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Walking the Dog – How our body language and actions transfer to our dogs

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I am working on getting back into the swing of running, having been on much too long a break from physical exercise. Yesterday morning, I took my dog for an early walk to avoid the heat and, to my surprise, it was fairly busy on our walk. We passed many different people and a few dogs. I noticed the first person we passed caused a change in Relic’s body language, in a way that was very slight but noticeable to me, a self proclaimed dog nerd and hyper-aware of body language. I noticed but did not think much of it as it was a little dark still and the man was staring right at her the whole time. German Shepherd’s tend to be a bit “guardish” and Relic can get a bit vigilant around strangers with me in the dark.

K-9 CoachSo, on we went and I closely observed her and then started to notice a trend: when any person got within 20 feet or so walking towards us, she would very slightly tense, ears would go a bit forward, breathing would change, and she would go just ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly, toward them. I was taken back and began thinking “oh no, we are not going to start this habit of finding all strangers on the trail a threat!” I was rolling thoughts around in my head on why she was offering these different, not desirable, behaviors and what I needed to start working on right away to prevent this behavior from gaining traction.

I am relaxed on our outings, feeling very safe and happy to be out with her, so I knew I was not putting off any signals. Or so I thought. I should point out this trail is a common sidewalk width and many people seem to find Relic a bit intimidating. I had noticed very early on in our lives together that people gave her a lot of space and some even avoided us all together. Not wanting anyone to feel uncomfortable, I tend to shorten up my lead and draw Relic closer to me when people are coming close. I also walk with headphones and while I am normally very chatty, I never speak to anyone other than my dog during these outings. As I was thinking this, I observed two ladies coming towards us on the trail and as I normally have begun doing, shortened my leash and drew her close to me. Immediately, she switched gears and I observed the same change in her body language.

And there it was: I was communicating something to her via my leash. So, I tested my theory. Once we were alone with no others around us, I shortened my leash, which communicates a micro amount of tension from me to her. She immediately changed body language and started scanning the area despite the fact that no one was around. It clicked, yep, I was teaching her to alert on people passing on the trail.

I work with reactive dogs every day and have for a very long time, so I know the causes for most leash reactivity: human leash behavior. And here I was going down that same rabbit hole – not because I have any anxiety about my dog or my inappropriate use of inappropriate tools, but because I am trying to prevent others from feeling anxious or crowded on the trail. I suspect I would have had a behavior issue rear it’s head had I not had the experience to notice these micro-changes in her behavior long before the issue ingrained in my dog. I am fortunate to have noticed this change on this particular morning.

So, the next time you are out with your dog, take notice of what you do when others come close or want space from your dog. Do you tighten the leash to draw your dog closer? Are you, in your effort to be polite, signaling your dog that this person coming toward you is threatening or making you feel uncomfortable? I plan to work on this right away with her and will tighten my leash in different places and in different circumstances because this may happen sometimes. I will also work toward a verbal command of “get close” so I have no need to put the tension on the leash at all. I am also going say hello to people and avoid any odd behavior on my behalf. All of this will be done in an effort to head off what I likely would have caused in Relic: stranger danger reactivity.

Stay tuned as I tell you all how it works out and make sure you are not making these same micro-errors with you own dogs! Train a verbal command while desensitizing them to micro-tension.

Warm Weather Safety

18_1paper_dog_days_of_summerSpring is in the air and after a long winter, the pups are primed to get outdoors and blow off some steam. Birds are chirping, flowers and trees are blooming and the sunshine is feeling wonderful. So how do you make sure you keep your canine buddy safe this spring?

This month we focus on the following K-9 tips to keep you and your pup safe and healthy as the weather gets hotter.

Tip #1: Start your FLEA AND TICK PREVENTATIVE now. Many people stop these products during the winter months and, if you did as well, now is the time to discuss these with your vet and get started. We had a mild winter, so they’ll be bad this year!!!

Tip #2: While you are discussing flea and tick preventative with your vet, go ahead and check to make sure your pup is up to date on their VACCINATIONS AND HEARTWORM PREVENTATIVE. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos and the Southeastern United States has the largest prevalence of heartworm disease in the country. The disease disrupts heart, liver and lung function and can be fatal. Make sure your pup is taking their preventative!

Tip #3: Springtime is time to start cleaning up the YARD AND LANDSCAPING. Keep dogs off of lawns that have been chemically treated or fertilized for 24 hours (or according to package instructions). Selecting plants and landscaping products that are safe for dogs will go a long way in preventing toxicities from occurring. Toxic bulbs such as hyacinths, tulips, daffodils and certain lilies, as well as certain fertilizers and mulch, can be toxic as well. Store these products in an inaccessible area like a shed when not in use.

Tip #4: Let the sneezing and wheezing begin! Dogs may develop allergies to plants, pollens, fleas, and many other substances. Spring-time ALLERGIES in dogs may show up as skin problems, with dogs becoming very itchy, experiencing hair loss or inflamed skin and may even show a change in behavior due to the irritation of the allergy. However, allergies are not only a problem for our canines, but us as well! Your pup’s coat will carry pollen, dust and more outside allergens into your home. Regular grooming and bathing can help keep your pup AND your family healthy and lessen the allergies you may be suffering from.

Tip #5: Dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur, and pink skin, can SUNBURN. Limit your dog’s exposure during the day and apply sun block to his ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside. If your dog does happen to become sunburned, 100% pure Aloe Vera gel is the best way to quickly and easily soothe your dog’s skin.

Tip 6: Most dogs enjoy SWIMMING, but some cannot swim, and others may hate the water. Be conscious of your dog’s preferences and skills before trying to make him swim. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association: 15 minutes of swimming is the equivalent of a two mile walk. Also, ocean currents and undertow can make swimming even more intense and potentially dangerous. Remember – we offer swimming lessons here as part of our playcare and lodging enrichment services.

Tip #7: Dangers from EXCESSIVE HEAT need to be avoided. Never, ever leave a dog unattended in a hot vehicle in the summer months. Heatstroke and death can occur within minutes in warm temperatures. Also, asphalt gets very hot – 77 degree temperatures result in 125 degree asphalt! Place the back of your hand against the pavement and hold it there for 11 seconds… if it’s uncomfortable for you to leave your skin there, then you shouldn’t make your dog do it.

Tip #8: OFF-LEASH WALKS in the woods, etc… are great. Practice your off-leash behavior in a large fenced area before unclicking the leash in the woods. It’s important to make sure your pup has a really good recall and isn’t going to run off. Also, make sure they have a proper identification tag and are microchipped. We don’t want to have to post any “lost dog” notices.

Tip #9: Most dogs love CAR RIDES and hanging their heads out the window to feel the wind on their faces. Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye injuries and lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse! Pets in cars should always be secured in a crate or wearing a seatbelt harness designed especially for them.

I hope these K-9 points help you and your pup stay safe and get the most out of this great time of year. As always, K-9 Coach is here to help you with any of your dog needs. Whether through training, playcare, lodging or grooming, we are always striving to help you develop a lifetime of positive memories with your pup(s).

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Got Training..?

Got Training..?

Got Training..?

Developing a Bond with Your Pup

Let’s be honest for a minute…

There’s nothing quite fulfilling as the bond
between a dog and their beloved human.

New Picture (1)A dog’s attachment to you is fundamental to their overall well-being AND to yours. You can look it up. Dog owners have, as a general rule, healthier hearts; lower blood pressure, better cholesterol levels, lower stress and generally more active lifestyles.

There are lengthy articles and scholarly journals on the subject of this bond. However, our purpose here is not to analyze the dog and human relationship in a detailed manner. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a few simple and effective tips and techniques to help develop the bond between you, your family and your pup. After all, we want this to be his forever home!

The following tips are provided to help you and your dog have the relationship you both deserve.

1 – Spend Time Together. The process of bonding begins the moment you bring your pup home. You each begin learning about each other: your expectations, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, etc… The more time you spend together doing things, the more the relationship will grow and mutual trust and respect will develop. Remember, if you have adopted a dog that was abandoned or mistreated, this process will take longer.

2 – Provide for Your Pups Basic Needs. It seems simple, but is absolutely necessary to note. It is so important that The American Kennel Club includes it in their Responsible Dog Ownership Pledge. It reads, in part, “I agree to maintain my dog’s health, safety, and quality of life…” Remember, for many rescue dogs, these are things which have not always been provided in the past and the simple act of doing so goes a long way to developing that bond.

3 – Train Your Dog. Training has been shown to be the single most important thing that keeps a dog in his or her “forever” home. A positive reinforcement training program will reward your dog for doing what you want them to do. In doing so, it will quickly build trust and cooperation. Some specific benefits include:

• Time Together – Training is done as a team – together. In committing to training time together, you are also committing to one-on-one, quality time and your relationship will strengthen.

• Expectations – By learning what it is that you want them to do, they can achieve a primary goal: pleasing you.

• Confidence – Training improves your dog’s confidence and results in less anxiety and fearfulness – especially for those who were abandoned or abused.

• Mental Stimulation – A bored dog is often a destructive dog. Regular training provides exceptional mental stimulation and helps to burn off excess energy.

• Teamwork – Your dog learns to look to you for direction and guidance. You experience pride in your pups accomplishments.

• Happiness – A well-trained dog results in better behavior and a trained dog inevitably receives more affection from you and the general public, than an unruly one. Additionally, a well-trained dog is a fully participating member of the family and can join in whatever activities the family does together.

4 – Groom Your Dog. A clean, well-groomed dog is a happier and healthier pup. Regular grooming gives your dog experience with human touch / handling. In order to live safely in close contact with humans, dogs need conditioning to human touch. Grooming is an ideal way to provide this. Not only will grooming deepen your bond with your dog, it will also make physical examinations at the vet less stressful. An additional benefit, and one that is important, is that well-groomed dogs get more affection and that, of course, results in greater human bonding.

5 – Play & Exercise. Dogs need play and exercise to truly be healthy. So, play together. Some ideas include fetch and frisbee, of course, but also games like hide and seek, soccer, water-based games (for those who like to swim), long walks with play breaks, etc…

In all of the activities above, HAVE FUN together!

Every February and March we begin getting “this dog is driving me crazy!” phone calls from people who got a dog for the holidays. It’s an unfortunate reality and one that is not unique to puppies, or recently adopted adult dogs, or dogs purchased from a breeder, etc… Every situation is unique, but every one, regardless of specifics, is more easily addressed and resolved when the bond between family and dog is strong. To illustrate this, please imagine the “my dog keeps running off” complaint. If your pup is bonded with you and someone leaves the front door open, sure they might go into the front yard and explore a little, but run off… Why would they run off when it’s more fun with you than it is out there???

We hope that the above tips help you to create an unbreakable bond with your new dog. Josh Billings had it right when he said “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” You and your pup deserve this relationship and we are always happy to help you achieve it.

Back to School Blues?

Summer vacation is winding down and school shopping is picking back up. Uniforms to purchase, schedules to set and new teachers to meet take over our lives at this time of year. Our schedules tend to become very hectic and there seem to be less free hours in the day for extra activities – especially for our four legged friends.

In this post, we focus on how to make sure you are still meeting your pups need for education, a.k.a mental and physical stimulation, as your calendar fills up with commitments for school.

– Classes are a great way to keep your pup busy and obedient. As the time for long walks and fun hikes gives way to PTA meetings and soccer games, it is hard to remember your pup needs to continue thinking and exercising. Consider an agility class, nosework or RALLY-O as a fun way to keep you on track with and committed to your pup.

– Come to playcare! As your days get busier, consider a few days a week of playcare! Let your pup hang out with his friends and burn off negative energy while enjoying mental stimulation. Playcare a few days a week can improve your dog’s overall mental and physical well being as well as socialize them to all sorts of people and doggie pals.

– Even though the neighborhood pools are shutting down, our indoor, heated pool is revving up! Either as part of private lessons with our training staff, or as playcare and lodging enrichment, swimming is a great zero impact activity that will keep them exercised and healthy. A 15 minute swim is equivalent to a 2 mile run.

– Throw out that dog dish and get a puzzle feeder! Instead of a quick walk or outside yard play followed by a long day of solitude, feed your pup from a puzzle feeder that will serve as a slow feeder to improve digestion AND provide mental stimulation. Puzzle feeders exercise the mind and will help relieve the stress of being alone all day. It is best to use these after you leave for the day. Your pup has to eat, so use that time wisely!

– Schedule in time for the dog. While working on your daily calendar, remember your pup and schedule in time for them. Twenty minutes of fetch, a quick walk or playtime with the kids will make a world of difference. Commitment to your calendar will help you stay committed to your pup too!

I hope the above tips help you and your pup to transition back to school without any issues. If you do notice their behavior decline, we’re always here to help. Now, if we can just get the kids to go to bed at a decent time, we’ll be set!

K9 TIPS : 8 Thanksgiving Day Foods That Could Kill Your Dog

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Thanksgiving is a time to get together with family and friends, for giving thanks and,  of course, for eating all the yummy foods that symbolize this most American holiday!

If your family includes a dog, it might surprise you to see some of the foods we all enjoy on that day, might actually be hazardous to your family pet

Click on the image to see a selection of the foods that you should keep out of the way of your four-legged friend.

Happy Thanksgiving, and a huge thank you to all our customers, staff and of course, the dogs!  We wouldn’t have half so much fun without you!!!

Amber and all the K-9 Team!

 

Thanks to The Doggington Post for inspiration!

Down Came The Rain..! Some Tips for Walking Your Dog In The Rain

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Walking Your Dog In The Rain

Walking Your Dog In The RainSome dogs just love the rain, but most, like their humans, can stick their noses up if its wet outside.

So what do you do, if you, and the dog are set?

Wait?

Maybe not an option. Here’s some tips for walking your dog in the rain, keeping the pooch dry and getting the business done!

1
Look out for some shelter Trees, bushes, awnings, homes or buildings are good places to go to block some of the rain and wind in order for your dog to “do his business.”

2
Got You Covered! Use an umbrella over your dog to stop the rain from falling on her. Of course there’s the wet ground, but keeping the rain off is half the battle.

3
Get Really Stylish How about getting a dog raincoat. There are many styles in a many price ranges–all with the same purpose–to keep your dog dry. And if you have a larger dog, you may, seriously, think about buying a small foal (baby horse) blanket. These are waterproof, wind resistant and have velcro straps to stay in place. Many people with larger dogs find that these work well. (Shop for doggie rainwear on Amazon)

4
Buy a pet umbrella Yes, really! You can find umbrella/leash combos that attaches to your dog’s collar to keep the rain off. It solves the problem of you getting wet having to share your umbrella with your dog. And if you’re worried that YOUR umbrella may clash with your pup’s–you can even find places that make a human umbrella to match! (Shop for pet umbrellas on Amazon)

5
These boots are made for walking: Dog rain boots are great if you think your dog can handle it and won’t raise too much of a stink. There are a variety of styles from simple pleather to more sophisticated ones with adjustable ankle straps and non-skid soles. (Shop for rain boots on Amazon)

6
Walkies! Now that your dog is good to go, you don’t want to have to cut the walk short because you’re not. Make sure you have on waterproof shoes and look for a waterproof (not water resistant), hooded rain slicker. If you’re carrying an umbrella, the kind with an automatic pop-up button makes it easier to operate with one hand.

If you have any tips for walking your dog in the rain, please leave us a comment below

Howloween Safety

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love all the children in all their costumes, everyone running and laughing, the scary decorations, the parties and all that goes with the season of ghouls. However, when it comes to dogs, this is a holiday many of them would rather pass on and go straight to Thanksgiving! The noise and changes to their environment and all of it in the dark is enough to send most dogs for the hills! So here are a few tips to keep your pup safe and happy when the scary skeletons roam your neighborhood.

1) Candy Safety: Everyone knows that dogs cannot have chocolate but another very dangerous candy additive is xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener added to many sugar free gums, baked goods and candies and it is very dangerous to your dog. This chemical can cause damage to the pancreas and liver and in same cases, the additive can be fatal to dogs. Signs of exposure to these toxic substances include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, bruising and lethargy. Keep all candy and other goodies elevated and away from your dog and teach your children to never feed candy to dogs. If you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate, candy wrappers, xylitol or any other candy, see your veterinarian immediately. Do not wait to see signs of toxicity as waiting may place your dog’s health at risk. If you want to give them a treat, a good dog biscuit is always welcome!

2) Doorbell: We all know the sound that sends many dogs into orbit: dingdong!!! The doorbell rings over and over on Halloween – so what is an owner to do? You have a few options. Place your dog as far away from the noise as you can with music or a television on, maybe to the new Dog TV channel (my dogs love it!). Give them a special chew and let them relax in the peace. Another choice is to have someone sit outside your home and hand out candy. This is the option we choose and it gives us the chance to interact with all the neighbors, see the costumes and make new friends. Make a party of it, bring some chairs, a cooler, maybe some “adult” treats and your candy and let the doorbell have the night off.

3) Costumes: OK I know, the costumes for dogs can be really funny and cute. Dressing the Dachshund up as a hotdog is hilarious, no matter who you are! But some dogs are not really fashion focused and may not enjoy the extra attention a costume gets them from strangers. Some dogs will panic, get scared or try to eat the costume off. Skip the costume if your pup doesn’t seem to enjoy looking like Yoda or your favorite Avenger. If you do go for a dog costume, please make sure to send us a pic or post to our Facebook Page. We love to see them!

4) Children: Halloween brings children, lots and lots of them. Now is not the time to work on Fido and his lack of affinity for children. Even if your dog likes children, he may not like children in costumes or a mask, with glow sticks in the dark, running and screaming. If your dog shows signs of stress, or has in the past, leave them at home. If you have a child or children to watch, maybe taking Fido along should be skipped this year as dividing your attention between children and the family dog can be challenging and lead to trouble just when you take your eyes off one or the other. Many of our clients will avoid the risk altogether and simply bring the dogs in for a night or boarding and play.

5) Decorations: Halloween decorations are my favorite, second to Christmas. Pumpkins, scary witches and bones, smoke machines and candles round out my list. However, be sure that you think of your dog and her safety when decorating. Place candles in a safe place or use flameless lights, glass and plastic decorations should be elevated as well and electrical cords hidden out of sight from curious teeth. Any decoration that seems to frighten your dog or cause a little too much curiosity should be avoided. Enjoy the holiday and decorate fully but make sure you keep your beloved furry companion safe too!

We hope you have a safe and wonderful Halloween!

K-9 Tips. Safety Tips for Kids and Dogs | Back from School

Safety Tips for Kids and Dogs

Summer is over, the kids are back in school, and suddenly, new friends and playmates are running through your home. Perhaps you take your pup to the soccer fields for games and practices, or your child wants to spend the night with a new friend who has a dog in their home. Sadly, children are the most likely victims of dog bites and they most often require medical attention. So how do we, as parents with or without dogs, keep our children safe? Thankfully, there are several safety tips for kids and dogs we can follow to make sure everyone is kept safe – including your four-legged family member.

  1. Teach your children the rules. Studies show that education and awareness are the most important tools in dog-bite prevention. Children that understand how to behave around dogs, how to play with dogs, when to leave dogs alone and how to meet a dog are much less likely to be injured. Never touch a strange dog. Never touch a dog that is sick, old, eating or chewing a treat. Never touch a mother dog with puppies. Always ask an adult permission before you touch any dog. Never touch a dog behind a fence or who is tied up. A restrained dog is 3 times ore likely to bite. Do not stare at a dog in the eyes. This behavior is very threatening to a dog and may cause them to react fearfully or defensively.
  2. Ask new play friends if they are afraid of dogs or have dogs themselves. Fearful or inexperienced children may display inappropriate behaviors or styles of play that may cause the family dog to show fearful or threatening displays. Or, these children may not know to close doors or fences or basic canine family rules. Place your dog in their locked crate with a special chew or take them to playcare when these friends visit.
  3. If your child is going to a new friend’s home to play, ask if the family has a dog. If so, it is completely appropriate for you to explain your child’s experience or lack of experience with dogs, ask to meet the dog, voice your concern or level of comfort and make a request that the dog be placed away from your child, if necessary. As a mom and a dog owner, I send my German Shepherd to playcare when our child’s friends come to play because some of the parents have expressed concern over her size and breed. While I am ot at all worried about my dog’s behavior, I respect the other parents enough to honor their wishes. I also do not want my dog to get frightened of children due to different play styles or behaviors, so it is a win-win situation for all involved.
  4. If your dog is showing behavioral issues in relation to children, get help from a qualified professional immediately. This is a serious issue that requires immediate attention.
  5. Train and socialize your dog appropriately. Well-trained and socialized dogs are less likely to have aggression issues and more likely to be able to cope with new playmates.
  6. Spay or neuter your dog. According to the American Humane Society, intact dogs are more than 2.6 times more likely to bite than altered dogs. Talk to your veterinarian to schedule an appointment, or contact your local humane organization or animal shelter for information on low-cost spay/neuter assistance.

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The relationship between a child and their dog can be one of the most rewarding possible. If you had a dog as a child, then you likely have some great memories about that relationship. Conversely, if you had a bad experience with a dog as a child, you are likely to carry that anxiety toward dogs, or perhaps certain breeds, with you even today.

If you have a child or just know one that could benefit from the rules, tips and advice above, we hope you will share this, and we hope that this information helps them to be able to look back on that dog with loving memories that will stay with them their entire lives.

As always, call K-9 Coach for any of your dog needs. Whether through training, playcare, lodging or grooming, we are always striving to help you develop a lifetime of positive memories with your pup(s).

For additional information on safety tips for kids and dogs and other important topics, please see our resource library >>

Other specific resources are:

American Humane KIDS: Kids Interacting with Dogs Safely

American Veterinary Medical Association

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

 

Don’t forget, K-9 Coach is offering 10% off all training in August and September

Clicker Chicken!!!

Last weekend, while many folks were sleeping in or drinking their morning coffee, your K-9 Coaches were up bright and early training – literally with the chickens, Norwegian chickens to be exact!

Um, what? Chickens??? Yup, chickens! Why would you train chickens?

– Training a chicken is a stretch and a huge boost to our mechanical skills.
– Chickens are much faster than the average pet dog, so your timing and coordination skills have to be precise.
– Chickens, unlike dogs, fly away when you make mistakes!

The process is “an adventure and a revelation,” according to Legacy Canine Behavior and Training, where Terry Ryan serves as president.

Chicken Camp 2013At Chicken Camp, the entire K-9 Coach training focused on improved clicker work, shaping and behavior modification, as well as splitting skills to get improved focus and better results. Another critical component was in terms of relationship building skills which, of course, is critical to our our success. And let’s just say that it’s a lot easier to build a relationship with a dog than it is a chicken!

At K-9 Coach, we believe in the value of continued education and bringing the best training and behavior modification to our clients. ALL of our coaches participate in at least 20 hours of accredited continuing education per year.

We look forward to showing you our new chicken skills. Just please forgive us if we cluck a little!

Stayed tuned for more on what we learned and how it will help us help your pups.