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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Doggie Zen

The zen game rewards a dog for looking away from something interesting.  I.e. hold a treat in your hand, the dog looks at you instead of the treat, the dog gets rewarded with a treat. Its great for helping dogs with impulse control.

From "Quick Clicks" by Cheryl Smith and Mandy Book
"Put a bunch of treats in one hand and your clicker in your other hand. Hold the hand with the treats out to the side, perpendicular to your body. Your dog will probably stare at your treat hand, waiting for a CT (or maybe just waiting for the treat!). .. Watch for the dog’s eyes to leave your hand. Even if he looks at your knee or your foot or your elbow or the floor, CT the instant he looks away from your hand holding the treats"
From Leslie McDevitt's "Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program
"I teach..Zen as the introduction to leave-it... This game entails holding up a treat (or a toy) and waiting for the puppy to "break" from it and turn back towards you.. If he is having trouble breaking from the treat or toy, put it behind your back and reward eye contact.  Then, just let him see a little bit of the treat or toy from behind your back, so that he isn't seeing the whole enchilada..."

Watch how quickly this puppy catches on the game

Sudden Environmental Change

From Grisha Stewart's "Behavior Adjustment Training":
Sudden Environmental Change or Sudden Environmental Contrast or "SEC is a change in surroundings that happens quickly, like a child suddenly coming around a corner, a dog suddenly appearing out of a car, or a guest standing up to leave the house. For some dogs the appearance of a trash bin in a different place than yesterday's walk can stress [dogs} out."
To help dogs feel better about SEC, pet parents can use  Control Unleashed  or simple counter conditioning and desensitization or the Relaxation Protocol.  The most important thing is to stay below threshold and increase the intensity of the trigger in teeny tiny increments so the dog doesn't get upset.

Example. Your nervous pet is okay with the man of the house sitting still, but gets upset when said man stands up.  Here is one way to work on that.
-Man moves a pinky, Mom gives the dog a treat.
Note that treats should always come from the person who does not scare the dog. See more treats here.
- Man moves two fingers, Mom gives the dog a treat
- Man moves one hand, Mom gives dog a treat
- Man moves forearm, Mom gives dog a treat
- Man moves entire arm, Mom gives dog a treat
- Man pushes with both hands like he is getting up but doesn't get up, treat
- Man moves up about 1 inch, treat
- Man moves up 1 foot, treat
- Man stands up slowly, treat
- Man sits back down - enough for one day.
And so on.

Let's say a dog is afraid of strangers suddenly appearing.  We can start by working with a non scary friend or family member.
Have friend slowly appear from behind a building while dog is 50 feet away, treat.
Have friend move a little faster while dog is 80 feet away, treat
Once pup is fine with friend moving about, then work with a well coached stranger who is much further away - and so on.

Note that pet parents shouldn't always continuously make the exercises more difficult. Sometimes guardians should decrease the stimulation.  For example - work 50 feet away, then 40 feet, then 80 feet, then 50 feet, then 30 feet, then 95 feet and so on.
The main thing is to keep the dog comfortable. Look for calming signals.

Helping dogs with simple SEC exercises can prepare them for more difficult challenges - like squirrel chasing.

Email questions or comments to
Replies might be shared on this blog but names will be changed or left out.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety (SA) is basically when dogs panic when left alone.

How is this manifested?
Pet parents might come home to destruction, elimination, and/or escape attempts. These actions may or may not constitute SA.  Dogs with SA can also hyper salivate (drool a lot).
In her book, I’ll be Home Soon, Author Patricia McConnell says a good sign of SA is that the dog won’t eat when left alone.  In her book, Oh Behave, Jean Donaldson lists some things that are more exclusive to SA dogs:
Pre-departure anxiety. Dogs learn cues to your leaving (i.e. putting on lipstick, grabbing cell phone, etc..) and start getting anxious long before you leave the house.  Dogs might pant, hide, refuse to eat, tremble, etc..
Self-Injury (usually from escape attempts) i.e. broken teeth, bleeding paws or muzzles

What type of dogs get SA?
Some dogs are more susceptible than others in getting SA.  According to  Donaldson, “It’s currently impossible to identify susceptible animals in advance.”  Some dogs sail through SA triggering experiences with no problems. Other dogs can develop SA when there is a temporary disruption in owner access.  Boarding, death of a family member, rehoming are some events that can kick off separation anxiety."
Donaldson says that SA dogs typically present without other behavior problems.  SA dogs are often model dogs except when left alone.
For a dog who has true SA or just boredom or frustration issues, it’s always best to bring in a professional.  Below are some things that a professional might advise for dogs who present with SA, for dogs who are bored or frustrated and/or as a program for prevention of SA.

Never Punish
There are many reasons to never punish destruction or elimination when the pet parent arrives.  The main reason is that the dog will not know what the punishment is for hours after the act happened.  Additionally, dogs who expect to get punished when the pet parents comes home can get even more anxious, thereby making SA much worse.

Leaving and coming should never be a big deal
No long sorrowful good byes, no excited giddy hellos.

Reward calm behaviors
Do not encourage excited, hyper behaviors.  Punishing excited behavior is also counterproductive.

Physical Exercise
Take your dog on a long walk before you leave for extended time periods. What is a long walk? If you live with a young, healthy Aussie, Border Collie or Jack Russell, that might be 2 or more hours. If you live with a less active breed, your dog might be happy with a 30 minute walk around the block. Discuss your dog's physical needs with your vet.  Hard aerobic exercise might be okay for some dogs (not others - it could make them more frantic), but be sure the dog is relaxed when you leave. Don’t take the dog on a file mile jog, drop him off at home while he is still jazzed up and rush off to work.

Exercise the mind
Aerobic exercise is healthy and necessary but if you don’t exercise the mind, you might just have an athletic dog with a bunch of energy.  Mind games can really tire a dog.  Enroll in positive only obedience classes (no leash yanking, physical manipulations, spray bottles, can of pennies, etc..). Work on obedience training at home.  Give your dog food puzzles, play hide and seek, etc.. Jean Donaldson lists some great activities for dogs in her book, Culture Clash

Experts have some put together specific protocols to follow to help dogs who have separation anxiety.

I recommend pet parents start by reading Dr Patricia McConnell's "I'll Be Home Soon". It's a quick easy read.
But the book is a bit dated. I'd follow up by reading the Separation Anxiety Section in Dr Karen Overall's Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats (the 2013 version). She has some precautions about some of the protocols in Dr McConnell's book,
Then I would read Malena Demartini-Price's Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs.  The book is written for professionals. But there are some step by step protocols that pet parents can follow. (with the help of a professional)

De Martini-Price writes about different levels of separation anxiety. Read about it here.

Another book to consider is Oh Behave! By Jean Donaldson - this is a book that contains answers to a lot of behavior issues. It has one Chapter on SA

If a pet parent has a dog with serious issues, a consult should be made with a board certified vet behaviorist as soon as possible.  Or even if the issues are not serious, consult with a professional should be considered.

Other things to consider:

Medication.  Some dogs' issues might be serious enough that psychotropic medication might be needed.  It's best to work with a vet behaviorist. Or a general practice vet who can consult a vet behaviorist.  Be sure to thoroughly research any drug prescribed.  Be aware that some vets might prescribe acepromazine.  But many experts warn against using this drug on anxious dogs.

For those want to try non psychotropic drugs, a vet might be able to suggest alternatives like the ones listed here:

Day Boarding
- Make sure the business is well-established and has a great reputation. You don't want to leave your dog with inexperienced people who could make your dog worse. Make sure someone is with your dog the entire time.
You can try leaving your dog for a few minutes or an hour then see how he does. Then increase the time.

Professional dog sitters or dog walkers - once again make sure they are well-established and reputable.

Friends or family who can check in on the dog.

Start a dog sitting co-op in your neighborhood
Folks who work days can watch dogs who have night shift parents, etc..

A lot of dogs who have SA seem to be fine with any human. But some dogs will be upset if they have to be apart from one specific human. For those dogs, pet sitters might not be much help.  And day boarding might even make things worse

The Relaxation Protocol can be helpful for some SA dogs:

For very mild cases of separation distress, see the following ideas:

Many dogs who have true SA will panic inside a crate. Video your dog when you are gone. See how he/she does outside of a crate and inside of a crate. If the dog is worse in a crate, then consider not using one - as long as you can make your house safe. Of course if your dog is chewing through walls, this might not work.  A safe room (no garbage, electrical wires, etc..) might work. If you do use a crate, be sure to acclimate your dog to the crate. If you have a small dog, consider an exercise pen instead.

Dealing with SA can be expensive , behaviorists, pet sitters, etc..  Consider that the money you spend helping your dog might be less than the money you spend cleaning up elimination, fixing door frames, etc.. Also consider some things that are less important than your dog when trying to figure out some ways to come up with the money needed.

Caution: Do NOT leave SA dogs outside in the yard when you are gone. The chance of escape is too great.

Tell us about your separation anxiety dogs in the comments section below
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For the past few weeks, we've talked a lot about nail trims. The same principles apply to grooming in general.  Introduce fur brushing, teeth brushing, ear cleaning, etc.. in tiny increments and include a lot of rewards.  See more in the video below

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Natural Medicine Pockets for Carnivorous Pets

The leading "chicken flavored" commercial product for giving medicine to pets costs about 4 to 6 dollars for a half pound. My local grocer sells chicken hearts for about a dollar a pound.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Can of Music Instead of a Can of Pennies

Instead of scaring our pets, we can help them relax

I have written extensively about why we shouldn't startle our pets with cans of pennies, water bottles and the like. We have also talked about how noise affects our pets and how things like Through a Dog's Ear can help our pets.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Old and Little. Part II

In my first post on old and little dogs, I wrote about how my house is set up to keep my dogs on the floor. The problem for me is that I'm not a spring chicken myself. And sitting on the floor with my dogs can get uncomfortable.

I started looking for ways that I could make a light weight sofa that would accommodate both my dogs and myself.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jumping Up. Part I. Whole Dog

When my highly arousable herder mix dog, Matt-Matt came to live with me, he jumped on me often. 

Puppy Biting. Part I

For young puppies, biting is quiet normal.  But it's uncomfortable for humans. There are a number of things we can do to teach our pups to choose an alternate behavior.  But first, we need to choose some management

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Would you have your dog put to sleep if a trainer told you to?

In my last post, I wrote about incompetent trainers who either don't know their limitations or who won't admit their limitations.

Trainers who don't know their limitations

Years ago when I was active duty Air Force, I volunteered to serve as a tax preparer for my unit. One of my unit members came in with a particularly difficult tax issue. I had to suspend  tax preparation and take a day to research her issue further. 
I was very concerned that this person would loose faith in me as her tax preparer because I didn't know the answer to her issue right on the spot.   


If we live with a dog who  might bite, a basket muzzle can be a safe way to take our dogs out and about (or to the vet)

To Keep Our Dogs Safe, We Should Work on Our Reflexes and Practice Avoidance.

Last year, I was walking my nervous dog and a couple hundred feet ahead, I heard a ruckus. By the time I figured out what it was, 4 dogs had burst out of a screen door. 
My heart sank and I froze for about 2 seconds.  Even if these dogs were "friendly," if they had run towards us, they would have traumatized my little 30 pound, 13-year-old.

Growling Is Good

Well, growling isn't really good, but it is a warning that something is wrong, that something needs to be addressed. Author Jean Donaldson says that a dog growl is the same as humans who yell when they are angry, who file a complaint or lawsuit when they are upset.

My Dog Bit Someone. Do I Have to Euthanize Him?

Is your dog a danger to society?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Nail Trims. Part XI. A Little Dab'll Do Ya

We've discussed using the Dremel with soft or fine attachments. Now we can try a  more course attachment. But continue to use a low setting and only do tiny bits at a time as your dog acclimates to the tool.
See more in the video below

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Nail Trims. Part X. Desensitizing to the Dremel

We have already covered treating the dog for looking at the dremel and treating the dog when we touch him/her with the dremel.  Now it's time to use the dremel but not actually do the nails. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nail Trims. Part VIII. Using "Jealousy"

After reading about Leslie McDevitt’s Give Me A Brake Game and watching this video by Susan Garret on nail trimming, I decided to apply reverse psychology to nail grinding.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014

While You Are Watching The Game, Give Your Pup Something To Work On

Food puzzles are a great way to keep our dogs occupied. See the video below for ideas

Nail Trims. Part VI. Alternatives to Clippers and Grinders

If you have a dog who is afraid of clippers and grinders, a manual file might work.  See the below video on manual filing plus other ideas

Saturday, February 1, 2014