Preparing your dog for a Baby

Skylar the staffy has some big changes headed her way very soon - not only is she going through a new training program, but very soon a baby is arriving and life as she knows it will never be the same!

While it is an exciting time for everyone, it can also be very stressful on the family and the dog. It's super important to begin preparing your dog for these changes before the baby is home, and have a gameplan on how life with a baby & dog should go! I'd like to share with you some tips and guidelines we give clients as they prepare for their new arrival 💖

Many people worry that their dog will become jealous or feel bad that their dog isn't getting the same attention as they were before - and they make the mistake of trying to compensate with some spoiling and trying to build relationship and bond between dog and baby. This is where people make lots of mistakes - potentially dangerous mistakes. 

Patience is a virtue for all dogs, but for expecting families it's important to start teaching your dog boundaries NOW. Like it or not, your dog is no longer the baby or center of attention, so it's time to start -sooner or later - getting them used to be included but observant: watching from the sidelines.

That means dogs will be crated at night, when owners are not home, and if parents need a dog break. No dogs on furniture, allowed in the nursery, or crowding people when they hold the baby. Overall, there must be a HUGE bubble of respect in place for anything "baby personal space." (That means if your dog jumps up on you, climbs on you without permission, or invades your space uninvited it'a time to start owning your personal space now!) 

The Place Command becomes a dog's home away from home, as they get used to long bouts of resting on their spot and observing life with a baby, without getting underfoot, climbing onto the couch at inopportune times (like when nursing or just holding the baby), pacing the house trying to be "protective" (when really they are so anxious), and rushing around to play pens or cribs when the baby cries.

I know it sounds all of this sounds strict, but the reality is, when a baby is born many families get rid of their dog. No one brings a baby home hoping they can send their dog away, but they get overwhelmed with a dog who doesn't listen, is stressed out/hyper active, and isn't adjusting well to the changes of lifestyle. So, to prevent that from happening, we must get our dogs used to not being the center of attention anymore! This doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise or play with your dog - that's a no brainer! But, many dogs don't know how to settle, listen, and stay...the key to juggling parenting, dog ownership, relationships, and work - all under the same roof!

It's important dogs get exposed to "baby" things before the newborn arrives. That's why we will be playing screaming baby sounds, walking Skylar beside a stroller, dropping things on the ground around her, and getting her used to camping out in Place Command like a champ!

One last thing: dogs do not need to "make friends" with a baby - actually, they need to keep respectful space from the baby at all times. Let's teach them to accept and respect through inclusion and existence, as opposed to physical contact and spacial pressure. Some dogs won't mind the screaming and noise, but many will stress out, and some will even become excited/aroused by it! People unknowingly make dangerous mistakes by putting their babies and little ones in sniffing/touching proximity with a dog who may be nervous or easily over stimulated by baby sounds. Please, be VERY careful and aware of how much interest a dog has in the sounds and motions of a baby or small child before attempting any sort of activity together or in close proximity!

It only takes a second for things to happen, so parents can play it safe by preparing their dog and establishing non-negotiable boundaries and leadership in their household. It brings routine and predictability to both you and your dog - making life turned upside down, just a little bit easier :)

Pitbulls and Babies

Vest or not: Always ask before approaching someone else's dog!

Recently I made a post about keeping your dog's attention on YOU in public, by making sure you aren't slowing down your progress by letting people in public pet your dog. The discussions that followed were very good, and I hoped got dog handlers and owners thinking about what they were "reinforcing" in their dog's behavior! 

When you have a dog who LOVES people, it almost seems wrong to not allow people to pet your dog. However, as the previous post suggests, if your dog struggles with excitability and bad manners around new people, each time you say "yes, you can pet" and your dog gets jazzed up, jumps, breaks command, etc. your slowing down your training progress and taking steps in the wrong direction. It doesn't mean they'll never get to say "hi," but really consider how far along your dog is into their training and impulse control - and even more importantly, their focus in you in general. Your dog needs lots of time doing well in public without being pet, before you start to add that huge distraction and (likely) reinforcement for excitability.

On the flip side, your nervous dog will continue to be nervous or even start moving to biting/snapping if you keep trying to encourage socializing through strangers petting.

That blog was directed to Dog Owners/handlers who are having trouble with their dogs in public.

Now, on the flip side! This post is for the adoring public who love dogs, but may not realize that their attempts at making friends is actually making things harder on the dog and the handler.

I know it can be hard to ignore a dog - they're stunning! But, there are many dogs who are shy, timid, or sensitive to strangers. There are dogs who are OK greeting people at home, but are more stressed/anxious in the busy world and do not react well to the outside pressures of other people (or dogs) trying to say "Hi." There are dogs who don't mind being around people, as long as they arn't touched, crowded, or cornered. There are some dogs who have never interacted with children before, so can become stressed or defensive by the fast and grabby movements of kids (or unsure of the foreign size and sounds that kiddos present).

Vests that say "In Training: Do Not Distract" are awesome, but shouldn't be the only thing discouraging someone from interacting with a dog without asking.

Did you know making eye contact/talking with a dog can be just as distracting as petting? For wiggle worm pups, eye contact gets their gears going and immediately creates disconnect from their handler. For nervous dogs, eye contact can seem very threatening and actually make the dog even more uncomfortable than they were with you just standing there or walking by. Uncomfortable dogs can become defensive, and feel the need to snap or bite to make space - all because someone was try to "make friends." (This is a message to the general public AND to handlers who are trying to get their nervous dog better by making people pet them. It generally always gets worse and creates a dog who looses trust in you and is building up layers of stress that will lead to a bite.) Nervous dogs don't always show teeth or growl, they sometimes simply try and hide or get away from the scenario. Sometimes, they are shaking and panting. Sometimes, they are stiff, frozen, with a tight mouth and wide eyes. Regardless of what's going on, they are having a hard enough time processing the environment, let alone having people they don't know touch them. Outside petting isn't fair to that dog, and is likely setting them up to fail.

As an owner (or trainer) who is putting in the time to work on socialization and proper ettiqute with our dog, you are doing our dog and us a HUGE favor by asking us before you try and engage our dog. If we are eating at a restaurant and have a mouth full of food, or are struggling to push a buggy full of items towards the checkout -basically very preoccupied with our dog, our kids, or soemthing else...admiration from affar is much appreciated!

If you ask to greet our dog and we say "no," please don't take offense- our desicion is likely based on our dog's temperament or where we are in our training. Please, teach your child to always ask and to never HUG a dog who they get the greenlight to pet.

If you are one of those people who simply reach over and pet a dog without asking (or start talking to the dog, or let your dog come up to the dog) please stop. Not only is it rude or inconsiderate to touch/engage with something that isn't yours without asking first, your actions are dangerous and could get you, your dog, or your child who hasn't been taught to ask bitten. And that means you may be setting someone else's dog up to have to be put to sleep, because you invaded their space. (Now on the flip side, there is a big difference between a nervous dog not looking for conflict and someone who has a known biting and dangerous dog uncontrolled in public. If you're being your dog's best advocate for their safety and the public - KNOW YOUR DOG AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR BEHAVIOR AND ACTIONS).

Or, your un-invited petting caused a service dog to miss a signal that could protect their handler in the case of a medical emergency, like a seizure.

Or, a person who is trying so hard to get to a point where they can control their sweet but hyper dog stops trying to take their dog out, because the dog just won't pay attention to her because it's so engaged with other people. Dogs who bite and dogs who don't listen, often end up in shelters...and no one wants that for any dog.

So please, always ask first. Any compliment on our dog's cuteness or good manners is always appreciated. So many of us put a lot of work into our relationship and manners with our dog at home and away, and we appreciate your good intentions, but sometimes petting just isn't on the menu right now... no matter how cute she is, vest or not :)

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What is Leash Reactivity (Leash Aggression) and why does my dog have it?

Leash reactivity is a behavior that many dogs owners struggle with. If you're not familiar with what the term means - think about that dog you see barking and lunging at the end of their leash whenever they see a dog, person, bicycle, etc. You might refer to it as “leash aggression.” Leash reactivity is extremely frustrating, embarrassing, and scary for dog owners who often struggle to keep their dog under control in public.

Leash reactivity can be broken down into basically three categories:

Fear Based Reactivity
Excitement Frustration Reactivity 
Predatory Aggressive Reactivity

The most common form of leash reactivity is actually the first one - Fear Based Reactivity. You see, even though it sounds very aggressive- like your dog wants to eat up the other dog on a walk - most leash reactivity is actually a big display based on fear and the desire to AVOID conflict. When your dog barks and lunges, they are using their body and voice to create and expand a "safety bubble" around themselves to keep the "target" away from themselves. It's funny, but many leash reactive dogs can actually be social or less explosive in off-leash situations if they can create a comfortable amount of space from the target. Many leash reactive dogs actually play great with others!

The reality is that leashes actually exacerbate leash reactivity, because they keep the dog from being able to move naturally in response to a trigger. In the case of fear based reactivity, it may have developed slowly over time, but bad experiences during on leash greetings with other dogs or people contribute to a dog's leash reactivity.

Have you ever seen two dogs sniffing on a walk, and it's ok for a few seconds and the suddenly someone gets snarky? That's the early makings of leash reactivity! In an off leash setting, the snarky dog could have just walked away from the other dog, but since everyone is tethered on leads - to their owner, no doubt (which can add in an element of possessiveness) - the dog has no option than to get explosive to create space because he is uncomfortable.

If that happens enough, snarky dog will start to think "almost every time I meet a dog on leash I will feel uncomfortable. I think exploding proactively will help me feel more comfortable" and .... leash reactivity develops.

If your dog isn’t consistently snarky during on leash greetings, sometimes people play the gamble of “maybe he will like this dog.” That means that some personalities make your dog more uncomfortable than others. Unfortunately, if your dog gives attitude to a dog that “can't take a correction without conflict," a dogfight can ensue. You can bet your dog will be leash reactive after that incident.

If the other dog, (not snarky dog but the other), is very sensitive and has low confidence, it may feel too much pressure from the snarky dog’s correction and become afraid. All of a sudden, your sensitive dog may start to become reactive on walks. On the flip side, if the other dog isn't snarky, but is actually overwhelmingly pushy and “loves other dogs too much” (think over excited friendly dog), your sensitive dog is going to feel too much social pressure (as well as physically pressure from having paws on them or being barrel rolled to play), and can develop reactivity in an effort to keep dogs away.

If at any point an off leash dog attacks or over pressures your on leash dog, it's very common for leash reactivity to develop. It's also extremely common for leash reactivity to be worse with their owners who walk them (as opposed to a trainer or someone who doesn’t have a relationship with your dog), because unfortunately, the owners has been at the scene of the reactivity in the past, and there are associations of feeling unsafe around other dogs with that person - even if we meant well and just wanted them to make friends.

(Leash reactivity doesn't just happen from having a bad experience on a walk - it can also develop from bad social experiences at doggie daycare or dog parks. If your dog is jumped in an aggressive way, it's very likely for it to develop into reactivtiy - but remember it's not just aggression that makes dogs uncomfortable! Overly playful pushy dogs who are smothering your pup will also can make them uncomfortable and cause distrust in other dogs).

It comes down to the fact that social experiences on leash OR off leash with inappropriate social partners, limit our dog's abiltiy to express their discomfort. Too often, their natural social cues of asking for space (diverted eye contact, stiff body language, trying to walk away) are ignored and our dog learns quickly that the only way to guarantee space is to make a big scene. And, for the most part it works! When we have reactive dogs we stop getting them close to others and try to avoid triggers as much as we can - and they learn that their explosiveness was loud enough for us to understand they were uncomfortable.

So what is the solution? First - just say NO to on leash greetings! So many dog's have their social skills trashed by on leash greetings and/or bad experiences at doggie daycare or dog parks.

Next, make sure the dogs you let your dog around are good influences and social matches. Many leash reactive dogs need to spend time around calm and respectful dogs in social settings, often under the guidance of a professional, so that they can rebuild their lost social skills and work on their "awkward" ways of interacting.

Find training tools and approaches that allow you to communicate with your dog clearly, have best control, advocate for them while also fairly challenging them to work on their issues!

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Excitement Frustration Reactivity has many similar solutions to fear based reactivity, but it is rooted from a different place. It is based out of frustration of NOT being able to get close to the trigger, where before we were discussing why dogs do it to make space!

This excitement frustration typically comes from dogs who are over stimulated and highly aroused when they see other dogs or people and want to "go say hi!" Unfortunately, when we actually let them approach and interact with their target, we are reinforcing that explosive behavior because it works - it gets them to what they want! So, like with fear based reactivity, say NO to on leash greetings - particularly with other dogs. You may get to a point in training that they can calmly greet people, but greeting other dogs on leash is often severely reinforcing outward environmental excitement and is going to continue to make your dog confused on how you want them to behave on leash. Not to forget, your over excited dog will often be one of those "rude greeters" and will likely cause another dog to take a step towards reactivity- or even worse - your dog's abrasive excited energy is not well received at all and your dog is seriously corrected or attacked on leash...and now your excitement reactivity will change to fear based reactivity 😨

So, like mentioned before: avoid on leash greetings and find training tools and approaches that allow you to correct over excitement and help keep your dog focused on YOU!

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Predatory Aggressive Reactivity is the last "type" of reactivity, and is really the less common.

While many folks think their reactive dog is out for blood - true aggression is much more rare. True aggression is very predatory in nature, and is quiet...just think, the lioness or cheetah doesn't roar or make a bunch of noise when hunting...that gives you away to your prey!

On a walk predatory aggression is quiet until the dog hits the end of the leash, then they will likely blow up in a frustrated way. Typically, the real predatory reactivity you see on walks is more bird/squirrel/cat related than true dog to dog aggression. Not to say you should mingle your dog off leash "to see" without the help of a professional, but inherently most dogs want to avoid conflict.

How do you address predatory leash reactivity? The same way :) NO on leash greetings and having excellent tools and approaches of control that give you the ability to redirect your dog and aide in controlling arousal! Be careful about encouraging chasing wildlife while on a leash, because again - it reinforces that they can be explosive and impulsive when tethered to you - instead of the leash being a symbol of "working" together and off leash meaning "do your thing." Try not to be inconsistent in how you expect your dog to behave on their leash!

Learning how to navigate the world with a reactive dog can be challenging, but with the right tools and approaches you can learn how to advocate better for your dog to regain their trust in your ability to control the situation- or in the case of the frustrated pups, show them that you are in charge of what they get to do (or in this case chase or charge - or lack there of!!) on a walk!

Leash Reactivity

Potty Training Tips!

With puppies, potty training is one of the first things you work on AND one of those constant headaches until you get a good rhythm. Here are some tips:

- Have a crate for your puppy that is their size! Enough room to turn around and stand up, but not big enough to run around or play. If it is too big your puppy will potty on one end of the crate and sleep on the other!

- How old is your puppy in months? Now add 2 hours to that and voila, that is how long your puppy can hold it before they need to go out to potty. So, if your new puppy is 8 weeks old (2 months old) they can only hold their stuff in for 4 hours before needing a potty break. (Yep, you've got to wake up in the middle of the night and come home during the day - or pay someone too!)

- During your nightime potties, do not play with your puppy! It's all business- go potty, back to bed. If you get them playful they will want to keep you up! Keep your puppy on a leash so they don't turn potty time into "run around and chase leaves" time!

- Your puppy needs to potty within about 30 minutes of eating or drinking. So that means, you can't just feed them and go to work - you need to wake up early to get a routine of:

Potty (pee definitely, poo maybe)
Feed (through training)
Train/walk 
Water
Play (10-15 mins)
Potty (should see pee and poo)
Crate

Before you leave for work, if you have time, potty your puppy twice before work- especially, if they drink alot of water!

- When your puppy is having playtime, they need to pee more frequently. Take them out every 15-20 mins during playtime. 

- If your puppy naps and wakes up, take them potty. They always need to go out anytime they wake up.

- If you need to put your puppy in their crate to leave, take them potty first. Anytime they are coming out of their closed crate, take them potty right away.

- Stop all food by 6pm and take up water by 8pm. Feed your puppy 3 meals per day - when you control how much goes in, you know when to expect waste to come out! Do not free feed your puppy, or they will be eating and pooping all day long and you'll never get potty training down.

- If you can't watch your puppy, put them back in their crate. When your eyes are off of them they WILL potty in the house. Heck, they will do it infront of you too - so keep your schedule!

- Don't use a doggie door with your puppy. They will not learn how to build stamina holding their bladder. They may also go out and not do anything! You need to be there to see that they have pottied, and most importantly REWARD them for going outside!!!!

- If you take your puppy out and they don't potty, bring them inside and put them in their crate. 10-15 mins later, take them back out again. Repeat this until they potty outside. (People make the mistake of letting puppy run around after they go out but don't do anything, and immediately the puppy potties inside! They don't want to potty in their close space, so back into the crate!)

- Make sure your puppy gets a poo in before bedtime.

- DO NOT PUNISH YOUR PUPPY FOR ACCIDENTS IN THE HOUSE! If your puppy potties in the house, it's your fault - not theirs. They need you to stick to their routine! Be prepared for some accidents while you guys get in a rhythm - be patient and calm. Reward them when they potty outside! Remember, you invited this tiny baby creature into your home :)

On my Instagram, I have a saved IG story about Puppy Training featuring our chocolate lab puppy Dewina, when she first got here! ⬇️

https://www.instagram.com/s/aGlnaGxpZ2h0OjE3ODQyMjg2MDA4MjMzMjQ1/

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How do you introduce a dog to other dogs?

“My dog hasn't been around many dogs. She's an 80 lb American bully and don't wanna just throw her in a dog park and see what happens, as she's very strong! What to do? Thank you! “

I am so glad you asked this question! A lot of people wonder the same thing - how can I safely introduce my dog to other dogs? 

I am glad you have reservations about just jumping into a dog park, because for many folks - that ends badly. At dog parks, and even some doggie daycares, there are often many situations where dogs are HIGHLY aroused and apply a lot of physical and social pressure on other dogs - without much influence from humans. Too much physical pressure could look like a dog getting pumbled, body slammed, or even "jumped" by another dog - which can feel threatening and send a dog who doesn't have much social experience into a defensive mode.

Even well meaning friendly dogs can make other feel uncomfortable in the situations, if they spend too much time trying to engage in play with a dog who is unsure or uncomfortable with a dog they don't know in their space. Many young and adolescent dogs LOVE to play in a full contact, wrestle mania, way - but for a dog who is uncomfortable with dogs in their space or a dog like yours, who just hasn't had much opportunity for any off leash socializing, the full throttle play can create tension OR send your dog into crazy romp mode that she doesn't know how to control.

Not to mention, many dogs like to be the assertive ones - and if someone pushes too hard, corrects, or tries to throw the same play style back - you could have a fight. Also, some dogs at dog parks just shouldn't be there because they are not dog friendly (most doggie daycares temperament test before, but bad things can still happen if a sensitive dog is smothered by a pushy dog or dogs of different sizes/energy levels are in the same social sessions).

The reason all of those scenarios can happen, is because there is often not a human advocating for all of the dogs in the yard - OR if there is, as many doggie daycares are supervised, they are limited on what they can address/correct. Most daycares don't allow humping (so if your dog humps, they are put in time out or removed from the group which is a good thing, because humping is inappropriate and conflict starting) but they won't correct or realize a dog is smothering another dog - maybe a friendly/well meaning dog putting too much play pressure on a more sensitive dog or, in the case of all day play, a dog is hot and resting and a new less tired dog pressures for play and the tired dog begins getting irritated and feeling annoyed snaps or lashes out. We see so many dogs have bad social experiences when they are over pressured by other dogs...in the obvious way of getting literally attacked, but also by being pressured too much by well meaning "friendly" dogs.

So! What does that mean for your Bully, who has never actually played with another dog? First, I'd work on calm existance on a walk past other dogs. Work on your heel and make sure your dog can calmly, and non aggitated or aroused walk by other dogs (and sure some dogs are live wires and may make her more excited, but creating a calm - non pulling heel is an exercise of control for you and impulse control for her - so work on how to keep her focused and in tune with that level of distractions). Do NOT let your dog meet any dogs on leash - just calm walking by and with (if you have friends who have nice dogs on leash that want to walk with you) other dogs.

After you've had some success in creating a more tuned in walk, I would ask your friends if they have nice, calm dogs. Not even playful dogs yet - just some very gentle and calm dogs who would make for nice neutral social experiences. If you don't, you may need to reach out to a trainer who likely had access to a "balanced pack of dogs." Then, those calm dogs can be off leash in a fenced in area and your dog can be on a Long Line - and you approach the gate. Let your dog sniff through the gate, and read that body language. Does she tense up? Are her hairs all standing up? Is she barking? Does she snap? All of those things tell me that you may need to reach out to a professional for assistance because she is feeling some tension about the experience, and as you said -- she is strong and I know your concern is being able to control her.

If her body language is loose and wiggly- perfect! If it's excited and playful, that's not bad BUT beware that could escalate into HER being the gladiator of clobbering out there, that we don't need either...so that's why she is on the long line so we can remove her from trampling others with excitement!

If her body language was of the last two, ask your friend or another person to call their dogs away from the gate so that you and your dog can walk through without walking into the crowd of dogs. One of the ideal places for a dog fight at a dog park or daycare is at the entrance point - dogs are all jazzed up and about to collide head first as you enter. By having people move dogs away, it gives you an opportunity to get through the portal of excitement without the collision.

Now, your friends can let their boring calm pack move around off leash and you hold on to the long line and walk around a bit. Use movement to encourage your dog to move around and explore the yard, not get fixated on the other dogs quite yet.

Human rules for socializing dogs: KEEP MOVING AND DON'T PET THE DOGS. Movement keeps things from getting stagnant and dogs crowding infront of folks (which can lead to guarding and conflict) and petting can get dogs over stimulated AND create a crowd of dogs all wanting to get pet, tha can again lead to guarding of people, conflict, and a fight! With dogs who don't have a social relationship together, we want to limit as many conflict moments as possible!

In addition to humans moving around the yard to keep the dogs in motion, you also want to monitor dog proximity because spacial awareness is important. If a dog is sniffing a bush beside the fence, another dog investigating could make dog #1 feel crowded and defensive- BOOM correction or, if #2 doesn't take corrections well, dog fight. As I mentioned before, crowding people is a great dog fight waiting to happen - as is crowding a communal water bowl or all dogs circling the new dog in the yard. One dog playing "chase me" can also trigger a fight because the pursuing dogs get more and more in drive and loose more and more control of their arousal. We see it ALL the time!

So! You're in the yard with your Bully and she's sniffing around and ignoring the other dogs - awesome! Keep moving and keep the long line in your hand, relaxed - not tight. Slowly start to offer more distance. Monitor closely the first sniff greeting with another dog - ready to guide your dog away if she gets to tense or explodes, but also ready to let her play bow or roll over to be sniffed if she is being polite and submissive.

If your Bully is instead jazzed up and trying to barrel into the other dogs, it's a bit more delicate of an interaction. She could be playful, but a bulldozer - as many Bully's are, OR she could be in a more predatory mode (you likely washed out predatory earlier based off her response at the gate, however if you have any doubts you can ALWAYS muzzle train your Bully before these social sessions)! Either way, if she goes in HOT and clobbers the other dogs, you need to remove her with the long line. Likely, she wants to play, but her arousal is sky high and she is going to smother these dogs. If you friend has a calm dog who gives an fair correction, awesome - maybe that dog will let your dog know quickly it needs to cool it. However, never just "let them work it out" use the long line to remove your Bully if she continues to smother - even if she was corrected by the other dog.

At this point your Bully's arousal is off the charts and going to make socializing challenging. Loose and wiggly body language is good, but fast, tense, and choppy body language often means arousal - which can make other dogs uncomfortable fast or cause your dog to escalate their play to WAY too rough, very quickly- especially since she doesn't have practice regulating her play style with other dogs.

So! If your dog is in the jazzed up and wild category, we need to get her arousal down. The "pet convincer" is compressed air with a trigger that can work great for interrupting arousal. A firmer leash pop (before she interacts with the other dogs) can help her de-escalate that crazy excitement (like how you've been working on your calm walks), if your dog is e-collar trained, recall to remove her from engagement OR simply and interruption with the collar for being too out of her tree will help "bring her back to earth." There are many ways to de-escalate arousal, but it often needs to come from the human as a message to the dog. If you're struggling with how this can be done, reaching out to a trainer could be very helpful. Unfortunately, letting her go in - guns a blazing - may overwhelm the calm dogs which won't necessarily lead to conflict, but with the "wrong" dog could make her a target for getting her booty kicked by another dog for being rude and invading their space so intensely. That correction "could" put her in her place, but that correction could also make her defensive and cause her to fight back...we just don't know because she has never been in the situation before. SO! That's why, we the human want to correct the arousal, not the other dogs :)

And, on a final note - no matter if it is her fault or the other dog's fault for whatever conflict ensues...due to her breed, it will "always be her fault" - you know what I mean? She could be smothered by a rude golden retriever until she snaps - and she's labeled the aggressive one, when the golden puppy was in the wrong because it didn't leave her alone when she didn't reciprocate the play. This is why humans must advocate for each dog in social, and why, unfortunately, many dogs struggle in dog park situations.

I hope that helps!

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Is it Purely Positive Training when the solution is Euthanasia?

Positive reinforcement is awesome - it should be an important part of ANY training or teaching approach! However, is that the whole conversation? Should we really just reward the good and ignore the bad?

And when that doesn't work, does that mean there is no hope? Does it mean that no matter how hard you try, if purely positive training can't resolve the problem, that's it?

Does that mean a life of being put in the back yard or a crate for a rowdy dog?
Does that mean having to re-home or get rid of your dog?
Does that mean euthanasia is the only other option?

OR can we have a conversation about having a conversation with our dogs that lets us not only tell them what we like, but also address and correct what we don't, or let our dog know that something is inappropriate?

What if rewarding the sit still doesn't stop the jumping? What if ignoring the bouncy and turning your back only gets you scratched up even more?

What if rewarding the quiet still doesn't stop the barking?

What if rewarding your dog under threshold is hard, because your dog is rarely ever under threshold in every day life?

What if no matter how tasty the treat is, the thing that your dog is chasing is more rewarding and of value to them than what you have when you say "come"?

What if the instructions to "stop walking when your dog pulls" mean you can't get anywhere or much exercise for your dog because they continue to pull, over and over, anyway?

What if someone told you to put down your dog, because a methodology of "never say no" said your dog was too far gone?

If you're trying so hard with your dog in one style of training - if you're frustrated - if you're scared - if you're ready to give up - please know there are other methods, techniques, tools, and approaches out there.

I believe that NO ONE gets a dog with the intention to become frustrated, discouraged, and defeated when the training style they are dedicating themselves to isn't working. No one who loves their dog and has dedicated so much time, effort, emotion, and heart wants to give them up or (worst case scenario) put them down...but when folks are told that they have no other options or a different training style is going to "make things worse or ruin their dog" folks feel like they have no hope.

Positive reinforcement is amazing and should be part of every training program - but it's only part of the conversation. There's 4 quadrants of learning - let's use them all!

Crosby, the border collie mix, is one year old and was told to be euthanized by a trainer that implemented strictly positive reinforcement and, like many, discouraged any type of correction or training tools.

With a balanced training approach this guy is learning how to be a dog again: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2111675182234549&id=334437879958297

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Struggling with your dog paying attention to you in public? Be the reward!

Did you know that letting the public pet your dog can slow down your training progress and affect your dog's bond and trust with you? 

If you have a dog who gets nervous or snaps at strangers, you more than likely are advocating for your dog and the general public by discouraging people you don't know from petting them. (And if you arn't, it's time to start - your uncomfortable dog will not become less shy or reactive by having people enter their space, even with good intentions...in fact it can often make then worse! Your just want to be invisible and observe, while knowing you will advocate for them and guide them through the big scary world!)

Now, if you have a dog who loves people it can seem harder to turn away someone who wants to say "hi!" Often times owners feel rude saying NO to people who ask, so again and again people pet our dog...and again and again our dog's attention is reinforced by the environment and not by their handler 😕 It may not seem like a big deal, but petting outside of the family unit while out in public does a few things that are likely setting back your dog's training and manners.

First, a lot of the dogs we see for training come to us because they get SO EXCITED with new people! Some of the biggest issues these owners are having involve their dog pulling like crazy towards people, jumping up, whining/barking, and not being able to stay sitting or laying down (or anything close to calm) when a person is close by. When we allow people to pet our dog who is acting like that, we're reinforcing two things: excitement about people and having their attention anywhere but on us!

Even if your dog is laying at your feet at a restaurant, if you see them soliciting attention with playful body language and some sneaky "roll over and maybe someone will rub my belly" invitations, that means your dog's not very present with you...they're looking elsewhere for satisfaction! When you think about it, one of the most challenging things for owners to do is to have their dog's attention when distractions are around - if we allow high value distractions to engage our dogs, those people become your dog's priority...not us!

So what can we do to get our dog's attention back? 

First things first, no more petting from the public! You know your dog is friendly, so there is no need to continue to meet new people - the biggest issue you're likely having now is how excited or easily distracted your dog gets! By saying NO to people petting your dog in public, you and making sure that the environmental reinforcement stops - this opens the door for you to be the reward! 

My motto is that when my dog is on a leash with me, we're connected and a family unit - it's time for more people who are trying hard with their dog's training to start doing things that promote that! Not to mention - I don't know about you, but I really just want to enjoy a lunch on a dog friendly patio or a stroll through the park with my dog, not have to stop what we are doing to let someone have their "doggie fix" :) I know people love dogs, and I do too...but, please admire them from a far without expectation of petting, or maybe just toss a compliment to the owner about their lovely pup! 

Before you head out to a people filled place to work on your dog's focus, it's important to be shaping it at home and in lower distraction environments through basic training! Simply having your dog work for their meals allows you to become the source of reinforcement. "Being the reward" starts by working on obedience commands, and paying your dog for staying in position, giving food feed back when a person walks by (or another big challenge happens) and they look to you! This stuff all encourages handler attention, awareness, and bonding. When you are a wealth of guidance, leadership, reward, and value, your dog will choose YOU!

So, next time you're out with your pup, take some time and see where your dog's attention is. Are you reinforcing outward engagement through strangers petting or (a big no-no!!!) allowing other dogs to say "hi" when your dog is on a leash?

In the long run, your dog prioritizing you is much more important than letting the general public get their doggie fix! You can control when your dog gets to greet people at your home, but in crowded and public areas, I want my dogs using their best manners and as tuned-in to me as possible while we navigate through all the things this crazy world has to offer!

If your dog struggles to be calm in general, why make if harder on them by having people petting thrown into the mix! Let's just get them good at holding it together politely in public before even discussing the added distraction of affection from others ;)

If you're looking for a nice way to tell someone that they can't say "hi" or pet your dog, always lead with the interrupter first:

🤚 "NO! I'm sorry, but he's in training. Thanks!" 😊

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Is that a sad dog, or a calm one?

Far too often we've been conditioned to think a happy dog is one with a wagging tail and forward posture - and a dog who is sad keeps their head down and doesn't wag their tail.

Dogs who are alert and in arousal will have that flashy look to them, and dogs who are calming down will have a more relaxed and subdued look.

It's not a matter of happy or sad dogs - it's a matter of what state of mind is your dog in, and what state of mind promotes the right behavior for your dog at the time.

Flashy and alert behavior is excellent for obedience drills, tricks, cute pictures, and performance/play. Calmer more relaxed body behavior is preferred for dogs who need to be cool, collected, and behaved in busy environments and in situations that would likely trigger an excited or explosive outburst.

Your dog can hopefully do both of these! Be aware, however, that you may unintentionally start psyching your dog up if you think they are looking "sad" (when really they are actually just calm). Let your dog get lots of practice resting in that calm state - most need more practice with that skill because they struggle to be relaxed around many of life's triggers... and are REALLY good at keying up and being alert (and subsequently impulsive and explosive!) 🙂

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