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Flea and Tick
Humans. We love seeing cute stuff, until it becomes annoying and then we get frustrated and blame the dog. Unfortunately, they don’t come with an on/off switch, so once you rev them up, be prepared to deal with the consequences of an overexcited dog. Stop announcing events to your dog and then getting upset when they act like a psychopath before you do that specific activity. What are some examples you ask? Let’s talk about them below.
Let’s say you’re sitting in your living room hanging out with your dog, and you hear your husbands car pull into the driveway. What is the one thing you typically do when you hear your spouse’s car pull in? “DADDY’S HOME!” or “Who’s here”, “who’s that”. When you announce the arrival of the person coming into the house, you create an association that people coming into the house is a big deal. Then your spouse walks in and boom, you are hit with a jumping, overexcited, annoying dog. To make matters worse, humans blame the dog! We then ask, “Why does he behave like this?”
It’s a terrible cycle that we start, and the sole reason for the announcing is selfishness. We think it’s so darn cute to have a dog be excited to see someone, but hate dealing with the jumping, barking, and craziness, especially when it’s grandma or a five year old coming into the house. The best thing you can do is, nothing. Act like its no big deal, don’t announce, don’t act excited to see your dog until they have done something correct.
We should apply that same logic before doing activities as well. Try not saying, “Do you want to go for a walk?” It’s hard to get a dog to calmly walk out the door if they are jazzed up and bouncing off the wall. Same philosophy with car rides, or any other exercise that you want your dog to be calm. Calmness will bring more calmness, and at the end of the day, more happiness to you!
This isn’t to say dogs should never get excited, and far from it. Before a training session, rev them up! Get your dog so excited about playing ball, tug, and frisbee. Your dog should be wound-up and aroused for obedience training and trick training sessions. The difference in these occasions is we actually need the dog to be excited to complete the task. That brings the question. Do we really need the dog to be excited to greet us when we come home?
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Every year we keep a tally of dogs who have been prescribed Prozac, trazodone, or some other type of antidepressant drug, and unfortunately the number keeps going up ever year. Why? Because we are treating our dogs like human beings. We are forgetting that we signed up for an animal to live in our house, and that these animals the needs of a dog, not of a human. Buying them more toys, hanging out with them in the tv room, snuggling in bed with your dog. These are all great, but they are all bullshit. Your dog doesn’t need it, humans do. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do all of the things listed above too, once my dog’s needs are met. I love my dogs more than anything else in the world, ANYTHING, but I will never forget that they are dogs. They are not my kids. The second I get that twisted, is the second I fail them. I treat Trigger, Thurman, and Xena like dogs BECAUSE I love them so much. Because I respect them so freaking much. Let’s dive in.
Dogs are prescribed prozac and trazodone left and right. (which by the way is not a reflection upon the owner. This is not a guilt trip on you, you are following the direction of someone who is following protocol. My goal, is to change that said protocol) They are prescribed for separation anxiety, nervousness and fear, and worst of all overexcitement and too much energy. Are there some dogs who need medication, absolutely. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say less then 10% of the dogs I train actually need it. What they need is structure. They need to be treated like a dog. They need challenged through exercise, mentally and physically. They need to work. That is the bottom line, and something we forgot along the way. These dogs, they were bred for a purpose. Our job as responsible dog owners is to give them that purpose, and it’s not to hang out in the house and do a short 15 minute walk everyday. That’s not enough. That is not going to cut the mustard.
How can we be better? We can start by changing our mindset. Yes, some people own dogs that dont get Regular exercise and they live a perfectly “happy” life. That shouldn’t be the standard, and honestly, it should be far from it. Some of the higher drive and energy dogs need, two good 40-60+ minute exercise sessions a day. Before we start to think about the, I don’t have the time, remember, this is what you signed up for. Daily obedience sessions, even a few 10 minute sessions daily can change your relationship between the two of you! Exercise alone is not the only component that will fix this problem, its a huge piece though. The other? Teaching your dog down time. Teaching your dog that doing nothing is indeed doing something. This is where it gets hard. We love and recommend kennel training, the right way, and never to be used as a place for punishment. Ever! The kennel though, when introduced correctly, becomes a tool to slow your dog down, so they know they can relax and hang out. (We will go further in depth about re-crate training your dog our next blog post.) Structure in every part of your dogs life. Dogs need to know where they stand and what they should be doing constantly. Knowing what youre doing creates confidence, decreases insecurity and anxiety. Have you ever gone to work and no one tells you what to do? You’re ready to hit everyone in the office with a baseball bat, because it creates stress and anxiety.
Give your dog absolutely nothing for free. Make them work for everything. You want to go outside? Perfect, do a down. You want to eat your meal? Beautiful, let’s practice impulse control and have you stay on place beforehand. This mindset of actively working your dog, is life changing. Not just for your dog, but for you!
As always remember, “Properly trained humans can be a dog’s best friend!”
“Vinnie my problem is that my dog lunges, pulls, snarls, or tries to bite people or dogs when they are on the leash”
Most owners of a dog who is severely leash reactive believe that the lunging at other dogs is the problem, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not the issue. The problem begins way before the lunge. Out of the next 100 leash reactive dogs that I will train over the next few weeks, I can guarantee 99 of them have two things in common. Terrible leash manners even before the stimulus comes into the picture. You will see a lot of weaving, pulling, smelling, and realistically a dog who has no understanding of heel, of following their human being. If your dog isn’t listening to the rules when there is no stimulus around, why all of the sudden would they listen when a dog/person/jogger walks past? If there is no expectation set beforehand, your dog will fail. Guaranteed. If we can teach our dog to heel, without stimulus around first, only then can we pass the dog with perfection. However, that expectation, that new standard on the walk, has to be set in stone ahead of time, and enforced indefinitely while on the leash.
Once we teach your dog to heel and walk properly on leash, we will run into our second issue, fixation. Prolonged eye-contact will inevitably get your dog in some serious trouble. Dogs, when staring at each other, are much like two men sitting across the bar staring at each other. The longer they stare, the more their chests puff out, frustration builds, and the inevitable, and altercation. Stopping your dog from being able to fixate on other dogs is the biggest piece to the puzzle. Imagine that your dog has a “freak-out” scale of 1-10. Once they get above 8, you’re in deep, let’s say “doggie-doo”. We need to start correcting the problem at a level 1/2/3. How do you do that? Back to our above statement, good leash skills and putting a rule in place that we are able to enforce. That is our job, to determine what is the best solution for you and your dog, and how to best correct the problem. Once your dog is heeling, we can enforce the next rule, no staring at other dogs nor people unless we are going to meet them.
There is a good chance you are dealing with this issue, whether it’s just minor and slightly annoying, or it is a major problem and extremely aggressive. Clients often ask, “How many sessions to teach my dog how to walk well?”
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