dogs and pick one with the size, temperament, grooming requirements, and energy level for your family.  You can find a list of the common breeds here https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/hypoallergenic-dogs/   Keep in mind, curly coated breeds have extensive grooming needs that will require time and a monetary budget on your part.  Some breeds have a better reputation with children than others, so keep that in mind as well.

Most breeds have a rescue group associated with them, find a rescue group of the breed you are interested in and contact them.  Explain your situation and ask if you can do a “test drive” before you adopt, which most rescues require anyway. Don’t be afraid to consider mixed breed curly coated dogs as well.   If your child has a reaction, you can give the dog back to the rescue without any issues.  If he doesn’t have an allergic reaction, you get a new family member and a dog that desperately needs a home gets a new family!   Win/win! 

For more information on how to care for your new furry friend, visit our website www.supermutts.com I wish you luck on finding a new buddy for your son!

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of  Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. 

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Ask the coach -What age should you start grooming your new puppy?

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Todays ask the coach question comes from Kathy and she asks,

“At what age should I have my new Shih-tzu puppy groomed?  We just adopted an 8 week old male shih-Tzu and have been told he will need grooming. His fur is currently short and doesn’t seem to need grooming yet.  Someone also said we should wait until he has had all of his vaccinations before we have him groomed by a professional.  What is the best age to start grooming our puppy?

This is a great question and one that we not only get asked frequently but also one that creates confusion for new puppy parents. The short answer , and this is critical – “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!”  The key is to find a groomer that is experienced in how to socialize the puppy to the grooming process in a positive, low stress way.

Regardless of the breed, all dogs need some form of grooming.  To maintain good health and coat, all dogs need at least to be brushed, bathed, and have their ears cleaned and toe nails trimmed.  Ear infections are common in dogs and are very painful, keeping your pets ears cleaned will help prevent this.  Nails that become too long may deform the feet, make it hard for the dog to walk, and will curl around and embed in the skin, causing pain and infection.

That being said, some breeds need more grooming than others and need to see a professional groomer every four to six weeks.  It is also a good idea to send short coated breeds to the groomer regularly as well, even though they do not need their fur trimmed, having a professional groomer clip the toenails, clean the ears, and bathe your dog is beneficial.   Professional groomers have professional products and equipment that will help with your pets skin and coat and even help with shedding.  Many times a groomer will identify problems that you could be unaware of, such as ear infections, fleas or ticks, lumps and skin problems.

It is a common misconception that you should wait to have your puppy professionally groomed until it is around 6 months old.   Reasons cited are that the puppy’s fur is not that long and they want to have all vaccinations before sending their dog to the grooming salon. I can attest, groomers everywhere cringe when they look at their schedule and  see a 6 month old puppy coming in for the first grooming.

Years ago, the advise to new puppy parents was to keep their puppy at home until it had its final set of vaccinations which is around 12 – 16 weeks old.  Most veterinarians, dog trainers and pet professionals have changed their view of this in the recent years.  The evidence is that the risk of your puppy developing a behavioral problem from lack of proper early socialization far out ways the risk of them contracting a fatal disease if you socialize them before the full set of vaccinations.   The key here is “proper early socialization”.  You do not want to take your new puppy to places where the health and vaccination status of other animals is questionable, like a dog park or a pet store, or where there are known sick animals, however puppies need proper socialization to become stable adults.  Lets take a look as to why this is so….

From seven to sixteen weeks of age your puppy enters the socialization stage which is a critical stage and the most important stage in his development.  This critical stage, and what happens to  your puppy during it, will determine how behaviorally sound he will be when he becomes an adult.  Puppies that are socialized properly during this stage become stable adult dogs with minimal issues of fear or aggression.  Puppies that are not socialized properly at this stage, can develop fear, anxiety, aggression and behavioral issues. Many behavioral problems in dogs are due to the lack of proper socialization during this imprinting stage of development.   During this stage of development, puppies also go through a fear imprinting phase or “fear period” which means whatever the puppy comes into contact with that causes fear or pain, can stay with him for life.  This is why it is important that everything you expose your puppy to be kept positive.

If you wait to expose your puppy to the grooming process until he is older, he will not have been exposed to all  the sights, sounds, smells, and required handling during this critical phase,  therefore will become fearful and anxious of the new experience, which often times will lead to aggression on the grooming table.   Many dogs go through a second fear period during adolescence (six to eight months) and if taken to the grooming shop for the first time during this period, may become so frightened that it will be hard to desensitize them to the grooming process later.

Sooner is better than later when it comes to exposing your puppy to the grooming process.  Many show- dog breeders start grooming their puppies at 3 weeks of age, before they are even weaned.  This early exposure leads to a dog that is extremely comfortable on the grooming table as he has done it his entire life.

Another reason waiting to groom your dog is so detrimental is because, unless you are very good at thoroughly brushing your dog, he more than likely will develop matted fur. Matted fur is painful to remove, which in turn will cause negative associations to the  grooming process, which in turn will contribute to problems on the grooming table.

When it comes to grooming your dog, the key is to find a groomer that understands and is familiar with puppy development and how to create a positive experience for your puppy.  Make sure the salon requires all adult dogs be fully vaccinated, and the puppies at least have one set of puppy vaccinations.  The first grooming, most likely, will not be to remove much fur from your puppy. Generally, the first grooming consists of a bath, nail trim, ear cleaning, blow dry and trimming around the eyes, feet and sanitary area. The key is to keep the interactions as short and as positive as possible. If the salon requires your puppy be there for the day or if your puppy will be put in a kennel during the process, it is a good idea to take a toy or chew for your puppy to play with while he waits.  You may also request that they take the puppy outside for a bathroom break or two while he is in their care.  At Super Mutts, since we are also dog trainers, we always provided these things for the puppies in our care because it is the right thing for the puppy, but many salons do not.  Always ask if the salon has a protocol for puppies, if you are not comfortable, don’t hesitate to find another salon that does.

There are a number of things you can do at home that will help your puppy before he goes to the salon.  Many salons have pamphlets on things you can do to help socialize your puppy to the grooming experience.  Take your puppy to the salon ahead of time just for a meet, greet and treat!  Ask if they have any handouts for you to get started at home. A good salon will appreciate you taking initiative in your puppies grooming needs. They can also show you how to properly brush your dog at home and may have handouts on specific breeds and grooming requirements.

Our book Puppy Montessori is available on Amazon.com and is a great resource for new puppy parents. The book goes into further detail about developmental levels, socialization, and things you should do before your puppy goes to the salon.

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. 

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com

 

 

 

 

Why your dogs haircut costs more than yours.

Why your dogs haircut costs more than yours!

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This  sign is one that hangs in some pet grooming shops and is meant to be a funny response to the myriad times pet groomers get asked the question, “Why does it cost more to get my dogs hair cut than mine?”  Pet stylists here this question often.  I just heard it a few days ago. People tend not to question their mechanic or handy man, or child care worker about the price of their service however groomers are questioned frequently.

All joking aside, there are some very logical reasons your pets’ haircut costs more than yours.  I thought I would shed some light on the subject and hopefully help you understand just what your pets grooming entails and its value.

The first and most obvious reason is that your hair dresser only cuts the hair on your head, your pet stylist cuts fur on the entire dog. A grooming can take anywhere from one hour up to four hours for larger breeds. Pet grooming is a time based service.  If it took your hairdresser the same time to cut and style your hair, it would cost much more.  If your pet stylist only cut the hair on the top of your dog’s head (no face or body fur)  It would only take a few minutes and would cost much less than your own hair cut.   Keep in mind that pet stylists also bathe the entire dog.  Your stylist does not give you a full body bath.

Your pet stylist cleans and plucks your pets ears, gives a manicure and pedicure, Brushes out the entire coat, removes any matting, expresses anal glands if needed, bathes, conditions and blow dries the pets coat, and may brush teeth and file nails, all before cutting any fur.  Once the clippers and scissors come out, the pet stylist then has to use them on the pet, which we all know, rarely sits still and may even bite, scratch or try to escape.

These are some of the obvious reasons it costs more for your pets’ haircut than your own.  If you look further into the detail of all the services included in a full grooming and compare how much each would cost for someone of equal handling skills to perform, such as a veterinarian, or veterinary technician, then you can really see the value provided by the pet groomer.

Your Pet stylist examines every part of your dog, and we mean EVERY part.  From nose to rump and everything in between.  There is not a single portion of your dog that is not touched or looked at by the pet stylist.  It is not uncommon for a pet stylist to find health issues before the owner knows about them. Often times groomers will find eye or ear infections, bad teeth, impacted anal glands or skin conditions.  If your groomer grooms the pet on a regular basis, they may also notice behavioral changes that can signal health issues.   The general Veterinary exam fee without treatment can run anywhere from $50 – $80.  The groomer is not a Veterinarian but just as your Veterinarian has higher education and training, the pet stylist also has higher education and is trained on animal anatomy, husbandry, illnesses, behavior, and proper handling not to mention knowing each breed standard trim.

Your pet stylist trims your pets’ toenails which at a Veterinary office can run $10-$18 or more. Usually done by a Veterinary technician.

Your pet stylist plucks the fur from your pets’ ears if needed and cleans them.  The cost at the Veterinary office for the same service would cost anywhere from $25 -$70

Your pet stylist checks and expresses (if needed) your pets anal glands.  The cost at the Vet – $25-$30.  Usually done by a Veterinary technician.

So when you compare just these basic services, it may cost anywhere from $110-$198 or more, which does not include brushing, bathing, and cutting of the fur or dealing with behavioral problems .The average pet grooming price is far less. You also need to consider that larger breed dogs, dogs with longer or matted fur, or with behavioral problems, will add to the price of the grooming.

Another thing to take into consideration is the individual pet stylist.  Obviously a seasoned groomer of 20 plus years will charge more than a new graduate just out of grooming school and they should.  If you ever see the difference in skill, handling ability and knowledge between the two, you will understand.  If your groomer has any other education or training such as veterinary technician, dog training, animal first aid, or massage therapy then the price will vary as well.

If your dog groomer is mobile or offers pickup and delivery, there will be an added convenience fee.  The mobile pet groomer gives their undivided attention to your pet with no distractions.  These services will not only save you money and time going to and from a salon, but also the hassle and possibly the frustration that may come from loading and transporting your dog (or dogs) in the car. These services also allow you to go about your daily business and find your pet groomed and waiting for you when you return home.

As a dog trainer and groomer at Super Mutts, I often counsel people on choosing the right pet for their lifestyle. Along with size, training, and energy level requirements, one question I always ask is “How much do you plan to spend on grooming every month?”   Many people never considered this when choosing a pet.  Luckily, there are dogs to fit every budget.  A short coated dog just needs bathing, nail trims and ear cleaning which can be done at home or will be less expensive at the groomer than a dog that has full, thick or curly coat with extensive grooming needs.  When choosing a dog for your family, grooming price for the life of the dog should be considered.

So, as you can see, there are many things to consider when questioning the price of your pets’ haircut vs. your own.  Consider also that this is your loved family member who you are entrusting to the care of others. Whomever you choose will hopefully be grooming your pet every month for his/her entire life which can be 10 -14 years or more. At super mutts we have generations of dogs from the same family.   Sadly, there have been many news reports on animals being mistreated at salons, daycare and boarding facilities. Just as you would not look for someone who is “cheap” to look after your children, you should not look for it when it comes to your beloved pet. Generally, you get what you pay for.  The peace of mind leaving your pets with a skilled person  you can trust………………priceless!

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of Super Mutts and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 22 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. She is an AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bathing your dog at home

Even though some dogs are taken to a dog groomer for a monthly haircut, nail trim and bath, some people bathe (or would like to bathe) their dog in between grooming visits. After all, dogs get dirty and a clean dog is much nicer to pet and snuggle.

Many of our clients ask how we are able to groom or bathe their pet so easily when it is so hard for them to do at home.  The main reason is that professional groomers have been trained and understand dog handling.  The second reason is that we also have professional products that make the handling easier.

Our job is to make a pet as clean and cute as possible while maintaining the safety of that pet (and the groomer) throughout the grooming process.  After all, keeping a moving animal safe when using sharp scissors is not always an easy task, nor is keeping a biting dog still without getting bit.

Next to a dog, a groomers equipment is his/hers best friend.   We have tables with grooming loops to not only keep the dog in a desired position but also keep them from jumping or falling off the table.  If the dog is a biter, we have muzzles to use if needed to keep us safe, and to teach the dog how to be calm on the table.   We also have restraints in the tub to keep the dog from jumping out as well as sprayers and dryers to make the process more efficient.

Most people do not have these items so it becomes a bit of a chore to try to bathe fluffy at home.  There are some home products you can purchase to make the process similar to that of the grooming shop.   We have put some items below that will help, simply click the images to view.

 Tub restraints                Shampoo and Conditioner                   Dog bath sprayer

                                     

The first and most important thing to do is to gather all of your supplies before you get the dog into the bath tub. It is important to have dog approved shampoo and conditioner not human products.  Humans have a different PH than a dog.  If you use human shampoo on your dog, it may cause dry skin, irritation, and itching. We recommend natures specialties shampoos and conditioners.  Click the images above to order. You will also need a restraining device to keep your dog in the tub, a hose type sprayer, towels, treats, and a blow dryer if you plan on drying the dog.            

 

 

If your dog has  medium to long coat, you should properly brush them before the bath, to make sure the coat is free of matting.  We recommend using a slicker brush and comb.

For a video on how to properly brush your dog at home click here

Have some treats handy and reward your dog for staying calm during this process.  Restrain your dog in the tub so he/she does not try to jump out.  This will save you time and will make the bathing process more pleasant for both of you.

  • Start wetting your dog with warm water from the feet up, tail to head.  Starting at the head will make your dog try to shake the water off immediately or may startle them if they aren’t comfortable in the bath yet.
  • Keep the process as positive as possible and move in a timely manner to keep the process short. (Some dogs may become anxious the longer they remain in the tub)  Efficiency is key.
  • Wet the dogs entire coat.  Apply shampoo and lather well, don’t forget in between the toes and pads of the feet.  Do not get shampoo in your pets eyes.  You can apply  an approved eye lubricant before the bath to protect your pets eyes from shampoo.
  • Rinse well with warm water making sure to get all soap out of the coat to prevent itching.
  • Apply conditioner if desired, massage in, rinse well.
  • Towel dry your dog using microfiber towels for better absorption and quicker drying time.

You can let your dog air dry or if you would rather blow dry your dog, do so on low setting preferably with the dog restrained on a grooming type table or on the floor.

Reward your dog with small treats throughout the process and remain calm at all times.  If your dog tries to jump out of the tub, thrash about, or bite, it is important not to end the bathing process at this time. If you do, you will be teaching the dog that the behavior gets him out of the tub and he will continue to do so.   Only end the bathing process when the dog is calm.  If your dog is having difficulty with the bath, you may have to break the process down into smaller steps to get the pet comfortable over time.   Most groomers will be happy to instruct you on how to do this.

If you follow these steps you should be able to bathe your pet like a pro and make the process more pleasant for you and your pet!  Happy Bathing!

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. She is an AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com

 



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Thunderstorms and your dog

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I woke up this morning with my husband lying next to me, my dog lying peacefully at the foot of my bed, the sound of Coyotes howling and thunder rolling in the distance.  I thought to myself, “Nothing gets better than this.”  You see, I love my husband, my dog, Coyotes howling in the distance, and I love Thunder storms. Put all four together and I’m in heaven.

Did I say “my dog lying peacefully at the foot of my bed?”  Yes, I did. Our dog is not afraid of thunder.  My husband and I have had six dogs together and none have been afraid of thunder.  They also do not respond to coyotes howling or neighborhood dogs barking.   Actually, the only things our dog responds to with ferocity is delivery men or if any strangers show up unannounced. As a Boxer, he takes his guarding responsibilities very seriously and we like that.   Even then, he is controllable once we give him the thumbs up that everything is O.K.

A common dilemma we hear from our customers is about their dogs’ fear of thunder.  In fact, someone just mentioned it to me yesterday. It is something that is very upsetting for dog owners and something that many people find difficult to deal with.  After all, no one wants to see there little furry friend in a fearful state. Sadly, it is something that many people unknowingly foster and may have even unknowingly caused. Yes, that means you. It is hard to hear but the truth hurts.  How can you be causing or fostering your dog’s neurosis you ask?  Below is a list of several ways you may be causing Fido’s fears.

·         You don’t like storms (or are afraid of them) and you know one is approaching, you become nervous or anxious which changes your cortisol levels and stress hormones, your dog senses your nervousness and assumes there is  a threat so in turn starts becoming anxious.  Dogs make associations and learn from cues.  Just as with clicker training, the dog learns that the sound of the click means he did the right thing and that a reward is coming.  He associates the click with the reward.  If and when he hears thunder, you become anxious or nervous; he will associate the sound of thunder with impending doom.   Dogs cue into our senses much more than people realize.  If you doubt that, the next time you get angry, nervous, sad, upset or even excited, watch how your dog behaves and responds accordingly.

·         If your dog becomes nervous or anxious, YOU get nervous and anxious (or maybe even a little angry) which in turn makes your dog more nervous and anxious. You may even anticipate your dog getting anxious at the first sound of thunder. This confirms the thought that thunder is something to fear.

·         You coddle your dog when he is anxious by petting, cuddling and telling him, “it’s o.k.”   All though well meaning, to a dog, petting, cuddling, and talking are forms of reward.  If Fido gets anxious and you are petting him, you are in fact telling him “Good dog, be nervous, you’re doing the right thing.”

·         You do not walk your dog.  A dog has 4 legs and is meant to walk.  In the wild dogs travel for miles every day.  A tired dog is a good dog.  A daily walk burns energy.  If your dog has pent up energy, he will be more reactive to many things.  It is in your dog’s DNA to walk.

·         You do not provide consistent leadership for your dog. Anyone who knows our training philosophy knows that it begins with leadership. This is no different. The common denominator to prevent any form of anxiety in your dog is providing your dog with consistent leadership from the beginning. Many people give their dog a lot of love and affection without setting clear rules and providing leadership.  In the dog world there are two positions, the leader and the follower.  If you are not one, you are the other.  A dog that senses no leadership may try to assume the leadership role; if he is not a born leader (which few are) it will create anxiety, fear and frustration.  Even if he doesn’t assume the role, he will sense no leader which in turn creates anxiety, fear and frustration.  If anything out of the ordinary happens, it will cause anxiety in your dog.   If a stranger comes to the door or a strange noise occurs outside or other dogs are barking in the neighborhood, or thunder?  What about thunder?  A dog that senses leadership can relax because the leader has everything under control.  If the leader is relaxed, the others will follow. 

·         You have never made a positive association with the sound of thunder. Since my husband and I both love storms we have always socialized our dogs to the experience in positive ways. With all of our dogs, both those we adopted as puppies and those we adopted as adults, we have went outside in storms, played with toys,  worked obedience , went for car rides and walks, and ultimately made storms a fun time for all.  Our dogs love spending time on the porch with us during a storm.

Many of you may have inherited a dog with a phobia of storms or don’t believe that you are contributing to the problem but I will say, If you do one or all of these things, you are. I know this not only from my 20 years working with dogs  but also when I see the behavior change in storm phobic dogs that have boarded with us. When they are home, they are afraid of storms and when they are boarding with us they are not. Why is that?  It is because of everything in the aforementioned text. We provide the same consistent leadership to our boarding dogs as we do with our own dogs. Since we enjoy storms and our personal dogs are not nervous, the boarding dogs generally follow suit.

You don’t see storm phobic animals in the wild.  When a storm approaches they will den up or hunker down and let it pass.  It appears only dogs that interact with humans have a fear of thunder which is another reason to believe it is human induced.

So what if you obtained a dog that came with a fear of thunder?  There are a few things you can do to help with the transition.

First and foremost, check your own feelings about the approaching storm as well as your thoughts toward your fearful Fido.  Do not make a big deal out of it; act as if it was another sunny day.  Do not reward the fear by coddling the dog.

Provide consistent leadership.  Have consistent rules the dog follows daily.  Teach basic obedience commands such as sit, stay and down.  Have your dog work for food and affection and teach proper leash walking.  All of these exercises help establish you as the leader. 

Walk your dog daily – to the point of being tired.

Turn up the radio or television to mute the sound of thunder.   During storms Play games, work on obedience and only reward calm behavior.

Before Fido gets nervous, give him a treat that will keep him occupied for some time such as a new chew bone or a stuffed Kong.  Many dogs fail to notice thunder if they are busy with something else.

Provide a kennel for your dog to den up in.  Dogs are den animals and like the safety of confined spaces.  If your dog is kennel trained, he will naturally go to his kennel to rest or have some private time.  A dog that is kenneled will not be able to start pacing or working himself into frenzy.

Play sounds of thunder at a very low level daily and go about your daily business.  Start creating positive associations with the sound.   Reward only calm behavior.

Some dogs that have been storm phobic for years will have a harder time changing behavior and may need medication from your Veterinarian along with the behavior modification techniques listed above. 

If your dog is afraid of storms implement these techniques and you may be surprised at not only how quickly they work but also find that other unwanted behaviors disappear as well.  Still having trouble?  Consult with a leadership based dog trainer to help.

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. She is an AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator and a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com

My $20,000 Pit bull story!

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The recent headlines regarding the legislation in Montreal which passed the breed ban of Pit Bulls and Pit Bull type dogs is the subject of considerable controversy.   As a dog trainer who has worked with and owned Pit bull breeds, I feel it is my responsibility to not only explain breed bans but also expel some myths about this very misunderstood dog breed.

So what is Breed ban legislation?  Breed-specific legislation is a law passed by a legislative body pertaining to a specific breed or breeds of domesticated animals. In practice, it generally refers to laws pertaining to a specific dog breed or breeds.

According to the A.S.P.C.A. and other animal welfare groups,  there is no evidence that breed-specific laws make communities safer for people or companion animals.  The CDC strongly recommends against breed-specific laws in its oft-cited study of fatal dog attacks, noting that data collection related to bites by breed is fraught with potential sources of error (Sacks et al., 2000).   To learn more about why breed ban legislation does not work  click here .

We agree that banning an entire breed or mixes of that breed will not solve the problem of vicious dogs and will only cause more problems.  We cannot judge an entire breed on one or two vicious dogs, if that was the case we would be euthanizing all dog breeds.  Almost every breed of dog has had one that bites at one time or another. Many bites occur not due to the nature of a particular breed or that the breed is vicious but rather to the circumstances surrounding the bite. All dogs can bite, will bite, (given the right circumstances) and can be taught to bite (police/personal protection). The larger the dog, the more damage is done regardless of breed.  Once breed bans are put in place for one breed, they can easily be modified for other breeds.  Many dogs are mixed breeds or have a certain look, may not be the breed that is banned, but will be deemed as such.

When it comes to the Pit Bull breeds there are two types of people in the general public, those that hate pit bulls and those that love them.  The problem is, those that HATE them, REALLY hate them and are reluctant to educate on the breed. Those that LOVE  them, REALLY love them and are reluctant to educate on the breed. This leads to common misconceptions on both parts.  One group states all are vicious and unpredictable, the other group says they are all wonderful, it is just the way they are raised.  Neither is true.

When talking about Pit bull breeds, I speak from experience not only from a dog training perspective but also having owned a dog aggressive Pit bull.  Yes, me.  You see, before I was a dog trainer, I was a Pit bull lover and believed it was how they were raised that caused the problem, mean people doing mean things to make the dog mean…. right?  If given lots of love, and toys ,and beds, and pillows, and kisses, and puppy training and…….you get the idea. I could prove the haters wrong, right?

Her name was Bailey and the first mistake my husband and I made was getting a puppy from a backyard breeder in whom we did not know, but was referred to us by a friend.  They kept the male and female separate because “they would fight at times.”  We adopted Bailey at 8 weeks of age.  We had two adult dogs at the time, a Dalmatian and a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix who  had a lot of love and little training.  We enrolled Bailey in Puppy class as soon as possible.  She excelled and was the star of the class.  She was quick at picking up commands, exuberant when performing tasks, very engaged and passed with flying colors.  We were so proud.

We noticed that the puppy was rough when playing with our other dogs or when coming out of her kennel or from behind a door. We also noticed scrapes and cuts on her after she was playing with the other dogs even though she would lie with them and play nicely as well.  It concerned us so we brought it up to the trainer of the puppy class.  We were told to just let them “work it out” on their own, which we did.  Bad advice from an inexperienced trainer.

She got into her first fight with our Dalmatian shortly after the conclusion of the puppy class. She ended up at the vet, had sutures and a drain put in and a cone on her head.   This was the first of many fights she had with our dogs over the 5 years we had her. They are too numerous to describe every one in detail.    One fight ended with me at the hospital due to a partially amputated fingertip from a dog bite. In case you’re wondering,  it wasn’t her, it was the Ridgeback.  I got in the middle of a dog fight and in the midst of the chaos was bitten.   Bailey was never aggressive toward humans  and was very loving toward people and was a big cuddle bug but she was innately dog aggressive.

The older she became, the more reactive she became despite training efforts.  We consulted trainers and a dog behaviorist.  The sad end result was that we had to euthanize her for the safety of our other dogs. We estimate over the 5 years we spent with her, we spent about $20,000 in vet bills from fighting and hospital bills from my finger incident.  This dog is the reason my husband and I became dog trainers.  We wanted to learn about dog training and give educated advice to people so they would not have to suffer as we did from bad advice.

So here is the truth about Pit bull breeds and what I know for sure;

Pit bull is the common name for a type of dog. Formal breeds often considered in North America to be of the pit bull type include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The American Bulldog is also sometimes included. They are called “Pit” bulls because they are breeds that were bred to fight in a fighting ring called a pit.

Pit bull breeds are  high energy level dogs that do everything 100%. Whatever they do, they give it their all. Rather it be obedience, play, exercise, loving, snuggling or fighting, they are in it to win it.  They also have a high prey drive which can make them reactive to quick-moving objects.

The myth that Pit bulls are aggressive because of how they are raised is true to an extent but is contrary to what you are probably thinking.   Yes, there are bad people who do bad things to dogs which make them aggressive or vicious. However, we have seen many Pit bull owners that love and care for their dogs and  still have dog aggression problems.  We have seen many dogs that have been given only love with no leadership which also become unstable and aggressive toward humans as well as other dogs, regardless of breed.  Dogs are pack animals and need stable leadership. Without leadership a dog will try to assume the leadership role.  A dog that is not a born leader will not be confident. A dog that is not confident will become unstable and can exhibit behaviors such as separation anxiety, fearfulness,  or aggression.  If a dog senses clear leadership he can relax because the leader has everything under control. Dogs that have a lack of proper exercise, training, or mental stimulation can also become aggressive and unstable due to pent-up energy.

Another reason that a Pit bull breed can be aggressive regardless of how they are raised is in the lineage;

Pit bull breeds were originally bred and raised to fight for sport. The ones that were best at the sport would bite, hold and kill their opponent. They were originally bred by combining an English bulldog with some form of terrier.  The English bulldog gave them the strength, the terrier gave them the tenacity and high prey drive.  The English Bulldog  was also used to fight and kill other dogs but this has been bred out of them for over 200 years.  This is why you see much less dog aggression in the English Bulldog breed however it occasionally occurs.  Even today, Pit bulls are being bred for dog fighting sport in underground dog fights and gambling organizations.  Since Pit bulls are still being bred for dog fighting some are “hard-wired” to do the job they were bred to do.  Just as cattle dogs chase cattle, sheep dogs chase sheep, bird dogs flush birds, Pointers point……you get the idea, Pit bulls fight other dogs.  Therefore, without knowing the breeding past of the dog you adopt, you will not know how close to fighting stock he/she comes from.  The closer to fighting stock, the more likely the dog is to do that job.  It is innate, something you cannot control regardless of how much love or how much training they receive and it has nothing to do with how they are raised.

Pit bulls are generally not human aggressive as this was bred out of them from the beginning.  The handler had to be able to go into a fighting ring and pull the dog out of the ring without being bitten.  Those dogs that would turn and bite the handler, were destroyed.  This explains how, when a pit bull attacks another dog, he generally bites, holds and shakes the prey.

Many dogs will be dominant over one another but generally, if one shows submission, the other will not attack. Dogs in a dog pack will go through dominance rituals on a regular basis.  Fighting Pit bulls are bred to ignore cut off signals from other dogs, in other words, they will attack regardless of what signs of submission the other animal is giving.   This, along with high prey drive, the ability to bite and hold and the prevalence to do everything 100%  give way to the myth that Pit bulls have “locking” jaws. They do not, they are just willing, capable and good at what they were bred to do.

The myth that Pit bulls are all aggressive or untrustworthy and can “turn” at any time is also untrue and not a fair statement for the breed.   Many Pit bulls and Pit bull mixes are not hard-wired to do the job their ancestors were bred to do. Many live in loving homes, have loving personalities, have never had a bite history, and are true ambassadors of the breed.

So what do you do if you are thinking of adopting a Pit bull?  There are a few things that will make the decision easier and more predictable. First and foremost ask yourself why you want a Pit Bull.  Is it because you are an active person, love the look, exuberance and stamina of the breed, or is it to make a statement or to  prove a point that it is not how they are raised.  Second, do your research and decide if this breed is the right fit for your family.  Pit bull breeds have high energy requirements and need to be stimulated both mentally and physically.  If you are a couch potato, work long hours, live in an apartment or want a low energy dog, the Pit bull type is not the dog for you.

If you want to adopt a puppy only adopt from a reputable breeder.  Reputable breeders breed for health and temperament of the breed, have been doing so for many years even decades and can provide you  with the puppies lineage. If you buy from a backyard or inexperienced breeder, you will not know how close to fighting stock the puppies are from and will possibly be contributing to the problem.

If you want to adopt from  a rescue or shelter, pick one that can give you as much information as possible about the individual dog you are interested in.  It is a good idea to have a dog trainer go with you to help evaluate behavior and temperament.

When you adopt a Pit bull, provide consistent leadership, training and exercise.

If you have a Pit bull and it is exhibiting dog aggression or aggression of any kind, consult with a dog trainer or an animal behaviorist to decide the reason for the behavior and if it can be modified.

If you have a Pit bull that is dog aggressive and you have put training in place and have come to the conclusion that the dog is innately dog aggressive, the only responsible option is euthanasia.  We do not take euthanasia lightly and it is the hardest decision a dog owner will make.  As dog trainers euthanasia is never the advice we like to give but have given it. As a Pit bull owner it was the last decision we ever wanted to make but made it.

The answer to breed banning and to the pet overpopulation problem in general is not breed specific legislation but breeding legislation and spay/neuter policies.   Breeders should be licensed and proven to be reputable with strict guidelines.   All pets should be spayed and neutered unless a person is a licensed breeder. Individual dogs of any breed deemed and tested to be vicious should be euthanized.

A dog aggressive Pit bull and the owner of one suffer greatly.   Managing the problem means keeping the dog away from others ( which often makes the problem worse), always walking on eggshells, and hoping nothing goes wrong.  You will also be contributing to the problem and giving haters and proponents of breed ban fuel for their fire. You will be putting all of your effort and time keeping an unstable dog alive, when many other loveable, stable dogs, Pit bulls and otherwise are being euthanized daily due to lack of shelter space.  Sadly, we have to sacrifice the few to save the many.  If you love the breed and hate the breed ban, it is the responsible thing to do and the only thing that will save the Pit bull breeds.

It isn’t the breed, it is the humans because we created it, we have failed it, and it is time to be responsible and do all we can to redeem the Pit bull breeds.

 

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. She is an  AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator and a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 reasons dog obedience doesn’t work!

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Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend ~ Corey Ford

When it comes to training your dog, many people think of or have taken their dog to obedience classes.   Obedience is great in that it builds a common language between you and your dog. Obedience builds trust and respect between you and your dog. Obedience can help control a dominant dog and create confidence in an unsure dog. Obedience can also help keep your dog safe.  An obedient dog is more enjoyable in that he can join you on adventures outside the home and will listen to you in any situation.  Many people are involved in competition obedience which can be fun for both human and dog.

So, if obedience does all this, why is it that we have heard many people say, “I took my dog to obedience class but it didn’t stick.” There are three reasons why obedience classes do not work for some people.

  1. Most people will work with their dog during class and will do the homework for the six  weeks that the class is scheduled for.  After this time however, many people do not work with their dog daily if at all.  People assume that the six-week program is all their dog needs to learn how to be a “good” dog for the rest of its life.  This thinking is comparable to saying  children only need to go through kindergarten.  A dog’s training goes on for its entire life.  Basic obedience teaches a dog basic commands that you then use daily for their entire lives in many different situations.
  2. People are not consistent with the training.  They may do obedience “drills” with their dog but do not work the dog in other situations such as in public, when guests come over etc.  The dog quickly learns that the human is not consistent; he only has to do these obedience commands during the drills but at no other time. Dogs are contextual which means you have to work your dog in every situation that you want him to be obedient in.  Obedience should be used in every aspect of your dog’s life; when  you go to the park, to a friend’s house, out for a walk, in your neighborhood, or to the veterinarian.  Anywhere you take your dog , obedience should come into play.  This is how you get an obedient dog in any situation
  3. Leadership or behavioral problems, not obedience.  Obedience classes do not solve behavioral problems and sadly people wait until they are having behavioral problems to start an obedience program.  Obedience helps with leadership and behavioral issues but alone does not establish leadership. Obedience with a solid leadership program is what helps solve behavioral issues.

Case Study:

Several years ago, on a camping trip, was a woman that had rescued a large dog that she brought with her.  The dog was tied out on a corkscrew ground stake.  On two occasions, the dog lunged and tried to bite two people, one being a child.  Upon bringing it to the woman’s attention, she put her dog on leash and proceeded to do obedience drills to show “how obedient her dog was.”  The dog performed the drills as expected.  Despite the dog understanding obedience, the owner clearly used obedience improperly.  It was also clear that she did not establish a leadership program with the dog.  The dog has an aggression problem that obedience can help if used in the right context.  Most importantly, the owner needs to put a leadership plan in place in conjunction with obedience.

The proper way to handle this dog was first to never put the dog in a scenario in which he could potentially harm someone or behave in an aggressive manner.  You cannot change a dogs behavior if he is tethered thirty feet away from you.  The dog should have been tethered to the owner.  At times when this was not possible, he should have been kenneled.  While on leash, the human could work on sit/stay and down/stay while the dog was tethered to her and around other people.  She would have the ability to reinforce good behavior, create positive associations with people, and also the ability to correct unwanted behavior if necessary.  She could have taught the dog what is allowed and what is not allowed around people.  Instead, the dog learned nothing accept that after an outburst he had to do obedience drills.

Obedience can create a trusting bond between you and your dog. Obedience is a great way to teach your dog what behaviors are acceptable in your home and in society especially if started early, practiced often and in the right context.

So, the next time you find yourself or someone you know saying that obedience didn’t “stick”, stop and consider these three possible causes and adjust accordingly.

 

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. She is an  AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com