This morning while starting off on a very familiar trail near my house Brya was spooked for the first time in her life. I thought she was afraid of one of the dogs approaching us and for the first time in her life did not come to me when called. Like any dog owner, I was embarrassed in front of the people with dogs near me as well as worried that she would run further away from me so I panicked.
I collected her and leashed her to continue our walk. Where than halfway through our route we heard it whining in the woods. I quickly remembered hearing of an injured coyote in this area from a few days ago.
As I thought back, Brya did not leave my side for the entire walk. Why didn’t I trust her instincts? We are fine but even old trainer can learn new lessons.
I have always thought of Brya being a good judge of character for both dogs and people. Why had I doubted her? Because it was early in the morning and I just want to get my walk done. Next time I will heed the warning and pick a different trail.
Just goes to show you, if you really listen dog’s instincts teach lessons every day.
Today I was struck by a bystander in our therapy dog group setting who told me that I am so “lucky” to have such a great dog. To the untrained eye it does look that way and I do feel so lucky to have Brya in my life.
Brya IS a great dog. But she could just as easily been a crazy anxious misbehaving dog. I consider us a team. I put the work (and it was a lot of work) in when she was very young to train her. I tell my clients this all the time- if you put in the intense work, no matter what the age of your dog, for the first 6 months and you will have the rest of your pet’s life to reap the benefits.
I practice exercise, discipline and affection in that order. Because I fulfill Brya’s physical needs and I give her reasonable boundaries and limitations, she is a happy girl. This allows me to give her the affection for a job well done. I never wonder how she will act in a public setting. I have exposed her to many different situations and know that she will behave. How, you say? Because we are a team. She looks to me for direction. I was able to build that bond with her and take the leadership role.
Having such great manners and socialization allowed us to pass the Therapy Dog Evaluation and Certification with flying colors-at 1year old!! We didn’t know what would be asked of us on test day; however, we knew we could handle anything they threw at us…..together! Brya loves her job and we hope the kids/people she visits agree :)
Our situation may be a bit different from most dog owners because I happen to work for myself. Therefore, I was able to spend a great deal of time with Brya and she often comes to work with me. But never think you don’t have enough time to train your dog. Even a small amount of consistent training is beneficial. It may take a bit longer to get results, but they will come!
This was a TOUGH month for dogs (and people) when you get 3+ feet of snow in one month! Even difficult for die hard walkers like me & Brya weren’t able to get out every day and experienced a bit of cabin fever. Now that we have given in to the fact that it’s not going anywhere, we have learned to embrace the snow!
Head to the beaches!! They are usually clear enough to walk since the snow blows into the bluffs, and if you prefer the woods for less wind chill, believe it or not we aren’t the only ones that walk in the deep snow on the trails and eventually “cut” at walkable path over time. Many trails have been tamped down by cross country skiers and snow shoe enthusiasts. Most dogs don’t care at all that we have deep snow or that it is bitter cold. So bundle up people! Some of the most beautiful landscape pictures I have are captured in the snow (especially with a black dog).
If you just can’t get out or don’t want to, stimulate your dog inside! Yes, having mental stimulation is sometimes as good as a 3 mile walk outside. This will keep them from getting bored and in to trouble J See my inspiration Caesar Milan’s article for some great ideas on this concept.
Does your dog suffer from peer pressure? Yes, it does really exist in dogs! Even Brya is known to be swayed into mischief if surrounded by her friends who are not listening. So how do you handle this when it happens? Just give up since they are pretty well behaved “most” of the time? No!!!!! Unfortunately, if you do that the behavior over time will just get worse!
Here are some easy things to do! Start with finding a “doggie” friend that IS behaved so that your pup sees that you can be in a group and still behave. Then practice your obedience with them. If you have having great results, add in a dog or two and keep working. If you don’t have any furry friend that behaves, consider not walking with that group, OR you could put a long light line on your dog while walking. Giving you a way to “reach out” to your pup will enable you to enforce your rules and obedience, showing them they must listen even if everyone else isn’t.
Just know that dogs do respond to boundaries (just like children), and are better off for it!! So many studies show that well trained dogs are more calm and well adjusted making life as a whole great for all.
A short window of time training your dog pays off for years to come!
Have you ever seen a dog bark and take a step back? There are so many cues in body language that would benefit those of us who own dogs as well as people who just encounter dogs in daily life.
A bark can say two things: coming toward you and barking usually means they are being protective of something….barking but standing still or going backwards usually speaks to an unsure dog just voicing their fears.
Let’s focus on approach. In the graphic below on the surface, the dog just looks interested in the baby, but really the dog is afraid. A dog can become aggressive just as easily out of fear than real aggression. Especially for children we just need to know how to approach a strange dog. Harder to do than say, but the best way to say “hi” to a dog is to get close enough for them to smell you FIRST, then lean down with a closed hand and pet under the chin or the belly. Our first instinct is to crouch down (submissive posture), speak baby language (weak), and go for the pat on the top of the head (threatening).
Dominance-Chest forward, tail high…………be careful!
Fear-Tail between the legs, ears back, quick bark……give them space!
Calm submission…alert but tail neutral and playful……..ideal!
Now I get that you aren’t going to be scanning each dog at the dog park or on a trail, but if you could remember just a few things you will not only protect yourself but the dog as well. Lastly, you are part of the body language equation. If you are fearful, dogs treat you as submissive. If you are confident and calm, they should react in the same way.
In general, we should stop treating dogs as children and treat them as dogs. No one is saying we can’t spoil, love and hug our dogs; but by nature they are animals. We can not reason with them. They are black and white. It all starts with body language.