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Biting on the Leash
Trying to stop a dog from doing something we don’t like is a multi-step process. Although it might seem that simply getting after them is a solution, it typically is not an effective one in the long run.
A better approach is to focus on what we would prefer them to do and teach them that. While that is happening, it is imperative that good management protocols are in place to prevent them from getting better at the pesky behaviour we don’t like.
This approach applies to almost anything that our dogs might do – counter surfing, chewing on the leash, jumping up or even eating their poop. People are typically unsuccessful when trying to fix these because they are spending too much time and energy on the stuff they don’t like – either because they don’t know what else to do or they don’t have a good management plan in place.
Let’s use leash biting as an example.
As part of good management, we need to have ideas and a plan ready. If your dog is prone to leash biting at specific times during the walk or when certain things are happening, then be proactive so you can provide an alternate activity to keep them busy and happy. This may be some more mental activity, like practicing fun behaviours you’ve been working on, or a treat toss that will allow your dog to spend some time focused on looking for a bunch of treats in the grass or on the ground. If you do this before they get going on the leash, that’s great. If you don’t, then make sure you interrupt the leash biting by getting their attention, and asking them to do a couple of things first (like sit or take a few loose leash steps). We don’t want to set up a pattern of grabbing the leash to start the fun. By putting a bit of space between the two, it will separate the good stuff from the undesired behaviour.
Another option for dogs that tend to be quite mouthy is to have an appropriate chew item available on walks. This is simply a management tool so that they are not chewing on the leash. By providing a soft fleecy toy, they can outlet the behaviour more appropriately during the early stages of the program.
Now remember, that our focus needs to be on what we DO want our dog to do. This will require of combination of:
1. teaching your dog other great things to do while on the leash
The best place to train these leash behaviours is not actually on a walk, but on leash in the house to start. Like any behaviour we work on, the first steps should take place in the less-distracting home environment.
2. catching them not chewing on the leash on walks (outside training sessions) and rewarding it big time
Rewards could be food, lavish praise or a quick round of something they love to do. If a leash biter walks for some period without chomping (depending on the dog and the stage of training, that could be 15 secs or a couple of minutes), then I offer a short session of tug, a toss of the ball or a chance to check out something interesting nearby.
I’m including a short video by Kevin Duggan, CPDT-KA that shows some of the things that you can teach to help your dog develop better behaviours on leash. Keep in mind that the dog he’s working with already has a session under his belt. Also, he’s started the training in a low distraction environment and has done a great job with the reinforcement. That means rewarding well – frequently and with high value treats to start. The reinforcement you are providing has to outweigh the value that the existing behaviour has to your dog. Once you start working on it outside, the reward also has to outweigh the distraction of the environment. No minimum wage people! And keep it fun!
Bringing a Second Dog into Your Home
Even if you already have a dog in your home, bringing a new dog home requires some planning and time to ensure the introduction and transition phase go as smoothly as possible. Regardless of how easy-going either of the dogs may be, it is still important to use good management and care to ensure both dogs are set up for success in their new life together.
Plan to keep the dogs separate for the first while.
This seems to be the toughest part for most parents. Whether because of the extra initial effort or because they feel freedom is the kindest welcome, most dogs new to their homes are given too much freedom to start.
This actually causes more stress in the long run, because the dog has to make too many choices on their own. They often don’t have the skills to make the choices comfortably, and this extra ‘responsibility’ takes it toll over time. Having our dogs believe that we are capable of making choices and that they can safely defer to us, comes from our actions and the choices we make on their behalf. Expecting our dogs to deal with things and cope on their own without guidance from us can place them in an undesirable position. It is through our actions that we display our capabilities and thereby earn their trust and respect to guide and keep them safe.
In addition to anxiety, free run in the home can also create other problems as it takes away the chance to teach real-life skills like patience and tolerance. Many dogs are left to decide their routine for the day – when they eat, where they go, when they take breaks or choose to be away from the family. This can appear to work smoothly. No fussing, no barking – everything seems great. Why shouldn’t it? The dog can do as they choose. Now try having the dog stay in a spot of your choosing and remain there (in another room, in a crate, on a tether) while you go about your business. Many free-choice dogs really struggle when faced with requests that aren’t their idea. The point being, at some point, whether at home or in the outside world, your dog is going to have to do something that isn’t part of their plan. It’s much easier and fairer to give them the skill by incorporating it into their daily lives.
There’s another important reason to set up some management for the new dog. Setting them to have time alone from the get-go will help prevent the dogs from becoming completely reliant on each other. The first dog will probably appreciate some alone time and the new dog will benefit from time away from the other dog.
As a side note, you should also prepare the new dog for being alone at home. This starts with short, daily periods away from you, while you are still in the home.
Stay tuned for more information on bringing your new dog home.
Keeping Comfy in Warmer Weather
So this might not be a training question, but with the sudden onset of the hot weather, I thought I should post some information on keeping our dogs safe and comfortable.
It’s pretty common knowledge that in a matter of minutes a dog can overheat in a car. The number of people I see out walking and even running their dogs on warmer days, leads me to believe many do not understand how they may be putting their dogs at risk.
Pavement should be avoided as radiation from the hot surface can burn pads and increase body temperature. You should seek out grass or dirt paths and have regular access to shade. Ideally, your dog should only be walked in the cool of morning and evening. As your dog will need to pant to try to stay cool, regular access to water when out and at home is essential.
Many dogs will lose their appetite with the heat, so feeding early in the morning or later in the evening is a good idea. It is also beneficial to separate activity and meals so your dog is less likely to be uncomfortable or sick. A 30-45 minute gap works well for most dogs.
A little common sense goes a long way. On hot or muggy days, a dog’s activity should be adjusted to suit their conformation, age and physical condition. Small dogs, puppies, short-nosed dogs, older dogs, overweight dogs or dogs with a heart condition will be more susceptible to overheating .
For more information check out these articles:
Top Tips for Hot Days
Dealing with L i c e – Naturally
Canine lice can be transmitted by dog-to-dog contact and by shared bedding and grooming utensils. Since the lice and nits (the eggs) do not survive off the host for more than a day, managing the environment is relatively straightforward.
As a prevention:
Spray dog items regularly with a dilution of tea tree oil and water.
Spray your dog with a dilution of tea tree oil and water before dog contact.
Massage a few drops of tea tree oil into your dog’s coat before dog contact.
Bathe your dog with shampoo that has tea tree oil added.
Thoroughly comb out your dog after any dog contact.
If you believe your dog has lice:
Using Tea Tree Oil:
Add five to ten drops of pure tea tree oil to a shampoo and wash the dog’s hair, massaging the mixture thoroughly into the skin. Do this at least twice a week along with daily thorough combouts until all the nits have been removed. To help sterilize and prevent further lice infestation, brushes, combs may be soaked in a tea tree oil solution of 1/4 oz. (8 mls) of oil added to a tub of water. Wash bedding with tea tree oil added to wash water. You may also spray a dilution of tea tree oil on any areas the dog lingers (Mix 10 drops Tea Tree oil into a spray bottle with water).
Using Coconut Oil Shampoo:
Follow above protocol, replacing the shampoo mixture with coconut oil shampoo and aromatherapy oil. Coconut oil has been used successfully with our clients and we highly recommend using it for shampooing.
Using Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth:
Lightly rub food grade DE into the dog’s coat. A light, but thorough dusting is recommended. It can be used in bedding or other resting places.
For more info: www.wolfcreekranc.com
Mixing the oil:
You can either mix 10 drops in with your existing shampoo or buy ready-made Tea Tree shampoo.
Mix 10 drops Tea Tree or other essential oil into a spray bottle with water
The following is a ratio for adding essential oils to a carrier oil, shampoo or conditioner.
Essential oil shampoo or conditioner
Note: For households with cats – tea tree cannot be used in the environment / For households with birds – DE cannot be used.
Dogs with lice CANNOT attend daycare. After treatment (which takes 4 weeks), confirmation that your dog is lice-free must be provided before returning to daycare.