Please Help (a dog trainers dilemma)

Imagine, you get a phone call or perhaps an email from a frantic person. This person tells you they have a problem (A huge problem) and they were given your name by someone who knows you and knows you possess knowledge to help. This person says they have tried everything to solve this problem to no avail. They give you all of the details of the said problem and then say, I need your help desperately or I am going to do something rash! Many people would immediately want to help, especially if they had specific knowledge on how to solve this persons problem, right?

You tell the person that you can help and schedule to meet them. You take the information and tools necessary to help solve their problem. You arrive and meet the person and explain your specific knowledge with this said problem and they seem delighted and relieved by the information you give them. You then tell them how to use the information to help their situation. They have an excuse as to why they cannot do it or why your specific tools won’t work for them. You offer different solutions, all knowledgeable, that can work yet all are countered with an excuse from the person. They want you to fix the problem without taking any of the information you offer. “Maybe, you could take the problem home, keep it for a while and bring it back when you have solved it? ” they say.

Later, when you have given all of the information necessary to fix their said problem, you find out they did end up doing something rash and saying they “tried everything, even went to you for information and nothing worked”, they had no choice.

How would that make you feel? Think about it. It is utterly ridiculous, makes absolutely no sense. Clearly they didn’t want a solution to their problem and were going to do something rash regardless if you helped or not! They didn’t want your help, only to complain, to make it look like they did something so they could feel better when they did the “rash” thing.

Welcome to dog training!

Ask any dog trainer what their most difficult problem is and I guarantee you, it won’t be the dog. The above scenario happens more often than we like. People contacting us with dog training issues but not wanting to implement anything we offer. Just fix the dog. Don’t get me wrong, not all clients are like this and some will do the work needed but sadly, a vast majority will not. I assume this is because everyone has an opinion on dogs and dog training rather they have studied dog training or not. You can get dog training opinions from your neighbor, your uncle, your friends, pretty much everyone who has owned a dog. Therefore, I think people also take the information given by dog trainers as just that , an opinion, rather than educated training advice.

When giving dog training information to a client, trainers give instruction on what the person needs to do to get the desired effect from their dog. The person has to change before the dog ever will. Sadly, many people just want the dog to change.

Trainers are often contacted by owners saying that the dog in question is out of control, they have tried everything, they are at their wit’s end and if something doesn’t happen the dog will be sent to rescue, a shelter, or euthanized!

When a trainer arrives at a person’s home they will offer several suggestions on how to fix the behavior, often times with push back. Let me explain in greater detail. Please note this is not all of what dog training encompasses but a quick summary.

There are 4 quadrants of operant conditioning in dog training that dog trainers follow. and you can read about them here. for the purpose of this blog post you just need to know that dog training is primarily based on motivation. You have to motivate a dog one way or another, either positively or negatively.

All trainers generally start with positive reinforcement as it is the least invasive, minimally aversive type of reinforcement. Some trainers use “all” positive reinforcement and no other. All training needs to incorporate some form of positive reinforcement to motivate the dog to do what you want. Positive reinforcement, when used correctly, along with timing and consistency, helps to motivate the dog to do what is expected and works very well for many dogs. Positive reinforcement needs to be used frequently in the beginning stages of training, tapering off once the dog has learned a behavior. Even though there are many studies and articles published on the effects of positive reinforcement in animal training, dog trainers are often told by owners ” I don’t want to be dolling out cookies all day”

If a dog is doing something that could pose a threat to himself or others such as car chasing, bicycle chasing or leash aggression, along with positive reinforcement to teach engagement with the handler, counter conditioning and desensitization, often times a training collar will be needed. A training collar could be a martingale, prong collar or e-collar. All are tools that “if used correctly”, rarely have to be used at all. These tools motivate the dog to stop doing something it shouldn’t be doing with a negative consequence. These are tools that need to be implemented with a trainers supervision and in combination with positive reinforcement can work very well for these types of behaviors , yet trainers are often told the owner “WILL NOT ” use a training collar.

Management should also be used during the training process but is also the only other option a person has if they refuse to use any form of reinforcement. Management simply means, keeping the dog out of situations that you know spark the response. It includes using baby gates, pens, kennels or fences to manage the dog. Management does not fix the problem, rather just manages the dogs behavior. It still takes work. Many trainers are told for different reasons, that the owner doesn’t want to contain their dog in a kennel or pen or behind a gate.

Often times, I guess due to human nature, a client goes through a trainers program, progress is being made yet still slacks off and goes back to their old ways, only to find the dog doing the same.

Many times I have gone to a clients house after several training sessions and find they are not wearing their treat pouch to positively reinforce good behaviors, they have changed the training collar to a harness which actually motivates a dog to pull, they stopped using their kennel to manage certain situations, and they no longer practice daily with the dog on the things they were taught such as obedience, leash walking and exercise, Then say………”I’m afraid, it’s not working.”

So, what is a trainer to do if the owner is unwilling to use positive reinforcement, positive punishment, management or anything we suggest? Welcome to the dilemma!

This is why many dog trainers do not take clients with behavioral problems or instead focus on teaching different classes such as obedience, agility or sport dog. When dealing with changing a dogs behavior, you are more than often dealing with changing the humans behavior, and that is much harder to do…..

So what am I saying, what is my point? I guess this is a plea to people with dog behavioral issues everywhere, help us help you!

Before you hire a trainer, research what kind of trainer they are, how knowledgeable they are and what their experience level is. Once you pick a trainer, regardless of what you have been told by non dog training people, listen to what they have to say, implement the training advice, and do the work….all of it! Don’t rule something out because of what you think about it based on what someone else said, without having any experience with it.

Dogs are not plug and play and all need some form of training, some more than others. When hiring a trainer don’t think he or she is there to fix the dog. They are there to teach you how to behave so your dog behaves. Realize there will be a lot of work on your part and……DO THE WORK! Help us, help you!

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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Making sense of operant conditioning

For those who read our article Please help.

When it comes to dog training, dog trainers use what is called Operant conditioning. While many people become confused when they hear the word operant conditioning, the principles and categories are actually pretty straightforward.

Operant conditioning, or trial and error learning, is simply a description of how animals learn, a description that requires a few important definitions.  I have found that the best and most easily understood description regarding the 4 quadrants of operant conditioning is by Dr. Sophia Yin from her book How to behave so your dog behaves.

from How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Dr. Sophia Yin)

Reinforcement vs Punishment

The first two definitions to know are reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement is anything that increases the likelihood that a behavior will occur again. For instance, if you call your dog and then give him a treat when he comes, he will be more likely to come the next time you call. Thus, by giving him a treat for coming, you reinforce his behavior of coming when called.

Punishment is anything that decreases the likelihood that a behavior will occur again. For instance, if you call your dog and then yell and scream at him when he comes, he will be less likely to come the next time you call. Thus, by yelling at him, you punish his behavior of coming when called. This second scenario may seem an unlikely event, but it happens to people every day. When owners call Rover five or six times before he comes running and then yell at him for taking his time, they are really punishing him for coming when called.

Positive vs Negative

The second set of terms to know are positive and negative. Positive and negative do not mean good or bad; instead, think of them as a plus sign or a minus sign. Positive means that you’re adding something, and negative means you’re subtracting something. Positive and negative can be applied to both reinforcement and punishment.

Combining the Terms

Now we can combine the terms into four categories—positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. Here’s what the categories are:

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Reinforcement can be positive or negative. In either case, we are increasing the likelihood the behavior will occur again. Positive reinforcement means that by adding something the animal wants, you increase the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For instance, if you teach your dog to come to you by giving him a treat when he comes, you’re using positive reinforcement. By giving him food, which he likes, you’re increasing the likelihood that he will come to you the next time too.

Negative reinforcement means that by removing something aversive, something Fido dislikes, you increase the likelihood the behavior will occur again. For example, you decide to teach Fido to come by putting him on a leash and choke chain. You pull on his leash until he takes a step forward, and as soon as he comes forward, you release the pressure. That is using negative reinforcement. By removing the pressure as soon as he starts coming, you increase the likelihood that he will come the next time in order to avoid the pulling.

Another trick for remembering negative reinforcement is to think of it as nagging. When I was a child and my mother wanted me clean my room, she often had to keep telling me until I cleaned it. I would finally clean my room in order to avoid her aversive nagging.

Positive and Negative Punishment

Punishment can be positive or negative, too. In either case we are decreasing the likelihood the behavior will occur again.  It seems odd, but when we talk about punishment, we’re usually talking about positive punishment. Positive punishment just means that by adding something aversive, we decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For instance, your dog raids the garbage can when you’re not looking, so you booby-trap the garbage with mousetraps. The next time Spot sticks his nose in search of a snack, he gets a mousetrap surprise, which scares him. This booby trap decreases the likelihood that he will raid the garbage can again; thus, it is positive punishment.

Negative punishment means that by removing something the animal wants, we decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For instance, when dogs greet us by jumping, their goal is to get our attention. If we remove our attention every time Spot jumps by holding perfectly still and even looking away, eventually he will stop jumping. By removing the attention that he wanted, we decrease the likelihood that he will jump again.

 

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 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. 

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