Category Archives: social issues

Doggie Body Language

body languageWhat does it mean when your dog looks like this? Find out during our upcoming Body Language seminar.

On Saturday May 21 @ 12:00pm, I will be holding a free Body Language seminar.  This seminar is for owners only.   Please do not bring your dog.  To sign up all you need to do is send me a quick e-mail.  

During this body language seminar you will learn:

  • How can you tell if your dog is likely to move towards something.
  • How to understand your dog’s stance and what each stance means.
  • How to know if it is safe for your dog to meet another dog
  • How to spot emotion based problems early before it is too late.
  • And so much more.

Hope to see you at the seminar.  Send me a quick e-mail to sign up.

3 Keys to Reduce the odds of social issues

3 keysCurrently my case load of work with dogs that have social issues is double its normal volume. Social issue are really difficult on the owners of these dogs as well as the dogs themselves as quality of life becomes limited with this problem.  There are 3 keys to avoiding this problem but many people are minimizing the degree to which this is important. This is a problem and I could use your help with it.  Before I explain how you can help, let me give you some background.

In most cases social issues are avoidable.  It  requires owners to be proactive in providing their dog with quality, controlled experiences very early in life, avoidance of using aversive training techniques and continued support and exposure through the first 3 years.  All of this is easier said than done but there are some basic rules that can make it easier.  You can help reduce the likelihood of social issues by sharing these rules with anyone who has a dog (friendly, family, co-workers, acquaintances, and yes the person you pass on the street).

3 keys to avoiding social issues

  1. Start early – As report in a study conducted by Rachel A Casey and Published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 152, 52– 63, puppies who attend just 2 puppy socialization classes prior to 12 weeks of age have 1.4 times less chance of social having issues directed towards people entering the house and 1.6 times less chance of social issues directed towards strangers outside of the house.  You can encourage everyone you know with a puppy to start classes at 8 weeks of age. 
  2. This same study shows dogs that receive aversive training techniques, defined in the study as  – physical punishment (hitting the dog), verbal punishment (shouting), electrical or citronella collars, choke chains and jerking on the leash, prong collars, water pistols, electric fences and so forth have a 2.9 times the risk of aggression directed towards family members and a 2.2 times increased risk of having aggression issues directed towards strangers.  You can help by encouraging dog owners to adopt a proactive positive approach to their training.  They will need the help of a trainer who does not use aversive training techniques.
  3. Behavior is not stagnate, is requires continued influence from us.  Encourage dog owners to have continuing education for their dogs.  They can take refresher courses, advanced fun classes and continuing education classes.  While in classes  their dog will receive quality socialization.  Encourage owners to continue taking classes with their dog.

Using and sharing these 3 keys to avoiding social issues will greatly affect your dog and the dogs around you.  Share them far and wide.  Spread the word and watch as dogs become more socialized and owners get to enjoy their dog more.

References: Rachel A. Casey, Bethany Loftus, Christine Bolster, Gemma J. Richards, Emily J. Blackwell (2014).Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 152, 52– 63

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.

Dog Emotions

fearJust like us, dogs are emotional beings that experience fear, anxiety, aggression and over-excitability. It would be fair to say these emotions can be the cause of considerable concern or frustration for owners.  But  these emotions can be changed though specialty training that implements desensitization, classical conditioning and counter conditioning. So if you have a dog with these types of issues take heart they can be greatly improved.  Read on to understand what desensitization, counter conditioning and classical conditioning entails.

Changing a dog’s emotions requires working the dog a distance from stimuli that is so great that the dog can eat, relax and not be concerned about the stimuli it previously has reacted to. Ideally the distance is such that the dog does not display any negative emotional reaction. Once numerous successful responses have been obtained at this level of training the dog will be moved closer to the upsetting stimuli.

Counter Conditioning
Counter conditioning is a process in which an undesirable response is replaced with a desirable response. When we are working to change a dog’s emotions the undesirable response would be fear, aggression, anxiety, or even over-excitability while the desirable response would be relaxation. Changing a dog’s emotions requires that we put the dog under conditions in which it can relax while we reward relaxation.

Classical Conditioning
As dogs experience their environment they form positive, negative or neutral associations based on their experience. Things in the dog’s environment are neutral, safe and enjoyable forming positive associations or dangerous and unpleasant forming negative associations. Dogs are always forming associations of this “is safe for me”, “dangerous for me” or neutral. These associations influence the dog’s decisions and are the basis for how the dog reacts to things in the environment.

An Example of A Dogs Association
Most dogs get really excited when the owner gets out their leash. This is because the dog has learned the leash means an enjoyable activity is going to take place. That could be going on a walk or a trip in the car. The dog associates the leash with the fun activity.

Humane, Positive Tools
Changing a dog’s emotions requires that we use tools that never elicit pain, discomfort, fear or startle the dog. We have to convince the dog that we love, enjoy and are happy about the same thing it finds upsetting. This is why I ask each owner to never use a chock, pinch or shock collar. It is important that owners not scold, reprimand or even show despair over their dog’s behavior.

If you have a dog with emotion based issues and would like to implement this type of training to improve quality of life for you and your dog check out our Changing Dog Emotions program for training and of course feel free to give me a call @ 541-603-686 if you have any questions.


Prevent Social Issues From Getting Worse

prevent social issuesOne thing all social issues have in common is there is something that either maintains the dog’s emotions at the present level or causes them to worsen. Behavior is not stagnant; it is either getting better or getting worse.

When your dog interacts socially, it experiences either pleasant or unpleasant emotional reactions. Those emotional reactions can be observed through the dog’s body language. When the dog experiences unpleasant emotions, what happens immediately after rewards the dog’s behavior. It might be the dog wants the stimuli to move further away or it might be the adrenaline rush the dog experiences.

To make it so your dog no longer receives these rewards we need to control and manage the dog’s environment.

Prevention will not solve the problem, but it will reduce your dog’s stress increasing the likelihood that training will be successful. 

Social Challenges to People who live at the house
If the dog has issues with a person who lives in the house coming into the room,  the person the dog has issues with should toss the dog treats every time they come into the room.

If the dog only has problems around food or chew items, then have the dog eat and chew in a location where no one can approach the dog. When the dog is done eating or chewing entice the dog out of the room with treats.  Close the door and when the dog is distracted with something else go in to the room to remove the chew item or bowl.

If the dog gets upset when people grab its collar, tell it to get off furnature etc. instruct people to not touch the dog and instead use treats to manipulate the dog into doing what ever you want the dog to do.

Social Problems Directed Towards Other Dogs Living In The House
This problem is really stressful for dogs and owners. Separating the dogs into different parts of the house or yard making it so they do not have access to each other is one way to prevent the negative emotional reactions from occurring. Separating means a door keeps them from having access to each other. Dogs on each side of the room are typically still stressed out making it so body language will be questionable.

Some dogs only need to be separated at certain times

  • meals
  • with chew objects
  • around toys
  • during play
  • homecomings etc.,

Other dogs need to be separated at all times. How do you do this? Lets say one dog is outside and the other needs to go out. The indoor dog is shut into the bathroom. The dog that is outside comes in and gets locked into a bedroom. The dog in the bathroom is let outside and the other dog is now allowed to roam around the house.

Social Issues Directed Towards Dogs Or People That Do Not Live At Your House

In Public
This is so much easier; simply don’t take your dog anyplace it is going get close enough to social stimuli that it would display the unpleasant emotions. If you have to take your dog to the vet, leave it in the car, with you parked well away from the door. Have office staff come to the car to let you know when it is your turn. Ask staff to clear a way to the exam room before you bring your dog in.

Doggie Goggles
Doggles are great for those times in which you have to take your dog places but you might not be able to keep you dog a distance away from things (vet office, car rides). You can order one at The smoke lenses will minimize your dogs visual stimulation while making it look adorable. The silly tongue is not included.

At Your House
When you have company over, secure the dog in a crate, behind a closed door before the company arrives and until they leave. You could also put your dog outside, in the garage, in the car etc. Just make sure doors are locked so no one can go into that environment.

At Fences, Gates, Windows
In the book, How To Right A Dog Gone Wrong: A Road Map For Rehabilitating Aggressive Dogs author Pam Dennison asks, “Why does your dog aggress at windows and barriers?” Pam’s answer is “because he can’t get to and investigate what’s on the other side and frustration builds” (19). To minimize reactions at window, fences and gates, cover the lower portion of window with brown paper and fences or gates with Tarps.

Used properly a dog crate is a great way to control your dog’s environment. During the day a dog can be in the crate no more than one hour for each month of age and never longer than eight hours. The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up, and turn around, but you do not want it to be so large that the dog can eliminate in one end and sleep in the other.

Baby Gates
Baby gates can be used to control access to the environment making it possible for the dog to move around more.

It is my sincere goal is to increase your quality of your life while changing your dog’s emotions. Will you let me help you? Call 541-603-6868 if you have questions.

See information on our Changing Dog Emotions Program

See how my clients have benefited from this training