Welcome to Woofie's
Dog Blog!

:: Training is the language that binds. ::

Hanukkah's 8 Days of Enlightening – Building Relationship through Training... December 2018
Training is the language that binds! So, in celebration of the 8 Days of Hanukkah and the Festival of Lights and Enlightening, WoofGang offers a gift each day that will jumpstart training with your canine companion.
   Reinforcers (i.e. rewards) are in the eye of the receiver, so what some dogs will work for others will NOT. Since you know your dog better than anyone, employ the reinforcers that you know will interest your dog the most.

  • GIFT #1: Food
  • GIFT #2: Play
  • GIFT #3: Adventures
  • GIFT #4: The Environment
  • GIFT #5: Other Dogs
  • GIFT #6: Greeting People
  • GIFT #7: Touch
  • GIFT #8: Love
Go to FaceBook's Hanukkah Day One post to enjoy the details of the series of WoofGang's gifts of enlightening!

Cuddling... 30 November 2018
I can't tell you how many clients sheepishly respond that their dogs sleep in bed with them when I ask where their dogs sleep. It has long been a myth that dogs shouldn't sleep in bed with us because it promotes them in the family hierarchy. That really couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, there are studies that suggest there are actually advantages to having our dogs sleep in our beds. And how close to you your dog chooses to sleep is a good measure of the strength of your relationship and of his bond to you.
   Of course, there are some exceptions. Dogs who guard the bed once they're in them should NOT have this benefit. After all, the bed belongs to the humans, not to the dog, so it is not his resource to guard, and it is not safe. Also dogs who lash out when jostled or startled out of sleep should not be sharing this space. And, finally, a dog who is not thoroughly housetrained should not be allowed in bed yet, as he may have an accident in the bed and that is something that would surely threaten the harmony within the family.
   Ultimately what matters is what's best for you. Well, and for your dog, obviously...

The Game of Chase... 27 November 2018
How can you tell if the chasee is enjoying the game?! Typically the clearest indicator is the tail carriage. Look at how Tilly's tail is waving and flashing, high like a flag. A dog who's getting scared and overwhelmed will usually start lowering/ tucking her tail and her body may lower and hunched into itself. This is not likely to happen with this duo, as Tilly is an adult and Lucy is just a puppy, ready to take correction if necessary.
   While a game of chase may start with a happy partnership, it can subtly change, especially if the chaser starts getting frustrated and more intense. Then you'll often see the chasee's tail drop lower, and that means it may be time to get involved. You can often give that dog a port in the storm, letting her shelter behind you as you block the chaser.

Belly Up!... 26 November 2018
Belly rub request? Not likely! In behavior terms, this posture is called passive sub-mission or a tap-out. This is Diamond trying to avoid going to her crate. With her ears way back and her head tilted slightly away showing a little eye white, she does not have the loose, languid body of a dog ready to enjoy a belly rub.
   The tap-out is one of the most misread and misunderstood expressions in dog body language, meant to avoid or "turn off" the behavior of another individual (in this case the human). If the receiver misunderstands or just blatantly ignores these expressions, it can cause a dog to escalate her message with mouthing, air-snapping, or worse. So, in short, reaching in here to grab Diamond's collar and force her into the crate would be disrespectful of her message and potentially dangerous.
   What should we do then? Well, the immediate step here would be to release space, moving away from Diamond, and try to jolly her into following. The long-term goal should be to make Diamond happier about the time she spends in her crate.

BFFs... 23 November 2018
This is our old dog, Trista, with her BFF Max. Dogs can form deep bonds and friendships between them just as humans find in other special people.
   After social maturity, (somewhere between a year and a half and three, maybe four, years of age), most dogs prefer to spend time with close intimate dog friends rather than free-for-all play. We humans often make the mistake of assuming that, just because our dogs loved "playing the field" of dogs as puppies, this same play style will continue into their adulthood. We miss the signs that our adult dogs are finding such interactions less enjoyable as they age.
   Dog behavior is dynamic, not static! As your dog's guardian, you must be attune to the signs that your dog's preferences are ever-changing. The important thing is to find the situations that make your dog his/her happiest.
   It didn't take border collie intelligence to see how happy Trista and Max were to have each other!

The SECRET to Dog Training: Correction is NOT enough!... 19 November 2018
I am a positive trainer, so using positive reinforcement is my bag, but I will not tell you that using punishment to correct bad behavior doesn't work; it can work, but it's NOT nor is it EVER enough. All you've told your dog is what NOT to do; you have not equipped him with a better choice.
   The best way to inhibit undesirable behaviors is to train a DRI (Differential Reinforcement of an Incompatible) behavior. For instance, instead of jumping up, wouldn’t you prefer if your dog sat?!
   SO, whenever you identify an undesirable behavior that you’d like to change, you must do two things!
1. Inhibit the behavior from happening.
2. Install an alternate behavior incompatible with the behavior you don’t like (i.e. a DRI).
   Ideally, try to visualize what you would rather your dog do instead of the bad behavior, because, for instance, while “sit” is a DRI to a lot of annoying behaviors, you might not want to keep interrupting your walk with sits all the time, right?! So, for some examples:
   If your pooch jumps at visitors entering the home,
1. Leash him up, and
2. Reward him for sitting for visitor approach.
   If your dog follows in the wake of passersby on walks,
1. Keep him close with your leash, and
2. Reinforce him for heeling at attention at your side.
   If your pupster tries to edge past you to get out the door when you enter,
1. Body block, and
2. Train a “back up” behavior and reinforce with a toy thrown deeper into the home.
   So you might wonder why I have let you in on this little secret! After all, with this knowledge, you may never need to hire a dog trainer again! I tell you for two reasons... First, because one of the things that makes me happiest is knowing that I have helped dogs and their people live happier, more bonded lives together; and second, this is not the only thing I have up my sleeve ;) I have all sorts of tricks for helping make life better for everyone in the family.

The Lip Lick... 15 November 2018
Ah, the lip lick! They can happen so fast! What a beautiful picture capturing this split second bit of canine communication from Tilly. The lip lick can be an attempt to self-soothe, thus an indicator that the dog is feeling stressed or uncomfortable about something that is happening. But it can also be an appeasement gesture or a signal of non-threat to whoever she's communicating to.
   So, in this still, while we can see the communication, we may not be sure of the cause without knowing Tilly. The best indicator of the source of the lip lick is knowing what in the environment has just changed. Also the orientation of the eyes can be a clue. In this picture, she's looking directly at the camera, so might it be that she's uncomfortable with the camera eye upon her?
   As Tilly's mom, I know exactly what's bothering her! She hates wearing the raincoat for starters. Stress is additive, so she is already starting with a baseline of discomfort having the clothes on. Add to that that she hates having her picture taken and we see the effects of her discomfort and her attempt to self-soothe.
   Gotta love the richness of dog body language!

Creative Exercise... 13 November 2018
Exercise and mental stimu-lation are essential parts of every dog's day. While walks, romps in the yard, and play with other dogs are all examples of physical outlets for our dogs, this is by no means an exhaustive, or even creative, list.
   This is Trista herding waves. Doesn't she look like she's having a blast?! Swims at a beach or hikes on a wooded trail, running alongside a handler as they run or bike -- all of these activities add variety and novelty to a dog's exercise routine. (As with any athlete, you must build stamina gradually.) For the more serious competitors among us, dog sports like agility, adventure coursing, dock diving, disc, herding, weight pulling, freestyle, Treibball and so many others, are fun activities for dog and handler alike. And tapping into your dog's natural aptitudes, especially her breed-specific tendencies, can give a natural outlet to what can be otherwise annoying, challenging behaviors in the house.
   Are you looking for some creative ways to exercise your dog? Check out WoofGang's list of canine sports!

Fear-Free... 12 November 2018
A lot of pets are scared at the vet, my dog Tilly included. Her puppyhood in the shelter involved frequent vet checks for nagging health issues, so she does not have a good impression of vet visits. She is frozen stiff with fear during a checkup. A lot of people, vets among them, think that this is fine, as all the work that needs doing can get done. But a dog frozen in fear is still a fearful dog. We need to do our best to make these experiences at the vet’s office less scary and, dare I say, even enjoyable! After all, vet visits will only increase as your pet ages so we need to plan ahead for this eventuality.
   Start by making “happy” visits, a visit where the dog does not get any medical care but simply learns that the clinic environment is a happy one, rich with treats and friendly people. This is Tilly in the waiting room of our vet’s office on today’s happy visit. On our first happy visit, she was too upset to even eat her favorite treat – liverwurst! But thanks to a quiet waiting room, a supportive vet staff and a little love from her favorite vet tech Savannah, a trembling Tilly was at least able to lie quietly for the duration of the visit. With each successive happy visit, Tilly has gotten more and more comfortable so that, in this picture taken today, she could come and go and move around the waiting room, and lie quietly on the floor without trembling, hungrily eating treats. She was still hyperalert but she was also quiet and calm.
   There are many skills we can train and techniques we can use that will help our pets cope better with the veterinary environment. This is the tenet behind fear-free training. And WoofGang's Laura Garber, as a Fear-Free Certified Professional (FFCP) Trainer, can help!

Using a Muzzle... 9 November 2018
Muzzles can be a great tool for a dog who triggers very quickly or has an unpredictable trigger and who pulls knives rather than well chosen words. Just as humans can deal with anger differently, and some resort to force far too quickly, dogs can do the same thing. So while you're teaching a dog more peaceful and appropriate responses when handling the unwanted or the unexpected, the muzzle is a wonderful safety device. And dogs can be perfectly happy wearing a muzzle if it has been associated with good things. For instance, greyhounds LOVE their muzzles as they associate them with racing.
   If you think a muzzle might be a good option for your dog, use a basket muzzle like the Baskerville muzzle for anything longer than a few minutes (pictured here). A dog can pant, eat and drink with this muzzle on, unlike the nylon grooming muzzle, which is only appropriate for short duration use.

Playing Tug... 5 November 2018
Contrary to popular belief, playing tug with dogs does NOT cause aggression. In fact, as it mimics a cooperative kill in the predation sequence, tug can be a very bonding activity in which to engage with your dog. The training industry has moved away from even calling the game “tug of war” for precisely this reason, because it is not a conflict but rather a cooperation between individuals.
   However, as with any activity that ramps up a dog’s arousal level, if not practiced properly, it can be dangerous with a dog whose arousal reaches a high level of intensity. Dogs express arousal differently. Jumping, mouthing, humping, barking – these are all behaviors that can occur when a dog is in an aroused state. If you play for so long that your dog becomes overly aroused and starts to engage in these behaviors, then it is too late; he has popped the cork, so to speak, on his arousal. And different dogs pop their cork with different amounts of play. While some dogs may get over-aroused with just a few seconds of play, others may never lose control of themselves. So the trick is to discover where your dog’s threshold is and stay within it, then interleaving play with calm behaviors like sit or down. In so doing, your dog is learning how to keep himself “corked” and never lose control of himself.
   So, if you have been avoiding playing tug with your dog, you are denying yourself and him a very valuable bonding activity. Just learn how to do it right!

Doggie Lifestyles... 29 October 2018
Training is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The important thing about training is that it satisfies the lifestyle of the family and the needs of the dog. Tippy, the Yorkie, is not as highly trained as Tilly -- while she is trained to sit nicely in her stroller, she would be uncomfortable and fidgety if she had to lie quietly on the floor like Tilly is doing. But both have been trained in their own manner so that they can accompany their families to dog-friendly restaurants, an important aspect of the lifestyles of these two families.
   There is one more consideration for a well-trained dog: that she also is a polite citizen in the eyes of the world at large. What might satisfy a permissive family might make others of the public put out or annoyed in a public setting. We should aspire for our dogs to charm even those who are not dog lovers. I want my dog to be better behaved than an honor student, a true doggie ambassador!
   Would you like to have a café buddy? Or perhaps be more polite greeting visitors at the door? Training truly is the language that binds!

Loose-Leash Walking... 26 October 2018
Loose-leash walking is one of the most difficult skills to train a dog because it's so difficult to be consistent. The leash should be merely an emergency device, to keep a dog from running out on the street, for instance, but it should not be the device that keeps a dog walking by your side; instead your dog should WANT to walk at your side. The leash is also a telephone wire between dog and handler. When a dog is pulling, there can be no nuanced communication through the leash; it is just tight. With a loose leash, both dog and handler can feel its minute changes in weight and its movement between them, perhaps signaling a change in direction or in rate.
   Consider loose-leash walking to be holding hands with your dog, and imagine how satisfying that would be!

BFFFs (Best Feline Friends Furever)... 19 October 2018
While Steffi and Django are the best of feline friends -- and it was wonderful getting two kittens at the same time so that they could develop this kind of relationship with each other -- it is not without its complexities. Django, a big tabby, is much more playful than his little sister Steffi, and he can be quite a rough player, overwhelming her with his size. That makes it all the more important that Django gets plenty of exercise and interactive play with his humans so that he is not constantly badgering his little sister.
   As a kitty parent, it is important to evaluate and respond to each cat's needs so that peace springs eternal!

Body Language... 18 October 2018
As important as it is to remember that dogs are dogs and not little furry people, I am still struck with how much we have in common, even in body language. Look at how universal the smile is! This is Porter, and you can't help but return his open-mouthed, goofy smile when he looks at you like this. And what about those eyes -- windows to their souls and to ours! I see a world of thoughts and feelings in Porter's soulful eyes.
   Delving a little further, dogs don't like to be hugged while humans do, BUT even humans don't want to be hugged by strangers on the street, right? That is an act reserved only for our closest friends. Dogs will often tolerate more from their family members than they will from others, and that is just like us humans. A dog might let a family member hug or kiss him, or wipe his feet dry, or give him direct eye contact, but he may find these very same things unpleasant, even threatening. coming from people he doesn't know. Dogs can be sensitive to looming or to being petted over the top of the head, or to being grabbed by the collar by strangers, but WE ARE, TOO! We can be very sensitive to unspoken personal space boundaries or to being touched without invitation.
   What this all means is that we expect far more from our dogs than we do from ourselves. We expect them to tolerate infringements on their personal space and autonomy that we would never tolerate ourselves.
   So let's take a lesson from Porter: WAG MORE, BARK LESS! And SMILE! Yes, he says, I'm talking to you!

Kitty Chess... 12 October 2018

It is interesting to watch the time sharing of space throughout the day. The current pattern is for Django to start on the dog bed early in the day and somehow over time Steffi ends up there later in the afternoon. This was not a direct replacement... what I mean is that the cats had moved around the house, had gone to get food or to follow me around the house, over the course of the day. But Django claims the dog bed in the late morning and it becomes Steffi's by later in the afternoon.
   It is not unusual for cats to have routines like this, almost like reservations for sleeping spots throughout the day. So watch your kitties' chess game of resting spots over the course of a day!

The Soul of The Dog... 11 October 2018
A picture is worth a thousand words and a face tells a lifetime of stories. One can plainly see the lifetime of stories on this beautiful dog's face, and many of them not good stories. Yet, this dog Abilene is arguably the sweetest soul to walk the earth. How can a dog be victim to a gruesome past and still retain a loving spirit and forgiving nature? That is the soul of The Dog. And we, as their partners and parents, owe them not only care and love and shelter but also education and training so they can live the lives they most desire -- to live beside us as partner, companion, and family member. And we must understand their communications and needs and must teach them our communications and expectations so that we can live in harmony. Let's help all of our dogs find the love, balance and harmony that Abilene has found in her life!

The Look of Love... 8 October 2018
These two pictures are striking to me, first because of the similarities. Both look pensive and self-contained, in their thoughts it would seem. Neither is communicating any social cues, like an open, lolling mouth or a tail held aloft, an invitation for interaction.
   But the differences, to me, are more striking. Bentley, the white mixed breed, looks listless, almost hopeless. There is worry in his brow and his eye ridges. Bentley is a shelter dog, and he has been for a long time... in this picture, he is in the
office where he is fostered. While he has had very committed staff and volunteers to love him, that is not a home and not a family. And this is what it looks like. A dog listless and with worry, even at rest. The black and white dog, a loved family member, though not overtly excited or happy in this picture, has a look of ease and peace within her thoughts.
   This is the difference between having a family and not. This is the difference between an owned dog and a shelter dog.

Kitty Perches... 5 October 2018
Hunters that they are, cats like having vertical space and perches from which to spy upon the world. In a multi-cat family it's important to have enough vertical space to satisfy everyone's needs. You can see that, in our household, Steffi and Django are content to share space a lot of the time, which is wonderful to watch, but everyone needs some alone time so there are a couple of cat trees and perches for them to choose from at any given time. In families where the cats are not quite as chummy, plentiful perches in various locations are crucial to keeping a happy household.

Sometimes All You Need is a Friend... 25 September 2018
My client Dante had an upsetting experience on the street one night, when a dog scared him by barking at him, and it made such an indelible mark that he was scared on his walk the following morning, despite the absence of anything eventful.
   This is called one-trial learning, and it can happen when something extreme (from the dog's perspective) happens that really scares the bejesus out of him. The problem is that that event can be so terrifying that, in similar situations, the dog panics in anticipation of such an event happening again, even in the absence of a trigger... i.e. the situation itself becomes a trigger.
   Fortunately Dante's mom sensed the importance of resolving this quickly because, the longer he anticipates walks as being scary, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
   Tilly to the rescue! There's nothing better for a (dog-friendly) fearful dog than to have a role model in another dog, one who's confident. Dante and Tilly made fast friends and then they took a walk together and, sure enough, emboldened by his confident friend, Dante learned that there's nothing to fear but fear itself!
   Final note: Understand that it's very important that care be taken for nothing extreme to happen on these first walks or it could amplify his fears. It can be helpful to have a professional help you with sensitive issues such as this.

Adopt, Don't Shop!... 24 September 2018
There are many reasons why animals find themselves homeless and in an animal shelter, and few of these reasons are the fault of the animal. Many families fall on hard times that can result in them having to move to a residence that does not allow animals, so an animal who has enjoyed many years as a loved family member may suddenly find himself in a shelter or rescue. Further, while animals are sometimes surrendered due to behavior problems, many of these problems are the result of not having been properly trained. For instance, though behaviors such as jumping up or mouthing may be cute and tolerable in a 4 month old puppy, they are far less so in a large, high-energy adolescent dog. Hence the reason that so many adolescent dogs find themselves suddenly in the shelter system, when just a little training could have avoided this outcome. House-soiling is another reason that a cat or dog might find himself without a loving home, but this can be one of the easiest behaviors to correct with just a little training, consistency and patience.
   Any animal, whether from a shelter, a rescue, or a breeder, is going to require a settling in period when coming to his new home. He will need to bond to his new family and to learn how to communicate his needs to them and learn their needs and expectations of him. With informed adoption – asking the right questions about any animal you’re considering – and preparation prior to bringing a pet home, then training and patience once you do bring him home, a shelter pet can become the friend that you’d always hoped for.

Nature vs. Nurture... 17 September 2018
A recent client of mine told me that another dog trainer had told her that her dog’s (we’ll call him Hugo) aggression was her own fault and that there was little hope of changing it successfully. Hearing this just broke my heart, for both the human and the dog! It’s a wonder, after receiving such a dire, hopeless diagnostic opinion, that she continued her search for a solution for Hugo, but I’m grateful and inspired that she did. That is truly a committed dog parent – she sought a better, happier life for her canine companion!
   Behavior has both a genetic and learned component to it – the age-old nature / nurture discussion. In this case, this client noticed aggression within days of bringing home her 10 week old puppy. That suggested to me that there was a strong genetic component to Hugo’s behavior as there had only been 10 weeks of learning opportunities for this puppy, mostly from his mother and siblings... not enough to account for the severity of Hugo’s behavior.
   When working with behavior cases, it often doesn’t matter why a dog behaves as he does because the techniques for working on the issue will be the same regardless. But when genetics are an underlying contributor to behavior issues, treatment is often facilitated by pharmaceutical intervention in combination with behavior modification protocols in order to balance the brain chemistry while simultaneously teaching new behavioral responses.
   While Hugo and his human mom still have plenty of work to do on their road together towards healing and happiness, they have already made great gains, and even just a few easy changes had fast and powerful effect!

Social Maturity... 10 September 2018
Dogs reach social maturity somewhere between the ages of a year and a half and three, and maybe as late as four for some dogs. Behavior tends to start changing at around the 18 month mark and that change continues through this maturation period. So, a dog who was shy as a puppy often starts acting defensive aggressive at 18 months. A dog who, as a puppy, played with every dog and puppy she met will start to narrow her interests as she reaches this age, liking some dogs, ignoring others, and outright disliking still others. So, many changes and tendencies can start to surface at this time.
   The problem is that, though the behavior starts to emerge at around 18 months, it will continue to develop over the course of this maturation period. That’s why it is so important that, as soon as you notice behavior changing in your dog, you immediately set to work to modify it, because the behavior will continue to develop otherwise.
   We know that old dogs can learn new tricks because, in fact, we adult humans do it every day! But we also know that a habit that is long practiced is harder to kick than a habit that has recently developed. So this is just one more reason for starting to modify concerning behaviors as soon as they begin to emerge.

The Dangers of Under-Socialization... 4 September 2018
All young animals experience a developmental stage during which they discover the things that are necessary to, and the things that threaten, their survival. For dogs, this sensitivity period lasts until somewhere between 13 and 16 weeks. The things they have not experienced during this time – and the types of people they have not met -- will be things that, later in life, they will be cautious of or, worse, aggressive towards.
   Dogs who are fearful of certain people, like men or children or someone with a limp, can be particularly troublesome because there are people everywhere! While a dog doesn’t have to like everyone – and frankly, how many of us like everyone we meet?! – he does nonetheless need to be a polite canine citizen. This suggests a contract be made between us and our dogs: While we should be agent for our dogs, only permitting contact from those he likes and enjoys, our dog’s contract to us should be that he will be polite and nonreactive.
   (Read the complete article.)

The Doggie Daycare Debate... 27 August 2018
We all want to provide our dogs with the best -- with social outlets, with exercise, with company during the workday, preferably with as little of our own participation as possible. So, for many of us, with jobs that take us out of the home during the day, we look for solutions like doggie day care to provide these things for our canine companions. But the problem is that, as dogs approach social maturity, between the ages of a year and a half and three, their preferences and interests in other dogs change.
   While puppies are often open and interested in playing with everyone, as they mature, their interests start to narrow -- an adult dog may be interested in some dog players but not others, or even downright dislike others. Most adult dogs prefer deep, close relationships with particular other dogs rather than the free-for-all of a pack of unknown dogs. This means doggie daycares and dog parks are not the right solution for most dogs.
   But then what to do for our latchkey dogs? There are so many ways to enrich the lives of our dogs in healthy ways! Training, dog sports, walks and hikes to different places, outings with the family to dog-friendly places (obviously for polite canine citizens). Notice that these are all activities that will emphasize the bond between dog and human family members, the most important relationships that a family dog will have! Add to that play dates with their BFFs (best furry friends) for dog-friendly dogs and you will provide a rich, meaningful life for your dog!

Loose-Leash Walking... 22 August 2018
Loose-leash walking (LLW) is one of the most difficult skills to build because it requires consistency on the part of the handler. Allowing pulling on one walk, then insisting on no pulling on another walk will only confuse your dog and continue the habit of pulling.
   One stop-gap measure you can try, since there are times when you just need to take your walk and can't take the extra time to insist on LLW, is to use two different pieces of walking equipment. For instance, allow pulling on the Easy Walk harness but insist on no-pulling with the Gentle Leader headcollar. Ultimately, as the LLW habit gains strength, decrease the walks on the EWH and increase the walks on the GL, until the habit is consistent and you can walk just on a collar!
   Next step... loose-leash walking training ;)

Newly Adopted Dog... 21 August 2018
Dogs newly adopted from a shelter or rescue often have a little trouble with separation from their new parent. Further, often they don't love the crate and can be vocal when put in it. So they will need crate-training and separation training, because separation issues can turn into full-blown separation anxiety if not properly worked on.
   Separation anxiety is over-diagnosed. It needs to be understood that separation anxiety is a clinical term for an anxious state similar to a panic attack in humans. Its symptoms can be vocalizing, breaking of housetraining in a housetrained dog, destruction and/or self-mutilation, escape behavior, anorexic behavior, and a panicked state (excessive saliva, panicked eyes...).
   BUT it's important to correctly identify and diagnose the issue in order to resolve it successfully. A dog who chews things when his parents are absent could just be bored -- he needs more exercise before departure and then puzzle toys to give him mental stimulation. Vocalizing could be the same thing -- a dog with energy to burn and now his human playmate is gone, leaving him with nothing to entertain himself. Or it could be that outside noise is disturbing his rest. Breaking of housetraining could be that your dog is really not fully housetrained or that he was left for longer than he's physically able to hold it.
   So correct diagnosis of the issue(s) and then working thoroughly, patiently, and consistently will be essential to your new family member's happiness. Consult WoofGang handouts for more help on these topics.

The Doggie Ballet... 18 August 2018
Healthy dog play is truly a ballet, complete with curtsies and leaps and do-si-dos! Another element of beautiful play is self-handicapping in the case of a larger dog to a smaller or an adult dog with a puppy, like playing from a down. Though biting, chasing, jump-ing, and humping are all elements of play, you can see that the quality of those things is soft and floppy and acrobatic. As play gets more serious, the roundness and verticality of movement is replaced by more horizontal, faster, harder and direct movement. That's a good time to stop things or it can escalate into a fight.
   As parents to our dogs, it is up to us to monitor our dog's play style -- correct your dog's pushy, obnoxious play if the recipient cannot do it for himself, and remove your dog when she is the victim of such play from another. What I've noticed with Tilly's play is that she is a masterful player with most dogs, reading them beautifully and trying to deescalate their play if it's getting too rough for her, but she is prone to bully the shyer dogs. So, while I step in to help her when she is overwhelmed or outgunned, I correct her when she is the bully. That is dog parenting.

A New Puppy Sibling... 17 August 2018
The hardest thing about having a new puppy in the house was keeping him exercised so that he didn't drive the resident adult crazy. As great a sport as your older pooch may be, no doubt she enjoyed her naps and downtime without the puppy jumping on her head! That meant that, besides the hikes and walks you might take together, you and the puppy need to take some walks and do some training, just the two of youo. So it was extra work for the human parent!
   Often people will bring a puppy into an adult dog household to keep their older dog active and interested. But the puppy must remain the responsibility of the humans in the household, not the older dog. Consider it like a teenager with a elementary school sibling. As much fun as the little one can be, every older kid needs some time to herself! So it's important that extra care be taken to keep the youngster well exercised and mentally stimulated.
   Further, it's important that both dogs have opportunity to play with other dogs, with and without their "sibling" along. Too often, doggy housemates play only with each other and they lose the play skills that are more appropriate for a wider audience of playmates. Especially puppies will need plenty of play experiences with many different dogs so that they aren't only exposed to the idiosyncratic play styles of their older "sibling".
   The long and short of it is that adding a puppy to the household takes more effort on the part of the humans, any way you slice it! But I'll also say that it was incredibly fun!!

Alpha?... 16 August 2018
The word "alpha" has become pervasive in our discussions about dog behavior so let's take a look at what that term means in dog behavior...
   Dr. David Mech was the scientist whose studies in the 1970s described pack hierarchy and the alpha wolf. He has subsequently stated that these definitions of pack dynamics were inaccurate.
   In wild wolf packs, relationships exist much like the human family, with the parents (breeding pair), older adolescent pups, and then the litter of babies. The older pups care for the babies and assist in the hunt to feed the family, much like a teenager performing babysitting duties and getting a summer job.
   We would do a world of good for our canine family members if we looked upon them as requiring guidance from us as benevolent role models (read parents) and their relationships with each other as sibling children that need molding and direction in order to have healthy, respectful relationships with each other... because thinking that our dogs are alphas attempting world domination over us and each other is detrimental to all involved.

A New Puppy Sibling... 7 August 2018
Bringing a new puppy into the house is often more for the humans than it is for the dogs. An older dog cannot be expected to "care" for a young pup and keep her exercised and entertained. YOU have to do that, getting the puppy plenty tired out so that when she comes home, she's not mugging her old, stogie brother for attention all the time.
   Further, you need to make sure that your pup is getting plenty of interactions with other dogs so that her play experiences are not only with her brother but that she learns how to interact with a world full of dogs.
   So, before bringing home a new puppy, think long and hard about whether you have the time and energy to take on a new project. If you're animal family is happy just so, then you might not want to mess with it! And if you DON'T have a happy animal family, then there's some fixin' to do before introducing someone new to the mix.

Dogs and Kids... 11 July 2018
There are three kinds of dogs in the world, those who love kids, those who tolerate kids, and those who don’t like kids. In a perfect world, we would want only dogs who love kids to be in children’s households. Tolerance levels wane depending on many things: moods, stress, pain, tiredness, and so on.
   Aggression is not an on/off, in dogs or in humans; it is a spectrum, from calm measured warnings, to hard eyed stares, to yelling, to punches, to knives, finally to guns. It is important to hear a dog’s calm measured warnings of discomfort so that she is not forced to escalate her warning to something more like punches, or worse.
   The problem is that, when dogs are afraid of children, the calm measured signals of discomfort may not be seen by young children. That can often mean that a dog needs to use more threatening behavior to get the message across. AND the dog will not feel safe or happy in her new home and the children will not have a dog who could be their canine bestie.
   When adopting a dog, ask lots of questions, including how they are with strangers and new people, kids, dogs and other animals (like cats if you have them), around resources, with handling, and in play. Make sure that you pick a canine companion who matches your family and lifestyle.

Dog Play... 9 July 2018

Is the little black dog having fun here? It can sometimes be hard to tell from a still photo, but the giveaway is the tucked tail and body curled inward. Play had started well with a game of chase, the little black dog as the chasee. He kept trying to use the rollover to decelerate the action until he was just overwhelmed and outdogged. He couldn't make the badgering stop.
   Just because play starts out consensual doesn't mean that it remains that way. All too often, if the playmate is a bullish, disrespectful player, as the chasee tires, he may become a victim, and a fight can start as he tries to defend himself and back the other dog off.
   As a doggie parent, you must be agent for your overwhelmed dog AND you should also be the magistrate for your bully player, stopping the interaction for both their sakes.

A Dialogue of Mutual Respect... 4 June 2018
Yesterday, at an outdoor pet-friendly event, I witnessed as a dog gave beautiful body language -– moving away, turning away, lip licking –- to say that she was scared and did not want to be petted by a child who was unfamiliar to her. Nonetheless, in an effort to “socialize” her, the dog's owner encouraged the child to pet the dog.
   Two individuals were harmed in this interaction...
   First, the dog was. Her choice had been to move away from a situation that made her uncomfortable rather than to move forward, potentially lunging or snapping, to drive the scary child away. But, rather than rewarding her choice, her signals were not respected and so she learned that offering nonaggressive warnings like this were ineffective. In the future, she may feel she needs to escalate her behavior in order to get her message across.
   Then the little boy was. He had been tentative about approaching the dog, seeing her avoidance, but he was urged to by the dog’s owner. So he learned that it was OK to approach a dog giving these signals which, in the future, may lead to a dog bite from a dog less apt to inhibit.
   Such interactions should be dialogues between two consenting individuals. When approaching an unfamiliar dog, the dog’s owner should be asked, who in turn asks the dog. Only good communication between dogs and humans will foster mutual respect.

Are There Really Two Sides to the Training Coin?... 26 September 2013
I had the distinct – let’s call it… opportunity – to watch two dogs I care about getting leash corrected over and over again by another trainer while I had to stand by and hold my tongue. Afterwards, I was comforted by well-meaning people who said that it’s just another training technique, a different opinion, the flip side of the same learning coin. But, well, I don’t think so…
   There was a time when punishment was an oft-used technique in children’s education. My own father recalled how he was taught hand position on the piano with a rap of a ruler to the back of his knuckles, a technique I’m glad to say he never employed with me. Instead, he shaped my hands with his own so that I could feel what the right hand position felt like and experience it for myself. I learned to hold my hands the way he held his, high and rounded, like a delicate crane holding up the suspended fingers.
   While taking a ruler to the knuckles or a belt to the tuckus was once an accepted “motivator” for educating children, today it is unacceptable, and very nearly grounds for a lawsuit, if a child is “educated” in this way. We’ve found other approaches where the same lessons can be learned pain-free. Only, really, is it the same? After all, though my father and I may have come out of the other end of those lessons with the same hand position, what learning happened internally for each of us? Did he develop the same level of trust in his relationship with his teachers, for instance, that I did? I would guess not.
   So back to what I know a little about… dog training. A dog who jumps on people can certainly learn not to jump by 1. getting some well-earned treats for substituting alternative, more acceptable behaviors like sitting or 4-on-the-floor, or 2. getting a leash correction for every time his front feet leave the floor. To the casual onlooker, the result may look the same… a dog with four feet on the floor. But is his internal state the same? Has he developed a trust in his relationship with his leash-jerking trainer the same as he has with his “cookie-pushing” trainer? Again, I think not.
   But I don’t need to guess… he can tell his internal state, what he has learned about relating to humans, with body language. In her article Beyond Cesar Millan, trainer Janis Bradley beautifully and concisely describes the principle of learned helplessness, the complete suppression of behavior as a result of noncontingent punishment. A dog who has been trained in this way hunkers down, a body closed in on itself, unbehaving. And the message of his body language is in loud contrast to the confident, assured, alert dog’s body who has learned to keep 4-on-the-floor through positive reinforcement. Inhibited behavior is not the same as changed behavior; it is unbehavior.
   World-renowned trainer, behaviorist and author Jean Donaldson cites a long list of articles and interviews in which animal behavior professionals from across the industry refute the use of punishment-based training techniques in her article Talk Softly and Carry a Carrot or a Big Stick? But one thing she says is that our industry is divided into two camps, positive vs. balanced trainers, like Democrats vs. Republicans… two sides of the same coin. And with this I disagree. Because unlike politics, where issues can be addressed from equally valid and valuable perspectives, learning – real, healthy, empowering learning, and for every organism – happens when a teacher motivates, even inspires, a learner to behave and experience life in a new and better way, both externally and internally.

The Ins and Outs of Reinforcement... 29 August 2013
In my effort to emphasize the importance of the timing of the reward marker (“yes” or click) – that it must happen exactly at the moment of the desired behavior, taking a picture of it for the dog – I often say that you have “all the time in the world” to deliver the treat. The reason I say this is because there is the danger that, if you are urgent with your delivery of the treat, you may inadvertently delay your delivery of the reward marker, making you late in marking. But, for the sake of accuracy and perfecting training skills, I want to expound on this a bit. Because, to be honest, I lied. You really don’t have all the time in the world, but you certainly have time enough!
   So how have I stretched – let’s be kind and call it simplified – the truth?
   For starters, your dog needs to have learned that the reward marker (which a stuffy learning theorist would call a secondary reinforcer) portends the delivery of a treat (or some such primary reinforcer). Primary reinforcers are those things that the learner (or dog in this case) desires naturally – food, play, walks, love, whatever. So the trainer first must lay the groundwork, or “charge up the clicker” or reward marker. And to charge up the secondary reinforcer, the treat needs to follow within two seconds.
   OK, so let’s say your dog knows that when she hears a “yes!”, there is an impending treat. You can tell because she looks anticipatory, maybe her tail wags and her ears prick at its happy sound. An association has been established. So on to my usual example… if I were across a long field and I cue to my dog Trista “down!” and she goes down, I mark it with a “yes!” and then I’ve got all the time in the world to get there and deliver the treat. After all, once an association has been established between the primary and secondary reinforcers, the secondary reinforcer is itself imbued with the happy mojo that the primary reinforcer produces – just the sound of the “yes!” is a tidbit of virtual bacon on her tongue!
   This means I’ve instantaneously reinforced her, right? Well, yes and no. The virtual bacon is on her tongue, but secondary reinforcers lose their mojo if they’re not intermittently reinforced – “yes!” is not bacon forever.
   And even on the delivery, there was little sleight of logic… there is a difference between my standing in the same spot for a minute and then covering the 50 yards quickly in the next minute rather than my taking two minutes to slowly traverse the 50 yards. In the latter case, my approach is itself reinforcing. It is a bridge for my dog until I actually arrive with the treat. Alternatively, you could bridge standing still time with sweet banter about how lovely and smart a dog she is, also a reinforcer, and then cover the distance in a flash. But what probably wouldn’t work (for long, at least) is to mark with a “yes!” and then continue talking to a neighbor for the next minute before traveling to her. A treat at that point is, well, pointless. Two minutes have passed and she probably has no idea what it’s for.
   So there’s my confession. You have all the time in the world, if you use your time wisely.

Dominance Needs to Go the Way of the White Elephant... 21 December 2012
I think the word dominance should be removed from the vocabulary of every dog lover. It is not a word that has loving intent or promises a loving outcome. From my perspective, overcoming this word is an unending battle. It seems no one knows how to observe or communicate dog behavior without applying this attribute to it. In fact, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has made a statement opposing the application of dominance theory in behavior modification in favor of the more positive approaches of reinforcing desirable behaviors.
   The most damaging consequence of dominance theory is the application of punishment-based training techniques in order to make our dogs succumb to our dominance. There are inherent and often unavoidable difficulties to applying punishment in training, which I have discussed in my own writings (When Considering Using Punishment) but which are also thoroughly outlined in the AVSAB’s position statement on the Adverse Effects of Punishment.
   I know of more than a few dog guardians whose relationship has been deeply changed by employing alpha rolls and “dominance downs”. And I find myself in very good company when I read of other behavior specialists, much more experienced, knowledgeable and famous than I, who relate stories about clients whose relationships with their dogs have been damaged by practicing punishment-based techniques. Dr. Sophia Yin, veterinary behaviorist, relates such stories in her article New Study Finds Popular "Alpha Dog" Training Techniques Can Cause More Harm Than Good.
   So the science is behind me, as the preceding paragraphs attest. Ultimately dog training is just an application of learning theory, which works with every organism. But, instead of citing science, perhaps it’s easier to draw on more personal contexts… How do you learn best? By encouragement or rebuke? By reinforcement or correction? Your dog wants to know.

Tails of the Leash-Reactive Dog... 7 September 2012
So I love this article. Firstly, I have a leash-reactive dog. Yes, I'm a dog trainer with a leash-reactive dog. You expected her to be perfect?!? Well, with work, Trista's become just about bulletproof but she still has her ugly moments. And no one understands it better than another guardian with a dog-reactive dog. I've dashed, hidden, cried, prayed to the gods, and everything else under the sun, just like this person. But what got me through the hard times was remembering that I am no more a perfect human than my dog is a perfect dog. She who casts the first stone...
   There is a movement to put yellow ribbons on the leash of a dog who wants space. I like this idea, though I think it should be unnecessary. Why people insist on having their dogs greet every dog on the street when they clearly don't express the same social behavior with every human they pass on their walks is beyond me. All dogs should be granted their space unless both have that "come hither" look.
   Not to be self-aggrandizing but... get a trainer! It doesn't have to be me! Just get any certified trainer who employs positive, relationship-building techniques to modify behavior. And don't wait til the last minute... til the month before your baby is due with your kid-phobic dog, or after you've already brought home a little canine sibling for your dog-aggressive pooch. Every day that your dog has to live with her fears is another uncomfortable day for her and an additional day that she practices the wrong behavior. As soon as you see an inkling of fear or defensiveness, pick up the phone. Nothing makes a dog trainer happier than helping bring peace to the multi-species family!
   Anyway, the long and short of it is that it takes work, day in and day out... there's no magic fix. So many of my clients want a magic fix... HECK I wanted a magic fix! Instead, there will be good days and bad days. There will be countless times on the street when other ignorant owners let their dog get up in your dog's grill and scare the poop out of her. Just keep on keeping on. Love will find the way! Oh, and a healthy dose of laughter, fist-pumping, and bacon!

Territorial Behavior and the Mailman... 16 July 2012
Why does the mailman always get bitten?! Because his job is to come to the house, deliver the mail and go. So, as the dog looks out the window, he sees the mailman’s approach and barks to alert the family. Then the mailman turns and goes, and Fido thinks that it was he who affected the departure. Now imagine all the passersby, people and dogs, passing the home with no intention of entering. Again, Fido attributes their continuing on their way to his barking. He starts to get an inflated sense of guarding the home. So, when people actually do come to visit and enter the home, Fido is forced to escalate his behavior in order to drive the interloper away, maybe by biting. And so territorial behavior is born!

   It is important that dogs who bark at passersby be prevented from performing the behavior when no one is at home. Otherwise they are practicing the behavior over and over again, perfecting it for the fateful day when someone dares to visit. So, when you’re not at home, close the blinds, pull the couch away from the windows, use a decorative window film, or simply close your dog off from the room with the view. And, when you are at home, call him away with a touch and ask for another behavior, getting him to think about other things.

Impulse Control... 18 May 2012
Instilling impulse control means teaching your dog that he gets the things he wants for polite behavior, not for demanding behavior. If your dog wants to go for a walk, dancing around when he sees the leash is going to make the leash go back on the hook; sitting quietly to be leashed up is a successful way of saying please and will get the desired result. While waiting for his meal to be prepared, barking and whining will mean that the dinner bowl goes back on the shelf out of reach; sitting calmly and waiting to be released to his bowl will earn his meal.
   Ideally, with impulse control exercises, you don’t want to tell your pooch what to do explicitly. That would be solving his problem for him. Instead wait for polite behavior to be offered. This way your pooch is learning how to be a polite dog every moment of the day, not just the moments that he’s receiving direct instruction from you.

Leash-Biting... 10 March 2012
Leash-biting is a dangerous game, often practiced by young adolescent dogs and especially by pit bull mixes. Tugging the leash or a rope toy harkens up prey drive, which terriers have in spades. The trick is to not get into a tug-of-war with them, at least when it comes to the leash. For dogs who get very aroused and dangerous, here are some tips:

  • Use a firm “UH-UH!” right at the moment of grabbing for the leash and then copiously reinforce (verbally and with treats) when he drops the leash and offers an alternative behavior. Watch that a behavior pattern doesn’t develop of his picking up the leash only to drop it, sit, and get a treat. Instead, keep the dog engaged with performing good behaviors (like loose-leash walking) so that this pattern doesn’t take hold. It’s just a question of breaking this bad habit and forging better ones.
  • Letting the dog carry a toy may satisfy his oral needs.
  • For the most aggregious offenders, try using two leashes and two handlers. When the dog grabs one leash, that handler can drop the leash and the other still holds a leash, and vice versa. The game may lose its allure.

Adolescents and Arousal... 4 March 2012
It’s no mystery why so many shelter dogs fall into the category of medium- to large-breed adolescents. Adolescence is typically the age at which any species becomes rambunctious and unruly. In dogs, adolescence runs from 6 to 18 months, and the larger breeds have the potential to leave the greatest destruction in their wakes. It takes a patient, level-headed, and committed owner to weather the storm and guide their dog to realize their best self.
   All adolescents need to be taught how to manage their own levels of arousal, and canine adolescents are no different. With extended amounts of play or excitement, a dog can become unruly and unmanageable – jumping on you, crashing into you, barking at you, even becoming mouthy to the point of drawing blood. Instead of allowing your dog to remain at this fevered pitch, you must help him learn to manage his arousal levels.
   To teach your dog how to better master his arousal levels, interleave play with control behaviors like sit or down before releasing him back to play. When playing fetch, as your dog returns with the ball, ask for a drop, then for a sit before throwing the ball and releasing him to retrieve it. In a game of tug, ask for a drop, then a down before releasing him to take the tug toy again. Over time, these games with rules will foster more respectful play habits.

Janis Bradley Comments on Cesar Millan... 11 January 2012
I love what Janis Bradley, author of Dogs Bite, says so much that I have to pass it on...
   "On his TV show, the main method Millan uses for aggression is aversives (leash jerks, kicks, snaps of the hand against the neck, and restraint, among others) applied non contingently. The aversives are non contingent because they are so frequent that they're not connected to any particular behavior on the part of the dog—the dog gets popped pretty much constantly. This results in a state called learned helplessness, which means the animal hunkers down and tries to do as little as possible. This is what Millan calls "calm submission." It's exactly the same thing you see in a rat in a Skinner box that is subjected to intermittent shocks it can do nothing to avoid. This can happen quite fast, by the way, shall we say in ten minutes? The dangers to the dog are obvious, ranging from chronic stress to exacerbating the aggression, i.e., some dogs fight back when attacked. This latter is the simplest reason that aversives are a bad idea in treating aggression. Even used technically correctly as positive punishment for specific behaviors like growling and snarling, aversives do nothing to change the underlying fear or hostility, so the best you can hope for, in the words of famed vet and behaviorist, Ian Dunbar, is "removing the ticker from the time bomb." Thus such methods substantially increase the risk to humans of getting bitten."
   What a beautifully scientific analysis of Cesar's "hocus pocus". See a recent article called Talk Softly and Carry a Carrot or a Big Stick? for more on this topic...

You're Being Watched!... 22 June 2011
One of the most striking differences between canis lupus and canis familiaris is the latter’s ability to read our facial expressions. As dogs have evolved at the side of humans, they have been attentive students, learning to distinguish the ripple of expressions that pass over our faces with the same fluency that they read their own brethren. With this in mind, make sure not to give your dog mixed signals. If your pooch is doing an undesirable behavior, like jumping up or pawing at you, no matter how cute he might seem to you at that moment, don’t smile while saying “no”. This is like the old saying: “Your words may say no but the rest of you is saying yes, Yes, YES!” Try to send a consistent message on all frequencies: words, tone of voice, body language, and facial expression.
   See a recent New York Times article for more on this topic...

NILIF – A Training Buzz Word... 4 April 2011
The principle of NILIF (“Nothing In Life Is Free”) is that your dog needs to work for everything he deems valuable. Under NILIF, nothing should be proffered for free. He needs to learn that you are the one granting him each and every resource – food, toys, affection, access to furniture, going for walks, everything.
   How strictly you adhere to NILIF depends on your dog. A dog who is pushy and demanding and disrespectful of others’ space should have a more strict NILIF structure than a dog who is polite, respectful and compliant.
   Some trainers insist on an unwavering “one-size-fits-all” approach to NILIF and, I’ll admit, there are some dogs who would be unbearable without such complete compliance. But a majority of dogs and a majority of owners needn’t obey such a strict lifestyle. Don’t we live with our furry canine companions so that we can tousle their fur and rain kisses on their wet noses even when they’re not sitting politely at our feet?! I’ll admit wholeheartedly that I do!
   More to the point, and of greater concern, is that if such a strict regimen is insisted upon, pooch parents are less likely to execute it consistently, and inconsistency is the devil’s workshop. Dogs trained with inconsistent structure will be less certain of their lifescape and more likely to test boundaries and make mistakes.
   So, while NILIF may be appropriate for the most challenging dogs, what's more important, and most achievable, is NGGFBB ("Nothing Good Granted For Bad Behavior"). Now that's a tenet I think we can all live with!

People Food as Treats – To Do or Not To Do... 21 March 2011
So many of my clients worry that feeding their dog people food, and from their own plate no less, will encourage him to beg at the table at meal times and will cause him to turn his nose up at his own food.
   I heartily disagree. It’s not what treats you’re feeding your dog and where you’re feeding them to him that will teach him to beg; it’s when you’re feeding him! It might start with him putting his paw solicitously on your knee. You think it’s cute and you give him a tasty tidbit. A soft paw in the lap becomes a more brusque pawing of your leg, then a shoveling of his head under your hand, and so on. Before you know it, you’ve got yourself a beggar.
   Instead, if you teach your dog that calm, quiet, polite behavior gets appreciation and treats, then that is the behavior he will demonstrate. If he gets rich reward for lying quietly at your feet, then this is precisely what he’ll do. Imagine how hard he’ll work for such delightful delicacies as boiled chicken, cheese, hot dogs, even steak! And they are as healthy for him as they are for us.
   Of course we don’t want our dogs to reject their normal dog food in favor of people food. Canine diet, whether in dry kibble form, in canned form or in a raw or home-prepared diet, needs to be specially formulated for their complete nutritional needs. If your dog is rejecting his food, there may be more at issue than the human food he’s getting as treats. Instead, he may not like his food and it would behoove you to find a more palatable (and healthy) alternative for him.

Gravitational Pull of a Distractor... 22 February 2011
Some dogs find it difficult to attend to their handlers in the company of dogs, people, or other distractions (like cats or birds). They are too transfixed by the distraction to listen to commands or tear their attention away. I call this the gravitational pull of that distractor. You need to keep a distance from the distractor where your gravitational pull is stronger than that of the distractor.
   So, for instance, if there’s a dog approaching you on the sidewalk, get Fido to a distance from the dog where he can still “hear” you and respond to your commands. Ask for a behavior, like a sit or down or watch or touch – not always the same behavior or he will start doing it automatically and so he won’t have to attend to you. Then, when he’s obeyed the command, reinforce him, either by letting him meet the dog (if that was your intention) or giving him a treat and walking away.
   With consistent training and practice, the gravitational pull will decrease and Fido will be able to attend to you at closer and closer distances from the distractor.

The Dangers of Too Much Freedom... 9 February 2011
People frequently complain about the issues that arise from a pup who has not yet learned proper house manners. Perhaps you’re familiar with them… potty accidents in the house, chewing on shoes and pillows, jumping up on the furniture and counters. What this tells me is that the dog is being granted too much freedom without appropriate supervision.
   My motto is: The more freedom a young dog gets now, the less he’ll get in the future; the less he gets now, the more he’ll get in the future.
   Your young pooch is developing habit. Whether that habit will be chewing on the family heirlooms or chewing quietly on his toys is entirely up to you. If you decide to leave him to his own devices before he’s developed the right habits and he develops a taste for wood furniture, then that will be a habit that’ll need to be broken before you will feel compelled to leave him free in the house. Instead, if, in your absence, you keep him confined with only appropriate items available to him and then, when you are around, you supervise him closely to make sure he stays on the right path, then he will develop habits that you’ll be able to trust for all the years that follow.
   The choice is up to you. Don’t make your dog suffer a lifetime of limitation for the sake of the short-term gratification you feel by giving him his freedom before he’s ready!

Time-Outs... 3 February 2011
When your dog is practicing an undesirable behavior, like nipping at heels or being barky, mark with a no reward marker (“uh uh!”). If the behavior continues, then say “Too bad!”, and grab your pup’s leash and take him to a door, putting him on the other side of the door from you with the leash threaded through the door to your side. (Alternatively, you can tie the leash to a door handle and walk away from him, if that’s easier. Or you can leave the room yourself, closing the door behind you, and only returning when he’s quiet.) The time-out shouldn’t be long, only 15 to 30 seconds, just long enough for your pooch to miss your companionship but not so long that he gets distracted with another activity. Let him back in and interact again; see if the behavior is being inhibited. If not, repeat the time-out. Do not let him back in if he’s barking or otherwise complaining.
   An important note: Make sure that, when putting your dog into the time-out, you do not touch him but instead just grab the leash to usher him away. Physical contact with the dog will be construed as reinforcement of the behavior.

The Dominance Myth and Misnomer... 2 November 2010
The term dominance has developed into a catch-all for characterizing just about every undesirable behavior our dogs practice – from jumping on people in greeting to barking for attention and lunging at other dogs on the street. It has become our excuse for behavior that is really just that of a poorly trained dog.
   This wrestling that we’re doing with the question of dominance is perhaps the single greatest threat to our relationships with our dogs. And the things we do in the name of asserting our dominance mar the loving fabric we have woven together with them.
   Because dominant behavior is so rarely the underlying cause of behavior problems, we should challenge ourselves to leave the word dominance out of our vocabulary entirely, and instead compel ourselves to identify the true root issues. Our relationships with our dogs would undoubtedly be the better for it.

Coppinger on Pack Behavior... 22 August 2010
“Pack behaviors, like all behavior, are epigenetic – above the genes. They are a result of behaviors learned during the critical period. Pack behavior is just one of many social options available to wolves. If dogs don’t develop pack social behavior during their critical period, there is no sense in trying to simulate pack leadership after that social window closes. Pack behaviors are much more complicated than just hierarchies of social status. They are learned through social play and care-soliciting behaviors during the juvenile period. A trainer who pretends to be the alpha leader of a wolf pack – say, by turning a dog over onto its back and getting down and growling at its throat – is intimidating the dog, no doubt. But to a dog, the message is not what the trainer thinks it is. Teaching and learning are seldom facilitated by intimidation. A dog doesn’t learn how to sit from a trainer who intimidates it, simply because the coercion diverts the dog’s attention away from the task and toward its social status. An alpha wolf is not trying to teach a pack member anything, especially to sit. The fact that so many believe the wolf-pack homology, and use it in training a dog, is really a testament to how little is understood about canine behavioral development.” (by Ray and Lorna Coppinger in Dogs – A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution, p. 110, Scribner 2001)

The Canine Tap-Out... 10 August 2010
Dogs sometimes roll over on their backs in an evasive maneuver, referred to as a “tap out”, to avoid certain handling. The term “tap out” comes from wrestling jargon for the flat-handed tap a wrestler might do on the mat to signify he wants to quit the match. In dogs, though it may look like a request for a belly rub, it is really a form of passive resistance, or passive submission, given in response to something that is being done. The maneuver often happens when you’re trying to put on a leash or manipulate a collar, harness or head collar – your dog is trying to turn off your collar-grabbing behavior, for instance. To persist may only drive him to escalate his protest because, from his perspective, his wishes are not being heard. As a result, he may protest with a growl or even a snap.
   So, instead of insisting on continuing, help your dog gain more ease with what you’re trying to do. If it’s a concern about collar grabs, teach him “gotcha”. If he consistently taps out when you’re putting the harness or head collar on, teach him a “get dressed” exercise to have him put the equipment on himself. Read Laura's article on the Newark Examiner for more on these techniques.

Using the Environment to Your Advantage... 19 June 2010
Food is not the only agent of rewarding or reinforcing a behavior. When on a walk, often the surrounding environment is even more interesting than food. To a dog intent on moving things, nothing will be more rewarding than being allowed to chase a napkin being carried by the wind! If your pooch wants to greet a dog or sniff a tree, don’t allow her to pull towards it; instead ask her to perform a behavior, like a sit, down, touch, shake, anything. Insist on the behavior. If she does it, then say, “OK, go [say hi/sniff/etc!]”. If not, then “Too bad!”, and turn away. You are the master of the environment and can grant or deny its access. Remember: Don’t always ask for the same behavior, like a sit, for instance. Then your pup will be able to simply tune you out and default to that position. Instead require her to really attend to you by making different requests each time.

Canine Flu in Hoboken... 7 June 2010
There have been several confirmed cases of dog flu reported in Hoboken. To be safe, avoid meeting other dogs for the next few weeks, either on the street or at dog parks. Keep an eye out for symptoms that are similar to kennel cough, runny nose with dis-charge, and high fever. At the first sign of symptoms in your dog, see the vet.

Toys are More Fun!... 5 June 2010
I remember fondly how, when I was a child, my father could make a forkful of broccoli or green beans a entertaining mouthful by transforming it into a plane coming in for a landing on my tongue-tarmac. What child hasn’t fallen for this old chestnut of a parenting trick and enjoyed it despite themselves?!
   Well, I’ve noticed it can work with dogs, too! I’ve seen more than a few dogs who, though not particularly turned on by their kibble, will suddenly eat with renewed vigor when their food is distributed in a puzzle like the Tricky Treat ball (by Omega Paw). My own dog will overlook nuggets of food strewn on the floor and opt instead to toil over her food-stuffed ball, though the food is exactly the same!
   The trick is to spend time teaching the dog how to access the food from the toy first, employing particularly tasty treats to jump-start his motivation to work. Once your dog has mastered the toy and is enjoying the challenge, then you can stuff with less valuable tidbits, like his normal kibble.

Little Dogs Get No Respect!... 27 May 2010
I remember watching in sadness as a client of mine yanked and dragged his darling toy poodle from one place to another with no regard for the dog’s autonomy or personal space. If this were the only time I'd seen such an injustice, then so be it, but I witness such things nearly daily. Just two nights ago I watched a kindly maltese be dragged hither and thither at Ralph's Italian Ice!
   And so I've come by the axiom: All little dog owners should be required to own a big dog first. Except under the most dire of circumstances, such as when a dog wanders too close to traffic and needs to be pulled abruptly out of harm’s way, no one would dream of manhandling a rottie or shepherd the way they might a little lhasa. We invite big dogs to join us, to follow us, to move with us. With little dogs, we force more than we invite.
   Let’s not marginalize our best friends, no matter how small they might be. If you find that you and your pooch are not like-minded in the ways you spend your time together, that you need to use your leash to keep your dog beside you, then training can teach your dog all of the reasons why being by your side should be his favorite thing!

The Use of Treats in Training... 20 May 2010
When employing positive training, we use treats to reinforce, or reward, a target behavior. My clients often wonder how long they will have to keep giving treats – will they be committed to giving treats forever?! The answer is emphatically NO! Treats are an incentive for the dog to learn a challenging, new behavior. Once the behavior has been established, you reinforce intermittently, sometimes rewarding, sometimes not. Over time, the act of performing the behavior itself becomes reinforcing because of its happy history. So, for example, when we teach a dog to sit and give him a treat for doing so, we are utilizing consequential learning -- being reinforced as a consequence to performing a behavior. However, over time, the act of offering a sit itself becomes reinforcing because of the happy history attached to it. This is why training is so beneficial: a dog not only learns to be a well-behaved family member but also learns to enjoy being a well-behaved family member!