About Me

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I am the Dog Trainer Girl. A wife to a wonderful husband, momma to 2 boys, one that is a mini-me and makes me call my dad and appologize on a regular basis. I am owned by a Corgi named Yadi. I'm a Baseball girl, who likes bats, ball and bases on my diamonds. Go Cardinals!!!

Monday, August 26, 2019

What is Your Dog Trying to Tell You?

Disapproving Corgi giving me the "Look"- Yadi
It has been said that a dog will talk to those who know how to listen, and this is true.  A dog will tell you everything they intend to do with their body language.  Knowing what our dogs are trying to tell us allows us to have a better relationship with our dogs.  We get the opportunity to see the things that frighten or make our dogs anxious and help to change the emotions associated with that thing.  We get the chance to make our dogs lives better by knowing how to listen to them.  
Something that I always suggest for my students is to pay close attention to their dogs at home and learn their dog’s normal postures. If you know your dog’s normal body posture, then you will know very quickly when your dog is not comfortable and secure in their surroundings.  

The parts of your dog’s body that you need to learn to read are the eyes, ears, mouth, tail and overall body posture.  When observing a dog’s body language, you must take it all into consideration, no one part of their body can tell you how your dog is feeling.  Just because a dog’s tail is wagging does not mean that the dog will not bite.  

Their eyes will tell you a lot about what your dog is feeling. Fear and excitement can cause a dog’s pupils to dilate and or become glassy.  Fear can also cause a dog’s eyes to open so widely that you can see the white of the eye all round the iris, we call this Whale Eye.  When nervous you may notice your dog’s eye brows may be furrowed.  When a dog is nice and relaxed their eyes tend to take on an almond shape.  

There are different kinds of ears and this makes it difficult sometimes to read them.  There are floppy ears which hang down against the side of your dog’s face and prick ears that stand up.  If your dog is actively engaged in listening to something you may notice the ears twitching.  This is something I have my students to look for when saying their dogs name. Often a fearful dog will have their ears held back and often to the side. A dog that feels threatened or on alert will have their ears facing forward.  All Diagrams come from Modern Dog Magazine

A relaxed dog will often have a relaxed and loose mouth or sometimes open with a slight pant, but you won’t see any tension around your dog’s mouth.  If your dog is feeling fear or anxiety you may notice that the mouth tends to be tight in a long line across their face.  Some dogs may have a heavy pant or drool when they are nervous or fearful. A dog that is feeling threatened will have anywhere from a slight to a very pronounced raised lip, showing teeth. 

Relaxed Dog
Tails are a lot like ears, they are hard to read.  Some dogs have tails that hang down nice and relaxed near their back legs.  It may wag slowly back and forth or wag so fast and hard it could clear a table of anything on it.  Some dog breeds tails are held high and curl over the dog’s back. The one sign to watch out of is a dog with a loose tail that stands up straight like a flag pole, this is normally a sign that the dog is ready to go on the offensive.  A dog that is feeling fearful or anxious may tuck their tail between their back legs.  A low slow wag can be an indication of a dog that is feeling threatened.  

When a dog is emotionally balanced, they stand with their weight equally distributed among all 4 feet. There are times when our dogs feel threatened and that weight will shift in one of two ways.  If they are on the offensive their weight will rock forward as if they are standing on their tip toes.  This is usually a dog that is going to make the first move in a scuffle.  A fearful or anxious dog will rock backwards on their feet, as if trying to lean as far back away from the thing they are scared of. They may turn just their head away as if trying to act as if the thing isn’t really there if they can not see it.   A fearful dog may lower their body in a crouching stance, they may or may not lower their heads as well.  

One of the more common misconceptions about body language is the ridge of hair that runs down the center of your dog’s back.  Some people refer to as the hackles, trainers refer to it as a piloerection.  The old wife’s tale is that this means that your dog is aggressive.  However, this is actually an involuntary reaction.  Adrenaline causes the muscles to contract and the hair down the back straightens as this happens.  This again is something that can be different depending on your dog’s emotional state. Some dogs get the hair from their neck to their tail standing up.  For some it’s only halfway down the back. For Some it’s a wide strip or a thin strip of hair. This reaction can be from any emotional response that releases Adrenaline such as Fear, Anxiety, Excitement, or Confidence.  Your dog’s temperament is going to denote how he/she responds to that emotion.  

Fearful Dog
Another very misunderstood way that our dogs commutate fear or anxiety with us is their growl.  A lot of pet parents think when their dog is growling, they need to get on to their dog to stop the growling. However, when a dog growls they are giving you a chance to help them out of a situation that is upsetting to them.  A dog’s growl is an early warning system, if we teach our dogs not to growl, we take away that warning to our dog’s emotional state.  

Once you are confident in how your dog responds to his or her emotions you and better communicate with your dog.  If you would like more information on how to read body language there are lots of free handouts and reading on the Sophia Yin Blog at https://drsophiayin.com and Modern Dog Magazine.

For more information you can reach me at dog.trainer.girl@gmail.com

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Chewing is Natural

*disclaimer - I have not been endorsed or supported by any of the products mentioned in this blog.  I have however used them in my own training journeys and found them to be very useful*

One problem behavior that almost all pet parents have to deal with at some point in their furry companion’s life is chewing.  I often have pet parents that come into their first class with me and are beyond frustrated that their beloved pup is chewing up their shoes or phone chargers.  Or if your me, you walked into your kitchen and found this...  

 The important thing to remember is that chewing is a natural and necessary part of their life.  In fact, it is important for the mental well-being of our dogs that we encourage their chewing.  The trick, however, is to make sure that we are encouraging them to chew on the appropriate things.  Chewing is an inherent behavior in dogs.  A dog’s teeth and the skill of chewing are some of the most important parts of a dogs survival instinct, but there are other reasons they chew as well.  

For puppies and adolescent dogs, it’s a way to reduce the pain of teething.  Chewing also helps to promote healthy teeth and gums by increasing the flow of a dog’s antibacterial saliva.  When a dog chews on something it stimulates the Adrenal-Pituitary Axis, which is part of a dog’s Neuroendocrine system which helps to regulate stress with the release of endorphins making chewing a self-soothing behavior.  
Yadi with a Buffalo Horn

Puppies set about exploring life with their mouths.  They learn taste, texture and sound by manipulating objects with their mouths. As they look at their environment around them, anything within their reach is fair game until they are taught otherwise.  I’ve often said that we accidently teach our dog’s 98% of their bad habits by not understanding how they interpreter our responses to their actions.  Chewing on inappropriate objects is a huge example of this. 

Think about this from your pup’s point of view.  You come home and your dog is chewing on one of your favorite shoes.  What do you do?  95% of us will yell “NO” with some excitement in our voice and move toward our dog to take the shoe, right?  Your dog doesn’t want to give up the fun toy that got you so excited when you came home so she grabs it and races down the hall.  You give pursuit because you need to get the shoe away from her.  
Now pup is super happy because you have responded to her chewing your shoe with a game of chase.  How much fun is your pup having?  Is this really something your pup is going to avoid doing in the future?   The answer is no! 

Part of being a pet parent means that you are either in constant training mode, or management mode. All items that could be fun for your dog to chew on that are not appropriate need to be removed from their area when they are unsupervised.  Remember your pup is essentially a 2-year-old toddler emotionally.  They have no concept of value, or ownership (in the sense that we consider ownership).  Our dogs only learn to do the things that WE teach them to do.  

So how do you teach your dog not to chew on inappropriate things?  I’m so glad you asked!  

The first step of teaching our dogs what not to chew on, is to teach them what they are allowed to chew on. Sound to simple?  I promise you it’s not.  Our dogs learn that things that work to get our attention are the things they should do again.  Remember that game of chase down the hallway trying to get your shoe back?  How much attention did your dog think she was getting? (A TON!!!)  Surround your dog with the things that they are going to get your approval for chewing on and then, and this is the most important part, reward them for chewing on those things.  

One of my favorite interactive toys is the Kong, or the Busy Buddy Squirrel dude.  Both of these toys are hollow, and you can stuff them with different types of treats or food.  The Kong Company even has an interactive recipe guide at their website www.kongcompany.com
My pup Yadi loves a natural peanut butter mixed with his kibble in his.  I put this in the freezer for an hour or so until the peanut butter is firm, and it keeps him busy for an hour or more.  
Frozen Peanut Butter Kongs and a horn.
Some other great treat toys are things like snuffle mats made of fleece where you can scatter their food or treats into the mat so that they have to search for it.  These are great for nose work or slow feeding options as well.  Trixie Flip Board games for dogs also have several levels of puzzles where your dog has to learn to use their nose, and feet to find the hidden treats.  There are also all the natural chewing options like Bully Sticks, Buffalo Horns (which are also fillable) and Antlers. All of these options are great to keep pups occupied while you are busy or not at home.  

The other side of this issue is of course the training side.  The first step is to start teaching your pup 2 specific behaviors, Leave it and Drop it.  These will be covered in another post.

The Kona Diaries - Secondary Fear Stage and Vet Visits

This morning I had a plan.  I was going to take Kona to Hollywood Feed for some social interactions.  Since spending all this time at home...