Well 2020 started out really nice, I was on the beach barefoot for a few days there. These days we are back to typical January weather, wet and cold. I hate the cold weather, one day when I have made all the money, I’ll be a snowbird and winter in sunny Florida. (We can dream, right!) Until then I need to work dogs in every season.
So how do I get through to March when the sun comes back, and I am not complaining about my bones being cold? First, I make a training plan for the psycho puppy, then I fill in the gaps with Brain Games!
Brain Games for the win
Seriously a cardboard box has saved my sanity more often than I want to admit! Those really cold rainy days create more of a mess in my house than I truly want to clean up but its totally worth it.
So what are these brain games and why do they work. Otherwise known as Enrichment, these activities tap into the dogs genetic makeup, and satisfy many of those areas that dogs still crave. This is very popular in zoo communities because zookeepers want the animals to use as much of their natural behavior as possible. Our dogs are no different. Our world is quite different from theirs and they do a fabulous job of figuring stuff out. Why not give them some freedom to be a dog for a bit!
For example, dogs are scavengers, and like to dig and shred their food. If they were digging their dinner bowl, we would get pretty mad. What about a box full of toilet paper tubes with kibbles in it?
Three doggy behaviors checked off in one activity. February is a cold one so we are hosting a month long enrichment party on the Facebook Page. Check us out each day to see how we are playing with our dogs. Want to follow along with us? Grab our enrichment e-book here with a calendar of ideas to keep your dog satisfied all month long.
I had the privilege of accompanying my cousin to our local animal shelters to find his new best friend. He’s never lived with a dog, his parents didn’t have dogs growing up so he only had my train wrecks to play with. (I didn’t get a dog until I was 19, that would have made him about 8 years old.)
Sleepy pup after a bit of training.
Purebred or rescue?
Since I know a bunch of dog people I was able to provide contrast. We were able to see both the world of purebred dogs with introductions to many friends who are breeders and show their dogs in conformation or sports. I also have friends who work in shelters and with rescue groups so I was also able to show him that side of the dog loving world. We discussed the pros and cons of each path, and what he was comfortable with.
We also discussed in depth, what his goals were and what he envisioned life to be like with a dog. From those discussions he decided that a rescue dog was the way he wanted to go.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question of rescue or purebred. I have 2 rescues and one purebred currently who were acquired them for different reasons, and they serve different purposes. I love them all the same.
Back to our story…
We planned a day to go to the shelters and take a look around. Since I know people, I asked those in the know to recommend a few dogs who might match our criteria. This also helps with the feeling of overwhelm. If you have ever wandered through the kennel area at a shelter, all the dogs essentially look the same. Knowing you can choose from any of them can be a bit daunting! Having a list, from the people who see these dogs everyday was certainly helpful! (Thank you Amanda, and both Jessicas!)
We visited with 8 dogs in two shelters before he made his pick. I let him make the emotional choice, but if I saw any red flags I would point them out. He chose one affectionate walker hound at the first shelter, that was not at all what we had discussed as a goal for a dog. Taffy was sweet, but clearly had been a discarded hunting dog, and with that comes little to no house manners, and she was heartworm positive, which would delay adventure time by about 4 months. Taffy is going to be a great dog for someone who can give her some rules, and be patient while she figures out life inside a house, but it was not the dog that my cousin had described to me prior to our trip.
The seventh dog we met with was Harley, a barky, jumpy girl who had been returned for some resource guarding of her food bowl (easily fixed, I saw no problems there) I noticed some crouching and tail tuck when coming into the playroom. We let her take a good while to sniff around the room. She sniffed the caretaker helping us, she sniffed me and continued around the room until she sniffed my cousin seated on the floor and plopped into his lap.
Don’t judge a dog by it’s kennel behavior
Harley jumped and barked at us when we walked by her kennel. Actually, all the dogs we saw had terrible kennel behavior. Jumping, barking, growling and retreating. If it had just been me, I might have passed her over. Luckily for Harley, I had a list!
In the meeting room, Harley was not taking food from me and not playing with the toys like the other dogs we had visited, but I saw some resilience in her. She has a natural curiosity about things, she was calmer now that she was outside of her kennel, and was seeking out people for affection. This could be a good match after all.
There is no guarantee that a dogs behavior at the shelter will in anyway be a predictor to how they will act outside of the shelter. The same idea that a well bred puppy will not necessarily act like its parents. The biggest struggle I see with people comes when the dogs temperament is not matched to what they expect it to be. Adopting a dog can be a very emotional decision and having an impartial 3rd party to help you make a clear headed decision might be the difference between the best dog ever, and an emotional train wreck!
So far, a happy ending!
So far Harley, now Ayla, is transitioning easily for my cousin. He’s done all the things I have told him to which has helped her to ease into her new life with less stress.
If bringing home a new dog is in the cards for you this year, reach out to us, or another qualified trainer to help be that impartial 3rd party. Your forethought will make them jump for joy! It will also give you a bit of peace of mind that a person trained and certified in dog behavior is helping you find your new best friend!
I want to clarify something from a previous post. If you would like to read that post first, you can find the link here: I don’t walk my dogs.
The most frequent time that I tell my clients to stop walking their dogs is when they are reacting to stuff outside. This means jumping and barking at things that seem benign to us, like dogs, people, or inflatable halloween decorations.
I promise that if your dog was enjoying his walk, he would not be throwing a fit every time they saw stuff when on a walk. For these clients, while we are working through our behavior modification program, their instructions are not to walk your dog in areas where they can react to things. Find a giant field where you can see things coming and get your dog out of the situation before they explode. Around the Hampton Roads area, that might mean taking a trip to Smithfield or another space, where you might have to drive to get there. If you are not willing to take the drive, then don’t walk your dog.
Another situation that I have recommended this is for dogs who get themselves so worked up while on walks, they start to jump at their owners and bite them. We need to teach your dog how to cope with the environment before we start walking into the unexpected.
For both of these types of dogs, practice makes perfect. Everytime you unexpectedly expose your dog to a trigger that causes the behavior we are trying to stop, it’s one more episode that we have to reteach. Dogs who are continuously walked in the space that holds the triggers, take so much longer to work through their behavior modification programs than dogs who can take the break from walking in the neighborhood
However, healthy dogs still need 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity each day. This can be done without walking! Let’s take a look at some of my favorite exercise that does not require a leash.
Chasing food. Literally throw kibbles across the house.
Chasing a ball. If your dog is into toys, fetch is a great game to get that heartrate up. I don’t love my dog sliding after the ball so I teach them to go out and then I throw the ball.
Flirt pole. Wear your dog out in record time. There is no way your dog can do 30 mins of flirt pole at one time!
Play tag. Poke their rump and run. After a few rounds your dog will be totally into it. You get your cardio exercise in too!
Strength training. All the dogs have a workout plan. It takes me about 15 minutes to work 3 dogs, and Cargo is still learning that sometimes it’s not her turn.
In the last week, Opie and Cargo both went to the farm for a barn hunt lesson where, they were on leashes walking around the farm. Cargo went to agility class, the brewery, and to the park for a walk with a doggy friend on a leash. Pixie went nowhere on a leash because she hates it. I want you to consider, if your walks are stressing you out, you might be stressing out your dog too! Not walking down the street is okay and doesn’t make you a terrible dog owner!
Give some of these options a try the next time you want to go for a neighborhood walk. You might notice your dog is actually better behaved after a break. Change is good for everyone.
Jon wrote our blog this week! He’s become our puppy guru and has a great tip for all the new puppy folks out there!
The one solution for most of your puppy problems!
For many, the story of a puppy being “hard headed” and obstinate is all too familiar:
“She just keeps jumping on me for no reason”
“He doesn’t ever seem to run out of energy!”
“It just seems like he’s ignoring me at times”
“It’s dog ADHD!”
These situations appear to be our puppy being disobedient, but what If I told you that it is more likely that your dog is too exhausted to even realize you’re talking to them?
Our puppies are learning everyday about life, the household’s daily routine, family dynamics, friends in the neighborhood and if you’re doing training, obedience commands. All this interaction with their environment combined with the processing of the surrounding stimulus is hard work! And not just for the physical exercise involved in going on walks, or playing with other dogs, or going to the dog park. The mental exercise coming from processing their experiences and environment is much more taxing on our dogs. It’s perfectly normal for our puppies to be tired from all this.
So what happens when our puppies get tired? Some go pick a nice spot on the couch, or their comfy bed and doze off. But there many puppies that cannot. They cannot because they are so overly tired they begin to function on basic instinct and essentially have shut off their brain. When puppies shut of their brain but don’t go to sleep, they usually make these bad decisions, like shredding you blanket. These behaviors are your dog’s attempts to tell you the following:
“I AM EXHAUSTED. PLEASE HELP ME GET SOME REST”
Our puppies most definitely need rest. Throughout our puppies development stages, it’s imperative that our puppies receive around 16 hours of sleep a day, and this could be well into the 8-14 month range before they are able to function with less sleep. So when our dogs are getting tired, how do we help them? It’s real easy.
Get started early to prevent unwanted behaviors!
Put them in their crate for a nap. Our crate should be in a quiet, neutral area where our puppy won’t be disturbed. These naps can be anywhere between 30-45 minutes, 60-90 minutes or even 120-180 minutes. You want to let your puppy wake up naturally, and to coin a phrase “don’t wake the sleeping puppy”. These naps to happen throughout the day. It’s especially important to have at least one of these naps being while you are still in the home. Even more so if you have guests over for a long time and your dog has been interacting with them. As soon as you see your puppy begins to show those “trouble behaviors”, ask yourself this.
“When was the last time they’ve taken a nap?”
If it has been some time, it’s a good call to get our puppy in the crate to help them settle down enough to finally get the rest they didn’t know they needed.
If you thought this tip was helpful, check out our Prepared for Puppy Program only available for a few more days! Get this great tip in our Prepared for Puppy e-book, and two in home sessions with one of our trainers for individual attention and personalized tips to get you through puppyhood!
Tis the season for Christmas shopping! For those of you that may not know me, I’m Keri and my dogs are Nala and Conway, plus, whatever foster we have at the time.
Follow us on Instagram (@myperfectpitties) We also model for a few shops. Here are a few of our favorites for this holiday season:
1. 4 Mutts and Co- We’ve been modeling for this shop for about 2 years. They’re handmade collars, based in Canada. You can use code AZUL20 to save 20% on your order. Plus, you get free shipping with purchase of two or more items! https://www.etsy.com/shop/fourmuttsandco/
2. Naked Beasts Snacks– We stumbled across this awesome shop this year. They’re smaller now, but are in the process of expanding. They have air dried treats, a process that leaves majority of the nutrients! Nala’s favorite are the shrimp! You can use code Thankyou10 to save on your order! https://nakedbeasts.com/password
3. G Stop Y Bowtie– This awesome shop donates 50% of their proceeds towards saving the dogs in the Yulin Meat Festival. Their quality is amazing! We prefer the “party for two” style bows as pictured below. Use code SHOPSMALL for 20% off your order! https://www.etsy.com/shop/GstopYbowtie
4. Luvabullz and Co– This amazing shop makes edits of your pet that can be put on stickers, hoodies, bags, and more! They help educate people on the benefits of adopting senior dogs and leashing your dog while in public. They also use positive reinforcement training for their own dogs! So far, we’ve had an edit made of two of our dogs. Then, we had stickers and a hoodie made with the image on them! Use the code FREESHIP for free shipping on your order!
5. Furr-bulous – I recently found this shop. They do harnesses, bandana collars, matching pajamas for you and your dog and more! They are donating a portion of their sales to our favorite bully rescue, BARC for the month of December. Use the code PITTIES15 to save and donate!