Shared Blog Post – Just a Whisper: The Early Signs of Fear in Dog Body Language, Eileen Anderson, eileeanddogs.com

< Updated 24OCT22 >

In this blog post from October 20, 2022, Eileen Anderson of eileenanddogs.com and co-author of  Puppy Socialization – What It Is and How to Do It discusses a recent walk with her 18-month-old dog Lewis. She describes his first encounter with a new object, a trailer parked in front of the house next door. Eileen also includes photos that illustrate the very subtle body language, whispers as she describes them, that Lewis expressed that indicate his wariness towards the trailer.

I believe it is essential for everyone with a dog to be very familiar with its body language. This is even more important if the dog is not socialized or expresses fear and anxiety. It is not uncommon for rescue dogs to have little or no socialization and to be fearful in new situations. When we react to the whispers before the shouting (growling, barking, lunging) starts, we have saved our dog from unnecessary trauma, which should ALWAYS be our goal.

Read Eileen’s blog post athttps://eileenanddogs.com/blog/2022/10/20/just-a-whisper-the-early-signs-of-fear-in-dog-body-language/

 

Pet Insurance – How to Choose A Provider

Pet Insurance – How to Choose A Provider

By Don Hanson, PCBC-A, BFRAP

< A version of this article is scheduled to be published in Pets and Their People  >

< A version of this article was published in the September 2022 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 23OCT22 >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/PetInsurance-Choosing >

In my article Pet Health Insurance – Why It’s A Good Idea, I discussed why I recommend every pet parent consider purchasing pet insurance, especially when their pet is young and before they have any preexisting conditions. In this article, I suggest what you want to consider before enrolling in any health insurance plan for your pet.

When we decided to purchase pet health insurance for Muppy in 2013, there were far fewer options than there are today. That also means it was not as complicated. There were fewer companies, and it was easier to find independent and unbiased reviews online. Today several major insurance companies are offering policies for pets as they see this as a financially lucrative market. Their participation could drive prices up or down. However, if you already have homeowners, renters, or auto policies with those companies, you may get a discount,

Also, as we see more veterinary practices purchased by corporate entities, they may recommend specific insurance in where they have a financial interest. That concerns me.

When you see articles online with a title like “The Best Pet Health Insurance for 2022,” be aware that there is a distinct possibility the review is biased. You will find many such articles, and they seldom rate individual companies the same way. It’s common for vendors of all sorts of products to use this technique to make their product looks like it is number one.

As you consider a provider, I first recommend choosing wisely for the long haul. Remember, once your pet has been seen for a health issue, they are unlikely to be covered by insurance because it is a preexisting condition. If you are insured when something occurs, you will likely need to stay with that insurer to maintain coverage.

Don’t select the first plan you see, the one that is cheapest, or the one your cousin, breeder, or favorite shelter recommended without doing your own research. A great place to start is by asking pet care professionals like your veterinarian, boarding kennel, daycare, groomer, and trainers about their experience with insurance. They may have their own experience and know other clients that have had good and bad experiences. Like hairdressers and bartenders, our clients often share with us.

However, also recognize that in some cases, pet care professionals, breeders, shelters, and rescues may receive compensation for recommending certain pet health insurance products. So don’t be afraid to ask them if they fall into this category.

When talking to your veterinarian, ask if they have worked with the provider you are considering. As with human healthcare, you need your provider and insurer to work together. Insurers need information to process a claim, so you want to ensure your veterinarian can and will provide that information as required.

Speak to other people in your circle who have pets that might have pet insurance. What has their experience been?

Determine your budget and if you will be able to maintain payments moving forward. The price of your policy may increase. If you stop making payments and your pet has an issue being covered, you may lose that coverage forever.

Assess what you want your plan to cover. You can purchase insurance that covers annual wellness visits; however, these are likely to be more expensive than a plan that only covers emergencies. Some plans may offer discounts for multiple pets, while others may limit the maximum annual payout. If complementary therapies are essential to you (acupuncture, Chinese medicine, Chiropractic, and Homeopathy), make sure they are covered by the plan you select. Lastly, read the fine print before signing or paying for anything.

Before purchasing a plan, consider your alternatives. If you are good at budgeting and setting aside money in a bank account for your pet, that may be all you need. However, recognize that veterinary emergencies can cost thousands of dollars, so it may take you a while to build that account. There are also products available for pets, just like a Health Savings Account (HSA) would work for us.

In summary, it is unlikely that the cost of veterinary care for a pet will decrease. To help make sure you can pay for your pet’s care, consider pet health insurance or its alternatives before you need it. You and your pet will be glad you did.

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), serving on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairing the Advocacy Division. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this article are those of Don Hanson.

©23OCT22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Pet Health Insurance – Why It’s A Good Idea

Pet Health Insurance – Why It’s A Good Idea

By Don Hanson, PCBC-A, BFRAP

< A version of this article was published in Pets and Their People on  October 10th, 2022 >

< A version of this article was published in the August 2022 issue of Downeast Dog News >

< Updated 23OCT22 >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/PetInsurance-Why >

My wife and I decided pet insurance was worth investigating when we adopted Muppy in 2013. We had several unplanned vet bills with previous pets requiring emergency surgery or because they were treated for chronic issues for many years. So when we adopted Boomer that fall, we also purchased a policy for him. Nine years later, I believe it was a wise investment.

In the fall of 2020, I started talking about pet health insurance with students in my Puppy Headstart-ONLINE class. It follows the module where we discuss chewing and dogs consuming inappropriate and dangerous items. I show my students x-rays, which veterinarians have posted online, showing some of the scary things dogs have ingested.   A partial list includes; coins, toys, spoons, forks, a fish hook, a segment of a fishing pole, batteries, socks, tennis balls, 4lbs of gravel, and even an 8-in kitchen knife. A veterinarian even told me about a dog that had swallowed a  brassiere. Unfortunately, a dog consuming items like these is not unusual; ask your veterinarian.

I discuss pet insurance with my puppy students because this is the time in a dog’s life when they put anything and everything in their mouth. However, I also bring it up before their puppy swallows something dangerous. Unlike human health insurance, pet insurance typically does not cover pre-existing conditions.  Suppose you wait to purchase pet health insurance until your puppy has consumed something requiring veterinary care. In that case, the future ingestion of inappropriate items will likely be excluded from coverage. I have clients with dogs that have had multiple expensive surgeries to remove items swallowed by their dogs. They would have been covered if they had purchased insurance before the first incident.

In addition to worrying about swallowing hard goods, there are many other items a dog can consume that can be deadly. These include; tobacco (nicotine) and marijuana-based (THC) products. Products designed to help one quit smoking, such as patches and chewing gum, contain enough nicotine, even after discarding them, to be toxic to dogs. The same is true of vaping products containing nicotine or THC.

Then there are the things we might consume, which can also be deadly to our dogs. A partial list includes; marijuana edibles, grapes, raisins, chocolate, and anything containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol (birch alcohol). A partial list of products with Xylitol includes sugar-free candy and gum, breath mints, toothpaste, children’s vitamins, ready-to-go pudding, and even some peanut butter brands.

I cannot emphasize enough that the probability of consuming dangerous things does not end after puppyhood or will happen only once. I know of a dog that recently ate a bag of chocolate chips resulting in a vet bill approaching $2000. I have a client whose dog swallowed a sock on six occasions, requiring surgery. One of the x-rays I show my puppy students is of a dog’s stomach filled with 44 socks.  I know two people who had dogs that got into gum containing Xylitol. One dog survived after a three-day stay in the doggie equivalent of an ICU. One dog died.

So why pet health insurance? Simply because any of the abovementioned incidents could result in a costly bill. Also, it is not just the ingestion of items that can cause an unplanned vet bill. Like us, dogs are subject to trauma, orthopedic issues, heat stroke, and tick-borne diseases. Additionally, there are many chronic diseases to consider; skin disorders, ear infections, urinary blockages, seizures, behavior disorders, diabetes, renal disease, and cancer. Pet insurance can help with all these expenses if you have it in place before it occurs.

We decided to purchase pet insurance for Muppy because of a previous dog who had seizures for seven years of his life and another that had two immune system disorders. The treatment cost for both was significant. In addition, we purchased it for our cat Boomer because we had previous male cats who experienced a blocked urethra which can be deadly and is not inexpensive to treat.

The policies we chose do not cover annual wellness exams, but we are covered in the case of the unexpected. Muppy has had five incidents where her insurance paid a significant part of the bill; 1) treatment for a back injury, 2) treatment for Lyme disease, 3) treatment for anaplasmosis, 4) eye surgery, and 5) treatment for another eye issue. So I believe it has more than paid for itself in dollars and peace of mind.

Check out my article on choosing a pet insurance provider.

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), serving on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairing the Advocacy Division. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this article are those of Don Hanson.

©23OCT22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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When Can I Stop Training My Dog?

When Can I Stop Training My Dog?

By Don Hanson, PCBC-A, BFRAP

< A version of this article was published in Pets and Their People on June 28, 2022 >

< A version of this article was published in the October 2022 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 22OCT22  >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/WhenCanIStopTrainingMyDog >

 

My students often ask when they can stop training their dogs. That’s when I ask them when do you anticipate you will stop learning. My point is that we are still learning as long as we are alive. The same is true of our dogs.

If our dog is awake, they learn from us and the environment in which they live. Since the environment is vast and almost always available to our dogs, it provides more learning opportunities than we do. For example, a child in a high chair or an elderly parent at the dining room table can teach your dog by accidentally or intentionally dropping tidbits of food while eating. In this case, your dog may be learning something you would rather they hadn’t.

Understand that your dog may also learn from dogs and people it interacts with at the dog park or doggie daycare. Even the wind blowing through your apple tree at the end of summer, causing fruit to drop, could be teaching your dog. Considering your dog is always learning, I believe there are many excellent reasons to continue training them.

Reasons to Continue Training Your Dog

We all need a refresher now and then if we expect to maintain our skills. While I had two years of German back in high school, I have not used that knowledge and skill for years, and as a result, ich kann kein Deutsch mehr (I can no longer speak German.). If we stop asking our dogs to do what we have taught them, they may get rusty and not respond as well as we would like. Muppy and I practice behaviors like sit, leave it, and recall regularly. Having a reliable leave it and recall can save your dog’s life.

However, I also practice training for my benefit. Training is a mechanical skill; like all skills, it requires maintenance, just like a golf swing. The only difference between a clicker and treats and a golf club and ball is the furry friend I’m interacting with is sentient, whereas the golf ball is not.

However, a second and even more important reason to continue training your dog is that it is a great way to provide you both with mental stimulation. When done right, training will be fun and will make your bond even stronger. That doesn’t mean you must be enrolled in a dog training class. A well-designed dog training program will leave you with the skills and knowledge you need to continue working with your dog long after completing the class; however, if you attend a class so that you can both learn something new, why not! For example, Muppy and I recently attended a new class ForceFreePets is offering called The Joy of Sniffing. We had a blast! We both learned new skills, but, more importantly, we had fun doing something together. We’re using what we learned several times per week

Remember, training does not need to be limited to things like sit and recall. You can teach your dog silly tricks or teach them to use their nose while playing fun scent games like find it. You will soon forget you’re learning when you and your dog have fun together. The best teachers I have had in my life were able to make learning fun.

My point is that minimally, we at least need to acknowledge that our dog will be learning their entire life. So why not use that zest for knowledge by turning it into an opportunity to continue nourishing our bond with our dog while having fun?

Determining If Your Dog Understands SIT

Students often ask, how can I tell if my dog understands what I’m teaching them? How we assess a dog’s training can vary with what we’re teaching, the environment where we are testing them, and the dog and their physical and emotional status at that particular point in time. Below you will find one method you can use to assess how well your dog understands a simple behavior like sit.

In each scenario, you will give your dog a single visual or verbal cue and look for them to respond in 1 to 2 seconds, eight times out of 10.

  • In three different rooms in your home
  • For three family members
  • With you standing in front of the dog
  • With you sitting in a chair with the dog in front of you
  • With you sitting on the floor with the dog in front of you
  • In three different places in your yard
  • In three other locations away from your home
  • In a distracting environment

The ultimate test can be if you can lie on your back in an environment where you usually play with your dog, and they will respond to your cue.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(
http://www.words-woofs-meows.com  )

What Is Dog Training? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsDogTraining

What to Look for When Choosing a Dog Trainer – https://bit.ly/DogTrainerChoosing

Do I Need a Dog Trainer or a “Behaviorist”? – http://bit.ly/WWM-Trainer-Behaviorist

What Is A Pet Behavior Consultant? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsPetBhxConsulting

Help! My Dog Is Stubborn! – https://bit.ly/HelpStubborn

There Are No “Stubborn” Dogs – Twelve Steps to Becoming Best Friends for Life – https://bit.ly/12Steps-BestFriendsForLife

Dog Training – A Rescue Dogs Perspective – http://bit.ly/Rescue-Muppy

Reward Based Training versus Aversives – http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

What Is Clicker Training? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsClickerTraining

About Don Hanson – https://blog.greenacreskennel.com/about-the-author-don-hanson/

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), serving on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairing the Advocacy Division. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this article are those of Don Hanson.

©22OCT22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Shared Blog Post – Human Foods Dogs Can & Can’t Eat by Dr. Karen Becker

< Updated 22SEP22 >

Knowing what “human foods” you can safely feed your dog can be confusing. Unfortunately, the internet and even pet care professionals, who should know better, often give contradictory and confusing advice. Sadly, that advice is often only supported by myths and not research studies based on science. Even sadder is that we deprive our dogs of some healthy, natural sources of vital micronutrients.

On September 21st, 2022, veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker posted an infographic on Facebook, adding clarity to this topic. Thank you, Dr. Becker!

You can view, print, or download a PDF of Dr. Becker’s infographic and her comments at this link –Human Foods Dogs Can & Cant Eat-Dr Karen Becker

Dr. Karen Becker on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/doctor.karen.becker

There Are No “Stubborn” Dogs – Twelve Steps to Becoming Best Friends for Life

< A version of this article was published in the June and July 2022 issues of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 31AUG22 >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/12Steps-BestFriendsForLife >

If you have read my article, Help! My Dog is Stubborn! you already know that I believe that dogs are never stubborn but simply misunderstood. In this article, I will introduce twelve steps to help you and your dog become best friends for life, a far cry from stubborn.

Step #1Focus on being your dog’s best friend, not their master. Be committed to the idea that you and your dog are a team working together. Make it your goal to thrive on a life of companionship and the adventures you share, not blind, perfect obedience. Your dog will notice your positive and considerate attitude, and they will respond in kind.

Step #2 – Take time to learn about dogs. Your dog is a sentient being very different than a human and far more complicated than your smartphone. To make the best of your life with your dog, you need to take time to learn about them. You need to understand their senses, how they communicate, how they interpret communication from people, the best ways to teach them, how they express emotions, what constitutes normal and abnormal behavior, and what they need to have a long and happy life. A dog training class taught under the direction of a credentialed professional dog trainer or canine behavior consultant should address all of those subjects. Meanwhile, an excellent place to start is with these two books; Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet by John Bradshaw and On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas.

Step #3 – Build and nurture a relationship based on mutual trust. You cannot be a best friend or have a relationship with your dog unless you trust one another. Trust is earned. However, it takes time and patience, especially if you have a rescue dog who may have had a rough start. While achieving your dog’s trust can take weeks, that trust can be lost instantly.

Step #4ALWAYS be kind and patient. Smile at your dog instead of making “frowny faces.” Speak softly and gently, not loudly and with an authoritarian tone. Handle your dog gently, and don’t grab at them. Never use force or fear to intimidate your dog; always be patient and help them learn.

Step #5 – Show empathy and understand your dog’s emotions. Dogs have a rich emotional life and experience positive emotions like joy and contentment and negative emotions like fear, grief, and anger. Help your dog through those negative moments just as they may try to help you when you feel bad. Understand that an emotional response cannot typically be “trained out” of a dog. If you need help addressing your dog’s negative emotions, seek help from your veterinarian or an accredited professional dog behavior consultant sooner rather than later.

Step #6 – Let your dog make choices. Trust your dog’s instincts and understand they will feel better when they have options like you. Be their advocate when they are out in the world. Do not allow others to force your dog to interact.

Step #7 – Understand the world from your dog’s point of view. While we share our dog’s five senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch, they prioritize them differently. For example, we might enjoy a brisk walk around the same block every day, letting our minds wander. However, most dogs will enjoy a walk that involves following their nose and making frequent stops to sniff and explore. Your dog may even choose to go in an entirely different direction at any moment. These are incompatible ways to walk, so it is our responsibility to take our preferred walk without the dog and then take the dog on a walk they will enjoy. Think of it as your dog helping you increase your daily steps.

Step #8 – Gently teach your dog how to live harmoniously in your world. When we bring a dog into our world, we are responsible for teaching them how to live in a foreign culture. You need to start by learning their welfare needs and language. Then you need to patiently teach them by rewarding the behavior you like.

Behaviors that are rewarded will be repeated, and the more they are repeated, the stronger they become. So please do not hesitate to reward your dog for being calmly by your side, even if you did not ask for that behavior. For every millisecond you think about correcting your dog, spend 100 hours rewarding them. That is the key to success!

Manage your dog and its environment to prevent undesirable behavior. Understand that teaching a dog is a process and will take time. Remember, your parents spent 18+ years teaching you. It is unrealistic to expect your dog to learn everything it needs to know in a couple of months.

Training a dog also requires knowledge and skills. A credentialed professional dog trainer or canine behavior consultant can provide that knowledge and teach and coach you on those skills.

Step #9 – Accept your dog for who they are. Dogs are living, sentient beings whose personalities are just as variable as those found in people. Not all dogs are extroverts and automatically like every other person or dog on the planet. Neither do people, and that’s okay. Not every retrieving breed likes the water and retrieving, nor does every herding breed like to round up livestock. No matter what breed or mix of breeds you have in your dog, you will not always get what you want, and you need to accept your dog for the wonderful canine they are. If you need help, seek a credentialed professional dog trainer or canine behavior consultant.

Step #10 – Ensure that everyone interacting with your dog follows rules #1 thru #9. Unless you’re a hermit with no family, many other people will interact with your dog throughout their life. That can include friends, family members of all ages, co-workers, neighbors, and a wide variety of pet care professionals such as veterinarians, daycare and boarding facilities, groomers, pet sitters, dog walkers, dog trainers, and behavior consultants. You must help all these people understand and accept rules 1 through 9. If other people are not kind to your dog, it can negatively affect your dog’s behavior around other people. Remember, your dog cannot always stand up for themselves; that is up to you.

Step #11 – Do something fun with your dog every day. Often, the strongest relationships involve two parties doing something together that they both enjoy. Find that special something you and your dog love doing together, and then make the time to do it daily. Don’t overthink this. There can be more than one thing you both love, and sometimes it can be as simple as your dog sitting in your lap snuggling while you read or watch your favorite show on TV. Activities like going for walks [ as long as you allow your dog to sniff and explore], playing fetch [ in moderation ], going for car rides, or just dancing in the backyard all count. The important thing is finding those activities and making time for them. If you do, you and your dog will benefit and strengthen your bond.

Step #12 – Enjoy your journey together. The saddest part of sharing your life with a dog is that that journey ends too soon. So instead of striving for perfection, focus on the joy you feel when together. Commit to making every moment count so that when the journey ends, you can both say, “Thank you for this wonderful time together! I’ll miss you until we are reunited on the other side!”

I hope that I have convinced you that your dog is not stubborn and to give my program a try. From personal experience and feedback from my clients, I know that it will help you and your dog become best friends for life.

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), serving on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairing the Advocacy Division. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this article are those of Don Hanson.

©31AUG22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Help! My Dog Is Stubborn!

Help! My Dog Is Stubborn!
By Don Hanson, PCBC-A, BFRAP

< A version of this article was published in the April & May 2022 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 29AUG22 >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/HelpStubborn >

What Is Stubborn?

I have often heard a prospective or existing student say, Can you help me? My dog is so stubborn.” I’m not a fan of the word “stubborn.” Too often, it is used in a derogatory manner as a result of frustration when something or someone is not behaving in a way that is perceived as desirable. Yet it is a word that most of us, myself included, use occasionally. “Stubborn” is used between spouses, co-workers, parents, children, and yes, by people describing their dogs.

Before starting this article, I looked at several definitions for “stubborn” and finally settled on one from Dictionary.com. All of the definitions reviewed were revealing in that they suggested the response of the “stubborn” party was “unreasonable.”This indicates a lack of understanding why another being might choose not to do something we want.

Empathy is essential when interacting with anyone, but especially when working with a different species, such as a dog, which has very different needs and communication methods than humans. Understanding these needs and what our dogs communicate to us is crucial to empathizing with them. Furthermore, if we want to have the best relationship possible with our dogs, we need to work diligently toward meeting their species-specific needs. [ FMIhttp://bit.ly/Brambells-1-5 ]

Let’s examine the simple exercise of teaching a dog to sit and examine why even a well-trained dog might choose not to “sit” when asked to do so.

Anxious/Afraid/Hyper-excited – No living thing learns or responds well when stressed. If your dog is under stress for any reason, it is not a good time to train; it does not matter if the stress is rooted in fear or excitement. When under stress, the part of the brain responsible for learning is deactivated to allow one to focus on survival. Even if your dog is exceptionally well trained, it may be unrealistic to expect them to respond reliably when they are worried or highly aroused. [ FMI – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress ]

Physical Discomfort or Illness – Think of the last time you were hurting, nauseous, or tired. The odds are that it caused you to move slower or possibly not to move at all. Unfortunately, our dogs experience injuries and exhaustion just as people do, and this may cause them to appear to be “stubborn.” Additionally, some trainers use tools designed to cause physical pain (shock, prong, and choke collars). Pain, whether from an injury or intentionally inflicted by a person, will cause stress, which may cause a dog to shut down, act “hyper,” or respond aggressively.

Not all physical discomfort comes from pain. I have known more than one dog that refused to lie down on a cold floor or sit on hot asphalt. My dog Muppy will choose not to go outside during heavy rainfall. The anatomy of some breeds also makes certain positions, such as sitting or lying down, more or less comfortable. Is it fair to say your dog is “stubborn” for refusing to do certain behaviors when they are in physical or emotional distress? Of course not.

Lack of Understanding/Training – Have you ever started to learn something and were then asked to use that knowledge before you were ready? Was that stressful? Over the years, I have encountered people who expect their dog to “get it” with only minimal training. Unfortunately, when the dog fails to respond, they blame the dog.

Dogs are discriminators, which means that training a dog requires teaching behaviors in a wide variety of environments and situations while gradually increasing distractions for many repetitions. Training a dog for an hour a week in a six-week training class is just the beginning of a training program that would benefit almost every dog. Achieving reliable responses from a dog requires that you, the trainer, be knowledgeable and skilled in canine behavior, body language, and the selection and use of rewards. The treats you use and the timing of the treat delivery are essential to getting reliable behavior. Working with a professional and credentialed dog training instructor can be very helpful. [ FMIhttp://bit.ly/HowToSelectADogTrainer ]

Your Challenge

If your dog is not behaving as you desire, before you call them “stubborn,” ask yourself why that might be. Is your dog afraid or over-excited? Could they be experiencing physical or emotional distress? Do they understand what you want? You and the dog will get more frustrated with one another until you address the core issues for their lack of response.

I believe that a dog that appears to be stubborn is under stress or in pain, has had inadequate training, or is insufficiently motivated.

Like us, our dogs need to be motivated to do things. Motivation is simply offering an incentive to another living being to do something. For many people, an example of a primary motivator is the paycheck we receive from our employers. Of course, our employer could punish us instead of paying us, but we are unlikely to show up the next day unless we’re enslaved.

Motivation can be either a reward or a punishment. With dogs, punishment as a motivator typically involves yelling or using force to cause physical pain, fear, or emotional distress. Pain and fear can be highly motivating the instant they are applied. However, using punishment as a motivator will likely irreparably damage the relationship between the punisher and the victim. It can make the mere presence of the punisher a demotivator for life. Thus, choosing punishment as a motivator is not only cruel; it is an inefficient and unproductive way to train. This is one of many reasons why the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and the American Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) and many trainers recommend punishment NEVER be used to train or care for a dog. [ FMIhttps://bit.ly/Pos_HumaneTraining ]

Many types of rewards can motivate dogs: food, play, and physical touch are at the top of the list. However, contrary to popular belief, praise does not qualify as a reward in and of itself. Back in the seventies, a group of Monks wrote a book suggesting that you should never use food as a reward with your dog. However, several studies have since confirmed that food has more value as a reward than either praise or touch.

Food is a great choice when training dogs.  Professional animal trainers use it all the time. At Sea World, the animals are trained with food and continue to get food as a reward for their performances long after they have been taught. Our employer doesn’t stop paying us after we learn how to do our jobs.  So why would we ever stop rewarding our dog for doing something we want?

While play can be valuable as a reward, I find it less efficient than food. Since training is all about repetition, efficiency is critical. I often get as many 5 to 10 behaviors per minute when using food while training a dog. In contrast, one must refocus the dog after every play session when using play as a reward. It is like coming in from recess when we were in grade school; the teacher had to get us settled before they could start teaching us. However, play can be a great reward after training a dog.

Food is a great motivator, but we must remember that some foods are more motivating than others, especially if what we are asked to do is difficult or something we do not enjoy. Therefore we must identify the food that our dog likes best.

While many dogs are known to eat almost anything (even what we consider inedible), some can be finicky. In my experience, treats that smell and taste of meat are usually valued higher by our canine companions. If one of my students doesn’t believe me, I suggest we call his dog at the same time. The student uses pieces of the dog’s kibble while I use some leftover roast beef or chicken. The dog races to me, and voila, the student gets it. The point is that treat value matters. So don’t be stingy to protect your ego.

Teaching a dog to sit can be relatively easy since most dogs sit anyway of their own accord. With “sit,” we are just training our dogs to do something they already do naturally.  When initially teaching the “sit” in a low distraction environment, I will probably use a mixture of low to medium-value treats (kibble or other treats with very little meat content) with a high-value treat thrown in at random for an exceptional response. However, when training in a more distracting environment, for example, in a group training class or in a park where children are playing, I will probably need to increase the value of the treats to be successful. Don’t let your ego get in the way of helping your dog be successful; use better treats when you need to!

Training recall is more difficult to teach than sit because we ask the dog to go against its instincts. Often when we most want our dogs to come, they are simultaneously distracted by something extremely motivating (a taunting squirrel or anything else they find very tempting). Therefore, if we are going to be successful, we must be even more enticing than the squirrel. For this reason, I always use special, high-value treats when training recall. Even after my dog has a reliable recall, I continue to reward them every time.

To learn how to turn your “allegedly stubborn” dog into your best friend for life, check out my article There Are No Stubborn Dogs–12 Steps to Becoming Best Friends for Life at – https://bit.ly/12Steps-BestFriendsForLife

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Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), serving on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairing the Advocacy Division. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this article are those of Don Hanson.

©24AUG22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Shared Blog Post – Are Retractable Leashes Bad? Let Us Count the Ways …, Cathy Gait for Outward hound

< Updated 29AUG22 >

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Thanks to Cathy Gair for this excellent article for outward hound outlining why retractable or Flexi leads cause far too much harm for any benefit they provide. Read the article at  https://outwardhound.com/furtropolis/water-safety/why-are-retractable-leashes-bad

Shared Blog Post – Experiencing a High Magnitude Punisher and Its Fallout – Eileen Anderson

< Updated 14JUL22 >

In her blog post of July 11th, 2022, Eileen Anderson of EileenandDogs describes how unexpectedly getting stung by a wasp dramatically changed her behavior. I have shared Eileen’s post on my blog because this same type of response can occur when our pets experience something they find punishing. Understand that what they experienced may not seem traumatic to you; however, how you perceived the incident is irrelevant if the injured party found the experience traumatic. Mammalian brains are designed to remember traumatic events FOREVER so we can avoid being hurt again. This is a deep-seated emotional response and typically cannot just be “trained away.” If you find your dog is suddenly afraid, you may better understand how they feel after reading Eileen’s post.

FMI – https://eileenanddogs.com/blog/2022/07/11/experiencing-high-magnitude-aversive-fallout/

Shared Blog Post – Punishment in Animal Training – It’s Unnecessary and Harmful

If you care for animals, please read this excellent article from BARKS from the Guild on why punishment in animal training is not only totally unnecessary but also has great potential to be extremely harmful. Then share it with others, including those pet care professionals who still recommend punishment. If they choose not to read because “they know it all,” they have just demonstrated they know very little. We can stop hurting animals if we all work together and take a stand. Thank you for helping. – https://barksmagazine.com/article/punishment-in-animal-training/?