Dog to Dog Play What You Need to Know


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


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


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.

To Be A Dog!


Ever wonder what your dog hears, smells or see?  Ever wonder why they do a certain behavior? For example when it is windy our Coonhound races around the yard with his nose in the air in pure bliss.  Often times the other dogs follow him around and appear to be looking at him as if he is crazy.  My in-law’s dog Shasta will get up on her back two legs on trails and look around.  Some dogs at dog parks will ignore all of the dogs and enjoy the company of the people.  My dog Yukon allows people to pet him but by his body language I can tell that this places him outside of his comfort zone so after he has been given attention he pulls in front of me for about 30 seconds as if to shake off the nervousness or dispel the adrenaline. (I allow controlled attention because I never want him to become fear aggressive) Our husky steals random things out of the garage such as nails and sandpaper.  I had a dog who used to have to stick his nose down every hole on walks, a habit I had to break because I just knew one time he was going to come up with a snake attached.  Our Coonhound enjoys playing dog with my husband but only my husband.  Dogs are such fascinating creatures.

So next time you are out and about or sitting in the yard with your dog watch them closely and see what you notice.  When you are out you can also get down on their level and see what they see and hear what they hear. You will be surprised.  Unfortunately, we will never be able to smell like they do so we will just have to imagine what wonderful things they smell when the wind is blowing and they have their noses towards the sky.

Keeping Children Safe Around Dogs

2015-05-05 10.05.39

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all children 12 years-of-age and under have been bitten by a dog. Seventy nine percent of fatal dog attacks are on children. Over eighty seven percent of dog bite fatalities involving children occurred when the child was left unsupervised with a dog or the child wandered off to the location of the dog.  Even small breeds such as Dachshunds and Pomeranians have attacked children resulting in fatalities.

Scary statistics so let’s get real!  Often times as a canine behaviorist my private sessions with clients and dogs take place in public places.  If a dog is aggressive every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of the public through the use of a muzzle. This last weekend I was working with a German Shepherd with fear aggression issues at a public location.  Despite the fact that the dog was muzzled I had parents allowing children to approach the dog.  One was a crawling infant and the parents kept bringing the child closer and closer to crawl to the dog while we moved further and further away.  We had to tell them that the dog was not friendly and to please stop approaching us.  Then we had two little boys start to approach the dog while the mother watched.  Again, we backed up waiting for the mother to respond but to no avail.  She had to be told to stop allowing her children to pursue the dog.  The dog was wearing a highly visible muzzle, and yet the parents were allowing their children to pursue the dog.  It was mind boggling.

I have also done sessions with dogs that have never been exposed to children so they are wary of them.  This is not uncommon since many dogs are wary of infants and toddlers because they move quickly and are unpredictable and frankly they smell like food.  So you can have the friendliest dog in the world approached by a toddler and have the dog react defensively which could result in a bite.

The picture above shows my 4 year old with our dog and I took this picture to show where the mouth of a large dog comes when a toddler approaches a dog.   I don’t know about you but I don’t want my toddler approaching a dog no matter how friendly the owner says the dog is when my toddler’s face is right at bite level.

Teach your children to respect dogs and give them space. Teach your children not to corner dogs or pursue dogs.  Have them admire them from a distance.  My toddler knows most of the breeds now due to my profession and we enjoy sitting at the park watching the dogs go by as we identify them.  She loves dogs and has a healthy appreciation for them.  I know too many adults who were bitten as children by dogs and never recovered emotionally.  A dog bite to a child is deadly to the dog and if not deadly to the child will leave deep emotional scars for the rest of their life.  Please keep kids safe by teaching them to keep safe boundaries when it comes to all dogs. Together we can reduce dog bite statistics.

Meet & Greets


If you have been following my blogs, newsletters and facebook page you know that one of the biggest training issues I work with is leash reactivity with dogs.  In order to try and prevent this issue on my end as a trainer I have introduced controlled meet and greets into my Basic Obedience classes.  These meet and greets primarily help my clients to read and understand canine body language.  They also build confidence in the owners and confidence in the dogs so we have win-win situation when it comes to the real world.  I always control the approaching dog and the meet and greet is very controlled and safe at all times.  After I go over the body language of each dog with all of my class.  In this way I am doing my part to create a better world for our dogs.

I always remind clients to keep in mind that not all dogs will like each other and as humans we cannot get upset at them for that unless we can honestly say that we like all people.  So respect yours dogs boundaries and keep everyone safe.

A few weeks ago in class I did a meet and greet with a leash reactive dog that I have been working with privately.  He did okay when he was paired with the puppies in the class.  Next he was paired with a teenage dog and this was one of those time I wish I had, had a video camera rolling.  Frankie was the reactive dog and he went up to Max and stopped and sniffed clearly saying I’m not going any closer to you.  Max who is usually exuberant for meet and greets stayed back and gave Frankie his space.  Then Frankie looked at me and said I’m done.  No growls, no lunging just two dogs having a conversation and the humans understanding and letting the dog go their separate ways.  It was amazing and reminded me why I love this job so much.

Come on out and join us on Wednesday nights for ourbasic class and learn all about dog body language.  Together we can and will make all dogs feel secure by giving each individual dog what they need.

The Art of Falconry and How it Relates to Dog Training


A few weeks ago my family and I attended the Renaissance Fair and had the pleasure of watching two of the falconry shows by a non profit organization.  They had a red tailed hawk, a Eurasian Eagle Owl, a Lanner Falcon, a Vulture, and 3 Harris Hawks.  Falconry like dog training is an art that requires hours of training, devotion, finesse, skill and most importantly positive training.  As the falconer stated “we will never force the birds to do something we do not want them too all of our training involves positive reinforcement.  This became evident during the shows.  For the first show they showed us their latest edition, a red tailed hawk.  He was still connected to a line because he had not yet been trained not to leave.  However, he still chose when and where he wanted to fly for the treats.  Next up was the owl and during the first show the owl screeched at them and refused to exit the kennel.  Later in the day when we returned he had decided to entertain and flew over our heads for lots of treats.  During the first show they also experimented by allowing all 3 Harris Hawks out and it was hilarious towards the end when they wanted them to go back to their house the birds were flying everywhere but in their house, the falconers were well trained providing treats every step of the way.  All ended well with all birds accounted for and happily treated.

After the shows I could not help but think how this all related to dog training except that our dogs can’t fly away, but they can run!  Dogs like these birds are very intelligent and they base their decisions on what works.  If I go back into the kennel the treats stop. If I Iand on that perch I get a treat.  If I fly up into the tree the audience laughs (okay may be pushing it a bit on that one) but you get the point.  If the falconers did not use positive reinforcement they would never be able to get these bird to do anything.  That is the same with our dogs.  Bonds and trust are key to dog training and if you don’t build that through positive reinforcement your will not be able to count on your dog when you need them to listen to you.  Also, sometimes dogs just don’t listen because they are dogs.  For example in the outtakes on the movie “Against the Wild” the husky makes a mad dash through the woods and the trainers are seen chasing him.  My well trained dog Yukon became a two legged walking dog when we met up with the volunteer crews on the Vivian Creek Trail and they were sawing a tree and throwing the debris down the side of the mountain.  He thought they were critters and he was going to get them no matter what his silly owner said or requested.  In both of these cases dogs were being dogs.  Just like the birds were being birds.  Especially when the vulture steals peoples food during the show who do not put it away.

I think that dog trainers and owners could learn a lot from falconers.  Mainly I think we could learn that our dogs make mistakes, they do what works, and we have to be patient and build a strong bond with them and understand each dog like each bird is different.