People are spoiling their dogs more than ever. Yet anxiety in dogs is becoming more and more common.
How could this be?
We often have the best intentions when giving our dog freedoms around the house such as freedom to go anywhere on the property whenever they like. But dogs like to be able to predict what is going to happen next. If a dog has no structure, no rules and no training, and too much freedom, this creates anxiety.
Many dog owners pity their anxious dogs and therefore don’t want to put any sort of pressure on them at all, so they don’t tell them what to do. But giving your dog a job can actually decrease anxiety and make your dog happier.
When they know what the rules are and how the household works, they feel more at ease because they can more easily predict what’s going to happen next.
Remember, anxiety comes from not knowing what the outcome is going to be. Think about, when was the last time you were anxious? Did it relate to something where you didn’t know what was going to happen and felt that all or part of it was out of your control?
Let’s consider place training. Putting the dog on their place and teaching them that they have to stay there until their told removes the options of anxiety building behaviours like pacing, barking at the windows at anyone who goes by, reacting, bolting and more. Once the dog accepts that they must stay there, they calm down. Then we can reward the calm.
I really can’t express just how valuable this skill is. I had a client a while back and he had a cattle dog that was so highly strung and was practicing some behaviours that could quickly turn into OCD and escalate.
I ran into this client at dinner recently and he was so happy, raving about how useful the place training had become in their life. If his dog starts to get to wound up, she goes to place, lays down and just calms.
If you want to learn more about managing your dog’s anxiety and decreasing it through place training and other handy training, you know what to do – join Frantic To Focused.
What do you do in an emergency with your dog? Like an off leash dog running up to you on your walk?
Oh gee, I know how stressful and scary that can be. I do!
And when it comes to off leash dogs it can take us by surprise and it’s not our fault. But it can really throw you and your dog in the deep end, especially if your dog is reactive towards other dogs.
Here’s some quick tips (general advice only and I am not liable for your safety):
– If it’s a person with a dog, speak up and tell them to “STOP! UNSAFE!” as you move away at the same time. Don’t stop to tell them to stop. Keep moving. Try to move with your dog’s head facing towards you so it’s harder for them to pull towards the other dog
– If it’s a loose dog, try to stay calm and keep your leash loose. Do whatever it takes to get the dog away. This is where carrying a pet convincer or even an extra leash can be life-saving. A pet convincer can scare the other dog away and even stop dog fights. A spare leash can be used in multiple ways – you can either tether your dog then tether the second dog if you have time, or you can helicopter the spare leash towards the loose dog to scare them off. You can even whip it on the ground in the loose dog’s direction.
– If there’s a dog fight: (hopefully this never happens to you). Protect yourself first. Call for help. Don’t stick your hands near the dog’s teeth. If you have a pet convincer, use it. If you have a spare leash try to noose it around the neck of the attacking dog.
Dogs are very hard to get apart if they’re fighting. It can feel like forever and often we act out of panic without thinking. But although it may take a little longer, one technique is to walk towards a fence, tree or post and tie your dog to it, then work to pull off the attacking dog with a second leash or worst case scenario, by the top of the back legs with your hands, tipping them upside down as you walk away from your dog.
Dogs in fights are highly likely to bite. As you can see, carrying a spare leash can make things quicker, safer and easier. The best way to separate fighting dogs is a controversial issue with many opinions.
No matter what you read to do, I believe you’re still likely to jump in without stopping to think. Always put your safety first and then see what is around you that you can use to help.
What NOT to do: don’t just relentlessly pull your dog if another dog has hold of it – the other dog will fight it like a tug toy and pull and tear. Don’t take your dog to high risk areas like dog parks, especially if your dog has any reactivity or aggression.
Yucky situations huh!
Prevention is better than cure, as they say and there’s some training you can do with your dog to prevent this situation. For example, what if your dog would hold a stay position no matter what, while you stood between them and the other dog and could focus on chasing it off without worrying that your dog will run over and get involved?
This is why it’s so important to have some sold basics in place when it comes to training your dog and taking them out in public.
Teaching your dog to trust you and listen to you is really so that you can keep them safe.
If your dog has something that, “sets them off,” this is often referred to as a trigger.
I’ve seen dogs go bonkers over cars, bikes, other dogs, children, adults, horses, cows, leaves, trees, surfboards, kites, kangaroos. The lot! And I hear squirrels are quite the distraction in other countries (sadly we don’t have them here. I was so excited to see my first squirrel in the states!)
Regardless of what triggers your dog, the training steps we use are essentially the same.
The first thing we need to do is set your dog up to be successful so we can start rewarding those wins! And we aren’t going to get anything to reward if the dog is too close to their trigger.
Going too close too fast is the number one mistake people make when they are working on this sort of issue.
I repeat, don’t go too close too soon!
What you want to figure out is the distance you need to be before your dog reacts. This is known as the dog’s distance threshold. It might be a few feet. Or it could be the length of a football field. Every dog’s threshold is different.
What you want to do is start working on the issue at the point where your dog knows the trigger is there but is not reacting in an undesirable way.
Then you’re going to reward your dog for calmness when they are aware of the trigger, for looking at it without tensing up or staring (a calm curious look is ok but eye-balling it is not), and when your dog focuses on you and looks to you for guidance.
You can get full training on this in the Frantic To Focused program which you can join now by clicking here.
Just check out what Lesa had to say about the program:
“This Course has been such a help to me with my reactive dog. I have never learned so much or had more success in such a short period of time! This training method really works! Thank you so much !”
Or see what Jill said:
“I LOVE this course! I have been working with Beckham for 2 1/2 years using food and never have gotten the response from him that I am getting now. It has given me more confidence and I know that is transferring down the leash to him.
He loves to work and we are both having fun.”
(we teach in the program how to train with or without food and how to use food correctly)
Join now and see just what you can do with your dog today. Whether your dog is anxious, distracted, reactive, fearful or just confused, I KNOW this program can help you.
Pulling on the leash is a natural behaviour for a dog. But it’s not healthy to let them continue to pull because no matter what your leash is attached to, constant pressure on the dog can cause damage (even with harnesses and head halters).
If your dog is overly distracted as soon as you leave the house, or is reactive, pulling on leash is one of the first things you need to address.
There’s lots of leash techniques out there, such as:
Turning the opposite direction when the dog pulls
Stopping every time the leash goes tight
Mark and reward when the dog is next to you
Correct the dog when the dog is ahead of you
Nothing wrong there, but there’s a technique I love that does more than just help stop pulling and that is teaching your dog to respond to gentle leash pressure. It’s simple but I can’t overstate how important it is to teach your dog to be responsive to the leash.
Rather than a battle over who’s pulling harder, leash pressure work should flow like a dance, where you can apply the lightest touch and the dog readily responds.
Beautiful! Would you like that for your dog?
And if your dog can respond like that, it doesn’t fit in with continuing to pull on the leash. It’s teaching them the opposite.
Resource guarding in dogs – When your dog shows aggression over food or other possessions…
Resource guarding in dogs is a very common behaviour. Why does it happen?
Resource guarding is a natural trait for survival in the wild – if you don’t protect your food, someone else will take it! It hasn’t been fully bred out of our domestic dogs, so it can certainly be innate. The genetic potential to resource guard varies from dog to dog. It can however, also be a learned behaviour if the dog has learned through experience that it can lose it’s precious resources if it doesn’t protect them. This can often result from well meaning dog owners taking food from their dogs regularly in an effort to prevent guarding in the first place.
The resource being guarding may not just be food. Resource guarding can occur with food, toys, beds, spaces and commonly, owners.
What are the signs?
The first subtle sign of resource guarding behaviour is stiffening of the body. The dog will freeze and may lick it’s lips while looking towards the threat but staying closely over the resource. Next, the lips will raise to show the teeth and a the dog will start to give a low growl. Some dogs may raise the hair on their back (pilo-erection). If eating, the dog will often speed up or try to carry the object away if it’s a bone, toy or other prized possession that can be carried. If the threat to their resource doesn’t stop, the next stage is a lunge and bite.
Is it a breed thing?
No. While heredity is a factor, behaviour is specific to individuals rather than being breed specific. While food guarding may occur in specific lines of breeds, it does not mean one breed is more likely to exhibit this over another and we always need to take the learning and environmental history of the dog into account.
Is there anything environmental that may increase the likelihood of resource guarding?
Dogs that regularly have to compete for resources such as food can become serious resource guarders. This can happen if there isn’t enough food to go around when they’re pups. They can also learn to guard if other dogs or pups are constantly stealing their food or other resources and they learn to defend it with aggression. Once an aggressive display works for them once, it’s a powerful lesson. This kind of scenario can happen where the pups are bred, or later in life at a group dog area or shelter.
Where should you start if your dog resource guards?
Always remember that a dog is resource guarding because it feels a fear of losing the item. With this in mind, never try to stop or prevent resource guarding by forcibly taking food from your dog or removing it often. You don’t want your dog to view you as the person that always wants to take what they have.
From early on in life, teach your dog that you are the bringer of good things and that you’re not there to take from them every time, but most often, you are going to provide them with something great. Here’s three exercises you can try that will prevent resource guarding, and help to stop it.
Remember to put safety first – if your dog is already trying to growl or bite, hire a professional trainer:
1. Teach your dog that when you approach their bowl, it’s to give them something even better. For example, your dog has dry dog food in the bowl, you come over and toss in some steak and leave. You want your dog to learn that your approach is a good thing and results in more or even better food
2. Play the swap game. There will be times you need to take things from your dog. Instead of all take, teach your dog to swap for something else of equal or higher value. When starting the swap game, present the higher value item and allow your dog to take it first, before then removing the item they just had. Pair a command with this so your dog knows what to expect.
3. Hand feed often. This again instills the lesson that hands = good things. Especially as you raise a new pup, feed often from your hands to associate your hands as something that is pleasant to have near their mouth. Training with treats is a great way to do this with the bonus of training other commands while you hand feed.
Seek professional help
If your dog is resource guarding, it’s a serious issue that can be very dangerous. Like any behaviour problem, the earlier you get help, the easier and faster it will be to get results so I suggest getting help as soon as you recognise the guarding behaviour.
Register to my free video workshop: Stop Your Dog Barking And Lunging At Other Dogs And Enjoy Your Walks Again
Emus are different to dogs. Dogs are different to each other, all individuals. Yet there are so many things between all creatures that are the same. So in some ways, we can learn a lesson for our dogs from a totally different species. And not just for dog training, but for ourselves in our own lives and personal development.
While I’ve trained with a few species other than dogs, training emus is fairly new to me. So just a few short weeks ago, I stepped into the emu enclosure at the zoo for the first time to meet Jimmy and Apple up close and make a plan for their training.
The first thing to learn is to be careful if you’re directly in front of them, because if they lash out with their sharp claws, it’s going to be towards the front, and you’re going to be in trouble. These two emus are familiar with people and would have to feel quite threatened to do that, but just like safety around horses, dogs or any other animal, accidents and mistakes can always happen.
But I’m going to tell you what I learned about training and even about myself from meeting one of these emus in particular, Apple.
Unlike Jimmy, Apple had come from a large field where she was pretty much wild. Being moved to the zoo was a big change for her and no doubt, stressful. She’d already lived at the zoo for several months before I met her and settled in… but she was more nervous and easily stressed than Jimmy, who was quite friendly and liked human attention.
So I felt instantly confident that we could train Jimmy quite easily as she came up (Jimmy is a she) and enjoyed taking their favourite food from my hands – grapes.
Apple on the other hand, would investigate us, see one tiny movement that scared her, and start pacing the fence. She was stressed and wouldn’t take food from us. There were times that if one thing changed in her enclosure, she’d pace for days afterwards.
When I saw this, my first thought was, “I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere trying to train that emu.”
However, with patience, short sessions and hope, Apple’s progress actually happened quite quickly. For animals that were adults and had never had training before, both emus progressed well. But I am especially proud of Apple.
She started out taking one grape and dropping it, then pacing for the rest of the day and keeping her distance from us.
Now she approaches us for training, works for her grapes with concentrated effort and recovers very quickly if she does have a set back.
So what’s the lesson here?
What made an impact on me was that when I met Apple, I had immediately assumed the worst. I worried and thought that it was mission impossible.
But once I made a plan, started small and just did small sessions each time we met, results were actually FAST.
Now of course this has happened with dog training clients many times before. You might be thinking, this is a lesson you should learn earlier as a trainer, and I had.
But something about Apple’s case made me really think about it and reaffirm that even when it seems difficult, it can be done.
And I wasn’t just thinking about the client’s dogs that I meet that are nervous and seem like they’ll be a challenge to help.
I was thinking of challenges I face with my own dogs (yes, dog trainers have challenges with their dogs too. In fact we’re often attracted to difficult dogs)!
Was I in a habit of being too pessimistic? Possibly.
But more likely – I didn’t have enough faith in myself and in the results that are possible with the training skills I know how to perform.
Don’t listen to the inner negative voice that we all have (aka, the itty bitty shitty committee).
Have faith in the training process itself. All you need to do is apply it correctly – in small sessions with lots of patience. While knowing what your end goal is, focus on the moment you are in right now and find success within that moment.
Here’s Apple learning to be touched willingly for physical handling:
Here’s Jimmy with voluntary syringe work for oral medications – Apple can do this too – in fact, she nailed it first!
“Emus/ dingoes/ insert XYZ animal here, can’t be trained”
Have you ever been told that something can’t be done?
You can’t have the career you want, you can’t run your own business, your pet, “can’t be trained?”
Do you listen?
It’s not just our inner critic we need to be careful of, but the voices of others too. Often times, we need to listen to ourselves and not those around us, even when they may have our best interests at heart.
Here’s some things I’ve been told that would have been very sad, had I listened (or kept listening):
“The animal industry is really hard to get into, you should get a safe job”
“People won’t hire a dog trainer in this area”
“You can probably get one client per week but don’t expect it to be full time. Don’t quit your nice, safe job”
“Dingoes can’t be trained”
While some of those things took longer for me to build confidence in than others, I did them anyway.
When I met Apple it was my own inner voice that said, “that emu can’t be trained.”
Thankfully, I did that anyway, too.
Never, ever give up. And especially don’t give up before you even try!
This is Envy.
She is fast, agile and knows how to leap over things. But when she was a puppy, she was told repeatedly, “you can’t escape that pen.”
Now fully grown and fully capable if she tried, she still believes she can’t get out of the puppy pen. Handy for us. But don’t be like Envy in the pen. Don’t listen to anyone’s voice telling you that you can’t, even if you’ve been hearing that viewpoint since you were a small child.
Start working towards your goals today. You never know how fast you can get there.
What goal will that be for you?
Register to my free video workshop: Stop Your Dog Barking And Lunging At Other Dogs And Enjoy Your Walks Again
Looking for information online can be so confusing as there is so much conflicting advice. In Training Matters, we explain not just the how of dog training, but the why, so that you know what to do and why to do it this way.