Tools, rules, exercise Part 3

Welcome to this three part blog series – Tools, rules, and exercise! If you haven’t read parts one and two, click the links below.

Part one – Tools

Part two – Rules

Now that you are caught up on Tools and Rules, lets talk exercise! Come on, you know you love it!

Exercise – We all know it is good for people. Studies show that regular exercise controls weight, combats health disease, boosts mood and energy levels, and improves sleep. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends people get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity to maintain health. Exercise is equally beneficial for our canine friends, is a necessity for both their physical and mental well being and is in their DNA.

At Super Mutts, along with tools and rules, exercise is a big part of our training program. Most behavioral issues we see are directly related to the amount of exercise the dog gets on a daily basis. A tired dog is a good dog! The first question we generally ask our training clients is how often they walk their dog. Inevitably, it is never enough, if at all. Many people fail to give their pet proper exercise for various reasons.

Some people do not exercise their dog because they pull on leash and are difficult to walk. Some people have dogs with leash aggression and the dog barks and lunges at people or other pets when on the walk. Some people have dogs with high prey drives and when they walk try to go after every little critter in site. Some people just dont like to walk. The truth is that lack of proper exercise will cause all of the aforementioned behavioral issues in dogs and many more.

Dogs have four legs and are meant to walk or travel. Wild dogs can walk twenty to thirty miles per day. A common misconception is if the dog has a big back yard, he gets all the exercise he needs. Yes, dogs get some exercise from walking around your house and yard but unless you live on a farm, your back yard is not enough. Imagine if someone told you, you would be confined to the house and the only place you could go was to your back yard. You do this for months or years with no end in site. Now, imagine instead of two legs, you have four. You probably would start to become a little crabby . If you did not see any people occasionally, you would start to lose social skills and eventually would become stir crazy. I believe the term is “cabin fever.” This is exactly what happens to dogs.
Not that long ago, in circuses, Lions and Tigers were kept in small cages. If you ever saw one, you would see that they pace continuously back and forth again and again and again, rarely stopping. They are trying to walk, to drain energy, even though they cannot go very far, they need the exercise. If your dog does not get proper exercise, he will make his own in whatever environment he is in.

Dogs that never get out of their home and back yard do not have a way to drain energy and will start to show all sorts of behavioral problems. They will be over reactive to sounds, smells and sights and will bark at everything, often we are told, “my dog barks all the time”. Dogs without proper exercise and socialization may become fearful of new people and may start to show signs of aggression such as barking, biting or growling. They will generally have a high energy level and be very alert. They may develop resource guarding of toys or food. They will chew things, dig holes, run the fence line, and a myriad of other things to drain energy. They will often bolt the door when opened and if they get out, will not come back when called. They are going stir crazy…..

Many people say they throw the ball for their dog or play with their dog on a daily basis and yes, this is also exercise and good for your dog and for bonding but not in place of structured exercise. You should provide both. A game of fetch is not enough to drain energy in a dog that never gets walked. Playing fetch gets a dog excited and a pent up dog does not need more excitement. It also does nothing to get him out of the four walls and yard he lives in. Play time with your dog should only begin after he has had proper exercise to drain some energy.

Different breeds of dogs and each individual dog have different energy levels. The higher energy level your dog has, the more exercise he needs. This is why picking the proper dog for your lifestyle is so important, you can read about how to pick the right dog here.

Huskies, terriers, or any herding, hunting or working breed generally have high energy levels and need a considerable amount of exercise such as running, trail hiking or long brisk walks. Breeds such as bulldogs and pugs have shorter noses and lower energy levels and require less exercise but still need some. Of course, all individual dogs, regardless of breed will have their own energy level. When choosing a dog, you should always choose a dog based on energy level before any other characteristic.

Some people tell us they do walk their dog daily. The question then becomes, how far and how fast. People generally walk considerably slower than our four legged counterparts. People saunter, dogs travel. If you have ever seen a group of dogs walking without humans, you will notice, they keep a rapid pace. This is one reason dogs will pull on the leash, the humans simply aren’t walking fast enough. If you ever notice a homeless person walking with a dog you will see that the dog is never pulling and generally very calm. This is because homeless people generally travel by foot so the dogs travel many miles per day, when they stop, the dog rests, he is tired, he has no interest in doing anything else.

Many people walk their dog at a slow pace, stopping frequently to talk to neighbors or for the dog to sniff or eliminate. To properly drain your dog of energy the walk should be for exercise and you should control the walk. You should walk at a quick pace, the dog beside you or behind you and should only let your dog sniff or eliminate either before or after the walk, in a designated area. By teaching your dog to properly walk on leash and controlling where and how fast he walks, establishes rules . Rules make him think, which is good for impulse control and in turn will drain energy. If a dog has physical and mental exercise while on the walk, he will drain more energy than if he simply pulls you everywhere.

If you have a dog with behavioral problems, ask yourself how often you exercise him, if the answer is none, then start. If you walk your dog and still have behavioral problems, ask yourself how fast and far you walk and increase both. If you have a very high energy level dog or if you are incapable of walking far or fast enough, you may need to teach him to run next to a bicycle, scooter, or golf cart or you may need to hire someone to walk, run or hike with him. Teaching a high energy level dog to walk on a treadmill is also a good way to drain energy but is not a substitute for walking outdoors.

Behavioral problems in dogs are often due to the fact that humans do not give them what they need. You can provide food, water and shelter to keep a dog alive but if you want to give him love, give him what he needs, as a dog. That starts by putting the right tools in place, providing security with rules to live by , and providing exercise to maintain physical and mental health. Give your dog what he needs and put all three elements in place and you might find that your dog didn’t have any behavioral problems to begin with, he was just missing something.

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach. 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 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. 

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