Before You Visit The Dog Park

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

< Updated 30APR18 >

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]

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 )

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 )

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

____________________________________________________________________________

To automatically get new posts appearing on www.word-woofs-meows.com, subscribe by entering your email address and clicking on subscribe.

 

________________________________________________________________________
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.

©7APR18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Podcast – The Woof Meow Show: The documentary film Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats with Producer and Director, Hugh Dorigo

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from September 23rd, 2017, Kate and Don talk with Hugh Dorigo about his new film Dogs, Cats, and Scapegoats. The film looks at shelters, rescues, breeders, laws and regulations, and training and behavior methodologies and examines how they are helping or not helping cats and dogs. A wide range of experts are interviewed in the film, and it clearly will give any pet lover much to consider. If you care about pets, you will want to watch this film. You can do so, online, at no charge, here –  https://vimeo.com/230807934

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

Recommended Resources

Blog Posts

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 Todayhttp://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/

Web Sites

Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats Movie on Vimeo –  – https://vimeo.com/230807934

Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DogsCatsScapegoats/

 

©23SEP17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Adopting A Pet – We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)!

< A version of this article was published in the
March 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>

<  UPDATED – 3SEP17 >

We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)!

Prior Planning Makes for Success

By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA

In January Kate and I did a two-part series on The Woof Meow Show (woofmeowshow.com) about finding the right dog for you and your family. You can read a companion article and get a link to the podcast here (Finding the right dog for you and your family). This column discusses what to do after you have found your dog but before you bring them home.

Adjust your schedule and priorities – Your new puppy is going to need significant time from you, especially during the first few months. A puppy has a key developmental period between eight to sixteen weeks of age, during which certain things need to happen if you want a well-adjusted puppy. This is not something you can postpone until you have time. Block off time in your daily schedule for your pup now, and stick to your commitment. Get other family members to pledge to do their part as well. It takes a family to raise a puppy.

Learn to accept, laugh and relax and ALWAYS be kind –   Your attitude and emotions will be a big factor in your pups happiness and readiness to bond with you. Trust me, dogs read us better than many of our closest human friends, and if you become angry with your dog, it will damage your relationship. Understand that a new dog, whether a puppy, a senior or anything in between, will need you to be patient and understanding. Accept the fact that both you and your dog will find one another frustrating at times. Rather than get mad, laugh and relax. Dogs like kind people with a good sense of humor.

Determine how you will handle your puppy’s housetraining – Your puppy will not housetrain themselves and will need someone present to take them out several times during the day. This need will continue for the first few months of their life. A rule of thumb for how many hours a puppy can “hold it” is their age in months plus one. For example, a four-month-old puppy will be able to “hold it” for five hours, at most. If you work all day long, you need a plan now, if you want your pup to become housetrained. Leaving a puppy in a room or an X-Pen while you are gone is just rewarding them for going to the bathroom inside, which will make training them to go outside take that much longer. If you cannot be there for your puppy, consider hiring a friend or family member to help you.

Make an appointment with your veterinarian for your puppy for the second day they are with you – No matter where you get your puppy, even if it is from your most trusted friend, take them to your veterinarian for their first wellness exam within twenty-four hours of your bringing them home. Make this appointment well in advance, so you are not delayed because your veterinarian’s schedule is booked.

Consider pet insurance – If you want to protect yourself against future major expenses, the time to consider pet insurance is when your dog is young, as it does not cover preexisting conditions. I recently had a client who adopted a new puppy that was diagnosed with a heart condition at their first appointment. While this is rare, it can happen. There are many pet insurance options available, so do your research.

Select a qualified trainer and enroll you and your puppy in a Puppy Headstart class – Do this now, before you have the puppy, so that you can make sure there is room in the class when your puppy arrives. Every dog will benefit from training, as will you, and the relationship between you and your dog. Developmentally, a puppy will benefit starting in class when they are eight to nine weeks of age, definitely before 16 weeks of age, when socialization windows close. A well-designed puppy class will focus on important issues like; socialization and habituation, housetraining, play biting, jumping up on people, and chewing. These are vastly more important at this stage than working on things like sit and shake. Working with a professional, certified, reward-based dog trainer can greatly simplify your life.

  • If you enroll in class, you are more likely to train your dog,
  • a trainer can answer your questions as they come up, and
  • a trainer can teach you how to avoid unintentionally training behaviors you do not want.

Do not just choose a trainer solely based on location, convenience or price. Training is an unregulated profession, and not all trainers are created equal. (How to choose a dog trainer)

Purchase Basic Supplies – You will need some basic supplies for your puppy. Minimally, these include a crate, a leash, a collar, an ID tag, food and water bowls, and toys.

Purchase Food and Treats – What you feed your pet and use for treats is a big decision, which can have significant effects on your puppy’s health. I believe that quality nutrition is the key to health and a long life. Be skeptical of television ads for pet food. The pet foods that you most often see advertised on TV are currently facing a lawsuit for misleading advertising. Avoid anyone suggesting that one and only one food is the best food for all pets. Recognize that breeders, veterinarians, pet stores, shelters; and others trying to sell you food, have a bias. Either commit to learning about pet nutrition, or find someone you can trust to help you.

Find a groomer – Not all dogs will need a professional groomer for their coat, but unless you plan on trimming your dog’s nails on your own, you will need the services of a professional groomer every four to six weeks. If you have a long-haired dog; Poodle, Doodle, Sheltie, etc., you will want your dog to start to become familiar with the grooming process between 8 and 16 weeks of age. I suggest a minimum of two to three visits to the groomer during this period, not for a full grooming, but just to have some “happy time” with the groomer and for your dog to become habituated to the process.

Have fun and enjoy your new companion – If you think I have made raising a puppy sound like lots of work that is because it is. However, the more you know and plan ahead of time the easier it is. The investment you make in your puppy will be paid back in fun and companionship.

 

Recommended Resources

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

Finding the right dog for you and your familyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/16/adopting-a-pet-finding-the-right-dog-for-you-and-your-family/

How to choose a dog trainerhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/08/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Parts 1, 2 & 3http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter

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

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 1http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2017-01-14Finding_the_Right_Dog_for_You_and_Your_FamilyPart-1.mp3

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 2http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2017-01-21Finding_the_Right_Dog_for_You_and_Your_FamilyPart-2.mp3

How to choose a dog trainer – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2017-01-07How_to_Choose_A_Dog_Trainer.mp3

The benefits of training your dog and 2017 Training Classes at Green Acres – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/12/12/podcast-the-benefits-of-training-your-dog-and-2017-training-classes-at-green-acres/

 

________________________________________________________________________
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.

©4MAR17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
<Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Shared Blog Post – the misunderstanding of time by Nancy Tanner

patience-it-is-very-important-800x800Patience. It is one of the first things that I address with students in my training classes and clients that I see for behavioral consultations. Sadly patience is often lacking in almost all aspects of modern life. We have become a society expecting instant gratification of all our needs as evidenced by fast-food drive-thru windows and texting and FaceBook messaging from our smart phones. Unfortunately, instant gratification does not usually happen when building a relationship and when learning or teaching, especially with another species.

I recently read a blog post by dog trainer Nancy Trainer titled the misunderstanding of time. In her post, she brilliant describes the need for patience. I have included her introductory and closing paragraphs below and encourage you to click on the link and read the entire post. You and your pets will be better for it.

  “When I am asked what is the biggest problem I see in dog training today, it is the same problem I saw fourteen years ago, and thirty years ago, it is the misunderstanding of time…

…My advice to new dog owners, seasoned dog owners, and want to be dog owners – learn how to settle in, learn that nothing will happen overnight. Learn that if you try to take short cuts and try to make it all happen to fit your schedule, or your desires, or your needs, it will come back to bite you in the ass, figuratively or literally.”

Click the link to read the entire post

https://nancytanner.com/2016/04/11/the-misunderstanding-of-time/

Podcast – Holistic and Complementary Wellness for Pets – Our Personal Journey

< Click to Listen to Podcast>

24sep16-holistic-and-complementary-wellness-for-pets-our-personal-journey-400x400This is the first in a series of shows on Holistic and Complementary Wellness for Pets. Kate and Don start by defining the term “holistic” and then discussing how it applies to dog training and simply living with a dog. They then discuss how and why they started to take a holistic approach to pet care, beginning with experiences with their pets and nutrition. The importance of exercise and mental enrichment are also addressed. Then they discuss their experiences with the following forms of complementary medicine; homeopathy, Bach flower remedies, acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and chiropractic. Lastly they mention the Holistic Wellness Day for Pets which will take place at The Green Gem Healing Oasis on Saturday, October 29th. This event will involve ten different seminars and several vendors of holistic products and services for pets. For more information go to the Green Acres Kennel Shop website at www.greenacreskennel.com/event

< Click to Listen to Podcast>

Recommended Resources

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

Tikken – Vaccines, Aggression & Homeopathyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/06/complementary-medicine-tikken-vaccines-aggression-homeopathy/

Bach Flower Remedies – An Overview of the Bach Flower Remedieshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-an-overview-of-the-bach-flower-remedies/

Dogs-Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2)http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/02/01/dogs-dog-training-a-holistic-approach-to-dog-training-parts-1-2/

 

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

 

PODCAST – Pet Health and Wellness – Don and Kate’s Journey with Complementary Medicine http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/08/29/podcast-pet-health-and-wellness-don-and-kates-journey-with-complementary-medicine/

PODCAST – Bach Flower Remedies for Pets with Don Hanson, BFRAP – part 1http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2011-02-26-Bach_Flower_Remedies_for_Pets_part1.mp3

PODCAST – Bach Flower Remedies for Pets with Don Hanson, BFRAP – part 2http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2011-03-05-Bach_Flower_Remedies_for_Pets_part2.mp3

 

©24SEP16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Dog Training – The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 2

< A version of this article was published in the March 2016 issue of Down East Dog News>

Don and Muppy-Fall 2015-1Last month I told you that I believe that every dog has the potential to be a great dog if their person; 1) has adequate and up to date knowledge about dogs, 2) is committed to developing and nurturing a relationship with their dog, 3) understands the importance of managing the dog and its environment, and 4) is committed to training the dog. All of this needs to happen throughout the life of the dog, as just like us, the dog is a living, breathing entity that is constantly learning and changing.

I discussed the importance of obtaining key pieces of knowledge before you even start searching for a dog and explained that the relationship between you and your dog will be the foundation of all that you will do together. This month I will address the remaining two essentials to having a great dog; management and training.

Management

Management is one of the simplest ways to resolve a behavior issue and in my experience is ironically, one of the hardest things to get many clients to consider. Far too often when someone has a behavioral issue with a dog they look for an elaborate training solution when all they need to do is to change the dog’s behavior by manipulating their environment. Management is simply taking the necessary steps to ensure your dog is not placed in a situation where they may not behave appropriately. In its simplest form, it translates to: If you do not want your puppy chewing on your new shoes, then do not leave the puppy and the shoes in the same room unsupervised.

I believe that management is essential to your dog’s training because every dog has, at least, two trainers; 1) their guardian and 2) the environment in which the dog spends its time. While you may spend an hour per day training your dog, your dog has the potential to learn from their environment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The environment in which your dog lives may consist of; other people, other animals, noises, odors, tastes, and visual and tactile stimuli that all have the potential to reward your dog. If you do not initially control your dog’s interaction with its environment, he may quickly learn behaviors that you do not want, such as tearing up magazines,  chewing on bedposts, or jumping up on people. While providing this management may seem incredibly time consuming, when done properly it will pay off as you will eventually be able to give your dog free access to your home.

Part of managing your dog also involves meeting their physical, emotional, and social needs. These needs are; 1) making sure your dog adequate access to water and appropriate food, 2) ensuring that your dog is free from physical and emotional discomfort and things that may cause them harm, 3) making sure that your dog has access to veterinary care and is free from pain, injury and disease, 4) ensuring that your dog is free from fear and distress and 5) making sure that your dog is free to express behaviors normal for their breed. The latter is especially important to consider before you get a dog, as not all normal behaviors are always appreciated by dog guardians.

Management is simple and profoundly effective. Just do it!

Training

Training involves teaching your dog and controlling the learning process. The objective of training is to have a happy dog that fits in with your lifestyle. I believe that every dog will benefit if they are trained to:

  1. Allow you to take away items that may pose a danger to them.
  2. Allow you to brush and groom them.
  3. Come when called.
  4. Walk politely on a leash.
  5. Sit or down when asked.
  6. Leave things when asked.
  7. Allow you to be near them when eating.
  8. Cope with being left alone.
  9. Quietly welcome our guests and us without jumping,
  10. Tolerate teasing children.
  11. Only urinate and defecate in specific locations on our schedule.

These are all foreign concepts to a dog and may be dangerous to them if they behaved this way in the wild. A feral dog that waited to be offered food and allowed it to be taken from him would not survive long. We must remember that dogs have instinctual needs to protect their food and themselves.

It is our responsibility to make sure our dog is trained to understand our world. When we do so, our family and friends welcome our dog and our dog is accepted in public places, and thus is allowed to be with us more frequently.

Working with a Certified Professional Dog Trainer/Professional Canine Trainer-Accredited (CPDT or PCT-A) can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to learn how you can best train a dog. Whether you work with such an individual in a group class or private one-on-one training, these highly skilled individuals can show you how to get the behaviors that you want through rewarding the dog. Equally important, they can help you learn how to extinguish the behavior you do not want; things like jumping up on people and stealing socks.

When choosing a trainer look beyond how close they are to where you live, the day of the week that classes are offered, and the cost of the training. The most important characteristic to look for in a trainer is how they train. Insist on a trainer that is committed to force-free, fear-free, and pain-free methods. That means that they will not be talking about dominance and alpha-rollovers or using tools like electronic shock collars, choke collars or prong collars. While these tools and methods were routinely used in the past; organizations such as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), The Pet Professionals Guild (PPG) and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) are unified in their recommendations that these tools and methods should NEVER be used in the training or the behavioral management of dogs. They are not only unnecessary but are counter-productive as they inhibit the dogs ability to learn and often make a dog reactive and aggressive.

Dogs can be wonderful companions and the best way to make sure that happens with every dog is to; 1) acquire the knowledge to understand your dogs behaviors and the language unique to them as a species, 2) have fun with your dog every day as one part of nurturing your ongoing relationship,  3) manage your dog and their environment so as to meet their needs while preventing undesirable behavior and 4) invest timer and energy into training your dog not only for your benefit, but their benefit as well.

Recommended Resources

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

 The Four Essentials for a Great Dog – Part 1 – Knowledge, Relationship, Management & Traininghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/02/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-1-knowledge-relationship-management-training/

Dogs-Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2)http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/02/01/dogs-dog-training-a-holistic-approach-to-dog-training-parts-1-2/

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/01/animal-welfare-assessing-pets-welfare-using-brambells-five-freedoms/

Dog Behavior – Introduction to Canine Communicationhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/16/dog-behavior-introduction-to-canine-communication/

 

Podcasts on Don’s Blog

PODCAST – The Four Essentials to A Great Doghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/21/podcast-the-four-essentials-to-a-great-dog/

PODCAST – Canine Behavior: Myths & Facts

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1 http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/12/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-1/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 2– 19JUL15http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/19/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-2/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 3– 26JUL15http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

 

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)
The Four Essentials to A Great Dog – HTTP://TRAFFIC.LIBSYN.COM/WOOFMEOWSHOW/WOOFMEOWSHOW2016-02-20-FOUR_ESSENTIALS_GREAT_DOG-PODCAST.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.

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

Podcast – The Four Essentials to A Great Dog

20FEB16-The Four Essentials to A Great Dog 400x400Don and Kate discuss the four essentials to a great dog. In their experience most great dogs are the result of time and effort by both the person and the dog, which is exactly what that they teach students in Green Acres Kennel Shop’s Basic Manners classes. The four essentials are; Knowledge, Relationship, Management and Training. Tune in and learn how you and your dog can become a great team and best friends for life.

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 12 Noon on Saturday. If you’re not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show, and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.

Listen to the show –  http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow2016-02-20-Four_Essentials_Great_Dog-podcast.mp3

Recommended Resources

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

 

Dog Training – The Four Essentials for a Great Dog – Part 1 – Knowledge, Relationship, Management & Traininghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/02/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-1-knowledge-relationship-management-training/

 

©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>