One of my top tips for a calm, stress-free walk with your dog starts in the home BEFORE you even start the walk! Creating a calm leaving the house routine will set up your dog walk in the best way so that both you and your dog can enjoy your time on the walk together. In this issue, I am going to walk you through the four steps to setting up a calm leaving the house routine.
In my experience of walking hundreds of dogs, I've found that the calmer the dog when they leave the home, the easier they are to manage while on the walk.
No one wants to chase their dog around the house to get the lead on or to try to get it on a dog who is jumping all over the place. No one wants to be dragged out the door by an overly excited dog, well I know that I definitely don't! Creating a calm leaving the house routine is the key to an easier, more relaxing walk with your dog.
This is a question I am often asked by dog owners, especially since food treats are the go-to reward for most obedience type training. And for good reason. I definitely advocate the use of food treats in a dog training class environment or when teaching your dog a new skill. That being said there are so many other ways to reward your dog, especially around the home, that food treats don't need to be your only option.
What are rewards?
You won't be the only one if your immediate thought was food treats! I even spoke about it in the first paragraph of this post! And anyway you are right. Food treats definitely count as a reward and there are plenty of dogs out there who are VERY motivated by food treats.
Here are just a few reasons why food treats are a great option as a reward for your dog:
Offering rewards also helps your dog to build a positive association with the behaviour/action and helps with their overall happy emotional response.
But here's the thing. And this is important guys. Rewards can be almost anything. The key here is that the reward is: what the dog wants at that time.
What does your dog want?
So, how do you know what the dog wants? Well, it's almost entirely situation dependent and something you will have to work out each time. But don't worry, in most cases your dog will let you know! Besides you always have food treats to fall back on though right?!
Here are some everyday examples of what your dog might actually want that you can use as rewards, besides a food treat:
If you are out on a walk, the reward for loose lead walking could be being able to keep walking, being able to sniff, maybe being allowed to greet another dog. Your dog may very well not be interested in playing with a toy or even taking a food treat so these wouldn't be good options in this situation anyway.
And remember, the reward must be to reinforce behaviour or activity that you want. With the walking example above, the reward is for walking with a loose lead.
Here's another example. You are sitting on your couch watching TV after a long day at the office. Your dog comes into the lounge and heads straight for her dog bed by your feet. To reward your dog for one, not jumping up on the couch and two, sleeping in her correct spot, you reach over and give her a pat. A perfect reward for offering you perfectly wanted behaviour.
Timing is everything.
Sometimes it will be really easy to know which reward to offer and sometimes, it could go either way or more than one reward option could be workable. Don't overthink it, just be aware that you have options and sometimes the most obvious one is the one you go for.
But what is important is WHEN you deliver your chosen reward. The sweet spot is between 0.5 - 3 seconds of the desired behaviour/action. Yep, you need to be pretty quick about it! This small window doesn't leave much time for in-depth reward analysis so go with what's easiest in the moment.
If you give a reward anywhere from 7 seconds after the behaviour/action it is highly unlikely your dog will make the connection between what they did and getting the reward. They are more likely to think what they were JUST doing is what you want rather than thinking you are being a super nice person so be careful of your timing! Hey your dog could already have moved on to something very undesirable so beware! Ask anyone who has a dog that pulls on the lead. That is an example of rewards going very, very wrong.
Congratulations on making the wonderful, life-changing decision to get another dog and become a two dog household!
There are going to be so many amazing moments and experiences ahead of you, but if you don't select the right dog and nail the initial meeting and first day at home, you could be setting yourself up for some major trouble.
That's why I'm going to help you select the right dog for your family and teach you how to make sure the first meeting and first day at home goes off without a hitch!
Choosing the second dog
Ok so do you get a puppy? Maybe a rescue dog? Yeah but what breed? Does breed even matter? Should I get a male dog or are they too much work? Help!!!
When getting down to the nitty-gritty of actually choosing the second dog it can be overwhelming with all the different options and opinions out there. Plus, you really don't want to make the wrong call as you could be setting yourself up to live a nightmare if your dogs don't get on. Imagine your dreams of going to your local park where your two dogs frolick happily together chasing a ball, fall apart when they can't stand to even be in the same room together. Trust me when I say that, managing two dogs that don't live harmoniously together is a situation you want to avoid like the plague.
There is one sure fire way to avoid selecting the wrong dog (hint: it won't be you doing the selecting). Yep, that's right, get your existing DOG to choose your second dog! Yes, you heard right folks, your dog should be in charge of selecting the new canine addition to your home.
And here's why: COMPATIBILITY. After all, they will be spending almost 24/7 together and if they are not compatible, it's just not going to work.
By compatibility I mean:
If you're going to get a puppy and you have an older dog, as I mentioned in my previous post, this can be a very good thing for your existing dog. However, you will need to help manage the situation to give your older dog breaks from the puppy and you will need to step in to make sure the puppy understands how to play appropriately and when to take a break.
There is, of course, one more thing you need to consider when selecting your new dog. It's all good if the dogs get on but can you and your family realistically manage the new dog? Are you going to be able to exercise the new dog at the level they need? Do you have the skills and time required to train the new dog and if not are you prepared to learn and find the necessary time? Are you going to be able to provide adequate leadership? Hopefully, you answered these questions generally when you were making the decision, but when faced with the gorgeous eyes of your new dog, take a step back and think about their needs and if you can meet them.
Bringing the second dog home
Before you even consider bringing the second dog home, they MUST have met first. This first meeting will help you to determine if they are compatible together and if they are going to be able to get along. How else can your dog choose their new companion if they don't meet first?!
The first meeting should be somewhere neutral (do NOT bring them to your home as you want to avoid any territorial behaviour that could jeopardise their future happiness), and you should be looking for appropriate body language and behaviour. If you are not sure what this is, then make sure you have a professional with you who can assist. If you are getting a new puppy then a reputable breeder should be able to advise you on their interaction and if you are looking at a rescue dog, shelter staff should be on hand to watch and provide feedback on the first meeting.
If this first meeting goes well, then you are ready to bring home your new dog!
First day at home
The day has finally arrived when you are bringing your new dog home. It's an exciting time but make sure you take the time to do it right. Undoing a bad first impression in the home can be time-consuming and stressful, so avoid the extra work by getting it right the first time.
Here's what you do:
No matter the reason for bringing a second dog into your home it's still a big decision. There are several pros and cons (many of which I will go through below) and choosing the right second dog for your family is paramount, more so than when you chose your first dog.
I reached out to the LOTP community via Facebook to see what questions people had about bringing a second dog home and for people to share their own experiences. The feedback was amazing and this article got so big that I decided to split it into two parts.
The first part covers different things to consider before you commit to a second dog, the pitfalls and of course the many wonderful reasons why a second dog will enhance your life. The second part will cover how to select your second dog and how to integrate the new dog into your family.
As you probably know, we are a multi-dog family, (we couldn't even stop at two!) and I regularly work with families with two dogs for 1:1 appointments. So many of these points are from my own personal experiences both personally and professionally. For the most part, I think that the benefits to having a second dog far outweigh any downsides, however, I do recognise that some dogs and humans for that matter, are better suited to a single dog life.
I hope you enjoy this article and part two which will follow next week.
The Benefits"I have 2 dogs - 1 since a puppy and 1 rescue. Getting a second dog was one of the best decisions I've ever made and I'm so glad we did" - Malin
There are so many reasons why having a second dog in your life is wonderful and you probably don't even need me to tell you. But in case you were wondering, here are some of the reasons why I think it is a great thing.
1. Company for your existing dog.
There are so many ways living with a compatible second dog will make life better for your existing dog and this is by far the strongest and most obvious reason why people get a second dog. Owners want their dog to have company when the humans have to be away from the house especially for a long day at work. It’s so hard to leave a single dog alone at home for hours on end and the thought of the dog having company is a comfort for the human too. Dogs by nature, are social creatures not solitary animals and as a general rule, do not like to spend too much time alone. Being alone and away from company is more like a punishment for a dog, think a “time out” and long lengths of time by themselves can lead to all sorts of behavioural issues like destructive chewing and digging, excessive barking or separation anxiety. These extremes may not happen to every dog as they may have a temperament where they are more accepting of being by themselves but they may still show signs of loneliness and over excitement when the humans return.
Having another dog to play with to drain some of their energy and to help pass the time with can make for a much calmer dog by the end of the day. Play is more fun since they can use teeth, not have to pretend to let the human "win" at tug and can finally have someone to chase them around! And there is the added bonus that communication is about a billion times easier since they are the same species and they have someone who really understands what they are communicating! One way to think of it is it’s like finding someone to speak English with when travelling to a non-english speaking country. So much easier even if you have learned a few common phrases and have been getting by fine until this point.
2. Succession planning.
For many people, having a dog in their life is as essential as breathing or at least as essential as a morning coffee. And it can be heartbreaking as you watch your beloved dog age and know that their time with you is limited. Getting a second dog can be very beneficial for a number of reasons.
A) Believe it or not, but getting a second dog can actually give your existing older dog a new lease on life. This is especially true if you get a puppy. Even though they may not have the stamina to keep up with the new dog (more on this in the next section) all day, the mental and physical benefits (playtime, ease of communication) can keep your older dog happy in their twilight years. And your dog doesn’t even have to be an elderly dog for this point to be relevant. A young dog can still be comforted and energised by a new dog to the household.
B) If your original dog has a wonderful temperament and is good with obedience training and manners around the house, then they can do most of the hard work and train the new dog for you! OK not entirely, you will still need to do some of the work but your existing dog will show them the ropes. When you give the recall command for example, if your dog comes running, then the new dog is likely to as well. With enough practice the new dog will pick up this command. Easy!
C) Having a younger dog to care for can help the owners deal with the grief of losing a pet and though they can never take their place, they can help to make the passing that much easier. It is often hard for people to get a new dog after their previous dog has passed on because they don’t want the new dog to replace their previous dog in their hearts and often times they forget how difficult the puppy stage or early life was with the previous dog and can be overly critical of the new dog. This is less likely to happen if you select the new dog while your existing dog still lives. You will also have the wonderful memories of the dogs together to remember and cherish.
“We got our second dog, Molly (Westie) because our family dog who was a Westie also passed away! Just filled that hole she left in our hearts” - Jolene
Maybe you have an easy dog who has a great temperament and has barely caused you a moments grief in your life. Or maybe you have a dog that is anxious or has other challenging behavioural troubles. Either way there would have been specific training techniques or behaviour management strategies that you would have learned and used with your dog.
Getting a new dog can open you up to new experiences and training challenges. This can be a wonderful learning curve and can make you a better and more empathetic dog owner. What worked for your first dog may not work for your second dog or your second dog may have completely different areas of interest and skill.
You may also be able to explore different training activities like agility or tracking with your new dog that you may not have been able to do with your first dog. It might even be that you want your second dog to be able to go on a run with you and that isn’t a suitable activity for your first dog.
4. For human health.
The benefits of having a dog are large and varied. There are the physical benefits of more exercise and time spent outside - vitamin D? Check! Work life balance? - Check! And the emotional benefit of coming home to someone who is happy to see us.
We all know that having one dog increases happiness and contentment and there are even scientific studies now to back this up. When we show affection to our dogs we release oxytocin, often referred to as the love hormone, which can have a positive effect on our mood and mental health. It’s hard not to smile when you look at their wagging tail or eager face or when they are curled up sleeping. Because dogs are so attuned to body language and emotion they can tell when we are unwell or are in need of comfort and will try to help you with a snuggle or by giving you their favourite slobbery ball. They offer plenty of comic relief (well ours sure do) and they are a great reminder to be joyful and happy and to live in the moment. That’s why dogs are used for a variety of different therapy situations.
Now, full disclosure, I haven’t found any scientific articles that state having two dogs, doubles the happiness, however, it does double the number of reasons to smile and gives you double the fun!
5. Saving a life.
This point certainly can’t be overstated. Fostering or adopting a dog can save a life. Literally. Even though WA has mainly no kill shelters there are still a large number of dogs who are euthanised each year or spend years in a kennel waiting for their forever home. Shenton Park Dog’s Refuge has around 100 dogs in their care at any one time and that is just ONE of the dog shelters around Perth, not to mention all the dogs out in foster care.
Fostering a dog is a great way to test the waters to see if you are able to care for two dogs while providing a safe and loving home for a dog while they are waiting for their forever home. Another way to go about it is to foster a dog that you think you would like to adopt so you can make sure that dog can fit into your home life (more on this subject next week).
Bringing a rescue dog home can be a wonderfully rewarding experience that can make a positive difference in your own life and it makes a life changing difference to the dog you adopt.
The DownsidesNothing is ever perfect (though honestly, dogs are pretty close, except when they destroy yet another couch cushion - yes Jett I’m talking about you!) and there is usually a downside or a con to every decision, not just dog related ones. These points are not supposed to be deal-breakers, just things to consider so that you can work out how you will address them prior to deciding to bring your new dog home.
1. It won't stop existing unwanted behaviour.
Getting a second dog will NOT solve any problems you are experiencing with your existing dog. With the exception perhaps of boredom related behaviours. Contrary to popular opinion dogs won’t necessary play together all day and there will still be times of boredom or when your dog will return to the problem behaviours from before. If you choose the right second dog that is compatible for your existing dog this can certainly help and for some issues like separation related anxiety a second dog, along with other behaviour modification techniques and strategies can help reduce some of the behaviours.
Without understanding the cause of the problem behaviour in your dog or trying to address it you could just as easily end up with TWO bored dogs or two dogs displaying unwanted behaviour. Unless you address the underlying cause of the unwanted behaviour in your first dog, you are more likely to end up with two dogs with the same problem, even if it manifests in the second dog differently. Let's take digging for example. Maybe your current dog likes to dig when he gets bored or actually just for fun. And sure, having a new dog to play with will be fun but it is extremely unlikely that they will be happily playing together the 8 or so hours you are away at work each day. The second dog might not be a digger, but she has seen how fun it is to dig and starts to dig too! Or she might be a chewer and so to add to the holes in your back yard you now have no legs on your outdoor table! As much as we would like to think that dogs will keep each other entertained, don't bet on it. Deal with the unwanted behaviour with EACH dog as soon as it shows up and save yourself a heap of trouble and furniture!
2. Leadership is even MORE important.
If you are already struggling to get your dog to listen to you, chances are you're not going to have any better luck with the next one! Unless you are lucky enough to get the cruisiest, easiest dog in the history of the world, most dogs will take advantage of weak leadership to do what they want instead. If you are weak in the leadership department, both dogs will start looking to each other for guidance and cues on how to act. This can definitely make life challenging and it can be more difficult to calm them down or manage their behaviour as they will egg each other on and ignore you. It’s so much easier for dogs to bond with each other than it is with humans and whilst we want our dogs to bond together and be great friends, this bond should not impede their ability to bond with the humans in their life or their ability to listen to the humans and learn appropriate behaviours and training. When two puppies from the same litter are raised in the same home, they can bond so strongly with each other to the exclusion of the humans which makes living and training them very difficult. In puppies this is called littermate syndrome and is very difficult to manage.
If you have a leadership deficit start by setting guidelines and boundaries around the house and STICK to them! Have your dogs earn any attention or food they get by offering you a polite sit first. Play with them and add obedience activities throughout the play session. This will go a long way to helping you to regain leadership of your dogs in your home and will allow you to build a strong bond of respect and trust with your dogs.
3. The walk. Going out.
Having more than one dog, can make the walk exponentially harder. The energy will be different and definitely heightened. Even if your first dog was perfect on the lead before doesn’t mean that they will remain that way when a second dog is introduced to the walk. The dogs will start checking in with each other “did you see that cat!” - “Yes! Should we chase it?” and will often both drag you towards something they want to sniff. You may notice more pulling than before and it can be difficult to get a handle on the dogs and get them to listen to you.
If you have to take both dogs out at the same time for a walk or even to the vet it is of course easier if there are two humans to manage this. But what if there is only one human? This is where things can become difficult, not impossible, but difficult. The size of the dogs will play into this to a point but small unruly dogs could be more trouble to handle than two larger breed dogs with perfect manners. Trying to manage two dogs can make trips that were simple before with one dog that much more difficult. Getting in and out of the car can be trouble if you have two dogs jumping out before you are ready or even finished opening the door! Going to the vet do you take both dogs or leave one at home and book two separate appointments? How will they each go being left at home by themselves? Will your neighbours complain that your dog was howling the whole time?
With training and management strategies, these issues can be addressed you just need to be prepared for the potential of these to occur. To make the walk easier for example, you would train each dog to walk politely on the lead individually then practice walking together in the backyard first and then extend that to small local walks until they get the hang of it. This takes time and effort but is well worth it to have two dogs that can be managed by one person when they leave the house.
If you already have one dog you can probably already appreciate this point! Not only in the basics like food, toys, beds, annual vaccinations and vet visits etc. but it will cost more when you go away though thankfully not double in most cases, but the costs do add up. Especially if your dogs have health issues or injuries. There are many ways to reduce the costs, like DIY toys and activities, homemade dog food instead of commercial food, booking grooming and vet appointments for both at the same time going on holiday with your dogs etc.
If your two dogs don’t get on, this can make your life very, very difficult. Just yesterday a friend was talking to me about her parents dogs where their older dog does not like their new dog. The owners have to keep them separated and even go so far as to take one of the dogs to a friends place during the day when they are out. This situation and level of management is very stressful for all concerned and is unlikely to resolve itself in time without intervention.
Dogs that are incompatible may fight, ignore each other, offer territorial behaviour, be stressed or anxious or just plain worn out. This does not make for a harmonious home and can actually cause physical and mental distress or injury to one or both dogs and is very unpleasant for the humans too. There are many reasons that dogs are incompatible, maybe they weren’t introduced correctly, maybe the energy levels are not aligned, maybe one has resource guarding tendencies or they just don’t like each other. Next week we will cover how to make sure your dogs are compatible BEFORE you bring the new dog home.
Whether you already have a puppy, are looking to bring one into your home or even if you have an older dog, you have probably heard about the importance of socialisation. So today, I'm dedicating this entire issue to the complex topic of socialisation. We will cover what it means, why you need to do it and how.
For those of you who have older dogs, please keep reading as this is not just for puppies. Socialisation shouldn't stop once your dog is out of the puppy stage and should be continued throughout your dog's life. Plus you can use many of these same techniques and scenarios with older dogs too.
Let's begin with what socialisation actually means. The definition is the development of social relationships with other animals, including humans. Most of us want a dog who is sociable, likes meeting new people and dogs. Puppies start to learn these skills very early in life with their mother, litter mates and hopefully the humans overseeing their care. Once they leave their mother and join your household you then take on the duty of continuing this socialisation.
OK, so is socialisation only about meeting other dogs and humans? Technically, yes, however, in recent times the subject has expanded to include other areas of life like different sounds, moving objects, environments, different types of animals etc. pretty much anything that your puppy can expect to encounter in daily life. Socialisation now includes habituation (learning to accept different stimuli in their environment) and desensitisation (the process of reducing a response to a particular stimulus or set of stimuli).
Basically, we are trying to teach and prepare our puppy for the world in which they live and the different types of things, activities, environments and sounds they will encounter during their life with you.
How do I socialise my puppy?
There are many different ways to positively expose your puppy to a variety of different people, dogs, objects and environments. The thing that holds most people back is that for most of the socialisation critical period your puppy is not fully vaccinated. That means that they could contract a disease from infected public areas that can have disastrous consequences.
Luckily, there are plenty of activities you can do while still keeping your puppy safe from harm. It's probably a good time to mention that although we all do our best to minimise risk, nothing is ever 100% effective. More dogs are put down due to behavioural issues than disease (RSPCA annual report 2015/16 - sorry the numbers are too devastating to include here) so you need to decide what level of risk you are willing to take.
Here are ways to socialise your puppy:
1. Attend a reputable puppy preschool class.
The venue should be cleaned with vet grade disinfectant, the trainers should be knowledgeable in dog training and behaviour and there should be a multitude of different socialisation activities and time for the puppies to interact with each other. Unfortunately, not all puppy preschool classes are created equal and the person facilitating the class is not always a qualified dog trainer. Again, do your research, find out their philosophy on socialisation, ask what socialisation activities they offer and what training basics they teach.
For those of you in the Rockingham area, I recommend the Rockingham Dog Club puppy preschool program. I have been a trainer there myself and know they take socialisation seriously, provide a number of different socialisation activities, allow supervised puppy play time, have experienced and qualified trainers facilitating the class and they have great cleaning protocols.
2. Invite people and fully vaccinated dogs to your home.
A leading dog behaviourist and vet, Dr Sophia Yin, suggests that a puppy should meet 100 new people during their first 3 months of age. Not all of these 100 people should traipse through your home, but inviting friends and family over to meet your new puppy is a great way to introduce them to people in a familiar environment. And if any of these people have a fully vaccinated and well-socialised dog, then invite the dog too!
3. Take your puppy for a ride in the car.
It is more than likely that your puppy is going to need to go somewhere in the car at some point in their lives so getting them used to it early on is essential. Plus it's good to set them up with no expectations that the car ride is anything other than a car ride as they will soon learn that car rides often lead to fun things like the beach or park.
4. Carry your puppy outside.
Unless you have a Great Dane puppy this is easy enough for most people! Carry your puppy with you to the letterbox and let them experience cars driving past, kids playing on the street, dogs walking by or the postie delivering mail etc. If your arms are up to it, carry your puppy around your local streets to introduce them to their local area and of course the people. Once people see you with a puppy they will likely want to come and meet them, I mean, who can resist a puppy!
5. Experience different environments.
Whether in the car or in your arms or lap, try to take your puppy to a variety of different places, especially places you would like to spend time with your puppy once they are fully vaccinated. Think the beach, park, local cafe etc. Just because your puppy can't be put down on the ground in public, doesn't mean they should miss out on the experience of being out with you. Be prepared, maybe take a thick blanket that the puppy could sit and play on (just make sure they don't escape the edges) so they can experience the outside world.
Ok so you are doing all these things but how do you make it positive or at the very least a neutral experience rather than a negative one? Again great question! You're really on fire today . . .
There are many ways to do this too.
1. Use distance to your advantage.
Rather than taking your puppy right into the thick of things first off, try sitting on the sidelines and gradually moving closer. You can do this in a variety of scenarios like starting off in a quiet car park or at the edge of one before moving to a busier one or closer to the action. Same at the park, watch from the edge first rather than taking your puppy right into the middle where all the other dogs (or kids) are running around.
2. Low intensity.
Similar to the distance point above, starting with lower intensity experiences then building up will help keep your puppy from becoming overwhelmed. This is especially important for sound based activities, think lawnmower, garbage truck etc. and high energy activities like the dog park, cafes and kids sporting events. Attend these events at quieter times to start or use some distance so that these activities seem less intense to begin.
3. Use rewards.
Rewards can include treats, pats, praise and toys and you use these to bring a positive association to new things. When your puppy sees a dog in the distance (or any other stimulus) and just looks at it then you can reward that action. Next when your puppy notices a dog then looks at you, give a reward for that. Your puppy then associates seeing other dogs (etc.) as a rewarding and positive experience, not a negative scary one.
We also use food rewards to lure puppies through different obstacles and activities, again helping them to complete the activity, building up their confidence and making it a fun, positive experience.
4. Play with your puppy.
This is an especially good strategy for potentially scary things like bad weather or really intense situations like when the lawnmower is on - moving and making a racket. Distracting your puppy with play will help take their focus off the stimulus but will also create a positive association. When the next storm arrives they will remember playing with you and that happy memory or won't even notice the storm at all.
5. Go slow.
Take it easy and go slowly. Don't rush your puppy and put them in situations where they can become overwhelmed or they are not ready for. Some puppies are more resilient and confident than others, so work at YOUR puppies pace. I've seen it many times through puppy preschool where a new puppy arrives and will go straight into play mode and other puppies who keep their distance and take longer to become accustomed to the new environment. Whatever the case with your puppy, take note and work from their current level.
Even though a puppies critical period for socialisation is until 14 weeks of age, that doesn't mean you should stop there. Your puppy will have learned the basics of how to react to new things during that time and hopefully, you have taught your puppy that new things can be fun and not scary. But it is very unlikely that you have been able to expose your puppy to every single thing that they will experience in their life. So just keep going. Keep introducing them to new activities and experiences. Keep meeting new people and dogs. Show them over and over and over again that new things or even things they have already encountered can be fun or at least not scary.
Once a puppy is fully vaccinated (which usually coincides with the end of the 14 weeks) it makes going out and experiencing the world a whole lot easier.
You can probably tell that I'm a big fan of using food toys for our dogs, and I also recommend them to all my clients. It's not that I am in cahoots with any commercial dog toy suppliers (though honestly, I wouldn't mind some free products to try . . .) it's because of all the benefits to our dogs by using them.
1. Mental stimulation
Probably the most important one on the list so it has to go first. Most of us are well aware of the physical needs of our dog, food, shelter, water, walks etc. but since most of our dogs don't have a day job they need a way to utilise their brain power. That's where training and food toys come in. Food toys encourage the dog to think, strategise and problem solve to get the food. There is also the option of making them easier or more of a challenge depending on your dogs current skill level.
2. Helps with anxiety
I work with a number of dogs who have behaviour issues that are based on anxiety. The process of addressing these behaviours and the root cause is certainly multifactorial, however, in almost all cases I suggest using food toys as a way to build up a dogs self-confidence. Using food toys teaches the dog perseverance, resilience, confidence and a "can do" attitude. Building up their self confidence helps them better deal with stressful situations in other aspects of their life.
3. Slows down speedy eaters
Eating food too fast can cause a dog to have gas, indigestion, vomiting or an upset stomach. None of these are ideal for the general health of the dog and they need help to slow down. One of the ways to do this is to use food toys. There are several different options for this; biscuits in rolling type toys, DIY bottle toy, PVC pipe etc. and if you raw or meat feed then you can always put it in a container or food toy as well.
The dog then has to work to get at the food rather than just being able to guts it down from their bowl. Our dog Ruby takes about 30 mins to eat less than half of her meal if we put it in a Kong and freeze it.
Dogs should get used to spending a bit of time on their own even when you are home. Rather than this being a really unpleasant punishment, using a food toy as distraction can make the time on their own more enjoyable. Plus they might not even notice that you weren't around! Giving a food toy before you leave for the day can also set up a positive leaving the house routine for your dog and help to prevent them from getting distressed.
5. Entertainment factor
Have I mentioned that it's fun?! As you know, dogs love to play! Food toys are fun for them plus they get rewarded (food) for playing and working out what to do. Earn while they learn!
If you've been inside a pet store anytime recently you will have noticed that there is a wide range of commercial products available. Many of which are excellent, long lasting and great value for money. Investing in a good quality food toy is money well spent in my opinion. That being said I think having a mixture of commercial and DIY dog food toys is the way to go. That way your dog has some variety without draining your bank account in the process.
Since we are now right smack bang in the middle of summer and the hot weather seems to be sticking around this time (though I've heard rumours of a summer storm rolling in tomorrow so we shall see . . .) I thought I would put together this bumper summer survival guide to get your pooch through the worst of the hot weather.
Summer is definitely my favourite time of the year because, personally, I prefer to be hot rather than cold. But the summer temperatures, especially here in Perth, can be challenging for our dogs.
There are a number of ways we can help them out though, and when you follow these simple guidelines you can keep your dog happy and safe throughout summer.
If you've read my post from last year you will know that my New Years Resolution for 2017 was to not have any resolutions as such but to live my life like a dog.
Dogs have this wonderful ability to live in the moment, to approach each day with a clean slate and fresh enthusiasm and they experience joy in everyday activities. Plus they love unconditionally and they don't take it personally if you don't want to play with them right that second (don't worry they will be back to try again in a few minutes!)
So I wanted to see if I could approach each day the same way that a dog does and try to follow their lead for a change.
Here are some of the areas I was inspired by:
To live in the moment with joy and enthusiasm;
Show the people in my life how much I love them, every time I see them;
Enjoy the journey not just the destination;
Take time to smell the flowers;
Eat with gusto;
Work out what gets you what you want then repeat.
As I'm sure you can imagine, some of these areas were easier than others. For instance, I totally rocked at napping in 2017 and if it was an Olympic sport, I definitely would have qualified! Snoozing on the couch with my dogs became one of my favourite pass times and I didn't feel one bit of guilt doing it. #sorrynotsorry
Eating is always one of my favourite things to do, so I made sure I did it with gusto! Whether enjoying a bowl of cereal at home or eating a gourmet meal at a restaurant or having a picnic with friends, I ate with enjoyment and enthusiasm and found ways to make even a salad interesting.
But not everything worked out so well. Sometimes I was too busy working (or napping) to take time to smell the flowers as it were, and I definitely didn't spend as much time with my family and friends as I would have liked. Sometimes I was so focused on my getting the job done and working towards my goals, that I forgot to enjoy the different stages I was going through or to stop and just enjoy where I was.
And even though I can't honestly say that I lived EVERY day with joy and enthusiasm, I can say that I tried to incorporate a little bit into my life as often as I could. Part of that is being able to do something that I love on a daily basis. The thing that brings me the most joy is working with animals. Yes, it's probably cheesy, and you might even be thinking that I have to say that since I've likely worked with your pets at some point, but I honestly mean it. I'm so lucky that I get to do the something I love and am passionate about almost on a daily basis. For me, working with people and their dogs is energising and fun and I love seeing how these connections build and grow. I love getting to know a large variety of different pets especially getting my cat fix since I can't have one of my own (thanks Ruby!).
As far as experiments go, I am really pleased with how this one turned out! So much so that I ditched the resolutions again this year and will continue to try to live life to the fullest each day like our dogs do.
There are two main reasons why dogs jump up; because they want your attention or they are excited. Sometimes it can be a combination of both, like when you get home from work they are excited to see you and want you to pat them.
Both of these reasons have similarities in the way they started and in the way we address them, but there are subtle differences too. So I'm going to cover them separately.
Jumping up for attention is usually a learned behaviour. By that I mean that we have inadvertently taught our dogs that if they want our attention they can jump up at us to get it. I say inadvertently because most people wouldn't set out to do this on purpose and don't even realise they are doing it.
Most often this starts when the dog is a puppy and only becomes a problem when they start to get bigger or more demanding. Here are some reasons why this starts in puppies:
Ok so now that we understand what caused the jumping up, how do we fix it? The good news is the fix is actually pretty simple. The hard part is remembering to do it and being consistent.
You have to IGNORE your dog when they jump up at you. Do NOT touch your dog, push your dog away, say "No" or "Uh-uh" and definitely don't laugh, pat them or make eye contact with your dog. You are REMOVING or NOT GIVING your attention to them when they demand it.
To help you to ignore your dog, you can do the following:
This one is a bit more tricky to manage as we are dealing with a dogs emotions and reactions and there is often little thinking involved from the dog.
Why do dogs get excited?
Another option is to disrupt the behaviour before it even starts. My favourite way of doing this is by using a clicker. In situations where you know your dog is going to be excited and will likely jump on you get the clicker and treats ready. As your dog runs towards you click, and throw the treat on the floor where the dog can see it. Your dog will be distracted by the click and treat and will stop to collect it. Click and treat another couple of times to get your dogs attention and focus then ask for a sit. Click and treat that too. With practice your dog will slow down, expecting the click and treat and will start going straight into a sit waiting for the reward!
At this time of year, if you are anything like me, you are busy planning for the year ahead, setting goals or writing up New Year’s resolutions to see you through the year ahead. This is something that I usually enjoy as it’s like starting fresh with a clean slate and anything seems possible.
Tony (my husband and co-owner of Leader of the Pack Pet Services) and I were planning to sit down with a coffee and write up our resolutions on January 1st after we had finished with the mornings pet sits. But we didn’t. And I’ll tell you why.
When we arrived at our pet sits I noticed that the dogs (and the cats too actually) greeted us in the exact same way as they had the day before and in fact, everything they did was the same as each previous day we had visited. They greeted us as though they were as happy to see us as the day before, no more, no less. The dogs wanted to go out for a walk and the cats still wanted breakfast. They didn't notice that it was a new year.
Then it hit me. Animals live in the moment. They don't care what day of the year it is. They find joy in the daily routine of life and approach each day with enthusiasm and a wagging tail or happy purr.
They had no idea that the date had changed, that a brand new year had started or that they could review their lives and make a plan for the year ahead. It was business as usual for them. They approached the new day with the same enthusiasm as the day before and the day before that.
Could this be a new way to view each day? Could I give up the resolutions that were not likely to last past the end of January? And can you? Man I hoped so.
I thought how liberating it would be to wake up each morning without the burden of resolutions not followed or the pressure to achieve specific tasks to “get ahead”. To instead approach each day like a dog would.
To live in the moment with joy and enthusiasm;
Show the people in your life how much you love them, every time you see them;
Enjoy the journey, not just the destination;
Take time to smell the flowers (or trees or grass or lamp posts . . .);
Work out what gets you what you want, then repeat;
And eat food with gusto even if it’s the same meal you have eaten hundreds of times before.
So this year I decided that my only New Year's resolution will be to not have resolutions but to live each day like a dog.
As a dog owner, dog trainer and pet sitter I have learnt many different tips and tricks over the years and I thought this would be a great way to share them with you. Enjoy!