Physical and Emotional Well-being in your dog

Sep 29 2006

I appreciate the comments I have been getting from readers. One of the comments I received on the Cesar Millan article has inspired me to write today’s blog.

As our society’s perspective of the dog shifts from worker (herder, hunter, sled puller, for example) to family member, our attention to the emotional and physical needs of the dog must keep pace with those changes. We have an obligation to exercise our dogs both mentally and physically. This is where training can be so useful. To Cesar Millan’s credit, many behavior problems are a result of owner miscommunication and misunderstanding and his show does succeed in highlighting that issue. Unfortunately, many professional dog trainers continue to employ techniques that have proven to cause serious injury to the dog as well as to the bond between dog and human.

Many trainers use a mixture of new positive techniques and old force-based techniques, making it difficult to determine their true philosophy. My personal opinion is that absolutely all positive motivational methods should be thoroughly exhausted by several different trainers and a comprehensive vet examination must rule out any mental or physical cause for the behavior before any mild force-based method should be attempted under the guidance of a professional dog trainer. And under no circumstances should a force-based method be used that could potentially cause severe or irreparable physical or emotional damage.

Training is teaching, helping another to learn by instruction and practice. When we are trying to learn something new, we are most receptive when our teacher provides clear instructions in a calm, stress-free learning environment without fear of abuse if we choose the wrong answer, and huge rewards if we choose the correct answer. I know of very few instances in pet dog training where positive motivational training will fail to provide results. These rare cases can be related to medical conditions which if discovered by a veterinarian can often be treated or managed. Again, you know your dog best. The best indicator is your own gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, get a second opinion, or third or fourth until you feel comfortable.

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Biscuit for your thoughts…

Sep 27 2006

Thank you to George’s mom for sending the very first comment to my blog (see comments under “Doc loves everybody”)! We love hearing from our readers so if you have a comment on a specific article or an idea for a new article we would love to hear from you. I want this to be informative and fun for you so let me know your thoughts!
“George” photo by Kelly Moren

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Things dogs teach us

Sep 25 2006

My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog already thinks I am. ~Author Unknown

“Winston”, photo by Kelly Moren

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“The Dog Whisperer” techniques raise controversy

Sep 20 2006

When dog-related issues appear in the media, I will do my best to inform you through this blog. Recently, concerns have been expressed about the techniques used by Cesar Millan on the popular show “The Dog Whisperer”. Here are some articles on the topic; the American Humane article, the SPCA article, the New Yorker article feedback, the Esquire article. There is much debate on the topic of force-free methods vs. the use of adversives in dog training.

This is a good opportunity to discuss how to evaluate a trainer. Look for a dog trainer who employs humane training methods which do not cause physical harm, great pain, or undue distress to the dog. Dog training should be fun for both canine and human participants, so make sure that the professional you choose is approachable and encourages your active participation and questions. Former or current students are a valuable source of information. A competent trainer will encourage you to visit a group class and consult current or former clients about their experiences.

To summarize the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) guide for selecting a trainer, during a training session a skilled and professional trainer will:
1. Explain each lesson.
2. Demonstrate each behavior.
3. Provide clear written handouts on each behavior.
4. Assist students individually with proper implementation of techniques.

Always remember to follow your instincts. If you are uncomfortable with anything your trainer suggests, speak up. A competent trainer will explain the reason for the use of a specific technique and offer alternative options as needed. Remember that your emotions travel through your leash to your dog. So if you are uncomfortable, it is likely your best friend will be uncomfortable as well.

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Put your best paw forward!

Sep 19 2006

Learning the proper way to greet a dog is simple and very important. If more people perform these simple techniques, others will watch and learn and every dog will benefit. As humans, we communicate primarily through the use of our voices, although popular dating shows and talk shows have made us more aware of our extensive body language vocabulary! Dogs actually use body language as their primary source of communication, so it behooves us to learn exactly what we are communicating to them when we offer the standard ‘pat on the head’ greeting. To a dog, any dog, even your own dog, reaching over the top of the head is a dominant or challenging signal. To make matters worse, we are usually facing the dog and staring directly into his eyes when we reach to pet his head. This posturing is interpreted by the dog as very domineering and not at all the friendly gesture we are attempting to offer. If the dog is frightened, he may back away, snap, or growl. If the dog is used to being in control and accepts a dominant role in his own family, he may perceive your ‘friendly gesture’ as a challenge and bite you. If the dog is friendly and has had overwhelmingly good experiences with people in the past, he may tolerate your inconsiderate gesture, but this isn’t what we want either. When we reach to pet a dog, our desire is to communicate to the dog that we are no threat to them and that we would like to be friends.
This can be communicated by changing 3 simple things in our typical greeting ceremony.
1. Body position- turn your side to the dog
2. Eye contact- glance sideways at the dog without looking directly into his eyes
3. Hand position- put your hand out just lower than his nose, palm down and allow the dog to decide to sniff or approach you, if the dog accepts your invitation by moving calmly toward your hand, you may pet him gently on his chest.
If we all simply improve the way we introduce ourselves to the dogs in our lives, we can all start to put our best paw forward!

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Doc loves everybody at daycare!

Sep 18 2006

Doc enjoys time with all the dogs at daycare. He teaches the dogs appropriate play positions and helps the shy dogs learn that daycare is a safe and fun place to be. Here he is playing with his good friend Malone, a 10 mos. old Shih Tzu, while a newcomer, 5 mos. old Cocker Spaniel, Lucy, watches.

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Where to purchase/adopt a dog

Sep 15 2006

Before starting your search for a dog, do some research. Read books, call trainers, research local rescue organizations. Do not make a spur of the moment decision. Make an educated decision.
Shelters/Rescue organizations– These are great places to start a search for a new addition to the family. Look for organizations that have a behaviorist on staff who will speak to you about the dog that you are interested in. Not all dogs are right for all families. If you have children, elderly family members, or other pets living with you or if you live in an apartment, you will need to narrow your search to dogs that will fit comfortably in that setting. Always include training expenses into your budget when planning to adopt a dog.
Professional Breeders– Research any breeder very well before purchasing a dog. Ask a lot of questions, and expect to answer a lot of questions. If the breeder seems to be probing into your life,…GOOD! You want someone who cares about the welfare of their dogs, not just a dollar amount. You want a breeder who is a professional, but not someone who mass produces dogs. Make sure they personally care for the dogs in a home environment, not a kennel situation.
Friend or Backyard breeder– NO! NO! NO! Absolutely no one should be breeding their dog unless they are a professional. There is a lot of knowledge that goes into breeding. Anyone who is not in the career of dog breeding/showing, should not own an intact female or male dog. Absolutely all pet dogs should be neutered/spayed. NO EXCEPTIONS!
Pet store– NO! NO! NO! Pet stores are the absolute worst place to get a dog. Dogs that are sold in pet stores are typically mass produced in large kennels with little human contact. Pet stores are trying to make a profit from inferior dogs. If you want a purebred dog, go through a breeder instead!! You will get a more well-bred dog, professional guidance on the right dog for you and you will pay close to the same price. Now that you are aware of other options for bringing a dog home , there is no excuse for buying a dog from a pet store. None!

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Kelly’s Dog Talk Begins!

Sep 15 2006

Hi, and welcome to Kelly’s Dog Talk. I am going to use this space to talk about all things dog. Things I like, think are cool, and even address common questions I get from my dog training, daycare and boarding clients. I will be throwing in training tips as well. We are getting a new puppy next month, and I thought it might be useful to share our “experienced” experience with others so that they can see, it’s really not as easy as it looks – even the experts struggle sometimes! I’ll keep you posted…

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