New Year’s Resolutions For You and Your Dog

New Year 2015 formed from sparking digits over black backgroundIt’s a new year meaning a new beginning. A chance to make change, to start a new. Perhaps there’s something you’ve always wanted to learn, a new skill you’d like to acquire, or an old habit you’d like to kick. Maybe you’d like to paint, speak a different language, workout, or learn to cook. Why not make this year’s resolution one that includes your dog? What could be more motivating and rewarding than working with your dog to achieve a personal goal?! Your dog will definitely keep you accountable that’s for sure. So make this the year you keep your resolution and include man’s best friend.

Here are my suggestions to make your 2015 the best year ever with your furry friend!

1) TAKE YOUR DOG NEW PLACES. This was my resolution last year for me and Carmen. I even took Carm all the way to California with me! Try going somewhere new each week. This can be trails, parks, pet stores, or even just different neighbourhoods. This is a great way to learn cool spots in your city, socialize your dog, give her mental stimulation, and tire her out. I’m sure you and your dog are bored with the same old walk around the block. Why not make walks more FUN! Change it up a bit by switching spots. Even travel together. My dog sure loves an adventure, I’m sure your dog would too!

Here are some of the dog friendly places we’ve found together in KW:

DOG PARKS – There are several dog parks for off leash romps (Kiwanis, Bechtel, McLennan, and unofficially Snyder’s Flats).
TRAILS – There are trails a plenty all along the Grand River which are great for on leash strolls. There’s also Breithaupt Park, Idelwood Park, Pioneer Tower Natural Area, The Iron Horse Trail, and Forest Height’s Community Trail. Parks like Victoria Park, Waterloo Park and Bechtel are also great spots to go with lots of sights and other people walking their dogs as well.
STORES – Pet stores like Ren’s and Pet Valu are some of Carmen’s favourite spots to go. But what you might not know is Chapters, The Uptown Shops Centre, and The Patch (in Cambridge and Waterloo – I’ve never had them turn away my cutie) are also pet friendly.
***Please only visit stores and dog parks if you are confident you can manage your dog without issue around people and pets. Please don’t ruin pet friendly spots for the rest of us if your dog is not ready for that environment. Home Depot was pet friendly until recently when an employee got bit by a dog. Know your dog and what she can handle.

2) Make 2015 the year you BECOME YOUR DOG’S TRUE PACK LEADER. To be Pack Leader, you’ll need to make sure to adequately exercise your dog daily, provide structure/discipline, and then reward with affection. Why not get everyone in your house on board with making changes to ensure your dog’s needs are all being met. Print off the rules and put them on your fridge so it’s in plain sight and everyone can be consistent in applying the rules.

Here are some examples of rules:

The dog must be walked for at least an hour a day
The dog eats after the family eats
The dog is not allowed on furniture
etc.

3) IMPROVING ONE’S HEALTH is a popular resolution. Why not make it a priority not just for you but also your dog. This could be a goal to loose 5 pounds together or increase your activity level. They do say a dog is the best personal trainer. Why not take up running or biking and bring along your buddy. Guaranteed it will make exercising more enjoyable. If you are trying to limit your calorie intake in 2015, you can easily do the same for your dog as well. Pay attention to food portions and just how many treats you may be giving Fido. Obesity in dogs is a huge problem (pun intended lol), but the good news is it can be easily fixed. Eating more organic and less processed foods will be a big help to you both to be your fittest selves in 2015.

Here’s to making 2015 the best year for you and your furry friend 🙂

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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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!!!

Food is LOVE!

In our society, FOOD is LOVE. Unfortunately, this often means copious amounts of fatty treats for our furry friends. What’s concerning is that obesity in dogs is on the rise and needs to be taken seriously. Overweight dogs have a higher risk of arthritis, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, among other medical issues.

“In Canada’s Pet Wellness Report (published in 2011), Canadian veterinarians identified weight control/management as the number one thing a pet owner can do to increase the length of their pet’s life.”

– Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

I love my dog very much. Some might say I’m obsessed. So to show her love, I prepare healthy meals for her that keep her lean and healthy to help her live a long life free of ailment. I show Carmen love, by offering her nothing the best of the best. This means local, natural foods that are easy to digest. She does not get artificial CRAP! No Milkbones for my baby. Instead she gets human-grade RAW food and all natural supplements. THIS (along with regular exercise) is what keeps Carmen as active and healthy as she is especially for a 3-legged dog.

Do not skimp when it comes to food for your dog. Quality ingredients like the ones I give Carmen can add years to their life and will save you on vet bills for trips like ear infections (usually a food intolerance), allergies, and hip/joint problems due to being overweight from too many carbs, sugars, and salt in kibble and treats.

Watch the video I’ve included to see how I prepare Carmen’s meal. All ingredients included are listed below and are available at The Dog Haus. Raw food is not only natural for dogs it is healthier and I’ve notice major improvements in Carmen’s coat, stamina, mobility and weight management. Have questions about the benefits of RAW? Ask us next time you are in 🙂

CARMEN’S MEAL:
BigCountry Raw Pheasant and Elk
BigCountry Raw Herring Oil
Coconut Oil
Dr Dobias GreenMin
Dr Dobias SoulFood

What you didn’t see is Hero Dehydrated Duck Feet for dessert 😉 Which are full of chondroitin and glucosamine which is excellent for joint health and best of all LOW IN FAT!

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.

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.

1-dog-greeting

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.

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