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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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 9th, 2018 10am at Hillside 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. You can always sign up for Dog Haus Training Essentials to learn more on how to be your dog’s leader and provide them with the exercise, discipline and affection they need.
  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!

Are you the pack leader?

Recently I created a Pack Leader quiz as a fun way to assess where people fit in to their pack with just a few easy questions. The quiz was very simple and generalized but the questions I chose were specific to things that communicate to your dog whether or not you are the leader of your pack. Not surprisingly, many people were revealed as follower and not leader. I figured this was a great opportunity to write a blog to help people understand the little things they do that make them a follower and how they can redeem their role as leader.

Pack leader or follower

So what does it mean to be the pack leader exactly? Being pack leader means providing guidance and setting your dog up for success by taking away the stress of having to take the front position of the pack. In a pack there are only 2 positions: leader and follower. Dogs, like humans, are pack animals but unlike us, dogs will not follow an unbalanced leader. Dogs are drawn to calm assertive energy as their leader. Calm assertion means being even-tempered, confident and in control. If that energy is not present in the owner the dog will step in to control the situation even if it is unnatural for them. This is typically when we see behavioural issues develop like aggression, destructiveness, and anxiety among others, because a dog without leadership is unbalanced. The dog sees the human as a weak energy state making him lower on the totem pole towards the back of the pack so the dog will do what is necessary to fulfill her needs.

Here are the things to consider when it comes to being pack leader… 

1) A pack leader is calm assertive, never emotional, nervous or excited. The mother when giving birth to her litter is calm assertive and this is the first energy they experience. It is important for the human pack leader to have this same demeanour.

2) A pack leader provides direction and protection and fulfills his packs needs with exercise, discipline and then affection. A pack leader doesn’t just give love all the time. They provide structure and an outlet for energy first and foremost. It’s just like parents with children, they must do their homework (discipline) before they can go out side and play (reward).

3) A pack leader is always in control. He makes all decisions. He decides where to go, when to go, when to eat, and when to sleep. He starts and stops all activities. He doesn’t ask, “are you ok with my decision?” He just expects that his pack will follow. If your dog chooses when to play, walk, eat or wake up, then he is pack leader.

4) A pack leader is always consistent. If he does not continually uphold the rules, boundaries and limitations, then the other dogs will begin to test them. If you are only leader 80% of the time then your dog will only follow 80%. Being pack leader means providing guidelines 100% of the time.

pack leader quiz results

It’s never too late to start to implement these pack leader strategies to ensure the health and happiness of your pack. If you are experiencing any behavioural issues perhaps take a look at how you are with your dog and whether or not you’ve allowed him to be the pack leader. If you are unsure, take my quiz. Just remember, lead and your dog will follow.

Be the person your dog NEEDS you to be

Cesar Millan's Short Guide To A Happy DogAlways hungry to learn more about dog behaviour, I read everything I can get my hands on from training to nutrition, from grooming to breed histories, from psychology to animal anatomy. When you are passionate about something, your thirst for knowledge never runs out. Even with everything that I have read, I have never learnt so much in only 205 pages.

If I could recommend one book to dog owners everywhere it would be Cesar Millan’s Short Guide to a Happy Dog. It simply and beautifully sums up what everyone needs to know in order to live harmoniously with their furry companion and so much more. Even if you do not have a dog, this book can help you. Cesar outlines more than just what it means to have a happy animal in your life, but how you too can live a life that is fulfilled.

Cesar stresses throughout the book that in order to be a successful dog owner one must be a true pack leader and the recipe for that is as simple as 3 basic things: 1) exercise 2) discipline 3) affection – given in that exact order. If you have ever watched Cesar’s shows you are familiar with these 3 golden rules. This is something my staff and I practice and work on every day with the dogs in our pack at The Dog Haus. We work with the dogs to meet their physical and mental needs and reward them with affection. This helps them to know their place within the pack, to behave in accordance to that, and most important enables them to relax and simply be a dog! When dogs do not have to worry about where their owner is or have pent up energy from not getting enough exercise, they are more balanced and know how to get along with others and have fun! What we all need to remember is that dog’s require strong leadership, they need an outlet for excess energy, they crave direction, and they strive to please to earn affection.

Not being a strong leader puts unnecessary stress on our dogs creating an anxious, unhappy pet. What many people don’t realize is a dog’s confidence is a reflection of its owners.  A nervous dog is anxious because it picks up nervous energy from it’s owner. If we wear our stress, then so do our dogs. Being calm and confident may not be easy for everyone, but if you work at it, your dog will help you to be the confident person you want to be. How, might you ask? By applying the same 3 golden rules to ourselves, 1) exercise 2) discipline 3) affection. Exercise helps to relive stress, discipline gives us purpose and drive, and giving and accepting love provides us with fulfillment in life. When all three are combined our mood and our lives are dramatically improved and a more confident individual is born.

Not many people know, but I have suffered from ongoing depression and anxiety since the age of 16. It became so overwhelming that in my early 20’s there were times I could not leave the house. Then came along Carmen and everything got better. She gave me structure and purpose in my life. She also provided me with daily exercise through our walks, discipline through training her and affection with her companionship. Every morning, I got out of bed to do something for someone else. To fulfill an essential need for her and that gave me hope each day. We went new places together and met new people. I was pushed outside of my comfort zone which built up my confidence. Through it all our bond grew stronger. Fast forward to now where I have pursued my dream and am the successful owner of my very own dog daycare. That shy, insecure little girl is just a distant memory. I have also witnessed my staff evolve into more confident people because of the affect of working with animals. Being around 30 dogs in a pack you definitely have to be comfortable with who you are and how you project yourself to the world. Energy is everything in the dog world and I have so many dogs to thank for my personal growth over the years.

The moral of this story is that your dog needs to you be a role model. To be strong, confident each and everyday. So tell yourself when you wake up, before you head out for your morning walk, that you are going to be the person your dog needs you to be; a strong, confident pack leader who fulfills her every need. And remember, have fun too! Now go read this book, you and your dog will be better because of it!