Basic Obedience Class Safety Tips Sheet

Dog to Dog Play What You Need to Know

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You need to know that not all dogs like to play with other dogs. Some dogs prefer humans, some dogs prefer cats and the preferences could go on and on.  With dog parks, dog cafe’s, dog play groups, dog pool parties, dog hiking clubs it has been ingrained in us that dogs are social animals but I’m here to tell you that dogs are just like us.  Some of us love hanging out with a large group of friends while others of us prefer to be in solitude.  Not all dogs like to play with other dogs, and not all dogs are pack animals.  As a dog owner get to know your dog and their preferences.  You are not doing your dog an injustice by not taking them to the dog park, if your dog is happier exploring the neighborhood on walks with just you, listen to your dog.

For those dogs that love to play and play and play with other dogs here are some things to keep in mind:

Dogs do not play silently.  They are noisy and sometimes it can sound like they are fighting. Familiarize yourself with dog to dog play by watching dogs play at a local dog park.  If both dogs are actively participating and no one is getting hurt then this is just dogs being dogs.

Dogs will hump each other occasionally and this can mean many things.  It does not just mean that one dog is trying to dominate or mate with the other dog.

Dogs pin each other on the ground while playing and bite at necks.  As long as both dogs are being pinned at one time or another they are generally fine.  However, if one dog is always on the bottom it is time to break it up.  Generally, the dog on the bottom is being bullied and not having a good time.

Dogs chase each other.  Some dogs like to chase and others like to be chased.  Watch body language if your dogs body is moving fluently and the mouth is open this generally means they are happy.  If the dog being chased has a stiff body, tail between the legs then move in quickly this dog is being bullied and needs to be removed from the situation.

If you are interested in learning more about dog body language I do offer sessions at dog parks for owners and their dogs where I break down the behaviors of your dog and other people’s dog so you too can speak dog.  Also, check out Nicole Wilde’s Dissecting the Dynamics of Dog-Dog Play for an in depth look at dog play and communication.

Recall Tips

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Have you ever:
  • Hidden the leash behind your back at the dog park and pursued your dog until you can grab them and hook the leash up to take them home?
  • Chased your dog down the street and tackled them in the neighbors yard?
  • Opened the front door for a delivery only to have the delivery person knocked off their feet by a blur that ran by and is now running happily down the street?
  • Chased you dog and had them stop and look back at you as if they are grinning and then just as you get close they bolt again?
  • Called Come over and over again and been completely ignored?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar then these tips are for you

  • Never ever call your dog when you know that they will not come, the only thing this does is reinforce your dog for not paying attention to you and you poison the cue.
  • Do call, hook up your dog to their leash and release your dog multiple times in fun zones like the dog park before finally hooking them up to bring them home.
  • Do play hide and seek (hide and call your dog) with your dog frequently. When your dog finds you reward them heavily with both treats and praise.
  • Always reward heavily in the beginning with treats and praise. You have to make yourself interesting to your dog if you want them to pay attention to you.
  • Always reward your dog for coming even if they stick their head down 10 gopher holes on the way to you they still came.
  • Always grab their collar when they come to you.  Collar grabs are the #1 cause of dog bites so prevent this by making sure your dog makes a positive connection with a collar being grabbed equaling lots of treats.

Breed Matters

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Several of my clients have recently tested their dogs DNA using The Wisdom Panel.  As a trainer I do see the personality and behavioral effects that different breed types have on dogs although these personality and behavioral effects do not always follow the breed 100% of the time.  For example I have seen aggressive golden retrievers, labs who hate water, and border collies who are couch potatoes.  However, since our visual accuracy is only correct 25% of the time when determining breeds in mixed breed dogs this test can be of great help to both owners and trainers. They can answer questions such as: Why does my dog nip at my kids? Why does my dog prefer to be with humans than other dogs? Why is my dog still bouncing off the ceiling after a 2 hour walk?  Why does my dog insist on bringing me gophers, squirrels, etc.?

These tests also help in determining if dog owners need to have their dogs tested for MDR1 or Multi-Drug Resistance 1. MRD1 is a genetic mutation. Some dogs, particularly herding breeds or mixed-breed dogs with herding breed ancestry have a mutation in the MDR1 gene that makes them defective in their ability to limit the absorption and distribution of many drugs. These dogs are also slower to eliminate drugs from the body that are transported by P-glycoprotein. As a result, dogs with the MDR1-mutation may have severe adverse reactions to some common drugs, so it is important to test your dog and share your results with your veterinarian.

In the end I think if taken with a grain of salt The Wisdom Panel is worth the money and should be considered by owners of mixed breed dogs.  You will build a better understanding of your dog and form a deeper connection.