Would you like to understand your dog better? Love dogs and can’t get enough of stories about how dogs make life special? There are many great books written to help you understand and train dogs better. This list is just a taste of what is out there. This is a short list of the top 5 titles that made the list of favorite books to read for dog lovers in a recent informal poll taken in a couple of my most active Facebook dog groups (30,000+ members).
The Other End Of The Leash by Patricia B McConnell, Ph.D. This book was at the top of the list as a favorite book. I am currently reading it now. This book written by an Applied Animal Behaviorist and dog trainer is a great book to help understand how our human body language translates to dogs and affects how they behave in response to us. It is an interesting book to help connect with your dog in a way that they can easily understand.
Plenty In Life Is Free by Kathy Sdao. This book was written by an Asssociate Certified Animal Behaviorist. It focuses on the humane treatment of animals and the effect of training in a more positive manner. The author has 26 years of full-time experience in animal training. She runs Bright Spot Dog Training in Tacoma, Washington.
Top Dog: The Story Of Marine Hero Lucca by Maria Goodavage. This is the true story of a military working dog who served in two bloody wars. It is a heartwarming story of the bond between a dog and its handlers and the traumas that these dogs endure. The author is a New York Times Bestselling author.
From Bird Brained to Brilliant by Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell. The author left law practice to become a full-time dog trainer. She owns Bona Fide Dog Academy LLC in Omaha NE. This book focuses on sporting dogs. This book delves into understanding the sporting dogs instincts and how to train them effectively.
I am always trying to learn better ways to communicate and understand my dogs and my client dogs. If you have any great books to add to this list, I would love to hear about them. The books pictured above are the books on my current reading list.
Apps have definitely changed the way we live and share information. How we take care of our dogs is certainly easier with apps. Here are a few of my favorite apps to help you to be a better dog mama or papa. They are listed in the order that they appear on my phone:
Facebook — Facebook has many dog specific groups and pages. Many have trainers, vets, and behavior specialists among their members. Have a favorite breed? Most breeds have a dedicated group as well. Search topics like obedience, trainers, walkers, etc. to connect on subjects that matter to you. There are even raw food groups and nail maintenance groups.
Instagram — Love taking pictures of your pup? Instagram has great filters and companion apps to make your dog pictures even better.
Rover — Need a dog walker, dog sitter, someone to drop-in on your furry baby? Rover offers local sitters and walkers as well as in-home boarding and doggie daycare. Full disclosure here: I started as a Rover sitter and still take an occasional client from the site. Basic criminal background checks are done on all Rover sitters/walkers and Rover insures your dog and property. See Rover for full details and disclosures.
Pet First Aid — This is a great app for canine and feline first aid and wellness. In addition to basic first aid, it also has articles on dog training, dog friendly hotel locator, preventative care, and tips on how to give your dog medication (just to name a few categories). Love this app!
Nextdoor — This is an app that helps neighbors connect with each other about local topics. Get a recommendation on dog friendly businesses or dog parks. Lost dogs are also posted here.
Chewy — This is a great place to get a good deal on dog stuff.
BarkHappy — Want to set up a doggy play-date? Locate dogs nearby, pet friendly places on the map, see pet policies and amenities, attend dog friendly events and host your own, as well as lost and found alerts.
YouTube — Wonderful place to find training videos. YouTube has so many trainers and cute puppies. It is a classic at this point.
Dog Breeds 101 — Curious about other breeds or want to know more about your dog? This app has basic information about 80+ of the most popular breeds.
Weather Puppy — Smile every time you check the weather. The puppy changes dependent on the weather forecast. You can even add photos of your own dog.
These are the apps that I have on my Iphone that help me have more fun with Betty, my border collie. What is on your phone that helps you with your furry friends?
Are you thinking about getting your first pet? Are you wondering what to consider before bringing that adorable little furry ball of kisses and wagging tail home?
My daughter loves dogs. She always has. She has been married now for several years and her two daughters also love dogs. Her husband has given the green light for a family dog and they are all looking forward to having a dog baby. So, I have been thinking about ways to help her be ready for her new baby. This article is for her and any other person thinking about adding a new pet to their family.
Here are a few things to consider BEFORE you start looking at shelters or online at places like www.petfinder.com. Please rescue your pet as a first choice. There are so many pets looking for a family. Many are purebred pups that turned out to be too much work for their families. Many have been abused and neglected by people that had no idea what was involved with raising a puppy. Mixed breeds can also make for some pretty awesome family pets. They are often hardier than purebred dogs because inbreeding among purebred dogs can increase the likelihood of many health problems. Okay, now that I have that out of the way, I can get off of my soapbox and get back to some other considerations to make before bringing that adorable puppy home:
How much room do you have? Some dogs need a lot more space than others do . Research breeds and learn a little about general dispositions of breeds. All dogs are different but the breed does matter.
How much time do you have to train a pet? A puppy will need a lot of attention. It will not necessarily sleep through the night. It is a baby. It is very similar to bringing a bay home. They are adorable — but a lot of work too.
How old are your kids? Kids and pets are wonderful together if properly trained and introduced.
How often is someone home? It is not fair to bring a dog home that will be alone all day. Bored dogs are destructive dogs.
Are you physically strong enough to manage and exercise your pet when it is full grown? Smaller pets are easier to manage if you are older, less active, or have a disability that would affect the management and care of a pet.
Will you be able to keep the pet for the rest of its life? 5–20 years? A pet deserves to be kept for its entire life. I am not bashing anyone that has ever re-homed a pet. I have been in a situation where I have re-homed a pet. It was not planned and it broke my heart. I still feel guilty about it — even though my pet went to a much better home than I could provide at the time.
Can you afford a pet? Vet bills, food, grooming, etc. are not cheap. Can you budget for all of these items?
What do you want to be able to do with your pet? Again, be realistic about your lifestyle goals for your new pet. A chihuahua may not make a great running buddy. It makes a great couch buddy though. Most border collies don’t want to lie around watching tv all day either. They do make great hiking buddies though. Check out different breeds to know their tendencies.
Okay, now that you have figured out that you are really ready for a dog and you are ready to find your new family member, what do you need to be ready?
Is the puppy old enough? Has the puppy had a chance to be with it’s mother and litter mates for at least 8 weeks? This is the law in many US states. There are many reasons that puppies need to stay with mama for at least 8 weeks in addition to just the health reasons. Critical socialization occurs with mom and the litter. Do not take a puppy any sooner.
Bedding should be comfortable and fairly inexpensive at this point. Puppies and fearful older dogs have a high likelihood of chewing up whatever bedding you provide. This is not the time to spend $100 on a designer dog bed. A simple blanket will do for now.
Crate — I highly recommend having a crate for your new dog for their safety as well as the safety of your home. New puppies and newly rescued dogs can be very chewy. For tips on crate training, read my article on crates.
Food — There is just as much debate about dog food as there is about people food. www.dogfoodadvisor.com is a great objective website that compares all the major brands of food. Many people are huge advocates of raw feeding. It can be a great option with one caution. If you have anyone in the family with a compromised immune system (babies, elderly, sick), I do not recommend raw because if the increased chance of salmonella or Ecoli. Therapy dogs are not allowed to be raw fed for this reason. A dog that is raw fed can spread bacteria with their kisses.
Food and water bowls — Ideally durable bowls that can’t be destroyed easily and are dishwasher-safe.
Collar and leash — You won’t get far without these. A flat collar is a good choice for a puppy. Puppies will outgrow them quickly. Leashes can be chewed through in about a minute if you don’t monitor a new puppy. Have a few — just in case. I always keep a spare collar and leash that I have picked up at a dollar store (In my doggy first aid backpack) in my car. You never know when you will need a new one. Best to be prepared.
Clicker if you plan to use clicker training. I like them because they consistently mark the desired behavior at the perfect time. Think of it like taking a mental picture for your dog of the exact behavior that you desire. Many people also use a “yes” instead of a clicker. I have done that when I don’t have a clicker handy.
Treat bag and treats — I like ones that have holders for poop bags and magnetic closures at the top. A waist belt to secure the bag will drop less than one that clips onto a waistband.
Vet address -The location of the nearest emergency Vet is something that you need before you need it. Plus puppies need a lot of shots the first few months. Check with your vet to see what is recommended in your area.
Poop bags — Lots and lots of these little bags. You can always find them at dollar stores. It is the law to pick up after your pet in most US States nowadays. You do get used to it
Patience -lots and lots of patience. You could get really really lucky and get a dog that is a breeze to train, doesn’t chew anything up, and never causes trouble. The chance of that is about as likely as finding a unicorn in your backyard though. It is going to take longer than you think. Be consistent and patient. Having a dog is one of the best things around in my opinion.
How to curb excessive barking and keep the neighborhood peace.Does your dog bark at cats, people, other dogs, squirrels, boredom, or the washing machine? Maybe they just bark at people or other dogs while on a leash?There are too many things to list that a dog can and will bark at. What can we do about it?
The quick answer is that it depends. Dogs get noisy for a variety of reasons. How we solve the problem depends upon the reason the dog is barking in the first place. Here are a few of the main reasons that dogs get noisy and things you can do to help curb the noise:
Anxiety — Scared dogs can be noisy dogs. Many dogs experience separation anxiety, anxiety in new surroundings, or anxiety around new people. Dealing with the anxiety and desensitizing the dog to the source of the anxiety will usually diminish barking if it is a new habit. The longer the dog has been barking, the longer it will take to teach them a new response. The sooner you deal with it, the easier it will be.
Boredom — Bored dogs will sometimes bark (among other unwanted behaviors). Gone are the days that dogs must be left alone all day at home or alone in the backyard left to their own devices while you work. Doggy daycare, pet-sitters and dog walkers are everywhere now. Daily walks and playtime are good for the pet owners too. All work and no play makes for destructive and noisy behavior. Crating will often help to settle down a dog that has been crate trained.
Interesting creatures outside the window — If your dog goes crazy for squirrels or cats, an easy fix is to block windows or close off rooms while you are gone. Another popular way to manage this is to reward the dog for calm behavior around these critters. Have treats handy.
Reactivity/Over-stimulation — I won’t sugar coat this one. It can take a while to teach a dog how to be calm. It can be done — but it can take months (or even years) for some dogs. Lots of praise and rewards when the dog is quiet and calm are the way to go. Another popular method for dealing with reactivity is to play the engage/redirect game and to desensitize the dog to the stimulation. I care for a dog that lives next door to a small dog that is let out into the backyard a few times each day. Whenever the dog is let out, it runs out of the house yapping in delight. This has become something that my client dog can hear from anywhere in the yard and will run over to greet the neighbor dog by barking back. I have practiced with my client by teaching her the command “quiet” and rewarding her with high value treats for not barking. The client dog has already been taught to bark on command so it was not hard to teach her quiet. Obedience training in general will help calm a dog. I also practice obedience drills when the neighbor dog is outdoors to redirect the focus away from the barking neighbor.
Leash reactivity — If the reactivity is towards other dogs while out walking on a leash, the most common method to train for quieter walks is to maintain distance around other dogs and to reward quiet behavior, change directions and gradually shorten the distance. Again, this is easier in theory than in person. I have moved to a much busier metropolitan area and sometimes it is not possible to avoid other dogs. My progress with my own dog with this problem has been slower than I would like. My border collie is too friendly and she gets frustrated on a leash when she cannot greet people and dogs. She wants to be everybody’s new buddy. I had to stop letting strangers pet her because it caused too much stimulation and frustration for her. Many people want to pet the pretty dog. It just isn’t what is best for her training at the moment. We are still working on teaching her how to greet people and other dogs politely while on leash. Another thing that I have learned the hard way is that if you have two leash reactive dogs, DO NOT WALK THEM TOGETHER. They will feed off of each other’s energy and the barking will become exponentially worse. Work on the dogs individually. Walk them separately.
Attention seeking — If a dog is getting extra attention from barking and you yell at them to stop, they are getting what they want. Do not yell at a dog that is barking. They will just think that you are barking too. Ignore them until they stop. Once they are quiet and calm, praise and reward. Never praise or reward during the barking to distract them — unless you want more barking.
Guarding — Some dogs have issues with resource guarding and will bark to keep other dogs and people away from their resources. Working on desensitizing to whatever is triggering this will help. If it is food, hand feed the dog to help them understand that good things come from you and do not need to be guarded. If it is a person that they are guarding, teaching them to go to their mat, will help reduce guarding their people.
Keeping your dogs fairly quiet can be a legal concern in many cities such as Los Angeles where they can revoke your dog’s license, confiscate your animal and bar you from owning any animals for one year. If all else fails, some people have had success with ultrasonic anti-bark devices that emit a high pitch unpleasant to dogs when activated by barking. I have one of these at home and it worked on both animals in my home immediately. The first day, the dogs activated the device by barking at some dogs walking by the patio. Once the device was activated, the dogs stopped barking and looked around. Then they hid under the bed. They were skittish for the first few days — but quiet. After a week, the dogs acted normally and were still not barking. It did not teach the dogs to stop barking altogether. My dogs still gave me a little woof when they needed a potty break or wanted to play. They learned to bark softly instead of big crazy barks. My dog also barks much less in general now. When we are out and away from the device, she hardly barks at all. These do not work on all dogs and tend to work best for dogs that bark at home because the transmitters have an effective radius usually less than 35 feet. However, if you have tried everything else and your dog is still barking and you need to get it under control immediately, they are humane and worth a try. The sonic device and all the other training combined has taught her to bark much less. I don’t have any experience with bark collars so I can’t comment from personal experience regarding them. These tools are not a substitute for training. But, they can speed up the process. As with many other issues related to dogs, there isn’t one right way to fix the problem instantly for every dog. It can be time consuming and frustrating at times. Stick with it and be consistent. Give yourself a break if the first few things you try don’t work right away. It is a process…
The idea of a dog park is wonderful. Your dog gets to run around off-leash as nature intended with other dogs while getting much needed socialization with other dogs and people, plenty of exercise and new things to sniff. Ideally, only pleasant and healthy dogs will attend. What actually happens can be very different.
Here are things to keep in mind before you go to your local dog park:
Is your dog healthy? If you have a dog with a compromised immune system or an illness, you really shouldn’t be going to a dog park. This seems like commonsense to me. But, when I was at a local dog park in Los Angeles last week, there was an owner that brought his dog to the park with a very nasty looking eye infection. The eye was oozing and the dog could not see out of the eye. When other dogs were on his bad side, the dog became frightened and then defensively aggressive. This dog did not need extra playtime. He needed to heal. The owner said that it was not contagious — but 50/50 on whether or not he would lose vision in the infected eye. I personally did not want my healthy curious dog anywhere near that dog. Any time that you bring your dog in contact with other dogs, you risk illness. Dog parks are for healthy dogs. Make sure your dog is current on all recommended vaccines. Consult your vet if you are not sure. Many parks do not allow dogs that have not been spayed or neutered. In California, it is the law that dogs must be neutered or spayed to be at any public dog park.
Does your dog get along well with other dogs? Tell the truth. Has your dog been in a fight or bitten another dog? Do not be that person that feigns shock when you dog starts a fight for the first time — except people recognize you and it happens weekly. Please. Just. Don’t. Is your dog frightened of other dogs? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, try a play-date with a dog you know that your dog likes. A dog attack is not worth the risk. As the owner, you will be liable. If your dog is the victim, it can cause additional behavioral issues with any dog — especially with a dog that is already timid. If your dog needs to be muzzled, he should not be brought to a dog park. This will be extremely stressful and potentially dangerous to the muzzled dog. When you arrive, take you dog for a short walk to help them calm down a bit. Most parks have an enclosed entry area with double sets of gates. These are to give your dog a chance to sniff around and calm down before you open the second gate. Give them a minute or two to relax before entering the main park.
Can you watch your dog and supervise their behavior or do you have a “dogs will be dogs” attitude? Nobody want to see you texting or surfing Facebook while your dog humps every dog in the park and jumps on every person. If you cannot supervise and control your dog, please do not bring them. It is not cute. Perfection is not required and probably not possible. Just watch your dog. A dog should have some basic manners before going to the dog park. Again, you will be liable for injury if your dog jumps on someone and hurts them (think about the elderly and children).
While we are mentioning children, dog parks are for dogs. Babies and toddlers can be hurt very quickly at a busy dog park. Some dogs love to play with other dogs but will chase small children and bark at them. Herding dogs are notorious for this. Children (and adults) that are afraid of dogs will attract barking dogs. It is not a good idea. If you want to help your kids be comfortable around dogs, that is wonderful and I wholeheartedly encourage it. Start smaller. Find a friend, neighbor or family member with a good dog and introduce your child to them. Any older child that enters the dog park, should know how to be safe around strange dogs. They should not run or scream around strange dogs. They should be supervised at all times. I have a border collie that naturally wants to herd. She has been taught how to behave around my small grandchildren that do not scream or dart around her. If I see a bunch of little kids running around making a lot of noise, I can’t bring her into the dog park. I won’t risk her getting too excited by the kids and playing too rough. The next person may not be as diligent.
Does the dog park have faucets or water for the dogs? All that running around and playing can make a pup thirsty. Communal water can be filthy and harbor disease. Bring your own bowl and fill it with fresh clean water. Keep your dog from playing in stagnant water.
Is the park secure? I always walk the perimeter checking for holes in the fence that a dog could use to escape. I also look for weeds growing in the grass called fox-tails. These can injure paws and get lodged to the point of infection. Are there tricky potholes that a dog could get hurt running through? If the park is not safe, you are better off taking your pooch for a nice walk.
Is there dog poop everywhere? It can breed disease. You must scoop your dog’s poop everywhere public- even at the dog park. It’s the law in most places these days.
Is the park too big? Will your dog come when you call? I prefer smaller parks because my dog doesn’t tire quickly and although she will come when called, she really doesn’t want to leave the park at times. A over-sized park can make it very difficult to capture your dog if they are not ready to go home.
Ultimately, the decision is yours to make whether or not the dog park is right for your dog. I think they can be wonderful for some dogs and terrible for others. I have a very social active dog that loves the parks. I enjoy meeting the other owners. I always put my dog’s safety first. If something seems dangerous or risky, we leave. We can all make it a better experience by using some commonsense and courtesy. We might even make some great new dog loving friends.
Dogs that have been crate-trained in a positive manner often learn to love crates. We would hate them so many people that have not trained their dogs in crates cannot believe that dogs would actually like this. But, they love them.
Years ago, I didn’t know anybody that crate-trained their pets. I had never used one. It seemed cruel to me at the time. I thought of it like caging my animal. It seemed to be a type of jail. I couldn’t imagine doing that to my family pet. I wish I had! A couple of years ago, I got Betty, my border collie. She was a year old and had been crate-trained by her foster family at the Border Collie rescue group. I didn’t think I needed a crate though. Well, I brought Betty home that first day and she was scared. She was pacing and nervous. She did not settle down at bedtime. I tried putting her in the bathroom because she was not completely potty-trained and I didn’t have any pens or crates yet (I didn’t realize I was bringing her home that first night. I thought I was just going to meet her.). She cried all night. She scratched. She chewed things. What had I gotten myself into? I tried letting her in the bed with me and she wanted to sit on my head. It was a rough first night. The next day at work, I was talking to a co-worker that had crate-trained his dogs. He offered me the use of a spare crate. It was the right size. I accepted the offer after he told me a little more about it. That night, I brought the crate home and set it up. Betty went right in and settled down. What just happened? I couldn’t believe it. She had terrible nightmares the first few months, so I closed the doors and she never had a problem with it. I was learning. She slept well in her crate. So, I started reading up on crate-training. I learned that dogs actually like a private den-like space to relax in. Wolves sleep in dens in the wild and dogs, like their ancestors, enjoyed a nice cozy sleeping spot. I found that she settles down in her crate and will go in it to relax when she needs some space. Here are a few things that I learned as I explored this whole crate-training thing for Betty:
Get the right size. A crate should be large enough for the dog to walk into, turn around and lie down easily. A larger crate won’t feel as cozy to a dog and a smaller size will be too cramped. Dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep. A crate will make potty-training much easier. A blanket or crate cover helps make it even more private and den-like. You can find crates at pet stores or online easily. Great places to get a crate at a good price are garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. There are also a lot of great designs to camouflage the crates and make them look more like furniture. I love looking for ideas like this on Pinterest.
Find the right bedding. My Betty runs hot and doesn’t like anything too fluffy. I bought a beautiful, expensive crate mat when I purchased her crate (I had to return the borrowed crate). I heard Betty pushing the mat around at night. Betty ate the mat when she couldn’t scrape it to the side one day while I was at work. She also ate a very lovely dog bed. It was about a year before she stopped eating beds. Some of the dogs that I boarded would bring their own crates and mats. One of my customers had the great idea to use a small area rug instead of a crate mat. Betty kept going into this pet’s crate when he visited us. So I put a fluffy microfiber bath mat in her crate. It was a perfect fit and Betty didn’t eat it. This was washable too. Find what your pet likes.
Location matters. An ideal spot for a crate is quiet and not too hot and not too cold. I keep Betty’s crate in my room near me. I don’t close the door anymore and she can spend a little time with me when we first go to sleep. She always goes back to her crate to really get some good sleep though. In the beginning, I closed the doors at bedtime and when I would go to work. She loves the spot by the patio door at my mom’s house even better with her crate by the fresh air.
Start slow. I was fortunate that someone else had already exposed Betty to a crate. A dog that has never been in a crate won’t take to it instantly. Start by having the crate in the room and putting them in for short times. Gradually increase the time.
Good things happen in the crate. Many people give special treats and toys that the dog only gets while in the crate. Many people feed their dogs in their crates. I save messy chews for the crate.
No punishment in the crate. Do not ever use the crate as a time out spot. You do not want the dog to associate the crate with punishment. You want the dog to want to go into the crate.
No kids in the crate. The crate is the dog’s sanctuary. Teach your kids that the dog needs a spot to have quiet time.
A crate is a safe place. If you have an ill or injured dog, a crate keeps the pet calm and contained. If you have a chewy or destructive pet, the crate keeps your furniture and home safe. It also keeps the pet from ingesting things that it should not. Thunderstorms and fireworks frighten most dogs. A crate is a nice safe cozy place for them to wait out these scary events. When I visit family I bring Betty’s crate. It comes in handy to keep her out of places that she doesn’t belong and away from kids or pets that become overwhelming. Most of my family has pets so it was nice to have a crate handy when introducing Betty to new canine family members. Betty was happy to go into her crate when we were teaching the kids to be gentle and unafraid of dogs as well as desensitizing her to small children.
If you ever need to board your dog, being crate-trained will reduce the anxiety of boarding because kennels and most private pet-sitters and boarders will crate your pet at bedtime at a minimum. Being able to separate animals into crates will also keep them safer. Many pet-sitters prefer crate-trained pets. There is always a risk of injury if the animal is allowed to roam at night because they are unsupervised while the humans are sleeping and can get into things. If there are other dogs present, fights can occur. I am not boarding animals currently -but when I did, I never allowed pets from different households to roam freely together at night. It was far too risky for the pets and my furniture. I have a client that I pet-sit that enjoys having Betty come provide companionship during our visits. I bring Betty’s crate for overnight sleeping. She sleeps better and doesn’t roam the house. I can sleep better know both dogs are safe while I sleep.
Not every dog will “love” their crate. Some rescued dogs that were abused and crated will have negative associations with crates. I do believe that every dog should have one available for emergencies and to keep them confined as is sometimes needed when injured or recuperating from an illness or injury. Having them acclimated to a crate ahead of time will reduce the stress of being crated.
Teaching the kids in your life to be a dog’s best friend
I have a border collie named Betty with strong herding instincts. I rescued Betty at a year old. She is 2–1/2 years old now. I also have five grandchildren ranging in age from newborn to seven years old that were terrified of dogs when I brought Betty for a visit a few months after I brought Betty home. Since I love my grandchildren and my new dog, my mission is to teach the kids how to behave around dogs as well as how to teach my dog to behave around small children. Keeping everybody safe is always the top priority. I also wanted the kids and the dog to enjoy each other.
I cannot stress enough that none of the children have been left alone with the dog. All have been closely supervised 100% of the time. Betty is a very friendly and obedient dog. Still, I would not leave her alone with children.
The first few visits, I put the dog in the backyard of my kid’s homes and the grand- kids could see the dog through the glass and the dog could see them. While they were watching the dog, we talked about the way the dog naturally behaves. I told them the history of what the dog was bred to do. We talked about sheep. We talked about the dog’s natural desire to keep the sheep safe from getting lost or running away. We took it very slowly and I waited until the kids relaxed. It took several visits before the kids wanted the dog in the same room. In the meantime, I did a couple things to desensitize the dog to the movements that small children make. We walked near parks and children playing. We kept at a comfortable distance. I rewarded Betty for not reacting to squealing running children, bicycles, runners, and other dogs. Basically, we worked on behaving around distractions. I am still working on distractions with Betty. The other thing that I did was help the kids understand how to behave around dogs (be less distracting). I told them to be calm around dogs. Running makes the dog want to chase them and jump. Squealing makes the dog want to bark. The kids learned to be calmer around Betty. After several visits, the kids were ready to meet Betty face to face, the interactions were very short. If either the kids or Betty got nervous, Betty went outside or into her crate. The crate was and is off-limits to the kids. It is Betty’s safe place. Time went on and the kids and Betty were less nervous around each other. Both are still always supervised when together.
As the grand-kids and Betty relaxed around each other, I taught the kids to wait for Betty to come to them. I taught them to be non-threatening to Betty. No chasing the dog. They learned that Betty liked being scratched under her chin and being petted on her sides. Many dogs do not want their heads touched. This is especially true if the dog has been hit by a previous owner. Rescue dogs have unknown histories. They learned that most dogs don’t want hugs and none want to have their tails pulled. No hitting or kicking the dog. No crawling on top of the dog. No pouring dirt on the dog. They learned to never run up to a dog. They learned that you don’t go to a strange dog or pet dogs that you don’t know. Next, the older kids (5 and 7 years old) helped give Betty treats when we practiced obedience training. The younger grandchildren (2 and 3 years old) like to walk around with treat bags to hand out to the dogs now. I had to hide the clickers because the littlest grand-kids were fascinated by the clicker sounds and I didn’t want to desensitize the dog to the clicker. It helped that my son got a dog that is very gentle around his three smaller kids. When my daughter’s older kids wanted to be able to practice training with Betty, I stood behind them at first to help Betty know that the kids should be obeyed. I taught the kids the commands and hand signals for obedience training and they loved learning how to get Betty to do tricks. I taught the kids to only say the command word once and wait for her to obey. Obedience training helped Betty understand that the older kids could tell her what to do also and it calmed her even more around them. The most recent thing that my two oldest grand daughters have been working to learn is loose-leash walking. We practiced with Betty during Mother’s Day by attaching two leashes to her no-pull harness. She is not completely trained to walk perfectly with a loose leash yet. One leash was held by my 5 year-old grand-daughter and I held the other leash because Betty is strong and will still try to chase a cat or a squirrel if given the opportunity. My seven year-old grand-daughter held the leash to my mother’s eight pound chihuahua. I taught the girls how to hold the leash with both hands, to keep the pups on the left-side and to stop walking if the dogs pulled. In a little over a year, we have gone from kids that are terrified at the sight of a dog to training and walking dogs. The kids beam when they get Betty to beg or spin on command.It is important to always watch the kids and go at a pace that doesn’t make the kids or the dog uncomfortable. Our progress has been determined by the curiosity of the kids and the comfort level of the dog. If anybody involved seems nervous, we take a break. One of my grand-daughters that was especially fearful of dogs initially has become somewhat of a natural around dogs. My mother’s chihuahua is often nervous around new people. Little Audri shown below at 5-years old has a calm, easy nature that dogs find very comforting. She’s the quiet one and our dogs love her. We all do. I am so glad to share my love of dogs with my grandchildren.
If you could ask your dog why they love to dig so much, you might get one of the following answers:
It feels so good. I just love the feel of fresh soft dirt on my paws. This big hole in the cool dirt feels so great when I want to rest. I learned it from a friend.
It is really entertaining. Just watch how I can make this dirt fly through the air.
It is great exercise and I need to do something with all this energy.
I am so bored. I am just occupying my mind with something interesting.
I smelled something suspicious out there and I am going to find it.
I have to get out of here.
So it is easy enough to understand why they love to dig. A tougher question is what do you do about it once it has begun? Digging is very self-rewarding. How do you get your dog to stop doing something they clearly enjoy so much?
Have a designated place to dig. If you can give them one spot that is just for digging, It is easy enough to teach them that this is the only spot to enjoy the digging. A kiddie pool filled with dirt is great. You can even bury some toys in the dirt to make it even more exciting.
Exercise is a great way to occupy your dog’s body in a positive way. A tired dog will be less inclined to dig up the yard.Mental stimulation is a must for most dogs. The smarter the dog, the more you will need to stimulate them mentally. Obedience training is great for mental stimulation. Training sessions will tire a dog out as much as a walk — just in a different way.Monitor behavior. Catch the digging early. A firm “no dig” and re-direction helps. Reward good behavior. Bury chicken wire in the holes and cover with rocks to make the digging areas less desirable temporarily. Make sure to roll sharp edges away from digging surface. If the pet is intent on escaping, a concrete border poured along the perimeter and at least 12″ deep may be necessary to keep some breeds from digging their way to freedom. As with all habits, the longer it is allowed to persist, the harder it will be to correct. In addition to the previous tips, the one that is often the quickest and easiest is to bury the dog’s poop or coffee grounds in the holes. Fill with some cheap vinegar. I like to stock up at the dollar stores. Dogs don’t like the smell of vinegar and most do not want to dig in poop or coffee ( I have used both). Once the holes are filled, cover them with dirt. You won’t smell the poop or coffee once it is covered. But, your dog will definitely smell it. You will have to be consistent. After a couple weeks of this, most dogs will give up and go onto something that smells better to occupy their time. They may try a few other places as well. But, if you are consistent, they WILL give up. As with all things concerning dogs, patience and persistence is the most important quality for a dog owner to possess.
Top things to do to have the best dog of your life and be your dog’s best friend
Bonding is the first thing to do when you want a great dog and aim to be your dog’s best friend. Some dogs will seem to bond with their owners instantly. Others will take longer to warm up. They need to feel safe to have a good bond. If the dog is afraid of you, it may obey you — but it won’t always do what you want when you are not around. A good way to bond when you first bring a new pet home is to provide a safe, quiet place for the new pup to rest. A crate is preferred by many dog owners. It should be large enough for the pet to walk into, stand up and turn around. A larger crate is not advised because the pet may urinate in a larger space. A dog will normally not urinate or defecate in a smaller crate because they do not like to sleep near their own waste. Crates are cozy to dogs and remind them of dens which are used in the wild to protect them from the elements and other predators. A blanket or cover over the crate increases the feeling of safety for a dog. They do not think of crates as a jail or confinement the way people would. Instead, to a dog, a crate is a safe space that they can go whenever they need a break or a nap. Children should not be allowed in the dog’s crate. A crate is the dog’s space. Do not use a crate to punish a dog. Giving a dog special treats and toys in their crate make this space even more desirable when crate training. http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/crate_training.html When you first bring a new dog home, do not smother it with attention. Get on the floor with it. Allow the dog to sniff around a little and come to you. Many dogs are naturally afraid of children. Train the children to be gentle around dogs and to allow the dog to sleep in peace and that the crate is off-limits. A dog that is allowed to spend time in the home with all family members will be better bonded and everything else is easier with a good strong bond.
Exercise is very important to all living creatures. It is especially important for dogs. A dog that does not get regular energy is more nervous and will try to occupy itself in ways that you may not like such as chewing furniture, toys and shoes. Different types of exercise satisfy different needs in animals. Walking a dog is great for building your bond and allows a dog to explore with all the sights and smells. It is also a chance to work on training which is good for dogs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFgtqgiAKoQ Playing fetch and letting the dog run around is also a wonderful thing to do with your dog. It is a different type of exercise. Both are great. One is not better than the other. Some dogs love to learn to play Frisbee or agility. The more you can teach your dog and share with it, the better.
Training is the next building block to create a wonderful dog. Now that you have a good bond and your dog has gotten some exercise, it is ready to learn some potentially life-saving commands. Potty training is a must for any family pet. Teaching your pet to come when called can save their life. Basic obedience training is a wonderful way to teach your pet some basic commands. Many people teach their dogs themselves. There are many wonderful videos on YouTube and online. There is no reason to not teach your pup the basics. The next step in training is to train around other dogs. Once your dog will listen at home, practice in the yard around a few distractions, take them to a park for more distractions. Group classes are wonderful if you find a trainer that uses positive treat-based reinforcement. Scientific studies have shown that the more modern positive reinforcement treat-based training is the most effective to train dogs without increasing aggression. http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2012/08/positive-reinforcement-and-dog-training.html
Feeding a good quality diet is common sense. Good quality dog foods can be found at modest prices. Check the labels. The first ingredient should be meat. Many dogs are allergic to grains and chicken. If your dog has diarrhea for longer than two weeks when changing their diet, there may be allergies. Another sign of allergies is excessive paw-licking. Many pets thrive on brands that have fewer ingredients. A popular website to check the comparisons of dog food is http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/ Puppies need three meals per day. Adult dogs need 1–2 meals per day. Measure your dogs food and don’t free feed if your dog might overeat. Plus if your dog is ever sick, it comes in handy to know how much your dog is eating — which you cannot determine accurately when free feeding. Obesity in animals will shorten their lives and reduce their quality of life just like it does in us.
Get your family on the same page. Let everyone in the family know the commands that will be used and the normal daily routines. Dogs thrive on predictable rules and boundaries. The rules of the house must be enforced by all family members. For example, if you do not feed the dog table scraps but one person sneaks them to the dog, the dog will beg and be obnoxious about table scraps. Be consistent. That means everybody. Let the kids practice with obedience training. If the dog doesn’t listen to the children, stand behind the children to help the dog know that they must obey the children just like they obey you. Make sure the children know how to treat a dog. No kicking, no tail pulling, eye poking, or climbing all over the pet. Sleeping dogs should be allowed to sleep. Even if you trust the dog and the child to be good around each other, never leave children and dogs unsupervised. Also make sure that you and any other adults agree on how to train a dog. If you use positive reinforcement but your partner wants to smack the dog, you will not get great results and you will be frustrated with each other.
Socialization is great for dogs just like it is for us. Dog parks can be great or terrible. It really depends on the park, your dog’s personality, and the other dog at the park. There are a lot of variables that you cannot control. For this reason, the dog park is not my first choice for early socialization with your new pet. Walking around the neighborhood is a great start. Once your pet can walk nicely around the neighborhood, visiting friends with pets is another great way to socialize a new pet. We like to visit friends and so do our pets. Exposing your pets slowly and safely to a wide variety of people and places is great for our dogs. It is never too late. If your pet shows aggression toward new people or places, take a step back and reward them for good calm behavior. Go at your pet’s pace. Don’t take a scared puppy to a dog park as a first outing. You want to take him or her to places that will challenge them but not overwhelm them.
Exploring is another great activity to enjoy with your dog. Most dogs are happy to explore new places. An active dog will enjoy hiking while a lazier breed will enjoy a car ride or a nice coffee date with their owner. Match the activity to your dog’s energy level. Dogs can make wonderful travel companions. When I adopted my dog, Betty, she was a rescue border collie. The only time she had been in a car was to go to the shelter or the vet. She had never been on a walk with a leash. The leash and the car terrified her. Now she loves to go for walks and is happy to go in the car with me whenever possible. She has traveled cross country many times. She has learned that both are fun and is eager for the adventure.
Commitment is easy for dogs. For people it does not come so naturally. This is something we could learn from our pets. Your dog will never wake up one morning and decide he or she does not love you anymore. Commit to giving your pet a good life for their entire life. Too many pets end up in shelters because someone thought having a pet was easy. Dogs are not born trained and bonded to you. It takes commitment and the last item on this list…
Patience. Patience. Patience. You will not get your dog trained in a week. You will probably not have a great dog at one year. It will be better at two years though. It will be much better at three years. Then one day when you least expect it, your crazy rescue dog that never listened to you and ate your favorite shoes becomes this really great dog that you can’t wait to spend time with when you get home. Your dog will reflect the amount of time and training that you invest. It happens and it is worth every chewed up shoe and potty accident that you survived to get here.
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