Animal Welfare – An Open Letter to Shelters & Rescue Organizations – Humane Treatment –Transparency About Behavior – No Hassle Returns

< A version of this article was published in the May 2019 issue of Downeast Dog News>

A short link to this post – http://bit.ly/WWM-OpnLtrShltrs-MAY2019 >

I unequivocally believe in the mission of animal rescue; it has provided me with seven dogs and six cats that became great companions.

Having served on the board of a humane society for 15 years, I know that caring for and rehoming pets and funding those efforts is a challenging job.

I have worked with thousands of clients, and over half have had rescue pets. In most cases, they became treasured family members. However, I also know that despite an adopter’s best intentions and efforts a pet may not be an appropriate fit for their home and may even present a danger to people, others pets, or themselves. It is in the best interest of the animal, the adopter, and the rescuing organization that this happens as seldom as possible. Here are three steps that I believe are fundamental to making this happen.

Humane Treatment of The Pets Being Rescued

A shelter may place a pet with behavioral challenges because; 1) they never witnessed any problem behavior while the pet was in their care, 2) they lacked  knowledge about behavior and were not experienced identifying behavior issues, or 3) they created aggression and fear with the use of aversive tools to “cure” these pets.  Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (CABC) Steve Dale recently addressed this last issue in a blog post entitled At What Cost Is Saving Dogs Acceptable1 ( FMIhttp://bit.ly/2OvI0MY ). Dale asserts that some shelters have the attitude that their priority is to save every dog, no matter what, even if it involves using severe punishment such as shock collars. Dale believes that is unacceptable, and I concur, as does the Pet Professional Guild2 ( FMIhttps://www.petprofessionalguild.com/shockcollars ) and the American Animal Hospital Association3 ( FMIhttp://bit.ly/AAHA-2015BHx ).

When I recommend a shelter or rescue, I expect three things:

  1. They are a member of the Pet Professional Guild. Membership in the PPG only costs a shelter or rescue $35/year. A small investment to demonstrate their commitment to “No, Pain, No Force, and No Fear,” and inconsequential considering the wealth of information available to them as part of their membership.
  2. They have policies in place, ensuring that they follow the PPG Guiding Principles and the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines.
  3. They have signed the Shock-Free Coalition Pledge.

Transparency About Behavioral Issues

In her blog post The Changing Role & Responsibility of Rescues & Shelters4 ( FMIhttp://bit.ly/2HQHit9 ), Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Debbie Jacobs addresses the fact that many dogs end up in shelters with severe behavioral issues. She notes that in most cases shelters do not have the resources to successfully rehabilitate these dogs “efficiently and humanelynor do most adopters. When most people adopt a pet they are not looking for a project in behavior modification; they merely want a companion.

This week I had two different clients that adopted dogs from two different rescues. In the first case, the shelter minimized the potential difficulty of the adopter dealing with the dog’s separation anxiety. They got the dog home and quickly discovered she could not be left home alone without having an extreme panic attack, barking, defecating, and urinating throughout the house. This dog was suffering, and these people wanted to help, but they had to leave the dog alone part of the day because they had to work. Separation anxiety seldom resolves easily and rarely without professional help. That help and medication can be quite costly. The shelter should have recognized this home was not the right fit for this dog. Instead, their error further traumatized the dog and caused some severe emotional distress for the dog’s adopters who now felt as if they had failed. The only failure here was the shelter.

In the second case, my client adopted two dogs whom they were told were “strongly bonded” and had no issues. When they got the dogs home, the dogs were constantly fighting. The aggression was serious enough that my client’s veterinarian advised against keeping the dogs. The rescues owner said: “One of the dogs is a bit bossy, just let them work it out.” Aggression is a severe issue and does not fix itself. My clients made a difficult emotional decision to return these dogs. While they felt terrible, they knew they there were not equipped to deal with this level of inter-dog aggression. They wanted two dogs they could care for, not two dogs that wanted to hurt one another.

What MUST A Shelter/Rescue Do?

Be Humane! ALWAYS! – Develop policies and procedures that comply with the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines  ( http://bit.ly/AAHA-2015BHx ) and the PPG Guiding Principles ( http://bit.ly/PPG-GuidingPrinciples ) and then train your staff and volunteers and make sure that they are all following these policies. While you are at it, sign the Shock-Free Coalition Pledge ( https://www.shockfree.org/Pledge )

Be Honest and Transparent About Any Behavioral Issues – Behavioral issues such as separation anxiety, aggression, and resource guarding can present a danger to the animal, the adopter, and the public. If you have a pet in your shelter with these issues, you have a responsibility to be completely honest with all potential adopters. Always err on the side of public safety. If an adopter is at all hesitant, do NOT push the adoption so you can get one more pet out the door. I know many people who have had this experience and because of it will NEVER adopt from a rescue again.

Happily Accept All Returns with NO Shaming! – Not all placements are going to work. When someone brings a pet back, accept it cheerfully without trying to guilt or shame the adopter. Surrendering a pet was not an easy decision for them so please show them as much compassion as you would show the pet.

When advising clients on choosing a breeder most pet care professionals I know suggest one of the criteria of a good breeder is one that will take back any puppy they have sold, at any time, for any reason. Shelters and rescues need to step up and be held to the same standard.

Recommended References

1 At What Cost Is Savings Dog Acceptablehttp://bit.ly/2OvI0MY

2 Pet Professional Guild (PPG) – Position Statement – The Use of Shock in Animal Traininghttps://www.petprofessionalguild.com/shockcollars

3 American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) – 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines  – http://bit.ly/AAHA-2015BHx

4 The Changing Role & Responsibility of Rescues & Shelters http://bit.ly/2HQHit9

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

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 – http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collarshttp://bit.ly/ShockCollars

Electric Shock Collars: Unreasonable Expectations and Misleading Advertising – WWM JUN2018http://bit.ly/ShockCollarExpectationsDeception

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship – WWM-SEP2018 http://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – WWM-JAN2019 http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-1

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – WWM-FEB2019 –  http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-2

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

Podcast – The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collarshttp://bit.ly/ShockPodcast

Podcast – The Woof Meow Show: The Pet Professional Guild and the Shock-Free Coalition with Niki Tudgehttp://bit.ly/PodCastShockFree-NikiTudge-2017

Web Sites

Pet Professional Guild – Join Today – https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/TheGuildApplicationForm

Pet Professional Guild – Find A Professional  – http://bit.ly/PPG-Find-A-Prof

The Shock-Free Coalitionhttps://www.shockfree.org/

Take the Shock-Free Pledgehttps://www.shockfree.org/Pledge

Shock-Free Pledge Signatures – https://www.shockfree.org/Signatures

Charity Navigatorhttps://www.charitynavigator.org

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. 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). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©2-May-19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Podcast – Dog Training and Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, an interview with Linda Case, Part 2

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

< Shareable Short Link to this page >

In this second of a two-part series, Kate and Don interview dog trainer and author Linda Case about her book Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog. In the last episode, we focused on foundational material covered in the book. This week we get into the nitty-gritty of dog training and talk about:

  • The benefits of working with a professional dog training instructor.
  • Qualities to look for in a dog training instructor and what to avoid.
  • Why it is so important to teach students how a dog learns and the most important things we can teach them on this topic.
  • What is clicker training and why it is so useful when training a dog?
  • The power of using food as a reward when training a dog.
  • How we help students address undesirable behaviors, they experience with their dogs.
  • The four most valuable behaviors we teach our students to train their dogs.

If you want to learn about your dog and how to live together happily, you will want to listen to this show and read Linda’s book.

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://streamdb7web.securenetsystems.net/ce/index.cfm?stationCallSign=WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ and the Apple iTunes store.

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

#WoofMeowShow #LindaCase #ScienceDog #DogTraining

Contact Info

Linda P. Case, MS
AutumnGold Consulting and Dog Training Center
Mahomet, IL

(217) 586-4864

Autumngoldconsulting.com

https://www.facebook.com/pg/LindaCaseAutumnGold/posts/

https://thesciencedog.wordpress.com/

Recommended Resources

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

Book Review – Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Casehttp://bit.ly/BkRvw-Case-DogSmart

What Is Dog Training?http://bit.ly/WhatIsDogTraining

How to Choose a Dog Trainerhttp://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer

Understanding Dog Behavior, How Dogs Learn, and the Most Humane (Best) Ways to Train Them, P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center, Camden, Maine – 10NOV18http://bit.ly/PAWS-Camden-10NOV18

What Is Clicker Training? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsClickerTraining

Reward Based Training versus Aversives –  http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 – http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

Teaching the ATTENTION or LOOK Behavior http://bit.ly/GAKS-Attention

Teaching Your Puppy to Come When Called – Starting Pointshttp://bit.ly/Come-Recall

How Do I Get My Dog to Walk Politely Instead of Pulling on the Leash?http://bit.ly/WalkingPolitely

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

Dog Training and Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, an interview with Linda Case, Part 1http://bit.ly/WfMw-LCase-11MAY19

Is Feeding A Grain-Free Food to Our Dogs Dangerous?, with Linda Case, MS – http://bit.ly/Podcast-FDA-Grain-Free-LindaCase-29SEP18

How to Choose A Dog Trainer (2017) http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/08/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

Podcast – The Benefits of Training Your Dog and 2019 Classes at Green Acreshttp://bit.ly/WfMw-Training2019

©18MAY19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Shared Article – The emotional toll of a reactive dog by Jay Gurden-Dogs Today

< a short link to this post – http://bit.ly/SharedGurenEmotional >

I recently came across this article on Facebook and had to share it. I too have lived with a reactive and severely aggressive dog and can testify that it is not easy and there is a huge emotional toll. I have no regrets because with lots of help and guidance we cured my dog ( FMITikken – Vaccines, Aggression, OCD, & Homeopathyhttp://bit.ly/TikkensAggxStory ) and she lived several more year without any behavioral problems. However, in many ways, my situation made living with a reactive dog easier than it would be for most people. Caring for Tikken during her behavioral issues was a multi-year project, and I have no regrets about doing it. However, Paula and I were able to do it because; we did not have any children to worry about, we both worked at a business attached to our home, so one of us was always there 24//7, and the architecture of our home is such that it was easy to compartmentalize areas where Tikken was allowed unsupervised. That being said, it was emotionally draining. If we had not been fortunate enough to have all of those advantages, Tikken’s life may have had a very different ending. I think it is essential for all pet care professional to realize and understand that not all pet parents will be able to manage and care for a reactive dog and accept that fact, along with the fact that the number of people looking to adopt such a dog is very small.

I cannot thank Jay Gurden enough for writing this article because I believe it is one that should be read by anyone with a reactive dog. < click to read >

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog

( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

Tikken – Vaccines, Aggression, OCD, & Homeopathyhttp://bit.ly/TikkensAggxStory

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 – http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

Shared Article – Sample of rescued dogs shows link between gut microbiome, aggressiveness

From Oregon State University

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A groundbreaking study of more than two dozen rescued dogs, some aggressive and some not, showed a clear link between aggressive behavior and the microbes that live in the dogs’ guts.

The findings, published today in PeerJ, stop short of saying the composition of a dog’s gut microbiome causes aggressiveness, or vice-versa – only that there are statistical associations between how an animal acts and the microbes it hosts.

FMIhttps://today.oregonstate.edu/news/sample-rescued-dogs-shows-link-between-gut-microbiome-aggressiveness

 

 

Shared Blog Post – the dodo – Cesar, When You Hit A Dog You Pay The Price

< a short link to this post – http://bit.ly/dodoDW-Holly >

If you found this post because you have a dog that is guarding their food or is doing any type of resource guarding or other form of aggression, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help from a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant ( click to find a CDBC near you ), a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, CAAB ( click to find a CAAB near you ), or a Veterinarian that is Board Certified in Veterinary Behavior, DACVB ( click to find a DACVB near you ). Resource guarding or any type of aggression by a dog has the potential to result in a dog bite. If you are concerned that your dog has a high probability of biting you need to address this immediately. A dog that bites can be very dangerous < click to read about dangerous dogs >. As you will see in the following video provoking the dog or threatening them or trying to be “dominant” is only likely to make matters worse.

There is a segment in the documentary film Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats < click to view > that shows the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, punching a yellow Labrador Retriever in the neck, allegedly to teach her not to guard her food. I am sharing this blog post and video because it is an excellent tool for learning more about canine body language when a dog is feeling threatened.

In a November 2014 blog post from the dodo, Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society, discusses this episode, Showdown with Holly, and a slow-motion version of the show entitled Show Down with Holly in Slow Motion – A dissection of canine body language. The latter adds commentary that points out the body language used by Holly to indicate that she was feeling threatened. It also illustrates the additional visual signals Holly uses in an attempt to de-escalate the confrontation. Milan was either unaware of these signals and their importance (I didn’t see that coming!) or simply chose to ignore them. Milan is bitten when he moves the same hand he used to punch Holly near her face. < click to view > NOTE: You will need to click on “Uncover Video.”

Bekoff has this to say about the video Show Down with Holly in Slow Motion – A dissection of canine body language:

“This short video is a wonderful example of dog body language. I think of it as a crash course in canid ethology — dog behavior 101. I highly recommend those people who want to see what happened to study this video very closely. I’ve watched countless hours of video of a wide variety of social encounters in various canids — members of the dog family — and I still learned a lot from this encounter. I watched it more than a dozen times and I’m sure I’ll go back to it.”

There are many lessons in this video about how dogs communicate what they’re feeling using all parts of their body and various vocalizations. There also are valuable lessons for the need to respect what a dog is telling us, what they want and what they need. Holly was very clear about her state of mind, what she was feeling, and what she needed.”

I encourage you to read Marc Bekoff’s entire blog post < click here >

At the conclusion of Show Down with Holly in Slow Motion – A dissection of canine body language you will find two links to more information. The first is an excellent article on resource guarding by Dr. Patricia McConnell, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and author < click to read >. The second is a blog post by Jim Crosby < click to read > which provides a written description with time codes of the Showdown with Holly as it originally appeared on TV < click to view >. It is also very educational for those wishing to learn more about canine body language.

It is important to note that training your dog will NOT typically resolve resource guarding issues — a dog that is behaving aggressively, whether due to fear or anger, is responding emotionally. Teaching your dog to sit, leave it, or any other behavior is all about teaching them to offer a specific behavior when given a particular cue. Training is unlikely to change a negative emotion and may make it worse. Emotional responses can be altered through behavior modification, and that is where a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, or a Veterinarian that is Board Certified in Veterinary Behavior, DACVB can help you.

As a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, CDBC I offer behavior consultations for clients with dogs with problem behaviors. You can learn more about those services at our website < click to read > and about my approach to these types of problems in this article from my blog; Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? < click to read >.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog

( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

Dangerous Dogs! – What Shelters, Rescues, Prospective Adopters, and Owners Need to Know – http://bit.ly/Dangerous-Dogs

 Dominance: Reality or Myth –  http://bit.ly/Dominance-RealityorMyth

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationshiphttp://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance

What Should I Do When My Dog Does Not Let Me Take Something They Have Stolen and Snaps or Tries to Bite Me?http://bit.ly/StealGuardGrowlSnap

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do?http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

Shared Blog Post – Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats: Messes We Make With Companions – A new film by Hugh Dorigo about the plight of millions of companion animals by Marc Bekoff in Psychology Todayhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/09/25/shared-blog-post-dogs-cats-and-scapegoats-messes-we-make-with-companions-a-new-film-by-hugh-dorigo-about-the-plight-of-millions-of-companion-animals-by-marc-bekoff-in-psychology/

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

Podcast – The Woof Meow Show: The documentary film Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats with Producer and Director, Hugh Dorigohttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/09/23/podcast-the-woof-meow-show-the-documentary-film-dogs-cats-and-scapegoats-with-producer-and-director-hugh-dorigo/

Books

Mine! – A Practical Guide To Resource Guarding In Dogs, Jean Donaldson, Dogwise Publishing, 2002

Other Articles On The Web

Cesar, When You Hit A Dog You Pay The Price – Marc Bekoffhttps://www.thedodo.com/cesar-when-you-hit-a-dog-you-p-812125567.html

The Other End of the Leash, Dr. Patricia McConnell – Resource Guarding: Treatment and Prevention  – https://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/resource-guarding-treatment-and-prevention

Canine Aggression Issues with Jim Crosby – Food Aggression and a Famous Trainerhttp://jimcrosby.canineaggressionissueswithjimcrosby.com/2012/09/food-aggression-and-famous-trainer.html

 

Videos

Show Down with Holly in Slow Motion – A dissection of canine body languagehttps://www.facebook.com/799673286/videos/10152902693393287/ – NOTE: You will need to click on “Uncover Video.”

Showdown with Holly | Dog Whispererhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ihXq_WwiWM&feature=share

 

Resources for Finding Help From A Credentialed Expert in Canine Behavior

The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB)https://www.dacvb.org/search/custom.asp?id=4709

The Animal Behavior Society (ABS) – http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/applied-behavior-caab-directory.php

The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)https://iaabc.org/consultants

Remedial Socialization – Bring the Junkyard Home

OBJECTIVE: To help a neo-phobic dog habituate to novel objects in their environment.

Dog/handler teams are appropriate for this exercise when:

  • The dog is well bonded with and trusting of the handler.
  • The handler is very sure that this exercise will work. If there is any doubt, consult with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) that is experienced in working with fearful and reactive dogs before proceeding.

The handler will need:

  • To read the recommended resources at the end of this document.
  • A hungry dog with a properly fitting harness or collar, one that they cannot remove or slip off. Shock, choke, or prong collars should NEVER be used.
  • A standard, 6-foot leash.
  • High value treats such as freeze-dried liver, meat, or cheese.
  • A yard and/or room large enough that the dog has space to feel secure in the presence of a novel object.
  • A variety of novel objects that they can place in their home or yard.

When to Start:

  • During a quiet time when your dog is not overly stimulated or excited.
  • Enter the room/yard so that the dog is as far away from the novel object as possible.
  • As the dog notices the object, give treats to the dog as long as they are not fearful or reactive.
  • The goal is for the dog to see something in the distance and anticipate a yummy treat.
  • Graduate to walking around the object.
  • With success move closer to the object in future sessions.

Training Sessions:

  • Are short and very fun – quit before the dog is sated, typically within five minutes.
  • Happen frequently and are repeated in the same location until successful (don’t introduce a second object or a new location until you can be with the dog, giving treats, within 10 feet of the object without your dog becoming fearful or reactive.
  • Are at the beginning level of difficulty until the dog sees something new and promptly looks toward its handler for the yummy treat.
  • Are only gradually increased in difficulty as the dog is successful.

The goal is to be able to:

  • Sit in a room/yard with different types of novel objects without your dog becoming anxious or reactive.

 

Recommended Resources

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

 

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 – http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Management of An Aggressive, Fearful or Reactive Doghttp://bit.ly/BhxManagement

Remedial Socialization – People – The Watch the World Game – http://bit.ly/RemedialSocializationPeople

Reward Based Training versus Aversiveshttp://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

What Is A Pet Behavior Consultant? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsPetBhxConsulting

What Should I Do When My Dog Does Not Let Me Take Something They Have Stolen and Snaps or Tries to Bite Me?http://bit.ly/StealGuardGrowlSnap

What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?http://bit.ly/DogGrowls

 

©11SEP18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Remedial Socialization – The Watch the World Game

The original idea for this protocol was developed by Laura Van Dyne CPDT-KA, The Canine Consultant LLC, Carbondale, CO.

OBJECTIVE: To help a neo-phobic dog habituate to novel people in novel environments

 

Dog/handler teams are appropriate for this exercise when:

  • The dog is well bonded with and trusting of the handler.
  • The handler is very sure that this exercise will work. If there is any doubt, consult with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) that is experienced in working with fearful and reactive dogs before proceeding.

 

The handler will need:

  • To read the recommended resources at the end of this document.
  • A hungry dog with a properly fitting harness or collar, one that they cannot remove or slip off. Shock, choke, or prong collars should NEVER be used.
  • A standard, 6-foot leash.
  • High value treats such as freeze-dried liver, meat, or cheese.
  • A vehicle with a door that can be opened so the dog and person can sit inside the vehicle together (hatchback or van with sliding side door) facing outward with the door open.
  • A parking lot with an appropriate level of activity, little or no action at first that is sufficiently large that you can position your car several yards away from any activity.

 

When to Start:

  • During a quiet time.
    • Sunday morning, unless it’s a church parking lot.
  • Park at a distant point with the door for sitting facing the parking lot.
  • Sit inside with the dog either tethered or securely in hand.
  • Give treats to the dog as long as the dog is not reactive.
  • The goal is for the dog to see something in the distance and anticipate a yummy treat

Training Sessions:

  • Are short and very fun – quit before the dog is sated, typically within five minutes.
  • Happen frequently and repeated in the same location until successful (don’t go to parking lot #2 until your dog is non-reactive and content in parking lot #1).
  • Are at the beginning level of difficulty until the dog sees something new and promptly looks toward its handler for the yummy treat.
  • Are only gradually increased in difficulty as the dog is successful.

 

The goal is to be able to:

  • Sit in front of a busy grocery store with different types of people, grocery carts, cars, etc. passing by. Ideally, some of the people are speaking other languages and are of different nationalities

Remember Thus far – the team is still cocooned within the safety of the vehicle

 

Graduate out of the car:

  • Only when assured of success.
  • Perhaps in the original parking lot (#1), at the distant (station #1) location.
  • Step out of the car and simply stand there holding the leash securely in hand, if the dog is comfortable it should step out and stay with you to get more treats (Stay at this level for as many repetitions as necessary).
  • Graduate to walking around the car.
  • With success move closer to the action in future sessions.

 

Graduate to an outside location:

  • Find an appropriate bench or take something to sit on (Suggestion-have the dog sitting next to its person; it’s a more secure place than being removed to the ground).
  • Choose a place that is so easy; your dog is practically guaranteed to be non-fearful and non-reactive – maybe it’s just a quiet place – no people, vehicles, etc. at first
  • Gradually increase the difficulty – Over Practice Success!

 

What could go wrong?

  • Someone passing by could want to, ‘Pet the dog’ or come to visit with the person. The cuter and smaller dogs will be more attractive to passersby.
  • Sometimes, for safety and success the handler may have to be assertive to the point of rude to keep people away**
  • Bring a helper to run interference if necessary.
  • If the handler cannot read the stress level of the dog accurately, the dog could get worse!
  • “Life Happens” – at any time, if things go awry, leave.

**Comment:

Many people in the general public think they are a dog person, “Dogs love me!” and they move in, forward facing, staring at the dog, with their hands reaching for the dog’s face (actually doing all the wrong things!). A handler comment like, “Please don’t approach, my dog is fearful.” seems to stimulate the worst in passersby so the handler may have to interrupt and, perhaps, cross the border of polite behavior to prevent problems.

 

Recommended Resources

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

 

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 – http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Management of An Aggressive, Fearful or Reactive Doghttp://bit.ly/BhxManagement

Remedial Socialization – Objects – Bring the Junkyard Homehttp://bit.ly/RemedialSocializationObjects

Reward Based Training versus Aversiveshttp://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

What Is A Pet Behavior Consultant? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsPetBhxConsulting

What Should I Do When My Dog Does Not Let Me Take Something They Have Stolen and Snaps or Tries to Bite Me?http://bit.ly/StealGuardGrowlSnap

What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?http://bit.ly/DogGrowls

©11SEP18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship

< Updated 2JAN19 >

< A version of this article was published in the September 2018  issue of Downeast Dog News >

< A short link to this article on my blog – http://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance >

In a recent interview, I was asked a series of questions about how to choose a dog trainer. One of the questions was “What would you like to have known when you started training dogs?” This post will be the first of a series of article inspired by that question.

This series of articles has since been renamed Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog, and you can find a complete list of posts in the series at < http://bit.ly/ThingsIWishIHadKnown >

Don & Gus in 1991, Before the Alpha Roll

In the spring of 1991, I had a new 12-week old Cairn Terrier puppy named Gus. I had no knowledge of dog training, but a desire to learn. I started to learn by reading two of the most popular dog training books at the time; How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend and Mother Knows Best. The basic premise of both books was that a dog is a wolf and the best way to train and care for a dog is to dominate it like an Alpha wolf would dominate a wolf pup. My wife and I also enrolled ourselves and Gus in a puppy kindergarten class offered by the local dog club.

Our first night in puppy class was a complete disaster. I was told to command Gus to sit, and Gus failed to comply. Now, this was not a big deal to us nor a surprise, as we were well aware that Gus had no clue what we wanted him to do when we said the word “Sit.” However, Gus’ failure to comply was a massive deal to the two instructors. They told me, in no uncertain terms, that Gus was exerting his dominance and that I had to alpha roll him to show him that I was the Alpha. The alpha roll was precisely what the books we were reading recommended, so not knowing any better I did as I was told. As I grabbed Gus by the scruff and pinned him, he immediately began thrashing around underneath me, growling and snapping, and trying to connect his teeth with me, so that I would let him go. I know now that Gus was terrified but at the time believed I was doing the right thing.

The instructor now became even more adamant: “We can’t have that! Grab his muzzle and clamp it shut!” My instincts said “Whoa! That’s not safe!” but these people were the “experts” so I tried grabbing Gus’ muzzle in my hand. Instantly, I felt his canines puncture my palm. As my blood started dripping on the floor, Gus broke free and moved as far away from me as he could. There is something to be said for listening to your gut instincts. Gus followed his; I failed to pay attention to mine.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, everything that I had read and been taught about the alpha wolf rollover was based upon flawed knowledge. My puppy was afraid for his life, and it was my fault.

When we got back home, it was evident that the relationship between Gus and I was severely damaged. I was no longer being asked to “throw the ball” by the puppy with the joyously vibrating tail. Gus did not trust me, and I did not trust him. Over many months Gus and I learned to trust one another again, and training and behavior became something we both enjoyed. We were fortunate to discover Dr. Patricia McConnell where we learned about the wonders of reward-based training. We had fun; our dogs had fun and that should be a primary focus of training.

So this is what I would have liked to have known before I started training Gus.

  • Just because something is in a book written by an alleged expert does not mean it is good advice or even factual.
  • The study of wolf packs in the wild has taught us that a wolf pack is a family working cooperatively to survive to pass on their genes. Their survival depends on cooperation, NOT competition to be the alpha within the pack.
  • The violent alpha roll described in the books I read has never been observed happening in a wolf pack. A wolf pup may voluntarily roll on its back and submit to an older wolf, but it is never physically forced to do so.
  • Karen Overall is a veterinarian who is also one of the few vets that is also a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior. She also has a PhD and is certified by the Animal Behavior Society as an Applied Animal Behaviorist. In other words, she is one of the leading experts on the planet on dog behavior. This is what she said about dominance at a PPG conference in 2016. “Dominance theory has shut off scientific research and has crept into medicine to the point where we think we can do things to animals whereby we are asking them to ‘submit’….dominance theory is insidious and has crept into everything we do with dogs and it’s wrong. It has gotten in the way of modern science and I’ve just about had it. Every single thing we do with dogs hurts them because we don’t see them as individuals or cognitive partners.” [ Emphasis Added ]
  • In the 2017 documentary, Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats Overall sums it up very well when she states: “In the evolutionary literature “alpha” was just a shorthand for breeding. I’m the alpha – that you feel that you have to compete with a dog in your household over some imaginary rank, what does that say for how you live with people?” [ Emphasis Added ]
  • The entire concept of dominance is not only an erroneous understanding of the dog-human relationship, but it is also counterproductive to a harmonious relationship with our dog and may cause aggression as it did with Gus.

Unfortunately the same bad advice I received in 1991 is still being promulgated today, in spite of the fact that major canine organizations such as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT),  all warn of the use of dominance-based training.

Recommended Resources

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

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog Link Page http://bit.ly/ThingsIWishIHadKnown

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Mythhttp://bit.ly/Dominance-RealityorMyth

Thank You, PPG, and Gus Too! – from the May 2017 issue of the Pet Professional Guild journal, BARKS from the Guildhttp://bit.ly/ThanksPPG-Gus

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

The Dominance and Alpha Myth –  http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2010-03-21-The_Dominance_Myth.mp3

Prof. Chad Montrie and the documentary Tough Love: A Meditation on Dominance and Dogshttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2013-01-26-Tough_Love_Chad_Montrie.mp3

Other Publications

BARKS from the Guild – May 2017 – Thank You,  PPG , and Gus Too! https://issuu.com/petprofessionalguild/docs/bftg_may_2017_online_edition_opt/58

Videos

Tough Love: A Meditation on Dominance and Dogs, Anchorhold Films, 2012https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIjMBfhyNDE

Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats – The Mind of Cesar Millanhttps://vimeo.com/236013182

Dr. L. David Mech talks about the terms “alpha” and “beta” wolves and why they are no longer scientifically accuratehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNtFgdwTsbU

Position Statements

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior AVSAB Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animalshttps://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Dominance_Position_Statement_download-10-3-14.pdf

Association of Professional Dog Trainers –  APDT Position Statement on Dominance and Dog Traininghttps://apdt.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/dominance-and-dog-training.pdf

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet Friendly, Force-Free Pet Carehttp://bit.ly/GAKS_Pet-Friendly

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogshttp://bit.ly/GAKS-Pos-NoPain-NoForceNoFear

The Pet Professional Guild – Position Statement – Dominance Theory in Animal Training – https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/DominanceTheoryPositionStatement

 

Books

Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, Linda P. Case, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018read a review at http://bit.ly/BkRvw-Case-DogSmart

Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Dominance: Fact or Fiction, Barry Eaton, 2002.

Dominance Theory and Dogs Version 1.0, James O’Heare, DogPsych Publishing, 2003.

Don’t Shoot the Dog – The New Art of Teaching and Training (2ndedition), Karen Pryor, Bantam Books, 1999.

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

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

The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson, James & Kenneth Publishers, 2005.

The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001.

 

©2JAN19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Shared Article – Meet the dogs with OCD

Thanks to Facebook, I recently became aware of an article and podcast from June of 2017 entitled Meet the dogs with OCD by Shayla Love. It immediately attracted my attention because my dog Tikken displayed severe and debilitating OCD during part of her life < http://bit.ly/TikkensAggxStory >. The author discusses how research into OCD in humans and CCD in dogs has helped in the search for treatment options for both people and dogs.

If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to read the article or listen to the podcast at – https://mosaicscience.com/meet-dogs-OCD-canine-compulsive-disorder-people/

Recommended Resources

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

Complementary Medicine – Tikken – Vaccines, Aggression, OCD, & Homeopathyhttp://bit.ly/TikkensAggxStory

Before You Visit The Dog Park

< You may download and print a copy of this article by clicking this link >

< Updated 10MAY19 >

Dog parks can be an excellent place for your dog to run, romp, and socialize.

Dogs at play, photo by Debra Bell

They can provide an outlet for much needed mental stimulation and physical exercise, especially if you do not have a fenced yard where your dog can do this at home.  However, as I will explain in this article, dog parks can also be the site of great tragedy. I cannot emphasize enough, the need for caution before you take your dog to the dog park.

What Do the Experts Say About Dog Parks?

In a March 14, 2018 blog post by Nancy Kerns, the editor of The Whole Dog Journal, Dog Parks Are Dangerous! , Kerns describes what she calls “…a completely avoidable dog park fatality.” The news report by KCRA-3 in Sacramento shows video of Honey at the dog park the day before she was killed and describes what happened. The dogs who killed Honey in this incident are dangerous dogs and should never have been allowed off-leash outside of a fenced yard at their home again, much less be allowed at a dog park, yet what will prevent that from happening?

Kerns is not alone in her cautious approach to dog parks. In April of 2013, Dr. Karen London’s article Culture of Dog Parks appeared in The Bark, where she wrote: “It’s hard to deny the cliché that dog parks create both the best of times and the worst of times.“

In the January 2018 issue of The Whole Dog Journal, professional dog trainer and author, Pat Miller, outlined the pros and cons of dog parks in an article of the same name. Miller notes “As dog parks have become more common (and, indeed, as dog ownership has been on the rise in the past decade) they have somehow morphed from being something that local dog owners band together and fight to build, to places where few really knowledgeable owners care to take their dogs. It seems everyone has a horror story to tell about “that day at the dog park,” featuring overstimulated dogs running amok, dogs practicing bully behaviors, dog fights, and even dog deaths.” [Emphasis added]

In a blog post from May 10th, 2019 entitled Dogs That Should Avoid Going to a Dog Park, veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker discusses why some dogs should avoid dog parks.

I love dogs and like nothing better than helping people and their dogs have the best life possible. I do not believe anyone intentionally puts their dog in harm’s way. However, in today’s fast-paced life where we often seem to jump from one task to the next with little forethought, we can put our dogs at risk. There are many things to consider before you take your dog to the dog park. As I discuss the pros and cons of dog parks, I will provide you with suggestions on what you can do to make sure that if you choose to take your dog to a dog park, it is a pleasurable experience for all.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before the 1st Trip to A Dog Park

Assessing Your Dog

Muppy & Don-Gotcha! Day 1

How long have you had your dog? If you have just rescued a dog, congratulations and thank you for providing a home to a dog in need! However, you need to understand that going through the rescue process can be pretty traumatic, and as a result, you may not know your dog’s true nature for several days or even weeks. To ensure your dogs transition from rescue to companion goes as smoothly as possible, take some time to get to know your new friend. Build an incredible bond before you tackle an adventure, with significant risks, like the dog park. The same holds true for starting a training class, and yes you should complete a training class with EVERY dog in your family; however, not all rescues will be ready to start a class immediately, as I learned with my rescue dog Muppy.

However, if you have a puppy, you need to recognize that a critical learning period for a puppy starts at eight weeks of age and ends by sixteen weeks of age. You will want to start them in a class during this timeframe or at least be working with a reward-based, fear-free trainer at this time.

How old is your dog?

  • Puppies – For health reasons alone I would NEVER bring a puppy to a dog park until they are fully vaccinated. Remember, unlike a reputable puppy headstart class or daycare, no one is verifying that dogs visiting the dog park are current on all recommended vaccinations and are free of worms fleas, and other parasites.
  • Puppies first learn about interacting with other dogs and how and how not to play from littermates, mom, and hopefully from other appropriate older dogs. A singleton puppy, or puppies that are removed from mom too soon, may miss out on many essential learning opportunities and may not be appropriate for the dog park. If you adopt a puppy that falls into this category, I recommend working with a reward-based, force-free trainer without delay.
  • While it is essential for a puppy to have opportunities to play and interact with other dogs, especially during the 8 to 16 week socialization period, it is vital that you plan and control those playtimes to ensure a positive outcome. That means you need to know the people and the other puppy that will be playing with your pup.
  • The best playmates for a puppy are those of the same approximate age and size that also enjoy the same type of play. Some puppies like to chase while others like to be chased. Some want to body slam, while others prefer to wrestle. Puppies with mismatched play styles may not have a good time.
  • I also advise my puppy headstart students to avoid letting their pup play with “teenage” dogs between 12 months and 36 months of age unless they know those dogs very well. Doing so is not all that different from sending a five-year-old child out with a group of teenagers. Yes, a young puppy may happily interact by playing with canine teenagers, but they may also learn to play too rough and in a manner that will not be appreciated by pups in their age group.
  • Lastly, the best play opportunities for a new puppy is with one other puppy at a time. By limiting a playgroup to two puppies, you avoid the possibility of a group of pups bullying one puppy. Two dogs are also much easier to supervise than several puppies. Yes, daycare’s will have more dogs playing at once; however, any reputable daycare staff will have several hours of training on behavior and group play before being asked to supervise a group of dogs. Even then a trustworthy daycare will limit the size of playgroups to no more than five to eight dogs per supervising pet care technician.
  • Senior Dogs – An older dogs view of enjoyable play may be very different from the type of play preferred by puppies or adolescent dogs. Many older dogs prefer just wandering, sniffing, and exploring their surroundings. They avoid interactions with younger, overly enthused dogs that often play too rough. If your senior dog is in this category, the dog park may not be a good choice. An older dog can wander and enjoy themselves on a long line many places where they do not need to concern themselves with rowdy dogs.
  • Has your new puppy or dog been examined by your veterinarian? – Before taking a dog to the dog park, you need to take them to your veterinarian for their first wellness exam, even if the shelter or breeder just had the dog at their veterinarian. Your veterinarian will make sure that your dog gets all of the necessary vaccines or titer tests before they are exposed to the world. Your veterinarian will also discuss flea and parasite preventatives. This is important because no one is verifying that other dogs at the dog park have been vaccinated and are free of parasites. You do not want to take your dog to the dog park and have them bring home any unwanted and potentially harmful parasites, bacteria or viruses.
  • If your new friend has not been spayed or neutered yet, this is also when your veterinarian will discuss the pros and cons of neutering and the appropriate time for doing so. Spaying and neutering is not a black and white topic as it once was. You may want to get more than one opinion about whether you should spay or neuter, and when you should do so. Do not let a breeder or veterinarian dictate what you decide. When it comes to dog parks, understand that an unspayed female should not be at a dog park or daycare at any point during her heat cycle, and unneutered males may not always play appropriately. Many boarding and daycare facilities will require that dogs be spayed/neutered by six months of age if they participate in group play.
  • How well was your dog socialized between three and sixteen weeks of age? Puppies have a critical socialization period between three and sixteen weeks of age. If you have a rescue dog, it is unlikely you will know how your dog was socialized, and it is a pretty safe bet that they had little or no socialization. That means that it is very likely that they will be cautious and possibly fearful of anything or anyone that they have not experienced previously. I would NOT recommend taking a dog to the dog park as a way of making up for a lack of socialization during the critical period. Also, recognize that socialization is about much more than introducing your dog to a couple of other dogs. Dogs vary widely in appearance and behavior, so it is essential that your dog have positive experiences with dogs of a wide variety of shapes, sizes, ages, colors and play styles. While remedial socialization is possible, it must be planned and controlled, and one must proceed slowly. Under socialized or inappropriately socialized dogs are not a good candidate to go to the dog park until they are no longer anxious in novel situations. Habituating your dog to novel stimuli may take several weeks of effort on your part. A reward-based, force-free trainer can help you plan a socialization program for your dog and can help make sure that you minimize any mistakes.
  • Is your dog anxious, fearful, reactive, or aggressive towards dogs or people? If, yes, do NOT take your dog to the dog park. There are many reasons your dog may behave in this manner. Taking them to the dog park is unlikely to change your dog’s behavior and in fact, has a high probability of making this behavior worse because the dog park will be filled with the things that cause your dog to react; people and other dogs. It also puts other people and dogs at risk of a severe

 

 

  • How well trained is your dog? To keep your dog, yourself, and others at the dog park safe, you have a responsibility to maintain control over your dog at all times and in all situations. Minimally, your dog should have a reliable sit, recall, an attention/look behavior, and a leave-it Your dog should reliably respond to these cues in your home and in the presence of other dogs and people in novel environments. If you and your dog have not become proficient at these behaviors, or if your dog is distracted by other dogs, enroll yourself and your dog in a reward-based training program that does not use aversives. You will be ready for the dog park once your dog responds reliably to behavioral cues in the presence of other dogs and people.
    • The sit behavior is useful for getting your dog under control, helping the
      Muppy Recall

      dog to learn to control their impulses and a way you can prevent them from jumping on other people and dogs at the dog park.

    • A reliable recall behavior will allow you to get your dog to return to you instead of joining a dogfight or may prevent them from mobbing the new dog entering the park.
    • A well-trained leave-it can work in much the same fashion.
    • After you have accomplished teaching these behaviors, then take your dog to the dog park.
  • Why are you taking your dog to the dog park? Not every dog needs to go to
    Dulcie with her addiction

    the dog park or for that matter doggie daycare. One of the new myths being perpetuated by some is the idea that you are a bad dog parent unless you take your dog to daycare or the dog park several days per week. The fact is, not all dogs will benefit from or enjoy dog parks or doggie daycare. We rescued our Cairn Terrier Dulcie when she was about five years old. We let her settle in our home, and a few weeks later I sent her to daycare. I owned the daycare, it was easy, and I thought she would enjoy socializing with other dogs. Within a couple of days, my staff was telling me “Dulcie hates daycare. She has no interest in the other dogs and wants them to stay far away.” That ended Dulcie’s daycare adventure and also let me know that Dulcie would have hated a dog park.

If your dog loves a rousing game of fetch, it is entirely possible that they will not enjoy other dogs chasing after their “ball.” There are many places to play fetch other than the dog park.

If your dog only needs a place to sniff or roll in the grass, fence in your yard or if that is not an option, put your dog on a long line (a 15 to 20-foot leash) and let them explore your yard or non-dog parks where dogs are allowed.

Daycare and dog parks are for well-socialized dogs that already enjoy the company of other dogs and people.

Neither the dog park nor daycare is an appropriate venue for the remedial socialization of a dog that is anxious or reactive to other dogs or people.

Assessing Yourself

  • Do you have a basic understanding of dog behavior? Many of the myths about dogs, such as; dominance and being “alpha,” and the need to use aversives to exert dominance are not only false but are counterproductive to the training, management, and care of a dog. They can easily cause a dog to become unsuitable for interactions at the dog park. If you need help in understanding what is fact and what is myth about canine behavior, seek out a professional rewarded-based, fear-free dog trainer. Do NOT rely on the internet which is where many of the erroneous information about dog behavior is routinely circulated.
  • Do you understand the subtlety of body language used by dogs? Dog’s use their body to communicate with other dogs as well as us. A dog may give many signals before they react, giving us an opportunity to help them before things get out of hand. You need to be able to recognize your dog’s calls for help. A professional force-free and pain-free dog trainer can teach you how to interpret what your dog is trying to tell you.

 

 

How well do you understand dog play behavior? Most dogs love to play, and it is an essential part of their ongoing development. However, no dog will play if they are thirsty, hungry, tired, in pain or fearful. Dogs need to feel both physically and emotionally safe before they will play. A dog that is new to you, especially a rescue, is unlikely to feel safe in your home immediately, much less at a dog park filled with strangers. Until you have established a bond of trust with your dog, you are better off avoiding the dog park. When you do decide to visit the dog park, be ready to leave if your dog is not having a good time.

Play has no other aim but itself, it is all about fun. Normal dog play includes bits and pieces of aggressive, predatory, and sexual behavior in a non-threatening context. Once a dog is playing it usually is all about play. Keep the dog park for play and other places for training. A visit to the dog park can be a high-value reward after a brief training session.

Play is ALWAYS voluntary. First of all, it is NOT play if any of the participants are not interested in playing. When a dog initiates play, it is normal to respect others dog when they tell them “not now.” Not all dogs do well at this. When my dog Tikken was a puppy, she was not good at listening to older dogs who asked that she back off.

Play is self-rewarding. Just like some people get a “runners high” and others get addicted to gambling, chocolate, nicotine, and narcotics some dogs can get addicted to playing, which is not a good thing. The same thing that happens in the brain of a runner or drug addict can happen in the brain of a dog. Fetch, which is predatory behavior,  is self-rewarding, and with some dogs can become a compulsive behavior. Our dog Dulcie was a ball addict. When people did not “give Dulcie “a tennis ball fix,” she became cranky and chronically stressed. Chronic stress can cause numerous emotional, mental and physical health issues. Dogs can also get addicted to the dog park, so remember, visit in moderation. I discourage daily visits to the dog park.

Play is not the same as reality. While play is very real, it is a variation on normal behaviors such as aggression, predation, and sex. That is why dogs will typically signal play via a play bow. The play bow means that what the dog does following the play bow and is NOT aggression or predation. Be aware that the play bow can also be used as a calming signal to increase distance. A play bow requesting play will be very dynamic with fluid and quick lateral motions. A play bow in slow motion is a way of saying “take it down a notch.”

Play is flexible and variable. Dogs will find a variety of ways to play. If it is with an object, play might constitute mouthing it, tossing it around, or pushing it with their nose. If it is play with another dog they might wrestle, chase, lie down and chew next to each other, then do some more chasing. Play is variable to keep it fun.

Play includes role reversals; there are no winners. Appropriate play between two dogs should be balanced. Dog A chases Dog B; then Dog B. chases Dog A, etc.. Dog B is on top when wrestling than Dog A gets their turn on top. If play is one-sided, it is no longer play.

Play includes self-handicapping. Older and larger dogs will often self-handicap when playing with smaller and younger dogs. We used to have an English Mastiff daycare with us, and she was one of the best dogs at getting puppies to play because she was so gentle and good at self-handicapping.

  • How reliable are your dogs sit, leave it, and recall behaviors? You have a
    Muppy Recall

    responsibility to be able to control your dog when they are out in public. Lack of training becomes even more critical at a dog park. If your dog cannot reliably perform a; SIT, LEAVE IT, or RECALL in the presence of other dogs, they are not a good candidate to take to the dog park. A professional, reward-based, force-free trainer can help you teach your dog these behaviors.

 

 

  • Do you know how to break-up a dogfight? If you are at all worried about your dog getting into a fight, do not go to the dog park. If you scout out the dog park before you bring your dog there, you should minimize the chances of a fight if the dog park passes my recommended tests. Dr. Sophia Yin has written an excellent article on breaking up a dog fight which you can access by clicking the link found above.

 

For Your First Visit – Leave Your Dog At Home

I recommend that you visit the dog park without your dog until you can first assess the physical facility and the parks culture. Visit the dog park without your dog on a day and at a time when you are likely to visit, looking for the following:

Assessing the Dog Park

  • Does the park have a double-gated entrance? – A double-gated entrance is a basic safety feature for a dog park. By opening only one gate at a time, it is possible to limit the possibility of dogs escaping. If there is no double gate, find another dog park
  • Is there a separate area for smaller dogs? – There is a huge difference in mass between a 4lb Yorkie and a 250lb English Mastiff. Even with no malicious intent, a larger dog can seriously injure a small dog during play. If you have a small dog, 30lb and less, you need a separate area at the dog park. Moreover, just because your little dog thinks they are a big dog, is no reason to allow them to play in the big dog area.
  • How large is the dog park and where is it located? – Ideally, a dog park will be several acres in size. Sadly, dog parks are often low priorities for many municipalities and are typically too small. Ten dogs in some dog parks at the same time may be too many. Dog parks are often located on the outskirts of town or in a less than desirable neighborhood, so think about your safety as well. My favorite dog park is Bruce Pit in Ottawa, Ontario. I had the opportunity to tour Bruce Pitt with my friend Carolyn Clark and Turid Rugaas, the author of Calming Signals. The park is enormous with varied terrain for the dogs to explore. It is possible to for your dog and a canine buddy to interact there without encountering a horde of frenetic fur balls.
  • Is the fencing in good repair so that a dog cannot hurt themselves or escape? – I own a kennel with lots of fencing and can tell you unequivocally it requires constant maintenance, especially after a Maine winter. Sadly, the dog park is often the last on the priority list for many municipal park departments. If the fencing is in disrepair, find another dog park.
  • Is the grass mowed on a regular basis and are the weeds under control? Like it or not, ticks are now part of our lives in Maine. Ticks love long grass. Recognize that if the grass at the dog park, both inside the fence and along the outside border of the fence, is not mowed on a regular basis, you may be exposing your dog and yourself to ticks and the many diseases they carry.
  • Is the park equipped to handle dog feces? – Any dog park needs to have; a dispenser for bags you can use to dispose of your dog’s poop and a closed container to be used for the disposal of filled poop bags and other trash. If the trash can is full, it is not getting emptied often enough. Dog feces will attract rodents, which in turn can spread parasites throughout the park. Walk around the park and observe if it is clear of feces. If not, this sadly suggests those using the park are not being good stewards and that you will want to find another dog park.

Assessing the Dog Park’s Culture

  • Are people focused and monitoring their dogs? Dogs at play need to be supervised, and you cannot be wrapped up in conversations with other people or engrossed in a cell phone and still be responsibly monitoring your dog. The best dog parks will not have places for people to sit. If people are not supervising their dogs, you want to pick a different time, day, or dog park.
  • How many dogs are present and is there one person for each dog? Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters sometimes bring groups of dogs that they are caring for to dog parks because they do not have their own People with multiple dogs may also bring more than one dog to the dog park. I believe that there should be one responsible adult human per every dog at the dog park.
  • How do the dogs in the park greet newcomers? Are they under control? When entering a dog park, a person and their dog are often swarmed by other dogs at the park. While the dogs charging to greet your dog may not have any malicious intent, your dog may not see it that way. If other people at the dog park are acting responsibly, they will call their dog to them and keep it under control so that you and your dog can enter the dog park in peace.
  • Are any of the dogs at the park bullying other dogs? If another dog is behaving pushy towards your dog, your dog will probably find the dog park a less than enjoyable experience.  The dog that is being the bully is learning that type of behavior is okay, which means they are more likely to practice it more often. The dog park needs to be a bully-free zone.
  • Are any of the dogs wearing shock, choke, or prong collars? Aversives (choke collars, prong collars, shock collars, and more) have no place in the training or management of any dog and are likely to cause fear and aggression; neither trait makes for a good dog park dog. Both the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) recommend that aversives should never be used.

So Let’s Go to the Park!

If you believe you and your dog are ready for the dog park and have found a park that meets your criteria for safety, then by all means go. Listed below are items I suggest you take with you whenever you visit a dog park with your dog.

Things to Bring When You Go to the Dog Park

  • An extra leash
  • Water and a bowl
  • A first aid kit
  • Poop bags
  • A cell phone pre-programmed with the number of the closest vet, but keep it in the car
  • Your insurance information and a pen and paper to record information

Things to Leave at Home or in the Car When You go to the Dog Park

  • Your cell phone
  • Your iPad or any type of electronic tablet
  • Books
  • Anything that will distract you from supervising your dog

Recommended Resources

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

Going to the Dog Park – Is It A Good Idea for You and Your Dog? –  http://bit.ly/GoingToTheDogPark

Shared Blog Post – Dogs That Should Avoid Going to a Dog Park from Dr. Karen Beckerhttp://bit.ly/DogParksBecker10MAY19

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship – WWM-SEP2018 – http://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – WWM-JAN2019 http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-1

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – WWM-FEB2019 –  http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-2

Dangerous Dogs! – What Shelters, Rescues, Prospective Adopters, and Owners Need to Knowhttp://bit.ly/Dangerous-Dogs

A Rescue Dogs Perspectivehttp://bit.ly/Rescue-Muppy

How to Choose A Dog Trainer – http://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer

Puppy Socialization and Habituation http://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? –  http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness – http://bit.ly/PetBhxWellness

Reward Based Training versus Aversiveshttp://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

Dominance Reality or Mythhttp://bit.ly/Dominance-RealityorMyth

Reward Based Training versus Aversives – http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful?http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Can You Trust What You Read on the Internet?http://bit.ly/CanYouTrustTheInternet

Gail Fisher’s Dog Tracks: Small dogs at risk if ‘predatory drift’ kicks inhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/04/30/shared-article-gail-fishers-dog-tracks-small-dogs-at-risk-if-predatory-drift-kicks-in/

 

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show ( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

Going to the Dog Park – Is It A Good Idea for You and Your Dog? http://bit.ly/WfMwGoingToTheDogPark

Podcast – Canine Behavior: Myths and Factshttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/27/podcast-canine-behavior-myths-and-facts/

Podcast – Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinichttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/13/podcast-the-woof-meow-show-pet-behavior-vets-the-aaha-canine-and-feline-behavior-management-guidelines-with-dr-dave-cloutier-from-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

Podcast – Worms, Fleas, and Ticks, Oh My!-Parasites & Your Pets with Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic – https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/24/podcast-worms-fleas-and-ticks-oh-my-parasites-your-pets-with-dr-dave-cloutier-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

Podcast – The Importance of Spaying and Neutering with Dr. Katie Carter of the River Road Veterinary Hospitalhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/02/03/podcast-the-importance-of-spaying-and-neutering-with-dr-katie-carter-of-the-river-road-veterinary-hospital/

Podcast – Spaying and Neutering with Dr. David Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic ( May 2017 )http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/05/01/podcast-spaying-and-neutering-with-dr-david-cloutier-from-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

Podcast – Considerations When Spaying and Neutering Pets with Dr. Mark Hanks from Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic ( February 2016 )http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/14/podcast-considerations-when-spaying-and-neutering-pets-with-dr-mark-hanks-from-kindred-spirits-veterinary-clinic/

Articles on the Web

Dog Parks Are Dangerous! – The Whole Dog Journal – Nancy Kerns – https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/blog/Dog-Parks-Are-Dangerous-21816-1.html

Small dog attacked, killed by 2 large dogs at Lodi park – KCRA3 Sacramento – http://www.kcra.com/article/small-dog-attacked-killed-by-2-large-dogs-at-lodi-park/19383305

Culture of Dog Parks – The Bark – Dr. Karen London – https://thebark.com/content/culture-dog-parks

The Pros and Cons of Dog Parks – The Whole Dog Journal, January 2018 – Pat Millerhttps://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/21_1/features/Dog-Park-Pros-and-Cons_21767-1.html

How To Break Up A Dog Fighthttp://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-behavior/how-break-a-dog-fight

Handouts to Download

Dog Park Etiquette – Dr. Sophia Yinhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/04/02/dog-park-etiquette-dr-sophia-yin/

Body Language of Fear in Dogs – Dr. Sophia Yinhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/body-language-of-fear-in-dogs-dr-sophia-yin/

How To Greet A Dog and What to Avoid – Dr. Sophia Yinhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/canine-body-language-how-to-greet-a-dog-and-what-to-avoid-dr-sophia-yin/

Canine Bite Levels – Dr. Sophia Yinhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/17/dog-bites-dr-sophia-yin-canine-bite-levels/

 

Books

On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals – Turid Rugass

Canine Play Behavior-The Science of Dogs at Play – Mechtild Käufer

A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! – Niki Tudge

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

©10MAY19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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