5 things to consider before getting a second dog

When is the right time to get a second dog? As a dog trainer for several years, this is a question I get asked a lot! Being as I recently adopted another dog, I thought it fitting to approach the topic and what I thought long and hard about before adding to my pack. If you are contemplating adding another four-legged member to your pack there are several things to consider.

First let me be clear, dogs are not collectors items! They are living beings with needs that require fulfilling every day, not just when you feel like it. The needs of a dog are simple but when you have more than one dog it does mean you must have more time. A dog needs EXERCISE, DISCIPLINE and AFFECTION.

Dogs also require work, and in some cases lots of it, to properly train. Yes, training is a must, even if you already have another dog. Your first dog is not going to do all the hard work for you. More often than not, bad behaviours rub off on well behaved dogs not the other way around.

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Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before committing to a new pack member:

1. What is the reason you are getting a second dog?

There is a myth that getting a second dog will provide your current dog with entertainment, especially if you don’t have time for it. This could not be more false. It is 100% a bad idea to get a second dog solely as a companion for the first. Trust when I say this will backfire and you will end up with two dogs that are attention starved, thus developing behavioural issues. If you don’t have time for one dog you won’t have time for two…which brings me to my next point….

2. Do you have time to train your new dog? 

It’s important that you allot time and money to work with a professional to help your new dog learn manners and commands. Consider training your dog as a second job. Do you have the time to commit to a second job right now in your life? If not, perhaps it is not the right time to grow your pack.

3. Do you enough money to cover the cost of 2 dogs who will need vet care, boarding, or even emergency surgery?

Dogs aren’t cheap. Much like getting a second car there are many additional fees you should factor into the cost. Similar to how cars need gas, insurance, registration, car washes, and whatnot,  dogs require food, pet insurance, spaying and neutering, vaccinations, training, grooming, pet sitting, and so much more, which all come at a price. Make sure you have money saved up to pay for all the necessities to keep your dog happy and healthy.

4. Is your current dog “balanced”?

If your existing 4-legged companion has behavioural issues, it’s absolutely necessary that you fix those problems first and foremost before introducing a new pack member. Otherwise, you will just double the problem. That’s because your new dog will develop the same issues that your existing dog already has, thus giving you twice the headache.

5. How old is your current dog?

It’s important to recognize that if you have a senior dog, sometimes adding a rambunctious pup into the mix can cause stress to an older canine. If your current dog has mobility or health issues, it may be best to put off the new addition so that you can give your older dog the time and space it needs as he/she ages. The ideal age to add a second dog in my professional opinion is between 2-8 years old. Any younger than this and the dog is still maturing and learning social behaviours. Any older, and depending on the breed, the dog could start showing signs of aging. If you do opt for a second dog in the senior years of your canine’s life, I’d suggest adopting a dog who is older instead of an active puppy. It’s important that the two dogs energies match so as to not disrupt harmony in the pack.

Thinking about getting a second dog? Contact me for training advice and how to integrate the new addition seamlessly.

Make Walking Your Dog Part of Your Routine

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Yesterday I ran an entire workshop dedicated to helping owners improve their walk with their dog. It was incredible how quickly we saw a transformation with the dogs and humans. Changing how you walk with your dog can dramatically change your relationship with your pet. Most clients expressed frustration, fear, and embarrassment when it came to taking their dog out, resulting in shorter and less frequent walks, which lead to behavioural problems with their dogs. Aggression and leash reactivity was the most common issue in all that attended the class. Whether the dog was big or small it didn’t matter, they were all walking in correctly with the dog in front and their owners not showing any leadership, which made them react to everything on their walk as if it were a threat.
Here’s a video of the before and after. This is already minutes in and much improved from when the dogs first arrived.

The walk is something you cannot skip. It is a crucial time to bond with your dog, gives your furry friend a healthy way to get rid of pent-up energy, and when done properly (you walking in front with your dog beside or behind) affirms your role as Pack Leader. Backyard time is not a substitute. A dog only given backyard time is unfulfilled and bored and guaranteed will find other ways to release their frustrations. It doesn’t seem all that different from solitary confinement in prison, where the prisoner gets 1 hour rain or shine to be by themselves in the yard. Fun right?
All dogs no matter what their age, breed or energy level need daily exercise. Low energy dogs need at least a 45 minute walk, Medium energy 1 hour and High energy dogs require 1.5 – 2 hour walks.
Here are my 10 tips to making a walk a part of your routine:
  1. Wake up an hour early!!! Add time to your day and get the walk done first thing when you are recharged and energized. Walking the correct way with your dog will help you clear your mind, de-stress, and prepare for the day.
  2. Don’t leave the walk until the end of the day when you are tired and unmotivated. More likely than not you’ll just end up sitting down and to have dinner and relax.
  3. Make it a family event – either walk together or divide the walking responsibility (Mom/Monday, Dad/Tues, Kids/Wed, Family/Sat&Sun, etc.)
  4. View it as your workout. Pick up the pace or get some ankle weights to get your heart rate going and it can sub for the gym.
  5. Drive less! Going to the corner store? Dropping the kids at school? Meeting a friend for coffee? Why not walk there with the dog? The perfect way to include the dog while doing something you would ordinarily do.
  6. Make your walks more interesting! It gets boring walking the same route. Switch it up! Go new places! Jump in your car and find a cool place to discover. Have Fun!!!!
  7. Start a walking club. Guaranteed you have friends with dogs or there are dogs in your neighbourhood. This is mutually beneficial because walking with other dogs will help socialize your dog and walking with other people daily will hold you accountable.
  8. Make more out of shorter walks but adding an extra element, like a knapsack, to help tire your dog. This fulfills the dog physically by adding weight but also psychologically because the dog feels she has a job to do.
  9. Avoid the urge to walk at times you won’t encounter other dogs. If you are walking properly your dog’s reactivity will get better. However, if you still practice avoidance your dog will not be able to socialize so the behaviour will stay the same or get worse.
  10. If all else fails hire a dog walker. If you cannot fulfill your dogs exercise needs, you must invest in a service that can provide a walk for your dog. Everyone has a busy schedule but if you really can’t add a walk into your lifestyle you need to ensure your dog gets exercised through another means. Otherwise your dog’s behavioural issues are here to stay.

Now that you’ve read my tips, go walk your dog! 🙂

Pack Life

10572203_987421187950405_6479738509060605040_oAs many of you already know, I work with dogs every day in a pack setting. I see dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds interacting in harmony. When I tell people I own a dog daycare without fail one of the first questions I get asked is “Do the dogs ever fight?” People find it hard to believe that 25-30 dogs can co-exist peacefully off leash. I can understand where their bewilderment stems from. Have you ever been to a dog park? It’s chaos! Dogs are running at large with no manners and no discipline. So yes, in those settings there are often conflicts between dogs and sometimes things get ugly.

Here’s the difference between that chaotic pack dynamic and my balanced dog daycare setting. We have rules that keep the dogs safe and they are always implemented, no exceptions. These rules are simple really and are as follows.

1) You must be CALM to enter the pack. We will wait with dogs who are anxious or excited until they relax in order to meet the other dogs. This is CRUCIAL for keeping everyone in good spirits. Now think of how dogs arrive at the dog park…..they are crazy excited! This leads to disaster. Those dogs will no doubt cause a riot and someone may get hurt.

2) You must PLAY NICELY, with EVERYONE. We watch for certain dog behaviour and break up potential issues before they escalate. Many times at dog parks I hear people say “dogs will be dogs, just let them figure it out.” This survival of the fittest mentality is breeding bullies at parks and the learned behaviour of aggression towards another dog to be alpha will create future problems. In my daycare if a dog is out of line he is put in a time out and then reintroduced to the pack once calm. Owners should take accountability at all times in group settings. Parents would do the same if it were their child.

3) NO TREATS. Having treats when you are surrounded by dogs is a recipe for disaster. Some dogs become food aggressive when they feel threatened by other dogs. If you have a dog that will not come to you unless you have a treat, then my advice is do not let your dog off leash. Work on gaining their respect first so you do not have to bribe them with cookies.

Although I’ve never had a bad experience myself I’ve heard dog park horror stories so I tend to steer clear of them. Instead, owning my own daycare allows me to provide my own dog and many other dogs with a safe and structured place to be social. I also host on leash dog walks all around the city. This still is socialization for dogs. It’s important to realize that dogs don’t always need to be off leash to make friends and be social. Learning to walk peacefully beside other dogs is a great way to help calm excited or anxious dogs and is very therapeutic for humans too. Best yet it still has the benefits of being in a pack. My next pack walk is happening TOMORROW Saturday December 13th at 4:30 PM in Waterloo Park if you and your dog would like to see what it’s about. Please be advised that retractable leashes are not permitted.

Please keep The Dog Haus rules in mind when even doing on leash and off leash socialization with your dog. Be CALM. Be NICE and ACCOUNTABLE. And please no TREATS!!!

Dealing with separation anxiety

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It’s Monday morning and after a lovely weekend together you are running late for work so you quickly give the dog a 10 minute jog around the block, feed him and tell him “mommy will be back soon” while giving him lots of hugs and kisses as he jumps up, spins in circles, and tries to squeeze through the door with you. Sound like your morning?

By far the most common issue among my clients is separation anxiety. This problem behaviour can develop at any time with dogs and can be tricky to fix. Issues like aggression can often be remedied faster than separation anxiety, which can be deep routed.

So why do some dogs develop this anxiety? There are several reasons but a main one is that it is unnatural for pack members to just up and leave on their own. Dogs in the wild migrate together and don’t just venture off independently. We typically worsen this already foreign behaviour by making a big production of leaving in the first place. We caudal and baby talk to our pets right before leaving not recognizing that the dog is already in a stressed state of mind. We rarely tire out our pups before leaving and almost never make sure they are relaxed once we go. Instead we blow kisses and pour affection onto our dogs when they are already anxious therefore rewarding the behaviour. What’s worse is we do the exact same when we return home. A dog who has not been properly exercised and is left in a stressed state will of course try to release some frustration by chewing baseboards or singing a song that never ends for your neighbours.

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Here are my 7 helpful tips on what you can do to help curb your dog’s separation anxiety.

  1. Make sure your dog sees you as the pack leader. A dog who thinks he is in charge will be stressed when pack members are out of sight because he feels out of control. He worries that he cannot protect and provide guidance which leads to him act out. You and everyone in your family need to be the pack leader. Kids actually make great pack leaders as they don’t over think things and act instinctually.
  2. Exercise your dog well before leaving. Guess what? A 10-15 minute walk around the block doesn’t work. Take your dog somewhere new and take 45 mintes to an hour to truly work them out. Imagine being locked up all day with nothing to do when you are programmed to work. You’d get pretty bored and anxious too. Give your dog something fulfilling and fun to then leave them tired afterwards. Save the 15 minute walk for when you return.
  3. Feed your dog before you step out. After dogs eat they need to rest in order to digest. This is a natural way to help them into a calm state before you go as they will tire and sleep while you are gone (assuming you already fulfilled their exercise requirements)
  4. Make sure your dog is calm when you go.  Putting your dog on his bed or better yet in a crate in a calm state will make leaving a breeze. They’ll be asleep and forgot you even left in no time. Do not rush this step, make sure the dog is fully calm and not just lying down.
  5. Desensitize your dog to things like grabbing your keys or putting on your shoes. Carry your keys around with you and jingle them and put shoes and a coat on 20 minutes before actually heading out.
  6. Do not make leaving and arriving home a dramatic occurrence. Remember Cesar Millan’s rules: No touch, no talk, no eye contact. Just act as if all is good and calmly leave. When you come home wait until your dog is calm and settled to show affection. If you build up emotions about coming and going your dog will always be stressed about it.
  7. Resist the urge to get another dog to keep yours company while you are gone. Chances are the new dog will develop the same separation anxiety and now you’ll just have 2 dogs destroying your house. Any time you have problem behaviours with a dog it is never ideal to add a new pack member until those issues have been resolved. Putting that stress on another dog is not fair and it is unlikely either dog will achieve balance.

Back To School Doggie Blues

dog-boy-reading-300x230It’s that wonderful time of year again where the kids go back to school and everyone’s routine has changed. Your schedule is packed full with little to no time to even take a breath. You’ve got to pack lunches, get the kids to school, drop the kids off at soccer practice, pick them up, feed the family, and then ahhhhh sit down on the couch for a few minutes before going back to bed and doing it all over again tomorrow. Sound familiar?

Fall is a busy time of year! It’s among the craziest for us at The Dog Haus as we constantly get last minute calls from clients begging us to take their dog because they have absolutely no time to exercise their mutt and he’s chewed the couch…again!!!

Being so busy often means dog walks come last on the “to-do list.” Unfortunately for our pets this is not only frustrating but stressful. Suddenly everyone in the pack leaves for hours on end all day long and the dog is all alone with nothing to do. With so much stored up energy, they wander around, bored as hell, only to find a shoe that smells just like you so they carry it around and feeling frustrated release their excess energy by cDog-Chewing-Shoeshewing it to bits. This is not a blatant screw you, but pretty much the only way they have to burn energy and at the same time sooth themselves. When this happens, take a good hard look at how little time you may be spending with your pooch. I still remember when I first got Carmen she would go through the garbage any time she felt she didn’t get a long enough walk that day. It was sad and hard for me to realize that I really shouldn’t punish her whenever she did this, instead I took her feedback and would do better the next day. Keep in mind that dogs have very few means to communicate with us. Any time you notice some bizarre or naughty behaviour, pay attention to what may have changed in your dog’s life. Did someone move out and go to college? Did your work hours change meaning you don’t walk the dog as long? Are you too tired to take the dog out at night when you get home? Your dog is speaking up to say his/her needs have not been met lately.

Some dogs experience depression and anxiety when the kids go back to school and their routine changes. It’s important that you not neglect your dog during this busy time so here are my suggestions to help you through this change.

  1. Tire your dog BEFORE dropping kids off at school and going to work. Better yet, walk your dog to school with the kids instead of driving – my personal favourite because I love getting two birds stoned at once 😉 plus it’s good for the environment!
  2. Use time with the dog as a stress reliever for you both – we all need to take time to relax which we rarely do. Come on a Meditation Walk with me to learn more on how to do this (next one is September 14th 9:30am at Kiwanis Park).
  3. Have fun together and play some games! Being with your dog should be rewarding to you both and play is a great way to bond.
  4. Redo some basic training – with everyone out of the house separation anxiety often creeps up. The best way to avoid this is to remind your dog of who is leader so that he doesn’t stress while you are away. It is also a way to provide mental stimulation and tire out your dog.
  5. Bring your dog to The Dog Haus or another dog daycare that has full day training and socialization for your dog. That way your dog is out of the house so he cannot destroy things and is being fulfilled by getting exercise, socialization and mental stimulation.
  6. Hire a dog walker. If you are unable to walk your dog pay someone else to do it. Having a backyard is not enough. Dogs need to be walked everyday, without exception!

The difference between “obedience” and “behaviour”

Exhibit A: Can your dog sit? Lie down? Roll over? Shake a paw? Play dead? And do other cool tricks?

Exhibit B: Does your dog wait patiently for food? Greet other dogs nicely? Not pull on leash, or jump on people, or go crazy when the doorbell rings?

Which would you prefer Exhibit A or B? Which is more practical behaviour in real life scenarios?

I’ve always wanted a dog I could take anywhere and would know just what was expected from her – almost telepathically as if we were psychically connected. Only 4 years ago I earned the trust and respect of a former street dog and accomplished exactly what I wanted in terms of training. Carmen is well liked by everyone and pretty much welcome everywhere, even technically places she’s not permitted to go, like cafes, clothing stores, patios, and even my mother’s house.

I never cared much about teaching Carmen cool tricks. What good is knowing how to play dead if you don’t know what “stop” or “come” means, which are actually life saving commands that every dog should know? I wanted a dog who listened in order to keep her safe.

10450098_10101687927611911_4538909660453309248_o It’s rather simple. Training to me is having a dog that looks to you for guidance on how to behave in every circumstance. Just like how we raise our kids, I want a dog who knows how to behave properly even in an overwhelming environment or when there are bad influences around. More over, I expect that even when I am not present. Behaviour is engrained, whereas obedience implies there is someone there to give the command. An obedient dog may “sit” and wait 2 seconds before you reward them with a treat, or throwing a ball or even receiving a pat on the head, but the mind is still active, typically in an excited or anxious state. A well behaved, balanced dog, will sit calmly and wait without fixation on what comes next. An obedient dog may know the basic commands but the question is do they follow them because they robotically know to go through the motions to get the reward? Obedience training focuses on the body. Is the body doing what I asked? Rarely do we look at the state of mind of the dog behind the action. Behaviour looks at both the body and the mind, and only rewards calm energy.

I’m sure you’ve all seen it at the daycare when we wait for the dog to sit before taking them out to the yard, but pay close attention next time. We wait beyond that, until both the body AND mind relaxes. That is what we reward with play!

Just remember: A calm dog is a balanced dog and a balanced dog is a behaved dog. And just like Carmen, a well behaved dog is welcome any where!

That’s my style of training. Want to learn more? Contact me for behaviour based training that will work for you and your dog.

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DOG GREETINGS 101

Imagine this, you’re walking your dog down the street and you see someone else approaching with their pooch. Without realizing you tighten up on the leash and reel your dog in. As you get closer you notice the other owner does the same thing, tightly wrapping the leash in a death grip with one hand as his extremely excited dog lunges forward to see yours. As the dogs meet you nervously instruct your pup in a high pitched voice to “be nice.” You stand there and ask the stranger what the dog’s name and breed is while the dogs greet face to face then wrap around getting tangled in each other’s leashes. Suddenly after a few moments there’s a nasty sound and you have to separate the otherwise “friendly” dogs. Embarrassed you abruptly leave, scolding your naughty dog. But what really happened?

Encounters like this aren’t unfamiliar to most dog owners. All too often we unintentionally set the dog up to fail in these situations. We allow our dogs to do the exact opposite of what they should do in proper greetings. We bring the dogs to meet face to face, usually in extremely excited states, with tension on the leash and linger for a long period of time. So let’s take a look at how greetings should be done.

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Dogs shake hands by sniffing each other all over and should start from the back and work their way to the front. Sniffing butts isn’t rude, it may not be how we say hello, but to dogs it is completely natural. Allow your dog to briefly smell that area of it’s new acquaintance so that he can gather the information he needs, like age, breed, health, sex, and so on.

Dogs should meet in a calm manner not overly excited or boisterous. When excited dogs meet, they tend to jump up on each other and it usually escalates very quickly to something unpleasant. Even the best of doggie friends can get carried away and clash with over the top greetings. Likewise a dog who is tentative and nervous about meeting another dog will not have a pleasant experience either. Wait until your dog relaxes and do not force him into a situation where he is not sure how to handle himself. Calm and confident is how you want your dog to approach.

dogs-meeting-for-the-first-time-by-aresauburnThere should never be tension on the leash when dogs are face to face. When the leash is pulled tight, the dog’s body leans forward communicating to the other dog he is staring directly in the face that he wants to challenge. This is when you will get a fight between the dogs. Always keep your dog beside you to keep him out of “protector” mode and so that you can pull sideways not back to remove him from a sticky situation. If there is tension on the leash this communicates to your dog that you are tense so his natural reaction will be to protect. Relax and your dog will too.

Don’t feel the need to stop and say hello to every dog. If for whatever reason you have a bad feeling, keep on walking. Especially if you are working on socializing your dog and greetings are difficult for him make sure you are comfortable with all introductions as it is very important that the dog has good encounters. Be up front with people walking their dogs and speak up on how the dogs should be introduced if you are going to allow them to say hello.

It’s important to not stop for too long and instead to keep moving, dog greetings don’t need to be lengthly. Dogs can smell from a fair distance away so they don’t need to stand around smelling each other for minutes on end. When this happens is when dogs tend to get nasty. It’s like that long awkward hand shake or close-talker at a party that makes you feel uncomfortable. No one likes that, so dogs will react in only one way; because they can’t run away as they are on leash the only other option is to fight. Introductions should be cut short so this doesn’t happen.

Remember that dogs communicate vocally at times so if there is a loud commotion but no one got hurt don’t just assume your dog is aggressive and stop allowing him to say hi. Reflect on the encounter and see what you could have done differently.