Dog Parenting Fail – Dog Aggression

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Aggression in the family pet is a very serious issue.  Sharing your home with an aggressive dog is a liability that puts your family and your finances at risk.

Pet parents may have a hard time admitting that their dog has an aggression problem.  Inappropriate behaviors are often marginalized, especially in smaller breeds. Poorly defined behavioral boundaries that lead to confusion on the dog’s part can easily lead to aggression.  In addition, a lack of experience or knowledge on the part of the dog parent can lead to missing or ignoring warning signs from the dog.

Aggression arises for a number of reasons; individual temperament, personal experience as well as genetics all factor in. Fear is also a strong motivator in dog bites. The good news is aggression can be redirected and greatly reduced or even eliminated.  The bad news is – it’s not easy.  It takes a serious commitment to a slow and deliberate process.

There is no fast, easy, magic pill to eliminate aggression. If you’re reading this because you have a dog that exhibits these behaviors:

  •  Biting
  •  Snapping
  •  Lunging and growling

Were you hoping to find a way to make them stop online? Frankly, no. You need to find a trainer to work with you one-on-one.  If your dog has bitten you or someone else you need professional help. Re-training a dog that is already biting is beyond the scope of simply reading something on the Internet. An excellent resource to help you find a trainer is the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (apdt.com).

When dog attacks make it to the news, what do you typically hear the owner say? “I would have never expected my dog to do this!” Or, “this came out of nowhere!” Typically followed by statements about how loving, how gentle and sweet their dog is, and that this behavior is completely atypical for the family pet.

No. Just no. The owner may not have seen it, but the dog’s aggression was the result of a recognizable set of escalating behaviors.

Animals will always tell you their intentions. Always. Do you know what your dog is saying?

It is far better to stop aggressive behavior before it starts. This applies to every dog, from the most massive mastiff to the tiniest chihuahua. As a dog parent it is your responsibility to recognize early aggressive tendencies and redirect them. To be able to do this, you must be able to read your dog. Not just the basics – tail wag = happy, growl = angry. A dog’s communication goes much deeper than this.

You can become fluent in Dog Talk! But you must take the time to observe and understand what your dog is saying when his ears do this, or his eyes do that. You can have that kind of understanding and bond with your dog. The one that looks like magic to outsiders. Bonus – if you work on developing this bond early you will avoid many unhappy behavioral problems.

I teach you how to develop this bond, to deepen your communication, in my book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. If you follow this link and use the coupon code: dct-ftg at checkout, the publisher will give you an additional 15% off the purchase. Make sure the coupon code is all lowercase when you enter it.

Dogs are our companions, our friends, and we ask much of them at times. Help make your friend’s life rich and happy by taking the time to understand his or her needs. Your dog will is talking to you. Are you listening?

Dog Parenting Fail – Why You Should Crate Train

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I imagine this video is worth a bit more…

Looks like Versace, Armani and Coco had a very good time! And all that mess could have easily been avoided if their Dad had restricted their access to just a room or two while he was at work. Using crates and safe zones to keep your dog confined when you’re not at home or while you’re sleeping will save you this kind of ruin.

I show you how to teach your dog to love crates and safe zones in my book Dog Care And Training For a The GENIUS to be published very soon!

Has your little fur kid created a big mess when for you when left alone?

Dog Parenting Fail – Trainer Error

It happens. You forget, you overlook, or you just plain ignore it, and next thing you know you’re cleaning up a mess.

“It” being a potential issue – an object or situation – that causes your dog to act in an undesirable way. Did your darling steal food? Dash out the door? Lunge and bark at a passing person or dog? Chew up something?

Like this?

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That is a very expensive walking boot.

And this

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Is an even more expensive custom orthotic insert. You’ll notice they both have tell-tale teeth marks on them. I’m going to let you in on a training secret. Trainers make mistakes too. *gasp*

In my day job, I’m a nurse. Two careers and over 20 years of being on my feet all day (or night) on concrete floors has taken its toll on my feet and the boot is just the latest round in my on-going bout with plantar fasciitis. The new boot was literally just a day old when I forgot and left it in the kitchen overnight. Where this guy sleeps.

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Xander at just over a year and a half old is still very much a puppy in his head. While he is very good about not doing the destructo-puppy chewing thing he is not 100% reliable when he is not supervised. This is normal; teenage dogs, like teenage kids will want to test their limits, explore their boundaries and push limits. It’s up to you and me as dog parents to establish clear boundaries and maintain them. It’s also on us to ensure the dog is able to understand and follow the rules.

So the first place to look for what went wrong if your dog is misbehaving is at yourself. Because what likely happened is you made a mistake. Trainer error is one of the most common reasons for poorly trained dogs.

My mistake was that I tucked my boot out of sight so I wouldn’t trip over it as I was working in the kitchen last night. I forgot I left it there and didn’t see it when I went to bed and gated Xander in the kitchen for the night. The kitchen is Xander’s safe zone; it functions like a giant crate, keeping him safely contained so he can’t get to things that are easily destroyed, like couches or pillows. In his safe zone he can move, stretch and sleep. He knows that if it’s on the floor in the kitchen he can chew it. So he figured I’d just left him a brand new chew toy.

No one to blame but myself. I was just very very lucky he wasn’t too excited by it and gave up after just a little mouthing, both are still fully functional. He could have completely destroyed both.

What did I do when I saw the damage? Nothing. He would not have connected any scolding or punishment with the act of chewing up the boot because too much time had already passed. Xander did nothing wrong. I did.

Too often owners blame the dog for bad behavior that is entirely preventable. As responsible dog parents we need to think ahead of our dogs and set them up to succeed. In Xander’s case, he simply needs a little more time, and a little more maturity to be able to direct his chewing behavior on appropriate toys at all times. I knew I should have moved the darn boot. But it was out of sight, out of mind. If you’re going to have a dog, you have to take responsibility for the dog’s behavior, good and bad.

Trainer error is going to happen. So you need to be present and pay attention to your dog and your surroundings so you can minimize the times your dog presents inappropriate behaviors. Think ahead of your dog. Pick up, put away, or remove tempting objects your dog could chew. Restrict your dog’s access to just one or two rooms to prevent chewing or eliminating behaviors that happen out of your direct line of sight.

I cover this and more training techniques in my book Dog Care and Training For The GENIUS. In it I’ll show you how to teach your dog your rules and your boundaries. Look for it to be released in the next month or so.

Has your dog chewed or destroyed something he wasn’t supposed to? How did you react? What could you have done to prevent it?

Dog Parenting Fail!

 

I love animal videos! Every day I see something that showcases the beauty, the empathy, the intelligence of the animals that share our planet and our homes.

And then, I see this…

 

i’m dead …. Epic Vines

This is a dog parenting fail. An Epic one. Poor pug probably knows he has crazy for a mama, but to use the little guy as some sort of bludgeoning weapon is just all kinds of wrong.

Ok, ok, go ahead and laugh. I’ll grant that it looks humorous. But then take another look at the poor lil’ guy’s rigid limbs and try to understand the fear he’s feeling. Not to mention the pain and potential damage being done to his neck and body from the jerk and impact. Then the further pain of being dragged off with his front feet high off the ground. I would not be surprised if this pug sustained damage to his windpipe at the very least.

Not quite so funny now?

We are conditioned by the TV and movies we watch to think of cartoon like violence being, well, a cartoon – not real. Except, it has very real consequences for that pug.

I’m not asking for a campaign against these sorts of videos. Just next time you see a video that shows animals in situations like this one, look past the pratfall laugh and consider what the animal is feeling.

But I would not want to leave you on such a downer note so here’s a bit of cuteness to brighten it up a bit.