Basic Obedience Outside the Box

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If I had one wish it would be that every dog owned by a human had basic obedience training. If I had two wishes it would be that every shelter could provide dogs with basic obedience training or a list of trainers to contact for training prior to the adoption of a shelter dog. Basic obedience is not just for puppies. Yes old dogs can and should learn new tricks and here’s why…

I’ve owned many huskies throughout my life.  Most Huskies do not like to come to you when they are called BUT if you have trained them to sit/stay you can yell “sit”/”stay” from a distance and walk up to them and retrieve them in many cases.

A dog trainer told a story during one of her seminars that involved an aggressive German Shepherd with a bite history. The trainer was talking to the owners while sitting in a chair with the owners holding the dog on leash. Next thing she knows the owners have dropped the leash and the shepherd now has two feet on her legs and is growling in her face. She knew the shepherd knew sit so she yelled it. He sat and the owners grabbed the leash.

Your dog loves going on walks. You feel the leash tugging behind you and look back to see your dog limping behind you. You tell your dog to sit and shake and discover a piece of glass in your dogs pad. You pull it out and your dog feels so much better.

It is late and your dogs want to go out into the backyard. You let them out and they start chasing something, you realize very quickly that it is a skunk. You have worked for over a year on a solid recall with your dogs. You yell come and they come running back into the house and you have just avoided hours of deskunking. You pat yourself on the back for teaching that recall and give the dogs cookies and lots of praise.

In 2017 make a commitment to your dog to work with a trainer on basic obedience or to practice the skills they already know but that have grown moldy and need some rejuvenation. If your dog already knows the basics consider Rally or Agility to keep their skills solid. You never know when those basic skills might come in handy.


Analysis of Dog Attack in Anaheim


Please note that I am not placing blame on any of the parties involved in this attack. I am solely making observations and interpretations based on the footage and my experience as a canine behaviorist. I am thankful that the mother and child were okay and I hope that this little boy does not grow up with a fear of dogs due to this incident.

Initially both dogs are exhibiting play behaviors with the child. The mother seems at ease as if perhaps these dogs have played with the child before. That information is unknown to me. Then the little boy falls which excites the black dog and sets off trigger number one for him. Trigger number two is set off when the mother picks up the little boy and is swinging him around with his legs dangling down. Trigger stacking commonly occurs with dogs. What this means is that if you are terrified of spiders and one walks in front of you and then one drops out of the sky your fear is going to be uncontrollable. If you were just faced with the one on the floor your fear would be more manageable. In this case if the little boy had gotten back up without the mom picking him up and swinging him around (to get him away from the dogs) the second trigger may not have gone off for the dog. Again, not blaming the mom she is not a canine behaviorist and in the heat of the moment was protecting her child the best way she knew how. After that the trigger stacking just continued with collar grabs and releases, fast movement, swinging of the child, fast body movements, etc. Once the dogs were ignited whether it started out as play or not the situation took a turn for the worse and the only option left was to shield the child just as she did in the video and wait for help.

What could you do if you found yourself in a similar situation?

Try not to pick up your child or small dog, that often incites a reaction in dogs. If you have to pick them up pick them up by leaning to the side not head on with the dog. Try not to swing your body back and forth, less movement is better.

There was a pickup truck in the driveway. If you were to pick up your child put them in the back of the truck and tell them to lay down and be still. Then walk into the dogs and firmly tell them to go home with very little movement from your arms.  This could also be done with your child behind you.

If this does not diffuse the dogs become a turtle with your body acting as shell over the top of your child and your hands clasped behind your neck. You need help to arrive at this point you are not going to get the dogs away from you. This mother did this as it escalated in the video.

I have received several emails regarding this attack and that is why I am addressing it in this newsletter. The mother did what she had to in the heat of the moment and I’m so glad they will be okay. It is good to know what you might do in a similar situation that we hope never happens but if it does you will be prepared.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Dementia in Dogs


At the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants conference in April I attended a seminar on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction presented by Dr. Rachel Malamed. Dr. Rachel Malamed is a Veterinary Behaviorist with the passion and understanding to improve the lives of pets and their human companions. After obtaining her veterinary degree (DVM), Dr. Rachel completed a three-year clinical behavioral medicine residency at the University of California, Davis and became board certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Dr. Rachel is one of a limited group of Veterinary Behaviorists; there are fewer than 60 board certified practitioners in the country.


Dogs can show signs of dementia as early as 8 years old. In order to diagnosis your dog Dr. Malamed recommends that every dog over the age of 8 have a wellness exam twice a year. Also, she suggests that owners watch closely for the following changes and take your dog to your veterinarian if you notice any of these changes in your older dog:

  • Disorientation
  • Social Interaction changes – suddenly aggressive with a life long cat friend, etc.
  • Sleep/Wake cycle is reversed or changed dramatically
  • House soling in a potty trained dog or in your dog’s bed
  • Activity – either a decrease or an increase that is very noticeable
  • Anxiety – pacing, barking, paw chewing
  • Sudden aggression towards people or other animals

According to Dr. Malamed treatment and early intervention is the best way to slow the process. Dementia is progressive so you can’t stop it but you can slow the process. Studies do show that humans get a much more advanced dementia than dogs. Further studies into canine dementia may give humans with dementia hope in the future.

There are quite a few options available for actual treatment of dementia. Check with your veterinarian for options that are right for you dog.