Swings and Car Seats, Oh My!

We just installed the car seat base the fake baby is in! Oreo was a little nervous/excited around the carrier-another new gadget for her to get used to. We will have to practice walking around with the fake baby in there. 

We have also been practicing putting the baby in the swing and having the music and motion going. The first time we tried it Oreo could care less, and the second time she checked it out then relaxed. We need to continue practicing. Next up-putting the dog gates up in the house! 


Baby hat I made! 

Chickens and Fences Oh My!


As you can see the chicken has survived longer than any other squeaky toy in history. Oreo even has to rest between chewing it! 


In other news, the neighbors across the way are getting a fence. Yay! Our front yard looks right into their backyard and they have 3 dogs! 

When getting a fence for a reactive dog you should do your homework. 

1. DON’T get an electric fence. If you have a reactive dog they are likely to be petrified, more stressed, or even shut down. 

2. Get a fence that is tall enough. Make sure your dog cannot jump it. Also, if you have nosey neighbos you don’t want them looking over at you in your bikini getting a tan. 

3. Make sure your dog can’t get under the fence. If your dog is a digger ask them to install the fence lower. 

4. Make sure the fence is closed off. What I mean is, don’t have open slats or spaces where kids or people can stick their hands in to try to pet your dog. We don’t want anyone missing any hands. 

There can be other issues with fences such as fence running, refusing to come in, and digging. Most of these can be solved with a designated digging spot, treats and training. Have a happy Friday!

We are Here 


No, my dog is not injured.This is Oreo relaxing in the sun. RELAXING. That’s a hard thing for reactive dogs to do. Many reactive dogs have lots of anxiety and find it hard to relax, especially in places where there are lots of stimulus. 

This picture was taken in our front yard. Across from us (but not pictured), are 2 dogs and 2 people outside in the yard across the street. At first, Oreo would bark and had trouble relaxing, even though they weren’t close. However, over time and with good treats and toys she lazily ignores them. 

My message is that we are still here. Not just me, but everyone who has or have had a reactive dog. Although we might not post as often, we know what you are going through if you have a reactive dog. 

Last weekend I missed my cousins wedding. It was 5 hours away but i still would’ve enjoyed it. The reason I didn’t go was because Oreo can only trust my sister and parents. I only trust them with her too. Family told me to get a friend of neighbor to let her out and feed her. To a reactive dog parent it just isn’t that simple. Just training her to be okay with them may take weeks.

Could I have paid a dog sitter? Yes, however, she/he would’ve had to come weeks ahead of time for visits and would be paid each time. Having a reactive dog isn’t always about missing out on things. 

Yes, we have to carry around treats, toys, and turn around and go all the way around the block when you were 20 feet from home because of a dog coming your way. We also get a lot. 

We get a deeper emotional attachment, an understanding that we are family and have to protect our dogs from things that scare them into reacting. We work hard and build a bond with our dogs and learn more than we ever wanted to possibly know about training and dog psychology. 

My advice is this: if you are desperately trying to find a way to help your dog and you’re in the panic stage-stop and breath. Read some blogs and training books, but know that not all of them are true or helpful. Find a positive trainer. It might be expensive but it’s totally worth it. Read “Scaredy Dog” by Ali Brown. It started Oreo on her rehabilitation and I was lucky enough to have the author as a trainer. Don’t give up on your pup and find a group of people to chat with- there are reactive dog groups everywhere. Trust your gut-if a trainer or someone tells you to do something with your dog and you think it’s wrong-don’t do it. I once had a friend try to convince me to use a shock collar. I didn’t. Find a positive trainer and remembe, we are still here.

Trusting a Select Few

  This picture would’ve seemed impossible years ago, but now Oreo trusts my dad so much she jumped up on his lap to lounge.

Some dogs trust a select few people in their short lives. Oreo is one of them. Oreo’s fear and anxiety is caused from being taken away from her mother and siblings too early. Pups should stay with their mother for 12 weeks. During this time puppies learn many important lessons and if taken away earlier can lack social skills and are more prone to be nervous and fearful. 

Oreo trusts me the most since I spent years working with her at reactive training classes. She also trusts my husband, and parents. She has a tenuous trust with my brother in law and some trust with my sister. She has a select few she trusts and has a hard time bringing more people into her “circle of trust.” 

Building trust with reactive dogs can be long and hard but their trust is an amazing gift. In the next post I will talk about ways to work with a reactive dog to earn their trust. 

Do the Flip!

 
As I sit here watching tv, my dog daughter jumps up for a cuddle. This is my view while watching American Idol. Notice the ears-flipped! If you have a dog with long ears it’s vital to keep them clean and dry-so flip them when they are relaxing! This helps get air in there. 

Oreo has had lots of allergy problems and ear infections when she was young, but flipping the ears has really helped, along with weekly or biweekly cleaning with witch hazel on a cotton ball. You can tell a lot about the health of your dog through his or her ears. If they smell or have blisters get them to the vet! If they are dirty-clean them and get some air in there: Do the Flip!

Counter Conditioning-Cool!!

The ASPCA defines counter conditioning as “re-teaching the pet to have a pleasant feeling and reaction toward something that he once feared or disliked.” Counter conditioning is VERY valuable in training, especially with fearful dogs. Here’s how it works:

1. Identify what your dog is fearful of (men in hats, skateboards, large brown dogs, and so on)

2. Get yummy treats (cheese, chicken, steak, something special).

3. Expose your dog to their fear in a controlled environment (ask a friend to help or do training at class). If not, then go somewhere your dog can see/experience the fearful event at a very safe and far distance.

4. Make sure you expose them at a far distance. If you were fearful of snakes would you want a snake thrown on you? NO! You would start seeing it at a distance first. You need to figure out what your dog’s threshold is. Do they get scared of a dog 50 feet away? 20 feet? 10 feet? When does your dog go from being confident to being worried to completely losing it (barking, snarling, hiding)? You want to find the point when your dog is a little worried, but not losing it.

5. When you have your distance, give your pup those yummy treats when she/he sees that scary thing. Don’t give it to them when the scary thing is gone, only when it’s there. You want your pup to associate the GOOD TREAT with something scary-this way your dog will come to have a neutral or positive reaction towards it. Example: You work on looking at dogs at a distance. Your dog gets nervous 30 feet away. You bring your dog to a park and see a dog 30 feet away. Your dog looks at the dog, you click (use a clicker or a word to signal food), then deliver the treat. You work on this for days, weeks, or even months depending on how well your dog does. Eventually your dog sees a dog and looks up at you-YAY! Your dog EXPECTS GOOD THINGS when they see other dogs!

6. Once your dog is okay at a certain distance, get closer. So now we move to 25ft away instead of 30. We work on this the same way with treats until the dog expects treats at this level and doesn’t show signs of being overly nervous.

7. Continue until you get closer. Not all dogs are meant to get super close to other dogs or what they fear. Don’t push the dog TOO MUCH. Take baby steps & think of what your dog needs. Does your dog NEED to be close to other dogs all the time? Does your dog need to greet dogs? I know my dog was attacked by another dog and isn’t comfortable playing or greeting other dogs. Has she greeted them since the attack and through training? Yes she has, however, I don’t feel the need to push her anymore-She’s okay with them being 10ft + away, and that works for both of us.

Counter conditioning allows your dog to associate something scary with something good. This turns something horrifying into something yummy and fun. When Oreo finds something scary she knows where to look-at me for yummy treats and we keep moving on our walks.

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What Reactive Owners ARE…

I wouldn’t say Oreo is “rehabilitated” or “normal” in any way. I’d definitely say her stress levels are way down & our family has it’s own happy “normal.” Oreo now has the tools and knowledge to deal with stressful situations and I know not to put her in them (or how to do a U-turn and escape them)!

It can be VERY stressful (especially in the beginning) with a reactive or scared dog. Not only stressful for you, but your dog is suffering. After reading some posts on forums, blogs and conversations with new or ongoing reactive dog families, I find it’s important to keep things in perspective. Reactive owners are many things…

  1. RESOURCEFUL!!  Find a positive trainer to help you. Trust me, if you find a great one they make all the difference. They are not only a teacher for your dog, but for you.
  2. SPECIAL!! Reactive dogs take SPECIAL owners. DEDICATED owners. Owners who have strength, patience, and are willing to LEARN.
  3. TRUSTING!! If you aren’t sure if your dog is reactive, do some research. Reactive owners need to TRUST THEIR GUT. Sometimes families and friends might think you are crazy. They think you are obsessing over your dog. They might say something like, “Your dog will be fine, bring them to the party.” Well, YOU KNOW WHAT’S BEST. When reactive dog owners DOUBT something, THEY STAY ON THE SAFE SIDE.
  4. SMART!! If your trainer is booked for a while, or you’re saving up to bring your dog to lessons, READ SOME BOOKS. I recommend this. I trained my dog by reading many books, then brought her to a wonderful reactive trainer who wrote some of the books. This enabled me to have some understanding and be ahead of the game. BOOKS DO NOT REPLACE A TRAINER. The advice/training saved my dog’s life. Even the vet said that Oreo would be dead if she weren’t with me. I don’t think of it as just me…
  5. ORGANIZED!! IT TAKES A CITY, not just you to help your dog. Get in touch with a trainer, work with your vet. Sometimes medications can help to improve training, especially if you are training with a professional and your dog hits a road block. Get your FAMILY ON BOARD. Everyone has to learn and train with your pup.
  6. FUN!! HAVE FUN. Sometimes with reactive dogs we forget to have fun-especially when we are in the training mode. Your dog can get better, but it is hard work. Once you start training your pup the fun can begin. There are plenty of games, tricks, and fun things you can do with your reactive dog. Reactive owners like to have fun, don’t lose that joy in the stress.

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If you’re just starting out it can seem like your are climbing Mount Everest, but with dedication and time you will be building an unbreakable bond with your pup and they will teach you more than you ever dreamed.

Books I suggest reading:

  • Scaredy Dog by Ali Brown
  • Focus Not Fear-Training Insights From A Reactive Dog Class by Ali Brown
  • The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell
  • Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas
  • Bringing Light to Shadow by Pam Dennison
  • Help For Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde

Sizzling Summer Reminders

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With record high temperatures hitting the west coast and a heat wave here on the east coast, it’s important to remember some safety tips in summer for your pooch.

Heat Concerns

I know my dog loves to lay in the sun. My old dog loved to lay on the hot pavement. These can cause major health problems. Long periods of sun exposure can cause overheating, skin cancer, and other health issues.

1. Find some shade for your dog to lay in!!

2. If you are hanging outside for a while with your dog, provide a bowl of water.

3. A small swim pool could be fun and a great way for your dog to cool off!

4. Don’t leave your dog outside in a dog house-it will overheat and trap hot air.

It gets very hot outside. I read somewhere that you should take your shoes off on a hot day and leave your feet on the pavement for a few seconds. If your feet burn, your dog’s feet will burn…don’t take them out on the asphalt or pavement then.

5. Take your dog for a walk in the early morning or evening, when it is cooler.

6. DON’T LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR!!

7. Since dogs are outside more often in the summer, make sure your dog has some kind of tick/flea preventative.

8. Keep your dog away from poisonous flowers/plants and chemically treated lawns.

9. Know the signs of heatstroke:

Early Signs:
-Heavy panting
-Bright red tongue and gums
-Fast breathing
-Having trouble balancing

Advanced Signs:
-Shock
-White/Blue gums
-Lethargy
-Uncontrollable urination or defecation
-Noisy breathing

Hopefully you have a fun and safe summer with these tips, but if you are worried your dog may have heatstroke you should do the following steps…
If your dog has signs of advanced heatstroke-take them to the vet immediately.
If your dog shows early signs try to cool your dog down:
-Give them ice chips to chew
-Hose them with cool water
-Apply ice packs to the groin area
When your dog’s temperature is between 100-102, stop trying to cool your dog down, they are stabilized.

Go Ahead, Treat Adults Like Children (They Just Don’t Get it!)

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Speak up for your pup because sometimes people don’t get the message!

It came to my attention this past weekend that I needed to treat my mom like a child when it comes to dogs.

Did I like treating her like a kid, repeating the same thing to her many times to ensure she would listen? No, absolutely not. Was it necessary? Definitely!

Many times we don’t always say what is on our mind when it comes to our dogs. We worry about what people might think of us, if they will be mad, laugh, or get upset with us if we do or say things that don’t seem “normal”. For example, this past weekend my parents were watching Oreo. My brother and sister-in-law were stopping over for a few minutes. I told my mom to put her in the bedroom when they came over. “It’s just Den and Lila, she’ll be fine,” was my mother’s response. “No, she won’t be fine. Please put her in the bedroom, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” I replied. “Oh come on Jess, don’t be ridiculous…” The conversation continued like this until I basically had to annoy her and get her to comply. Yes, she was doing us a favor watching the dog, but Oreo is a bite risk if left around strangers (she doesn’t see them much at all). I called the night before my brother was coming over to remind her. Did she get angry? YES! She told me not to treat her like a child, that she knows. I tried to explain why I reminded her, yet she didn’t quite understand.

That’s the point, PEOPLE DON’T HAVE TO UNDERSTAND. We need to stick up for our dogs and for what makes them comfortable or uncomfortable. They don’t have a voice, so we need to speak for them.

If I didn’t speak up to my mom Oreo could’ve easily bitten or had a bad experience that couldn’t worsened her reactivity. Maybe she would have been fine with them, but why risk it?

Sometimes we have to treat other people like children, beacause they just don’t get it. People who aren’t associated with dog training or have had a reactive/scared dog just don’t get it. What’s worse is that they don’t believe you. When you tell people your dog will NOT be okay in a certain situation you are most likely met with the comment, “Oh well she’ll be okay, don’t worry, it’ll be fine.” This is where you have to be your dogs’ protector. You can protect your pup many ways, but one of the most powerful ways is to speak up even if you feel uncomfortable. Trust me, things will work out better and after you have stuck up for your dog (even if you’ve offended someone) you will feel better and so will your dog.

So go ahead, treat someone like a child if they don’t understand. Stand up for your dog!

Your Dog Should Defer to You

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No, I don’t mean your dog should be submissive or any of that humbo-jumbo about being dominant. Please…you know me better than that! I mean fearful dogs needs to look to you when they are unsure. This will give them something to focus on every time they are scared. It will make them more confident and successful.

I will be writing a series of articles on how to train your dog to defer to you (meaning check in with you if they are scared). The first is very basic-having your dog look up at you (not your treats) when you say their name.

First things first. When you call your dog’s name-they should look at you. If they don’t you need some name training. Have some yummy treats ready and a clicker. Have your dog stand or sit in front of you. Call your dog’s name and when they look up at your eyes (not your treats), click then treat. *Now when I say look at your eyes I don’t mean you are staring at them, I just mean they look up at your face area. If your dog is having problems making eye contact, wait a few seconds and see if the dog finds your eyes. If they do, click and treat. If your dog is REALLY having trouble you can try holding the treat near your face to start, but fade it out-you don’t want your dog to focus on the treat-you want them to focus on you. After 80% accuracy with this (8 out of 10 times the dog looks at your eyes), move on to extending your arm straight out to the side with a treat in hand. Your dog will most likely look at the treat, call their name and when they look at you (your face) click and treat. It may be slower in the beginning, but eventually your dog will know once your arm goes out they need to look at your face before you even say anything! When you get to 80% try with the opposite arm, then treats in both hands. There are many possibilities-but this activity allows you and your dog to bong-and teaches them to look and focus on you, which will come in handy in frightful situations.

**News update: A neighbor’s dog was 2 doors down (condos) and I was giving Oreo a haircut. The other dog was small but was putting on a show growling and kicking up dirt behind it. Oreo looked, licked her lips, then focused on me and was fine-yay! Also-WE SOLD OUR CONDO!! Yay! We are out on the road today looking for homes, can’t wait for a yard for Oreo (and for growing vegetables!).