Dog Behavior – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxiety

<Last updated 17MAY16>

 

dog going in crate-canstockphoto3233849Dogs are den animals and often find security and comfort in a den-like space such as a crate, under a table, or in some other small, confining area. In order for a crate to offer your dog security, it must be “den like.” Crates often work best when they are not a wire cage, but are one of the airline style crates that are plastic or fiberglass, and are enclosed on all sides except for a door at the front. In the wild, a den would typically be enclosed on all sides except for an entrance.

If you have a wire crate, you can convert it into a den by placing a board on top of it to make it more den-like. Make sure the board extends a couple of inches beyond both sides of the crate so you can hang a blanket over the board to close in the sides. You do not want the dog to be able to pull the blanket into the crate. Many wire crates have a pan at the bottom which can make noise and move around unexpectedly, which some dogs may find unsettling. You may wish to remove the pan or place an old towel or blanket over the tray, but make sure that your dog will not rip it apart and ingest it.

A crate should be large enough for your dog to sit up, lie down and turn around comfortably. However, if still housetraining, the dog should NOT have enough room to sleep in one corner and eliminate in another part of the crate.

Some beds are specifically made for dog crates, but I do not recommend them for dogs with anxiety issues, as they will often chew and possibly ingest items like this when left in the crate. Until you know your dog will do well in the crate, and is housetrained, I would recommend you do NOT use any bedding material. Muppy Under the End Table

Place the crate in an area that is quiet, but where your dog can still see and hear you. Remember, dogs are social animals and want to be with the rest of the family. They do not like feeling isolated. Putting the crate in your bedroom at night will help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog by allowing him to sleep near you.

Do not to abuse the use of the crate. We want the dog to like the crate so NEVER use it for punishment. If your dog spends a significant amount of time in a crate, it will also need a significant amount of time to exercise and play.

If Your Dog Is Already Acting Negatively Towards the Crate

Some dogs have already had a bad experience in a crate and will panic if you try to put them in a crate. In this case, we need to go slower and start with something crate-like, but different. What I am going to suggest will NOT confine the dog, thus, active management is mandatory, but will hopefully allow them to acclimate gradually to a crate-like environment.

Find a small table, a card table can work nicely for most size dogs, and start practicing the following exercises:

  1. Toss a treat or a favorite toy under the table, so your dog goes underneath to investigate. Do this a couple of times a day for several days.
  2. Start feeding your dog his meals under the table. Place the dish right up near the front of the table so the dog barely has to put his head in, to eat. Over several meals, as the dog becomes more comfortable, start putting the dish further back under the table.
  3. Once the dog is happily eating and spending time under the table, get an old blanket or some pieces of cardboard and cover two sides of the table so that it is now semi-enclosed. The front and back should still be open. Continue the exercises above with this newly configured table, recognizing that you may need to start slowly to get your dog comfortable.
  4. When the dog is happily spending time under the table with two sides enclosed, enclose the back of the table and continue the exercises you started above. After the dog is comfortable in this setting, try introducing a crate as noted below.

Introducing the dog to the crate

  1. Remove the door to the crate and let your dog explore it. Toss in a treat or a favorite toy so he goes in to investigate. Do this a couple of times a day for several days.
  2. Start feeding your dog his meals in the crate. Place the dish right up near the front of the crate so the dog barely has to put his head in, in order to eat. Over several meals, as the dog becomes more comfortable, start putting the dish further back in the crate.
  3. At the same time, you start feeding your dog his meals in the crate, you can also begin some other crate exercises to practice during the day. Have your dog go into the crate and feed him a high-value reward (cheese, a piece of chicken, something really good) through the door of the crate. While doing this, he is learning he gets the best rewards while in his crate. To keep these rewards high value, he should only get this treat for this particular exercise.
  4. When your dog is comfortable going all the way into the crate to eat his meal, put the door back on and quietly close the door behind them, but do NOT latch it. Let him come out when he wishes.
  5. Pick a word such as “kennel” and use it immediately before you put the dog in its crate for eating. When the dog is comfortable with the door closed, start latching it, but stay close.
  6. When the dog is comfortable staying in the crate eating with the door latched, start leaving them in the crate for longer periods after they finish eating.
  7. When you can keep the door latched for 5 minutes after the dog has stopped eating, start leaving the room. Be out of site but close by so you can hear your dog if they become anxious. Return after 5 minutes as long as the dog has not become anxious, and let the dog out of the crate. Do not make a big deal out of letting him out. Continue this until you can stay out of site, with the dog in the crate for at least 15 minutes. What we hope will happen is that the dog will eventually lie down and settle in the crate.
  8. Start using the word “kennel” to put your dog in the crate for short periods other than at mealtime. Give them a sturdy toy like a stuffed Kong or Nylabone to interact with while in their crate. The first time you do this, just step out of site for 5 minutes or less. If the dog does not panic or become anxious, continue to gradually, in baby steps, increase their amount of time in the crate with you out of site.
  9. When you can leave the dog in the crate for at least 30 minutes, with you just out of site, try leaving the dog in the crate, and leaving the house. Come back in the house after a couple of minutes, listen, and see if the dog is still calm. If so, just stay out of site and continue to work on increasing the amount of time left in the crate. Gradually, increase the time you are outside until you can leave the dog for 30 minutes with you outside.
  10. When you can leave the dog in the crate for at least 30 minutes, with you outside, leave the dog in the crate, leave the house, get in the car, start it and drive at least 100 feet away. Turn off the car, walk back to the house and see if the dog is still relaxed. Gradually, increase the time you can leave the dog for in the crate with you driving away until the dog can be left for 3 to 4 hours. Remember, if you want to be successful, you need to go in baby steps. For some dogs, this might mean increasing the amount of time you leave them by just 1 or 2 minutes per session.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (HTTP://WWW.WORDS-WOOFS-MEOWS.COM)

Alone Training – <click to read>

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress – <click to read>

Bach Flower Remedies – Bach Rescue Remedy® – <click to read>

Canine Behavior – ADAPTIL™/DAP COMFORTZONE™ – <click to read>

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Book Review: Barking: The Sound of a Language by Turid Rugaas

Barking- The Sound of a Language by Turid RugaasAnother excellent little book from Turid Rugaas, this one dealing with a common complaint from dog guardians – “My dog barks too much.” Rugaas explains the many reasons dogs bark and offers advice on how to determine why your dog is barking. She also offers suggestions on how to change your dog’s behavior so they bark less. Since many of the reasons dogs bark excessively are a result of stress and anxiety, Rugaas addresses the need to reduce the dog’s stress, which may mean changing our behavior as well. She also clearly explains why punishment based strategies and tools like anti-barking shock collars are more likely to make the problem worse, rather than better. If you feel your dog is barking too much, this book is a MUST READ. Even if your dog is quiet as a mouse, I recommend this book as it will give you greater insights to your dog’s vocalizations and their canine point-of-view.

©2016, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Links We Like – 17JAN16

Links We LikeEvery day we review the internet for pet related posts that we think might be of interest to our clients. Usually, they contain valuable information about pet behavior, training, health or nutrition. Occasionally we find a post that is just simply funny. We save the links to these posts and share them in our email newsletter, on FaceBook and in my blog, www.words-woofs-meows.com,

Gail Fisher’s Dog Tracks: A reminder of the dangers of ‘dominance’ training – This is a great column from my friend and colleague Gail Fisher of Gail Fisher’s All Dogs Gym ​in Manchester, NH. If someone is telling you that you need to be dominant over your dog or be the alpha, I encourage you to read her column. See more at http://www.unionleader.com/article/20160103/NEWS01/160109974#sthash.IEGgtcrK.dpuf

Dr. Karen Becker on anesthesia-free dental cleaning (also called non-professional dental scaling, or NPDS) for dogs and cats – Dr. Becker explains the benefits of having your veterinarian perform any needed dental procedures on your pet as opposed to a non-professional – http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2016/01/07/pet-anesthesia-free-dental-cleaning.aspx

Dr. Karen Becker – Never Make Your Puppy Endure This Cruel Procedure… No Matter What – Dr. Becker discusses the practice of ear cropping for cosmetic purposes. She describes what it entails, the AVMA’s position and why several provinces in Canada have defined cosmetic ear cropping as an unethical practice. – http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2016/01/06/dog-ear-cropping.aspx

Dr. Karen Becker – 10 Behaviors That Stress Your Cat Like Crazy… Some May Surprise You – If you live with a cat or interact with cats on a regular basis, I encourage you to read this article. Often the calls and inquiries I get about cats are related to the issues discussed in this article by Dr. Becker. http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2016/01/09/stress-triggers-for-cats.aspx

Factors to Consider Before Getting a Brachycephalic Breeds – Dr. Karen Becker – Owners Relinquishing Popular Purebred Pets in Record Numbers – In this blog post, Dr. Becker talks about the increase in the popularity of dogs and cats with a short-head and a short-muzzle. Some of the more common dog breeds in this category are; Boston Terrier, Boxer, Bulldog, Pekingese, Pug and Shih Tzu. Brachycephalic cat breeds include Himalayans and Persians. As these breeds become more popular, more of them are ending up in shelters looking for a new home. People are surrendering these pets when they discover the frequent health problems, and cost of caring for them. Sadly some breeders are selecting for even more extreme head and muzzle shapes which is increasing health problems. – http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2016/01/13/pug-shih-tzu-pet.aspx

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Dog Behavior – Introduction to Canine Communication

Even though dogs do not ‘talk’ in the same way that we do, they do manage to communicate with other dogs’ quite well. Dogs use some forms of vocal communication (whine, bark, growl, howl, etc.) as well as a variety of body postures and movements to indicate their messages. Puppies learn these communication skills while with their litter and mother. Puppies separated from their litter before eight weeks of age run the risk of not having enough exposure to this process and may exhibit behavioral problems.

If you spend some time learning canine as a second language, you will be rewarded with a much better understanding of your pet and his behavior. With study and practice, you can learn to understand what your dog is trying to communicate.

Vocal Communication

Barking, whining, and growling are all means of vocal communication. Whining is an indication of stress or anxiety. A dog may whine when he is doing something that he dislikes or that frightens him. Punishing a dog for whining will only make the problem worse. You need to determine the cause of the stress and find a way to remove it.

Growling can take two different forms. A ‘play’ growl can be heard when dogs are engaged in roughhousing or mock fighting. It is usually low and rumbly, but soft. A warning growl is different. This dog means business. A warning growl usually increases in volume as it continues and is accompanied by a menacing body posture (this will be discussed further below).

Never punish your dog for growling. A growl is a very useful warning signal. A dog that is punished for growling will stop the growling, but it will not remove the reason for the growl. A dog that no longer growls no longer gives a warning before taking more drastic action. As a trainer who sometimes deals with aggressive dogs, I much prefer a dog that gives me a warning.

Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to barking than are others. A bark can convey many different kinds of information. If you listen closely, you can probably tell an “I’m bored” bark from a “somebody is at the door!” bark. Some dogs are recreational barkers and just love to hear the sound of their own voices. They bark and bark and bark. Since this behavior is self-reinforcing, it can be difficult to resolve.

People have gone to extremes to remedy a barking problem, everything from electronic shock collars to having the dog’s vocal cords cut. However, even these extreme methods do not stop many dogs and do not change the dog’s emotional state that is often one of anxiety and fear. While a shock collar or removal of the dog’s vocal cords may make us feel better, it usually makes the dog feel worse.

Barking is a very complex behavior. If you have a barking problem, I suggest you work with a qualified trainer or behaviorist.

Body Language

While dogs do vocalize, most of their communication with one another, and even us is done through their body language. Canine body language is very subtle, yet also very sophisticated. Research by Dr. Patricia McConnell has indicated that “Important signals may last only a tenth of a second and be no bigger than a quarter of an inch.” For Example: Leaning forward ½ an inch can stop a dog from coming while leaning back ½ an inch encourages the dog to come.

Dogs manage to convey an enormous amount of information by small changes in posture and demeanor. For example, many people believe that a wagging tail signals a happy dog. If the tail is low and relaxed, this is probably true. However, if the tail is held high and is quickly switching back and forth, the dog is signaling agitation or the possible intention to attack. In addition to the tail, there are other cues such as whether or not the hackles (hair along the back of the neck) are raised. This little trick actually serves to make the dog look bigger and more frightening, and usually occurs when the dog feels threatened. However, the hackles may simply be up because the dog is in a high state of arousal or excitement. We often see this when dogs are simply playing.

Other signs of aggression can include a dog that takes a stance with most of its weight over its front legs, almost leaning forward on its toes. Ears may be back or up, depending upon the breed. Along with a low growl, the dog may snarl and show teeth. A dog that intends to attack will probably stare hard at its victim.

A submissive dog displays a whole different set of postures. The submissive dog will keep its head down, and may lower itself to the ground. A really submissive dog may go ‘belly up’ or urinate when approached. These are indications that the dog is trying to avoid conflict and does not want to fight. The submissive dog will not usually look directly into your eyes. A dog that has panicked and is very frightened may stare at you.

Aside from tail wagging, a happy dog usually displays other signs. Some even go beyond tail wagging to whole body wagging! A happy dog’s mouth is usually slightly open and relaxed. They often look as though they are laughing. The entire body seems at ease when the dog is happy.

When two dogs are together, people often have a hard time telling whether the dogs intend to play or fight. One sure sign of intention to play is a play bow. In a play bow, the dog rests its front legs and chest on the ground and leaves its hindquarters in the air which is then often accompanied by frenzied tail wagging and jumping from side to side. A play bow is an invitation to romp. Try getting a play bow from your dog by getting down on the floor and doing one first.

Dogs who intend to fight have a much stiffer body posture and their movements are sharper and more deliberate.

 Verbal versus Visual Communication

When you bring your pet to us for boarding or grooming, you let us know your pet’s needs and requirements by talking to us. As humans, our primary method of communicating with one another is the spoken word. More simply, we make noises that other humans can understand. People are so accustomed to communicating with our own species by talking, that we presume it is the most efficient method of communicating with other species such as our dogs. That is not the case.

While our dogs offer many vocalizations (barking, whining, howling, etc.) their primary method of communicating with one another and with us is visual. They observe body language. When with one another they look at how they stand, what they do with their tails, ears, eyes, and lips. This is why most dogs will learn a hand signal easier and quicker than they learn a verbal cue for a behavior.

To demonstrate this, Dr. Patricia McConnell, a canine behaviorist at the University of Wisconsin, conducted a simple experiment. She selected 24 puppies, six and a half weeks old, four each from litters of Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Border Collies, Dalmatians, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers. She and her graduate students then spent four days training the puppies to “sit” upon presentation of both an audible and a visual signal. The trainer presented a sound at and then they scooped their hand up over the puppy’s head. On the fifth day, the trainers presented the puppies with one signal at a time so they could determine whether the audible or visual signal resulted in more correct responses. Twenty-three of the 24 puppies responded better to the visual signal than the sound. One of the puppies responded equally well to both. Eight of the puppies did not respond to the audible signal at all. The following table indicates correct responses to audible and visual signals by breed.

 

BREED VISUAL AUDIBLE
Australian Shepherd 92.5% 15%
Beagle 80% 0%
Border Collie 92.5% 15%
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 90% 50%
Dalmatian 80% 20%
Min. Schnauzer 80% 0%

 

This simple study suggests that when training our dogs we can make it easier for them and ourselves by teaching a visual cue first.

We also need to be aware of everything we are doing with our bodies when training our dogs. Just because we think the visual cue for sit is scooping our hands, does NOT mean that is what the dog is really cueing on. For example, one year one of our students commented his dog was inconsistently responding to a visual cue for sit. After watching them for a few exercises, I quickly determined the problem. While the student usually scooped his hand for a sit, occasionally he would scoop his hand and then rest his hand on his stomach. The dog sat every time the student scooped and then rested his hand on his stomach. The dog had a visual cue for SIT; it just was not the cue the student intended.

Spend some time watching your dog interact with you and other living things. The better you learn their language, the happier you both can be.

 

Calming Signals

When dogs interact with one another and with us, they often use body language to cut-off perceived aggression or other threats. Turid Rugaas, a canine behaviorist from Norway, calls this type of body language “Calming Signals.” These signals are used to prevent aggression, and for calming down nervousness in others. Dogs use these signals to communicate with one another, us, and even other species of animals. They are a dog’s primary method of resolving a potential conflict.

By learning, understanding and using these calming signals, you can communicate better with your dog. I have outlined some of these calming signals below. If you would like to learn more about them, I suggest you read Ms. Rugaas’ book, On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals and watch her video, Calming Signals: What Your Dog Tells You.

Averting the Eyes/The Look Away

Averting EyesBreaking eye contact, by averting the eyes is often the first sign of stress observed in a dog.

 

 

 

 

Head Turn

Head TurnIf your dog becomes nervous about the approach of another dog or person, he may turn his head from side-to-side, or may just turn away; which signals the other dog that they are approaching too quickly or too directly.

 

 

Full Body Turn

Full Body TurnA full body turn is an extension of turning your head. If a group of dogs are playing and some of them get too rough, other dogs may turn their side or back to them to get the dogs settled down. We often saw this behavior with our dogs when playing. If our Border collieX Shed felt play was “getting too wild,” she would turn away from the other dogs. If your dog is jumping or whining at you, turning away from them may help calm them.

Nose Lick

Nose LickRapid flicking of the tongue over the nose is also a common calming signal.  It is often seen with dogs at the veterinarians or when the dog is at the groomers.

 

 

 

Sniffing

SniffingSniffing as a calming signal must be reviewed within the context in which it appears. Obviously, dogs sniff for other reasons than to just indicate stress. However, if a dog suddenly starts sniffing in a difficult situation, it is probably a sign of stress.

 

Yawning

YawningDogs may yawn when in stressful situations such as at the vet’s office or during a quarrel among its family. If your dog is feeling stressed, standing still and yawning may help them relax. They need to see you yawn though, so even though it is impolite, you do not want to cover your mouth if this is to work.

 

Squinting

SquintingWhen a dog squints, it is a way of showing that they are comfortable in a situation. As illustrated here this dog is also in a play bow.

 

 

 

 

 

Play Position

Play BowDogs will use a modified “play bow” (front legs and chest on the ground with hind quarters in the air) to initiate play or to calm another animal down that is causing them some uncertainty. Unlike a play bow as an invitation to play, a play bow used as a calming signal occurs slowly. You can do a play bow to initiate play or to help relax a dog.

 

Scratching

ScratchingScratching is like sniffing; dogs will scratch for many reasons, and it does not always mean they are feeling stressed or anxious. However, a dog that is under stress will often scratch while under stress.

 

Splitting

SplittingSplitting occurs when the “splitting” dog places themselves between two or more dogs in the early stages of an altercation, in an attempt to diffuse the situation. This behavior sometimes occurs when two humans are hugging.

You can learn much about your dog by just sitting back and watching them interact with you, other family members, other dogs and other animals. If you spend the time to do this, it will greatly increase your ability to communicate with your dog

Distance Increasing Signals

These signals are meant to increase the distance between two individuals. They are a way of saying “you are invading my comfort zone” and by paying attention to them, one is often able to avoid being bitten. These signals are:

Tooth Displays Increase in Height
Whale Eye Intense Barking
“Hard Eyes” Tail up high, “flagging”
Body weight forward Freezing in Place
Ears forward Hackles Up (Piloerection)
Tense body/face Mouth Closed
Head/Neck is lowered Urine marking

 

Why Do We Need to Know All of This?

Dogs communicate very well with their bodies, and if we know what they are trying to tell us we can often help them get out of a stressful situation. The graphic below is the Stress Escalation Ladder developed by Turid Rugaas. It illustrates how stress increases and what signs we see in our dogs as the stress elevates. The earlier we can intervene the less likely our dog is to get out of control.

Stress Escalation Ladder

How We Communicate With Our Dogs – Dog Handling Skills

Just as you can learn a great deal from your dog’s body language, your dog reads a lot about you from your body language. Body language you can use to your advantage is:

  • Do not bend over your dog. Squat next to them or stand straight. When you bend over the dog, you are putting them in a defensive position.
  • When training the recall, stand straight or squat with your arms outstretched. Stooping over the dog will cause him to avoid you.
  • Your face says a great deal about your attitude.
  • When petting a dog for the first time, touch them on the sides of their body and their chest. Never pat them on the top of the head.
  • Avoid hugging your dog. No matter how much pleasure you get from hugs, your dog does not enjoy it.

 

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

What Should I Don When My Dog Growls – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/18/canine-behavior-what-should-i-do-when-my-dog-growls/

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/

Handouts to Download

Body Language of Fear and Aggression – Dr. Sophia Yin – http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/dog-bite-prevention-week-poster-on-the-body-language-of-fear-and-aggression

Signs of Anxiety and Fear – Dr. Marty Becker – http://www.nehumanesociety.org/for-pet-owners/behavior-help/anxiety-and-fear.pdf

 

 

Books

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006

Calming Signals: What Your Dog Tells You – DVD – Turid Rugaas,

The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2002

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007

The Language of Dogs – Understanding Canine Body Language and Other Signals- DVD’s – Sarah Kalnajs, Blue Dog Training and Behavior, 2006

OFF-LEASH Dog Play, Robin Bennett, CPDT and Susan Briggs, CKO, C&R Publishing, 2008

Web Sites

Turid Rugaas – Calming Signals – http://en.turid-rugaas.no/calming-signals—the-art-of-survival.html

YouTube

Turid Rugaas Calming Signals DVD – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj7BWxC6iVs

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy

Dog Training – A Rescue Dogs Perspective

< A version of this article was published in the January 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News>

By Muppy Hanson, CUTE, ADORABLE, VIVACIOUS

Hi, everyone! My name is Muppy. Don asked me to write this month’s column because he thought I could provide some valuable insights. Plus he said if I did this for him I would get some extra tummy rubs and yummy treats!

Muppy and Ernie on the way to Maine
Muppy and Ernie on the way to Maine

So what do I know about being a rescue dog? I am one, thanks to the kindness and compassion of several people in my birth state of Mississippi. I might not be here without them. I was living with a family, I had puppies, and then one day my people moved away and left, and my puppies and I were all alone. Fortunately, a nice lady named Catherine heard about me and rescued me by taking me to Rose, another nice lady. Rose fostered my puppies and me until we could be put up for adoption. I took good care of my pups until they were eight weeks old and then they were transported to New England to new homes. Soon after that, I was also sent to a rescue group in Maine, Helping Paws-Maine, where I was placed into a foster home until I was adopted. I got to ride to Maine with my friend Ernie who was also going up for adoption.

I did not know it, but Don and Paula were looking for a dog about the same time I was arriving in Maine. They found me on PetFinder, completed an application and made an appointment to meet me at my Maine foster home with another nice lady named Victoria.

When I first met Don and Paula in my foster home, they were sitting on a couch with Ernie. That boy is quite the social butterfly, unlike me at the time. When Don sat down next to me on the floor, I moved away because I was not so sure about him. However, once he started giving me some treats, I decided he was safe!

We all visited for a while, and then Paula and Don did some paperwork and then I got to go for a car ride to Bangor. It was May 1st, and I had a new home! When we arrived in Bangor, Don spent the rest of the day with me. We started off

Napping on Don's Lap
Napping on Don’s Lap

snuggling on the floor and then I took a nap in his lap while he was in his recliner. I got to explore the yard and that evening I again fell asleep in his lap.

The next morning started with Don taking me out to do my poops and then he sat down on the floor with my breakfast and started teaching me an attention behavior. All I had to do was look at him, and I’d get a piece of kibble. Yummy! I like this game! Over the next few days, I got to meet the staff at Don and Paula’s business, some of the dogs, my new veterinarian and the people at the bank.

Don told me that eventually I would get to go to school, but because I was a bit unsure of new things, especially people, he said he was going to let me settle in first. He hung a bag of treats on the door to his office along with a sign asking people coming in to grab a treat to give to me. Until then he worked with me on the attention behavior, recall and sit. He said I was a fast learner, and I loved how he rewarded me when I got it! He always makes training fun for both of us.

One of the things I started doing in my new home was to jump up on people I liked. I just get so excited when I see a person that I like, that I cannot help myself. I see them and POP! my front paws are on them, and I am smiling, hoping they will pet me and say “Hi.” Since I was shy, Don allowed me to do this as it was so rewarding to me. Since it was something I felt good about it helped me feel good about interacting with people. One day a strange man came to visit Don in his office, and I did not even think about being shy. I just ran up and jumped and said, “Hi! I am Muppy!” He patted and talked to me and was real nice. After that Don told me it looked like I was over my shyness and we would now start to work on sitting for greeting. I do pretty well, most of the time. There are some people that I like so much; I am talking about you Deb and Miriam, that I cannot always contain myself!

I started my first group training class at Green Acres on August 30th, 2013, four months after joining the Hanson family. Both Don and Paula went to class with me; Don says it is very important for all family members to be involved with training.

Muppy Running-Square
Muppy’s Famous Recall*

In that class I learned to do the following on cue; look, sit, lie down, walk nicely on a leash, come when called, leave it, and wait or stay. I have since taken Green Acres Level 2 and Level, 3 classes, as well; some more than once! I love training classes because it is so much fun! It is an opportunity for me to interact with my favorite people whether we are actually in class, or I am working individually with Don on the days in between class. Moreover, when I see Don out in the training field teaching classes filled with other people and dogs; I let him know I want to have fun too! That is why he keeps enrolling us in classes because it is so much fun for both of us.

Don and Muppy in class*
Don and Muppy in class*

So I guess this is where I am supposed to tell you what I have learned. Every dog should be trained; training helps establish a bond and makes us better companions. It also makes it possible for us to go more places with you and to spend more time with you. Isn’t that why you got us in the first place, to be your steadfast companion? Work with a professional dog trainer either privately or in group classes as they can help you learn about your dog and make the process of training fun for both of you. Make sure any trainer you work with is committed to methods that are force-free, pain-free, and fear-free. The Pet Professionals Guild (http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/) can be a great resource for finding such a trainer. If you have a rescue dog like me, starting in a group class immediately might not be the best thing to do. A professional trainer can help you make that determination and can help you start working with your dog at home. Lastly, be patient with your dog and yourself and most importantly, ALWAYS make training fun!

*Photos by Debra Bell, Bell’s Furry Friends Photography

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Cat Litter: Who Gets to Choose?

A version of this article appeared in the 22DEC15 issue of The Maine Edge

Cartton Cat in Litterbox-canstockphoto10613617Cat litter is not a topic that typically comes up in polite conversation. Unless you own a cat, you probably don’t think about cat litter at all. The initial premise behind cat litter, which was “invented” back in 1947, was to provide cats with an indoor bathroom. Cat ownership has steadily increased, and as more people keep their cats inside all of the time, cat litter has exploded into a $2 billion per year industry.  The ASPCA estimates the average cat owner spends around $200 per year, per cat, on cat litter, $60 more than the average family spends on toilet paper in one year. On an annual basis, in the US alone, the need for cat litter results in the mining of five billion pounds of clay. Manufacturer’s process and package the litter that we then pour into our cats litter box. Our cat “uses” their box and then we scoop out the soiled litter and eventually dispose of it in a landfill. Cat litter has a significant monetary and environmental impact on the world.

Version 1.0 of cat litter was pretty simple. It was a type of clay made of Fuller’s Earth that readily absorbed cat urine and thus helped to control the odors associated with cat waste. Since cats normally would urinate and defecate in the dirt outside, they easily adapted to using a box filled with this new “dirt-like” product.

Over the years, efforts have been made to sell more cat litter by creating illusions of convenience and by making the litter box smell less stinky. Companies now use many alternate materials for cat litter. Among them are clays that readily clump around the urine, which makes the litter in the box last longer. In an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of clay litter, other materials are being used. These include; recycled newspaper, corn, wood pellets, environmentally-sustainable wood shavings and even green tea. Additionally, to make the litter more consumer friendly; basically to stink less after use, litter companies have added a plethora of chemicals to their basic product. These include things as simple and innocuous as baking soda, and less desirable ingredients like chemical deodorants, clumping agents, and even Teflon.

Litter companies advertise their latest innovations in an attempt to get your attention. You decide that cat litter that stinks less is a great idea and then rush out and buy a bag without first consulting with your cat. When you run out of the old litter, you fill Garfield’s box with the new miracle product, proud that your home is going to smell better. That night you come home, sit down on your bed and feel the wet spot. One smell and you know that Garfield has decided your bed, with its new expensive mattress, is a better place to pee than the litter box. Cats are pretty particular about where they choose to go to the bathroom. If your cat dislikes where you have placed their box, if they don’t like the tactile sensation of the litter material; admit it you don’t like the rough tissue paper used in many public restrooms, or if they don’t like the cloying chemical smell of the litter, they will find a better place to perform their bathroom activities.

So the answer to “Cat Litter: Who Gets to Choose?” is your cat. Whenever switching litters, provide your cat with two litter boxes; one containing the litter they have been using and one with the new litter. See which litter your cat prefers and if after a week they are not using the new litter, take a hint. NOTE: Male cats can urinate in inappropriate places if they are experiencing a urinary tract infection. This is not something to take lightly and minimally requires that you at least call your veterinarian.

Other rules of litterbox etiquette that will make life with your cat or cats more pleasant.

  • Have one litter box per cat, plus one. So if you have three cats you should have a minimum of four litter boxes.
  • Do NOT have the litter boxes all in the same space, side-by-side, but instead have them located throughout your home.
  • Make sure the litter boxes are not located in “busy” areas or any area where the dog can access them.
  • Avoid placing litter boxes next to machinery, like a furnace that may startle your cat if it turns on while they are using their box.
  • Scoop each litter box at least once per day, and clean it thoroughly once a week.

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Preparing Your Pets for the Holidays

< A version of this article was published in the November 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News>

November and December can be a joyous, yet also a chaotic and hectic time of the year. We can look forward to several major holidays, each of which can mean more activities at school for the kids, and an increased probability of guests in our home. To prepare for those activities, we may also find it necessary to spend more time away from home attending school concerts, company parties, and family gatherings. Some people thrive on a flurry of activity and some long for a calmer time of year. Our pets, especially dogs, and cats typically are more likely to be fans of predictability and routine.  Here are a few tips to make the coming frenzy less stressful for your pets.

Do not forget your pet(s)

  • As you get busy with the holidays, please do not forget your pet. Make sure to allocate time for them, as they miss you when you are not home as much as usual. You might also find that spending time with them helps you to relax from all of the holiday madness.

Family Gatherings

  • Put your dog in his crate with a bone or favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times – when guests are arriving and leaving as well as when meals are being prepared and served. If your cats are not fond of large numbers of people, or people they do not know, set them up in a room where they can be alone. Make sure your guests know that they are to leave your pet alone in this situation.
  • Assign one adult to be in charge of each of the dogs, to watch for signs of stress and to protect the dog from unwanted attention from children. At the same time, assign one adult to supervise each baby or toddler, with no other tasks assigned to them. Make sure that ALL interactions between pets and children are supervised by an adult.
  • Not every dog likes every person – ALWAYS let your pet decide if they want to meet someone new.
  • If you are quite certain, your pet will not enjoy the increased activity due to the event, or if you are more relaxed knowing your pet is in a safe, pleasant environment, consider boarding your pet the day and night of the event.

 

Special considerations for the holidays

  • Pets do not make good holiday gifts, especially if the person receiving the gift is not aware of it. If you want to get a pet related gift for someone get them a book on selecting a pet, or a leash or toy for the pet to come.
  • Many holiday plants such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are poisonous to pets. Make sure they are someplace where your pet cannot get to them.
  • Be cautious about where you leave holiday gifts, especially those with food inside. A misplaced box of chocolates can kill a dog.
  • Candy and other holiday treats sweetened with Xylitol can also be fatal when pets ingest them.
  • Keep lights and fragile ornaments off the lower branches of your holiday tree where your pet can get to them.
  • Make sure all electrical cords for holiday lights and decorations are located where your pet will not become entangled in them or attempt to chew on them.
  • Avoid using edible ornaments on your tree.
  • Tinsel can be very attractive to dogs and cats and can also be fatal if ingested.

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Have a safe and joyous holiday season!

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©01NOV16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>