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5 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Fourth of July

5 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Fourth of July

It’s that time of year again where those loud things go “boom” in the sky and then you find your dog shaking in the bathtub.

Fourth of July is a time meant for celebration, barbecues and beaches, yet for owners of fearful dogs, we find ourselves asking why the teenagers down the street couldn’t just cut it out with the fire crackers instead of joining in on the fun.

Here are some things you can do now to prepare your scaredy-pup for America’s favorite holiday!

Start counter conditioning and desensitizing your dog to the sound of fireworks! We all have access to YouTube right? Find a video similar to this one, and begin playing it at a low volume. You know your dog best, so start at a level that you know they won’t be scared of. Play the sounds, and introduce yummy food; stop the sounds, and stop the yummy food. Repeat. As your dog’s comfort level increases, increase the sound, or duration you play the sounds. Even doing this once or twice in the next month could make a huge difference the day of.

Create a safe space, and get your dog used to it. Maybe you want to set up a basement area, or can throw a blanket over a coffee table, either way, you’ll want to get your dog used to that space now instead of later. Hang out with them in or near the space while they enjoy a stuffed-Kong or other type of yummy chew. Don’t forget to tell them what a good dog they are!

Get creative with your plan! If you’re like most people in urban areas, each surrounding town has their firework displays on different nights. On the night your town’s go off, take an excursion with your pet somewhere else! Go visit a friend, or enjoy a long car ride, maybe drive out to that cheeseburger stand you’ve been meaning to go to. Last year, I took my dog to an outdoor movie theater while the fireworks went off down the street from my house. Two days later, I went to a firework display in a neighboring town, will my dog slept soundly at home. It was a win-win for all!

Talk with your vet! If you have major concerns surrounding the Fourth of July holiday and your pet, speak up to the professional! Depending on your dog’s health, your vet may be able to provide you with some light sedatives or anti-anxiety medications that could help your dog cope with sudden and loud noises. Fearfuldogs.com has an awesome blog post about behavioral medicine! Additionally, over the counter products like the Thundershirt, Adaptil Collar, Composure Chews or Rescue Remedy can be incredibly helpful as well!

Prepare for the worst-hope for the best! Sometimes our dogs can be caught off guard by loud and sudden sounds- even if they normally stay close by. When animals are scared, they think survival, and dogs in survival mode can do outrageous things! I saw an English mastiff break through a window and climb onto a roof once- so I never doubt the abilities of any animal to run off when scared. Remember to check your dog’s microchip to make sure their information is up-to-date, make sure they are wearing a collar with an updated I.D. tag, be sure to have a recent photo of your pet ready, and keep your dog on leash or wearing a drag line! For extra safety- consider buying a GPS tracker!

Finally, don’t forget to comfort your pet when they are scared! The myth of reinforcing fear has been debunked for years now! Be the comforting leader your dog needs you to be!

Questions You Should be Asking Your Boarding and Daycare Providers!

Questions You Should be Asking Your Boarding and Daycare Providers!

A number of people ask me about recommendations for boarding and daycare facilities. The truth is, it’s hard to give an answer. Each and every dog I work with is unique and may have needs that differ from your neighbor’s dog down the street. However, there are some pretty straight forward questions you should be comfortable asking your provider.

Check out a Facebook live video I did on this topic just the other day!

https://www.facebook.com/dogsrockvermont/videos/1678613595541599/

The Moose and The Motorcycle

The Moose and The Motorcycle

You’ll commonly hear dog trainers talking about the importance of socializing your dog. Because all dogs are different, some are more likely to be social on their own than others. Regardless of the social nature of your dog, fearfulness can still develop towards people, objects, other dogs, specific locations and various situations.

Depending on how well you know your dog, you instinctively begin to predict things that may make your dog fearful, such as loud noises or fireworks, and prepare for those situations. Other times, you may not know a trigger before it happens.

New things are scary

Take my newly adopted pup Moose as a case study. We’ve been a team for about two months now, and I’m slowly starting to figure out things that make him nervous, such as young puppies and screaming children. I keep a list in my head and know that if I will be around any of his fear triggers to bring my special treats with me. It’s important to give your positive interactions through times of stress. But, you can’t expect to just have treats on you everywhere you go, right? Right.

When walking out of a building the other day, Moose makes eye contact with a yard ornament that moves, and has bright colors, and he totally and completely wigged out. I mean, he bellowed out the loudest bark I’ve heard so far. He then proceeded to start growling and backing up. He backed up so hard, he slammed himself into the door.

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Day two. Even from this far away, you can see his focus on the yard ornament and if you look even closer, you can see his hackles raised.

Here I am, walking out of a building, carrying my jacket under one arm, a cup of coffee in my hand, a binder full of training paperwork under my other arm and now a dog having an epic meltdown in a parking lot full of people and other businesses.

The easiest thing for me to do in this circumstance would have been to drag him to my car which was not very far. Above being a dog trainer, I am a human, so yes, I thought about it. However, avoiding situations doesn’t accomplish much and there’s no learning involved in that, so where’s the fun?

So I place/drop all of my things on the sidewalk, turn him around and walk back into the building. I give Moose a moment to calm down so he can focus on me. Once his brain has come back to reality, I ask him for sit and give him some pets. I connect with him. This is important. I’m still here for you buddy.

We venture back out the door, and I remind him, “Moose, I’m still here.” I speak softly to him and encourage him to follow me.

We take some time walking towards the thing. He is doing okay with some reassurance, but stops again about 15 feet away and has another fit. Patience is key. We take about two steps back and I ask him again for some eye contact and a sit (this is where foundational training also becomes so important). He looks at me, he looks ahead, he looks back at me and gives me a slight tail wag. At his pace we continue.

It took some time for him to feel comfortable going up to it, but eventually he did. He sniffed it, and backed up. He looked at it a bit. I reassured him it was okay. He sniffed it again, turned away from it. He still didn’t trust it fully, but he began to accept it.

Finally, he came to his own conclusion he’s uncomfortable with it, but willing to tolerate it’s presence. On this good note, I said, “okay, let’s go dude”, and we headed back towards the car. The next day, we repeated our exercise. On day two it took us about half the time of day one. Progress!

 

Why is it important to have taken the time to do this with my dog? 

  • We just worked through a fearful situation together
  • He learned how to do something other than become reactive to something he is scared of
  • We just spent time bonding by working through a problem together

 

Socialization and why it’s important

You’ll often hear dog owners say whole heart-idly that their dogs is fearful of men, or brooms, or newspapers because they must have been abused or suffered at the hands of a terrible hat-wearing man with sunglasses that liked to read newspapers and occasionally raise them over their dogs head. But what is actually more likely, is that the dog may have had a lack of exposure to sunglasses, hats or large objects moving above their heads. In Moose’s case, it was obvious he had never seen anything like this spinning lawn ornament before. Without ever having a good experience to relate these things to, the dog has nothing to base it’s reaction on. By basic means of animal survival, it’s smarter to be cautious of something until you know it does not pose a threat.

So taking what we now know into consideration, understand that fearfulness in dogs is absolutely normal. In fact, dogs that are over confident tend to be the ones that professional trainers keep an eye out for. However, for dogs to survive and continue to develop in our society and our societal standards we must work with them to either prevent fearfulness by socializing them as youngsters, or we must work to counter-condition their current fears through positive associations. The more your dog is exposed to in a positive way, the easier it becomes for them to overcome their fears in situations down the road.

Too much socializing?

Believe it or not, some dog owners make the mistake of going a bit overboard with socializing. I often hear from dog owners that they were told to take their dog everywhere with them as a puppy and to make sure to get them used to being around other dogs at a young age. What I actually see happen are puppies taken to overwhelming situations such as Church Street in Burlington or to the big dog section at the Shelburne Dog Park for “socializing.” For dog trainers, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing well-meaning dog owners traumatizing their dogs at young ages by flooding them with situations they are not developmentally prepared for. Every time I see a puppy get pinned at the dog park or jump back at the sound of a car horn on a busy road, I cringe. If the owners seem open to helpful feedback, I typically will engage in a conversation with them then and there. However, not everyone is always open to feed back from a stranger in public. Side note: The one thing that makes a trainer’s job difficult? There are dogs everywhere, but you can’t help every dog or owner you see.

Tying it all together

At the end of the day, the goal here is improving you and your dog’s amazing relationship. Each person-to-dog relationship I work with is unique and requires a different pace, structure and attention. Watching a dog’s trust build with their owner is my favorite part of what I get to do. Listen to your dog. Don’t ignore their fears and don’t force your dog into situations they are unsure of. Truly love your dog and your dog will love you back.

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Meet & Greet, plus free seminar at the VT-K9 Merchant’s Market

Meet & Greet, plus free seminar at the VT-K9 Merchant's Market

Do you have questions about your dog or are interested in learning more about canine body language and behavior? Come hang out with me at the Crate Escape, Too! in Williston, Vermont on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and join me for a free talk and discussion on canine socialization at 1 p.m. at the VT-K9 Merchant’s Market!

The Crate Escape, Too! is  hosting the VT – K9 Merchant’s Market in conjunction with our open house on Saturday November 5th to celebrate local small businesses, organizations and non-profits that invest so much of their lives in the care and happiness of our communities pets. This event is entirely free and open the public. Due to space limitations and ongoing demonstrations, attendees are urged to leave their four legged their four legged friends at home (unless they have a scheduled appointment with one of the vendors).

Some of the other vendors confirmed for the event are the Vermont Police Canine Association, Therapy Dogs of Vermont, Trupanion, Ultimate Companions Dog Training, and Buddy’s Bandannas!

Raffle Prizes from Pet Food Warehouse and The Dog and The Cat will be available as well!

Don’t miss this awesome event! Not only will it be fun, but it will also be educational and entertaining!

RSVP here!!!!

 

Vermont Dog Festival to feature Dogs Rock! Vermont

Vermont Dog Festival to feature Dogs Rock! Vermont

This Saturday, dog lovers alike will converge in Ensoburg Falls, VT for the first ever Vermont Dog Festival! Dubbed as a “fun, family friendly event that caters to our canine counterparts.”

Laurie Lawless of Dogs Rock! Vermont is excited to have been offered a spot to speak at the event. Laurie will have the opportunity to spend 15 minutes discussing positive reinforcement and relationship building in dog training with Emily Lewis of A Click Away Dog Training.

As a member of Vermont Professional Dog Trainers, a group made up of dedicated Vermont Professional Dog Trainers who strive to provide the most up-to-date scientific training methods to their clients and their pets, the sheltering and animal welfare community and service and working dog groups, Laurie is excited to present this topic to the dog-loving Vermont community.

The full day event will feature local rescue dogs, games, vendors and more! Please come find Laurie and her new pup Moose at the festival! She will be stationed at the Vermont Professional Dog Trainers booth.

Laurie is looking forward to meeting you! RSVP on Facebook to let her know you are coming!!!

 

Why I Stress the Importance of Impulse Control

Why I Stress the Importance of Impulse Control

One of the ideas I stress to my clients during foundation work is the idea of impulse control in our dogs. A lack of impulse control can lead to things such as high arousal, which as this article points out, can lead to aggression. When companion animals don’t know how to stop themselves from becoming aroused, it can lead to dangerous situations, even if they are unintentional and seemingly harmless.

If a squirrel darted out in front of you during a walk, would your dog yank you down the street? If you drop food on the floor while cooking would your dog dive bomb for it? If your dog was put in an uncomfortable situation would he take the time to think about how he would react, or would he just revert to instincts and bite?

Each dog possesses a certain amount of impulse control, but every dog is absolutely capable of learning where they may fall short. That’s where foundational training is crucial in forming a respectful relationship with our dogs.

Understanding Positive Reinforcment

Understanding Positive Reinforcment

Dog trainers who use mainly or all positive reinforcement methods while training dogs and teaching clients frequently come under fire from balanced (trainers who use both positive reinforcement and positive punishment) and aversive trainers (trainers who almost all positive punishment techniques includes prong collars, shock collars and e-collars).

Many of them think we don’t believe in leadership, they think we let the dogs walk all over us, the most ridiculous of them claim that we are using treats to bribe dogs into doing what we want. What these trainers don’t have is a true grasp on classical and operant conditioning, knowledge of the dangers in behavior suppression or long term effects of aversive techniques.

Dog training is a very technical profession. I actually spent about three years watching dogs for roughly 40 hours a week. That comes out to about 6,000 hours of hands on experience in dog-to-dog behavior. I thought I knew a lot. I really thought I knew what various behaviors meant, the cause and effect of corrections, red flags and a general understand of dogs. But really I just knew exactly that-  what I thought.

I moved forward with learning how to become a dog trainer about two years ago. I finally opened a book and started reading. I found webinars and started watching. I interned with a local certified trainer through the ABC program. I was shocked by how much I really didn’t know. Many of the behaviors I believed to be one thing, turned out to mean something entirely different. As a matter of fact, I am reading a new book and just yesterday learned something new about a behavior I’ve been watching dogs do for years! Dog training is one of those fields that requires us to stay on our toes for better or for worse because the field is constantly evolving.

Dogs are awesome creatures. They are opportunists, they are smart, they have impeccable timing and they have an incredible ability to learn way more than we give them credit for. Taking the time now to understand how your dog learns and what his true motivators are is crucial to forming a loving, respectful and positive relationship with your pet. The days of dominating are over and no it’s not because we like to hand out free cookies; it’s because actual science has proven there are more effective (and humane) ways to train your dog.

If you are interested in learning more about forming a better relationship with your dog, contact me! It’s seriously never too late to start!

To learn more about Classical and Operant Conditioning, and why it works, read this awesome Blog Post on Positively.com!

 

 

 

Breed Matters in Dog Play

Nature vs Nurture. How much does each play into the development of your dog? In this amazing video we see a group of young hunting dogs stalking the prey held before them – intentionally honing natural born instincts to hunt. This is how working dogs are trained to complete specific tasks.

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Now think about your dog and their breed or breed-mix. Do you notice specific behaviors your dog does that is different from your neighbors? When your dog plays with another dog, does it like to nip at the ankles, bark loudly or growl a lot? The more you know about your dogs background, especially rescues in which we know very little, the better!

Breed does not determine everything about a dog, nor should it. Each dog is an individual and should be treated as such. But understand breed disposition is part of the larger puzzle that we need to look at when trying to understand our dogs.

Take a minute to watch your dog the next time it’s interactive with people or animals. I bet you’ll see something new.

This blog is a response to this Facebook video!

Fireworks and the Absolute Myth of Reinforcing Fear

Fireworks and the Absolute Myth of Reinforcing Fear

I was holding back writing about the Fourth of July. It’s that one time of year that all dog lovers’ Facebook walls get flooded with articles about keeping pets indoors, playing calming music, creating forts under coffee tables, etc. I certainly didn’t want to add to that collection- there’s already plenty of that information out there!

However, last night my dog was having her yearly melt down and I happened to be traveling with her and some friends. Now, here we are in a new place, with new people and she completely out of her comfort zone. One of my friends mentioned the idea of not coddling her, because she heard that it reinforces the fear of the fireworks. Okay, let’s stop there!

This is so far from true! Here is another myth created by dog trainers and “dog experts” that has no actual scientific truth or back up. The sad thing is, that I believed this at one point to be true as well! You know where I first heard this? From watching “The Dog Whisperer.” How can you not believe sometime that is being broadcasted as fact on National Geographic? So, no I don’t blame you for believing it either.

Dogs look to us as their companions. We are their leaders, their support system and their strength. In a time when your best friend is most vulnerable, would you turn your back and ignore them, or even worse, punish them for being afraid? What would that do to your relationship? It would probably ruin it a little bit.

Remember above everything else to love your pets this weekend. Be aware of their mental state. If your dog asks for space, give your dog space. If your dog asks for comfort, comfort your dog! Most of all, have a fun, safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!!!

Read this awesome article by Patricia McConnell about why you can’t reinforce fear in dogs!!!

Release the Hounds!!! – GoT style

Release the Hounds!!! - GoT style

Do we have any Game Of Thrones fans out there? Last night’s episode was pretty grotesque towards the end, but if you’re a dog nerd like me over here at Dogs Rock! Vermont you would’ve been drooling over the beautiful creatures Ramsay Bolton deemed “his girls.”

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Cane Corso Italiano

Meet the Cane Corso Italiano, sometimes referred to as an Italian Mastiff. These amazing dogs were originally bred and used for hunting and protection. They are best known for their size (approximately 100lbs) and large, notable head. 

The Cane Coso breed is intelligent, independent and determined. They are loyal to their families and are fantastic protectors! It’s important that owners of Cane Corso Italianos understand their breed and provide continued structure and leadership throughout their relationship.

I’ve met a handful of these dogs and just love them to pieces! If you get to know one well enough, it’s just so much fun to smush their big faces and shower them with kisses!!!

Thanks for reading my dog nerd post of the day! Over and out!

Simple Solutions to Everyday Struggles

Simple Solutions to Everyday Struggles

Monitoring kids with dogs is incredibly important! No matter how tolerant your dog is of children, it is reasonable to believe that each individual dog has a threshold they can hit. Once that threshold has been reached, it takes only a split second for irreversible damage to be done.

But, don’t worry! Protecting your dog and child from each other is easy and can be done with minimal effort. Pictured below is a good friend of mine who’s toddler started walking last year. Taking preemptive steps to give Gus, the dog, the space he needed, she began blocking off his food area. Now-a-days, Gus has his own feeding room her child is not allowed in, but this temporary fix seen below helped Gus feel safe during meal times and kept the little one safe from harm until a more permanent solution could be put in place.

Take this moment think about how you protect your dog from children, whether they are your own or if they are visiting. Then think about how you protect children from your dog. Post below with suggestions and ideas!!!

Meet Sue Ellen

Meet Sue Ellen

Derp! I am Sue Ellen!!! My free training session by Dogs Rock! Vermont was number 3 of 118. Today we worked on loose leash and focus skills! I am a sweet and gentle girl who loves snuggles and butt scratches. 🐶 If you are interested in learning more about me, please visit All Breed Rescue Vermont at http://www.allbreedrescuevt.com/animals/detail?AnimalID=9834236