Kids & Dogs—Dr. Sophia Yin’s Educational Poster

Sophia Yin rocks!  Check out this excellent article and poster on how children should and should not interact with dogs. The poster shows how a rude behavior with people is also a rude behavior with dogs.  For instance, people don’t like it if someone takes somethingof theirs and, likewise, neither do dogs.  Super easy to understand so even young children will learn.  You can print out copies for free.

Podcast Episode 107: Dig, Dig, Dig

Here’s Episode 107Dig, Dig, Dig:

Learn how you can have an awesome garden that can survive your dogs!

Click below to play.

You can listen to it here and or on iTunes.  We also have an RSS feed you can subscribe to if you use an RSS reader.

Check out these topics mentioned in the podcast:

Podcast Episode 106: Vet Visit

Here’s Episode 106 – Vet Visit:

Learn the steps you can take so your dog is less anxious when visiting your vet.

Click below to play.

You can listen to it here and or on iTunes.  We also have an RSS feed you can subscribe to if you use an RSS reader.

Check out these topics mentioned in the podcast:

Training Tips: Fearful Dogs Part II

About a year ago I wrote Fearful Dogs Part I.  It arose from watching a stressed dog being handled badly at the dog park.  Part II is about another incident I saw.

In this case, a woman was walking 2 dogs down our street—down the middle of our street.  Just as they came along side a parked car, a man in the car hollered out the window to someone.  One dog was very startled and became fearful.  How do I know?  The frightened dog had it’s ears pinned back, the whites of her eyes showing, a tense face, and she was desperately trying to get out of the street.  As they got to the sidewalk, the fearful dog kept looking back at the man in the car and getting underfoot, so walking was difficult.  The woman’s response was to loudly scold, “Get over it!” and to jerk the dog.  All the while, the second dog is just walking along normally.  Next, the woman stood at the corner of a busy street for a long time waiting to cross and the dog’s anxiety only increased.  The fearful dog was lifting one foot & then the other, looking away, ears back, with whites of eyes still showing.  Finally, the woman dragged her into the street to cross and they went on their unhappy way.

The problem here started before they ever left the house.

  1. The fearful dog needed someone working with her on her fears.  From the little I saw, I think she’s scared by traffic, loud noises, the woman walking her, possibly men and cars—even parked cars.
  2. Walking her in the street when she’s not ready to do that heightens her anxiety.
  3. Hurrying to keep walking after the dog was startled by the man shouting may reinforce her fear.  The dog might interpret it as “My person is hurrying from the thing that scared me.  It really must be dangerous.”  More stress.
  4. Loudly telling the dog to “Get over it!” isn’t going to help the dog’s fear.  All it tells her is that in addition to the “danger” they’re hurrying from, her person is also angry at her.  More stress.
  5. Jerking the dog by her neck doesn’t help the dog.  Now physical discomfort and another startling event has been added to the situation.  More stress.
  6. Waiting a long time at a busy street only adds to the fearful dog’s anxiety.
  7. Cap it all off with the woman dragging the dog into the street and it doesn’t look like these two have a very good relationship.

So what would work better?

  1. Some basic understanding of canine body language would be a start.  Being able to recognize when a dog is stressed makes all the difference in being able to do something about it.  I don’t think this woman was aware of how frightened her dog was. (Want to learn more about your dog?  Check out Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide, a favorite of mine.)
  2. Short, relaxed walks so there’s time to work with the dog on her fears, to accommodate her needs when her stress is too high, and to watch her reaction to things .
    • When the dog was startled by the man, the woman could have helped by slowly & calmly walking towards the car, pausing before they got too close for the dog to tolerate, praising the dog, and then calmly turning back to their walk.
    • Instead of walking down the middle of the street (which seems stupid anyway when there are sidewalks on both sides), she should stick to the sidewalk.
    • And rather than waiting a long time at a busy street, the woman needs to work up to exposing the fearful dog to traffic that frightens her so much.  I had to work with our dog Saffron on the same fear and I started by walking with traffic (so she wasn’t facing cars coming at her), walking with her on the side away from the street, and alternately walking 1 block on a busy street and then on quieter streets.  Gradually, I lengthened the time spent on busy streets until Saffron was ok with it.  And we had fun doing it!  This woman and her 2 dogs were not having fun.
  3. Sometimes the presence of a calm dog helps to reassure a fearful dog, which is great.  But, I do think this dog would benefit from some walks just one-on-one so the human isn’t distracted and can focus on what stresses the dog.

Here’s the To Do List:

  1. gradually work up to what frightens your dog, don’t flood them with it—you’ll only make them feel vulnerable
  2. pay attention to what scares your dog, how anxious they are, and what calms them
  3. don’t yell or physically punish your dog, you’ll only add to her stress
  4. don’t drag your dog—I think it’s a pretty good rule of thumb that if you have to drag your dog, her anxiety level is too high

There’s a happy ending to this story.  Weeks later I encountered a friend walking the same fearful dog.  Without thinking, I mentioned I’d seen her being walked by someone who was clueless about how scared the dog was and I found out my friend shared responsibility for the dog with the woman I had seen.  My friend asked if the woman had been harsh with the dog and when I said yes, she said she’d speak to the woman.  But, my friend did better than that—she made the woman realize the dog would be better off with my friend, so know the fearful dog has a much happier life with someone who understands her and works on her fears.  Yea!

Training Tip: Preparing Your Dog for Veterinary Visits

Great, great advice on how to help your dog have a better visit to your vet!   Alena Van Arendonk from Canines In Action in Indianapolis has an excellent post on what you can do to make visits to the vet less frightening for your dog.(thanks Margaret!) I really like her description of being a training opportunist—taking advantage of a situation to teach your dog.  Teaching your dog to get on and off something will make it so much easier to get them on a scale or a low exam table.  Can you imagine what it’s like for vet techs to wrestle 50+ lbs. dogs onto the scale all day long?  Teach your dog to do it herself and your vet tech will love you—so will your dog!

Some of Alena’s suggestions include training while you’re waiting for the vet and training before you ever get there.  The idea of short visits to the vet’s office when you don’t have an appointment is also great.  You can just go into the lobby, get your dog to sit, lie down, etc. and give treats.  If the scale is accessible, work on on & off.  It’ll help for your dog to have more positive associations with the vet.

Saffron became terrified of the scale at our vet’s office.  The furnace turned on while she was on it and air suddenly blew out of the vent right into her face.  That was enough to scare her so badly that it was almost impossible to get her on the scale ever again.  So, I started randomly visiting our vet and if they weren’t too busy, Saffron & I would work on her fear of the scale.  It took a while, but she got over it and now when we get to the vet, she walks right over to the scale and plunks her butt down.  Help your dog cope better with a trip to the vet and do some training ahead of time!