Monthly Archives: October 2015

How do you safely break up a dogfight?

dogfightDogfights are common and can vary in intensity but all too often an owner gets hurt in the process of trying to break up the fight or causes one of the dogs to have increased damage due the intervention. If you are in the unfortunate position of needing to break up a dogfight, ideally it is handled in a manor that minimizes risk to humans and the dogs that are fighting. In addition, if you are out in public and a dog is acting unfriendly to you or your dog there are some strategies that can be implemented prior to an actual attack.

If you are out in public and a dog is acting unfriendly to you or your dog try one of these strategies prior to the actual attack.

  1. Shout,” No Sit”, surprisingly some dogs will comply.
  2. Use a product such as Spray Shield that deters the attacker.
  3. Walk Away – more useful if the other dog is on leash
  4. Have your dog sit and step between the two dogs.
  5. If you have a small dog, pick it up

Despite your best efforts the dog may not be deterred and you may be in the position of needing to break up a dogfight. Regardless of whether a dogfight occurs in public, at your house, your dog is attacked or your dog is doing the attacking, the most important aspect of breaking up a dogfight is that people do not get hurt in the process. Before sticking your hands into the fray try these strategies.

If a hose is available, by all means spray down the dogs.

Feel free to yell at the dogs to stop. Even if it doesn’t have an impact on the dogs, it could bring you the human help you need to get things under control.

Insert any large inflexible object between the two dogs (an empty garbage can or its lid, a kitchen chair, piece of ply wood etc.)

And if all else fails you can physically separate the dogs. Grab the tail (or the hips of a tailless dog) of the aggressor and elevate the dog’s hind-end off the ground. Don’t grab the collar or any other part of the dog. With the hind-end elevated the dog no longer has traction and will not be as effective. The dog you have a hold of can still whip round and try to grab you, so be ready to counter its move by rotating away from its mouth. At the moment in which neither dog has its mouth on the other, take a number of steps away from the other dog. Now hope that the other dog, really would like to move away and not continue the fight. If the free dog still wants to fight, keep backing away and try to get a door or gate between the two dogs.

Regardless of whether it is easy to break up the fight or extremely hard, you need to keep your head. At some point something is going to break up the fight. That could be the other dog runs off or help arrives. Stay Calm! Quickly check your dog for injuries, but try to not be overly solicitous or show concern. Your dog needs your support right now but being upset can contribute to your dog developing a fear based aggression. Make sure you get contact information from the owner.   Damage might not be immediately obvious. If the owner is not on the scene check with other people and see if you can track down the owner. Get medical attention for you and your dog as soon as possible and make sure you get dated receipts. Keep in mind, the damage that occurs during a fight may not be physical it may be behavioral.

You and your dog have just been through a scary and traumatic experience but you got through it. Hopefully, you were able to minimized injuries to humans and dogs alike. Now you will need to keep an eye open for fear, anxiety or aggression from your dog when it is around other dogs. Some dogs bounce back just fine and some dogs need help to regain their confidence through changing emotions training.

The Truth About Dominance & How Our Understanding About Dominance Became Skewed

dominanceIn the article “Whatever Happened to the Term ALPHA”, written by L. David Mech, senior research scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey and founder and vice chair of the International Wolf Center, Mech describes how we came to misunderstand the term Alpha.

Briefly what happened was scientists thought, “the wolf pack was a random assemblage of wolves that came together as winter approached in order to better hunt”. Thus scientist “gathered individual wolves from various zoos and placed them together in a captive colony”. Because the wolves came together in an unnatural fashion and were all strangers to each other, natural competitions over resources were the result. This eventually formed a dominance hierarchy, base on who won these competitions. “In such cases, it is appropriate to refer to the top-ranking individuals as alphas, implying that they competed and fought to gain their position.”

Rudolph Schenken, the main behaviorist who studied wolves in captivity, published a paper “describing how wolves interact with each other in such a group, asserting then that there is a top-ranking male and a top-ranking female in packs and referring to them as the alphas.”   Because research was scarce, this paper became a major resource and was cited in many papers. All this research was based on the false assumption that packs formed indiscriminately for the purpose of hunting, which set us up unnatural dynamics.

It was not until the late 1990’s when Mech had lived with a wild wolf pack on Ellesmere Island near the North Pole for numerous summers that an understanding of pack behavior truly emerged. It was discovered that instead of unrelated members coming together for the purpose of hunting, a wolf pack comprised of family groups (set of parents and off spring of varying ages) “formed exactly the same way as human families are formed.” Just like with humans, as pups mature, the parents guide their activities. “The parents then automatically fall into the leadership role in the pack as they guide the pups.” The parents do take on the role of educator as they have a vested interest in having their gene pole survive and it is also advantageous for the pups to take on the role of student as this keeps them alive. The role of a leader or educator is very different than that of a dominance hierarchy in which competition over resources is the sole role.  We now know and understand that dominance is a “willingness to compete over a resource” and has nothing to do with who is more assertive, bossy, pushy or gets to go first.

20 years is the approximate amount of time it takes for new information to work its way from specialists down to the general public and then be accepted as fact. Since Mech’s studies were published in the late 90’s we have a little way to go, but we are well on our way.


  1. David Mech. “Whatever Happened to the Term “Alpha Wolf?” International Wolf magazine. Winter 2008


How Crate Training Benefits Owners

crateUsed properly crates have many benefits for a dog owner. They can give the owner piece of mind that the dog is safe and not chewing up the house, greatly speed up the house-training process, give owners more options when traveling and provide the needed confinement necessary for some medical problems. To reap the benefits of a crate the dog is going to need to be comfortable being crated.

Having a dog that can be in the crate without displaying anxiety gives the owner more freedom, as they don’t have to constantly watch the dog. It also makes it so the owner has a way of controlling the environment so the dog simply has fewer opportunities to misbehave. If a dog has destruction issues, the crate makes it so the dog cannot destroy things when it is not supervised. This is not limited to when owners are away from the house. It could be the owner is in the shower, where it simply cannot supervise the dog.

Many owners will also use the crate when company comes over, so the dog cannot misbehave around the company. This is a common time in which owners simply do not want to bother with having to be consistent with training the dog. This is also a good option if you are unsure about whether the company will follow the rules regarding interactions with the dog.

In addition, a crate can be used to speed up the house-training process. If an owner puts their not yet house-trained dog in the crate half an hour before they will be taking the dog out next, the chance of the dog having an accident is reduced.

Further more, having a dog that can be crated gives owners more options when it comes to traveling. The crate is a way of keeping the dog safe in the car and some hotels or places you visit will feel more comfortable knowing you have a way to contain your dog.

Lastly their will be times in which medical care requires your dog to be accustomed to being crated. When your dog needs to stay at the vet office, it will be put into a small cage. I would hate for the dog to have a more traumatic experience at the vet, just because it was not crate trained. If your dog experiences an injury, part of the healing process may also require your dog to have limited activity and to be crated for long periods of time.

Choosing and Setting Up A Crate

Crates can be made out of plastic, wood, metal or fabric. If your dog is a chewer, the metal crate is best choice and the fabric crate is the worst choice. The crate needs to be the correct size for your dog. Your dog needs to be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably, but extra room is not recommended. If you are buying a crate for a puppy and want to use the same crate when your dog is mature, you will need to place a box in the back of the puppies crate to reduce the amount of available space. Putting a blanket in the crate is optional. If your dog is not attracted to fabric for elimination and will not destroy the bedding, then by all means make it comfy. Otherwise, your dog will have to earn the privilege of bedding. You may want to put something attractive for your dog to chew on in the crate. Just make sure it is not something that can harm to your dog.

The Rules For Using A Crate

Once you have picked out a crate and set it up you will want to keep these simple rules in mind as you use the crate.

  1. Make sure your dog has a chance to eliminate before it is confined. You want your dog to be comfortable and relaxed when in the crate. Needing to eliminate and not being able to eliminate would be cruel.
  1. Try to be proactive with using a crate, putting your dog in the crate before it misbehaves instead of after. It is best if the association of the crate is not one of punishment.
  1. A dog can only be crated one hour per month of age during waking hours (6am-9pm) and never longer than an 8 hour stretch. Anything longer than this can stress the bowel and bladder pressure, causing both physical and behavioral problems. So a 2 month old puppy can only be crate for 2 hours during the day and then it needs to come out for elimination and play. If your schedule requires longer confinement use a doggie playpen or exercise pen instead.
  1. If your dog is in a state of panic or anxiety in the crate, take it out of the crate and seek professional help.

It is only if your dog is happy and relaxed while in the crate that you will be able to reap the benefits of having a dog that is safe at home, while traveling and at the vet office so take advantage of this article on crate training to ensure your dog can be happy and relaxed in a crate.

If you want to reap the benefits of crate training but are struggling with the process give me a call @ 541-603-6868, I can help.

Crate Training Made Easy

crateTeaching Your Dog To Be Happy and Relaxed In The Crate

If you have a dog that is fearful and wont go in the crate, take your time. Place food just inside the door; let your dog reach in for the food. You will want to keep the confidence of your dog high, so resist the temptation to help or force your dog. Go Slow until your dog can confidently go up and eat the food, systematically, put food further and further back in this comfy den. It might take a couple weeks to accomplish this.

Once it is easy to get your dog in and out of the crate, close the door but do not latch it. Feed your dog little pieces of food through the door. Open the door, but as you do so feed your dog pieces of food. You want your dog to wait with the door open. When you are ready say “out” or “release” and let your dog get out.

If your dog did not panic or show distress about having to stay in the crate, start feeding you dog in the crate. At meal times, tell your dog “get it” and toss one piece of food into the crate. After your dog gets in, put your dog’s food in the crate and close the door. Sit right by the crate as your dog eats. When your dog is done with its food and before it vocalizes, open the door and hand your dog pieces of food with the door open to help your dog wait, tell the dog it can get out and let it get out of the crate.

You can expand the amount of time your dog spends in the crate, by putting it in the crate and giving it something wonderful to chew on. Just make sure this is something that cannot harm your dog. You will want to do this after your dog has had a chance to empty its bowels and bladder and has had some exercise. In the beginning, stay close to the crate. As your dog settles down to chew and is having a good time, you can slowly migrate away.   If your dog fusses or vocalizes in the crate, do not go towards the crate. You don’t want to reward vocalizing, instead stay where you are or move away. Wait until there are at least 2 minutes of quiet and then go give your dog a piece of food for being quiet. Move away and go back and give food for quiet behavior a couple of times before your begin the procedure for letting your dog out of the crate. The exception to this is if your dog is in a state of panic. Under those circumstances, let your dog out and seek professional help.

Teaching your dog to get in the crate on command

You will want to keep the rules for using a crate in mind as you get your dog accustomed to spending time in the crate in a positive supportive fashion. In addition, I would not start this training exercise until your dog can be happy and relaxed in the crate.

With the door all the way open, let your dog see you toss a piece of food or treat into the crate. Dogs that do not already have a fear will go rushing in for the food. When your dog has eaten the food, toss a piece of food on the floor about 5 feet  the door. Then repeat and toss another piece of food into and out of the crate. Continue until you have a dog that is running in and out for the food.

Once it is easy to get your dog in and out of the crate, you can tell your dog “get in” and then toss the food in the crate. Now before letting your dog out, close the door, but do not latch it. Feed your dog little pieces of food through the door. Open the door, but as you do so feed your dog pieces of food. You want your dog to wait with the door open. When you are ready say “out” or “release” and let your dog get out.

The key to having a dog that is happy and relaxed while being crated is to ensure the dog has pleasant experiences while in the crate and to not rush the process for dogs that have some degree of fear or distaste for of this comfy den.


Preparing your dog for halloween

HalloweenHalloween is the a holiday that is met with the most diverse emotions from humans and pets alike. Dogs and humans alike either enjoy the attention and process of dressing up for Halloween or they really don’t care to be bothered. Just keep in mind there are some safety issues that need to be taken into consideration if you celebrate.
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