Pawsibilities NY

Year: 2013

Could Your Dog Be a Therapy Dog?

I have been teaching classes with The Good Dog Foundation for almost a year now, and I have really found the work to be very fulfilling.  The Good Dog Foundation has quite a process for dogs, and owners, to become certified as therapy dog teams.  It seems to be an affective and thorough procedure.  The process starts with an evaluation, by a dog trainer, where the trainer can decide if the dog is suitable for one of two different level classes, or perhaps needs some more training.  It is very rare that a dog be completely turned away from trying the evaluation again, but certain aggression would cause this.  Then there are two different levels of class, some dogs can place out of the first, 6 week course, but everyone must complete all 5 weeks of the second level class.  Both the owner who wishes to bring the dog, or owners if there are more than one, must attend each class together, because teams are certified together, your dog is a therapy dog, and you are his therapy dog handler!  Once you complete all five classes, and all accompanying paperwork, you will also be observed on your first visit by a dog trainer.  Good Dog goes through this very thorough process to certify teams as therapy teams, rather than simply allowing people to register their dogs as therapy dogs, without any such process.

There is an important difference between registration and certification. Certification means that the organization has participated in the training of the dog, and the handler. Registration usually reflects a one-time screening, an organization that simply registers it’s teams does not certify that the team is trained to a certain level. Instead, the team is registered as having met minimum requirements.  Good Dog is the only organization in New York City that offers true therapy team certifications.

It is quite a long road, and a lot of work for the people who get through, but after I saw how much it means to the people we visit, I got it!  It is all worth it for the dogs who love this work.  That being said, you might have a wonderful dog, who loves you and anyone who comes into your home, man, woman, or child, but unfortunately outside of that comfort zone of your home, he actually does not enjoy strangers petting him and this even causes him anxiety.  This is always the hardest case, because I can see that the owner has worked hard with his dog, and I can even see how obedient and well mannered the dog is, and I completely believe the owner when he says he knows the dog would never hurt anyone.  Unfortunately sometimes this is just not enough to make a dog a therapy dog.  It is not because I am worried your dog will hurt anyone, it is more likely because I can see in body language and stress signals that the environments and situations this dog will encounter on therapy visits will definitely cause him stress.  There is no reason for this stress, and I cannot allow a stressed dog to move forward because it just isn’t fair.  Even if you have a small dog and you can pick him up and put him in people’s lap, but he is showing clear stress signals, he just knows he cannot get away; this is not fair to the dog, and it is best to just find something you and your dog can do together that does not cause either of you stress or anxiety.

Some stress signs that I will see dogs like this show include: a shake off, where it looks like your dog is shaking water off, but he is dry, yawning, especially audible yawns, cat-like yawns, panting, lip licking, trying to get away from me, or get out the door, urogenital check out, when your dog looks at his private area, whining, nervous urination, and avoiding eye contact.  One or two of these is not terrible, you will probably see your dog display some of these signs while at the vet, but if there are a lot of these, it really means the work will cause stress in your dog’s life that is simply not necessary.

I am looking for a dog who continues to pursue me, even when I act silly or try to mimic behaviors you may see in a therapy visit, the dog continues to come over to me freely and happily and shows a quiet but curious approach.  The behavior looks almost puppy like, but of course without the jumping, mouthing and humping that some puppies do!  A dog that is over excited and jumps all over or does get mouthy during play, also will not be a great fit.  You never know who you may encounter on a visit and it may not be appropriate for your dog to jump, large or small, on people who you come across while doing this work, and you dog certainly cannot put his mouth on people, even if it is a playful way.

It is important to realize that there will be a lot of stresses that you and your dog might encounter on a visit.  Shiny floors can be very stressful for some dogs, all the different smells certainly makes for your dog’s nose to work over time.  Some people may not like dogs and may even be afraid, so you have to be prepared for people who are not interested in meeting your dog, and you need to be able to manage your dog’s behavior in situations where this might occur.

Finally it is important to realize you are your dog’s partner in this work.  you will never hand your leash to anyone else while doing therapy work, it is you and your dog in it together.  It can be tiring for you too!  Therapy dogs cannot travel on public transportation, so getting to and from the visits can be difficult and even expensive.

The reward is huge.  I can honestly say, if you read everything above and you really feel your dog has the right temperament and would do this work happily and without stress, and you have plenty of time to do this work with him, then you will be rewarded with memories that I cannot even begin to do justice here in words.  If a non verbal child sees your dog week after week and one day you walk in and he says “dog!” it is better than winning a marathon!  When someone tells you that they look forward to you coming with your dog every week, it truly is a priceless gain!

All Dogs Resource Guard, Part 2

It is important to read part 1, so if you didn’t get the chance yet, you can read it by clicking the link below:

All Dogs Resources Guard, Part 1

In this part of our resource guarding discussion I will be offering techniques that can be used to desensitize your dog to your approach, and counter condition his feelings about your approach, if he has some bad feelings already, and has shown signs of resource guarding it is important to consult a professional for help because some of these techniques will be risky is you are not certain about your dog will respond.  If you have any fear that he might guard or snap, please contact a trainer, and don’t try these steps until you have.

If you have a dog who will chew his bone happily, but if you stand up from the couch he runs and takes the bone under the coffee table, you could help him to over come this fear of your approach and let him learn that, quite frankly if you are getting up off the couch, it isn’t to take his stinky bully stick, there are likely things you are far more interested in, in the kitchen!  So while you might not worry about this behavior, it is causing stress in your dog’s life, that is completely unnecessary, so let’s help him overcome it!

There are two parts to this training, and from there you could have many different stages that you must complete both steps to move forward.  The first part is desensitization, and the second part is counter conditioning.  You might have to desensitize and counter condition your dog to you leaning towards his bone, as a first stage, and actually touching or picking up his bone as a last stage, so there could be many stages in between.

The key to successful desensitization is not to push it!  I always say it is like gambling, quit while your ahead, don’t keep betting until you are broke!  So when I first start out with a dog that behaves the way I explained in the previous example, where he will take his bone and hide with it, I will start out with a behavior that will be the least threatening to him, so he is learning my approach is not a bad thing, and I might just turn and walk away.  So the very beginning of desensitizing your dog to your approach might look like a dance: you start a distance away that your dog accepts, meaning he does not continue to retreat and put distance between you.  Don’t corner him either, give him the option to run further away, but he chooses not to.  Let’s say 5 steps away, so stand 5 steps away from your dog, let him notice you, maybe count to three, and then turn and walk away.  Don’t rush it!  approach again and take 4 and a half steps toward your dog, and wait a few seconds and walk away.  If he retreats away from you, we have pushed it too far!

Here is a video of me practicing desensitization with a dog who is a low level resource guarder:

The next stage for this might be when i can get within 1 step of my dog, and I might just barely begin to reach for his bone.  If you are standing, don’t bend down and reach for his bone, these are two separate stages, so either bend down near him with his bone, or remain standing and reach for his bone from the standing position, so you don’t come very close to it at all.  Again if at any point he picks up his bone and runs away, you have pushed it too far, so have a seat, and take a break, but definitely do not get upset with your dog!  Just like it is in’t appropriate to punch the dealer in the face when we lose, we cannot get upset with our dog when we push the desensitization too far.  Just take a break, and start again, and learn your lesson!  Think on the bright side; in reality you didn’t lose any money!

For the second part of this training you want to counter condition your dog about his feeling about your approach.  Instead of being something that causes stress or anxiety, teach your dog that approach means really great things happen to him.  Sticking with our above example again, we could sometimes do our approach with some very tasty treats.  As you approach your dog toss him a treat that he can eat right where he is without having to walk away from his bone.  Teach him that when you approach, treats just start coming to him!

If you want to counter condition your dog to your arm reaching for his bone, the easiest way to do this is to have a treat in your hand, reach towards his bone, only enough to not send him running, and leave the treat behind.  Repeat this several times until your dog see your arm coming and he gets excited to see it because he knows it means rewards are coming, rather than his bone is leaving!  Again don’t push it.  Don’t practice a bunch of these and then just grab his bone to take it away.  If you work up to the point that you can put your hand right next to the bone, and leave a treat behind, then you can move onto to touching the bone and leaving a treat behind, or even picking it and putting it right back down with a treat.

Here is a video of me practicing counter conditioning with the same dog:

The key to success will be to work slowly and use management when you can’t train, so that you don’t run into issues where you are forced to take something from your dog.  In other words, if your dogs real trouble is with bully sticks, manage his environment and be sure he never gets a bully stick, unless you are ready to train, and I would suggest having three treats of different levels.  So maybe you have lamb lung as the lowest lever treat, meat log could be the next best thing, and finally boiled chicken could be the best treat option, just in case we need to up the ante!  If it isn’t bully sticks, but instead is something like tissues, that you don’t want you dog to ever have, it is best to work on a leave it command.

To be the most successful with this kind of training I like to lay it out on a piece of paper, I start on the far right and write down my end goal, maybe taking a bully stick from my dog.  I then go to the far left and write something very simple that I believe I will be able to do with my dog, like perhaps approach within 5 feet of my dog while he has Bully Stick.  And then I sit and write as many different stages as I can possibly think of in between.  The more the better!  It might feel like it is going to make more work for you, but it will be quite the opposite, you will have the most success by taking it slow!  So you might have 20 or more stages, and at first in your training sessions you might only get to three or four of them, but just take it slow.

If at any time your dog’s behavior makes you more nervous than you feel comfortable with, please stop this training and consult a professional.  Cetified professionals can be four at the following sites:

Join Us Tonight!  Our very first Blog Dog Walk of the season!  The weather is supposed to be perfect, so come on over to the great lawn at 9:00p.m. and discuss resource guarding, or just come for some good dog talking company!  We will meet near the basketball courts on the great lawn and we weill begin to stroll around the lawn for about an hour, so come at 9:00, or join up with us later.  All are welcome.  

Can I Comfort My Dog’s Fears?

As a fairly new dog trainer, doing this job for just over eight years now, I have already come across my first real opinion, and training style, change. For those of you who have met me, and know me, you know I tend not to be hard on dogs, but I did subscribe to the belief that an owner can reinforce his dog’s fears by trying to comfort his dog. I never told an owner to approach a fearful dog with the outlook of “too bad, get over it,” but I did tell owners not to say things like “it’s ok” when their dog shows fear signs.

I even followed this own thought with my horses while horseback riding. I have a somewhat “hot” horse, who tends to think things such as branches, tree routes, or snow piles, could all be a threat. He snorts and freezes and his head shoots straight up. Sometimes it is so bad that there is nothing I can do to get him to continue forward, and I can feel his heart beating in my legs. I certainly never tried using punishment, as I have a clear understanding that you cannot punish fear away, but I did just sit on his back and wait for him to get over it.

There have been several studies done by a lot of well respected dog behaviorist, and they have discovered that the idea of being able to comfort and reinforce your animal’s fear, is fairly inaccurate. The definition or reinforcement is to increase behavior, so if comforting your dog while he is afraid is reinforcing to him, he should become more afraid the next time he encounters the thing that caused that fear, and your comforting. The fear should increase if it is being reinforced. Anyone who has experienced fear while in the presence of a person who provides them with great comfort knows, this person can help us feel better.

In counter conditioning I teach the concept of the good follows the bad. So if your dog doesn’t like strollers, they are the bad, but he likely loves some tasty food, so this can be the good. Every time a stroller passes, your dog gets a treat, and eventually your dog isn’t worrying about the bad thing, but instead focused on the good that follows, this is like taking you child to the toy store if he is good at the doctor. If we apply this concept to a fear related response, the old thinking would tell us our dog should become more afraid of the stroller, as his fear is being rewarded with a treat and thus reinforced, but this isn’t what happens. The dog responds to the counter condition (when done properly) and becomes less fearful, therefore the reward is not reinforcing your dog’s fear because he does not become more afraid.

Your praise and comforting voice, is a reward for your dog too, especially if he isn’t new to you. This praise and comfort can be the good that follows the bad, especially when the bad is bad because of fear. The key to this working, I have found, is that your cannot be afraid of the things your dog is showing the fear of, because he will know your comfort isn’t real. If your dog spooks and get nervous about skate boards for example, it is probably easy for you to comfort your dog because you are not likely afraid of skate boards. When a skate board passes tell your dog “it’s ok, it’s just a skate board” in a comforting and stable voice. If the thing that makes your dog afraid, also makes you a bit afraid, then it will be best to just do what you can to get your dog out of that fear, and you too. If you have a little Maltese, and there is a big Shepherd in your neighborhood who makes you nervous, and your dog too, skip the comforting because you cannot comfort your dog while you are trying to comfort yourself.

I have been testing this very concept with my horse. Lately it hasn’t been difficult with all the changing snow piles, every time I go out to ride, there are different formations, that my horse is convinced are Polar Bears out to get him. I usually only get to go ride twice a week, and rarely two days in a row. But each time I have gone, for the last three weeks, I have tried comforting Saffron, my horse when he gets nervous about the snow piles. Before I started this, I would often deal with his fear by turning around, or waiting until he settled and could pass by, which could have taken up to 15 minutes in the past. Just this past weekend I went out to ride and after only 30 minutes I was able to walk my horse right up to the snow piles, and even through one big snow pile, without a flinch! His fear clearly has not only not gotten worse, but it has dissipated, even with my infrequent training sessions. Just imagine what you could do for your dog if you commit to two 5-minute sessions a day!

You should never flood your dog, or drop him into the deep end and see if he will learn to swim. Flooding is an ancient and inefficient way to try to deal with fears. Taking an animal and dropping him in the middle of his worst fears, will not only not work, it is cruel and can likely cause more problems. As I said you cannot punish fears out of you dog either. If your dog is anxious about being alone, so he barks and cries, you cannot use a “training” collar to correct this problem, because you are simply punishing your dog for saying he is afraid, this will not make him more comfortable and less anxious, it will do quite the opposite. Applying counter conditioning and desensitization needs to be done carefully, please consider consulting a professional if you feel your dog could benefit from a counter conditioning and desensitization protocol. At Pawsibilities we can help your dog to over come his fears with a humane and effective approach.

By in Behavior Modification 0

Does Your Leash Turn Your Dog into Mr. Hyde?

Does your dog turn into a growling, snarling, crazy Cujo while on leash? Or maybe a cowering scaredy-cat who hits the deck? This can be a very common problem in crowded areas such as cities. If your leash changes your dog’s behavior, chances are, he is leash reactive.

The first thing to do is define your dog’s triggers, and be as specific as possible. Is it other dogs that set your dog off? If so, which ones? Are they larger? Or maybe black dogs set your dog off? The more specific you can be, the better! Other common triggers include: children, people whose appearance is different, fast moving objects, things on wheels such as skateboards, or strollers. For some dogs it is only a problem if they are on leash while the other dog is not. Many dogs who are leash reactive to other dogs, are perfectly fine with when off leash.

It is helpful to think of your leash as a pair of handcuffs. Of course not in the criminal sense, but more in the sense of how limited you are, or would be, while wearing handcuffs. Imagine you are at a dinner party and you are the only guest wearing handcuffs, you would have to ask for a lot of help with things you could normally do yourself. It could be frustrating, and it would be limiting. The same is true for your dog while he is on leash; he gives up most of his control to you. Dogs have a fight or flight mentality and most adult dogs who have spent any amount of time leash have learned that the leash eliminates their ability for flight, so their only option is fight!

If you have turned to a choke or prong collar because your dog is out of control on leash, and you felt you had no where else to turn, unfortunately those tools can really worsen leash reactivity. Prong collars hurt your dog. This is how they work; through painful punishment to lessen behavior. This means that if you are using a prong, your dog should be pulling less, if he is not, you are just harassing him with a painful tool, but not affectively training any behavior. Now think of it in your dog’s eyes; he gets out of your boring apartment, and right outside is his best friend! Hooray! He is so excited to see him and get to socialize a bit, and he runs to greet, and BAM! He is snapped directly in the throat with hard metal pins of a rpong collar, OUCH! He feels that pain, and right after seeing another dog. This happens three or four more times and your dog will start to believe that it is the other dog that causes this painful pinch. Next thing you know, you bring your dog outside and see his best friend, but instead of bounding toward him happily, your dog snaps, growls and barks aggressively. You can’t blame him, he is saying “stay back, when you get close I get hurt!” I have seen exactly this scenario more times than I can count. The truth is even if your dog is on a flat collar and you jerk it when he sees other dogs, or any of the above triggers, you can cause this same problem, but with any of these painful tools, it happens a lot quicker.

No matter how badly you want to, you cannot punish the fear out of your dog. The other most common cause for a dog to be reactive to something is lack of experience, which usually causes the dog to be weary of these things. Again you cannot punish your dog into being alright with something he doesn’t understand, instead you are teaching him to not like these things, and building a negative association.

The best thing to do to avoid this, is to train your dog! Train your dog outside on leash to listen to you, and heel! Next, if you are lucky enough to have your pup while he is still in his crucial socialization period, then you want to socialize him like crazy. See my blog on socialization: To Socialize, or Not to Socialize: This Is the Question.

If your dog already suffers from leash reactivity, it might be best to contact a certified behavior consultant. I think this is the most common problem I deal with in the city on a daily basis! Every dog seems to have something that causes him to trigger, even if it isn’t as serious as some of the others. You want to work to desensitize and counter condition your dog to his triggers. The key to desensitization is it can never be too easy. This means that you want to expose your dog to his trigger(s) in a way he can accept, so that he notices, but does not react. The easiest way to do this is add space, or less exposure time. Usually you can curb your dog’s reaction if you can get far enough away from his triggers, or can interrupt his eye contact before he fixates. Counter Conditioning is working to change your dog’s mind about his triggers. This is like the idea that if you see someone you don’t like, and you scowl at them, but then you look in your pocket, and wow, there is $100! Then the person walks by again, and you think, hmm… and check your pocket, and again $100, by the third time, you aren’t scowling anymore, you might even look for the person! that is what we are hoping for; that instead of your dog fearing the encounter with his trigger, he will look forward to it!

We want to do this with your dog by playing a game called “where’s the trigger?” If your dog’s trigger is other dogs, then the game is “Where’s the Dog?” Again give your dog enough distance to not trigger, so maybe sit on a bench where you know dogs will pass, near a dog park, pet store, or vet. Let the dogs pass and let your dog see them. Try to beat your dog to triggering, so he only needs to look at the other dog for a moment before you have him look back at you and then get a treat. You can even point at the dog and say “where’s the dog” to your dog, then use the treat to lure his eyes to yours, praise and reward him. Little by little you can move closer, or allow him to look at the trigger longer, but the key is to eliminate his triggering, so you don’t want to push it, it is a lot like gambling, quit while you are ahead!

This is not an easy thing to accomplish and most trainers even have decoy dogs, or fake dogs to help with the training. If you are seeing behaviors like this from your dog, don’t wait, contact a professional, because every time he is allowed to trigger it is making this behavior a more practiced behavior, and even a habit.  The sooner you get started on correcting it, the easier it will be!

By in Puppies & New Dogs 0

The Keys to House Training Success

House training, or lack of, causes more dogs to be re-homed every year than any other behavioral issue. No one wants to live with an animal eliminating all over the house, no mater how much you love your pet! If your dog is healthy, and has seen a veterinarian, who has told you there is no medical reason, then there is nothing stopping you from having a house trained pet! If you ever think that your dog simply cannot learn something, remind yourself that dogs are taught to lead around blind people. There is little they can’t be taught, but it will require our time, patients and consistency.

Can my dog use pads indoors and also go out for walks?

It is my experience that this is confusing for dogs! It is best to pick one, and keep this message very clear. Either your dog is allowed to eliminate outside, or he uses pads inside, but not both as this is too much of a mixed message. Also if you have a second home your dog will need to be house trained for this home as well! Even if your dog has shown you he is completely house trained in your apartment, do not take this to mean he will be house trained in your country house. The first time you bring your dog to new places it is best to be sure he has eliminated before he goes inside, and it is a good idea to monitor him and his behavior in this new environment, in a similar fashion to when you first began house training.

5 Rules of House Training

1. Supervised or Confined: your dog is either in you direct supervision, in her crate, or in an appropriate potty spot (outside or pad).

2. Learn your dog’s Schedule: Take her to the right spot as often as necessary. Keep a log to learn your dog’s habits, and when you can predict her potty time bring her outside, or to her pad.

3. Reward her every time she gets right! When your dog eliminates in the right place, give her lots of praise, and three small treats in a row. Make this reward bigger than any other!

4. Don’t scold accidents you didn’t see: If you catch your dog eliminating in the wrong place, then quickly get her to the right place. We don’t ever want to scold accidents we didn’t catch because next time your dog may try to get rid of the evidence by eating her poop, or even worse becoming too afraid to eliminate in front of you!

5. Clean up all accidents well: Do your best to not clean up in front of your dog, she may try to imitate you, and this can also lead to coprophagia.

We consider habits to be changed once a dog has gone 30 straight days without having any accidents, so you should not consider your dog house trained until you have had at least 30 accident free days! I also encourage owners not to fade the food rewards for house training… ever! Certainly make them more sporadic so that your dog isn’t expecting a treat every single time he eliminates, but every once in a while he does get rewarded for getting it right. This will keep your house training in tact, as your dog will never know when the sporadic reward is coming, so he will try to keep up the behavior! Rainy, cold or snowy days are great days to add a reward.

If you are considering sending your dog to a house training boot camp, please be aware that this will not definitely solve your problems as your dog may learn not to go to the bathroom in the house where he is doing his boot camp, but not in yours! House training is the one thing that you have to be committed to with your dog, trainers and dog walkers can offer support and help, but as a dog owner it is really up to you at the end of the day to be sure your dog learns the proper potty habits. Take the time to do it right so that your dog never finds himself homeless over such a simple thing!

The Things You Shouldn’t Share with Your Dog

There are a lot of things in our environment that can be very hazardous to dogs. A lot of us have heard that chocolate is bad for dogs, but what else is on this list, and what can you do if your dog does ingest a poison? Hopefully this will help you to better understand those things that you need to keep far away from your dog, and what to do if your training and management fail.

It is a very good idea to teach your dog a formal “leave it” command. To me this means a command that teaches your dog the behavior of turning his head away, or backing away from an item that he will never get. This is not a parlor trick where you will release the “leave it” and allow your dog to “take” the item. If you have taught “leave it” this way, I would just teach the behavior the way I have described with a different command.

Human medications can be very hazardous to your dog. Ibuprofen, and antidepressants are just two examples of drugs that can be very dangerous. I find it is best to take any medications behind a closed door with your dog on the other side! Management is the safest way to deal with medications as your dog can dive for, and ingest a pill more quickly than a box of cookies.

Be very careful when applying your dog’s flea and tick prevention! If you have a small dog be very careful not to use a dose for a dog that is much larger, or be cautious not to use the entire vile if you are on the lower end of the suggested weight. Also be very careful about placement of the oil, use a fine tooth comb to separate the hair directly between your dog’s shoulder blades so you can get as close to the skin as possible. Be careful about petting the area, especially if you have children! Discard the empty vile by placing it a plastic bag, one of your dog’s poopy bags can be a good option, tying it tightly in a knot and bringing it directly to an outdoor trash. Don’t risk your dog getting into the garbage and eating this!

Some seemingly healthy foods are very dangerous for dogs. Avocados can be deadly, they contain persin which acts as a poison causing vomiting and diarrhea. Grapes, raisins, milk, onions, garlic cloves, and macadamia nuts are all to be avoided as well. When cooking with any of these foods, chocolate too, I find it best to block your dog out of your kitchen, or use your leash to tether him away from the area. This way if you drop something it will not cause him any harm. If he cries or begs then try a food stuffed toy, you can read more about food stuffed toys in my previous blog: The Kibble-Dispensing Toy Comparison. Some foods that aren’t too healthy for us can cause more problems for our dogs, such as alcohol, coffee, caffeine, and xylitol or artificial sweeteners, these are all to be avoided!

The products you use to clean your home can also be very hazardous to your dog. Some may seem obvious like nail polish remover, drain cleaner, and bleach, but others may be more surprising to you. PineSol and any pine cleaners are very bad for your dog. Laundry detergents can be very dangerous because they can have sweet smells that attract your dog, and can cause seizures if ingested. I would highly recommend cleaning your home while your dog is out, perhaps on a park run, or if nothing else, at least removed to another room. Also use caution when discarding and storing batteries, as a strong chewer could try to make toys of them and they are also poisonous! Finally human toothpaste can be deadly! Be careful with toothpaste, store it in a place your dog definitely cannot get to it, and throw it out directly outside when you have finished a tube! Only use pet approved tooth pastes when brushing your dog’s teeth.

You will also want to use caution when choosing flowers and plants for your home. Lilies, tulips, and azaleas can be dangerous for your dog. If you can’t place these plants out of your dog’s reach, then eliminating them from your home will be the safest way to deal with this. You can also teach you dogs to leave the plants alone, but it will be best to train this behavior with plants that are not poisonous, for obvious reasons!

Finally you want to use caution when choosing your dog’s food, treats, and toys. Keep an eye out for any recalls linked to your dog’s food as these happen. When choosing toys, don’t always choose the least expensive, even if your dog is very destructive. In fact the cheaper toys usually contain more sub par materials so when torn apart or ingested can be even worse for your dog. Tennis balls can cause problems for dogs for many reasons. Tennis balls and other toys that can be crushed or smushed, run the risk of reinflating in your dogs mouth or throat which can cause choking. Also a chewed up tennis ball is not made of good materials so remove it before your dog eats it! Be very cautious of treats made in China. Waggin’ Train Treats are also to be completely avoided, if you can find them, as the company has voluntary removed them from stores, but they have been responsible for many dog related deaths. Be cautious of other similar jerky type treats, such as Dogswell’s jerky treats. Always read the directions on your dog’s food and treats! Some treats will include an proper amount over a certain time, don’t over do it!

If you think your dog has ingested a poison, but you are not sure, you should contact a veterinarian immediately. The Animal Medical Center in New York City is open 24 hours:, and the ASPCA offers a poison control hotline: (888) 426-4435. There is a $65 consultation fee for this service. If you have seen your dog ingest a poison and can react fairly quickly to this, then you can give your dog 3% Hydrogen Peroxide. This will cause vomiting, and hopefully will cause your dog to vomit up the poison. I like to do this somewhere I don’t mind if my dog throws up and I begin to give him one capful of the peroxide until he begins to vomit. Be sure to give him plenty of water once he has thrown up.

The ASPCA’s center for poison control reports that their most common poison calls are for dogs who have ingested medications. Don’t let this be you! It is easy enough to shut a bathroom door, prepare a medication, take it and come out, so your dog has absolutely no chance of coming into contact with those medications. Take the time to manage your environment so you can keep your dog safe!

The Kibble-Dispensing Toy Comparison

For the past five days I have been experimenting with different toys that allow me to put Nadia’s kibble in them to make her work for her food. I have compared the differences between 5 food toys. They all have pros and cons, but I was hoping this would help you to pick the right one for you and your dog! It is important to note a few things, first of all they were given to Nadia in the order they appear below, prior to being used for her breakfast Nadia has used each toy at least once, with treats in it. She regularly eats out of a stainless steel bowl, she gets 1/3 of a cup of kibble with a few broken up treats mixed in. Prior to the start of this experiment I made five bags of her pre measured food with the treats mixed in, ready to go each morning so that the time preparing her food would not be taken into consideration with everything else. As for the length of time each toy takes, it is important to remember that Nadia, like most dogs, gets better and better at “hunting” for her food the more I give her toys like this, so this may account for the shorter time lengths of the later tested toys.

Premier Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble

The Kibble Nibbler comes in two different sizes to accommodate dogs of different sizes. With my dog since she is 20 pounds I find I can use either size.
Preparation: The rubber teeth at either end need to be trimmed to accommodate your specific kibble size, and this can be a somewhat difficult process. Try not to trim too much off all at once because this will make this toy far too easy for your dog and the kibble will fall right out! The process took me about 15 minutes when I first bought the toy. I took a large piece of my dog’s kibble and tested how easily it would fall through the opening as I trimmed one tooth only slightly at a time, until I had trimmed all four a bit.
The rubber that surrounds this egg shaped toy makes it good for tough chewers and helps make it quieter. This toy does tend to roll under things, which can be annoying. When there are only a few pieces of kibble left, they don’t come out easily, Nadia kept trying, but it could be frustrating for some dogs.

Time to Fill: 1 Minute

Time: 20+ minutes Nadia ended up with about 5 pieces of kibble that wouldn’t just fall out on their own so I ended up opening the toy and letting her eat them, but this was easy enough and did not take extra time to empty. Cleaning with warm water and gentle soap was easy enough.

Average Price: $12

Premier Busy Buddy Magic Mushroom

The Magic Mushroom comes in two different sizes to accommodate dogs of different sizes. With my dog since she is 20 pounds I find I can use either size. The Premier website does not reflect their new smaller size available in the magic mushroom, but I have both sizes and have seen the smaller one in several pet stores. The Magic Mushroom is noisy! I practice with Nadia to teach her to keep her toys on the carpet, but when it would roll off onto the wood floor it made a lot of noise, and Nadia loved to pick-up and drop this toy even on the carpet it made a lot of noise. Nadia loves this toy and will continue to play with it long after it is empty. As a general rule, to keep these toys high value, I don’t allow her to play with the toys too long after they are empty, but with this one I notice she stays interested in chasing it around.

Preparation: There is an opening where the kibble will come from and it can be opened half way or the full way depending on the size of the kibble you are using.
This toy also tends to roll around and under things a lot.

Time to Fill: 1 Minute

Time: 20 minutes

Average Price: $15

Nina Ottosson Dog Treat Maze

The treat Maze comes in several different sizes including a cat option! Hand wash only, but not difficult to clean. Only good for dry foods and treats.

Filling this toy each day is a bit tedious, and does take about 3 minutes, which is the longest of all the toys. The kibble starts to fall out as it gets full. This is a sturdy toy that will likely hold up to the serious chewers, especially with the different size options.

Nadia finished this one very quickly.

Preparation: None it is ready to use right out of the box
This toy is very skinny and does spin and roll under the furniture.

Time to Fill: 5 minutes

Time: 5 minutes, Nadia worked through this one the fastest.

Average Price: $16

Northmate Interactive Green Dog Feeder

This is large, and does not come in different size options. It is also a bit more expensive than the other toys. This is the only toy that is advertised as being dishwasher safe, but I don’t have a dishwasher so it was rather tedious to clean, it took the longest to clean by hand. It is well made and seems like it would hold up to even the strongest of chewers.
Preparation: None, this is ready to use, out of the box.

Time to Fill: 1 minute

Time: 10 Minutes

Average Price: $35

Home-Made Kibble Toy, using a plastic bottle

Prep Time: 20 minutes to clean, and cut the bottle so it will be a fun treat dispensing toy. I have used a knife and scissor to cut four holes into a long narrow plastic bottle. I used a piece of Nadia’s kibble to be sure the openings were big enough but not too big.

Time to Fill: 1 minute

Time: 10 minutes

As far as the time goes you can make this toy as easy or as hard as you want because you can cut as many or as few holes in the bottle to accommodate your dog. If she is great at food stuffed toys, then maybe only cut one or two holes into the bottle. If your dog is just learning about these toys and sometimes isn’t too food motivated, cut up to five holes in the bottle so it is easier for your dog to earn a reward.

Average Price: It depends on the kind of bottle used, but you also get whatever was in the bottle, so technically this toy could be considered free!

In conclusion, there are several different food dispensing toy options out there, and they are great for you dog for so many reasons! Make your dog work for his meals to help get his energy out, allow him to use his cognitive skills for problem solving, and slow down his food intake to keep him healthier. I think it is best to have a few different options for your dog, and hopefully you can choose the one that is right for you and your dog using the above information!

By in Training Philosophy 0

BSL: What It Is, and Why It Is Wrong

BSL stands for Breed Specific Legislation, and in short the best way to describe this concept is: people’s feeble way to address vicious dogs, without actually doing so in any logical, or even statistical way. It allows governments to go after specific breeds as a target for dog bite incidents in that area. The problem is we are blaming the wrong end of the leash! Any dog can be vicious, and this is more often than not, caused by human error, but certainly not limited to any one kind of dog, or even a sub category of dogs considered to vicous.

BSL goes after several breeds, but let’s face it the real “witches” in this witch hunt are the pit bulls. Further this makes BSL even more unfair because the group of dogs that fall into this “pit bull” category are actually several different types of dogs who may even be mixed, but the Center for Disease Control compares the incident of pit bull related dog bites to specific breeds. For example the Husky and Malamute are considered separately, but in the case of a the pit bull, two dogs who were this similar would both qualify, so really the group comparison is not a fair and accurate comparison. The proof should even be in their name; we capitalize the names of specific breeds, such as Doberman Pinscher, but we do not capitalize pit bull. The best reasoning I can give for this is that it would almost be like capitalizing the word “mutt.”

A few things I want to clear up right here and now: pit bulls jaws do not lock! Some say the pit bull’s jaw is as strong a crocodile, also not true. Now a few truths: The city of Denver has euthanized 4,000 pit bulls since 1989. These dogs were not temperament tested, or involved in any incidents, they simply were pit bulls living in Denver, taken from their loving homes, where most of them were companion animals-family pets! Now I am sorry, you don’t have to like pit bulls, and you can even be afraid of them, but this is plain wrong. In case you don’t believe me, check the statistics because Denver County has the highest incidents of dog bites resulting in hospitalization in the years between 1995 and 2010, and the breed that topped this dog bite list: The Golden Retriever! Who is the true danger here; these dogs to humans, or vice versa!

The media is shaping our opinions in a similar way that plane crashes scare us more than car crashes. To me the way the media reports on a pit bull dog bite is similar to a very heinous plane crash, whereas other dog bites by breeds such as Cocker Spaniels are reported on more in a fashion of a small car crash. The headlines involving pit bulls more often include the dog’s breed, whereas when it is any breed other than pit bull the headline usually reads “dog bite.” The word “attack” is very often used in conjunction with pit bull stories. Don’t let the media determine how you feel about these dogs, meet a few for yourself and see what you actually think, because if you think you are scared of pit bulls, after you meet one, I bet you will be pleasantly surprised!

Please don’t just take my word for it! Educate yourself about pit bulls, especially if you are fearful, because fear leads to irrationality, not only in people, but in dogs too, this is one of the reasons as a trainer I push so hard for dogs to be socialized and see lots of people and things, so they will know what they are, and not be afraid. The same applies to the knee jerk reaction of people towards pit bulls, perhaps if they educated themselves about these dogs, they would not be so fearful and want to be so aggressive towards them. I highly recommend taking an hour and half of your time and watch Libby Sherrill’s Beyond the Myth:

You may be thinking that this doesn’t affect you. You might have read this whole blog thinking pit bulls are fine with you, but you will never have one, so it doesn’t really matter. Well it should matter to everyone! If it starts with pit bulls today where will it end? BSL is already spreading to Rottweilers, Huskies, Great Danes, and more, so don’t just sit back and think it cannot affect you because before we know it there will be more banned breeds than allowed. If we continue to think the problem is with a specific breed, and not in our own handling, training, socialization and treatment of that dog, the problem of vicious and dangerous dogs will continue to exist. The question is which breed the law makers will target next, will it be your dog?