My Dog Is Reactive-5 Simple Tips To Save Your Dog and Your Peace of Mind

©2015 Dorice Stancher, Canines Can Do, llc. All rights reserved. Yes all of them/

Is your dog reactive?  Does he bark and lunge and pull your arm out of the socket?  Have walks become a bit of a struggle?  Here are some simple and easy tips to turn things around and make walking fun again.

  1. Socialize your puppy…Yes I know the vet says you cannot take them out until they have had all their shots.  But does that mean that your puppy has to be like Rapunzel in the tower, locked away from human contact?  Notice I said human contact.  Pick up your little pooch and after he has gone to the bathroom at your “safe” place at home take him out with you to visit. You want to hold your little cutie and like any good parent bring some wipes so the humans have clean hands and in case there is a little “mistake”.  Bring some tasty treats that are soft for your puppy so they associate these experiences as being positive and fun.  Be sure to have proper identification and have fun!
  2. Add positive reward-based obedience to the picture…Nothing gets your dog’s attention quicker and builds confidence faster than getting those basics under control and then heading outside to make sure your dog understands the commands there as well.  My dogs work for EVERYTHING and so should yours.  And tricks training is really just another form of behaviors put in cue so don’t let anyone tell you that doing tricks isn’t “real” training.  We are looking to build attention, drive and bonding folks.
  3. Exercise is the anti-anxiety drug of choice for humans and their dogs.  But what to do if the outside world is just a bit scary?  Try some agility and tricks at home in your backyard before doing your public training and walks.  Taking the edge off is good for the both of you. Often owners of reactive dogs anticipate the worst and it makes them nervous which the dog will feed off of. It goes from your brain, down the leash and into their little noggins.  Instead breathe deeply, relax and remember that today is a new day.
  4. Have a plan and stick with it. Prepare ahead of time with your treat pouch. There is not time to fumble with plastic bags and you need your hands free to signal and reward your dog.  Be sure to visit the clips attached from Dr. Sophia Yin, one of the foremost experts of our time on dog reactivity.  You want to have some practice defensive moves in your tool kit. Circling, U-Turns and Back Up Recalls help your dog to focus on you and avoid trouble.
  5. Practice at a farther distance and gradually counter-condition so you do not overwhelm your dog or yourself.  Think about how far away you are before your dog reacts.  We want to keep this in mind as we gradually counter-condition our dogs.  A game I like to play is “Surprise Party” where I give my dog lots of attention and yummy treats as she works for me when the dog is present or when she sees another dog.  Then when there is no dog present it is ho-um boring.

When practicing in public if you have a dog that has the potential to bite I recommend a muzzle that is a cage type so you can feed your dog and he can breathe normally. And I love the Gentle Leader as it seems reassuring to both dogs and owners that we are guiding the dog from up front which gives greater control and eye contact.  Keep practicing and visit my Facebook page Canines Can Do Dog Training for more helpful tips.

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Link to great Reactive Strategy by Dr. Yin…DSC_0288

Training with our Canines Can Do Walking Club part of MEETUP…

http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/reactive-dog-moving-past-distractions

Let’s Get Social…

Part of the fun of having a dog is getting out and having fun!

Part of the fun of having a dog is getting out and having fun!

In the next few articles we will provide tips on how to get your dog to be your best outdoor buddy. Often after a long winter dogs have trouble making the adjustment from couch potato to social butterfly. And leash walking can be a real pain for the owner’s shoulders with pulling, lunging and sometimes even downright frightening reactivity to sights and sounds. What is an owner to do? We will discuss equipment, training suggestions and ways to get your dog to be a pleasure to be around in public.

Today’s topic is walking and the types of collars and harnesses we recommend and use. Our go-to item for teaching nice walking is the Easy Walk harness and the Gentle Leader. These both require the proper fit so when sizing it helps to have your dog present. There is also a video on fit and use by the manufacturer on the Internet. The reason we like this equipment is that it makes it easier for the owner to communicate to their dogs by this gentle pressure method which will not harm the dog’s trachea. Besides these two owners of rescues and greyhounds have found the Martingale to be helpful as it prevents dogs from pulling their heads out of the collar and running free. Some chain models often serve as a warning that the collar is closing, but these are not meant to choke the dog. Other collars including the slip or choke and prong are not recommended by this trainer for pet owners as they should only be used with expert guidance and supervision because of their potential for harm.

Equally as important is working on getting your dog’s attention and teaching them to walk properly. We will discuss this in our next article. Don’t forget-JB Pet in Hawthorne, NJ, The Madison Dog Resort in Waldwick, NJ and Canines Can Do will help you and your dog get off to the right start with proper equipment and lessons. FMI visit http://www.caninescando.com for more information.

How sheepherding can help the urban dog…

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How sheepherding can help the urban dog...

Dorice Stancher (c)2014

They may seem cuddly and counting them may be great for sleeping, but make no mistake herding sheep is challenging and some of them are downright ornery!

I live in a condo without a fenced backyard so I look for out-of-the-box, left of center ways to train my dogs to be obedient good little canine citizens.  I recently took a lesson with Carolyn Wilki, owner of the Raspberry Ridge Sheep Farm in Bangor, PA, who has been herding since 1987 and studied at both Cornell and Bryn Mawr. If you are a fan of NY Times writer John Katz, you may recall that his highly successful “Dogs of Bedlam Farm” series mentions his experiences training with Carolyn and how he found not only a way to reach his dogs on another level but to also find a sense of inner peace http://www.bedlamfarm.com/?s=carolyn+wilki

And so here are a few of the things both my dogs and I learned.  It is not a crime to slow down and appreciate the world around you.  The bleating of the lambs is almost hypnotic. and for a North Jersey caffeinated girl this was a welcome respite after a tough week. As our emotions influence our dogs, it was better for them too.  “Control is an illusion,” remarked Carolyn as I attempted to call my alpha female Wheaten Terrier off of the three prancing sheep she was chasing.  Obviously I was not as fun as they were.  It was suggested I move my feet and catch her as she turned and remarkably when I asked her to “Lay Down” she hit the dirt, and then when I called her she came trotting back to me.  As a professional dog trainer I always advise my students when training in public to make themselves more interesting than the object of attraction.  While teaching a “Leave It” command is a nice idea, when something so fantastically tempting catches a dog’s eye, a backup plan and execution is even better.

There were so many temptations in the pen: sheep poop, sheep hair, sheep, smells of other animals in the distance like ducks and goats.  And little by little they were of secondary importance as Krista and I learned the dance of two, and becoming united in our purpose to drive those three ornery sheep in our chosen direction following Carolyn’s instructions. She is one of only two sheepherding instructors in the entire country that uses positive reinforcement I learned, and in attendance in my little class were people from California, Brooklyn and Long Island.

I don’t think our condo association allows sheep although my dogs do have a resemblance so I think our next attempt at herding will be with the Canadian Geese that frequent our local park, remembering the goal is to night frighten them into flight, but to keep them together, to have them march toward a pre-determined direction, respecting their personal space.  In my head is the perfect vision of our teacher and her Border Collie  driving the sheep effortlessly and zen-like across the field and into their pens with a “That’l Do” as the final note-a peaceful ending to a great day.