Pets, Who Cares for Them When You Are Away?

< A version of this article was published in the September 2015 issue of Down East Dog News>

Don and Muppy - Summer 2014
Don and Muppy – Summer 2014

It is September, and Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before you know it. If you plan on going away for either holiday and will need someone to care for your pets at that time, you should be looking for that someone NOW. No matter who cares for your pets during your absence, there are only so many spots available at the inn, and when they are gone, they are gone. The best places will typically fill up weeks in advance of the holidays. While pet care providers may have last minute cancelations, you probably don’t want to bet your airline tickets on that.

A friend or family member, a professional pet sitter, or a professional boarding facility are all options that you may wish to consider when looking for someone to care for your pets when you go away. This post will highlight some of the benefits and disadvantages of each of these options as well as review factors that apply to all of the various pet care choices.

Before entrusting the care of your pet to anyone you should:

  • Notify your veterinarian and let them know that someone else is caring for your pet and may be contacting them in case of an emergency.
  • Set up an opportunity for your pet to meet those that will be caring for them. Make sure that your pet is comfortable around them. Likewise, the caregivers need to be comfortable with your pet. If your pet is not staying at your home while you are away, it is a good idea to give your pet an opportunity to familiarize themselves with where they will be staying ahead of time.
  • Make sure that the people caring for your pet understand their behavior and any health issues. It is absolutely essential that you be completely upfront and honest about your pet’s health status and behavioral quirks. If your pet has aggression issues, failing to disclose all the details about your dogs aggression and reactivity is putting others at risk. If they have occasional lameness, and you forget to mention this, you may put your pet at risk for overexertion.
  • Make arrangements for an emergency contact, someone who can authorize medical care for your pet in the eventuality your pet care provider is unable to contact you. This individual may also be needed to care for your pet if the pet care provider indicates that they cannot care for your pet. Your contact may need to assume financial responsibility for your pet in your absence. Most veterinary practices, especially emergency clinics, require payment upfront. Emergency veterinary care can easily result in a bill greater than $1000. If the pet is a senior or has existing health issues, you may want to leave written instructions for the veterinarian with your pet care provider, just in case they require medical attention in your absence.
  • Whoever is caring for your pet should have contact information for you, your veterinarian and the closest emergency veterinary clinic. They should also have a copy of your pet’s most recent vaccination records and any other information applicable to specific health concerns for your pet.

Before you entrust the care of your pet to anyone, you should ask them the following:

  • Have you had formal training in pet first aid and are you able to apply first aid if necessary?
  • Have you had training in and experience with supervising interactions between pets that do not interact on a regular basis? Are you familiar with basic canine body language?
  • Do you have experience in giving pets medications; pills, ointments or injections?
  • Do you promise that you will not use any of the aversive tools or techniques defined as harmful in the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines? Tools and methods that the guidelines list as harmful are; prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. As horrendous as this sounds it has happened, even here in Maine.

Friends and Family

Having a family member stop by your home or having them take your pet to their home while you are gone is certainly an option worth considering. However, it is in your pet’s best interest that a friend or family member have the same basic qualifications as noted above. Also, consider that the holidays are especially hectic events for most families and are probably a less than an ideal time to take on pet care responsibilities for someone else. You will want to ask a friend or family member many of the same questions you would ask a professional pet, sitter. You will also want to review where your pet will be staying. Is there a fenced yard where your dog can spend some time outdoors? If your dog has a quiet area for sleeping, ask if they will have a similar area where they will be staying? If your friend has pets of their own, and they do not get along with your pet, will the friend be able to keep all pets separate, safe and happy?

Professional Pet Sitter

A pet sitter can often be a good alternative for a pet that is unsettled by change. A pet that is anxious in new environments or is uncomfortable around other animals may do better staying in their home. Likewise, a senior pet that is no longer in the best of health may find it easier to stay at home.

When looking for a pet sitter I always suggest that you look for someone that will check your pets during the day and be there at night to watch over your pets and your home. How often they check in on your pets during the day will be variable with your pets specific needs; however, I would recommend a minimum of two visits per day. While cats can technically get by with someone stopping by for a half hour twice a day, the same cannot be said for dogs. You want to keep your pets schedule as normal as possible, so a pet sitter should be in your home the same times of the day that you and another family member are there.

Maine does not regulate pet sitters, so make sure you check them out thoroughly. In addition to asking the questions above, I suggest you also ask:

  • Are you a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, Pet Sitters International or the Pet Professional Guild? Although not the same as being licensed, a pet sitter that is a member of at least one of these associations is demonstrating a commitment to their profession. Those that are members of the Pet Professional Guild must also commit to and follow PPG’s Guiding Principles. A significant part of the PPG Guiding Principles is this statement: “To be in any way affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild Members Understand Force-Free to mean: No shock, No Pain, No Choke, No Fear, No physical force, No physical molding, No compulsion based methods are employed to train or care for a pet.”
  • How much time will you be spending with my pet(s)? In addition to feeding your pet and taking care of bathroom breaks, a pet sitter should be playing with and exercising your pets and depending on your pet, just spending some time with them relaxing.
  • What steps will you take if my pet accidentally gets away from you and runs off? Make sure that they can safely handle your pet when taking them outside so that your pet does not inadvertently run off.
  • How many employees do you have?
  • What happens if you get sick, are in an accident, have car trouble or there is a blizzard? What will you do to ensure that my pets will be cared for on schedule, every day? Many pet sitters are one person businesses. Please be sure they have a contingency plan in place and that you are comfortable with how they will ensure your pets are cared for if they are unable to do so.
  • Are you and your employees bonded and insured? Remember, a pet sitter will have keys to your home.

Professional Boarding Facility

Professional boarding facilities are regulated and licensed in the state of Maine; they must follow state regulations for the boarding of pets. These rules govern housing, feeding, sanitation, record keeping and basic standards of care. However, these rules are typically very rudimentary, and the best facilities will do far better. The best facilities will have staff training requirements for pet first aid, pet behavior, health, and handling skills. They may often include daily playtime as part of their package. Most facilities will have detailed contracts that you will be asked to sign for the benefit of you as well as the business.

Most pets do very well when boarding and many facilities suggest you give your pet a “test drive” by either boarding during the day or maybe even trying an overnight before you book a weeklong vacation. In addition to the questions above, the following are some suggested questions for the kennel.

  • Are you licensed? Even though it is a legal requirement, some try to get around the law.
  • Is anyone on your staff credentialed as a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant or Certified Professional Dog Trainer? Understanding pet behavior is critical when caring for someone’s pet. Changes in a pet’s behavior can be subtle, and may often be the first sign that they are not doing well physically and emotionally. Individuals that have the above certifications have been accredited by internationally recognized organizations and must continue their education to maintain their certification. Having at least one such person on staff is a sign of a superior facility.
  • Do you allow interactions between other dogs and if so, how are they supervised? Supervising dogs at play, especially dogs that do not interact on a frequent basis, requires knowledge of canine behavior and communication. Staff training will include professionally developed programs on these topics. Staff will evaluate each dog for size, age, and playstyle.  A staff person will always supervise dogs when at play. At Green Acres, we have one pet technician for every five playing.
  • Does someone stay at the facility at night? In some cases, owners may live on site, but there are facilities where that is not the case. Prior to purchasing Green Acres my wife and I we boarded our pets. Having someone on site at night was and is still an essential requirement for us when boarding our pet.
  • I am repeating the following from above, but that is because I believe it is so important. Do you promise that you will not use any of the aversive tools or techniques defined as harmful in the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines? Things that the guidelines list as harmful are; prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. Sadly there are facilities in Maine that use these tools and methods.

Hopefully, you now have some ideas of what to look for if you need someone to care for your pets. If you are going away for the holidays, now is the time to start looking. Keep in mind that pet care providers are busiest when pet owners travel, which often corresponds to when the kids are out of school. Reserve your spots early!

For more information on Green Acres Kennel Shop and our boarding services, check us out at www.greenacreskennel.com, or better yet stop by and visit us in person at 1653 Union Street, Bangor ME. We can be reached at 207-945-6841.

You can listen to an episode of The Woof Meow Show where we discussed this topic at http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-09-05-Pet_Care_Options_When_You_Go_Away.mp3

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Pet Health and Wellness – Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being

< A version of this article was published in the August 2015 issue of Down East Dog News>

AAHA Bhx GuidelinesSince April of this year I’ve been writing about a trend towards kinder and gentler pet care; our pet-friendly philosophy at Green Acres Kennel Shop, the force-free principles of the Pet Professional Guild, and the fear-free movement among the veterinary community. I am extremely pleased that last month the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) took this trend one step further with the publication of their Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This ground-breaking document acknowledges that your pet’s behavioral health is every bit as important as their physical well-being. The guidelines are meant to provide veterinarians and their staff with “… concise, evidence-based information to ensure that the basic behavioral needs of feline and canine patients are understood and met in every practice [Emphasis added].” While these are just guidelines, the AAHA is at the forefront of veterinary medicine and I expect that most veterinarians will begin implementing these guidelines into their practice immediately.

The adoption of these guidelines is critically important because “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering. [Emphasis added]” The reasons why behavioral problems have become the number one health concern for dogs and cats remains to be examined; however these guidelines offer some concrete steps that all of us who love, live with and work with dogs and cats can take to help make their lives better. This is a huge step as it now establishes that a behavioral wellness assessment should be part of every pet’s visit to their veterinarian.

While these guidelines are focused on veterinarians and their staff, everyone in the pet care services industry; boarding kennels, doggie daycares, dog walkers, groomers, dog trainers, and pet sitters as well as animal shelters, breeders, pet shops, rescue groups, animal control officers, humane agents, and animal welfare program directors should be aware of these guidelines and be implementing the policies, procedures and training necessary to ensure the behavioral health of the pets in their care.

Here the some of the key take-home messages from this document that every pet owner needs to know. Quotes from the guidelines are in italics and my comments are non-italicized. In some cases I have used bold type for added emphasis.

  • “Veterinarians must institute a culture of kindness in the practice and avoid using either forced restraint or punitive training or management methods.” Time and patience make for a better experience for all involved. I love that I can take my pets to see any of their veterinarians and my pets are unafraid. Not all people can say that and that needs to change.
  • “Veterinarians must be aware of the patient’s body language at all times, understanding that it conveys information about underlying physiological and mental states.” At Green Acres we teach clients to understand an animal’s body language and emotions in our training classes because it is an essential part of understanding, teaching, and living with our pets. The guidelines suggest that veterinary practices can and should use this same knowledge of body language and emotions to ensure your pets visit and exam is as stress free as possible. Both you as the person responsible for your pets care, as well as your veterinarian need to know and understand this so that together you make sure it happens. When choosing a veterinary practice I encourage you to look for one that invests in the training and continuing education necessary to teach all of their staff the fundamentals of animal body language and emotions.
  • “All veterinary visits should include a behavioral assessment.” While the veterinary team needs to ask about behavior, as an owner you need to be ready to talk to your veterinarian about behavioral issues. When I receive calls from clients about behavioral issues the first thing I ask is “Have you discussed this with your vet?” and too often the answer I get is “no.” Make sure that your pet’s behavior is discussed at each and every visit.
  • “Good behavioral evaluations are especially important in young animals. Studies show that 10 percent of puppies that were fearful during a physical exam at 8 wk of age were also fearful at 18 mo. Patients do not outgrow pathologic fear. [Emphasis added].” “Behavioral conditions are progressive. Early intervention is essential to preserve quality of life for both the patient and client and to provide the best chance of treatment success.” In my experience, patients often wait too long to address behavioral problems, hoping the pet will outgrow it. The sooner these problems are addressed the better the odds of resolving the problem and ending the distress felt by both the pet and the pet owner.
  • “… the presence or development of fear during sensitive periods is aggravated by forced social exposure. Overexposure can make fearful dogs worse, creating a behavioral emergency.” This is why socialization and habituation efforts need to be planned ahead of time and controlled while they are occurring. Talk to your veterinarian and certified, reward-based trainer about the best ways to do this. Preferably, you should start planning these effort’s before you bring the new pet home.
  • “There is no medical reason to delay puppy and kitten classes or social exposure until the vaccination series is completed as long as exposure to sick animals is prohibited, basic hygiene is practiced, and diets are high quality. The risks attendant with missing social exposure far exceed any disease risk. [Emphasis added]” This is why starting a puppy in an appropriately designed class is so important while the puppy is 8 to 16 weeks of age. It’s also why regular “fun” trips to the vet’s office, the groomer, the kennel and other places are recommended during this period. However, you need to plan these trips to make sure that they will be a good experience for your pet. Working with your trainer on this process can be very helpful.
  • Puppies should not be separated from their littermates and dam until at least 8 wk of age. Puppies separated at 30–40 days versus 56 days experienced a greater incidence of problems related to the early separation, such as excessive barking, fearfulness on walks, reactivity to noises, toy or food possessiveness, attention-seeking behavior, and destructive behavior as adults.” This is the law in Maine, but too often it’s not followed. If you’re getting a puppy from a shelter, breeder or rescue organization, do not take it home until it is 8 weeks of age. If they offer to let you have it sooner, report them to the Animal Welfare program and get your puppy elsewhere. If you want the best possible puppy, don’t start with one that is already at a behavioral disadvantage.
  • “Mistaken or misinformed beliefs may become apparent early. Clients may not understand that some undesirable behaviors are normal (e.g., young puppies cannot last 8–10 hr without urinating). Clients may not understand the difference between a behavior that is undesirable but possibly normal and responsive to training (e.g., grabbing someone during play) and abnormal behavior that requires professional care (e.g., becoming aggressive if not permitted to play after grabbing). [Emphasis added]” People have so many incorrect and damaging beliefs about dog behavior based on myths that have been recycled over and over again for the past 70+ years. This is why working with a veterinarian and trainer who participates in regular continuing education is essential.
  • Qualified trainers can be valuable partners on a veterinary behavior management team… Trainers should have obtained certification from a reliable organization that has, as its foundation, the sole use of positive methods. Certification for trainers should require annual continuing education, liability insurance, and testable knowledgeable in behavior and learning theory trainers. Unfortunately, credentials don’t guarantee the use of humane methods or honest marketing.” When looking for a trainer don’t choose one strictly on price or how close they are to where you live. Check out their credentials as recommended by the AAHA guidelines and make sure that they are certified by either the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB), the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), and that they are continuing their education
  • It is essential that clients ask trainers about specific tools and techniques used. If the tools or techniques include prong collars, shock collars, or leash/collar jerks/yanks, or if the trainer explains behavior in terms of ‘dominance’’ or throws anything at a dog, advise clients to switch trainers. [Emphasis added].”  The techniques and tools used to train a pet and to change behavior do matter and some should never be used. Do not assume that just because a trainer is certified that they will not use these tools. You need to ask.
  • This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous. Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior. Non aversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. [Emphasis added]”

Kudos to the AAHA and this Task Force for saying what many in the training community, both individuals and organizations, have been afraid to say for fear of offending a colleague who still insists on using pain, fear and coercion. The guidelines make it very clear that certain techniques, some still used all too often (prong (pinch) collars, shock collars, alpha rolls), some promoted by TV personalities like Cesar Milan, have absolutely no place in the training or altering of behavior of pets.

The only association of professional trainers in the USA to currently have a similar position to the AAHA guidelines is the Pet Professional Guild with their Guiding Principles (http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/PPGs-Guiding-Principles).  As a pet owner, that’s important for you to know when seeking a pet trainer.  Here at Green Acres we have not used, recommended or sold these techniques/tools since 1998. It’s time for the other large training and behavior organizations, as well as individual trainers and businesses to quit making excuses for using these harmful tools and techniques.

While there are many excellent recommendations in the guidelines that I agree with, I cannot completely agree with: “Under no circumstances should aggression or any condition involving a clinical diagnosis be referred to a trainer for primary treatment. Referral to a dog trainer is appropriate for normal but undesired behaviors (e.g., jumping on people), unruly behaviors (e.g., pulling on leash), and teaching basic manners.” While I agree that clients should ALWAYS see and discuss behavioral concerns with their veterinarian to rule out any medical causes, I believe suggesting that the client should not be referred to a qualified, certified dog trainer or dog behaviour consultant may be counter-productive. I’m not saying that all dog trainers that take behavioral cases are qualified to do so, but truth be told, many veterinarians are also not comfortable developing a behavior modification program and then teaching the client how to implement that program.

The guidelines suggest that aggression cases can be referred to a Board-certified veterinary behaviorist (diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists); however, according to the ACVB website there are only 66 such individuals worldwide. While such a specialist may be helpful they may not be an option for many people simply due to geography or cost, thus forcing a client to euthanize or relinquish their pet. Instead, I suggest that primary care veterinarians take the time to get to know the trainers and dog behavior consultants in their community so they can determine if they feel comfortable referring to those individuals. A good place to start is with members of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (www.iaabc.org) and the Animal Behavior Society (http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/).

However, since these organizations do not have clear and definitive guidelines on the use of techniques the AAHA guidelines has defined as aversive, it is up to veterinarians and pet owners to make sure that the individual practitioner they select does comply with the AAHA guidelines.

There is much more in this ground-breaking document that has the potential to greatly improve the lives of the dogs and cat we love. However, it only has the potential to do that if veterinarians and other pet care professionals heed its advice and if pet owners take the time to familiarize themselves with what’s written in this document so that they can be an advocate for their pet. You can read the document in its entirety at: https://www.aaha.org/graphics/original/professional/resources/guidelines/2015_aaha_behavior_mgmt_guidelines.pdf

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3

This article first appeared in the July 2015 edition of the Downeast Dog News.

<You can listen to a companion podcast to this article, first broadcast on The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine on June 27, 2015, by clicking here>

When this series started back in April, the intent was to alert pet owners that not all pet care services are pet-friendly and to emphasize the importance of making sure a pet has the most positive experience possible when it is boarding, day-caring, being groomed, training or while at the veterinarian. All of these animal care services can be done with a pet friendly approach; our pets deserve that. In this column I’ll be focusing on visits to the veterinarian and how many in the veterinary community are working to make those visits fear-free.

Few people look forward to visiting the doctor or the dentist so we should not be surprised when our pets get anxious at the veterinarian. A healthcare usage study by Bayer Veterinary indicated that 37% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners said their pets hate going to the vet1. Going to the vet can be a frightening experience and fear is a powerful emotion. According to Dr. Marty Becker, “Fear is the worst thing a social species can experience and it causes permanent damage to the brain.” As a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, I work with many dog owners and their dogs, often on fear related issues. It is a basic survival mechanism that allows fear to be locked into a memory in an instant and that trauma can be remembered for a lifetime. While these fears may be overcome, it can often take weeks, months, and even years of work to do so.

Unfortunately, if we as pet owners and the pet care professionals handling our animals don’t recognize the signs and detrimental effects of stress and fear in our dogs and cats we cannot help them. In her blog The Science Dog, Linda P. Case recently wrote about fear and two research studies2 that examined how well owners and pet care professionals recognized and responded to signs of stress and fear in dogs. The first study indicated that over 90% of the people that participated could tell when a dog was happy; however, only 70% of dog professionals and 60% of dog owners could identify the fearful dogs. [bold emphasis mine]. That means a significant number of pet professionals and dog owners cannot tell when their dog is stressed or afraid. Clearly there needs to be more education in this arena.

The late Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and animal behaviorist, made it her mission to educate other veterinarians, pet professionals and pet owners on how people can better understand and interact with pets so as to reduce stress for all concerned. Her seminars, DVDs, and book on low stress handling of pets have helped pet professionals make their practices “pet-friendly.” When professionals can identify fear and stress, and know how to respond accordingly, they can make efforts to minimize or eliminate it so that pets actually enjoy visiting and being handled. At the same time, the skills learned help staff become more competent in animal handling, resulting in improved safety for all parties and reduced costs. Pet professionals, pet owners and pets are all benefiting tremendously from these practices3.

Many other veterinarians are also addressing this issue.  Dr. Marty Becker is a veterinarian who is actively educating his colleagues on the importance of fear-free veterinary visits. In January, Dr. Becker presented on this topic at the North American Veterinary Community conference1, one of the largest continuing education events for veterinarians in the world. He talked about the Hippocratic Oath taken by veterinarians which emphasizes “First do no harm” and to “Cure sometimes. Treat often. Comfort always” [bold emphasis mine]. He discussed how the intense focus on medicine has caused veterinarians to sometimes neglect the parts about doing no harm. Dr. Becker continually underscores the value of making sure a patient is comfortable.

The trend toward fear-free veterinary visits is rapidly growing. A Google search of the words “fear free veterinary visits” yields about 819,000 results. The website DVM360, a website for the veterinary community, lists 19 articles on the fear-free philosophy from April 1st through June 5th alone.

With this trend, the move towards “Fear-Free” veterinary care is alive and well in Maine. Kate and I recently invited Dr. David Cloutier, from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic4, to join us on The Woof Meow Show to discuss his clinic’s approach to fear-free veterinary care. Dr. Cloutier is clearly very passionate about this topic. He explained how it’s not only the best approach for the vet, the vet’s staff, the pet owner and the pet, but is also personally very rewarding.

On our show with Dr. Cloutier we talked about dogs and cats and the fact that creating a fear-free visit for a cat is every bit as important as a fear-free exam for a dog however, because of a cats highly developed flight or fight instincts, doing so takes even more effort. Dr. Cloutier worries that if a cat owner has a bad experience taking their cat to the veterinarian that they may never go back to any veterinarian. This can result in very negative consequence for that cat’s health which is why making every visit a good one is so essential.

Some of the things that Dr. Cloutier and his team at Veazie Veterinary are doing to make a pet’s visit fear-free include staff training on behavior, stress, and canine and feline body language, having separate waiting areas for dogs and cats, being patient and allowing pets time to settle, minimizing restraint as well as the number of people in the room with the animal during an exam and treatment, using high-value treats to reward calm behavior and to desensitize a pet to any perceived threats, using pheromones like Feliway with cats to help calm them, and teaching clients what they can do at home to help prepare their pets for a visit to the vet.

It is essential for all pet care professionals to be following a pet friendly, fear-free philosophy if we are going to do well by your pets. If one of us causes a pet to have a fearful experience, due to the way the brain processes and remembers fear, that animal may now fear all of us.

Lastly, we talked with Dr. Cloutier about the role of the pet owner in reducing stress. That role starts with learning about your pet and signs of stress and discomfort.  Next it requires you to be an advocate for your pet and all of the people that participate in your pet’s care. You not only need to make sure that pet professionals that care for your pet follow a pet friendly philosophy, but you also want to make sure that family members and friends that care for your pet also follow your philosophy. Your pet cannot speak for themselves so please ask questions and speak on their behalf. They’ll be glad you did.

Next month’s article will be focused on specific things you can do at home to help prepare your pet for a visit to your veterinarian, a boarding kennel, the groomer, or a training class.

References

1 Creating Fear Free® Veterinary Visits Puts Pets Back Into Practices -DrMartyBecker.com, Presentation at NAVC – http://www.drmartybecker.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Creating-Fear-Free-Veteirnary-Visits-NAVC-15-FINAL.pdf

2 Fear Itself, The Science Dog, June 9, 2015, by Linda P. Case – https://thesciencedog.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/fear-itself/

3 http://drsophiayin.com/

4 http://www.veazievet.com/

 

Other Links of Interest

Signs of anxiety and fear in dogs from Dr. Marty Becker – http://dvm360.com/sites/default/files/images/pdfs-for-alfresco-articles/Signs_of_anxiety_fear.pdf

Links to the first two part of this series can be found below.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1 – <Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2 – <Click Here>

 

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Canine Behavior – Dogs, Summer and Behavioral Issues

<A version of this article was published in the June 2015 issue of the Down East Dog News>

I know, I promised this column would continue my series on pet-friendly pet care, focusing on fear-free visits to the veterinarian. I’m still researching that topic so instead I’ve decided to talk about dogs, summer and behavioral issues that often crop up this time of year.

Getting A New Puppy

Tikken on Don's Lap
Tikken on Don’s Lap

Summer is often a great time to add a puppy to the family. I know I find dealing with housetraining and those frequent trips outside much more enjoyable in the summer than the dead of winter. Additionally, due to vacation time and little or no school activities, a family often has more time to socialize, train and play with a new puppy in the summer.

Socializing and habituating your puppy to many different people and different types of people, different places and things is extremely important if you want a well-adjusted adult dog. This is often easier to accomplish in the summer due to better weather, increased free time and the fact that more people are out and about. A puppy’s critical socialization period goes from 8 weeks to 16 weeks of age. If you choose to get a puppy in the summer you want to make sure you will be at home and available to actively socialize your pup during this period. In other words, it would be a bad time to take a vacation.

Socialization is not difficult but should be actively planned so that you are making sure it is a positive experience for your puppy. For example, exposure to lots of new people in a controlled setting is good; taking your puppy to a parade, street festival, or large family gathering would likely be overwhelming and would not be a good idea. For more information on socialization, checkout the article entitled Socialization & Habituation at our website (greenacreskennel.com) in the articles section under the category dog behavior and training.

Another important lesson for a puppy to learn any time of the year is how to be alone. Dogs are social animals and most enjoy regular, predictable social contact. If that social contact is not available it can result in separation anxiety. This is often more likely to be a problem for puppies that join families during the summer as family members are home during more hours during the summer months than they may be at other times of the year. From day one you need to be leaving your puppy alone for some period of time every day. For tips on that, check out my article titled Alone Training at our website (greenacreskennel.com) in the articles section under the category dog behavior and training.

A puppy headstart class is one of the most important training classes for any new dog, no matter how many dogs you have had in the past. Summer time is a great time to enroll your puppy in their first class.  The best time to start is when your puppy is 8 to 10 weeks of age.

Getting A New Dog

Summer can also be a good time to get a new adult dog simply because you will

Muppy's First Day with Us
Muppy’s First Day with Us

have more time to help your new family member to settle in to your home and your family’s routine. Just like with a puppy, you may need to do some preliminary housetraining and you will also want to make sure you teach this new dog how to be alone as well; especially if your family routine will change at the end of the summer.

All dogs benefit from training classes, even older dogs. Often dogs end up at a shelter or rescue because they have had little or no training. If you get a dog during the summer, try to schedule your vacation around their training classes so you don’t miss classes because you will be away.

Training classes are often outdoors in the summer, weather permitting, which gets you an opportunity to work more on outside types of behaviors like walking nicely on leash and coming when called.

Not all rescue dogs will be ready for a training class when you first bring them home. If you have a dog that is rather unsettled or anxious around people and/or other dogs, a group training class could be counter-productive. Two years ago when we adopted Muppy, in May, my wife and I elected to not start here in a group class until fall, after she become more acclimated to the busy hub-bub of our lives. However, if you defer starting a class until fall I would not wait until then to talk to a professional trainer to get some tips on helping your dog settle in.

Family Gatherings

Family and Dog at Beachcanstockphoto5015887Summer is a time for friends and family get-togethers, whether it is for holidays like the Fourth of July, events like family reunions or weddings or just because. Depending on your pet’s temperament, these can range from good times to scary events. These simple rules will help you keep your pet safe during the festivities.

  • 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. 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 dog 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 will be more relaxed knowing your pet is in a safe, pleasant environment, consider boarding your pet the day and night of the event.

Fireworks and the Fourth of July

Fireworks, with their loud booms and bright flashes of light can be very frightening to pets. If they’re right in your backyard or your neighbor’s backyard they can be not only be frightening but can pose a danger to our pets. Keep your pets inside during any personal firework activity. If you go someplace to see the fireworks I would advise you to leave your pet at home in a safe quiet location. They’ll be glad you did.

Last year I received more phone calls and emails from people concerned about their pet’s reaction to fireworks than ever before. I suspect most would prefer the legislature repeal the law that made the sale of fireworks legal or that municipalities would take a more vigorous approach to enacting ordinances regulating their use and then aggressively enforcing those laws. If the use of fireworks is irritating you and your pets call your selectmen and complain – even if it’s midnight or 1AM.

 

Next month I’ll wrap up this series with a discussion of what veterinary clinics are doing to make your pet’s visit to the vet fear-free.

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2

This article first appeared in the May 2015 edition of the Downeast Dog News.

<You can listen to a companion podcast to this article, first broadcast on The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine on May 2, 2015, by clicking here>

Trust. Before becoming part of the pet care service industry I found it essential to get to know someone very well before entrusting them with the care of my pets. It’s a character trait that I find essential when leaving my pets in the care of someone other than myself. I need to be confident that my furry family members will be cared for to my standards.

I find that those of us that work with pets professionally are often trusted without a great deal of questions. Many seem to assume that because we work with animals that we will care for their pet the same way that they would. WhileIm A PPG Dog I believe that is true for me and my staff at Green Acres, there are people in the pet care services industry where that can be a dangerous assumption, as noted below.

Last month a post came through on my Facebook feed with the title “Unauthorized Use of Shock Collar Angers Dog Owner.” It referenced a story reported by KSNV My News 3 in Las Vegas which discussed a pet owner who left their dog with a pet sitter, only to come home and to discover that the pet sitter had used a shock collar on their dog. The dog’s owner had not been told this would happen, nor would it have been something they would have authorized. The dog’s owners were rightfully upset and angry and were stunned that something like this could happen. This is exactly the type of behavior in the pet care service industry that I was warning pet owners about in my last column. And yes, this type of thing has happened in Maine, more than once.

When I share stories like the one above the usual response I get is moral outrage followed by “How can something like this happen?” That’s when I explain what I feel are three reasons why this can and does happen.

  1. The pet care service industry is minimally regulated if regulated at all. Regulations typically only occur at the state and/or municipal level and often only focus on a facilities cleanliness, amounts of space and a pet’s physical care. A pet’s mental or emotional well-being is simply not covered in most regulations. Here in Maine, pet boarding facilities are regulated but there is no professional standard of knowledge that is legally required of the people that own and manage and care for the pets that they board. For example, there is no standard that says a boarding kennel operator needs to be knowledgeable about; pet first aid and CPR, canine social behavior, feline social behavior, species specific communication, and the supervision of animals in group play. Those that do not offer boarding but only provide daycare, group play, pet sitting, grooming and training are essentially not regulated at all. Just because someone likes dogs and has had a dog of their own does not mean that they have the knowledge and experience to safely care for the pets of others.
  2. Pet parents assume, with good intentions, that everyone in the pet care industry has the requisite knowledge and experience to properly care for pets, loves pets, and wouldn’t intentionally do anything harmful to a pet. That is a dangerous assumption and as I noted in last month’s column there are some questions a pet parent should always ask before leaving their pet in someone else’s care.
  3. The pet care industry does not currently have a universally accepted standard of care that encompasses the physical, mental and emotional well-being of pets. Fortunately that is changing with the advent of the Pet Professionals Guild, the first international organization to be committed to being “The Association for a Force-Free Pet Industry

ProudMembers BadgeThe Pet Professional Guild (PPG) was founded by Niki Tudge in 2012. PPG’s focus started on dog training and the need to help the industry move beyond the out-dated concepts of dominance and coercion/punishment based training. Today the PPG is open to all in the pet care services industry as well as pet owners. In a recent interview on The Woof Meow Show, Ms. Tudge described PPG as a place where professionals could come together and help each other, support each other, learn from each other, and network. Additionally, she described PPG as a meeting place where pet owners could access those pet professionals that share their values. She stated: “It is a place where we can advocate for how we believe our pets should be trained and cared for.”

At the heart of the Pet Professionals Guild commitment to force-free pet care is their “Guiding Principles.” A pet care professional can only become a member if they agree to abide by these principles which are clearly stated on the PPG website. Section one states: “To be in anyway affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild Members Understand Force-Free to mean: No shock, No pain, No choke, No fear, No physical force, No physical molding, No compulsion based methods are employed to train or care for a pet.” To me that’s pretty clear and fits right in with how we have officially defined “pet friendly” at Green Acres for years. Based on feedback we get from our clients at Green Acres,’ I’d say a significant  majority of pet parents are looking for pet care providers that comply with this type of standard but as I’ve noted before, people need to ask to make sure providers do indeed actually comply with these standards.

On the May 2nd/3rd edition of The Woof Meow Show Niki, Kate and I discussed the growth of doggie daycare and the lack of professional standards and regulations. We discussed how supervising dogs playing together requires extensive knowledge and training in order to keep dogs safe and to make sure that every dog is having a good time. Niki indicated that PPG will be launching an accreditation program for dog trainers, behavior consultants and other pet care professionals in the coming months. Green Acres’ has developed its own extensive training program for our staff but we look forward to learning more about PPG’s move towards industry wide standards because we know they are necessary so that all families can feel comfortable when they leave their pet in someone else’s care.

The Pet Professional Guild was founded in 2012 and in less than three years has grown to over 4000 members across 27 countries. Pet owners can join for free and get access to webinars, some free, the PPG publication “Barks From The Guild,” and other great articles.

The Pet Professional Guild website (http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/) can also be a valuable resource for pet owners to find trainers, boarding facilities, daycares, groomers and others that share PPG’s force-free philosophy and that have committed to abide by PPG’s Guiding Principles. If the couple in the news story “Unauthorized Use of Shock Collar Angers Dog Owner” had selected a PPG professional member, their dog wouldn’t have ended up wearing a shock collar.

If you’re a pet owner/parent I encourage you to join PPG. What have you got to lose, it’s free! If you are a provider of services to pets (boarding kennel, daycare, pet sitter, dog walker, groomer, trainer, behavior consultant, vet tech and veterinarian) I encourage you to take the pledge to commit to force-free pet care by joining PPG and supporting other force-free pet professionals.

Next month I’ll wrap up this series with a discussion of what veterinary clinics are doing to make your pet’s visit to the vet fear-free.

Links to the other two parts of this series can be found below.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1 – <Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3- <Click Here>

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1

<Updated 2MAR17>

This article first appeared in the April 2015 edition of the Downeast Dog News.

<You can listen to a companion podcast to this article, first broadcast on The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine on April 11, 2015, by clicking here>

Leaving your dog at a boarding kennel, doggie daycare, grooming salon, training facility, veterinary clinic or even leaving them at home with a pet sitter is not a decision you should make lightly. The question you need to ask yourself is: what happens once you are gone? How will your pet be treated? Will your pet be comfortable and relaxed during their stay with their caregivers? While there are many wonderful facilities that could easily and honestly answer that your furry companion is in great hands; this is not true for all. However, it is with great relief that I can say with some confidence that we are beginning to see a trend toward kinder and gentler professional pet care. Today, the terms “pet friendly,” “force-free,” and “fear-free” are becoming much more commonplace in our industry.

In 2012, the Pet Professional Guild was founded in an effort to “provide educational resources to pet trainers and professional pet care providers and advocates for mutually agreed guiding principles for the pet care industry.  PPG partners, members and affiliates focus on each pet’s physical, mental, Im A PPG Dogenvironmental and nutritional well-being adhering to a holistic approach to the care and training of family pets.” In a nut shell, the ultimate goal of the PPG is to be “The Association for a Force-Free Pet Industry.” At the same time, thanks to the efforts of the late Dr. Sophia Yin and Dr. Marty Becker, veterinarians are learning how they too can make your pet’s visit to their office a fear-free experience.

Nevertheless, the reality is that the terms “pet friendly,” “force-free” and “fear-free” have no legally binding definition. These standards are voluntary and not mandated by any regulatory agency so it is still a case of “buyer beware.” Even though many facilities are licensed by the state, nothing in the law requires staff training or that a facility focus on minimizing stress and anxiety for the animals in their care. Nor do these laws restrict facilities from using aversives such as squirt bottles, citronella collars or other confrontational techniques. It is in your pet’s best interest that you have a discussion with any prospective pet care provider before leaving your pets in their care. The following are some questions that you should ask:

  • Is your staff trained in canine behavior, body language and stress signals?
  • How will you handle the situation if my pet is scared or fearful?
  • What do you do if my dog barks while they stay with you?
  • How does your staff respond if a pet growls?
  • How is the staff trained to respond if my dog jumps on them?
  • Will my pet interact with other pets that are not part of their family? If so, how will these interactions be supervised?
  • Are punishers, such as squirt bottles, ever used?
  • Will my pet ever wear a shock, citronella, choke or prong collar while with you?
  • Would your staff ever attempt to dominate or alpha-roll my dog?
  • During peak times, do you overbook? Is there a chance my pet will be boarded in a crate instead of an indoor/outdoor run?
  • At what point do you stop a nail trim or a grooming if the dog is showing signs of stress and discomfort? How and when do you decide if an animal will be muzzled?
  • Are you and your staff members of The Pet Professional Guild and do you follow their “Force-Free” philosophies?

The following is a recent example of how we worked with a dog boarding at Green Acres for the first time:

A new dog arrived for its first boarding stay. It was placed in its indoor/outdoor kennel. Immediately the dog began to back away and growl at staff when they attempted to approach it to take it outside. The pet care technician on duty contacted the manager who then came to assess the situation. Very slowly, and allowing the dog to do all the approaching, the manager was able to hook the dog to its own leash and the dog was taken for a walk to get an opportunity to assess the environment. The dog was walked on leash several times the first couple of days, by multiple staff members, until it reached a point where it was very relaxed and comfortable in the kennel. In addition, a DAP/Adaptil (dog appeasing pheromone) diffuser was plugged in near this dog’s kennel.

On this dog’s final day, it was scheduled to have a grooming. The dog was very good for the bath, but when it was time for the nail trim, it immediately tensed and became agitated. The decision was made to not to do the nails. The dog in question had progressed so far, from being absolutely terrified on day one to having a good stay, and we did not want to undo that progress. It was imperative for this dog’s future kenneling experiences that this first visit end on a good note, and forcing a nail trim would not have been beneficial to the mental health of the pet.

ProudMembers BadgeWhile we understand, and even expect, that a trip to the boarding kennel, groomer or veterinarian will have some associated stress for your animal, the onus is on those of us in the industry to make these visits as relaxing and fear free as possible. These changes need to happen system wide and here at Green Acres we call upon all other facilities to join the movement and become pet friendly facilities and we also call upon you, the consumer, to see that it happens.

For more information on Green Acres philosophies on “Pet Friendly” pet care, visit our website and look for our position statements on Pet Friendly Pet Care and Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs.

Next month, we will go into a discussion about the Force-Free philosophy of The Pet Professional Guild and their efforts to educate pet guardians and the pet care services industry about force-free pet care. In addition, we will explore what veterinary clinics are doing to make your pet’s visit to the vet fear-free.

Links to the other two parts of this series can be found below.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2 – <Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3- <Click Here>

Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facility – <Click Here>

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Canine Behavior – Help! My Puppy’s A Land Shark!

<A version of this article appeared in the March 2015 issue of Down East Dog News?>

A common call we receive goes like this: “We have a new puppy. She’s 11weeks old and has a lot of energy and is biting a lot as well as nipping at our ankles when we walk.  We have tried spanking her butt, tapping her nose, and holding her on her back while holding her mouth shut.  We continue to say “no biting”, but it doesn’t seem to help. She actually seems to be getting worse with my spouse and children and if anything it is causing her to be more aggressive.”

Don’t feel bad; you are not alone and I promise you, your puppy is not really a land shark in disguise.

Puppy Biting Finger
Puppy Biting Finger

Having a puppy biting and nipping at your heels can certainly be a very frustrating and painful experience and often takes some of the joy out of having a puppy in the first place; let’s face it, being bitten by those sharp little teeth hurts! That being said, the behavior, from the puppy’s perspective is a very normal one and right on target with their developmental period.  Responding to this behavior by way of physical force was frequently recommended by dog trainers in the past, and unfortunately is too often still recommended by some trainers that have not kept up with the advances in the field of canine behavior.

Since typically, a puppy’s nipping behavior is repeated on a regular basis, they must find that behavior to be a rewarding one on some level.  In an effort to eliminate the “problem biting,” people often inadvertently reward the behavior.  In addition to the unintentional rewarding by humans, puppy biting is often a behavior that can be self-reinforcing.

Unfortunately, since we cannot ask the puppy why it finds the behavior rewarding, there is no way of having 100% certainty what the payoff is for each particular dog. However, if we look at typical canine instinctual behaviors we can make an educated guess. Dogs, as predators, are attracted by movement and are hard-wired to pursue things that are moving away from them. A swaying pants leg, robe, or dress can appear to be a very stimulating toy, tauntingly inviting any puppy to “latch on.” Some breeds, such as the herding breeds, often have more of a genetic predisposition towards the biting of feet and ankles.

This instinctually triggered nipping behavior often starts as a form of play and quickly escalates. A puppy may learn that when they grab our ankle they can get us to yelp, just like a squeaky toy, which they find extremely fun. No matter what the initial cause of the behavior, paying attention to the puppy in any manner (looking, touching or speaking to them) may be construed as a reward and at least from their perspective, participating in the play.

Your puppy’s increased aggression when you physically reprimand the biting may also be perceived as “rough play” and tacit approval from you to magnify the response. If the puppy feels threatened an escalation in aggression may be motivated by fear or anger and frustration. Attempts at correcting a puppy that is causing it to respond in fear or anger may result in a dog with serious behavioral and fear issues in the future.

Remember the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Examine the circumstances and the environment in which the nipping behavior occurs. Consider time of day, what you are doing, what the puppy is doing immediately before the behavior, the puppy’s activity level (tired, over-tired, hyper), and what else is occurring in the environment. Many puppies will “act up” when they are bored and not getting enough exercise or conversely, they are over-stimulated and not getting enough sleep.  Look for triggers associated with the behavior so that they can be prevented in the future by managing the puppy and its environment. For example, if your puppy starts nipping when you want to end a play session, look at alternative ways to end play. A quick trip outside to “do its business,” followed by some down time in a crate would be one way that you could manage this behavior.

While prevention is one tool, we also need to ensure that the undesirable behavior is not being rewarded; this is often the most difficult part because it is our natural instinct to react and reaction (looking at, talking to, or touching the puppy) is usually rewarding. Put on some old worn out jeans and setup a situation where your puppy is likely to become a “land shark.” Make sure you have some tasty treats in your pockets to reward the behavior you like. When the puppy grabs at your pants leg, pretend you are a tree and stop. Do not look at, talk to, or touch your puppy. The very second the puppy lets go of your pants legs, quietly say “yes” to mark the behavior, and as long as your puppy is not biting, reach down and give it a treat.

If your puppy is one that likes to chase and nip at you from behind, perform the above exercise on leash, with the leash tethered to something secure, like a large piece of furniture.  When you step out of range, your puppy will probably start barking in an attempt to gain attention. Continue to be a tree, ignoring the puppy until it stops barking and lunging on the leash. Quietly reach down and give the puppy a treat; alternatively you can play with the pup for a bit. If you choose to play be ready to completely ignore your puppy again when the play escalates to the point where it is too rough.

If your puppy has an extremely reliable sit behavior, “extremely reliable” meaning that you can say “sit” it once and only once and the dog will immediately respond on the first cue, then you could ask for a sit as a means of refocusing the dog. In this case by asking for a sit, you are using what is called a mutually exclusive behavior; a puppy cannot be sitting and “acting out” at the same time. This scenario illustrates how training for extremely reliable behaviors can be very useful.

Play biting and nipping is normal canine behavior for a puppy. It’s best to start working on this right at 8 weeks of age. If your puppy is 13 weeks of age or older and play biting is still a problem, contact a reward-based, force-free trainer for assistance.

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Dogs-Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2)

[This article was originally published in two parts in the January 2015 and February 2015 editions of the Downeast Dog News.]

TriviaIt was forty years ago this month, when I had just turned 17 that my parents finally agreed to let me have a dog. I brought home a little black fluff of fur with no real idea of what to do other than to love and feed her. Neither the pet store where I bought Trivia, nor the veterinarian who examined her, suggested she have any level of training; in fact they didn’t even mention housetraining. Nor did they suggest I learn anything about what it’s like to be a dog.

Somehow Trivia and I survived, but as I look back I know that the relationship we had and Trivia’s quality of life could have been so much better if I had just taken the time to learn more about her, train her and more importantly prepare her for living in my world. Trivia was a social butterfly and she loved people, but because I had never socialized her or taught her any manners, she was a bit of a “wild child” when people were around. As a result, for the first several years of her life, she wasn’t taken places and when people did come over she was exiled to her pen outside or her room in the basement. She was basically denied the social interaction she craved. Every time I think of Trivia, it saddens me to know how much better her life could have been.

Seventeen years later, my wife Paula and I got our first dog as a family. Since we wanted to do everything right, we immediately signed Gus up for a puppy class. We were introduced to a very heavy-handed method of training, which was popular at the time, but really weren’t encouraged to think beyond “training the dog.” There was little or no emphasis on our learning anything about canine behavior, how dogs learn, how dogs communicate and express themselves, what motivates a dog, the role of health and wellness in learning  or a dog’s physical, mental and emotional needs. All we were taught was; “This is how you train your dog to do x, and this is what you do if he does not comply. Non-compliance is NOT an option.” If it weren’t for my innate need to understand “the why” of everything, coupled with Gus’ medical and behavioral quirks, we probably would have just muddled on and Gus would have had a life similar to that of Trivia. Gus

Sadly, in many ways the general public’s attitudes towards dogs and training has not changed much in forty years. According to the 2011-2012 American Pet Product Association National Pet Owners Survey, only 4% of the dogs in the USA are taken to a dog training class. While this number is trending up, it was only 2% in 1998, it is infinitesimally small. While some families do manage to train their dogs without going to a class, many dogs still remain untrained or under trained and totally unprepared for living in the human world.  Even though the science clearly supports the benefits of positive reinforcement in learning,  many people still cling to the heavy-handed method of training we were introduced to when we first got Gus because that is the way the dogs in their family have always been “trained.”

Even more alarming, an article from the November 2013 issue of Veterinary Medicine indicates that only 4.7% of puppies attend a puppy socialization class. I believe that these statistics provide an answer to why so many dogs are surrendered to a shelter or rescue because of behavior problems.  Proper socialization often makes the difference between a well-adjusted dog and one that develops behavioral issues. Socialization is about so much more than getting along with the neighbor’s dog or becoming familiar with grandpa and grandma or the neighbor’s kids. In my experience, very few individuals understand what socialization and habituation means without the benefit of attending a class or working with a professional trainer.

I see dogs for behavioral consultations. These dogs are brought to us because of aggression, reactivity or some type of anxiety, and often they have had little or no training. Typically they were not well socialized or were socialized inappropriately. Many dogs that develop behavioral issues end up being surrendered or spend their lives tied up in the yard or relegated to the basement for the majority of their lives. Some may be continually subjected to being yelled at and having guardians that are regularly rife with anger and frustration, simply because the dogs “should know better” or “are stubborn.” When people open their homes to a dog, it is not with this life in mind for their new pet. Many of these pets could have dramatically different lives if owners were made aware and had put forth the initial effort to learn about their dog and to train them, I believe that there are five fundamental reasons that people choose not to work with a professional when it comes to learning about their dog and training their dog.

  • First, many people are under the misguided impression that dog training is only for dogs that have problems or for dogs that compete in dog shows or sports. The reality is that most dog training programs are created with the average pet dog in mind and focus on the basics such as not jumping on the guests and walking nicely on a leash.
  • Additionally, people often underestimate the value of training to both themselves and their dogs. A well trained dog is more welcome in public places and because they are easier to care for become everyone’s favorite. Because of their exemplary behavior, owners with well-trained dogs often find it easier to find rental housing or insurance and may even qualify for discounts at the veterinarians, groomers, boarding kennel and daycare.
  • Another barrier to dog training is all of the misinformation about dog training and canine behavior, much of which is outdated and obsolete but still considered “state-of-the-art” by the dog owning public due to urban legends and the internet. Examples of these myths are things such as suggesting that a dog needs all its shots before it can start training, that some breeds are too stubborn to be trained, that you can’t train a dog until it’s “x” months old, that a dog will learn all it needs to know from other dogs, that you just need to dominate your dog and make them mind, etc. Our knowledge about dogs, their behavior and the most humane and efficient ways to train them has changed radically in the last 15 years, but often it’s only the professional trainers that are aware of this new information.
  • A lack of resources, both financial and time, is a further reason that people often use for not pursuing training with their pet. The reality is that compared to the purchase price of a dog, veterinary care, and a year’s worth of food, training is a bargain! If the resource one finds lacking is time, then you really need to question whether you really have time to have a dog. Working with a knowledgeable, experienced professional will actually save you time.
  • Finally, there often seems to be a cultural lack of emphasis on the importance and benefits of training by breeders, rescues, shelters, veterinarians, boarding kennels and daycares, groomers, and yes even dog trainers at times.

Training is about much more than teaching the dog to sit; a training program should have a comprehensive, holistic foundation.

What is “A Holistic Approach to Dog Training”?

Holistic is defined as “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.”   It is essential to a dog’s welfare to understand a dog’s physical, mental, emotional and social needs and their methods of communicating with one another and with humans. It is the use of this knowledge that allows for the building of a trusting relationship with dogs, meeting their needs and thus ensuring their quality of life. As humans we have the ability to continue to learn about our dogs as a species as well as individuals.

A key component of a good trainer is that they will make the process of learning and training fun. This not only increases the probability of success, but also serves to further enhance the relationship. Also, central to training is the management of a dog’s environment to prevent dangerous and undesirable behaviors, while simultaneously using reward-based training to teach the dog to offer behaviors that help them thrive within our human world.

Why should I train my dog with a holistic approach?

Besides the obvious benefits of having a well-trained dog that is responsive to you, training, when done with humane methods, is extremely beneficial to your dog as well.

Dog’s Don’t Come With A User Manual

Spending some time to learn about your dog, their breed, what they were originally bred to do, normal and abnormal canine behaviors, how they learn and how they express what they are feeling will be very beneficial. A good place to start is with the following books ; On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas , The Other End of the Leash – by Patricia McConnell, PhD, DOGS: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet by John Bradshaw, For the Love of A Dog – by Patricia McConnell, PhD, and Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos by Colleen Pelar.

Building a Bond & Trust

If you make training fun and rewarding, which is not hard to do, training can become a central part of your effort to build and strengthen the bond with your dog. After all, isn’t companionship the main reason you got a dog?  My dog Muppy was a bit shy when we adopted her. Through training we’ve established a wonderful relationship that has helped her get over her shyness. Additionally, she’s learned; how to control herself around other people (sit, down, stay), behaviors that help keep her safe while enjoying the world (heel, coming when called, leave it), and things that help me take care of her (swallowing a pill, trimming her nails, combing out mats). All of these things she’s learned also make it easier for her groomer, her veterinarian, and others that care for her. Because she has learned these things through the use of positive reinforcement, her trust in the human world has grown immensely.

Socialization & Habituation

Properly socializing and habituating your dog when they are 8 to 16 weeks of age, and maintaining this socialization for the lifetime of your pet, can go a long way in helping your dog to enjoy being part of your everyday life without being fearful. Unfortunately, most people do not fully understand the concept of socialization and think that exposing their dog to a couple of friends and their existing dog or the neighbor’s dog is all it takes. Socializing a dog is not that simple and requires planning, which is why taking your puppy to a class taught by a professional dog trainer can help you get off to a good start. You will have the added benefit of meeting others that are going through all of the same puppy frustrations that you are. Many families and their dogs become longtime friends through puppy class.

Prevent Problems Before They Start

People have good intentions when they train their dog, but often they or a family member or friend inadvertently end up training the dog to do exactly the opposite of what they really want. Often people come to us with a dog that habitually jumps up on certain people and after we talk with them we discover they have unknowingly been rewarding jumping. It’s much easier to train what we want from the beginning than to have to “untrain” a behavior we don’t like.

Learning Basic Manners

When one gets a dog it is usually with the intention that it will be a member of the family and will be able to participate in family activities. One of the best ways to make this happen is by teaching the dog some basic manners like sit, down, walking on a loose leash, coming when called, and leaving things they’re not supposed to have.

Mental Stimulation

So many people worry about making sure their dog gets sufficient physical exercise, yet rarely do they think about their mental stimulation which is every bit as important. A dog that receives plenty of mental stimulation is much less likely to engage in problem behaviors like destructive chewing and digging.

Regular training sessions, even after a dog has successfully learned everything you want them to know, can keep their skills sharp and help expend that pent up energy. Teaching your dog something new and fun (e.g. retrieve a favorite toy, find a hidden object) can provide your dog with mental stimulation on those days when life does not accommodate a walk. Sometimes it can be as simple as training your dog during commercial breaks as you watch your favorite TV program.

Because It Is Fun!

My dog Muppy absolutely loves to “go to school.” When she prances in her heel position, it is obvious through her body language to see how much she is enjoying herself. Her mouth is open, relaxed and smiling while she is looking at me with rapt attention. Not only is she having a great time, it fills my heart with joy to watch her. And all the while, she is learning skills that will help her to successfully live in a human world. Give holistic training a try and spread the word!

Working With A Professional Is Worth It

Working with a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT) is one of the best ways for you to implement a holistic training program for you and your dog. A good CPDT will teach you about body language and canine communication, they will introduce a fun, positive method of training and will help guide you through those difficult moments of canine chaos. A professional understands that all dogs are different yet ultimately learn the same way and can help you prevent problems before they begin. They are also there to answer your questions and to show you how to do something; not something you can get out of a book or a YouTube video. Yes, you can see a trainer on YouTube but they cannot see you and your dog and that is an essential factor in helping people and dogs to progress.

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor and the 2014 Association of Professional Dog Trainers Dr. Ian Dunbar Member of the Year. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, and Certified Professional Dog Trainer. He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Voice of Maine  (103.9FM, 101.3FM, 1450AM & woofmeowshow.com) every Saturday at 7:30AM and Sunday at 8:30PM

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Book Reviews – Do You Really Know Your Dog? – Part 2

<A version of this article was published in the December 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

Last month I indicated that one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves and to our dogs is a better understanding of who they are. I suggested three books (On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas, The Other End of the Leash – by Patricia McConnell, PhD, and DOGS: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger ) that I believe provide some very fundamental information that every dog lover needs to know. Any or all would make a great holiday gift for yourself or a friend or family member. This month I’m adding to that list with these books.

Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet by John BradshawEarly on in this book Bradshaw describes why he decided to write this book: “I felt it was time that someone stood up for dogdom: not the caricature of the wolf in a dog suit, ready to dominate his unsuspecting owner at the first sign of weakness, not the trophy animal who collects rosettes and kudos for her breeder, but the real dog, the pet who just wants to be a member of the family and enjoy life.” Bradshaw’s reasons for writing this book are exactly why I love it so much because most dogs are quite simply companions and family members.

Dr. John Bradshaw is an animal behaviorist and the director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. If you look at recent scientific papers that have been published on dog or cat behavior, you’ll often find Bradshaw listed as one of the researchers/authors.  In Dog Sense he summarizes the latest research for dog lovers like you and me. Topics he covers include; how the dog evolved, the fallacy of the dominance construct, how the dog’s role in society is changing and how that has led to higher expectations for non-dog like behavior and how these changes might affect the dog’s future. He addresses breeding issues and how the dog fancy’s focus on appearance rather than temperament and health may threaten the existence of many breeds. He also talks about how dogs learn and how research has demonstrated the many advantages of positive reinforcement/reward based training over the antiquated training model based on force and intimidation.

If you want to get off on the right paw with your dog, reading Dog Sense would be a great place to start. Incidentally, Dr. Bradshaw also has a book for cat lovers which I also recommend highly: Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet.

FAVORITE QUOTE: The new canine science reveals that dogs are both smarter and dumber than we think they are. For example, they have an almost uncanny ability to guess what humans are about to do, because of their extreme sensitivity to our body language, but they are also trapped in the moment, incapable of projecting the consequences of their actions backward or forward in time. If owners were able to appreciate their dogs’ intelligence and emotional life for what it actually is, rather than for what they imagine it to be, then dogs would not just be better understood—they’d be better treated as well.

For the Love of A Dog – by Patricia McConnell, PhD – Yes, this is the second book I’m recommending by Dr. McConnell and it’s simply because her books are that good! For the Love of A Dog explores the emotional connection we make with our furry, four-footed canine companions. She also discusses how revolutionary it is to view animals as having a vibrant emotional life. Kudos to McConnell for being one of the few scientists with the courage to admit what almost everyone has known all along; animals experience joy and fear and everything in between. We don’t know what it is they are feeling, but it’s obvious the have a rich emotional life; in some cases very joyous and in others quite sad.

After reading For the Love of A Dog you’ll have a better understanding of the science behind emotions and why we and our dogs get along so well. McConnell has also included an excellent section on canine body language, one of my favorite subjects and one that is not emphasized enough in classes for dog owners. If you take your dog to the dog park you MUST know this stuff.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. McConnell speak on People, Dogs and Psychological Trauma at the 2014 APDT Conference, a topic filled with information on emotional extremes and how similar they can be between dogs and people. I suspect another book is in the works, and I cannot wait.

FAVORITE QUOTE: “On the one hand, of course dogs have emotions. It seems so patently obvious to most of us that we feel foolish at having to say it. As much as any animal on earth, dogs express emotions as purely and clearly as a five-year-old child, and surely that’s part of why we love them so much.”

Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos by Colleen Pelar –

As a dog trainer and behavior consultant I get my fair share of calls and emails from parents trying to balance the needs, wants and desires of their dog and their children. In her books title, certified professional dog trainer Colleen Pelar alludes to the chaotic nature of living with kids and dogs. Not having two-footed children of my own, I’m glad to have her back on hand to help me make recommendations that will make things better and not worse. I especially like that Pelar is honest and upfront about the fact the dogs and children do not automatically get along and sometimes a dog , any dog, is not going to be a good choice for a family.

I like this book so much, that whenever I have the opportunity to talk to a family before they get a dog, I suggest that they read Colleen’s book first. I’m a big believer in prevention and Colleen offers information that will help parents make smart choices. I also recommend Living with Kids and Dogs to parents who already have a dog, even if there are no problems. It’s all about being prepared. This is also a good book for anyone who doesn’t have dogs but has children that will most certainly be meeting dogs that belong to friends and other family members. It’s also a good choice for the grandparents and aunt and uncle who don’t have kids but do have dogs that will be interacting with children.

Why didn’t I recommend a “how to train your dog” book? There are many good “how to train your dog” books out there and also some that are quite bad. I didn’t recommend any because I believe the best training experience a pet parent can have is working with an experienced dog trainer privately or in a group class. Books can be a great reference, but they do not take the place of having a skilled professional working with you and your dog together and being available to answer questions when they occur.

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Book Reviews – Do You Really Know Your Dog? – Part 1

< A version of this article was published in the November 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

In her book, Inside of A Dog, author and researcher Alexandra Horowitz writes, “We are known by our dogs— probably far better than we know them.” Horowitz is right, and sadly dogs don’t come with a user’s manual. In my 19 years of teaching dog training classes, I have tried to teach my students about more than training; if you want to be a good companion to your dog, you need to know about your dog’s language, natural history, anatomy, emotions, and everything else that makes your dog a dog.

I believe one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves and to our dogs is a better understanding of who they are. In my columns for November and December, I’ll review the books that everyone who lives with a dog should read. It’s a perfect time to pick one up for yourself or for another dog lover in your family or circle of friends.

On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas  – This book and its author, Turid Rugaas, have influenced my understanding of dogs more than any other book or seminar. While this book is few in pages, it is rich in information depicted in great photos. This gentle, kind, woman is incredibly knowledgeable about canine behavior and ethology. She has taught many how to live in harmony with our dogs by helping us to better understand what they are trying to tell us, and in turn she has taught us a better way to express ourselves to our dogs.

Full of photographs illustrating each point, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals focuses on how dogs use specific body language to cutoff aggression and other perceived threats. Dogs use these calming signals to tell one another, and us, when they are feeling anxious and stressed and when their intentions are benign. If you have more than one dog, or if your dog frequently plays with others, or if you are a frequent visitor to the dog park, you need to be familiar with calming signals. This book will help you learn ‘dog language’, for which you will be rewarded with a much better understanding of your pet and its behavior.

FAVORITE QUOTE: “If you want your dog to respect you, you must also respect your dog. A good relationship is based on two-way communication, and living together in a well-balanced togetherness. Leadership does not solve anything; it only creates problems, in our lives as well as in the dogs’ lives.”

The Other End of the Leash – by Patricia McConnell, PhD – Back in the early 1990’s, before I entered into the pet care business, I was fortunate to attend several dog training classes taught by Dr. Patricia McConnell. Her understanding of how dogs and humans communicate and her emphasis on rewarding good behavior made this the first class my dog Gus and I really enjoyed.

The Other End of the Leash is an information-packed, yet readable book. In it you will learn how to have an improved relationship with your dog through better communication. As a scientist who has studied both primate and canine communication systems, Dr. McConnell has a keen understanding of where the communication between humans and dogs often breaks down, creating frustration and stress for both species. For example, she explains how simple innate greeting patterns of both species can cause conflict. We know that when two people meet, the polite thing to do is to make direct eye contact and walk straight toward one another smiling. However, as Dr. McConnell notes: “The oh-so-polite primate approach is appallingly rude in canine society. You might as well urinate on a dog’s head.” Direct eye contact and a direct approach is very confrontational to a dog.

Dr. McConnell also emphasizes how dogs primarily communicate visually, while humans are a very verbal species. The picture she paints of the frustrated chimp, jumping up and down, waving their hands, and screeching repeatedly is only a slight exaggeration of the frustrated human, saying “sit, sit, sit, ahhhh please sit” while displaying countless bits of body language. Primates, including humans, “…have a tendency to repeat notes when we’re excited, to use loud noises to impress others, and to thrash around whatever is in our paw if we’re frustrated. This behavior has no small effect on our interactions with dogs, who in spite of some barks and growls, mostly communicate visually, get quiet rather than noisy to impress others, and are too busy standing on their paws to do much else with them.” With these fundamental differences, it’s amazing we can communicate with our dogs at all.

FAVORITE QUOTE: “If humans are understandably a bit slow at responding to the visual signals that our dogs are sending, we are downright dense about the signals that we generate ourselves.”

DOGS: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger – This book refutes a great number of the popular myths about the domestic dog with sound science. Dr. Coppinger is a professor at Hampshire College where he teaches evolutionary biology. He and his wife Lorna have over 40 years of experience living and working with all varieties of dogs.

The main premise of this book is that humans did not create the dog by taming and domesticating the wolf, but instead the dog self-evolved from the wolf. Tamer and less energetic wolves started hanging around human settlements for the discarded food and over time these wolves evolved into today’s village dog. Only in the last few hundred years have humans become involved in consciously, and not always responsibly, engineering the village dog into the many breeds we see today. The Coppinger’s have studied village dogs (feral dogs living in human communities) as they exist in the world today in places like Mexico City, and Pemba.

FAVORITE QUOTE: “Dogs as a species are most likely less than fifteen thousand years old, which is a barest instant of evolutionary time. Wolves as a species are maybe five million years old, and they need protection from extinction. … [There are] four hundred million dogs in the world – that is a thousand times more dogs than there are wolves. If wolves are the ancient ancestors of dogs that means dogs have achieved a biological coup, successfully outpopulating their ancestors by a lot.”

______________________________________________________________________________
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>