Monday, January 16, 2017

Common mistakes that new pet owners make when they first get a dog… and why paying attention to the body language of your dog is the best way to begin the making of the perfect pet!

Doing too much and overwhelming the dog with the best of intentions:

We have all heard that it is good to socialize your dog properly from the beginning. Keep in mind if you just got a dog from a rescue, or from owners who didn’t have time for the dog, or a new puppy, you want to start small and pay attention to the dog. Do a little research and find out what you dog’s body language means (Dr. Sophia Yin has some wonderful quick references). Spend some time watching your dog and practicing reading the various signals so you aren’t trying figure it out for the first time out in the real world. Then start small. It is that simple! Go to a quiet park when you first get the dog, not a street festival! Go to the vet and groomer for a visit, not an appointment. Go to the pet store for a quick biscuit, then leave, do it on a weekday. Please don’t confuse “shut down” with being O.K. Start with a friendly dog that you know well for dog introductions, not the dog park. If your dog has unexpected reactions, don’t wait, please consult a professional. This is one reason why we do groups :-)

Keeping the pet sequestered for too long because they seem scared:

We don’t want to push a pup to do more than they are comfortable doing but keeping them in the house for 3 or 4 months, and not venturing out or resuming your normal schedule, is too long! Call and invite friends over, a lot, keep your dog on leash with you so they can’t run and hide and don’t force introductions, just pet, play with or treat your dog during the visit to keep things fresh and fun. Watch that body-language and try to keep your own apprehension out of things. Keep it short and try again tomorrow. Consult a professional if the fear doesn’t seem to subside. This is one reason why we do Private training in home.

Thinking that guarding food, toys, or space is ok:

Let sleeping dogs lie? Don’t touch a dog while he is eating or has a bone? Good advice in general, but not my dog! It is never ok for a dog to guard food, toys or sleeping space. The last thing we need is someone to get bit reaching for that “favorite” ball, or moving the food bowl out of the way, or a bone. BUT, please don’t just take stuff away because they guard it, it will make the guarding worse! AND, don’t just trade it, repeatedly, for a treat. Never take a thing from a dog, but you can take the dog from the thing. People get bit by reaching under a dog guarding something, or under a table to get a dog in general. Again, watch that body language. You can start off trading for a treat, to get the item away from your dog, but proper training of leave it is key, and teaching your dog not to touch inappropriate items. As well as teaching your dog it is always more fun to let you have the item then to hunker down and guard it from you. This requires professional intervention if you are still having an issue with it with an adult dog, but don’t wait, it is easier to fix with a pup! This is one reason we specialize in aggression issues.

Giving the dog everything it wants because she/he had a horrible life locked in a cage at the rescue:

You cannot right all the wrongs done to dogs by giving them everything they want. If you do you will often create a monster. Don’t get me wrong, some owners are fine with letting the dog on the furniture, letting them roam the entire house, bark and jump at guests and passers-by, leaving a full bowl all the time, pulling on the leash, etc., I hear it all the time, “we are fine with all that stuff, if the dog would just listen when we tell it to do something.” And, there is the problem! If your dog wants for nothing, there is no incentive to comply with your wishes… But, if your dog knows you control stuff, it can be different. I know, your dog should do it because it loves you, after all that’s why you give it everything it wants! But I don’t think most dogs see it that way. For dogs it is simple, you work for stuff you don’t have, not stuff you’ve already got, unless there is a chance you may need to guard what you’ve already got for fear of losing it, which we already discussed! Watch your dog’s body language, does your dog perk his ears and turn his head to see what you want, in anticipation of the next fun interaction you will have together? Or ignore you entirely and continue doing something that he/she finds more gratifying? Remember I am not saying you shouldn’t “give” it; it is just how you give it that is the key! Relax with guests to get attention, not barking at other dogs to get to go visit them faster, be invited up onto furniture because you ask nicely, chew your own toys for attention, work hard to get your food from a toy or your owner, these are just a few things to do instead that will make you and your dog even happier than giving it away!

We are here to help you learn how to protect your dog from harm when you cannot supervise, to get your dog to potty in the right place, to overcome fear or aggression issues, to teach your dog to earn what you have to offer, and in turn you will earn the undying respect and love of your new dog! If you are interested in learning more, or how to implement the tools given to you above… please call us at 818 996 3647 or contact us through our website at!