Saturday, August 4, 2012

Swimming With Your Dog

Dog Tip: Hiking, Camping and Swimming with Your Dog Before the trip: * Make sure vaccinations are up to date and that you take along proof of rabies vaccination. The dog should be healthy before an outing. * Apply flea and tick preventive. * Make a temporary I.D. tag displaying the name of the park, campground, motel or other reachable contact at your destination area. A lost pet service, microchip I.D. (available at most animal hospitals) and tattoo I.D. are also good to use in combination with traditional tags. Make sure the tag features your current, reachable phone number. * Get your dog in condition before hiking and camping by taking him on shorter hikes close to home. * It helps if your dog has had some obedience training. If your dog barks constantly or is very anxious, reconsider taking him camping. * Check before your trip to make sure dogs are allowed on the trails and at the parks and campgrounds you plan to visit. Packing: * Take a first aid kit for yourself and your dog. You'll find a great list of first aid kit contents below. * Also bring sunblock for you and your dog, since dogs can get sunburn. * Bring lots of bottled water. * Bring food and dishes for feeding your pet. * Take an extra leash in case your regular one gets damaged. Note: Retractable leashes can be dangerous, since you want your dog to stay close to you. Bring a short, sturdy leash for hiking. If you're hiking in terrain with cliffs, canyons, big rocks or other challenging conditions, it may be safest to attach the leash to a sturdy harness instead of to a neck collar. * Bring unbreakable toys. * Bring an extra towel for your dog. * Pack a lightweight camping crate in case your dog can get loose from your tent. * Bring a pad for chilly nights. * Get a backpack for your medium or large dog so he can carry some unbreakable items. Go on walks before the trips so that the dog can gradually get used to a loaded backpack. A dog can carry a load equal to one-quarter to one-third of his own weight. However, do not place a backpack on dogs under one year of age, or any dog prone to dyplasia, joint problems or other health conditions. * You can buy a pet pouch to carry a little dog. * Pack and use dog boots if you are hiking in rough terrain. * If your dog will be swimming in a lake, bring a canine life jacket and a long nylon lead. See the Swimming section below. Before you begin the hike: * Remember to pack plenty of water. You and your dog will drink more than usual. * Apply sunblock to your dog's sun-sensitive areas such as nose and ears, particularly with pets with short fur and light skin. Sunblock should be at least SPF 15, and should be applied more than 15 minutes before sun exposure. Note: some experts recommend that zinc oxide not be used on pets. * Keep your dog on leash. * If you are placing a backpack on your dog, distribute the weight evenly and do not overpack (see above). Keep it light if on rough or challenging terrain. During the hike: * Check your dog's footpads every day no matter where you hike or camp. Check for thistles, debris or soreness along the way. Bag Balm and Vaseline are two good choices for soothing raw paw pads. Check fur, paws, nose, eye area and ears for foxtails. Also check for ticks. * Be very cautious in areas with cliffs, gulches, canyons, caves, big rocks, etc. Many dogs have no concept of heights, and they can slip under railings. Some have drowned in geyser areas. Keep your dog close to you. * Do not let your dog wander into the brush. He can pick up the oils from poison ivy and other plants and transfer the oils to you. Plus you want to minimize his chances of exposure to ticks and wild animals. * When your dog potties on a trail, bury it. * Keep watch for piles of feces, whether from other dogs or wildlife. Animal feces carry any number of germs and parasites. Near the water, they may be subjected to toxins from dead fish or other pollutants. * Make sure your dog has access to shade and to a clean, non-tippable bowl of fresh water. Dogs are uncomplaining partners, so you need to pay attention to make sure your pet is not suffering from too much sun, heat, exercise or thirst. * If your dog is bitten by a snake, immobilize the body part that has been bitten. Keep it at or below the level of the heart. Keep the pet calm and still. Carry the pet if possible. Get to a vet as soon as possible, and try to identify the type of snake. Do not manipulate the bitten area any more than necessary. Do not cut over the fang marks. Do not ice pack or tourniquet the area. After the hike: * Rinse dogs off immediately after hikes and swims. Pay special attention to cleaning their ears and around their paw pads and toes. Also check eyes and nostrils. For tips for removing foreign objects from skin, paws, eyes and ears, and for removing tar and paint from fur, see * To clean off pine sap or tar, try Dawn dishwashing liquid, or petroleum jelly to soften and follow with washing with baby shampoo. Swimming with Dogs: Some breeds are natural water dogs, but most dogs can learn to enjoy a swim now and then. * Introduce a dog to water as early as possible, and make sure the experience is a positive one. Look for a pleasant, quiet place with shallow water. Keep the dog on leash; you can use a long leash, such as one made of nylon that will dry easily. Start the dog at the water's edge, then him let him trot there awhile. Wade in with the dog. If he inches in a little on his own, praise him. * Never force a dog into the water, and do not let the dog enter deep water. You can toss a ball a couple of feet to encourage him to venture in a little deeper, but you don't want him to get in literally or figuratively over his head. Belly-deep is deep enough. * Bring fresh water for your dog. Even freshwater streams and lakes can contain parasites and unhealthy bacteria. * Do not let your dog swim into currents. * It may be easy for a dog to jump into deep water, but not easy to get out. A dog can panic and possibly drown. Without an easily accessible ramp, a dog may not be able to get out of a swimming pool or jump back onto a dock. So avoid deep water. * If you are swimming in lakes or boating, get your dog a well-fitted canine life vest. You can use a long nylon lead to prevent escapes. Keep watch to make sure he does not get tangled in the lead. As always, take fresh water for you and your dog. * Warning: There are alligators in water bodies in Florida and coastal towns in other southern states. * Owners who fish should take steps to make sure their pets cannot access their fishing lines, lures, hooks and bait. * Also keep them away from feces and fish and shellfish washed up on the shore, which can contain toxins. * In addition to using sunblock (see above), make sure your dog has access to shade. Too much sun can lead to a medical emergency. * At the beach, sand and salt water can irritate paw pads. Rinse paws immediately after visiting the beach. * Dry out ears immediately after playing in the water to prevent ear infections. * If you use a flea collar, remove the flea collar before letting a dog enter water, since wet flea collars can irritate the skin, and the active ingredients will wash off. * Pools. If you have a pool, keep it securely fenced off and, when not in use, covered with a sturdy pool cover. To enable dogs and children a way to climb out of the water, the pool needs to have graded steps out of the pool. Dogs and toddlers cannot climb ladders. If a dog cannot get out of the water, he will soon tire of paddling and drown. Also, do not assume a dog will automatically know where the steps are and how to exit the pool. You need to teach him. * For pools secured into the cement around the pool with heavy duty springs and fasteners, the pool cover should be made of nylon mesh to allow drainage. Water cannot drain off solid fabric, so a dog or small child could slip and drown in the water on the pool cover. Rescuing a Drowning Dog Adapted from a July 2003 Dog Fancy article about drowning by Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, author of First Aid for Dogs: Even a dog who loves to swim can get tired, get cramps, swallow water or get caught in currents. Dogs with low body fat (such as Dobermans) are less buoyant and have less protection against the cold of the water. If the dog is limp, unconscious, or unresponsive, wrap her in a towel. Keep her neck and back immobilzed in case of spinal injury. Use board to move the dog. If the dog is not breathing, lay her flat on her right side, make several quick compressions to her chest to expel water, then feel for a heartbeat just behind the left elbow. If a heartbeat is present, but she still is not breathing, check the back of her throat for obstructions. If there does not seem to be an obstruction, close the dog's muzzle by firmly encircling it with your hand. Put the dog's tongue in her mouth first so she doesn't bite it. Then blow into her nose. The force of your breath should vary depending on the size of the dog. Watch for rising of her chest wall, and keep checking the heartbeat a few times a minute. If you can't feel it, make one or two quick, firm compressions on the chest wall with both of your palms pressed flat on top of each other, and begin artificial respiration � about 15 breaths followed by a chest compression. Continue until the dog regains consciousness, respiration and heartbeat, or when emergency workers take over. * Blue-Green Algae -- a special report from PAW volunteer Lynne Keffer: Hot, sunny weather brings out people, and with many people also come their dogs. Caution is in order for both humans and canines when frolicking in a lake or pond, however, as such bodies of water can be home to blue-green algae, which can contain high levels of toxins, such as microcystin or anatoxin. Blue-green algae form in warm, nutrient-rich water. Hot, dry, calm weather conditions promote the growth of blue-green algae. The blue-green algae appear as a heavy greenish-blue scum on the water or shoreline, where they congregate. Sustained gentle winds can concentrate the algae on the leeward, or down wind side, of the water body. When blue-green algae bloom, they look thick like pea soup or blue or green paint on the water. They are mostly blue-green, although they can also be brown or purple. When blue-green algae wash up on shore, they resemble a thick mat or foam on the beach. People should avoid swimming in areas where there is visible green or blue-green scum collected on the surface of the water. The presence of dead animals such as birds, muskrats, and other animals indicates a high toxin level. Ingestion of algae that are producing toxin can result in symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Skin exposure can result in irritation or allergic reactions. Children should especially be kept from entering scummy water since they are more likely to ingest the water than adults. The treatment for blue green algae intoxication is symptomatic, and usually unsuccessful. Dogs are at risk if they eat the algae or drink the water in an area where a toxic algae bloom is taking place. They may also ingest the algae by licking their fur after they have been in water that is thick with algae. Experts advise pet owners to keep their dogs away from the algae. If your dog does get into the water in an area where you see the algae, wash the dog off immediately with clean water. Be sure to clean the dog's ears too. Not all blue-green algae blooms produce toxin. However there is no way to tell just by looking at them. Most other algae lake plants do not produce any toxin. Generally, lots of wind, cooler weather, rainfall, and cloudy days will lead to the collapse of an algae bloom. Some blooms die off after a few days or weeks, while others persist for a few months. First Aid Kit and Guidance: Keep a pet First Aid Kit with you. This webpage lists items to include: The Hiker First Aid Kit for Canines: CPR and Mouth-to-Snout Resuscitation (print and take these life-saving brochures with you): When traveling, you can find a nearby veterinarian using the AAHA Animal Hospital Locator: Poison Emergency 24-Hour Hotlines: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 1-888-4-ANI-HELP or 1-888-426-4435 National Animal Poison Control Center 1-800-548-2423 First Aid for the Active Dog by Sid Gustafson. Take this guide when you hike, camp or travel with your dog. Other web sources about outdoor activities and travel with dogs: Car Trips and Car Safety: Travel with Pets -- Packing, Preparation and Other Trip Tips: Hotels, Motels, Lodging with Pets: Fleas, Ticks, Mosquitoes - Prevention and Treatment: Remedies for Insect Stings and Bites, Hot Spots and other Skin Conditions: Summer Health and Safety Guide: Lawn, Outdoor and Warm Weather Safety Tips: Outdoor Fun with Pets: Pet-Friendly Campgrounds, Parks and Beaches Hiking With Dogs: Becoming a Wilderness-Wise Dog Owner by Linda B. Mullally ------ For more Dog Tips and other information about pet care, adoption and the work PAW does, visit our website at: Partnership for Animal Welfare P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dog Tricks!!

Take A Bow

Foreword: Bow is a pretty easy trick, but looks impressive!

Directions: There are two ways to teach this trick. You must decide which will be the best for your Rover.

BOW for the food crazy Rover: Since your Rover will jump off a plane to get that little doggy treat, this version should be pretty easy to teach. Start by getting those yummy treats! Next, have Rover stand while you kneel next to him. Now take that treat and hold it between Rovers front paws. Hopefully, Rover will now look down and try to get the treat. If Rover doesn't respond to the treat, move on to the other version.
Once Rover starts to reach for the treat, pull your hand slightly back, so Rover must look in between his legs. To keep his balance, Rover should now BOW. Give him the treat! Now repeat it until Rover goes into the BOW position faster. Meanwhile, you should be saying BOW every time he BOWS.
If Rover lays down instead of bowing, gently put your hand on his tummy while Rover is standing. This should keep him from laying down.

BOW for the food picky Rover: If you have one of those Rover's who just won't respond to those yummy doggy treats (including mine) you have to try this version.
Start by kneeling next to Rover with one hand on Rovers shoulder and the other supporting his tummy. Now say BOW and gently apply pressure from the hand that's on Rovers shoulder. Repeat this, saying BOW every time and rewarding Rover for being forced into the position. Once he starts getting it, you won't have to apply so much pressure anymore.
This should get Rover into the BOW position, but if your working with a BIG Rover, here is another version to try.
BOW for the food picky BIG Rover: Well, since BIG Rover just won't budge using the above methods, here is another version to try. Kneel next to BIG Rover and put one hand on his tummy and the other on his forelegs. Now say BOW, and grab his front legs and gently pull them forward until he is in the BOW position. Now praise and try it again. Be gently though, or BIG Rover will protest.

Hide Your Face

Foreword: At your command Rover will hide one of his eyes! So cute and a trick every movie star dog knows. The technique for HIDE YOUR EYES is very similar to SHAKE. So come on, letÕs brush up on some movie star dog basics!


Water Directions: Simply acquire a spray bottle with water in it. Call Rover over to you and have Rover sit. Say "Rover, HIDE!" and give a GENTEL MIST in the direction of Rovers face. Aim for the general face area.
Now Rover can have multiple reactions to this. At points some of my Rovers have tried to 'drink' the water, run away, shake their heads, and also hidden their eyes. Adjust where you spray, aiming for the ears for the shaking of the head, and eyes for HIDE YOUR EYES.
Once Rover starts to HIDE on spray, simply repeat, saying HIDE before you spray, giving Rover a chance to do it. Reward him every time he hides his eyes and stop after a couple shake and sprays! After a while, you will not have to spray anymore, just have the bottle in your hand and say HIDE. This will then progress to you only making a spraying motion with you hand and saying HIDE.

Air Directions: I prefer using this method. Not only is it more convenient, but it also prevents water from irritating Rover's eyes. Follow the water directions, but instead of using a spray bottle, just gently blow in the directions of Rover ear.

Tape Directions: Another alternative is to use a piece of tape and place it below Rover's eye. Make sure it is a very weak brand, and stick and un-stick it on your hand or pant leg a couple of times first. This way it will still stick on Rover but will come off without some of RoverÕs fur! Follow the water directions, but instead of using a spray bottle, use the tape.

The Jump Rope Trick

Foreword: This is a tough trick! But it looks cool once Rover gets it. It also is a good way to get that extra energy a little lower!

Directions: The easiest way to start teaching this trick is to get Rover on a box. You want it large enough for Rover to turn around on, but not so large that Rover can walk around on it. Hold on to Rovers collar and slowly slide a stick under Rover. Start at Rovers forequarters and then move on to his hindquarters. The first time go really slow, so Rover does not get scared and tries to jump of the box. Let Rover step over the stick. Only do this for about 2 minutes at a time.
After Rover gets used to stepping over the stick at a slow pace, go a little faster. Use the command JUMP ROPE when he is jumping over it. Now you can try him with the jump rope. Always start at his front and pull the rope to the back. Once he is jumping over it, you can take him down from the box and try it on the ground. If he jumps over the rope and stays on the same spot your work is done! If not back up a step.

The Limping Dog

Foreword: I have had some trouble with this trick. If you have taught your dog to limp pretty fast using these or some other directions, please feel free to email them to me!

Directions: Start with having Rover on a leash. Stand in front of him and loop the leash under one of his forelegs, so you can elevate his wrist. Now gently pull on the leash so that he must elevate his leg. Now call Rover to you. ROVER, COME, LIMP. If he takes a couple steps with only three legs, praise him! Now let him rest and try again.
If Rover does not like being three legged and tries to pull away, get a second person to help you. Have her hold onto Rovers collar and leg while you call him to you.
Once Rover starts to get it, relax a little on the leash and have him walk a bigger distance. Now you can also try it off leash. Make a sling around his wrist and attach it to his collar. Now call him to you using the LIMP command. If Rover tries to walk on all four legs go back a step. If he does LIMP you can now remove the leash and try him. If he LIMPS, your work is finished! Good job!!!


Foreword: CRAWL took me a little while to teach because I train my dog by myself. It is easier to have a second person gently keep the dog from standing up while the other calls the dog. But it can be achieved with only one person too.

Directions: Tell Rover to lay down. Get down on your knees and gently grab hold onto Rovers collar with one hand and put the other on Rovers back. Now tell Rover to CRAWL and gently pull forward on Rovers collar. The response you will probably get is that Rover will try to stand up. That's when you use your other hand that you have on his back. Push him down gently before he stands up all the way. Now try it again while giving a little pressure from the hand on his back. If he crawls a couple inches, praise him (make sure he doesn't get up while you do) and give him a treat. Now try it again.
If Rover is really stubborn and wont budge an inch, then get that second person to help you. The second person (Lets call her Su) will stand a little distance (Start with only a couple feet away) away from you and Rover. Get back down on your knees next to Rover with one hand on his back and one on his collar. Tell Su to call him. Rover will of course try to get up and run to Su. Push him down gently and make Rover CRAWL!
Once you have done this a couple times with Rover, and Rover is making no effort of standing up while he is crawling, you can start not putting your hand on his back. If Rover stands up go back to the last step. If Rover remains down, lots of praise! Now you can move on with you standing while giving the command. Then move away and tell Rover to CRAWL. If Rover does, your work is done!!!!
Also you can lure Rover into CRAWLING by holding a treat infront of Rovers nose, dragging it along the ground. Keep a hand on Rovers back/collar.

Play Dead

Foreword: This trick is best taught after Rover has had some exercise and is ready to rest. Rover will need to know the DOWN command to successfully complete this trick.

Directions: Tell Rover to DOWN and note the side that he is leaning on. Now gently push him over saying PLAY DEAD. As he rolls over on his side praise him and give him a tummy scratch. Repeat this until you don't have to use any pressure to get him to roll onto his side.

Conclusion: This trick is part of the BANG BANG trick, but can be used by itself too. Simply say BANG as the command instead of PLAY DEAD. Because Rover was shot down he must remain still. Practice this a couple of times making Rover stay in the PLAY DEAD position, not moving a muscle.


This one is really really cute, but your dog has to know all the other tricks first, and then must learn to put them in the right sequence. It's complicated but well worth the effort!!

Foreword: To perform this trick your dog must know LIMP, CRAWL and PLAY DEAD. If Rover knows these tricks by heart you can try the BANG BANG trick!
Suddenly you pull your 'imaginary finger gun' and point at Rover and say BANG! Rover starts to LIMP. Another BANG and Rover starts to CRAWL. Another BANG and Rover PLAYS DEAD.

Directions: To teach the BANG BANG trick, give Rover the LIMP command followed by you pulling out your finger and saying BANG. If Rover LIMPS give lots of praise. Now tell Rover to CRAWL followed by pulling out your finger and saying BANG. Praise! Now do the same thing for PLAY DEAD.
Repeat the sequence always going from LIMP to CRAWL to PLAY DEAD. You must do this, because you only have one command (BANG) for three different tricks. After you do this a couple times you can start dropping the first word and only say BANG.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dogs Decoded

Watched a very interesting video on dogs genetics, and the ability they have developed to interact and communicate with humans... They're much smarter than we think they are!

You Tube Video

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Using Operant Conditioning for Dog Training

There are numerous methods utilized today for dog training - but which one(s) should you use to train your own canine?

What is Operant Conditioning?
Operant conditioning is the modification of behavior through the use of consequences (reinforcers and punishers). Although there are arguments against this, operant conditioning differs from classical conditioning in that it deals with changing operant behavior (or 'voluntary' behavior) versus reflexive behavior ('involuntary' behavior). That being said, whenever you're dealing with changing behaviors, operant and classical conditioning can work hand-in-hand.

Operant conditioning has two main tools for modifying behavior - reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcers increase behavior, while punishers decrease a behavior. These operate in two contexts - positive and negative. In this case, positive refers to addition; negative refers to subtraction.

B.F. Skinner was the "Pavlov" of operant conditioning, and actually outlined a third tool - extinction - which is the lack of any consequence. Though it might seem like doing nothing couldn't be an effective training method, it can actually produce results when used correctly.

Positive Reinforcement
An important thing to keep in mind when considering which of these tools to utilize is the long-term effects each can have on your dog. Positive reinforcement is - in my opinion - the strongest teaching tool - not only does it focus on increasing positive behavior; it teaches the dog to want to work with his owner and continue learning and trying.

The basic premise of positive reinforcement is: dog performs behavior, dog gets rewarded. The dog learns - at first - "every time I do this, I get THIS." After a desired behavior is consistently occurring, then the trainer will begin to decrease payment of the behavior, only focusing on the dog's best performances. This encourages the dog to try his best each and every time, since he only gets paid for his best endeavors.

Once a behavior is learned, the dog is only paid intermittently. He's not quite sure when he'll get paid, so once again, he is going to offer his best effort all the time. This form of intermittent reinforcement is often where most trainers who teach clicker training fail to understand the implications of operant conditioning. They teach their trainers to use treats and pay their dog for every single occurrence of behavior. This actually creates a dog who doesn't perform very well; since he's never pushed to give his best, he gets treated regardless of performance and often these dogs are lazy, don't perform behaviors on cue and tend to get lackadaisical about working with their trainers.

Negative Punishment
Negative punishment is also a strong tool to decrease unwanted behavior, since this method focuses on the removal of a desired reward when an unwanted behavior occurs. Trained consistently, the dog will learn whenever she offers a certain behavior, she loses something she's very motivated to have - i.e., a treat, a toy, another behavior (such as going outside, going for a walk, etc.). Other examples would be a dog gets overly excited while being petted, so the person ignores the dog until she settles and then continues petting; or a very a high prey-drive dog not being allowed to play fetch unless she displays the correct behavior. Fetch in this case is not only a game; it can be a very strong teaching tool. Of course, all dogs are different and are motivated - at different times - by different things. You need to choose the best motivator for your own dog in order to truly see results.

Negative Reinforcement
While the concept of training through negative reinforcement may seem counter-intuitive to positive methods, it can actually be a strong tool. Keep in mind 'negative' in this sense doesn't carry an emotional connotation. Negative reinforcement is the increase in desired behavior caused by the removal of an unwanted stimulus.

An example of negative reinforcement would be teaching a dog to respond to touch. If you place your hand on your dog's side and push, eventually he'll move away from the pressure. You're not hurting the dog, but pressure can actually be an adverse stimulus. When the dog moves away, you remove the pressure. This is how horses are trained to move while being ridden - it's called 'leg aiding' and applies the very theory of negatively reinforcing the horse for moving away from a rider's leg when pressure is applied.

Positive Punishment
There are many reasons I don't utilize this type of training with dogs - mainly because with this method you're merely telling the dog "don't do that!" Instead of empowering her with what she should or could be doing, you're focusing on one thing she shouldn't be doing.

In other words, dogs are always doing something, and if you use this method of training, you won't get very far, since it's a major trial-and-error to teach them the things you don't want them to do. That is, the communication focuses on an undesired stimulus (to the dog) such as a shock collar, a yell, even hitting the dog when she offers an undesired behavior (to the human). Even if you use positive punishment in conjunction with the other methods, another consequence from using this type of training occurs: your dog learns to be afraid to try new behaviors. This is because (through intermittent reinforcement) she doesn't know when she'll receive a shock (or other adverse stimulus) for a new behavior.

What you have, in effect, is a dog who doesn't entirely trust you - or herself.

Extinction is the lack of consequence after a behavior. This can be utilized by a trainer to decrease behaviors. When a behavior consistently produces no consequence, that behavior will occur with less and less frequency. Keep in mind the dog has to be accustomed to the 'rule': desired behavior results in reward.

However, you might have heard of an "extinction burst." This refers to the dog taking more action in order to gain the desired consequence. For example, when free shaping a dog, you'd start by paying the slightest increments, and once the dog is offering the first increment consistently, you don't pay him the next time. The dog knows this behavior has paid before, so what he'll do is try harder to gain the consequence.

Of course, as mentioned before, if the dog never gets paid for the behavior, he will slowly stop offering the behavior, since there is no gain in performing it.

Remember, whichever method you decide to use, don't forget to have fun!

Thanks to Teaching Dog Obedience for this well written article!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Treats for Dogs

"He loves me, he loves me not..." Fortunately, that's something you never have to worry about with your dog. He'll love you through thick and thin, no matter how you look or how much money you have. It doesn't get any better than that for Valentine's Day!

Your dog gives you unconditional love, and you love him with all your heart, too. But you can do one thing your dog can't: You can make him some delectable Valentine's goodies as an extra special treat. (If your dog had opposable thumbs and could read, he would do the same for you.)

Here are three of our favorite Valentine's treat recipes from the Interwebs. They're so good you might be tempted to have a bite yourself. (Well, maybe not the liver treats...)

Carob-Dipped Valentine's Day Dog Treats

From Doggie Stylish

•1 egg
•1/4 cup applesauce
•1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
•1 tablespoon honey
•1 tablespoon molasses
•1/4 cup cooking oil
•2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
•2 cups carob chips

Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 300 F.

In a large bowl, combine egg, applesauce, broth, honey, molasses and oil. Gradually stir in flour.

Dough should be stiff, add flour or water to adjust.

On a well-floured surface, roll out dough into 1/4 inch thickness.

Use a heart shaped cookie cutter to make shapes from the dough

Place on lightly greased cookie sheets and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown.

Melt carob chips in microwave or double boiler.

Dip half of the heart into the melted carob.

Place cookies on waxed paper and let stand until carob is set.

Red Velvet Pupcakes

Adapted from

Red velvet is all the rage in the world of cupcakes these days. So why not try these crimson-hued beauties on your best friend? Beet juice gives them their color, an whole-wheat flour gives them fiber. The cottage cheese icing helps make these trendy treats a balanced meal.

•1/4 cup canola oil
•1 cup applesauce
•1/3 cup beet puree or fresh beet juice
•1 and 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
•2 teaspoons baking powder
•1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

Cooking Instructions
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a six-cup muffin tin with muffin cups.

In a large bowl whisk together oil, applesauce and beet puree.

In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Slowly stir flour mixture into the wet ingredients.

Spoon batter into muffin cups to three-quarters full and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from the pan and cool on a rack.

In the bowl of a food processor, puree cottage cheese until smooth, about 30 seconds. Keep frosting refrigerated until cupcakes are completely cool. Frost and serve.

Valentine Liver Nibbles Recipe

From The Honest Kitchen

Nothing says "Be my Valentine" better than a blender full of raw beef liver. You have to love your dog a lot to pop that special ingredient into your blender and then make yourself a smoothie in it the next day. These treats are very nutritious and judging from our dogs' reactions, very delicious.

•1 lb fresh raw organic beef liver or chicken liver
•3 free range eggs
•1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil
•2 cups instant oats
•1 Tbsp applesauce (optional)
•2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
•3 Tbsp powdered kelp
•Filtered water sufficient to make a batter


Process the liver in a blender or food processor until completely pureed. Beat the eggs in a bowl and pour in the oil. Add the liver. Mix in the dry ingredients slowly, stirring continuously so they are thoroughly combined. Add water gradually, until you have a "batter" consistency. Pour this batter into a loaf tin. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Cool in the tin until able to be handled, then gently turn the loaf out onto a rack and refrigerate to cool completely. Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutter. Store in a sealed container.

Thanks to Dogster for these delicious ideas!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Guide to a Pet-Friendly Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day can be as much fun for pets as it is for humans if dangerous foods, flora and other items are kept out of paws’ reach. Each year our poison control experts see a rise in cases around February 14, many involving chocolate and lilies, a flower that’s potentially fatal to cats. So please heed our experts’ advice—don’t leave the goodies lying around on Lover’s Day.

Pet-Safe Bouquets
Many pet owners are still unaware that all species of lily are potentially fatal to cats. When sending a floral arrangement, specify that it contain no lilies if the recipient has a cat—and when receiving an arrangement, sift through and remove all dangerous flora. If your pet is suffering from symptoms such as stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhea, he may have ingested an offending flower or plant. Use our online toxic and nontoxic plant libraries as visual guides of what and what not should be in your bouquets.

Forbidden Chocolate
Seasoned pet lovers know the potentially life-threatening dangers of chocolate, including baker’s, semi sweet, milk and dark. In darker chocolates, methylxanthines—caffeine-like stimulants that affect gastrointestinal, neurologic and cardiac function—can cause vomiting/diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and an abnormally elevated heart rate. The high-fat content in lighter chocolates can potentially lead to a life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas. Go ahead and indulge, but don’t leave chocolate out for chowhounds to find.

Careful with Cocktails
Spilled wine, half a glass of champagne, some leftover liquor are nothing to cry over until a curious pet laps them up. Because animals are smaller than humans, a little bit of alcohol can do a lot of harm, causing vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, central nervous system depression, tremors, difficulty breathing, metabolic disturbances and even coma. Potentially fatal respiratory failure can also occur if a large enough amount is ingested.

Life Is Sweet
So don’t let pets near treats sweetened with xylitol. If ingested, gum, candy and other treats that include this sweetener can result in a sudden drop in blood sugar known as hypoglycemia. This can cause your pet to suffer depression, loss of coordination and seizures.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Don’t let pets near roses or other thorny stemmed flowers. Biting, stepping on or swallowing their sharp, woody spines can cause serious infection if a puncture occurs. “It’s all too easy for pets to step on thorns that fall to the ground as a flower arrangement is being created,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine for the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. De-thorn your roses far away from pets.

Playing with Fire
It’s nice to set your evening a-glow with candlelight, but put out the fire when you leave the room. Pawing kittens and nosy pooches can burn themselves or cause a fire by knocking over unattended candles.

Wrap it Up
Gather up tape, ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, cellophane and balloons after presents have been opened—if swallowed, these long, stringy and “fun-to-chew” items can get lodged in your pet’s throat or digestive tract, causing her to choke or vomit.

The Furry Gift of Life?
Giving a cuddly puppy or kitten may seem a fitting Valentine’s Day gift—however, returning a pet you hadn’t planned on is anything but romantic. Companion animals bring with them a lifelong commitment, and choosing a pet for someone else doesn’t always turn out right. Those living in the Manhattan area can let their loved one choose their own cat with a gift certificate to adopt from the ASPCA. If you’re not from New York, check your local animal care facility or take a romantic trip to the shelter together.

Thanks to The ASPCA for this article!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Aggression in Dogs

Aggression in Dogs

Aggression is the most common and most serious behavior problem in dogs. It’s also the number-one reason why pet parents seek professional help from behaviorists, trainers and veterinarians.

What Is Aggression?

The term “aggression” refers to a wide variety of behaviors that occur for a multitude of reasons in various circumstances. Virtually all wild animals are aggressive when guarding their territories, defending their offspring and protecting themselves. Species that live in groups, including people and dogs, also use aggression and the threat of aggression to keep the peace and to negotiate social interactions.

To say that a dog is “aggressive” can mean a whole host of things. Aggression encompasses a range of behaviors that usually begins with warnings and can culminate in an attack. Dogs may abort their efforts at any point during an aggressive encounter. A dog that shows aggression to people usually exhibits some part of the following sequence of increasingly intense behaviors:
•Becoming very still and rigid
•Guttural bark that sounds threatening
•Lunging forward or charging at the person with no contact
•Mouthing, as though to move or control the person, without applying significant pressure
•“Muzzle punch” (the dog literally punches the person with her nose)
•Showing teeth
•Snarl (a combination of growling and showing teeth)
•Quick nip that leaves no mark
•Quick bite that tears the skin
•Bite with enough pressure to cause a bruise
•Bite that causes puncture wounds
•Repeated bites in rapid succession
•Bite and shake

Dogs don’t always follow this sequence, and they often do several of the behaviors above simultaneously. Many times, pet parents don’t recognize the warning signs before a bite, so they perceive their dogs as suddenly flying off the handle. However, that’s rarely the case. It can be just milliseconds between a warning and a bite, but dogs rarely bite without giving some type of warning beforehand.

Classification of Aggressive Behavior

If your dog has been aggressive in the past or you suspect she could become aggressive, take time to evaluate the situations that have upset her. Who bore the brunt of her aggression? When and where did it happen? What else was going on at the time? What had just happened or was about to happen to your dog? What seemed to stop her aggression? Learning the answers to these questions can clarify the circumstances that trigger your dog’s aggressive reaction and provide insight into the reasons for her behavior. You need an accurate diagnosis before you can hope to help your dog.

Aggressive behavior problems in dogs can be classified in different ways. A beneficial scheme for understanding why your dog is aggressive is based on the function or purpose of the aggression. If you think of aggression this way, you can determine what motivates your dog to behave aggressively and identify what she hopes to gain from her behavior.

Territorial Aggression

Dogs’ wild relatives are territorial. They live in certain area, and they defend this area from intruders. Wolves are highly territorial. If a coyote or a wolf who’s not part of a pack invades their territory, the resident wolves will attack and drive off the intruder. Some dogs display the same tendencies. They bark and charge at people or other animals encroaching on their home turf. Dogs are often valued for this level of territorial behavior. However, some dogs will attack and bite an intruder, whether the intruder is friend or foe. Territorial aggression can occur along the boundary regularly patrolled by a dog or at the boundaries of her pet parents’ property. Other dogs show territorial aggression only toward people or other animals coming into the home. Male and female dogs are equally prone to territorial aggression. Puppies are rarely territorial. Territorial behavior usually appears as puppies mature into adolescence or adulthood, at one to three years of age.

Protective Aggression

Dogs are a social species. If they were left on their own, they would live together in small groups, or packs, of family and friends. If one member of a pack is in danger, the others typically rush in to help defend that individual. This is classified as protective aggression because the dogs are protecting one of their own. Pet dogs may show the same type of aggressive behavior when they think that one of their family members or friends (human or animal) is in peril. Sometimes dogs reserve protective aggression for individuals they consider particularly vulnerable. A dog who has never shown aggression to strangers in the past might start behaving aggressively when she has a litter of puppies. Likewise, a dog might first show protective aggression when her pet parents bring a human child into the family. While this behavior sounds appealing at first glance, problems arise when the protective dog starts to treat everyone outside the family, including friends and relatives, as threats to the baby’s safety. Both male and female dogs are equally prone to protective aggression. Puppies are rarely protective. Like territorial behavior, protective aggression usually appears as puppies mature into an adolescence or adulthood, at one to three years of age.

Possessive Aggression

Dogs evolved from wild ancestors who had to compete for food, nesting sites and mates to survive. Even though our pet dogs no longer face such harsh realities, many still show the tendency to guard their possessions from others, whether they need to or not. Some dogs only care about their food. These dogs might react aggressively when a person or another animal comes near their food bowl or approaches them while they’re eating. Other dogs guard their chew bones, their toys or things they’ve stolen. Still others guard their favorite resting spots, their crates or their beds. (Often, these dogs also guard their pet parents’ beds!) Less common are dogs who guard water bowls. Usually a possessive dog is easy to identify because she’s only aggressive when she has something she covets. But some dogs will hide their cherished things around the house and guard them from unsuspecting people or animals who have no idea that they’re anywhere near a valued object. Male and female dogs are equally prone to possessive aggression, and this type of aggression is common in both puppies and adults. For more detailed information about food-related possessive aggression and how to treat it, please see our article, Food Guarding.

Fear Aggression

When animals and people are afraid of something, they prefer to get away from that thing. This is called the flight response. But if escaping isn’t an option, most animals will switch to a fight response. They try to defend themselves from the scary thing. So a dog can be afraid of a person or another animal but still attack if she thinks this is her only recourse. A fearful dog will normally adopt fearful postures and retreat, but she may become aggressive if cornered or trapped. (Please see our article, Canine Body Language, for more information about what fearful, aggressive dogs look like.) Some dogs will cower at the prospect of physical punishment but attack when a threatening person reaches for them. Fearful dogs sometimes run away from a person or animal who frightens them, but if the person or animal turns to leave, they come up from behind and nip. This is why it’s a good idea to avoid turning your back on a fearful dog. Fear aggression is characterized by rapid nips or bites because a fearful dog is motivated to bite and then run away. Sometimes the aggression doesn’t begin with clear threats. A fearful dog might not show her teeth or growl to warn the victim off. In this kind of situation, the only warning is the dog’s fearful posture and her attempts to retreat. Male and female dogs are equally prone to fear aggression, and this type of aggression is common in both puppies and adults.

Defensive Aggression

Closely related to fear aggression is defensive aggression. The primary difference is the strategy adopted by the dog. Defensively aggressive dogs are still motivated by fear, but instead of trying to retreat, they decide that the best defense is a good offense. Dogs who are defensively aggressive exhibit a mixture of fearful and offensive postures. (Please see our article, Canine Body Language, for more information about what defensive, aggressive dogs look like.) They may initially charge at a person or another dog who frightens them, barking and growling. Regardless of whether the victim freezes or advances, the defensively aggressive dog often delivers the first strike. Only if the victim retreats is the defensively aggressive dog likely to abort an attack. Male and female dogs are equally prone to defensive aggression. It’s slightly more common in adults than in puppies simply because dogs need to have some confidence to use this defensive strategy, and puppies are usually less confident than adults.

Social Aggression

Animals who live in social groups, like people and dogs, typically live by certain rules in order to minimize conflict between group members. Canid species, including the dog, adopt a type of hierarchical order that influences which group members get first crack at food, the best resting spots and opportunities to mate. So rather than having to fight for access to valued things each and every time, those lower down on the totem pole know to wait until the higher-ups have had their share before taking their turn. These ordered relationships are frequently reinforced by displays of ritualized aggression. Individuals of high status use aggressive threats to remind the others of their place in the pack. The relationships between people and dogs who live together are certainly more complex than this simplified description, but it’s still important to know that a dog who perceives herself as high in status may show aggression toward family members. (This kind of behavior is sometimes called dominance or status-seeking aggression.) This is why a dog might be perfectly trustworthy with one pet parent but react aggressively toward the other or toward young children in the family. Such dogs are often described as “Jekyll and Hyde” because, most of the time, they’re happy-go-lucky, friendly dogs. But if they feel that someone in the pack has overstepped his or her bounds, these dogs can quickly resort to aggression. An aggressive response is usually provoked by things that a dog perceives as threatening or unpleasant, such as:
•Taking food away
•Taking a chew bone, toy or stolen object away
•Disturbing the dog while she’s sleeping
•Physically moving the dog while she’s resting
•Hugging or kissing the dog
•Bending or reaching over the dog
•Manipulating the dog into a submissive posture (a down or a belly-up position)
•Lifting or trying to pick up the dog
•Holding the dog back from something she wants
•Grooming, bathing, towelling or wiping the dog’s face
•Touching the dog’s ears or feet
•Trimming the dog’s nails
•Jerking or pulling on the dog’s leash, handling her collar or putting on a harness
•Verbally scolding the dog
•Threatening the dog with a pointed finger or rolled-up newspaper
•Hitting or trying to hit the dog
•Going through a door at same time as the dog or bumping into the dog

Social aggression is somewhat more common in males than in females and more common in purebreds than in mixed breeds. Puppies are rarely socially aggressive with people, but they can be with other dogs, particularly littermates. Social aggression usually develops in dogs between one to three years of age.

It’s important to realize that the complexities involved in social aggression are poorly understood and hotly debated by behavior experts. Some believe that all social aggression is rooted in fear and anxiety, while others believe that it’s motivated by anger and the desire for control. When consulting a professional, make sure you’re comfortable with her treatment recommendations. If the professional’s suggestions consist of techniques for instilling fear and respect in your dog, such as alpha rolls, scruff shakes and hanging, there’s a very good chance that your dog will get worse rather than better—and you might get bitten in the process. Punishment may be appropriate, but only when it’s well planned and limited in application. The judicious use of punishment should always be embedded in a program that’s based on positive reinforcement and trust.

Frustration-Elicited Aggression

Dogs can be like human children in that when they get frustrated, they sometimes lash out with aggression. A dog who’s excited or aroused by something but is held back from approaching it can become aggressive, particularly toward the person or thing holding her back. For instance, a frustrated dog might turn around and bite at her leash or bite at the hand holding her leash or collar. Over time, the dog can learn to associate restraint with feelings of frustration so that even when there’s nothing to be excited about, she tends to react aggressively when restrained. This explains why some normally friendly dogs become aggressive when put behind a gate, in a cage or crate, in a car, or on a leash. Likewise, a dog who loves people can still show surprising levels of aggression when her pet parent lifts her up so that guests can enter or leave the home. Male and female dogs are equally prone to frustration-elicited aggression, and this type of aggression occurs in both puppies and adults.

Redirected Aggression

Redirected aggression is a lot like frustration-elicited aggression with the exception that the dog need not be frustrated. Redirected aggression occurs when a dog is aroused by or displays aggression toward a person or animal, and someone else interferes. The dog redirects her aggression from the source that triggered it to the person or animal who has interfered. This is why people are often bitten when they try to break up dog fights. When a person grabs or pushes a fighting dog, the dog might suddenly turn and bite. Another example is when two dogs are barking at someone from behind a fence. Sometimes one will turn and attack the other. Male and female dogs are equally prone to redirected aggression, and this type of aggression occurs in both puppies and adults.

Pain-Elicited Aggression

An otherwise gentle, friendly dog can behave aggressively when in pain. That’s why it’s so crucial to take precautions when handling an injured dog, even if she’s your own. A dog with a painful orthopedic condition or an infection might bite with little warning, even if the reason you’re touching her is to treat her. The improper use of certain pieces of training equipment, such as the pinch (or prong) collar or the shock collar, can inflict pain on a dog and prompt a pain-elicited bite to her pet parent. Male and female dogs are equally prone to pain-elicited aggression, and this type of aggression can occur in both puppies and adults.

Sex-Related Aggression

Even though pet dogs rarely have the opportunity to reproduce, intact male dogs will still vie for the attention of females in heat, and females will still compete for access to a male. Intact male dogs sometimes challenge and fight with other male dogs, even when no females are present. Fighting can also erupt between males living together in the same household. In the wild, this is adaptive because the strongest males are more likely to attract females for breeding. Likewise, females living together in the same household might compete to establish which female gets access to a male for breeding. This type of aggression is rare. It’s observed most often in reproductively intact males and less often in intact females. Dogs who were neutered or spayed as adults may still show this type of aggression. If sex-related aggression happens, the dogs involved are usually at least one to three years of age.

Predatory Aggression

Dogs are closely related to wolves and coyotes, both of whom are large predators, and pet dogs still show some classic canine predatory behaviors, including chasing and grabbing fast-moving things. Many dogs love to chase running people, people on bicycles and inline skates, and cars. They might also chase pets, wildlife and livestock. Some dogs bite and even kill if they manage to catch the thing they’re chasing. Predatory aggression is very different from other classifications of aggression because there’s rarely any warning before an attack. A predatory dog doesn’t growl or show her teeth first to warn her victim, so predatory aggression can seem to come out of the blue. Predatory behavior can be especially disturbing if it’s directed toward a human baby. Sometimes the sound of a baby crying or the movement of lifting a baby out of a crib can trigger a lightening-fast reaction from a predatory dog. Fortunately, predatory aggression directed toward people or other dogs is extremely rare in pet dogs. For more information about predatory aggression and how to deal with it, please see our articles, Predatory Behavior in Dogs, Dogs Chasing Bicycles, Skateboards and Other Moving Things, Dogs Chasing Cars, Dogs Chasing Cats, Dogs Chasing Children, Dogs Chasing Runners and Dogs Chasing Wildlife.

Family Members, Strangers or Other Animals

Determining whom your dog is aggressive toward is essential to understanding her behavior. It’s common for dogs to behave aggressively toward unfamiliar people. Some studies report that as many as 60 to 70% of all pet dogs bark threateningly at strangers and act unfriendly when around them. Aggression toward unfamiliar dogs is also widespread. It’s less common for dogs to direct aggression toward family members or other pets in the home. Most problematic are dogs who are aggressive toward children, especially children in the family. Not only is aggression toward children exceedingly difficult to treat because of safety concerns, the likelihood that a dog with this problem will ever become trustworthy is slim.

Some dogs are aggressive only to a certain category of people. A dog might be aggressive only with the veterinarian or groomer, or with the postal carrier, or with people in wheelchairs or individuals using canes and walkers. In some cases, it’s easy to limit a dog’s access to the people that upset her. For instance, if your short-haired dog dislikes the groomer, you can just groom her yourself at home. But in other cases, the targeted people are impossible to avoid. For example, if you have a dog who dislikes children and you live in a densely populated urban apartment building next to a preschool, it will be difficult to avoid exposing your dog to children.

Aggression toward people, aggression toward dogs and aggression toward other animals are relatively independent patterns of behavior. If your dog is aggressive toward other dogs, for example, that doesn’t mean she’s any more or less likely to be aggressive toward people.

Risk Factors

If you’re deciding whether to live with and treat your aggressive dog, there are several factors to consider because you, as the pet parent, are ultimately responsible for your dog’s behavior. These factors involve the level of risk in living with your dog and the likelihood of changing her behavior:

Regardless of other factors, large dogs are more frightening and can inflict more damage than small dogs.

Young dogs with an aggression problem are believed to be more malleable and easier to treat than older dogs.

Bite history
Dogs who have already bitten are a known risk and an insurance liability.

Dogs who stop their aggression at showing teeth, growling or snapping are significantly safer to live and work with than dogs who bite. Likewise, dogs who have delivered minor bruises, scratches and small punctures are less risky than dogs who have inflicted serious wounds.

Dogs at the highest risk of being euthanized for aggression are those who give little or no warning before they bite and who are inconsistently, unpredictably aggressive. Dogs who give warning before they bite allow people and other animals time to retreat and avoid getting hurt. As counterintuitive as it might seem, it’s easier to live with a dog who always reacts aggressively when, for instance, every time you push him off the bed than a dog who does so only sporadically.

How often your dog is exposed to the targets of her aggression can affect how easy it is to manage and resolve her behavior. A dog who’s aggressive to strangers is relatively easy to control if you live in a rural environment with a securely fenced yard. A dog who’s aggressive to children can be managed if her pet parents are childless and have no friends or relatives with children. A dog who is aggressive to unfamiliar dogs poses little difficulty for pet parents who dislike dog parks and prefer to exercise their dog on isolated hiking trails. In contrast, living with a dog who has recurring ear infections and bites family members when they try to medicate her can be stressful and unpleasant.

Are the circumstances that prompt your dog to behave aggressively easy or impossible to avoid? If your dog only guards her food while she’s eating, the solution is straightforward: Keep away from her while she’s eating. If no one can safely enter the kitchen when your dog’s there because she guards her empty food bowl in the cupboard, that’s another story. If your dog bites any stranger within reach, she’s a lot more dangerous than a dog who bites strangers only if they try to kiss her.

Ease of motivating your dog
The final consideration is how easy it is to motivate your dog during retraining. The safest and most effective way to treat an aggression problem is to implement behavior modification under the guidance of a qualified professional. Modifying a dog’s behavior involves rewarding her for good behavior—so you’ll likely be more successful if your dog enjoys praise, treats and toys. Dogs who aren’t particularly motivated by the usual rewards can be especially challenging to work with, and the likelihood of such a dog getting better is small.

Always Work with Your Veterinarian

Some aggressive dogs behave the way they do because of a medical condition or complication. In addition to acute painful conditions, dogs with orthopedic problems, thyroid abnormality, adrenal dysfunction, cognitive dysfunction, seizure disorders and sensory deficits can exhibit changes in irritability and aggression. Geriatric dogs can suffer confusion and insecurity, which may prompt aggressive behavior. Certain medications can alter mood and affect your dog’s susceptibility to aggression. Even diet has been implicated as a potential contributing factor. If your dog has an aggression problem, it’s crucial to take her to a veterinarian, before you do anything else, to rule out medical issues that could cause or worsen her behavior. If the veterinarian discovers a medical problem, you’ll need to work closely with her to give your dog the best chance at improving.

Always Work with a Professional Behavior Expert

Aggression can be a dangerous behavior problem. It’s complex to diagnose and can be tricky to treat. Many behavior modification techniques have detrimental effects if misapplied. Even highly experienced professionals get bitten from time to time, so living with and treating an aggressive dog is inherently risky. A qualified professional can develop a treatment plan customized to your dog’s temperament and your family’s unique situation, and she can coach you through its implementation. She can monitor your dog’s progress and make modifications to the plan as required. If appropriate, she can also help you decide when your dog’s quality of life is too poor or the risks of living with your dog are too high and euthanasia is warranted. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to learn how to find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), a veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) in your area. If you choose to employ a CPDT, be sure that the trainer is qualified to help you. Determine whether she has education and experience in treating canine aggression, as this expertise isn’t required for CPDT certification.

Can Aggression Be Cured?

Pet parents of aggressive dogs often ask whether they can ever be sure that their dog is “cured.” Taking into account the behavior modification techniques that affect aggression, our current understanding is that the incidence and frequency of some types of aggression can be reduced and sometimes eliminated. However, there’s no guarantee that an aggressive dog can be completely cured. In many cases, the only solution is to manage the problem by limiting a dog’s exposure to the situations, people or things that trigger her aggression. There’s always risk when dealing with an aggressive dog. Pet parents are responsible for their dogs’ behavior and must take precautions to ensure that no one’s harmed. Even if a dog has been well behaved for years, it’s not possible to predict when all the necessary circumstances might come together to create “the perfect storm” that triggers her aggression. Dogs who have a history of resorting to aggression as a way of dealing with stressful situations can fall back on that strategy. Pet parents of aggressive dogs should be prudent and always assume that their dog is NOT cured so that they never let down their guard.

Are Some Breeds More Aggressive Than Others?

It’s true that some breeds might be more likely to bite if we look at statistics gathered on biting and aggression. There are many reasons for this. One likely reason is that most dog breeds once served specific functions for humans. Some were highly prized for their guarding and protective tendencies, others for their hunting prowess, others for their fighting skills, and others for their “gameness” and tenacity. Even though pet dogs of these breeds rarely fulfill their original purposes these days, individuals still carry their ancestors’ DNA in their genes, which means that members of a particular breed might be predisposed to certain types of aggression. Despite this, it’s neither accurate nor wise to judge a dog by her breed. Far better predictors of aggressive behavior problems are a dog’s individual temperament and her history of interacting with people and other animals. You should always research breeds to be sure that the breed or breed mix you’re interested in is a good fit for you and your lifestyle. However, the best insurance policies against aggression problems are to select the best individual dog for you (please see our article, Choosing a Puppy from a Litter, for more information) and to provide her with appropriate socialization as a youngster (please see our article, Socializing Your Puppy).

Thank you to the ASPCA for this wonderful and well written article! They have several others on their website if you'd like to check them out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Positive Reinforcement Training

Remember how happy you were if your parents gave you a dollar for every A on your report card? They made you want to do it again, right? That's positive reinforcement.

Dogs don't care about money. They care about praise … and food. Positive reinforcement training uses praise and/or treats to reward your dog for doing something you want him to do. Because the reward makes him more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog's behavior.

Rewarding your dog for good behavior sounds pretty simple, and it is! But to practice the technique effectively, you need to follow some basic guidelines.

Timing is everything

Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement.
The reward must occur immediately—within seconds—or your pet may not associate it with the proper action. For example, if you have your dog sit but reward him after he's stood back up, he'll think he's being rewarded for standing up.
Using a clicker to mark the correct behavior can improve your timing and also help your dog understand the connection between the correct behavior and the treat.

Keep it short

Dogs don't understand sentences. "Daisy, I want you to be a good girl and sit for me now" will likely earn you a blank stare.

Keep commands short and uncomplicated. The most commonly used dog commands are:
watch me
down (which means "lie down")
off (which means "get off of me" or "get off the furniture")
heel (which means "walk close to my side")
leave it

Consistency is key

Everyone in the family should use the same commands; otherwise, your dog may be confused. It might help to post a list of commands where everyone can become familiar with them.

Consistency also means always rewarding the desired behavior and never rewarding undesired behavior.

When to use positive reinforcement

The good: Positive reinforcement is great for teaching your dog commands, and it's also a good way of reinforcing good behavior. You may have your dog sit
before letting him out the door (which helps prevent door-darting)
before petting him (which helps prevent jumping on people)
before feeding him (which helps teach him good meal-time manners).

Give him a pat or a "Good dog" for lying quietly by your feet, or slip a treat into a Kong®-type toy when he's chewing it instead of your shoe.

The bad: Be careful that you don't inadvertently use positive reinforcement to reward unwanted behaviors. For example, if you let your dog outside every time he barks at a noise in the neighborhood, you're giving him a reward (access to the yard) for behavior you want to discourage.

Shaping behavior

It can take time for your dog to learn certain behaviors. You may need to use a technique called "shaping," which means reinforcing something close to the desired response and then gradually requiring more from your dog before he gets the treat.

For example, if you're teaching your dog to "shake hands," you may initially reward him for lifting his paw off the ground, then for lifting it higher, then for touching your hand, then for letting you hold his paw, and finally, for actually "shaking hands" with you.

Types of rewards

Positive reinforcement can include food treats, praise, petting, or a favorite toy or game. Since most dogs are highly food-motivated, food treats work especially well for training.
A treat should be enticing and irresistible to your pet. Experiment a bit to see which treats work best for your pet.
It should be a very small (pea-size or even smaller for little dogs), soft piece of food, so that he will immediately gulp it down and look to you for more. Don't give your dog something he has to chew or that breaks into bits and falls on the floor.
Keep a variety of treats handy so your dog won't become bored getting the same treat every time. You can carry the treats in a pocket or fanny pack.
Each time you use a food reward, you should couple it with a verbal reward (praise). Say something like, "Yes!" or "Good dog," in a positive, happy tone of voice. Then give your dog a treat.

If your dog isn't as motivated by food treats, a toy, petting, or brief play can be very effective rewards.

When to give treats

When your pet is learning a new behavior, reward him every time he does the behavior. This is called continuous reinforcement.

Once your pet has reliably learned the behavior, you want to switch to intermittent reinforcement, in which you continue with praise, but gradually reduce the number of times he receives a treat for doing the desired behavior.
At first, reward him with the treat four out of every five times he does the behavior. Over time, reward him three out of five times, then two out of five times, and so on, until you're only rewarding him occasionally.
Continue to praise him every time—although once your dog has learned the behavior, your praise can be less effusive, such as a quiet but positive, "Good dog."
Use a variable schedule of reinforcement so that he doesn't catch on that he only has to respond every other time. Your pet will soon learn that if he keeps responding, eventually he'll get what he wants—your praise and an occasional treat.

Caution! Don't decrease the rewards too quickly. You don't want your dog to become frustrated.

By understanding positive reinforcement, you'll see that you're not forever bound to carry a pocketful of goodies. Your dog will soon be working for your verbal praise, because he wants to please you and knows that, occasionally, he'll get a treat, too.

Thanks to The Humane Society of the United States for this wonderful article!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Some Fun (And Useful) Dog Tricks!

Tricks are fun, and like games, keep a dog alert and energetic. They give a dog a chance to play and think. Tricks help a dog 'learn how to learn'. If a puppy can learn a trick, then he or she can learn obedience and good behavior.

Turn Around

The first trick I taught Bonnie was to turn around. It's easy and it's fun. I started by having Bonnie standing and facing me. I let her see a treat in my hand. While I stood still, I said, "Turn around." I lead Bonnie's nose around to the left (clockwise) with the treat so she walked in a circle. When she came around and back to me, I said, "Good girl!" and gave her the treat.

Is there a practical reason to teach 'Turn Around'? I'm taking a puppy class and the instructor told us that she knew of someone whose dog enjoyed jumping on house guests. She would tell the dog to turn around whenever someone came over. Because the dog was busy twirling, he wasn't jumping on the visitors.

After some practice, hold the treat in front of you so your dog can see it and say, "Turn around," but don't lead his nose. See if he is ready to turn around by himself and get the treat. Pretty soon, he will turn around faster than you can say 'Lassie!"

If you choose to use the words, "Turn Left", use them all the time. Don't use "Turn around" sometimes, and "Turn Left" other times. Be consistent.


One of my favorite tricks has always been the 'crawl.' Bonnie learned the crawl over a period of weeks and now has a really smooth and comfortable trick to share with friends.

I started out by having Bonnie lie down while I was on the ground next to her. Then, holding a treat in front of her nose, I moved the treat away from her so that she would follow it while staying on the ground. Most dogs try to get up to retrieve the treat and Bonnie did as well. When she lifted her rear end, I gently tapped it and showed her to put it back down on the ground. Out of desire for the treat, she scooted just slightly forward. As soon as she did, I praised her wildly and gave her the treat. She had just crawled a tiny bit. We practiced this over and over, for two or three minutes a couple of times each day.

The hardest part of teaching a dog to crawl is the transition you have to make from sitting on the ground to standing next to your dog. Here's how I did it. I found a yardstick. Then I taped a small plastic cup to the very bottom of the stick. I put several pieces of tasty treats in the cup. Then, while standing, I held the yardstick in front of Bonnie's nose and coaxed her to crawl. Once she was used to crawling with my standing up she became comfortable crawling in any situation. Check out Bonnie's video. I think you'll see that with this method, crawling is a trick that you can teach your dog without too much trouble. Have fun!

Your dog must know 'Down' before he can learn this trick.


Here's a trick that might seem a little weird, but I taught it to my dog anyway. The trick is called Touch. This means that the dog will touch their nose to something when I ask them to touch it.

First, I rubbed a dog treat on the palm of my hand so that the dog could smell it. I started out by holding my hand in front of the dog. As soon as they touched her nose to my hand, I clicked and gave them a treat. If you don't use a clicker, it's just as good to say, "Yes" and then reward them, too.

That's all there is to it. Just touch my hand and reward. Easy, isn't it? But why would we teach a dog to Touch? The reason I taught it to my dog is because I want them to ring a bell using her nose. If they can touch my hand with their nose, then later they can touch a bell with their nose.

Go Back
This is an easy one! Stand facing your dog and as you walk toward him, say "Go Back". He will want to get out of the way and will automatically walk backwards!

If your dog doesn't walk back in a straight line, practice up against a wall or in a narrow hallway. After your dog is walking backward with you, try walking toward him only a step or two. Eventually, you will be able to stand still and say "Go Back".


This is easiest if your dog already knows how to speak. Tell your dog to Speak or catch him when he is barking. Get right in front of him and say "Quiet". The second he stops, even if it is to take a breath, give him a treat. You might want to hold your hand or palm in front of his face to add a visual signal. Practice playing 'quiet' often and your dog will be loving the word "Quiet".


This is easiest if your dog already knows how to speak. Tell your dog to Speak or catch him when he is barking. Get right in front of him and say "Quiet". The second he stops, even if it is to take a breath, give him a treat. You might want to hold your hand or palm in front of his face to add a visual signal. Practice playing 'quiet' often and your dog will be loving the word "Quiet".

Go To Bed

"Go to bed" means go to the bed AND lie down. You should only need to say "Go to bed".
Put a bed, blanket, or towel 6-10 feet away from you. With your dog beside you say "Go to bed!" and then together go to the bed. Have your dog lie down on the bed, give her a treat, and praise. Repeat many times. Later on, try sending your dog by herself. At first, make sure that someone is waiting at the bed with a treat. Later, your dog will do it herself, and you will walk over to her while she is lying down and reward her.

It will take many repetitions, but she'll start to figure out that going AND lying down on the bed will get her a reward. It's important that your dog knows how to lie down. At first you might have to say Lie Down real softly to get your dog to go down, but try not to use it very much. What you want to say is "Go to Bed". Remember, "Go to bed" means go to the bed AND lie down.

With your dog facing you, take a treat and lead your dog's nose to the right and around your body. Let him follow the treat all the way around behind your back and around to the front. Give your dog the treat and praise him. He will be making a complete circle around you.

In the beginning you might have to give your dog several treats while he is going around behind you and when he returns to the front. Practice it several times a day, but only for five minutes or so, two or three times a day.

All trick methods gratefully borrowed from They give great advice, I got all of my dog's tricks from them! :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

10 Places To Go In Seattle With Your Dog

Dog Friendly Attractions Around Seattle

Magnuson Dog Park
7400 Sand Point Way
Seattle, WA, US
(206) 684-4075
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Cost: Free
Magnuson Dog Park is 9 acres of open fun land, with a special area for little ones too. Best of all, it's the only dog park in Washington with beach access.

Fremont Sunday Ice Cream Cruise
899 Terry Ave N
Seattle, WA, US 98109
(206) 713-8446
Pets are welcome on-leash on these friendly, fun boat tours. Prices are very reasonable.

Washington Park Arboretum
2300 Arboretum Dr E
Seattle, WA, US 98195
Leashed pets welcome on the extensive trails of this beautiful Seattle park with plenty of benches for resting and lots of local wildlife.

University Village Shopping Center
2690 NE University Vlg
Seattle, WA, US 98105
(206) 447-5744
Many unique, outdoor shops in a relaxing, dog-friendly, open-air setting makes the University Village Shopping Center a favorite among the folks of Seattle.

Cedar River Off-Leash Dog Park
S 3rd St and Cedar River Trail
Renton, WA, US 98057
Pets love the off-leash fun at this fenced dog park, which includes a separate area for smaller dogs.

Cedar River Trail
The Cedar River Trail is one of 1600 rail-trails supported by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that is working to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors. Previously an unused railroad corridor, this "rail-trail" is now a great place to walk Fido in Maple Valley! The map below shows a parking area with convenient access to the Cedar River Trail. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has generously provided map data for this trail to Bring Fido for informational purposes only. For more detailed trail information, please visit

Flaming Geyser State Park
23700 SE Flaming Geyser Rd
Auburn, WA, US 98092
Pets are welcome to join you on-leash at this gorgeous park with miles of freshwater shorelines and stunning, unique methane seep "geysers".

Lake Fenwick Park
25828 Lake Fenwick Rd
Kent, WA, US 98032
Your pet is welcome to join you on-leash at this beautiful lake park set in a lush forest glen full of birds. A great place for a swim.

Ballard Sunday Farmers Market
Ballard Ave and 22nd
Seattle, WA, US 98107
Be sure to try the delicious salmon at this Sunday farmer's market. Pets are welcome too as long as they stay on-leash.

Kubota Garden
9817 55th Ave
Seattle, WA, US 98118
(206) 725-4400
Soak up the beauty of nature as you stroll through this gorgeous park and botanic garden. Pets welcome as long as they remain on-leash.

All Information provided by which is a great website listing tons of dog friendly places! Go check it out!