Don’t F*CK up Day 1

We can all agree that first impressions are a big deal in life. Whether we’re meeting our partner’s family, or interviewing for a new job, the stakes are high and we take it seriously. People fail to realize though that when it comes to meeting their new dog it could be make or break. Whether you just bought a puppy or adopted a rescue, that first day is crucial to setting up your relationship…so seriously, don’t f*ck it up!

Dogs are extremely in tune with energy. They pick up on the tiniest things. I always tell my clients that the first week of owning your new dog they are studying you, observing and assessing your every move, your routines, what you do and how you do it. And what are we typically doing that first week? Constantly fussing over the new dog. Is she happy? Is she comfortable? Does she love me yet?

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Needless to say, we surrender all power to the puppy. Instead of embodying calm confidence and making a dog feel safe and secure, we create chaos and excitement. We parade the dog around and invite everyone we know over to come and celebrate the newest addition. This is not only overwhelming to a dog of any age, it’s confusing, intimidating, and down right rude. We are inviting complete strangers over to add to the excitement and infringe on the dog’s intimate space, insisting they hold the dog, pet the dog, talk to the dog, and play with the dog.

Don’t see why it’s such a big deal? Well, imagine yourself in the dog’s shoes. Let’s say you just traveled somewhere you’ve never been before, by yourself and you get picked up by strangers who take you to their home. They are shouting at you in a different language, you don’t understand them, or why they are constantly touching you, and have invited over many people to do the same thing….oh and your naked. That’s the life of a dog!

Now compare that to the experience a brand new puppy would have just left a calm, quiet room, where her mother protects her and her siblings. There are clear rules: when to eat, sleep and play. There are boundaries of where they can and cannot go. There are even limits to how intensely they can play with their litter-mates. There is order in their pack which creates a sense of peace, and their mom is a clear leader for them. She is calm and assertive.

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See how completely opposite that is to the life we introduce them to?

All my dogs have been rescues from other countries and I try my absolute best to ensure that they feel safe in their new environment and know the expectations from the start. They may have come from stressful situations, so the easiest way for me to gain their trust and respect is to first show them trust and respect. I make sure to spend one on one time with the dog so we can learn about each other and in the house they have their own space to be left alone. I do not force relationships at the start. It’s like dating, you have to keep some distance to feel each other out at the beginning and then you can grow closer. Most people put all their cards on the table, not allowing the dog room to breathe. That would be like telling someone you love them on a first date as well as listing all your insecurities, deepest secrets and fears and expecting them not to think you’re crazy. That person would take what they wanted and then leave. A dog doesn’t have that luxury. So the dog walks in, takes a step back that first week to assess the environment and everyone in the pack and if there is unbalanced energy and zero structure, that dog will assume no one is in control and therefore take the leadership role.

So if you don’t want to mess up the first day, here’s what you absolutely SHOULD NOT do

  1. Never pet your dog when they are doing a behaviour you do not want. So if it’s barking, jumping, whimpering, or what have you, resist, otherwise you are training your dog to do just that. You get what you pet. So always ask yourself first, how does the dog feel before you pet them.
  2. Don’t let your dog walk all over you…literally. You absolutely must establish boundaries around yourself. Don’t allow the dog to jump on you, lean on you or push you around physically. Dogs only do that to to people and things they don’t respect. Be sure to claim your space and ask your dog to move away from you unless invited in.
  3. Your dog can never pull you on leash. Plain and simple, if the dog is in front they are the leader and you are the follower. Always ensure your dog is walking beside or behind you. This is always easier when you use a proper training tool and start the walk calmly without excitement. If you struggle with this step be sure to contact a trainer who can help or check out my blogs on walking.

So what should you do day 1? My advice to you is simple. Go slow. Be patient. Speak less, listen more. Be a source of calmness not excitement. Give the dog down time to be alone – no one likes to fussed over 24/7. Be clear about rules from day 1. You can always lighten up on rules later, but it’s much harder to be more strict if you’ve already been super relaxed on rules. And that’s why you should never f-up day one!

Good luck…and don’t f*ck it up!

Shut up and your dog will listen

Does your dog have selective hearing? Not come when called? Have behavioural issues like separation anxiety, overexcitement, aggression, or hyperactivity?

Part of the problem may be that you’re talking too much to your pet. My clients are always surprised when the very first training assignment with their dog is to stop talking to them all together.

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First let me be very clear. This is not meant as punishment by giving your dog the cold shoulder or silent treatment. Talking less lays the foundation for better communication and a stronger bond with your dog. Sounds unintuitive, I know.

Let me explain…

The reality is dogs, do not communicate with words, that’s something only humans do. A dog doesn’t call or text it’s best friend about the latest gossip. When you come home and tell your dog about your day, he doesn’t ask you questions or offer feedback. This is because dogs are animals and communicate primarily through energy and body language. A dog picks up on energy instinctually, so when you think about it, words aren’t necessary. Humans are always communicating with their energy and body language and yet are largely unaware of what we’re saying to each other and to our dogs that way. We use words often to complicate, or even mask/lie about our true feelings. But our dog’s are on to us. They know us better than we do and can see through our verbal B.S.

Your dog is always assessing you, how you feel and what you want. They do this by watching how you move, where you are holding tension in your body, and how you are breathing. They pick up on your energy the moment you walk into a room. Our dogs cannot understand the context around why we may be feeling nervous or frustrated but they can definitely sense that something is wrong. That’s why it’s really important to be aware of your energy when you talk to your dog. Not only are you putting your energy onto them, you are also rewarding whatever state of mind they are currently in because talking is a way that we reinforce our dogs behaviour. For instance, let’s say you’re going to your first day at a new job. You wake up early and are flustered while getting ready (first day jitters!). You change you outfit several times. You’re convinced you’re going to be late and so you rush. But before your leave you have to pace the house making sure you’ve got everything you need. Before closing the door behind you, you tell Sparky while giving him a pet, “Wish me luck today. It’s a big day at mommy’s new job. You be a good boy while I’m gone. I’ll tell you all about it when I get home. Promise. Love you!”

Now from your dog’s perspective: He’s observed you fanatically going through your closet, pace the room, and get flustered before leaving him with a soliloquy about all your stress. He followed you while you paced around the house, reflecting your anxiety. And then before you close the door you project all your worries onto him while he is completely unsure about what’s about to happen. You’re anxious, he’s anxious, and his anxiety has been rewarded because you spoke to him and gave him a scratch. And he actually didn’t understand a single word you said. All he got was, “wow, my human is really unbalanced today. And it’s hard not to pick up on that. The good news is she likes when I’m unbalanced too.”

But how does this relate to unwanted behaviours, you ask? You come home and tell Sparky all about your day. But then you ask him to sit before you put down his food dish and he just stares at you. Then you tell him to go out for a pee. Again he just stares at you blankly. Then on a walk you tell him not to pull, to slow down, to stay calm, to greet nicely, not jump up, etc. He completely ignores you. This is because all you’ve done is talk, talk, talk. That at this point he doesn’t know the difference between a conversation versus a command. You’re dog has tuned you out because you sound like Charlie Brown’s Teacher.

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Let’s review.

  1. We are always communicating to our dogs – through our energy and body language. Words aren’t necessary.
  2. When you talk to your dog you’re reinforcing whatever state of mind they’re currently in (anxious, excited, fearful, etc.)
  3. Talk to your dog when they are calm and when you have something important to say (like a command)
  4. When we speak to our dogs less, we will observe more
  5. Let’s face it, we talk to our dogs for our own benefit – not theirs. They really won’t miss it so don’t feel bad for them.

So here’s a tip. Zip it! Talk less to your dog and only say what is necessary. All of my clients say that even though it’s hard to do, they see HUGE improvements immediately. A calmer dog. A dog that actually does as he’s told. A dog that’s more checked in with them. So try it for a week (yes no talking to your dog for an entire week) and let me know the difference you see. And if you’re struggling call your mother…or your therapist.

Stay Calm Assertive!

Liz

7 Tips to finding the best Puppy Training

Being a puppy parent can often be overwhelming; there are so many decisions to make! What should I feed them? When should I start introducing them to new dogs? What kind of toys should I get them to help with teething?

But one of the biggest and most important decisions to make regarding your new puppy is where to take them for puppy training. Puppy’s brains are like sponges; they soak up all the information around them which is why it is vital that the training you do with them reinforces behaviours that you want and starts them off on the right foot. But with so many different puppy training options out there, how do you choose what is best for you and your puppy? Here are 7 major things to look for when researching training for your puppy.

Class size and trainer to client ratio

  • Small class size is best (7 or fewer puppies per class)
  • More puppies means more excitement, which will hinder you and your puppy’s ability to focus on what is being taught
  • Look for a trainer:client ratio of approximately 1:3
  • More clients per trainer means less one-on-one time between you and your trainer

Cleanliness of the training environment

  • Puppies are more susceptible to illness so it is important the the facility you take your puppy is properly cleaned and sterilized to ensure your puppy’s safety

The facilities ability/willingness to answer your questions beforehand and provide a tour of the facility

  • It is important that any facility you are considering using for training is willing to answer any questions you have prior to signing up for their classes
  • They should also be willing to give you a full tour of their facility so you can get a behind the scenes look

Do you agree with the training method and philosophy?

  • It is important that you are comfortable with what you will be teaching your puppy and how
  • Look on their website or email them to see what method they use (ie. positive reinforcement, dog psychology, etc.) and be sure it aligns with your beliefs

Amount of in-class practice time and hands on instruction

  • Each class should provide about 20 minutes of trainer instruction/demonstration followed by AT LEAST 30 minutes of practice time for you and your puppy
  • There should also be ample one-on-one time with you and the trainer to ensure you are given proper feedback on your technique

Is there additional information provided (ie. handouts, training books, etc.)

  • Training shouldn’t end as soon as each class is done
  • You should be sent home with additional training information on what you have learned in class to be sure you can continue practicing at home

Price isn’t everything!

  • Be aware that sometimes the cheapest option isn’t the best
  • You get what you pay for!
  • Many times, what you are paying for is the trainers experience, so low price point may mean inexperience. If a trainer has put in the work and education, it won’t be cheap to hire them and trust me, that’s a good thing.

So now you know how to find the best training class for you and your pup. What are you waiting for? Training should start right away, so find one and sign up so you can set you and your dog up for success. And if you’re struggling finding one that fits your needs, check out our upcoming Puppy Essentials.

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3 Fun activities to do with your dog in extreme weather

Extreme heat and cold make it next to impossible to provide our dogs with their daily needs. Taking them out for walks in freezing cold or brutally hot days is not only unpleasant, but can be life threatening. Dogs, like humans, can suffer from frostbite, hyper and hypothermia. So what can you do to still give your dog the mental and physical stimulation she needs daily? Here are my 5 safe activities to do with your dog whether it’s 30 below or 40 degrees celsius.

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  1. TREADMILL – This is a great solution to still give your dog some exercise, not only for their body but also their brain. The dog has to concentrate on moving forward at the same pace, making it a challenge and very different from a free for all out in the backyard. Slow and steady means they have to think and so this activity can tire them quite quickly as it does double duty. Hire a trainer educated in Dog Psychology who can show you how to safely introduce your dog to the machine as this takes time and patience. For safety reasons, never leave a dog unattended on the treadmill and have them go slow. It’s not about speed, it’s about a mental challenge.
  2. HIDE & GO SEEK – This is also a mental challenge for your dog and also a fun game that can strengthen your bond. There are two versions of this game you can play. One is with you hiding, and the other is if you hide your dogs favourite toy. Putting your dog in a sit stay, leave the room and hide then call your dog. This activity is great for engaging a dog’s nose which is instinctual to them. It also helps to improve their recall by waiting until you call them to search you out. Make sure you praise your dog lots when they find you so that they can feel good about it and continue to want to play. Hiding your dog’s toy is an added challenge. For this I recommend using the “find it” command. Start with easy spots, down low to the ground where it’s clearly visible, and then increase the challenge by hiding it high up or under things. I strongly discouraging using treats for this game as it can promote searching out food and can lead to counter surfing. For really cleaver dogs, hide more than one toy and ask them to find a specific one (ie – find your green ball, or find Teddy).
  3. INDOOR SHOPPING – Many people are unaware that there are indoor dog friendly destinations. Of course you have your pet stores like Ren’s, Pet Value and Pet Smart, but places like Indigo, Marshall’s, Michael’s and Canadian Tire are also spots you can take your dog. If you are looking to do some shopping, why not take your dog with you for an outing that gives them some socialization? This will surely tire them out on days that are too chilly or hot to go outside! I recommend you call in advance just to ensure that they are indeed dog friendly. This is only ideal for dogs who are already well socialized with humans. If your dog needs to work on his friendliness towards people, this is not the activity for you and you should work with a trainer before ever attempting this as all it takes is one bad experience to make a place no longer open to canines companions.

So there you have it! There’s no excuse really to giving your dog some fun even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Dogs, like humans, can get bored and need exercise and mental stimulation everyday in order to be fulfilled. If they don’t get what they need they will entertain themselves with destructive behaviour in the home and you really don’t want that.

Ten Tips to overcoming the Terrible Two’s!

We all know that teenage and children can be stubborn, moody, and often enjoy challenging the authority figures around them. But did you know that dogs also go through a similar rebellious stage as they transition from puppyhood into social maturity?  

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This adolescent stage of a dog’s life is most commonly referred to as ‘the terribles’ or ‘the terrible twos’ and believe me, it is aptly named. In the simplest terms, the terribles is a stage of a dog’s life in which they begin to challenge every rule, boundary, and limitation placed upon them previously. Essentially, they are trying to figure out where in the pack hierarchy they lie, and so they test their pack leader (that’s you!) to see how in charge they really are. Up until this point you will have given your puppy a set of rules to live by (ie. no jumping on the furniture, no barking in the yard), but did you really mean them? That is what your dog is trying to find out.  

While the timeline varies from dog to dog, the terribles often hit around 6 months of age and can last until they are anywhere from one to two years old. My puppy Sprout was 7 months old when I first began to see her ‘rebellious’ side emerge, and she is definitely in the thick of things now at 10 months old.  

While every dog experiences the terrible twos, not many owners know about this important stage of their dog’s life, and as a result end up feeling frustrated and discouraged by their dog’s newfound ‘bad’ behaviors. Even as an experienced dog trainer, I have found myself questioning where I went wrong as Sprout and I navigate this challenging life-stage together.  But fear not! This blog is aimed at both educating you on what exactly the terribles are, as well as giving you some helpful ways to deal with many of the behaviors that come with this stage of your dog’s life.  

Here are some behaviors commonly displayed by a dog in their terribles; 

  • Jumping on furniture they were not previously allowed on 
  • Jumping on family members and guests 
  • Humping 
  • Playing ‘catch me if you can’ in the backyard (not coming when called)
  • Barking/reactivity 
  • Attempting to lead on walks 
  • Hyperactivity  
  • Rough/dominant play with other dogs (or human family members) 

Here are 10 ways you can deal with the problem behaviours listed above; 

  1. Increase the amount of structure in your dog’s life (more crate and/or place time, set a daily schedule and stick to it) 
  2. Enroll your dog in training or daycare to increase the amount of socialization they get as well as to provide another area of structure  
  3. If your dog is already enrolled at daycare, increase the frequency of visits to 2-3 times per week  
  4. Increase the amount of walks and/or length of walks 
  5. Go on walks in new places and with new people (check out The Dog Haus facebook page for info on their free monthly meditation walks!) 
  6. Increase the amount of mental stimulation provided to your dog by joining a training class or working on the things you’ve already taught your dog (place, learn a new trick, sit stays, hide and go seek, etc.) 
  7. Keep your dog on leash in the backyard – if you can predict it you can prevent it! 
  8. Find some well balanced, calm, older doggy role models for your puppy to play with 
  9. Stand your ground! Remember this rebelliousness is completely normal for your dog and will pass with time, but giving into their demands will only lead to more problems in the future 
  10. Go easy on yourself and your dog – no person or dog is perfect, let any negative experiences roll off your back and focus on positive growth! 

So there you have it, a how-to guide for surviving the terribles! Remember that all the behaviours seen during this stage are to be expected and will pass with time, patience, and consistent enforcement of rules and expectations. Take a deep breath and be the calm, confident leader your rebellious puppy needs you to be!

Until next time,

Claire

The Carmen Bucket List

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Photo by Lindsay Coulter

 

How do you start a blog about your dying dog? Grim topic I know, but I wanted to open up and share about our experience and how we are staying optimistic. As many of you know, my 10 year old dog Carmen has been diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive blood cancer and I wanted to shed light on how we are choosing to live with it.

Did you know that 50% of dogs over the age of 10 are diagnosed with cancer? Depressing statistic when you think about it, but the reality is our dogs don’t live as long as we wish and hope for. We know this when we sign up for dog ownership, but when the time comes for us to say goodbye to our companions it is the worst day of our entire lives. So, you can only imagine the fear and sadness that struck me when we were told Carmen has cancer and we may only have a little bit of time left with her.

Of course I cried. I cried a lot. I held her and comforted her. Actually, she was the one who comforted me. And then, after a few very depressing days, I made a decision. I decided that for Carmen’s sake I would make the most of every day we had left together. We chose to be happy, even if it was just for a short time with her. To embrace each and every moment. To laugh at the silly things, show gratitude and to cuddle…a lot! Sure I still cry. I’m not trying to live in denial and forget that death is coming. I’m just trying to choose happiness over sadness. To, at the very least, practice gratitude for the time I do have with my best friend and create happy memories and not sad ones. Carmen doesn’t act sad, so why should I. Every day she wakes up happy for the day and ready for whatever it may bring. Just another lesson I’ve learned from this special girl. Resilience is strength and optimism rolled in one. Carmen is a trooper, so for her I’ll stay strong.

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Crate training your puppy

Can you imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t have a bedroom? A space that is just your own where you can escape to relax by yourself when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed? No doubt this lack of privacy and personal space would bring a lot of anxiety and unease into your life. Your dog is very similar to you in the sense that they too crave a space to call their own. Dogs are naturally denning animals, which means they enjoy sleeping in dark enclosed spaces. This makes a crate the perfect way to fulfil this natural denning instinct in your dog as well as to give them a space that is all theirs where they can go to relax. Crating your puppy also has the added bonus of making potty training much easier! Dogs naturally do not like to go to the bathroom where they sleep, so the crate is an excellent tool for getting your puppy on a proper potty schedule.

Crate training is one of the most important things you can do with your puppy, and it should start the first night they’re home. When done right, crate training will create an association of calmness and safety with the crate for your puppy. Trust me when I say, while they may protest their first two or three times being alone in their crate, your puppy is truly craving the shelter and protection the crate provides and they will soon learn to love it!

The most important thing to remember when crate training your puppy is, say it with me, you get what you pet! So if your puppy screams and cries when you first put them in their new ‘bedroom’ (and chances are they will!), please do not console them in any way shape or form. The best thing you can do for them is to completely ignore their protests and let them figure things out on their own. Don’t speak to them or pet them because, while you may see this as you comforting your crying puppy, they will see this as you rewarding and reinforcing their anxious behaviour and this will create a very negative association with their crate.

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If you brought your puppy home in a travel crate, they will already have had some exposure to a crate prior to their first night in your home. Even still, their first night in your home is going to be the most important interaction with their crate because it will set the stage for every other night moving forward. If your puppy screams and cries in their crate and you give in and let them on the bed that first night, they have just learned two things. Firstly, the crate represents panic and anxiety. And secondly, all they have to do is scream and they will be let out of their crate. So put in some earplugs and get into your most calm assertive mindset – this may be a long night.

Remember that this is going to be your puppy’s first night away from their mom and siblings, so along with being in a new place and being exposed to a crate for (likely) the first time, they are also without their family for the first time in their short life. Understandably, this is going to create a lot of stress and anxiety for your puppy, so it is completely natural for them to cry their first few nights with you. Don’t panic! Remain calm and assertive and always remember, you get what you pet.

I recommend keeping your puppy’s crate in your room at least for the first few nights as complete isolation may be too overwhelming for them right away. If you were planning on keeping them in a different room of the house, wait three or four nights until your puppy is completely comfortable with their crate before moving it into its permanent location outside of your bedroom.

After taking your puppy out for one last potty break before bed, lead them to their crate on leash to begin the introduction. Using the leash, apply light pressure to guide them into the open door. Do not drag your puppy into the crate – you want the decision to enter this new space to be their own. Keep the pressure constant and firm until they willingly walk into the crate, then relax tension as they enter it. Once your puppy is in the crate, do not immediately shut the door behind them. If they try to exit the crate, use either your body or the door of the crate to block them. Be patient! This is brand new for your puppy, so take your time and don’t rush this process. Once your puppy is calm and relaxed in their crate (ideally they will be sitting or lying down), silently close the door.

Once again, if/when your puppy cries in the night, do not let them out or pet them or speak to them in that baby voice we humans love so much. Ignore the behaviour and remember it will pass, no matter how endless the noise may seem now. Like most puppies, Sprout cried her first night in the crate but by her third night with me she walked right into it without me even having to tell her. It is now one of her favourite places in the house and she is comfortable in any crate I put her in whether it’s at daycare, in the car, or even at the vet!

Crate training isn’t just limited to bed time! In order to ensure your puppy is completely comfortable in their crate, I recommend crating them both when you are home during the day as well as when they are home alone. This will give your puppy some time to rest and recharge on their own, as well as prevent them from getting into things they shouldn’t or having accidents in the house!

So remember, no matter how hard your puppy may fight you the first night they are in the crate, it is actually the best thing for them and for you! Breathe deep, invest in some earplugs or headphones, and wait it out. I promise your puppy will thank you.

Thanks for reading and happy crate training. Don’t forget to stay tuned for next weeks Puppy Blog!

Claire