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DOGA Time!! Therapeutic Yoga for you AND your dog

Thank Dog Bootcamp is teaming up with SuMMit CrossFit, Align Yoga & Wellness and Brother Wolf Animal Rescue for some DOGA - that's right: doggie yoga!

100% of donations will benefit Brother Wolf Animal Rescue!!! Suggested Donation: $10

WHAT: therapeutic yoga for you AND your dog
WHEN:  Saturday, September 28th at 10am
WHERE:  SuMMit CrossFit (21 McArthur Lane, across from Brother Wolf Animal Rescue)

Questions:
email adinna@thankdogavl.com or call (828)423-0156

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July 4th Tips - No Fireworks for DOGS!

More dogs run away on the July 4th than on any other day of the year - primarily due to the sensory overload from fireworks.  The giant burst of  explosives and subsequent whimper drives dogs nuts and often triggers  their innate flight instinct.

Many people equate the sights and sounds of Independence Day fireworks with  the trauma that dogs can experience in thunderstorms. But there are a number of differences.  First, fireworks are manmade. Second, fireworks are closer to the  ground and more vibrant. Third, dogs are not prepared for the sudden sensory experiences of booms  (sound), flashes (sight) and burnt aromas (scent) that come with fireworks. 

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How to prepare for July 4th

Take your dog away from areas where there will be a  fireworks display nearby. Take them to a relatives house or to a day care center they are familiar with and comfortable  at. Plan ahead -- if you are taking them to a new place they haven’t been,  expose them to the home or center in the days and weeks before the holiday, so  when you take them for the holiday, it’s not a surprise and for them, it’s just  like any other day of the year.

Don’t think of this in terms of your dog as your child who is missing out on  a great, fun time. That’s human guilt and trust me, the dog won’t know what he’s  missing and has no burning desire to celebrate the holiday with fireworks. You’re being a good pack leader by not exposing him to a situation that will trigger his flight instinct  in a negative way. 

If you leave the dog at home, you can do so in a travel kennel. Make sure there is someone who can let him out to relieve himself every  four hours and provide a little companionship until you’re home. Be sure you take your dog out for some exercise before putting him/her in the kennel.  Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog - and a  happy dog means a happy you.  

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Some dogs can deal with the sights and sounds of fireworks if they’ve been  desensitized (e.g., hunting dogs). You can try to play sounds for your dog that simulates fireworks before he  eats, before a walk, before affection and play, and condition him to hear the sound and interpret it as something  good. But keep in mind, the soundtrack cannot replace the actual power of real  fireworks (which are inevitably much louder and more abrupt, and include visual and scent stimuli as well). If you must have your dog near fireworks, then make sure he is  properly leashed and close to you.

This rule applies even more so for personal fireworks - In addition to the risk or your dog escaping, exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious dogs, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.   

Some additional July 4th Tips

Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where your dog can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison dogs. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.      

Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.      

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Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your dogs’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to skin, and if ingested can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.         

Do not put glow jewelry on your dogs, or allow them to play with it. While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestions, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.      

Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingestions can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in dogs.       

Jumping Dog Problems

As a dog trainer I get questions ALL the time about how to stop a dog from jumping. This question is usually followed by a list of things the person has tried so far. There seem to be even more ridiculous “solutions” out there than there are people looking for answers! So let’s dissect this issue to find out why dogs jump, why these common crazy “solutions” don’t really work, and what we can really do about our jumping dogs.

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Why do dogs jump on people?

Most people would say that their dog jumps because he/she is overly excited. He/she is likely too excited, but that’s not why he jumps - in fact, dogs jump during greetings for many reasons.

Attention - The obvious and most common reason: the dog wants your attention. If there are other dogs present, they may all be competing for your attention. If your dog is a particularly forceful and relentless jumper, he/she may be demanding your attention. Many dogs may jump to demand your attention and then growl when you finally give it to them.  These dogs are likely use to controlling their environment - i.e. saying what he/she wants and doesn’t want and getting it. There were likely never any consequences for this behavior (either the jumping, or the growling, or any snapping) except perhaps to be sent to a crate for a time out. Why is this a problem?  Time out does NOT work - Your dog is bright, but cannot reason. He/she doesn’t know why he’s separated and confined. Without being able to tie the action (jumping/growling/snapping) to the consequence (the separation and confinement), it is totally meaningless. If you’re currently using your crate as punishment, I would recommend you stop immediately for this among many other reasons (perhaps the subject of a future blog post).

Claiming - A dog may jump on you as a way of “claiming” you. This looks so similar to the dog who is demanding attention that it may be impossible to tell them apart. One hint that the dog may be claiming you is if he/she jumps, rests her paws on you, and looks around at everyone else as if to say “are you all seeing this?” This is usually just as harmless as the dog who jumps for attention, but not always. Sometimes, the action of a dog “claiming” a certain person can be a prelude to a conflict either between the dog and other people, or the dog and other dogs. You will likely not be able to distinguish whether your dog is “claiming you” or if he is just trying to get attention. Don’t worry though – it doesn’t really matter (more on that in a minute).

Submissive Gesture - There is also the possibility that the dogs intention is simply to lick your mouth. In dog behavior, this is often a submissive gesture. Even if this is your dog’s intention, he/she is still taking control of the situation, which is unacceptable. Plus, many people don’t appreciate “kisses” from a dog so its a bad habit to let slide!

Learned Behavior - Dogs are stimuli response animals, meaning they don’t think things through - "When A happens, I do B." "When people come in, I jump."  If your dog had enough time to practice jumping, it just becomes something they do. This is why it’s not harmless to let a puppy jump. Unless you get lucky, your dog is not likely to grow out of this behavior! "When people come in, I jump on them." There is no “why.”

Overall, it is not really important to understand why a dog jumps – attention, claiming, submissive gesture, learned behavior, etc. Its only important to understand and accept that this is an inappropriate behavior and needs to be addressed. Whether a dog is 100lbs or 10lbs, it’s inappropriate. A large jumping dog can create a lot of physical damage (think about Grandma falling and breaking a hip, or a toddler cracking his head on a nearby piece of furniture, or a table crashing to the ground and shattering a lamp into a thousand pieces), but a small jumping dog can be a hazard as well (think about someone being alarmed or caught off guard, a child being frightened, someone being scratched with the dogs' tiny dagger nails, etc.)

Regardless of a dog’s size, jumping is inappropriate because it is representative of the wrong state of mind. A jumping dog is making his own decisions; a jumping dog is taking control and is leading the "pack". What does that say about your relationship with the dog? Your dog should ALWAYS be under your control, and should be responding to YOUR instruction. Not because he/she is a lowly, inferior creature, but because he/she is an animal. If we want our furry friends to peacefully and safely coexist with us in our homes, we need to train our dogs to respond to us, not the other way around!

Why don’t quick fixes work for a jumping dog? 

In order for any approach to create lasting change, it should address ALL the variables that influence the dog’s behavior, not just stick a band-aid on the problem. This includes, but is not limited to, the aforementioned  relationship between dog and owner, and the dog’s lifestyle. That said, there is one way to get rid of bad behaviors: consequences. Before you say you don’t believe in telling a dog no, think about this: consequences are a normal part of life. What would happen if there were no consequences for bad human behavior? Chaos! Consequences are a normal part of life for the entire animal kingdom; dogs are no exception.

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In order for a bad behavior to stop, there must be sufficient motivation to stop doing it. You can try to redirect your dog with treats, or teach him a different response using treats (reward) alone, but in order for that to work, the desire to eat a tasty treat has to outweigh your dog’s desire to jump. This is why a treat-based trainer shows up armed with hot dogs, not Milkbones. However, most dogs enjoy jumping so much that even a hot dog isn’t enough to change that behavior pattern. Sometimes short term progress can be made, but this approach is not likely to achieve lasting results.

So if treats are neither an effective, nor efficient way to stop a dog from jumping, what kind of consequence should you introduce? How do you know if it’s a sufficient motivator? In order for something to be considered a “consequence” it has to hold weight, which means it will vary based on the dog’s personality, temperament, size, desire to do the undesired behavior (in this case, jumping), etc. If it doesn’t stop the bad behavior from happening, it isn’t enough of a motivator. This is why “time outs” in the crate aren’t a consequence – the dog isn’t able to associate it with a specific action so it’s unable to hold any weight. There are many common suggestions for consequences for jumping: the squirt bottle, the shaker can, and a knee to the chest, to name a few. I’ve met people who swear by the squirt bottle, but let me ask you this: how many times have you refilled that thing? Countless times, right? And you’ve gotta have a full tank if you know people are coming over, right? So the squirt bottle might stop the dog from jumping once he’s started, but it doesn’t prevent him from jumping in the first place. Even if you’re okay with that – “oh, that’s fine. I don’t mind carrying it around. I don’t even have to squirt it anymore, just hold it up!” – is it really fair to be continually punishing, or threatening to punish the dog? (rhetorical question)

So, how can you teach your dog not to jump in the first place?

It is important to set a dog up for success as much as possible. We, as humans, can reason. We can think things through, and arrange the variables in our environment so that the dog is set up to make the right behavior choice to the greatest extent possible. It's only fair to do so.

So when your dog is in a situation where he’s likely to jump (e.g., when company comes over), take away his opportunity to jump by giving him something else to do. Try the "place" command, or a "sit/stay", or a "down/stay". If he still makes the wrong choice, only at this point do consequences come into play. Remember, your consistency is the number one factor determining whether or not your dog will get it!

I have purposely avoided making specific recommendations regarding tools and methods because this advice largely depends on many variables (the individual dog, situation, etc.). Nevertheless, I hope this article has shed some light on the jumping issue!  If you are searching for a dog trainer in the Asheville area to help you with your dog’s jumping issue, or any other behavioral problem, please call me at 828.423.0156 or email me at  adinna@thankdogavl.com. I would be happy to talk with you about your dog’s issues, and exactly how I can help!

It's ALL in the Leash!

Does your dog walk ahead of you? Does your dog pull you down the street? Are you constantly stopping to let your dog sniff around? Does he/she have leash aggression towards other dogs? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, leadership has not been fully established within your household.

One of the crucial ways in establishing the leadership role with your dog is through the leash. The leash is a form of communication that let's the dog know what is being asked of them and who the pack leader is. If the dog ISN'T walking at a "heel," pulling ahead, sniffing around, and/or marking his/her place everywhere, he/she is communicating that you're NOT in control and he/she is really the alpha dog.

Dogs feed off energy through the leash as well. If you are not confident in your position, the dog knows and will do whatever he/she needs in order to survive because dogs are survivalists. Leash aggression is a common behavior that arises from the owners unbalanced energy. Therefore, if you're already expecting the dog to lash out because of previous experiences on walks, they most definitely will due to the insecurities he/she is feeding from.

All these issues are dealt with in Thank Dog! Bootcamp. Learning how to handle your dog on the leash is the key to ensure that everyone gets a great workout, while teaching your dog how to behave. The combination of exercise and obedience will not only transform your walks forever, but will give you and your dog the bodies you've always wanted:)

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What's the Big Deal About Basic Obedience?

As a dog trainer, it's not uncommon for me to hear statements similar to the following:

  • "I don't really care about sit or down or stay. I just want my dog to come when I call him."
  • "Our dog is perfect at home. We don't really have to make her do anything. She's just good all the time. But as soon as we go out the front door, she turns into a lunatic."
  • "I want my dog and I to live in harmony as equals. Ommmmm..."

Some people really just hate the idea of “basic obedience”. I suspect it’s a deep-seeded adversity to authority, structure and/or discipline rooted in their tender childhood years. But let’s skip over the in-depth psychoanalysis and try to break this down into simple terminology. Let’s start by getting rid of the words “basic obedience”.  It just sounds BORING. We don’t even have to call it “dog training”.

The truth is that when you are working with your dog on mastering commands, you are working with them on focus and communication. Yes, all dogs have the physical ability to sit. I guess I should say most or almost all. Can we agree that all dogs have the physical ability to lie down? Pretty good bet there. So you say, “Big deal, my dog knows how to lie down.” You know it’s not about that right?

We start in the home, without distraction, where you should be able to get your dog to do anything. This is where everything should be easiest. So, we introduce a word and/or a hand signal. We probably use a treat. Great your dog got it right away. We’ve got his focus and we’ve successfully communicated.

Are you done? Well, does your dog do it every single time? Does your dog do it when there’s another person in the room? Maybe someone else who will give him attention even if he doesn’t listen to you. Does your dog do it every single time with another dog in the room? One who is willing to play or chase or engage in someway if he chooses not to listen to you?

Practicing the ability to gain your dog’s focus with incrementally increasing amounts of distraction is the only way to you can effectively communicate with your dog. So that when you want to use that “Come” command in the middle of high-distraction environment you actually get a dog that returns to you. Basic obedience commands are the building blocks of that communicative relationship with your dog.

Dog training has to be repetitive and consistent in nature to be effective but it does not need to be boring or mundane. Quite the contrary. The more fun you have with it, the more fun your dog will have. With both of you happy, you will be much more likely to continue practicing your “communication skills” and you might actually end up liking it in the end.

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