Pawsibilities NY

Month: February 2014

Tips for Good Dog Play

Whether you bring your dog to play in the dog park, or just have an occasional friend over with his dog to play with yours, it is important to recognize what is good dog play. I have heard a lot of definitions of the word “play” over the years, but my favorite one is that play is pretend fighting; especially when it comes to dogs, and little boys! So what are some things you can watch for to ensure your dog’s pretend fighting doesn’t turn into real fighting?

Rule number one of dog play is all dogs should be willing participants in the play. If you aren’t sure, then separate the dogs playing and check in by giving them a moment apart; then let them go, if they magnet right back to each other they are likely both willing participants. If one tries to use this moment to get away, but the other chases, then be sure to step in and give the dog who needs it a break. Whenever is separating dogs in play should try not to do so by pulling on their collars or harnesses. If the situations is not a fight, and you simply want to check in, it is best to restrain your dog from the front of his chest. Even if a fight breaks out-grabbing the collar is the wrong move!

Play between dogs should be equally matched and the dogs should take turns being the “top dog” meaning that no one dog should be the one who is constantly pinning and pushing around the others. Dogs often play in pairs, even at the dog park they tend to pair up, or engage in a large game of chase. Three can be a crowd in dog play; if there are three dogs playing, be sure to check in and be sure two aren’t ganging up on the third. Play should look very circular, and the dogs should take breaks and check in on their own. These can be very brief; a split second of the dogs freezing and saying to each other: “are we still playing?” “YUP!” “OK, Good!”

Some things to watch for are dogs who act like bullies. Either they charge right up and body slam into other dogs, or they do more subtle rude things such as paw overs, or chin overs. These are exactly how they sound; when one dog runs over to another and throws his chin or front paw right over the back of the other dog. This is usually a good time to step in and take a break. Humping can also be an annoying play behavior. While it can be completely normal, sometimes dogs get very upset when another dog attempts to hump them, while others just allow for this to happen. If your dog gives another dog a warning about humping, such as a little growl or snap, I would allow this because your dog will teach the lesson faster than you can. If your dog allows himself to be humped, then you need to step in and stop this each time the other dog tries. There is no reason to be rough about it, simply separate the two dogs. Sometimes it is best to let the other dog’s owner know.

If the dogs are standing on their hind legs and using their front legs to push off one another, they are height seeking and it is usually best to break this up. If your dog becomes very stiff or is hyper focus on something, it will be best to try to interrupt this, either call him over to you, or walk over and break his line of vision. Watch for your dog’s hackles to stand up, this is the hair that runs down his back, if it is standing up only between his shoulder blades, he is slightly aroused, while if it is standing up all the way to his tail, he is highly aroused. Call him over to you or move away from the other dog and give him a chance to settle down.

As opposed to the famous play bow, when your dog lowers his front end to look as though he is bowing. This is an invite for play, and a polite behavior. Also if your dog’s mouth is open, and relaxed this is a good sign, usually when dog’s close their mouths they are up to no good…

It will be important to be paying attention and able to step in any time your dog is off leash with other dogs. It is not a good idea to read a newspaper, or talk on your phone. Things can escalate quickly and you want to be able to step in, and end it without any injuries. Also it is vital that your dog know some cues and responds while off leash, otherwise it is probably not a good idea to allow him off leash. He should at least come when called, and sit on cue when asked. Play should be fun for your dog, and the dogs he is playing with. Be an active participant in your dog’s play, pay attention to what he likes, and doesn’t like, and signs that he wants to stop the play. If you watch for these common body language signs, and carefully supervise your dog’s play, there is no reason he can’t always have a safe and great time!

By in Training Philosophy 0

Why You Should Rescue a Dog!

There are several ways to get that dream dog that you have always been looking for. You could go to a breeder, a pet store, a rescue group or shelter. So what’s the difference, and how do you choose?

Breeders are just like any other business, some are really great and responsible, while others are completely negligent and unprofessional. There are some general rules to follow when choosing a breeder. The breeder should let you meet the pup’s mother or parents if possible, the breeder shouldn’t be eager to ship their puppy to you via plane, and they should be familiar with basic handling and socialization techniques for new born puppies. The truth is if you are set on getting your dog from a breeder; do your research! Don’t conform to a set of rules, that may or may not apply to your exact situation. Instead understand the breed you are buying, and the health issues the breed can have, and speak to people who have dogs from that breeder. Ask about the health issues, and if there have been behavioral issues. Talking to other owners will be the best way to find a good breeder, but this blog is about adopting!

You can of course walk into a pet store one day, and walk out with a puppy on the same day. This is probably the only circumstance that allows for this, which should be causing you to question why, right away. Pet stores are not a place to get a puppy. Breeders, or puppy mills who provide these puppies are not concerned with their long term health or behavior, they are breeding for sheer numbers. Also while you might end up with a happy and healthy dog from a pet store; you must stop to realize that your happy, healthy pup’s parents’ are stuck living in horrific conditions, and are forced to over breed while being given little or no exposure to sun, grass or anything of comfort. There really is no excuse for walking into a pet store and buying a dog, it supports an industry of abuse, mistreatment, and cruelty, plain and simple. Websites that sell puppies are also most often puppy mills. This is not to say if your breeder has a website she is breeding in this manner, but if you can directly purchase a puppy from a site with no background information, and only payment required; this is a puppy mill situation. If you can only bring yourself to get a dog from a pet store, then don’t get a dog!

Today there are so many dogs out there that need homes, I am not going to bore you with numbers and statistics, but no matter what state you live in, I can assure you that each and every day, dogs are euthanized simply for lack of space, and not due to health or behavioral issues. Pounds are over run with owner surrenders, and strays, and if a dog stays long enough, his time will eventually come. Many states have no-kill shelters, but a lot of these places cannot take owner surrenders so instead they are pulling dogs from the pounds, which means some dogs don’t make it from the pound to the no-kill shelter. These are the facts, and if you don’t believe me than you should google your local animal control center, and you will see.

Today people can adopt pretty much any dog from a shelter or rescue group. If you don’t set time constraints, and instead choose what you want in a dog, and spend time looking for it: you will find it! My biggest piece of advice is to not be in a rush! Think about how long it takes to have a baby, we don’t just go into a store one day and impulse buy a baby, so we shouldn’t do this with a dog.

I am tired of hearing that someone wants a purebred dog, or a puppy so they had to go to pet store. Worse than that, when people say they went to a pet store because their building doesn’t allow dogs-it won’t be long before this doesn’t work out, and this pet store pup become a pound pup. If you live in a building that doesn’t allow dogs, and you have to have a dog, then move, because this is the kind of sacrifice you need to be willing to make if you are going to properly care for and love a dog for his entire life.

If you spend the time looking you can find any dog, any breed, any age available for adoption, and while it might take longer, the pay off will be well worth it! If you need help finding a dog, reach out to some local dog trainers; a lot of us have options to help you find the right dog for you that are less expensive than full training lessons. Also there are several great websites out there that help compile all the local rescue dogs in your area. My husband and I found our dog on and she is the perfect addition to our family. Petfinder allows you to search for dogs in your area, and set the criteria you want as far as age, gender, size and breed.

If you can’t rescue a dog, there are often lots of ways to help shelters. Check your local shelters to see if they ever need volunteers, foster parents, or even transport drivers to take a dog from the shelter to his new home. In New York City there are several shelters that are part of The Mayor’s Alliance and they often need help will all sorts of different things, from book keeping to web site updating. I started out helping Manhattan’s Bideawee shelter with photographs for their website, and it took me all the way to becoming a dog trainer! There are a lot of dogs out there in need, so even if adopting is not right for you, there are likely many ways you can help these dogs.

If you are thinking about getting a dog and live in the New York City area, we offer dog and family pairing consultations as well as discounted training for all rescue dogs. If you are fostering a dog and need help with him, we also offer discounted training for foster parents, as well as Skype sessions for people in need out of state. Please contact us today for any help or advice!