Archive for October, 2010

It’s a beautiful fall day here in Colorado! And it’s also our closing week of coalition blogging for the Never Shock a Puppy campaign. Throughout the  eight campaign weeks, we’ve raised awareness about why people choose shock collars and other aversives instead of helping their dogs change behaviors. We’ve raised money and given away prizes for those who donate and comment. It’s been exciting to hear about the creative and scientifically proven techniques all of the coalition bloggers use to deal with these important issues:

I’ve added several of the posted ideas to my own knowledge base; hope you did, too! Teaching your dogs cues of any kind can be rewarding and fun for both of you–what a great bonding opportunity! There are so many positive-reinforcement trainers to help solve any behavior issue, not just those listed here–please ask and we’ll find you one in your area.

Never Shock a Puppy On Dogtalk

If you’re still curious about the Never Shock a Puppy‘s mission, there’s more! Twitter’s #Dogtalk chat recently featured guests Roxanne Hawn (@roxannehawn), who blogs at Champion of My Heart, and Anna Bettina Johnson (@happyhealthypup), trainer and owner of Calling All Dogs. Interacting with Dogtalk’s audience, Roxanne and Anna discussed the mission, reasons behind the campaign, why trainers are crossing over from old-school techniques to pain-free methods, how the campaign is helping dogs and their guardians find workable alternatives to aversives, and fielded tough audience questions. Read the transcript here.

Donation Incentives!

We’re asking, no begging, for your donations to launch the Humane Society of Boulder Valley‘s upcoming No-Choke Challenge. (See more on the No-Choke Challenge page.) Although we gave away our Grand Prize last week, there are several fabulous donation incentives for those willing to chip in $50 or $75 or more.

I’m adding an incentive: If you live in the Boulder County area, Fang Shui Canines is offering a free 1-hour evaluation and consultation on any behavior issue if you donate at least $50! That’s right–free positive-reinforcement suggestions to help you and your pooch live in harmony! Or, if you aren’t in this area, I’ll match your donation if you donate this week. That’s how committed I am to the mission.

Take the pledge! Just click the donation button on the donation widget on the sidebar of this post to get started! If for some reason you cannot see or use the donation widget below, please visit the Never Shock a Puppy Donation Site instead. Then post the following on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site:

Just donated & took the #nevershockapuppy pledge because dogs deserve a pain-free future

Please Ask

Feel free to comment or ask questions on the Never Shock a Puppy site or here. We’d love to hear any concerns so we can help you, or how you’ve been working with your dog. Thanks for reading our coalition blogs (listed on the right sidebar of this page under the Never Shock a Puppy Coalition header.

Fall activities with dogs are glorious–great hiking, running, walking through colorful open space–wow! But, in addition to wildlife challenges, snakes are difficult to see and hard to smell during these outings, whether in the plains, mountains, your backyard, or even your basement. During this season, snakes seek out cool, damp hideouts as they to prepare to hibernate for winter.

Watch Out for Poisonous Snakes

Although snakes prefer to leave you alone, dogs are curious creatures. Snakes lash out only if they feel threatened, and plenty do–many snake bites are recorded annually where I live in Colorado. According to Colorado State University Extension website, we have  25  snake species, two of which are venomous: the western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and the massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus). Rattlesnake venom can kill a dog within minutes!

My dogs have stared down garter snakes in our yard–that’s it! However, others haven’t been so lucky. Fellow Colorado resident Roxanne Hawn blogged extensively about Lilly’s snake puncture wounds on Champion of My Heart.

Snake Aversion Training Controvesy

This week’s Never Shock a Puppy‘s coalition of bloggers discuss snake aversion techniques–how to teach your dog to avoid dangerous snakes without using shock collars–a painful technique commonly used for these purposes, as described in this post:

“Trainers …put an electric training collar on the dog and allow its owner to bring the dog toward the snake from downwind. Most dogs go right for the snake… They get a mild electric shock for their poor judgment. The exercise is then repeated. Stubborn dogs may require several shock treatments to get the idea.”

Ouch! Stubborn dogs? How much pain is inflicted during the several shocks? Do these shocks manifest in negative behavior issues in those dogs? Are there any, more effective and less hurtful techniques to teach dogs how to avoid fatal snake encounters? What happens if you’re not near Fido when he encounters a snake? Will he run away or attack? And the biggest question: does it really work? Some shock-collar advocates even say not always.

I personally dunno. Is snake avoidance possible without punishment? I’d like to think we can help dogs learn how to avoid snakes (and rabid wildlife) by using nonaversive techniques.

Snake-bite Avoidance

Although you can’t always protect your dog from snake encounters, here are some steps you can take to help set Fido up for success in avoiding snake bites:

  • Learn how to identify snakes in your area. In Colorado, read the Colorado State University Extension website.
  • Teach your dog the “leave it” cue, meaning “turn away from the object immediately.” Make sure Fido knows this so well that he’s bullet-proof.
  • Get a realistic-looking plastic rattlesnake–maybe the local petstore or friend will let you put it in their snake tank for a few days to acquire the snake smell.
  • Drop the plastic, smelly snake on the floor, guiding a leashed Fido past it. Say “leave it.” When he turns to you, praise and treat. Try with a longer leash, then no leash. Repeat 300 times in short sessions. OK. 250 times.
  • After Fido learns to look away from the snake, increase the ante: position the toy snake in the yard, stand on one side of the yard with Fido on the other. Call him, then say “leave it” if he approaches the snake. Reward and praise if Fido takes the outbound route around the toy and comes to you! Practice this in open space, other areas around your house, and in the areas you take your dog.
  • During training sessions, incorporate YOU running away from the toy snake! Scream, holler, make Fido think it’s a bad thing to be near one! If he sees you’re agitated, he will avoid it. Additionally, you can have someone drop a loud object when Fido even looks at the snake. You can find more information about these techniques on the Never Shock a Puppy site this week.

For me, the best bet is to keep my dogs Frisbee and Luna leashed whenever I hear from others that snakes are in the areas we hike. That’s definitely snake avoidance–my prey-driven team won’t be able to attack the snake if I’m paying attention! Safety first!

What’s your best dog-snake avoidance technique?


Be the first on your block to comment on the Never Shock a Puppy blog this week and you’ll have a chance to win wonderful prizes, including our Grand Prize! Yes, just for reading about snake aversion techniques–can’t beat that! See all the rules and swag on the site–useful and quality goodies. If you’re a first-time dog owner, even better.

Need More Incentives to Donate?

We’re raising money for Humane Society of Boulder Valley‘s upcoming No-Choke Challenge. With a small donation to this fantastic cause, the Never Shock a Puppy campaign has incentives for donations! Take a look; won’t you help today? Just click on the donation widget on the right side of this post–easy enough! Thanks for your support!

Talk about challenging. Fearful, reactive, or aggressive dog behavior is a tough one! It’s intimidating when your dog is snarling or lunging at the end of her leash or in the house/yard. How you handle it can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Sometimes our reactions often intensify our dog’s fear and anxiety, causing her to be labeled “aggressive.”

However, there are effective and respectful solutions to this problem. This week’s Never Shock a Puppy campaign covers how to work with fearful, aggressive, and reactive dogs. Many dogs often show signs of all three behaviors (my dog Frisbee, for example), which can give clues to your knowing the best way to handle the behaviors.

Additionally, if your dog has any of these behaviors, have a veterinarian check for illness or injury, which can be at the root of aggressive or reactive behavior.

Coping Mechanisms

Reactivity and aggression are often based in fear–dogs use them as a coping mechanism to stressful environmental triggers. My fearful dog Luna, for example, does pretty well on walks until a dog runs up to her (rude, in my opinion).  She prefers meeting dogs on her terms. She snaps and lunges, sounding and looking like the most aggressive dog ever.  “Stay away from my space,” she says. “Leave me alone.” My favorite article about this very topic is notable dog expert Suzanne Clothier‘s “He Just Wants to Say Hi”–so applicable!

Is It Aggression or Leash Reactivity?

Since most of our Never Shock a Puppy blog coalition  wonderfully covered almost all aspects of reactivity, fear, and aggression, I’ll just briefly present some leash aggression tips–my most common client problem. Why does your perfectly great and fun dog turn into Cujo on the leash?

As Suzanne Clothier says, “recognize that leash aggression always involves unintentional signals from the owner,” creating a vicious cycle. Here’s what she means:

  • You are shocked and embarrassed that Rover is lunging and snapping. You don’t want to scare anyone, but you also want to keep Rover safe from uncomfortable situations. He’s counting on you to make those decisions. That’s your job. But you don’t know what to do.
  • You anticipate a triggering situation, such as a dog or person approaching, thus tightening the leash and stiffening her body for control.
  • Rover feels the leash tension and you’re sucking-in-air tenseness, so when Rover spots what you’re worried about, he begins aggressive behavior.

As you can see, the owner makes the situation worse–Rover is responding to your stress signals.

What You Can Do

What works best for my dog team and my clients are these solutions:

  • Ensure that you teach Rover self-control and basic cues or tricks as soon as he joins your household. Praise praise praise for that good behavior! One of the best cues while walking on a leash is called “targeting” If Rover learns to target (touch) your hand, you can redirect him from scary situations.
  • Learn Rover’s threshold for triggers–notice when he starts to react when he sees another dog. Is it a block away? 200 yards? Watch his body language and notice the change from calm to more alert. Head and neck stiffness, hackles up are a few examples. My clue is when Frisbee freezes and looks like a table (tail straight out from his back, head straight on, staring, ears alert, mouth taut). His body posture tells another dog (and human) that he’s upset: “don’t mess with me.”
  • When you spot the trigger, in a jolly tone, say something like: “Rover, see that nice dog!” Then treat treat treat so the dog looks at you, and walk calmly in the other direction. Rover wants that treat! And don’t forget to exude calmness. If Rover doesn’t think you’re worried, he won’t feel the need to be worried, either.
  • Keep the leash loose. You don’t want to make Rover think you’re tense. Redirect Rover’s attention to you with a target cue or another trick, whether he spots the trigger or not. When Rover is walking, he can’t aggress as easily.
  • When you’re out of the “danger zone” of another dog approaching, ask Rover to sit and feed treats, then try to calm him by trying to change his body posture–stroke him into a more relaxed position.
  • Don’t be afraid to yell “My dog’s not friendly” when someone approaches. All dogs aren’t Lassie or goofy Labs. I’ve yelled that many times, and when I get the response of “Oh, but my dog is,” I definitely go into redirection mode. Keep Rover safe and don’t put him in uncomfortable situations.

These are simple tips (there’s more), but they should get you started on the road to less leash reactivity and more success! You’ll both breathe easier!

Prizes For Commenting and Donating!

Go to the Never Shock a Puppy page, read, and comment by October 1o! You’ll be eligible to win one of the plethora of prizes listed on the page. So easy; who can beat that?

And if you donate to the Humane Society Boulder Valley‘s upcoming No-Choke Challenge, you’ll get other prizes! Just click on the donation widget on the sidebar of this blog post to add your contribution today! Every few bucks help. Who can resist helping all those homeless animals?

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