Common Sense…AKA Positive Reinforcement

Some people don’t have common sense. I haven’t always had it. It’s a new way of thinking…new age. Okay, I kid. People complain that their dogs whine and beg at the dinner table. Did that just happen magically? Well…NO!

If you give your dog food from the table while you are eating, generally they will want more of that good stuff while you are eating. If you save some for them and put it in their bowl later…they won’t beg at the table. If you reinforce their begging at the table by giving them more food…it will happen again. It’s called positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement is giving a dog a reward for something you like (you want repeated). Positive reinforcement is a very powerful tool in dog training. Positive reinforcement is used in any healthy type of dog training. If you want your dog to come, you teach them the concept with positive reinforcement (when they come to you, you give them a reward to tell them “good job” such as attention, toys, or treats). If you want your dog to learn any trick you use positive reinforcement. If you want to modify behavior such as jumping on people, fearful aggression, or even begging at the table…you can use positive reinforcement.

There is a pattern here…positive reinforcement works. Why? Because it’s the same thing your parents used to raise you and build a caring and loving relationship (hopefully). Dogs are family, not play things or replaceable (even though some people think so-it infuriates me!). Making a connection with them and building a trusting relationship is very important-believe me, I have learned it work very well in training, especially with fearful dogs.

If you yank a dogs leash, yell at them, swat them with paper or your hand, you can bet they will not trust you and your relationship with your pup will suffer. Traditional methods of training are outdated and cause dogs to follow you out of fear instead of wanting to follow you…just because they want to (they like you!). Positive reinforcement training allows dogs to be more confident and less fearful.

Next time a problem comes along I suggest positive reinforcement (also known as common sense). You reinforce behavior you want to keep. If you want your dog to beg at the table, then go ahead feed them that piece of steak off of your plate. However, if you want to use common sense, wait until later when they are laying around relaxing and reinforce that with a small piece of steak.

For those of you who want an example of positive reinforcement in action here you go:

Positive reinforcement can be used to reinforce everyday behavior you want to continue. For example, if you want to teach your dog to relax, give your dog a treat when you see them relaxing. If you want to reinforce paws staying on the floor when guests arrive, treat only when the dogs paws are on the floor.

Positive reinforcement can also be used to teach behaviors.

For example, if you want your dog to learn to look at you when you say his or her name you can easily use positive reinforcement. Call your dog’s name. When your dog looks at you, give them a treat (I would use a clicker and click, then treat to make sure the dog realizes you are giving them a treat for the moment they look at you.) Continue practicing this so that every time you say the dog name they continue to look. This should be repeated until they can at least look at you 80% of the time you call their name.

Additionally, positive reinforcement can be used to modify behavior.

Oreo is fearful. She gets scared when she sees other dogs on walks. Problem: she is so scared she starts to puff, growl, and lunge even when a dog is 50 feet away. She won’t turn around or move!

How can I solve this problem? Positive reinforcement! I can walk with Oreo at a distance a bit further than 50 feet away. I don’t want her to get very upset, so upset she can’t hear me or think. I want her to be far enough away from her “trigger” (what gets her upset), that I can work with her. So I try 55 feet away. I walk with Oreo and when we see another dog we start practicing turning around. I call her name and give her 5 seconds to turn around. If she does turn and look at me I click and treat (reinforcing the behavior of looking at me in the presence of another dog so she will do it again). If she doesn’t we need to start over (no reward, I don’t want her to ignore me, so I won’t reinforce it). Eventually with practice, she will turn around and walk the other way with me quickly.

These are just examples, and if you have a fearful dog like my dog Oreo, I suggest you seek a positive professional dog trainer to help you. There’s a lot more your dog needs to learn then just turns. Common sense right?

The Most Dangerous Time of Year…For Your Pet

Dog_Christmas_cartoonAccording to vets, Christmas is the most dangerous time  of year for pets.

Whether you are celebrating at home or at a family member’s house, there are some things to remember to have a jolly jubilation:

  1. Holiday plants can be poisonous: holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia.
  2. If you have a real tree, don’t let your dog drink the water. You may think it’s okay or funny, but it’s not. The trees usually contain chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers. These chemicals go into the water and can poison your pet!
  3. Don’t let your dad, your favorite uncle, or even your child feed the dog too much fatty food. This food can cause to stomach upset. It could be a little bit of a problem where it’s bothersome, but could also turn out much worse.
  4. Decorations: If you have a christmas tree hang ornaments and lights higher, so your dog won’t chew them or think they’re a toy. Also watch out for broken ornaments, especially if they are glass. Tinsel and ribbon can cause LOTS of problems. I have a friend whose dog ate tinsel and had to get surgery to remove it from their intestines. **GROSS ALERT: If your dog happens to eat ribbon or tinsel and tries to poop it out, but it gets stuck-DO NOT PULL IT. This can cut slit the intestines open. The only reason I know this is because this is what happened to my friend’s pup.
  5. Hide your presents…from your dog. Don’t leave the house with presents around. Dogs can smell chocolates or other food or candy wrapped up. Countless dogs get rushed to the emergency vet due to “finding” chocolates and candy, eating them all, and some of the wrappers.
  6. Keep the routine-Don’t stress out your pet. If you are busy continue to feed, walk and play with your pet around the same times if possible. Stress can lead to many health problems or behavior issues. A bored dog might find those presents, or rip up and eat those decorations.
  7. Have an escape plan…for your dog. If you are planning on having a holiday party at your house or brining your dog to another house, have a plan. Your dog may become overwhelmed. You might think, “Oh he’ll/she’ll be okay,”  but it’s always important to have a place your dog can relax or escape to if they become nervous or tired. Many kids/adults/other dogs may not want to leave your dog alone-be prepared to stand up for them. But really-if you think your dog may have a problem..DON’T even take them. Flooding them with too much at a time can create lifelong lasting problems…trust me.

There are many other things to think about such as keeping your tree anchored, keeping tree needles out of your dogs paws, not using flashing lights if your dog is scared, and keeping your dog away from loud noises.

As always avoid giving your dog foods they are allergic too and make sure no one else does. Avoid common foods that are toxic to them such as alcohol, chocolate, onions, grapes, coffee, caffeine, avocado, raisins, xylitol (sweetener used in gum, candy, baked goods, and toothpaste) and large amounts of salt.

Most of these things are commonsense to many people, but it’s always important to refresh your memory during such a busy time. Enjoy your holidays, keep your pup calm and happy and enjoy the time with your furry friends!

 

                                                                              Oreo and I wish you a happy holiday!574765_10150698253903348_1034283633_n

 

“The Perfect Stuffed Dog”

DSCN1053

The custom pup that looks just like Oreo!

I am a fan of pinterest. Recently I stumbled upon a post with a picture of a pup that looks JUST LIKE Oreo. We always wondered where she came from and have never seen a dog like her. The first picture is of Oreo, and the bottom pictures are the pictures from the custom-made shelter pup someone else submitted (the dog looks just like her..especially when Oreo grows her hair out more, do you agree?) Okay, the dog on the buttom picture has more white, but same eyes, everything else, and the dog even has hair that browns like Oreo does around her face! I was immediately drawn in. I clicked the link ( www.shelterpups.com ) , and saw a wonderful cause!

The main deal: The site offers custom-made stuffed dogs made from natural wool, handmade, and MADE IN AMERICA! You can send a picture in and get a stuffed dog that looks just like your pup! I have to admit, they are a bit expensive, but the money goes to a very high quality item, and money goes to help shelters, they are handmade, and made in America. They also have “shelter pups” which are a great gift for any dog lover or child (especially one that might really want to adopt a dog, but at the time you just can’t). They describe the dog’s activity level and give a story about the dog just like they are from a real shelter. After reading the description if you think you are interested you can click to rescue the dog (they each have a name).

The background: Theodora wanted a stuffed animal dog that looked like her dog. She couldn’t find anything like her dogs since they came from local shelters and were mostly mutts. She loves how mutts are so adorable, different, and lovable. She also wanted to help shelters. The site encourages people to volunteer at local shelters and donates money from your purchases.

I encourage all of you to look into the site especially if you have someone who would like it. I love it and I’m *hoping* Santa will bring me a shelter pup!

www.shelterpups.com

Buying a Puppy for Christmas

Considering buying a puppy or pet for Christmas?

Please don’t!

PETS ARE NOT GIFTS/TOYS. Please do NOT give a dog as a gift/toy. A dog is a family member, very much like a baby in many ways. Don’t buy the dog on a whim-yes they are sooooo cute and can be cuddly, but they also can pee and poop all over your house and tear apart your belongings. Puppies have fear periods and the holidays are full of commotion. You want to get a puppy or dog at a time of stability and calmness. Breeders don’t usually sell Christmas litters because it takes TIME to train them and socialize them properly. You might be disappointed with a puppy when you find out they keep you up every night crying and make messes. They might not be the “Christmas Present” you thought they would be. Please don’t adopt/buy during Christmas or for Christmas-many dogs are returned during this time and this can have a profound effect on the dog for the rest of it’s life.

If you have talked about getting a dog, please be serious and committed to the dog. Do your research if you haven’t had a dog. Ask neighbors, friends, and trainers the effort that needs to be put into training and having a dog. Consider adopting a shelter dog. Instead of adopting/buying a dog right away, perhaps have a card saying, “Let’s talk about getting a dog!” Over the holidays you can discuss many different things:

  • Where to get the dog (finding a reputable breeder, adopting from a shelter, etc)
  • How to train the dog
  • Do your research about dog training, adopting, house training, etc.
  • Discuss breed type-get some books!
  • Discuss cost of a dog/puppy and consider all the food/vet bills/equipment
  • Discuss time you will need to put into training with your dog/spending with your dog (make sure you have time!)

Overall, adopting a shelter dog is a wonderful thing to do. Adding a puppy or dog to your family can be very rewarding, however, please don’t do it around the holidays.

Urinary Tract Infections

Dogs get UTI’s just like people do. There are many reasons for UTI’s.

Some include:

  • prostate disease
  • stress
  • trauma
  • cancer
  • bladder inflammation or infection
  • stones, crystals or debris accumulation in the bladder or urethra
  • weak bladder/hormonal issue

How do you know if your dog has a UTI?

  • fever
  • inability to urinate
  • increased frequency of urination
  • bloody or cloudy urine
  • increased water consumption
  • vomiting
  • soiling in inappropriate places
  • lethargy
  • changes in appetite

There are many different treatments including supplements, powders, and antibiotics for your dog. The most important thing to do is to take your dog to the vet asap. An untreated UTI could lead to kidney and other more serious problems.

Why talk about UTI’s? Well, a week after bringing Oreo to the vet for her lumps, I noticed increased urination, then noticed blood in her urine at the park. She is on antibiotics for a UTI. We are going to send a urine sample in a week after she finishes antibiotics to make sure it is gone and there aren’t any crystals or anything else in her urine.

As for her bumps…the large bump on her leg has gone away completely. The red lump on her leg has disappeared. She seems to have large bumps…more like swelling in a few areas, but she seems happy and content.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone!!!!

Be Your Dog’s Advocate

Stand up for your scared pooch!

Yesterday my husband and I took a lovely, long walk. Even though the air was cold and crisp, we enjoyed a walk around the neighborhood. We encountered a few dogs in yards. Luckily enough they stayed in their yards. We decided to keep our distance and I grasped my treats to give to Oreo as we walked by. I was also holding onto those treats tightly incase I needed to launch them into an approaching dogs face.

We must stand up for our dogs. If your dog is scared of another dog, don’t let the dog come up to it. We had a close call on the way home when someone was greeting relatives. The man opened his door and started walking across the roach when his little poodle came running out after him. I’m sure the dog was nice, as everyone reassured us. However, I place myself in between my dog and the white poodle looking to say hello. Luckily I was with my husband, who picked up Oreo (she is not light anymore, around 45 lbs.). I yelled for the people to get their dog. I told them my dog will attack their dog (seemed like a good thing to say to get them moving, they were moving sloooww). “Oh, she’s nice, don’t worry about it,” they replied. I don’t think so….I called back to them telling them she WILL bite their dog, they need to call it back.

You know that awkward moment when someone tries to walk by you, you move out of the way, but you actually move in their way. Then they move to the right, and you move to the right, and you both are gridlocked like you are playing a blocking game. Well, that’s what we were doing. The poodle moved to the right I moved in front of it and said “No!” The people might have taken offense, but too bad…MOVE YOUR DOG, it’s like 2 feet away from being attacked or who knows! They called their poodle, yet it didn’t listen. Luckily I kept blocking the dog long enough for the owner to scoop it up when if finally swerved to the side and started peeing. Unbelievable.

We live in a condo area, so it’s the law to keep your dog on a leash at all times. There are many condos tightly packed together, with many people around. The man let his dog follow him and run around right in the middle of the street. It horrified me even more that the dog seemed to have no recall skills. If I didn’t stick up for Oreo I don’t know what would have happened. Maybe she would have been nice to the dog, but more likely she would have been scared and lashed out. I didn’t want her training to regress, but I also didn’t want her to have to experience that fear of being attacked or having to attack herself to protect herself. I had to show her that I would protect her. She could trust me, and I wouldn’t let her be attacked again.

It’s important to protect your dog from major triggers and fears. For example, if your dog is afraid of small children, don’t let children pet your dog. Tell them your dog is scared, sick, or training, or the truth-that it would bite them. Do what you need to do to protect your dog. They can’t talk the same way we can, so talk for them. Be your dog’s advocate.

Tick Preventatives

We went hiking a week ago in the Poconos and found over 12 ticks on the dog! It was one after the other. I thought we would be safe since it’s been colder, including a few frosts…boy was I wrong! She was EXTREMELY good, she even laid down as I was getting them off (yay!). She use to try to bite me every time she saw me coming with the tick twister or tweezers. By the way, the tick twister is AWESOME. She had lots of deer ticks (they carry lyme disease ), so I called the vet to check in and see if there was anything I had to do. They said to watch her and we’ll see. Only 20% of young deer ticks carry lyme, while 50% of adults carry lyme disease.

You may be wondering what we use to protect her from ticks and why she had so many. We hiked through the woods with small brush where deer are very frequent. She is not protected from ticks. Unfortunately, she is allergic to the collars and liquid applications found at the store and vet. This also includes any sprays, wipes, etc. There are some things I do to help her fight ticks and lyme disease. First off, I feed her a fresh diet and add many supplements to help boost her immune system. Garlic, Skullcap, and Licorice can also be used to protect against bacteria. I usually add some garlic in her food. Yes, garlic can be bad for dogs…but only used in very large amounts. Probiotics are also good for protection.

Different natural topical applications such as tickweed and rose geranium can be combined with almond oil and put onto your dog’s collar to help repel ticks. There are endless amounts of natural tick repellents. Have you used any that work?

 

 

Snoozin’

I love my bone!

This was definitely after a long walk…ahhh so peaceful. She loves her bone! It is a good extra source of calcium since she is fed mostly homemade food. We let her chew on it in the evening and when she is done we put it away. This is a good managment idea for resource guarders…don’t leave toys or things around your dog guards (if you can help it), and keep practicing “trade”.

Fire Alarm Fiasco

The other weekend we had quite the fire alarm fiasco. As many of you know, loud noises can bother fearful dogs immensely. Fear of loud noises usually worsen over time, can be learned, or have a deeper cause like genetics. Oreo is definitely genetically predisposed to being fearful, but she was not always so fearful of the fire alarm.

It all began one Saturday evening. My husband and I were running around doing chores and cleaning up the house. We finally ate and sat down to watch a nice movie until…BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, goes our fire alarm. We live in a newer home, so the fire alarms seem to be unusually LOUD. The first time the alarm went off Oreo followed my husband to where the fire alarm is, jumped up, and checked it out.

We sat back down to enjoy the movie, and literally we just got through the previews…BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. This time Oreo whines and follows my husband to the fire alarm while he turns it off.

Again, we sit down and start the movie. By the way, this is a movie that I’ve been waiting to watch for quite a while. BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. This time Oreo barks and follows my husband.

You can understand the pattern, each time the fire alarm goes off Oreo gets more upset. Meanwhile, we don’t understand why they are going off, but know that the fire alarms have a history of acting up in the neighborhood.

The next time it goes off Oreo now barks and whines, walks in circles and runs around.

The final time Oreo can’t take it, barks, whines, follows us upstairs, and pees.

I know it’s bad when she pees. She doesn’t pee in the house. She use to do that a long time ago when we first got her-she would pee whenever we turned on a hair dryer or anything else that sounded like it-but she isn’t afraid of that sound anymore.

However, with the large amount of loud fire alarms going off in such a short time, Oreo was exposed to the sound too much. I did treat her, do tricks, and try “having a party”, but she was too anxious after the second fire alarm.

You may wonder why we didn’t just shut them off. We tried, they are like SUPER fire alarms, made so no one can take them off! We did eventually get them off, wrapped them in a towel, and threw them in the car. Not the safest decision, but for our sanity, and Oreo’s we did it. Later we found out the batteries were dying, which should have just triggered a one beep, not a full fire alarm, but who knows.

Signs your dog may be afraid of loud noises:

panting, whining, pacing, urinating, circling, trembling, running away/jumping to avoid

There are much more serious signs where your dog may actually injure themselves because they can not handle how anxious they are. Many dogs try to hide, especially in the tub. Oreo is not afraid of thunderstorms…yet, so I do different things during thunderstorms. I make sure I play games and do tricks for treats during thunderstorms. Some other things you can do are play soothing music, put a fan or something on that will hide some of the noise, have a treat party (throw high value treats around your dog to make a positive associate between the storm and good things), try to desensitize your dog, or see your vet about medications if it is severe.

We are happy the fire alarms are fixed. Coincidently as I was just finishing writing this, the show my husband was watching had fire alarms going off. Oreo raised her head from her sleep and looked, but luckily the alarms only lasted about 2 seconds!

Enjoy the Little Things

Oreo and I went to the park this morning. It was a crisp, fall-like day. The cool air blew on us as we meandered down the path. I spotted a dog off leash and a courteous man who circumnavigated around us to the spot where they would play frisbee. We enjoyed our romp around the park and Oreo found a delightful stick to chew on that was 3 times her length. She laid down and watched dogs around 25 feet away pass.

Old Oreo (before the dog attack) would have loved to meet and romp and play. Apprehensive Oreo was fine just watching and chewing on her stick at a distance. It was nice to have quiet and peace. Rarely do we get to enjoy the little things in life, but as we sat there I pondered everything we are missing as we work the daily grind each day. The wonderful smell of fall filled my nostrils and locals passed by who I see every weekend at the park, waving their cheerful hello. The whole time Oreo was enjoying her stick in the shade while the breeze enveloped us.

Hardly do we get to enjoy any peace during the week. We work, come home, cook, eat, take the dog for a walk, shower, then we might have an hour to wind down before we go to sleep. Then we have to do it all over again. There has got to be a better way, a better way to enjoy life, make a living, and be able to cherish the little things in life…all within 24 hours a day.