Category Archives: Behavior

7 Things You Might Not Know About Your Dog

young woman standing on a dock with a dog. They are facing away from the camera looking out over some mountains. The woman is carrying a backpack. They look like they are about to set out on an adventure together.

Big Plans!

New puppy, exciting times! You are now responsible for another creature with an entirely unique agenda that is much different from yours. Whether this is a new puppy, an adolescent or an older dog you are adopting; I’m sure you have some ideas concerning the behavior or your dog and what you want him to do for you. Common things that top most people’s list are not mess up the house with bathroom accidents or destructive chewing. Not pull you when you walk on leash together. Sit and down when you ask. And to come a running quickly when you call. Okay you’ve got your plans now what about your dogs?

Learning about what makes a dog uniquely ‘doggy’ is something that anyone caring for a dog should aim to do.

This means learning things other than how to teach your pup to sit or walk with you. This is about understanding what makes your dog tick. This makes you that much more compassionate and scholarly. A pet dog ethologist! This is really doing right by your dog.

You might be surprised to learn the following about your beastie

 

A Jack Russell puppy is biting into a chew stick which is being held by a man's hand.

1. Most behaviors that we perceive as a problem are natural for your dog.

Some examples to help illustrate this point are; your dog wants to walk fast in lots of different directions and explore and sniff. They might want to eat gross things or roll in smelly things. They want to jump up to say hi and greet you and sniff and lick your mouth. They don’t want you to brush them or bath them or trim their nails. They don’t want you to leave them home alone.

 

Dog laying upside-down in the mud,

2. Most behaviours that we want from our dog on a regular basis are unnatural for the dog.

Walk nicely beside me. Don’t jump up to say hi. Stay still; let me clip your nails. Stay still while I give you a bath. Don’t chase that squirrel! Don’t pee there!

3. Dogs don’t know the difference between what we deem as right and wrong. They are not concerned with the rightness or wrongness of something.

They learn to do things that we want when we take the time to teach them with compassion and respect, using force-free methods and positive reinforcement.

Our dogs can also suffer undue stress and learn to not trust us because they may perceive us as volatile and dangerous for reasons they don’t understand. Here is an example. Arriving home to find a mess the dog gets yelled at. So people coming home starts to become a predictor of yelling and anger. The dog slinks and offers appeasing behaviours that people misread as ‘guilt’… his ‘admission’ to his ‘bad behaviour’.

Far different are the emotional lives of these dogs from their fellow dogs educated gently and compassionately with science backed, force free methods.

4. Dogs are concerned with what is safe and what is dangerous.

This doesn’t mean that they naturally understand the concept of crossing a busy street as being dangerous.

Dogs learn from their experiences, be they good or bad. If, after a certain behaviour, something good happens, they are likely to repeat that behaviour. Conversely, if something unpleasant occurs after the behaviour, they are less likely to repeat it.

5. Dog’s never do things out of spite or jealously. To impart these emotions on them without understanding more fully why they behave a certain way is irresponsible.

They may try to keep other dogs away from you at the park when you have treats but this is because an important resource is at risk of being nabbed by an intruder.

6. Dogs are predators, they love to chase, catch and chew.

Providing a pup with these outlets by playing games is an important part of having a dog.

 

A Vizsla running full out across a field.

7. Dogs are not born with a desire to please us.

This is a tough one for many people. This doesn’t mean you can’t build a beautiful relationship with your dog. But the Walt Disney myth of the dutiful dog is a pile of BS.

Dogs are interested in what’s in it for them. Who can blame them for that?

Continued Reading

I applaud anyone who goes the extra mile to really understand the nature of a dog. I think one should be interested in learning about the finer points of their dog. This will certainly contribute to a deeper more fulfilling life together. I have three continued reading picks to offer you now. Every dog person should read these and keep them on the bookshelf to refer to!. They were all game changers for me. I am grateful to the women who wrote them.

Jean Donaldson’s – The Culture Clash will change your life. How you look at your dog will never be the same. Reading this book and taking it to heart will make you a better person.

Suzanne Clothier’s – If A Dog’s Prayers Were Answered… Bones Would Rain From the Sky You will laugh and cry and become that much more of an advocate for your dog.

Patricia McConnell’s –The Other End of The Leash Another inspiring, uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable read. It will elevate your knowledge to new heights and your sense of dog.

Does anything you have learned here surprise you? Which of your dog’s behaviours might you look at differently now? Perhaps with more compassion, wisdom and an educated eye.

Walk This Way

This is an illustration of a woman and a puppy. The woman walks in a straight line towards a tree. The puppy walks all over the place, ending up at the tree. #puppytraining #puppycoaching #puppysocialisation #looseleashwalking #politewalking #karenpryor

Picture an ape swinging from the jungle canopy making her way from point A to point B. A pod of dolphins leaping skyward out of the water and then splashing back in again, a frog hopping or swimming through a pond. How each of these animals moves on the earth is different. Swimming, swinging, slithering, soaring, hopping, no legs, two legs, four legs, wings, fins! Wow!

Imagine if you were required to keep up with a pod of sea lions, take a walk with a kangaroo or keep pace with a snail for a day. Hmm.

With that image fresh in your mind picture what it means to teach our four-legged puppy friends to walk with us. Let’s think about the finer points involved in teaching another species to amble along at our pace. To not do the things they want, but instead pay attention to us.

Does a dog naturally walk in a straight line the same way you do? No. A dog will move forward in different directions, often making turns and big circles, choosing not to follow a sidewalk or a well-worn path but rather, their nose!

 

This is a text graphic which reads: “Brace yourself; They don’t want to walk with you!”

So this is the first thing to consider when we complain about unruly pups on leash. How are we going to interest our dog to walk this way? Continue reading

It Takes Two

A woman sits on a man's lap while he tries to explain something. The woman is looking away from him with a disappointed facial expression. A puppy is sitting in the foreground with his head tipped to one side as though he is trying to understand what is going on.

When it comes to couples rearing a puppy it’s not uncommon to have different views. We see it all the time. People come with their own history from childhood on how to raise a dog. Our own experience with discipline also affects our training approach. Puppy rearing and training have moved on over the last decade and for most people, “positive reinforcement” (using reward based training) is now the obvious choice. Here, we look at the top four decisions that couples will face in bringing a pup home. We hope that the dialogue will help you and your partner form a consensus on these key issues.

Decision #1.

What style of training will you use?

There are two main types. You need to choose between puppy-friendly positive reinforcement and the use of punitive techniques.

Dog training is unregulated so this key decision is left up to you. Reward based training has been scientifically proven to work. It’s the most forgiving approach and it’s fun and easy to do. Using harsh methods is no fun and unfair to the dog. It can also create dangerous behavioral problems.

No matter the approach, one thing is certain, you must reach a consensus on your training approach, it’s very confusing for a dog to be trained using both techniques and its unlikely to be successful.

We hope the humane approach wins.

Decision #2

Another big decision is whether or not to socialize your pup (with other dogs and our urban environment) before the puppy is completely vaccinated.

You need to know that … the number one killer of young dogs is not disease; it’s a lack of early socialization. Taking a calculated, well-informed risk and socializing your puppy before he is fully vaccinated is the best approach, as explained by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour. Be cautious of ill-informed professionals, read what the Experts say and get to a Socialization class.

Decision #3

Crate Training

These days most people crate train over night. This is excellent, but daytime Crate Training is often overlooked. A puppy with too much unsupervised freedom is at high risk and will develop annoying behaviors. Nipping, biting, housetraining issues and a lack of focus are a few problems that are likely to occur. Structure and boundaries with supervised “play” and training when out of the crate is the healthiest approach.

You and your partner need to decide that you can put up with some puppy peeping until he settles down in the crate. Don’t worry, it’s natural, your pup will soon settle into the routine of being in his crate and you’ll be happy that he’s not underfoot. Take him out regularly, do some training and put him back in the crate while you are both still successful. He’ll tire quickly at which point, he doesn’t learn well, so keep time spent out of the crate short and successful.

Decision #4

What to prioritize first? House Training, Puppy Junior Obedience, Preventive Training or Socialization?

We think it’s important that you and your partner understand that Socialization and Preventative Exercises should be your priority.

House Training is what most people focus on. In the big picture, it’s the easiest thing to do and a no-brainer when you get some help and stick to a game plan. This is why we put House Training at the bottom of the list.

However for your puppy to be successful, it’s really important that you understand that there’s a small window of opportunity between birth and sixteen weeks when your puppy is highly adaptable and must learn to socialize with other dogs, meet new people and become comfortable in a complex environment. To be successful, you must both work hard to socialize him during this very short period of time.

Along with Socialization comes the idea of Preventative Exercises, these are games and training exercises that prevent the development of problem behaviors like food (or toy) guarding, biting and nipping and separation anxiety. The need for early-socialization is increasingly well understood and it’s likely to be recommended to you by your vet or trainer. However, the need to do training exercises with your pup to pro-actively stop the development of undesirable behaviors is a relatively new concept. So, please read up on this and incorporate preventative exercises in your game plan.

You may be surprised that we don’t give Puppy Junior Obedience training top billing. Manners are important, but understand that like house training, obedience training is not time-sensitive, so focus on Socialization and Preventative Exercises.

From our own experience, we all know couples that wait until they have a child before discussing their values. It’s not surprising that the same thing happens when people get a dog. Bringing a puppy into your life together should be something that brings you together, so discuss the big four issues and do a little reading before you start on what will be a great experience.

 

An Important Step

 

Smiling young woman facing the camera holding her border collie.

April 2017 Syd and her 9 month pup Fen

 

Sydney has recently graduated from and become certified with the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy.

Dog training is an unregulated business with highly variable levels of education and training ability. Professional certification from schools like the Karen Pryor Academy and the work of associations like the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and the Society of Veterinary Behaviour Technicians are moving our industry closer to becoming a self regulating profession. Sydney has taken a big step in continuing education that will benefit her clients and people using Ultimate Puppy.

Congratulations Syd!

Victorious Vet Visits

Veterinarian listening to puppy's heartbeat

The veterinarian we choose should be considered a ‘partner’ in care. We’re responsible for making sure that clinic staff can safely handle our dog without risk of being bitten. It’s up to us to ensure our dog is comfortable at the vet and can tolerate routine check-ups.

The stress surrounding a waiting room can be reduced by some simple work. A robust socialisation and handling strategy is key with a puppy. This should start with the breeder or foster family and carry on with you. Doing this gives your dog a sizable life-long advantage.

Be sure that you have plenty of delicious treats for your puppy when visiting the clinic. You puppy should be getting treats throughout the visit. Starting when you enter the clinic. Then carry on during the exam. On the table and once off the table. Try tossing some treats onto the scale for fun. You want a dog that is happy to climb on for weigh-in time.

Non-Treatment Social Visits

To prevent negative associations with the vet be sure and get into the clinic for strictly social visits with your puppy.  Non treatment visits will help when done a handful of times as your dog matures. Let your dog receive treats from the reception staff. Play a quick game of tug and then off you go. Keep it short and fun.

Fear-Free Vet Visit is an excellent initiative that was created by Doctor Marty Becker.  For some tips on fear free vet visits you can watch this short video by Doctor Becker.

Thank you to Dr. Paul McCutcheon and his staff of East York Animal Clinic & Holistic Centre in allowing us to photograph Fen’s vet clinic visit. Dr. McCutcheon was operating a Fear-Free clinic long before it became popular to do so.