Wednesday, February 1, 2023

That's Easy For You To Say!

I worked with a client over the weekend who has a  rather "defiant" young adult dog.  I'm putting defiant in quotes because that's a loaded word that implies that her dog was willfully non-compliant and resistant.  What I saw wasn't really defiance per se, but a bored dog who had been receiving inconsistent reinforcement from the owner and other caregivers, creating a situation where the dog appeared to be doing nothing since when he did something, right or wrong, he never knew that his behavior had consequences!  I got the dog's attention on me (that chicken in my pocket once again!) and started reinforcing very basic tasks such as touching my fingers, staring at my feet, sitting, laying down, and letting me pick up one of his paws.  Each of these behaviors received verbal reinforcement and a bit of chicken.  I explained to the owner that every behavior has a consequence and she needs to show her dog those consequences.  She said, "That's easy for you to say!"  She then asked if I wanted to move in, because clearly her dog was only going to listen to me!  At this point, I needed to give the dog something to chew on so I could delve a little deeper with this owner.

You see, it isn't that it's easier for me than it is for the dog owners I work with, it's simply that with more than 30 years of experience, I know what works and what doesn't.  My job is to be like those crib notes we used back in high school in college; I'm here to summarize and condense all of the learning and techniques you should be using into one easy-to-follow game plan.  And for the frustrated dog owners who've said to me, "Well, of course, this works for you!  Your dogs are probably perfect!"  I'm here to tell you, my dogs are not and have never been perfect.  And I love them just the same.  No, really.  Every dog I've ever owned had some issue or some quirk that needed work.  My first dog, a Westie, had the worst recall.  He was a terrier who followed anything that moved.  My Border Collie mix Shadow?  She was incredibly fearful and anxious. She lived under a coffee table in my apartment for the first 3 months we lived together.  Anyway, you get the picture.  I've never once suggested that a client use a technique or method that I've not already done myself.  I practice what I preach:  positive reinforcement, easy to understand consequences, and rules that are easy to follow and don't change.  My dogs know that if they bark incessantly there will be a consequence and that consequence has never changed. I teach owners to do it the same way.  Same with recall. I play recall games with my dogs and work on a long line when teaching recall with distractions in public settings. I do it the same way with clients and their dogs.

Turns out, I am what researchers are now calling an "authoritative pet parent." This doesn't surprise me given that this designation comes from the human parenting research which places human parents into three categories, authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive, and I was (and am) an authoritative human parent as well. My client with the "defiant" dog?  She was a permissive pet parent. I'm going to post the study that looks at pet parenting style tomorrow on my business website.  Here it is, just in case you don't follow my page regularly:  https://www-sciencealert-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.sciencealert.com/this-specific-pet-parenting-style-seems-to-make-dogs-more-secure-and-resilient/amp

Managing behavior problems isn't easy for anyone, even professional dog trainers, behaviorists, or veterinarians.  Behavior problems are challenging for all of us.  I will never tell you that they are easy to fix as I feel that saying that trivializes what is going on with your pet. What I WILL tell you is that we can work on a management game plan that includes actionable, proactive methods that can be used to get those behavior problems under control.  And those methods will be ones I've used on my own pets too.  Nothing like being the proverbial guinea pigs for any new method I try, just ask Ozzie and Desi!

My client from the weekend has already sent me her first progress report and she and her "defiant" dog are off to a great start.  Just goes to show that it was easy for me to say AND, more importantly, easy for her to do.

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

One of the things that is "easy for me to say" is add in some interactive toys for your dogs!  Daily brain games for dogs keeps their active brains stimulated and gives them something to do that doesn't require you playing too. Here's Westley with his "Mad Scientist" Puzzle from the Trixie company.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Let's Talk About Those "Hypoallergenic" Dogs!

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970's, my grandparents had a Cockapoo named Sammy.  He followed my grandmother around everywhere and loved to play tug-of-war with socks.  In my mind those Cockapoos from the 70's were the first "Doodles," with Poodle crosses gaining even more popularity since the first purposefully created Labradoodle back in 1989. Wally Conron, the man who spent over 2 years creating that first Labradoodle, did so because he wanted to create a dog that could serve as a guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to Labradors. He has since publicly said he regrets having (unwittingly) created this craze where for-profit-breeding has led to a preponderance of health and temperament issues in Doodles. Add to this the confusion prospective owners go through trying to figure out what is meant by "F1, F1B, F2, or F3" when looking at litters of Doodle puppies. Just to make sure we are all on the same page, let's break that down:

A Golden Retriever x Poodle breeding will result in F1 Goldendoodle puppies

Breeding one of those F1 Goldendoodles to a Poodle again results in an F1B Goldendoodle puppy litter

Breeding two F1 Goldendoodles results in a litter of F2 Goldendoodles

And finally, breeding two F2 Goldendoodles will result in a litter of F3 Goldendoodle puppies.  And so on. I recently met an F5 Sheepadoodle!

Whether you want to think of these Doodle-dogs as purposefully bred mutts, expensive designer dogs, or up and coming dog breeds in their own right, is up to you and not my point here.  What I want to get at is this notion that these are your only options if you have family members with allergies, or simply do not want to deal with a shedding dog.  One caveat though:  many of these Doodles are not actually hypoallergenic, as they are often advertised.  It takes several generations to get to enough of those genes coding for hair versus fur to arrive at the point where shedding is minimal or non-existent.  And truly there are no hypoallergenic dog breeds.  What many people who think that they are allergic to dog fur are actually allergic to are the things that stick to a dog's coat.  These external allergens can stick to haired dogs too, meaning that how you care for your dog's coat is the most important factor in allergen control.  Now, if it's just a preference for a haired dog rather than one with fur, then you have many other options than you may have first thought.  And the added bonus of researching a purposefully bred, purebred dogs is that the breeder should be able to supply you with the results of genetic testing, and be able to give you references to other owners of the dogs they've created.  Each of these breeds has a distinct temperament and personality (in addition to their haired coat!) that you can feel confident will be present in the dog you purchase as those characteristics have been bred over hundreds of generations to a breed standard.

So, without further ado, here is an alphabetical list of dog breeds to consider if you are looking for a breed that has hair rather than fur.  Just for fun, I've listed a few breed characteristics (based on my observations) for you as well:

1. Afghan Hound--a big, elegant, aloof dog

2. American Hairless Terrier: Friendly with everyone, has a reputation for being good with kids.

3.  Bedlington Terrier: Looks like a sheep and has fairly low exercise requirements compared to other terriers on this list.

4.  Bichon Frise: Happy-go-lucky and often a good candidate for pet therapy.

5.  Chinese Crested: Great little watchdogs, but they don't do well if left alone. Not usually a good choice for homes with young kids.

6.  Coton De Tulear: Sturdy little dogs who have a reputation for being good with other dogs and good with kids.

7.  Giant Schnauzer: Super-smart and loyal, but they can be very territorial.  These dogs need a lot of exercise, both mental and physical.

8. Irish Water Spaniel: These dogs are goofy and will bring a smile to your face.  They are very energetic though and must have lots of room to run in order to be content and not stir-crazy.

9.  Kerry Blue Terrier: Equally as energetic and active as a Giant Schnauzer but with a gentler disposition. 

10.  Lagotto Romagnolo: Often mistaken for mini-labradoodles, these 30 lb. bundles of energy and enthusiasm need their exercise out of the way first thing, and then will spend the rest of the day cuddling on your lap.

11. Maltese: While notoriously difficult to housetrain, they make up for this with their playful yet fearless dispositions. 

12.  Miniature Schnauzer: Same watchdog tendencies as the Giant version, but a bit more cheerful and engaging.  Less likely to terrify your neighbors than the Giant Schnauzer!

13. Peruvian Inca Orchid: These dogs are hairless and come in three sizes.  All have a tendency to be protective and territorial with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

14.  Poodle: You know this one.  Comes in three recognized sizes and are the smart, energetic base dog breed for many of those designer dogs you've seen going for thousands of dollars.

15.  Portuguese Water Dog: "Porties" make great family dogs as long as that family is action-driven and not sedentary!

16. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier: Good with kids. Especially kids who like to run. A lot. 

17.  Spanish Water Dog: High energy like the Portuguese Water dog. BUT.  These dogs are more protective and territorial.

18. Standard Schnauzer: Of the three Schnauzers on this list, the Standards tend to be more sociable and affectionate, better with kids and older folks.

19. Yorkshire Terrier: Like the Maltese, these little dogs are notoriously difficult to housetrain.  They are also pretty feisty and can be bossy with their owners.  

20.  Xoloitcuintli (Mexican Hairless): These dogs come in three sizes and two varieties, one with hair and one without.  The hairless version will need sunblock (and appropriate weather coverings). These are calm, rather aloof dogs with a moderate exercise requirement.

There you have it!  Twenty options for a haired breed dog that isn't a Doodle. Keep in mind that you will still need to do your research to find a reputable breeder and get on a wait list for a puppy or older dog being re-homed after a show career. Dog shows are a great place to network with breeders, particularly if they are "benched shows," meaning dog shows where the dogs being shown in the ring are also on display for observers to meet and talk to the breeders/handlers about those dogs.

You know I have collies and collies are, most definitely, a furred breed. My dogs shed all the time all over everything.  I groom them weekly, sometimes twice weekly when they are blowing their coats, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I control allergens by wiping them down with pet wipes and using waterless shampoo when necessary. My couch has an attractive, washable cover, so that I can share my favorite reading spot with them. I am fortunate that no one in my family is truly allergic to dogs. I'd hate to have to give up those human family members ;)

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

This is my buddy, Loki. He's the 3 year old Miniature Labradoodle I've had the privilege of working with for the last couple of years.  He's smart, quirky, and looks great in a coat.


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Slow Down, You're Doing Fine

Worked with two clients this week who needed a gentle reminder to slow down.  It's not a race to see who can groom their dog the fastest, trim the most nails in one sitting, or get the harness on a puppy before they wiggle away.  In fact, if you slow it down, breaking those everyday tasks into smaller pieces, you'll find that getting things done for your pets goes a lot more smoothly.  

For many dogs, putting on the harness or leash is a time of heightened arousal.  They may be excited, barking and running around trying to speed up the process, or they may be running away from you making it take longer.  Stop chasing them and definitely stop leashing up a dog who is barking, jumping, or pulling you to the door.  Slow down.  Bring out the leash.  Stand still.  Wait for your dog to approach you (don't say come or here!) on their own.  Reach toward them with the collar, harness, or leash. If they race off, just stay where you are. If they back away, don't lunge for them! Make putting on the leash or harness calmly the goal.  Use those high value treats and reward standing for the harness or sitting for the buckle of the collar.  Attach the leash now. If they take off running once the leash is on, just drop the leash and stay where you are.  Wait for your dog to come back.  With a treat in your hand get their attention and then walk around in a circle or figure eight, with your dog at your side, dragging their leash.  Don't pick up that leash and head for the door until your dog is more calmly attentive.  If you go out the door with an over-excited dog, that sets the tenor of your walk right from the start. 

I meet a lot of dogs who are reactive at the vet's office or for their grooming appointments.  Some folks who groom their pets at home report being unable to brush certain areas on their dogs or cats, brush teeth, or trim/dremel nails. I know I've talked before about the importance of teaching cooperative care to puppies and kittens for trips to the vet's office, but the same applies to grooming.  Don't try to trim all of those nails in one sitting if that's too much for your dog or cat.  Better to trim one each day and have your pet cooperate than to wrestle with them and make the whole thing a giant negative experience they won't soon forget.  This is true for older pets as much as it's true for young ones; slow down. Take your time.  Use treats.  Take breaks.  Always end on a positive note.  While it's fine to have someone help you hold your pet for nails, teeth, or ears, they should simply be holding your pet in place, not actively restraining them.  Maybe set your pet up on a towel on a table (I LOVE my grooming table!), treats at the ready, and your other human assistant there to monitor the treat delivery to help ensure you are rewarding compliance with the grooming tasks, and not bribing your pets into acceptance of their fate.  

Taking care of your pet's needs shouldn't be a mental to-do list with you trying to check things off as quickly as possible.  Break down those tasks into smaller, easier to swallow pieces for them, particularly when it comes to experiences that make them anxious or reactive. And, as always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me. 

Grooming collies takes time and patience.  Just ask Ozzie who always needs 
a snack and then a nap following his weekly home grooming sessions.



Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Rain Rain Go Away!

While I am feeling grateful for all the rain we've been getting over the last couple of weeks here in Northern California, I am getting tired of it.  I know I'm not alone in feelings of being overwhelmed by the weather we are experiencing here in the US this winter.  My friends in the Midwest and on the east coast are getting hammered with freezing temperatures and snow, and even my friends in Tennessee and Florida have had crazy weather this winter.  Stir crazy humans makes for stir crazy pets and while you might just want to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and a good book, your dogs and cats are going to need more than that to make them feel content.

I know I've talked about puzzles many times for dogs and cats and getting those out and rotating them daily is key.  Change up the puzzles AND the treats you use so that interest remains high.  Novelty is the key, but that doesn't have to break the bank.  Amazon boxes, shoe boxes, egg cartons, and paper towel tubes can all be used like puzzles for solving.  And if you're really creative with a drill and have some PVC pipe laying around, drill holes in the plastic PVC pipe for your pets to dig and lick to get treats out of.  Remember too that something as simple as a braided rope toy can be changed up by soaking it in low sodium chicken broth and then freezing it.  Dig out old muffin tins and cookie sheets, smear them lightly with nut butter and stick treats or kibble on them, then freeze.  In a pinch, a frozen Kong is better than nothing at all, as are bullsticks and bones.

For cats and dogs with a high prey/chase drive, dig out the wand toys, R/C cars, and ripple rugs. Crinkled paper, balls with bells, and even catnip can entertain some of your feline friends.  And if you are stuck indoors with a puppy, set up an exercise pen and create a jungle gym for the pen using PVC pipe that you can hang toys and items off of.  For the ground in the pen, vary the flooring. You can put bubble wrap down under a towel, cardboard stacked up to work on balance, and indoor/outdoor turf to hide kibble or treats in.  Add a small children's tunnel for exploring and boxes for climbing on and in.  

If your pets are going stir crazy from a lack of outdoor exercise, consider a treadmill. There are several manufacturers on the market, creating exercise wheels that are safe for cats and treadmills that are safe for dogs of all sizes. 

Finally, don't forget to groom your pets regularly during inclement weather. You need to remove the loose hair, dirt, and dead skin cells as then accumulate, particularly on pets who are spending a lot of times indoors where it is heated.  Their coats will dry faster if they get wet and be able to thermoregulate better when their coats and skin are in top condition.  Be sure and clip the hair/fur on feet and between toys to keep dirt, debris, and snow from accumulating there.  Obviously, raincoats and boots can help protect your pets on walks in rain, snow, etc.  Just know that training a dog to wear boots takes some time and patience!

Hang in there everyone.  Stay safe. Keep your brains and those of your pets exercised so that you can contentedly enjoy that book or TV program. And, as always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Ozzie and Westley happily wear their raincoats meaning less dog area 
to be dried off when they return home after their walks!


Thursday, January 5, 2023

Is It Time For Another Dog?

I had a lovely video appointment with a new client who lives in another state. She has a sweet, senior dog who is experiencing some dementia and a second dog who will be 5 years old in February. We were meeting not only to discuss what she can do to help her senior dog, but to discuss her next dog.  She asked if she'd "blown it already" by waiting too long.  She said she knew that pediatricians recommended 18-24 months between human children, and was wondering if it was similar in dogs! I truly got a kick out of this as that's probably not far off the mark really in terms of spacing with dogs, IF your goal is to have dogs that can really enjoy each other's company and learn from each other.  Is it too late if your dogs are 13 and 5 as my client's are?  Let's dive into this idea a little deeper.

First and foremost, the only reason to add a second (or third, or fourth!) dog to your family is because you, the human, really want to do so.  Adding canine family members should never be done for the benefit of the other resident dog(s).  While adding a younger dog or puppy may perk up your senior dog, for example, it's also a source of competition for a limited resource, namely you and your attention.  Not all dogs want to share their resources with other dogs; it's fine to share a ball at the dog park, but sharing toys, beds, and treats day in and day out is just stressful and unappealing for some dogs. While you may feel that you have enough time, attention, and treats for everyone, your resident dog(s) may feel differently about the new family member.  Dogs are competitive with each other, the family cat, and even human children.  Research has shown that the happiest dogs (as measured by cortisol levels in their blood) are those that live alone with no other dogs to compete with. I'm looking forward to the extension of this research where they look at other, non-canine family members and whether dogs would prefer you not have cats or kids either!

Having at least 18-24 months between your dogs does seem kind of ideal, though longer than that is okay too as long as you take the age gap into consideration when you think about those resources.  Dogs who are the same age (or very close in age) will have similar wants and desires.  Two puppies, for example, will need to be trained separately so that they don't bond more closely with each other than you.  And housetraining two dogs at the same time?  No fun, in my book.  If your dogs are two or more years apart, those resident dogs are already housetrained and cognizant of the house rules, meaning they can help you with the new arrival.  Observational learning is huge in dogs, so having calm, well-behaved, established dogs in your home when you add someone new can really help to get that newcomer off on the right paw. Just remember to keep the interactions monitored and appropriate, meaning play is okay as long as your resident dogs are up for it.  If they want to play for just a couple of minutes and that's it, then it's up to you to entertain that new, young dog.  And be sure to give your resident dogs priority in terms of resources and resource distribution; the new dog needs to know that they can't usurp the position of the resident dogs in your heart, or in your home.

There is a lot that goes into choosing a new dog for your family, everything from deciding on breed, age, and sex of that dog to how to make the transition to a multi-dog household successfully.  We've been thinking, quite seriously, about adding a new dog to our home.  Desi will be 13 this year and Ozzie turns 8 this week.  Yes, that's definitely more than a couple years of age difference between the dogs we already have and the new dog we'd potentially be adding.  We've enjoyed having Westley in our home when he visits, and he's now 4 years old.  Seems like it might simply be time for a new canine family member.  I'll keep you posted.  For now, it's just Desi and Ozzie, but don't be surprised if you see a new pup pop up in the next year or so.

And, as always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Puppy Ozzie definitely drove Desi nuts, on occasion, 
but they were fast friends.  Desi was extremely indulgent with Ozzie, 
leaving us, the humans, to correct and redirect Ozzie.




Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Post Holiday Blues

For many people, these next couple of weeks post-holidays are fraught with depression.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 64% of people report being affected by holiday depression, particularly as the season draws to a close.  Our pets have formed very close bonds with us and are, not surprisingly, affected by our moods and feelings as well. Thus a significant number of pet owners report depression in their pets this time of year too.  Here are a few ideas for helping your pets with their post-holiday blues:

1.  Walk the dog:  Oftentimes during the holidays, we get so busy we just don't have time for a good long walk with our canine companions.  Making time post-holidays for a long walk, or even heading out for a stroll on the beach or a local hiking trail can make all the difference in the world, weather permitting, of course.

2.  Grab a flirt pole:  Whether you have a dog or a cat, a game of chase the lure is a fun way to burn off a few of those extra holiday calories and just get your heart pumping.  This is wonderful exercise for those of you stuck at home due to inclement weather.

3.  Work on a puzzle:  You know I love a good puzzle toy for dogs, but there are great puzzle toys for cats as well.  Look for Nina Ottosson puzzles for both your dogs and cats and the Trixie company makes amazing puzzles for both as well.  

4.  Stretch:  We all know that deep, focused breathing and stretching can help us to feel more relaxed and less tense. Our dogs can benefit from stretching too.  Whether you both use a bosu ball and take turns stretching on it, or you break out the yoga mat and work on your downward dog/bow posture, you'll be getting in some good stretching exercises together. 

5.  Share a snack:  Not all people food is good for our pets, but some of it is not only shareable, it's good for everyone!  You can share your banana or apple with both your cats and dogs.  If you are watching a movie, why not airpop some plain popcorn and share that with your canine and feline friends?  No butter or salt needed!

I know this time of year can be really rough. I truly hope that all of you are taking good care of yourselves and your pet companions.  As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Westley enjoys cuddles on the couch, dog-shareable snacks, and Netflix, post-holidays. 
How about you?


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Let's Talk Leashes!

Yesterday, I met with a client who has a brand new puppy.  She hasn't had a puppy in years and is really trying to do "everything right" this time around.  I genuinely appreciate her enthusiasm for the scientific approach to raising puppies. One of her questions was about leashes.  She knew she needed to start leash training early, but her puppy resisted the leash, so she stopped, figuring it was better to try introducing the leash again when I was there.  This was a terrific way to go as then I could work with her puppy and the leash ensuring right from the start that the leash was a positive thing. I know I've talked about leashes many times, but I feel like it is such an important topic for our dogs that it bears another discussion. 

There are 8000 year old images of dogs on leashes, so the use of leashes is not a new concept.  What is new is a better understanding of how to use the leash and what kind of information your dog is receiving from you when on leash. The true purpose of a leash is safety, right?  We leash our dogs so that they don't run off, wander into traffic, or impede the progress of other people going about their lives.  This means that if you are walking a dog on a public street or sidewalk, your leash should be of a length suitable to that purpose given the size of your dog.  For most dogs that means a 4 to 8 foot leash.  I do not and will not EVER endorse the use of a retractable leash for any dog or any situation.  They are dangerous and should not be used on city streets or side walks and for those who like to use them on hikes, trips to the beach, etc. I myself prefer to use a long leash of 20-30 feet for such situations; these long lines are weighted like a regular leash and don't pose the hazard that those retractable leashes inherently do.  Not to mention the fact that most dog owners using retractable leashes aren't "reeling in their dogs" when they should, putting other people and their own dogs at risk.

Once you have your 4-8 foot leash, you have to attach it to something on the dog.  Small dogs and all puppies should be on harnesses; medium and large sized dogs can still be on harnesses, but a lot of  adult dog owners prefer a collar of some sort, whether that's a martingale collar, head halter, or flat collar. The first time you walk a puppy on a leash and harness, that walk should be in your house.  Just follow your puppy, keeping the leash loose in your hand.  They will spin around, try to grab the leash, sit, and then try to run away from it.  That's all okay!  Just go along with them.  The second they calm down, bend down, show them a treat, and then  lure them a few steps to follow you.  Keep the treat right in front of their nose so their focus is on that treat, not on the leash.  After several short sessions like this, you should be able to follow your puppy around on a leash inside your house.  You can practice maneuvering around furniture obstacles, or down hallways, to perfect your walking technique in those safe spaces before you ever venture out into the real world. Don't worry so much about getting a perfect heel; focus instead on keeping your puppy on one side, not under your feet, dragging behind you, or too far out front.  Somewhere in your stride works just fine.  Make sure you are grasping the leash gently but firmly, though not white-knuckle, death-gripping it. If you put too much pressure on the leash, shortening it so the dog feels pressure on its neck/back, most dogs will resist and pull harder.  Giving them a loose leash creates less anxiety and gives your dog more room to explore and sniff, thus relieving anxiety rather than creating or fostering it.  And, yes, sniffing and exploring are two things dogs like to do out on those leashed walks!

So, back to my client and her puppy. The puppy already had a harness on when I arrived.  I bent down and offered the puppy a few licks from a high value, lickable treat.  Once the puppy was enjoying that and wanting more, I brought the leash over and laid it on the floor next to us.  The puppy sniffed the leash tentatively and that earned a lick of the treat.  When the puppy backed away from the leash, the treat went away.  At this point, I asked the puppy to sit, rewarded that behavior, and hooked on the leash, no struggle at all.  Now, I stood up and gently held the leash with two fingers and followed her puppy as she moved around the room, tentatively at first, and then with gusto when she realized I was letting her choose our route.  Once she got the hang of what a leash felt like, I bent down with my lickable treat and encouraged her to walk where I wanted to walk.  I lured her along for about 15 paces, stopped, let her have a few licks, and then waited to see what she'd do.  She sat down and looked at me as if to say, "Where to now, treat lady?" We then walked all around the room, with me holding the leash gently and the puppy bouncing along on my left checking in for treats, and then sniffing corners of the room she'd never explored before as they were outside of her x-pen.  After 5 minutes of this, I had the puppy sit, and I removed the leash.  Session #1 of leash training complete and her puppy is no longer afraid of the leash.  Even more importantly, my client now understands how she should be holding the leash, and what her role is on those leashed walks; her job is to keep her puppy safe and make the walk age-appropriately enjoyable.

Now some of you may be saying, "That's all fine and well and good as that was a puppy. What about my leash pulling adult dog who has anxiety?"  Even for those dogs, loose leash walking is still your goal.  Walk your dog in your yard, inside your house, etc.  Just as we can get our daily exercise on a treadmill not a track, so can dogs get their walking exercise walking in a safe area like your yard or home.  Obviously, there aren't as many good/novel things to sniff there, but it is safe. Plus, you can make it more interesting for your dog by setting up "Easter eggs" in the areas of your home/yard where you will be walking for your dog to find when they walk.  Basically, hide kibble or treats where you will be walking for them to discover.  Keep your leash walking sessions short and rewarding until your dog becomes less anxious about leash walking in general. 

I know there are dog owners out there who still yank their dogs around by the leash, snap/pop the leash to get their dog's head up from sniffing, and offer other harsh corrections using the leash attached to their dog. It's a wonder those dogs will still go out on a leash!  I like to think of leashes the same way I think of reins on a horse; they are there for safety and for me to guide the horse on which way I'd like to go.  If you think yanking on a horse's reins will garner you any extra favor with a horse, you're wrong.  They are big animals who can knock you right off that saddle, or stop dead in their tracks and stop moving, if your whole approach to using the reins is based in control.  Just as reins and a saddle require a relationship between the rider and the horse to be successful, so does that leash/harness or leash/collar combo.  You have a relationship with your dog that you want to be positive and pleasant and rewarding for you both.  Good relationships do not involve asserting your control or authority in a way that causes pain, confusion, or frustration.  While every dog, at one time or another, will get out to the end of their leash and have it tighten their collar or harness uncomfortably as a consequence, that feeling doesn't have to be the rule for walks, but rather just that.  A learning opportunity, a chance to teach your dog a better strategy for walking on leash that involves tangible, predictable rewards for keeping near you, on a loose leash, while still being able to sniff and explore.

I'm really looking forward to my next session with this client and her puppy.  They are a lovely pair and I'm anticipating that their relationship will do nothing but blossom as they continue to discover how much they enjoy each other.

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

This is my buddy, Loki, on a recent session together.  You can clearly see that his 6 foot leash is loose, as it's actually dragging on the ground while he sniffs.  During our training sessions together, I add in short bouts of loose leash walking so that he can take a sniff break and enjoy being a dog!