dog-on-counter

NO isn’t a four letter word!

I wish more dog owners would understand that letting your dog do what it wants doesn’t make their dog happy. Dogs primarily act on impulse. They don’t think of consequences like we do. They’ll devour a box of chocolates without realizing how dangerous it is. That is our job!

We need to be the bad guy and tell our dogs no! “Noyou can’t eat the neighbour’s cat. “No” you can’t run across the highway. “No” you can’t hump the pug. “No” is not a four letter word. Saying “no” doesn’t mean you don’t love them. Saying “no” means you know better. I am willing to bet that you make better life choices than a border collie.
When on a walk with my dogs, I distract them when I fear they will make a bad choice. For example, Jada always barks at one house on our block because two years ago she saw a cat sitting on the front steps. To distract her, I walk between her and the invisible cat (I call this blocking). I keep her attention on me, not the house. When she barks through me (like 300 times!) I correct her that second. There is no doubt in her mind that I am less than pleased with her barking.
Correcting will only work if your dog knows what they have done wrong. Even seconds later may cause confusion. Dogs live in the moment, they won’t look back and be like, “Geez, they must be mad because of what happened back there.” Unless the correction is linked immediately and directly to the bad behaviour, dogs won’t understand they did something wrong. They will think you are just crazy.
Like most people, a dog will rarely (if ever!) take a good look at their behaviour and take responsibility for their actions. In my case, I got chubby. It had a lot to do with my root beer slushee addition. If I had pudged out the instant I sucked back my first root beer slushee, I would have stopped (okay I would have stopped sooner!).
Correct quickly! Correct consistently! Correct calmly!
Correcting your dog’s behavior, in fact correcting anything, takes time.Bad habits are hard to break. Just ask think about your own version of my root beer slushee addiction.
It could take 300 corrections to get your dog to stop barking when you ask, but if you do nothing, it will never get fixed. Like many things, it takes time. You wouldn’t quit working out if your didn’t see instant results (although who doesn’t dream of instant success?) All good things take time. Your dog will know what to expect, and it will like that.  What will happen is your dog will like that it knows what to expect. Truth is, they want us to be boring and predictable. Yes, they may initially act pissed off when you won’t let them get away with things anymore, but knowing what is and what isn’t okay will make your dog happy.

Have an idea for the next article? Email jo@mommajos.ca
recall02

Recall, the art of your dog coming when called

recall02Recall is the most difficult yet important command. Good recall allows dogs the freedom to play explore, keeping them bonded to you with your words, which act as an invisible leash. Without recall, dogs wander into traffic, confront unfriendly creatures and get lost. Dogs don’t see our modern day dangers. It is our job to keep them from harm.

How to Earn a Dog’s Trust

Your relationship with a dog isn’t measured by how well they sit. It is measured by how much you trust each other.
Your dog is very lucky to have you care so well for them, but do they know that? When you have no leash to rely on, you need trust to keep you together. Your dog needs to know that you are the safest place to be. They trust predictable people. Never lose your cool when they return to you. If you do, they will see you as mentally unstable and lose trust in your ability to act sensibly. So always be calm and consistent.
Eye contact is an imperative means of communication. Most people don’t realize how little their dog makes eye contact with them. Dogs look past us, or even to us, but not “into our eyes”. Dogs are clever creatures. They will avoid eye contact when they don’t want to listen. So acknowledge them when they look at you.

The Command

Pick the command you will use to call them. It could be as simple as “come” or “touch” or “here” or even using their name along with clapping, snapping, whistling or patting your leg. What is important is you both know what it means. Be sure to use the same command each and every time. Being consistent and insisting they return will set you both up for a win.
Dogs can tell if there is hesitation in your voice. Call them as though you are convinced it is a brilliant idea. They can sense your confidence.

  1. Get to their level, crouch down to welcome them
  2. Call them (convincingly)
  3. Praise as they approach
  4. Touch their collar

Only give a dog the freedom they can handle.

Start on Leash

If your dog’s recall is nonexistent, start by using their leash or, better yet, a long leash. A rope or two leashes clipped together will also do. Let the dog walk to the end of the leash, experience a bit of freedom, and then call them back to you. If they don’t respond, tug the leash as you call them again.
Work on this before you start off leash. Be positive when they come to you. Remind them that being with you is the best place in the world.
Be consistent! If you call them and they do not come, stay calm. Call again. This time if they don’t respond, pull them in. Rub their collar and congratulate them, even if done with a strong sense of sarcasm.
Be smarter! If you see something for which you know they will leave you, say a handsome poodle or a discarded cheeseburger, call them before they see it. Keep their attention on you and move on.
When they have perfected recall on leash, start with a few distractions. This is a good time to think about allowing them more freedom.
If their recall still isn’t 100%, perhaps practice in an enclosed area like a hallway, a vacant tennis court or, even better, a fenced-in dog park.
Dog training doesn’t just happen when we click on the leash. It is always happening.

Going off Leash

Dogs end up associating being called back to going home. No more smelling pee on trees. No more chasing that flirtatious doodle from down the street. Now they know they will be going back to that boring box we call home. Home lacks the freedom and adventure of the outside world. So call them back to you regularly just to check in, not only when you’re going home. Use a pleasing voice. Kneel down playfully so you aren’t a tower of intimidation. Touch the collar playfully. Add a little neck rub. This will make clicking on the leash a much easier endeavor. Tell your dog how rad they are. Get eye contact and then release them to return to their dog-like activities. Returning to you now means being complimented, massaged and admired. They now understand that you are merely calling them for an opportunity to praise them. Win-win.
What if they don’t come? The number 1 reason dogs don’t come back is because someone or something else smells better or is more fun. If you know you can’t win, wait. As long as it is safe (not on a road), it may be best to wait a minute. Approach your dog calmly. If you can grab them, just clip on the leash and walk away. Scolding your dog for not coming the first time makes you look crazy.
If you know your dog won’t come, don’t call them (it will happen). Wait for a pause. Stay calm. It isn’t personal. Emotionally remove yourself from the next 10 minutes of your life.
If they are chasing another dog, running in circles or playing tag they will not hear you. Wait for a pause and call them, with the same happy tone and knee slapping. If they don’t return you, calmly approach them. No matter how angry you feel don’t scold them. Rub the collar, click on the leash and take them straight home. Although you may want to ring your dog’s neck, it is far more effective to avoid speaking to them or making eye contact. The silent treatment is very effective in the dog world.

When Dogs Still Don’t Come

DO NOT CHASE THEM! Going after a dog may initiate a game of tag. They may think you are playing, when really you are getting frustrated. Try one (or all) of these proven tips:
  • REWARD: have a special toy they only get for the way home. Usually squeaky toys work best.
  • WALK AWAY as dogs instinctively follow the leader
  • PLAY ALONE with a stick/ball/toy pretending it is awesome and you don’t want to share.
  • ASK SOMEONE to grab your dog as they approach (a drop lead is very handy for this)
  • TREATS: while I do avoid training with food, if all else fails offer a snack.
ARE YOU ANGRY? We have all been there! Even the best dogs have had days where they don’t listen. Remember not looking at or speaking to your dog will make a bigger difference then yelling.

A Final Note

Think about how much time your dog needs off leash. What do they love to do? Sometimes they would rather a leisurely stroll than a romp at the park or vice versa. If your dog is under 3 years of age, they may need up to two hours a day of exercise. Without it, they can become destructive, anxious and generally a less-pleasing companion.
Don’t just work on recall at the park when it is time to go home. Call your dog back throughout the day. Have them check in for a hug or a tummy rub. When you walk on leash with them, call them, make eye contact, give them a rub and smile because you are both doing an awesome job.
Want more tips? Email jo@mommajos.ca and your question could be answered next.
Momma Jo & Shepard

Dealing with Aggressive Dogs

WARNING: Aggressive Dog!
Often dogs become cranky when they aren’t feeling well, much like humans. Shepard was fine with other dogs, until about a year after I adopted him. Then he began jumping dogs that were greeting him at the park. The issue intensified to the point where he pinned another dog to the ground for no reason. The snarling and snapping was horrifying, yet the other dog wasn’t actually injured.
 
Shepard’s aggression was all show. But why? He had become so grumpy. I had done everything imaginable to help. Finally I brought him to the vet, where I was informed he had colitis. Aggravated bowels were making him protective of his tummy. Dogs could say hi and sniff his face but as soon as they would move to the traditional butt sniff he would snap. It made perfect sense. He was afraid they would hurt him. After a change in diet and some lifestyle adjustments, he was much more relaxed. When he would growl or bark at a dog after that I knew it was really his tummy talking.
Since then, I have seen many more cases of aggression caused by illness or pain. Most memorable was gorgeous golden doodle (let’s call her Molly). She came from good stock and is fortunate to have a kind and accommodating owner. Molly has never had any traumatic event. She was never attacked, hurt or hungry or unloved. Yet somehow she became aggressive. She would lung at and nip any dog that would come close to her. (Nip meaning her teeth made contact but not enough pressure to draw blood). She had been to the vet, but they didn’t find anything wrong. I worked on the usual with her, teaching her to ignore dogs. Teaching her that she was safe with me. Teaching her to trust and relax. Molly became more comfortable, but still reacted to new dogs.
Her owner took her to a new vet for a second opinion. They found a growth in her anal glands. The pressure of it was causing her an incredible amount of discomfort. Molly couldn’t say, “Help me! My butt hurts!” What she did do is tell other dogs by warning them to stay away from her. It is incredibly common for dogs to act aggressively when they are in pain. It is common for them to fear that other dogs may hurt them.
Molly was much happier once she was healthy again. It was difficult to break her habit of showing aggression towards other dogs, but with love, time and patience she broke the pattern. Now she is relaxed and truly enjoys going on hikes. She even plays with other dogs and has made some lifelong friends.
I have seen similar aggression in dogs with arthritis, chronic ear infection, abscessed tooth and unfortunately cancer. Old habits are hard to break for both the dogs and their people. Even after the underlying medical condition has been addressed it can take time to learn the new behaviour. Most still need reminders to be polite. As always, being a calm and consistent leader pays off.
Before you call a trainer, pay close attention to your dog. See if there is any areas of there body they maybe protecting. A visit to the vet could spare you both unnecessary suffering and maybe save your dog’s life.

Welcome to our new website!

Welcome to the brand new version of www.mommajos.ca! We hope that our new website provides you with everything you need to know about Momma Jo’s services and policies. Please feel free to leave us a comment, or if you have any suggestions, we are happy to hear from you.

Best, Jo Dworschak, Owner & Head Trainer, Momma Jo’s