My Dog Won’t Come at the Dog Park. What do I do?

The latest example in the ongoing saga of Pickle being a brat happened last week at the dog park. Everyday I take Pickle and a small pack of her friends to a dog park in our neighborhood to get in all the ball chasing and butt sniffing they can handle for the day. An hour passes, and I’m leashing up dogs only to discover Pickle is no where to be seen.

Let the games begin.

Pickle on the opposite end of the park, gnawing on a tennis ball. I approach her, treats in hands, and in usual Pickle fashion she bolts away from me. It’s not unusual for me to spend 10 or so minutes to get her attention and leave, we’ve been through this before. But today, Pickle is acting worse. She’s not letting me within 10 feet of her without running away. 20 minutes pass, no luck. 45 minutes pass, she’s still making me chase her.

90 minutes pass, and Pickle is still 10 feet away from me, only now she’s too tired to stand and she’s contently gnawing on her ball.

I ran through all the scenarios. I thought about leaving her (I didn’t, I was frustrated!). I almost had to cancel my afternoon walks. I thought about calling my partner to help corral her. I was visibly livid to any other dog owner watching me pace back and forth trying to get Pickle to notice the treats in my hand.

Pickle was having a grand time, but made the mistake of squatting to pee, and I was able to get hold of her harness. Ordeal over. But what now? I felt lost, like all the good progress she had made eroded before my eyes. Question now was how to fix it.

Say Please By Sitting:

Luckily for any owner going through this, there is hope! There are some simple games you can play with your dog that will help to create a better relationship with your pup and make them want to be with you and not run away when you bring out that leash.

Here is one example of a video from Dr. Sophia Yin. In the video, Dr. Yin rewards her dog for sitting and staying focused on her. Note they are training indoors. By upping the level of distraction, you are preparing to take train the pup outside with escalating distractions.

Taking it Outside:

Once your dog has mastered the leash work indoors, you can start working outdoors either on the street or in a park. Starting with a standard 6-foot leash limits your dogs ability to lose focus. Slowly working towards and longer leash gives your dog more freedom and forces them to concentrate more. Here is an article highlighting the essentials.

Now what?

Keep training! The most important part about any training regiment is that you, as the puppy-parent, stay consistent. This method is rather fun and builds a great relationship with your dog through play. They are learning despite themselves, and it pays huge dividends!

We’ve been working slowly with Pickle and trying to build her confidence before going to a heavily packed dog park again. In the first couple days it looks like she’s learning to trust us. Through patience and hard work you too can get a well trained pup and have happy experiences at the dog park!

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It’s Time We Talk About Your Dog

How, without sounding judgemental, do I help give advice to dog owners I encounter in public?

Dog owners can picture it. Passing on a hiking trail you see another owner struggling with a young dog, struggling against the leash, strangling itself it’s pulling so hard. The owner is flush, sweaty from the  wrestling match they’ve been doing with their pup the entire walk.

I’ve been on both sides of that encounter, both the passerby, and the poor soul holding onto the rambunctious pup. But as a passerby, and as someone who spends their days with dogs, I want to help! I want to offer my tiny bits of unsolicited advise and hopefully trigger some sort of action in this owner’s mind.

But as we pass, I see the will slowly fading from their face. As I smile, they flash back a desperate gaze, screaming “let’s just get home” through their eyes.

And I just smile.

Every time I wonder, is their something I could have said that would make that poor owner’s day easier? But, more importantly, if I did have something to say, how would I say it? How do I come off as being helpful, not judgemental or insincere?

Is that even possible?

I react rather quickly and critically when people try to give me advice on handling my dogs. My brain immediately goes to “this is my job, who are you to tell me how to handle a dog?”, and that’s wrong. I’ve found that once I take another owner or professional’s advice, I am able to apply way more techniques into my work. As the old saying goes, “the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again while expecting different results.”

And of course, you never know the things you don’t know.

I assume others will react with the same resistance. That alone is enough to make me hesitate and avoid conversations with owners that I could potentially offer a bit of advise, or could even offer me a little insight into their situaion and how to hadle it myself.

Maybe that’s selfish. But hey, there are lot’s of cute dogs I could be petting!

So I’d like to know from dog owners: In what way could I approach you that would make you feel safe and open to discussing your dog? Would you e open to advice?

 

Canine Cuisine for your Dog

Notice that your dog is becoming bored with the everyday, store bought kibble? Does your pup have a history of tummy issues or allergies from eating overly processed food? Turns out, there’s an alternative! Whole foods can make for a healthy and happy dog, and dogs ca benefit from a little home cooking every now and then!

We’ve talked about good and bad for your dog. Now it’s time to take those new found goodies and put them to good use! Remember though, if switching your dog to a whole food diet, it is best to consult with a vet to make sure your dog is getting all of its essential nutrients. 

Here’s a short list of great recipes for treats, meals, and even a dessert!

DOG TREATS:

Chicken Jerky

Simple, chewy, protein packed alternative to raw hides.

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 chicken breasts

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove any excess fat from the chicken. Turn the chicken breast on its side and use a paring knife to slice the chicken breast into 1/8 inch thick strips.
  3. Set the strips on a baking sheet. Bake for 2 hours.
  4. Check the chicken before removing from the oven. It should be dry and hard, not soft or chewy. Allow the chicken to cool completely before serving.
  5. Store the jerky in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

NOTE: Substitute sweet potatoes or other veggies in recipe for vegetarian alternative!

Frozen Yogurt Pops for Dogs

Great low fat treat for your pup on a hot day!

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. container of plain, non-fat frozen yogurt
  • 1 cup of no-sugar added fruit juice
  • 1/2 cup of carrots, minced

Directions

  1. Add the yogurt, fruit juice, and carrots into a medium-sized bowl. Stir until the ingredients are smooth and well-blended.
  2. Drop the mixture into the ice cube trays by spoonful.
  3. Freeze until the ingredients are solid.

DOGGIE DINNERS:

Store bought foods can be filled with fillers and additives, and honestly be very boring for dogs. Cooking your own dog food can take a little while, but I like that both of these recipes can be frozen and kept for up to a week. (And hey, they’re pretty good if you want to have some, too!)

Turkey and Vegetable Dinner

Simple recipe for your poultry friendly diet. Rich in lean protein and veggies for a balanced diet!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 2 cups of brown rice
  • 1 cup of carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup of green beans, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of fish oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook the ground turkey in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until the meat is cooked through.
  2. Add the brown rice, turkey, and water to a large pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook an additional 15 minutes, or until the rice is soft and tender.
  4. Add the carrots and green beans and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Allow to cool before serving.
  6. Store extra dinners in the fridge for up to five days.

Beef Stew

Gravy! Little more labor intensive, but a rich beef flavor and veggies pack a tasty punch!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of beef stew meat
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup of carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup of green beans, diced
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of water or organic vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for frying

Directions

  1. Cook the sweet potato in a microwave for 5 to 8 minutes until firm but tender. Set aside.
  2. Slice the stew pieces into smaller chunks, about the size of a nickel.
  3. Cook the stew pieces in a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until well-done.
  4. Remove the beef chunks from the pan, reserving the drippings.
  5. Dice the sweet potato.
  6. Heat the drippings over medium-low heat. Slowly add flour and water into the dripping while whisking to create a thick gravy.
  7. Add the meat, sweet potato, carrots, and green beans into the gravy and stir to coat.
  8. Cook until the carrots are tender – about 10 minutes.
  9. Serve cool.
  10. Store remaining stew in the fridge for up to five days.

DOGGIE DESSERT:

Because even Fido deserves to indulge once in awhile! For a fresh take on dessert, layered fruit parfaits are great (fruit, non-fat yogurt, repeat). But I like the iea of making a cake for your dog. Here’s a great recipe for, I don’t know, their birthday?

Dog Birthday Cake:

Ingrediets

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 6 cup ring mold.
  2. Combine the egg, peanut butter, oil, vanilla, and honey, if desired, in a large bowl; blend well. Stir in the carrots and mix thoroughly. Sift together the flour and baking soda and fold into the carrot mixture. Spoon cake batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes; then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

(Candles on top are optional!)

Hope you ad your pup can get some use out of these recipes! If you have any favorites that you’d like to share, please visit our Facebook and Twitter pages!

When Should I Socialize my Puppy?

I am a strong advocate for puppy socialization. I am a firm believer that the more experience a puppy can get in that crucial socialization window (between 8-20 weeks of age), the more successful the puppy will be in life.

But socializing an 8 week old puppy can be tricky. There immune systems are young and vulnerable, they have not been fully vaccinated. So exposing them to new dogs and new environments will leave them susceptible to illnesses.

But here’s the thing. I would rather have a puppy that is properly socialized and gets kennel cough (easily treatable) then have a dog that was kept in a bubble as a puppy and comes out afraid, aggressive and dangerous. Pickle has lived through kennel cough (twice!), and a stomach parasite, and she’s fine. She has also become skilled at reading dog signals and doesn’t pick fights with even the most persistent of pups. I’d call that a worthwhile trade off.

But why take my word for it?

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Hardware and garden stores make fun trips for young pups!

Experts are now pushing owners to socialize their puppies in safe, low risk situations, like puppy classes:

“Puppy socialization classes offer a safe and organized means of socializing puppies. Each puppy should have up-to-date vaccinations and be disease and parasite free before entering the class. Where possible, classes should be held on surfaces that are easily cleaned and disinfected (e.g., indoor environments). Visits to dog parks or other areas that aren’t sanitized or are highly trafficked by dogs of unknown vaccination or disease status should be avoided.”

Really, it takes a little common sense, but there is no reason a puppy should be sheltered until they are fully vaccinated (which happens sometime around 20 weeks!). You are wasting valuable time to adjust your dog to the world, and leave them vulnerable to behavior issues later on.

Let’s take a different approach to this. Think for a second about the number of dog that are in shelters/rescues across the country right now. How many of them do you think were surrendered (by very well intentioned owners) because that dog bit someone? How many dogs a year are euthanized because they came from puppy mills and were never socialized to the outside world?

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Even at a young age, socializing with older, respectful, fully vaccinated dog is okay for your puppy!

My point is, even owners with the best intentions can get it wrong. Being overly protective of your puppy is great and will probably save you a little money on vet bills. But what will you do when your puppy bites and seriously injures a child because they have never seen one before?

If you are still at a loss for what to do, here are a couple hints:

1) Introduce your puppy to familiar, vaccinated dogs. It will reduce risk, but still allow your dog to interact and learn lessons from the older dog.

2) If your puppy is small enough, carry it in a bag (with it’s head out to breathe). Many pet stores sell ones like these, which we used to socialize Pickle before she was vaccinated. People will get to see, pet and give treats to your puppy, and they are away from danger the whole time!

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Travel carriers are great for puppies that can’t walk on dirty sidewalks!

3) Play pass the puppy! Find a dog friendly bar, invite a couple friends, and tell them to go make friends with your puppy. No one in their right mind would refuse the chance to hold a new puppy! Kira and I still have friends that we made this way!

4) Carry your puppy through a plaza, hardware store, pet store, anywhere that dogs are allowed. The more exposures the better! Carrying them will again keep them out of harms way and you can manage their level of exposure.

5) Have a puppy party! Pickle was home for approximately 24 hours when we had 10 or so friends over for a Seahawks party. She adjusted to people coming into the house, being handled, exposure to loud and sudden noises, the whole shebang, all while being in the comfort of her own home! If you have friends with children, I’d encourage they come as well. Teaching a puppy to be respectful to children (and vice-versa) is great for a little puppy!

Socialization is all about positive experiences, so make sure your puppy is happy and comfortable with all the new situations. Starting the socialization process early will give you more chances to expose your puppy to new people, places and environments. There are ways to safeguard against your puppy being unvaccinated, and taking a few simple precautions can open a door of possibilities for where you can take your puppy. If you are willing to take the time to socialize your dog, you will create a much happier and more stable relationship with your dog!

Why are Poodle Haircuts so Weird?

Dog hairstyles are often more complex then the longest of salon visits. Dogs are shaved, cut, brushed, trimmed, braided, clipped and colored in all kinds of perplexing fashions. Yet the most recognizable haircut belongs to the Poodle (we can split hairs here and just talk about a standard Poodle, even though the hairdo applies to mini and toy varieties as well).

You know what I’m talking about. Take one look at a recently trimmed Poodle and you see a dog with a large cotton-puff of hair on its chest, around its ankles and on the tip of its tail. You see the bare, closely shaved backside, and the hair pinned back over its’ eyes.

Perplexing, distinct, and, dare I say, functional. Yes, did you know that a Poodle’s cut is actually meant to be functional, not just stylish? Surprise!

The origin of a Poodle’s-do is still debated. Some point to ancient paintings on the walls of Roman tombs, coins, and monuments that date back to 30 AD, which bear the resemblance of Poodles. More common arguments point to late 16th – 17th century Germany, where Poodles were bred as “water retrievers”. (“Poodle” is derived from the German pudel, short for pudelhund, which means “water dog.” The German word pudeln means “splash,” and is the root of the English word “puddle.”)

It was around this time that Poodles gained their distinct cuts out of occupational necessity. The thick, cotton-like fur of a Poodle would surely weigh it down when wet, and shearing the dog’s hind quarters made it buoyant enough to float. They could now swim and maneuver more easily in the water. The long mane around the dog’s head and chest were left in tact to keep the do’s vital organs warm in the cold water. Owners also elected to keep the puffs of hair around the dog’s ankles and joints to help stave of rheumatism. Tying the Poodle’s hair back kept their eyes and mouth free to allow the dog to follow through on their retrieving tasks. Brightly colored bows were later introduced to distinguish dogs at competitions.

Of course, when we talk about extravagant hair styles, we should talk about the extremes. Poodles (especially the smaller breeds) were popular among French nobility in the 18th-century, and they pushed the insanity to another level. They even went so far as to mimic the crazy pompadours that Frenchmen sported at the time!

Today, Poodles sport one of two main styles: The Continental or the English Saddle. (Note that the Continental leaves the hair on the dog’s rear surprisingly short!) AKC competition renders these two cuts as the “standard” for competition. These cuts are meant to reflect the squareness in a well bred Poodle.

Groomers take hours to perfect the look of a Poodle before competition. Outside the arena, Poodles may spot more of a “puppy cut” that is simply meant to keep the hair short, allowing for them to swim and retrieve, like they were naturally bred to do.

I know I learned a fair amount while researching this piece, and I hope that you have learned not to take every silly hair cut for granted. Sometimes, even the craziest of things are done for the best reason!

Popular Myths About Dogs: DEBUNKED!

Dogs are fascinating creatures. They are loyal, adventurous, curious, able to work dozens of different jobs and be our most loving companion. But there are many things we don’t know and understand about our four legged friends, and as it often happens, misunderstanding breeds misinformation. The dog world is filled with misconceptions and myths about dogs, from behavior to getting rid of worms.

Here is a list of some common dog misconceptions, a little insight into what’s actually going on:

Myth #1: Dogs only see in Black and White:

Some Russian scientists took this popular myth and turned it on it’s head. Research has proven that dogs actually see in shades of blues and yellows, but can’t see shades of red. Who knew?! Check out this link to read more.

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I love that blue shirt you’re wearing!

Myth #2: If you put garlic on your dog’s food, will it help get rid of his worms?

You’ve clearly never read my post about human foods dogs should avoid. Forget you ever heard this one. Garlic can actually be very harmful to a dog’s health, so just stick to putting garlic in your spaghetti sauces.

Myth #3: You can calculate a dog’s age by multiplying it’s human years by seven:

Research has actually shown this method to be outdated. By the time your dog reaches one year, they’ve already become a talking-back teenager, and the way they age varies from as they get older. Check this chart for exact conversions.

Myth #4: A cracked window is enough on a hot day:

Not even going there. Just read this

Myth #5: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks:

I can attest that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, older dogs may suffer from hearing or vision loss, but that doesn’t mean they lose their ability to learn. This myth seems more like a human insult than a dog one.

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I may be old, but I can still learn!

One of the first lessons I teach parents about puppies is how to reduce biting. Simply give them a treat, and if their teeth touch your fingers too aggressively, pull the treat back and make a loud pitched noise. The dog will know to slow down in order to finally get the treat. I have used this trick on much older (8, 9, even 13 year old) dogs and it works great! They’ve learned a simple, new trick, and I get to keep all my fingers!

Still don’t believe me? Check out this video of MythBusters putting it to the test.

Myth #6: A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth:

Back story: Dog saliva was once believed to be antiseptic, and some people still believe it has healing properties. No one knows how that belief came to be, but it is still a common myth today. Trust me, a dog’s mouth is not “cleaner” than a person’s mouth. Dog saliva is capable of fighting off some bacteria, but carries it’s own army of bacteria and infectious organisms. The types of bacteria carried by humans and dogs is different, mostly because of the differences in diet. There is a reason for the term, “dog breath.”

Myth #7: Sex, litters and fixing your dog:

While compiling this post, I was surprised to see that lots of people wait before getting their dog neutered or spayed because they believe letting their dog have sex is a good thing, or that they need to have one litter  of puppies “for the experience.”

But that’s simply not true. Sex results in puppies without homes or a good support system. Female dogs will not miss “the experience” of having a litter. There remains some controversy as to how early you should have a dog fixed, not fixing your dog leads to further animal population and control issues.

Myth #8: A fenced yard should be entertaining enough:

How would you liked being locked up in one space for long periods of time? The world is full of smells, sounds, animals to socialize with and trees to pee on. It’s important that a dog is exposed to all these things, not only for their socialization, but so they have the mental and physical stimulation to keep them from becoming destructive.

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Sometimes adventure lies outside the backyard!

Myth #9: My dog should tolerate anything my children do:

This is a good way for your child to get a nasty bite wound. Children are terrible with boundaries, and they need to be taught to respect their doggie companions. Allowing a child to sit, tug on or tease a dog is disrespectful. Dogs are living animals that should be cared for, not tormented.

Myth #10: My dog understands me when I talk to him:

Even I fall into the trap of thinking I can “talk” to my dog. While dogs can understand about 500 words and a very talented Border Collie named Chaser can understand thousands, when we talk to our dogs they focus in on a few words, our tone of voice, facial expressions, and our body language.

Myth #11: Dogs wag their tail when they are happy:

A dog trainer I worked with actually debunked this for me. Dogs wag their tail for many reasons, but typically it’s because they are either happy or nervous. The important thing here is that you learn to read a dog’s body language. A stiff, rigid appearance is a good sign that your dog is nervous, even if their tail is wagging. Being able to read a dogs signals will go a long way to building strong relationships with them.

Who knew the dog world was filled with so many myths?

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Why You Should Spoil Your Puppy

Let’s be honest with each other, even the most stern efforts to keep your new puppy off the furniture, from begging at the dining table or from getting that extra treat will result in you, the owner, giving in just a little. It’s hard to resist snuggling on the couch with your new puppy. It’s even hard to resist those big eyes putting at you for table scraps. You give in, and you beat yourself up every time because you think spoiling your puppy will ruin her for life.

I’m here to help ease that guilt.

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Who wouldn’t want to snuggle with this puppy?

Before I get going, I am not a vet or a certified trainer. I am an owner, a socializer, a teacher and a volunteer who has devoted a lot of time helping other owners to turn their puppies into well-adjusted dogs. My opinions are from the dozens of dogs I have worked with and the interactions I’ve had with their owners. I have spent hours helping owners to understand that sometimes, giving in is okay.

Your first responsibility as a pet owner is to be their parent. You are responsible for teaching a puppy to be well-mannered, obedient, respectful, and ensuring they are loved. You are NOT an overlord, depriving your puppy of all the joys of being alive. A parent does not dominate their children, rather they guide them through life’s twists and turns, and that is your job as a puppy parent.

If you’re going to take the time to raise a puppy, you should probably take some time to enjoy it, right?

This is what I tell new puppy owners: If your dog does something you want them to do (like snuggle in bed), then why is it a bad thing? Lots of dog trainers are on this kick lately that you must be the dominant alpha overlord of your dog in order for them to be good dogs. After spending a year raising my own dog, I can tell you that’s not the case. So don’t fret if you want to treat your puppy. Turns out, you’ll be treating yourself, too.

If you are okay with your dog being in the bed, then let them cuddle with you at night. Pickle is allowed on our furniture, and she crawls into bed every morning with us before starting the day. But as soon as we walk into someone else’s home, she must adopt the rules of THEIR house. If they don’t allow dogs on the furniture, then Pickle stays on the floor, it’s that easy. She is only allowed to do what we tell her, and she has learned to respect that. Are we spoiling her at home? Maybe, but it’s up to her to maintain the boundaries we have set.

When it comes to treats, string cheese is god’s gift to dog training. Puppies can’t get enough of the stuff, and when you are training you must load up on the tastiest treats you can find. Every good deed should be rewarded and praised like it’s Christmas. I know lots of trainers who believe praise is enough to convince a dog to follow your command, and I think that’s a stretch. You must build trust and rapport with your dog. Treats are the best way to maintain their focus, and front loading the treats keeps their attention through hard training sessions. You can taper the treats as your puppy becomes more responsive. And I stand by the string cheese!

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And what about table scraps? As long as it’s dog friendly, why not? Avoid certain foods from the table, but as long as the dog is taking them under your supervision and with your permission, I say go for it.

So what do you do when a vet scolds you because you are making your puppy fat? Well, you listen. A puppy with an extra pound or two is not a big deal. I would rather have a chunky puppy who listens and trains well then a slim dog that won’t come to me when called. When your dog reaches full size, and is developed enough to exercise extensively, you can easily adapt their diet and increase the exercise. They can shed the weight in a healthy way, and you still get a happy dog!

In the end, spoiling your puppy means you are building a strong and loving relationship. Don’t mistake this for saying your dog is in charge. You are the parent, it is your responsibility to act the part. But while you are spending all that time training and cleaning up after your pup, you should be able to enjoy a cuddle once in a while! If you want to throw your pup an extra piece of bacon from the breakfast table, then do it! Keep things on your terms, train your pup to respect your voice, and treating them will become a reward. You will both be happier for it!