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!
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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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Your dog is your mirror

Dogs are incredibly intuitive beings and what many of us don’t realize is that our mood, temperament, demeanour, energy, whatever you want to call it, can have profound effects on them. If we are stressed after a long hard day at work, our dogs pick up on that. We don’t have to say a word for them to sense this. And when our emotions run high, that’s when we start to see behavioural problems. 

This is because our dog’s are our mirrors. If you have a hard time determining how you feel at a given point, take a look at your dog. He is a good indicator and will never lie. More importantly neither does our energy. Your dog may not know the context of why you are upset, but he will definitely feel the weight of the energy you are projecting even when you do not realize it yourself. This is because dogs are instinctual not rational or emotional. We as humans are intellectual and extremely emotional and we project this to our dogs. For this reason you must always be aware of how you are feeling at any given moment. To realize when your emotions are controlling you, and in that moment you are not in control of your dog. 

If you are open to it, your dog will truthfully show you who you really are. Ask yourself, are you a nervous or anxious person? Do you typically get frustrated? Do you ever feel lost or defeated? These are not the energies of a pack leader. A dog will not follow an unbalanced leader. Would you for that matter? Become aware and acknowledge the person you want to be. This is much easier than we think it is. One of my role model’s, Cesar Millan told me, “Life is easy, we make it complicated.” Notice your own energy and if it’s not the calm-asertive energy of a pack leader become aware and focus on changing that before you address any issues in your dog. 

So next time you are on a walk take a look at how you hold your dog’s leash. Is your hand clenched, with the leash wrapped around it 10 times. More often than not there is constant tension on the leash, whether we are aware of it or not. This is typically due to feelings of fear, nervousness, or anxiety. Many times without knowing we create reactions in our dog based on these emotions. Pay attention to how your dog is feeling and ask yourself, how do I feel in this moment. 

For more advice on how to project the energy of a pack leader please feel free to contact me at mydogphilosophy (at) gmail.com