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

________________________________________________________________________
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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Potential Causes for Reactivity (Shyness, Anxiety, Fear, and Terror) in a Dog

< Updated 22MAY22 >

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

Reactivity in a dog is one of the most common reasons I see clients with behavioral concerns about their dog. Frequently, this is triggered by fear. Fear occurs on a continuum from mild shyness or timidity to anxiety, fear, and ultimately terror. Reactivity can also be caused by frustration, anger, and rage, another continuum. Even positive stress, or eustress, such as happiness that leads to hyper-excitement, may cause undesirable reactivity. Fear, anger, and hyper-excitement are emotional responses that may result in reactivity and aggression. While what we call “dog training” can work well for teaching a dog to respond to a cue like sit or down, emotional responses cannot be “trained” away. When a dog or person is in an extreme emotional state, they are under stress, making learning very difficult, if not impossible. When experiencing this level of stress, the dog is under the influence of the “fight or flight response” and is solely concerned about its survival.

A dog can be fearful for many reasons:

Genetics – If either parent were on the fear spectrum, all of their offspring would likely be somewhere on the spectrum. Knowing if either of a dog’s parents is fearful can be very helpful in determining how and if we can help them. If you have not already done so, I recommend talking to the breeder or the rescue or shelter where you obtained your dog. However, understand they may not have information or may misinterpret what they do know.

Medical Conditions – A medical issue can often trigger a sudden behavior change. Pain and any physical or emotional discomfort can cause behavioral changes in pets. Disorders of the nervous, endocrine, reproductive, and gastrointestinal systems can also affect your pet’s behavior.

Tick-borne diseases have become much more prevalent in Maine. A few years ago, we only needed to worry about Lyme disease. Today we also need to be concerned about Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, Ehrlichiosis, Powassan Encephalitis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These diseases can cause changes in behavior, including; anorexia, anxiety, confusion, depression, fatigue, malaise, and other subtle mental disorders. I have experienced this with my dog Muppy who has had Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. Both times she exhibited fearful behavior as the only sign of infection. However, once treated by her veterinarian, her behavior returned to normal.

I recommend that a veterinarian rule out any medical issues for fearful behavior before addressing it as a behavioral problem. If your veterinarian does not have experience with treating behavior, I recommend that you see Dr. Christine Calder, a Veterinary Behaviorist practicing in Maine. [ Calder Veterinary Behavior Services, (207) 298-4375, www.caldervbs.com]

Socialization – A puppy has a critical socialization and habituation period that begins when three weeks old and ends between 12 to 16 weeks of age. During this period, a puppy is typically very open to gentle exposure to novel stimuli set up to create a positive association. A puppy should always be given a choice as to whether or not they interact with someone or something. Forced interactions may cause a traumatic experience.

Ideally, you want to carefully expose a puppy to everything it will encounter in its life before they reach 12 to 16 weeks of age. However, if your puppy is acting fearfully during this period, it may be a sign of fear due to a medical issue or genetic issue, in which case I recommend you see your veterinarian immediately.

You can attempt remedial socialization after 16 weeks of age, but it requires a well-thought-out plan. This is not typically a DIY project, and I recommend you seek the services of a credentialed canine behavior consultant or a veterinary behaviorist.

Past or Recent Physical, Mental or Emotional Trauma – A dog’s brain works similar to ours; it is designed to permanently record any distressing experience in one trial to avoid that situation in the future. The next time the dog is exposed to whatever caused the trauma, it may try to flee, freeze in place, or fight if they have no other choice.

Trauma can be physical or emotional. It is vital to understand that only the dogs’ perception matters. In other words, while we might believe that something is not scary or painful, if our dog does find that “something” causes discomfort or is frightening, that is the reality from their perspective. This is a time when our opinion does not matter.

The problem with helping our dog get past a  traumatic event is that we may not even know when it occurred, and the dog has no way to tell us. Nor can our dog provide us with any details about the event. For example, suppose your dog is reactive to a specific individual. It could be due to their appearance, behavior, scent, or sounds they made. It could even be due to something in the environment which your dog associated with the individual. As you can see, appearance, behavior, scent, sound, and the environment open up a wide range of possible triggers. What your dog is reacting to may even be a combination of several things, further complicating matters.

Unfortunately, we may never know what our dog fears unless we witness the triggering event. For example, my first dog suddenly became afraid of her water dish and would not drink from it or approach it. Fortunately, I did witness what happened. It was winter, and the air in our home was very dry. We were all in the living room, where the floor was covered with a thick shag carpet. My dog ran along the carpet to her steel water bowl, which was at the edge of the carpet in the dining room, which was not carpeted. She lowered her head to get a drink which caused her to yelp and run away back into the living room. I walked across the carpet, bent down to look at the bowl, touched it, and received a static shock. It was not something I was expecting, but it clearly explained why my dog was suddenly afraid of her dish. Fortunately, I got her drinking again by switching to a non-metal dish and placing it in another location. However, suppose I had not seen that incident in its entirety. In that case, I might never have determined why Trivia suddenly became afraid of her water bowl.

Thunderstorms can be a traumatic event for some dogs creating a lifelong fear. We presume they are reacting to the thunder or lightning, but that is not always the case. Some dogs start reacting before they hear thunder or see a lightning bolt. For example, a friend had a dog who became afraid of storms when they lived in a home struck by lightning. After that,  a clap of thunder or bolt of lightning caused the dog to run to the basement. However, over time the dog’s fear generalized to other typical things that occur during a thunderstorm, such as trees blowing in the wind. Therefore, it is essential to understand that any fear can generalize beyond the initial trigger.

Some of the more typical traumas experienced by dogs include;

  • Physical injury such as a fall, being hit by a car or being bitten by another animal.
  • Physical abuse such as being hit or kicked by a person or being subjected to training methods and tools designed to force compliance through pain such as shock, prong, or choke collars.
  • Emotional trauma is often associated with physical injuries and abuse. However, even yelling at a dog has the potential to create an unforgettable fear. Likewise, even angry body language expressed by a person can create emotional trauma.

Not all incidents of physical or emotional trauma will cause fear. Whether or not it does depends on the event, the individual dog, and its previous history.

The most important thing to remember when helping a dog overcome anxiety is that the dog gets to decide what causes its fear. Our opinion does not matter.

Addressing Fear – The first two steps in determining why your dog is fearful are; ruling out any potential genetic or medical issues. Neither training nor behavior modification will be helpful until the medical issues are resolved.

The third step is to manage the dog and its environment to prevent exposure to anything that could trigger their fear. In my experience, a well-designed behavior modification protocol and appropriate behavioral medications are almost always necessary when treating anxiety and aggression.

Recommended Resources

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

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do?http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful?http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Essential Handouts On Body Language, and Canine and Human Behavior from Dr. Sophia Yinhttps://bit.ly/YinBodyLang

Shared Blog Post – Reactivity Misunderstood – https://bit.ly/ReactivityMisunderstood

Shared Blog Post – the misunderstanding of time by Nancy Tannerhttp://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/11/16/shared-blog-post-the-misunderstanding-of-time-by-nancy-tanner/

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

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

The emotional toll of a reactive dog by Jay Gurden in Dog’s Today – http://bit.ly/SharedGurenEmotional

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ )

Canine Behavior: Myths & Facts – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/03/27/podcast-canine-behavior-myths-and-facts/

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/03/13/podcast-the-woof-meow-show-pet-behavior-vets-the-aaha-canine-and-feline-behavior-management-guidelines-with-dr-dave-cloutier-from-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collarshttp://bit.ly/ShockPodcast

The Pet Professional Guild and the Shock-Free Coalition with Niki Tudgehttp://bit.ly/PodCastShockFree-NikiTudge-2017

What’s Shocking About Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Traininghttp://bit.ly/WfMw-WhatShock-27JUL19

Podcast – Charlee and the Electronic Shock Containment System w-Dan Antolechttps://bit.ly/Blog-Charlee_E-Fence

To Find A Qualified and Credential Animal Behavioral Specialist

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) https://www.dacvb.org/search/custom.asp

Animal Behavior Society ( ABS ) Certified Applied Animal Behavior Consultants – http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/applied-behavior-caab-directory.php

Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB)https://www.credentialingboard.com/Professionals

________________________________________________________________________

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), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee. 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 post are those of Don Hanson.

©22MAY22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Shared Blog Post – Behavioral Euthanasia: Making the Hard Decision

< Updated 05MAY22 >

Considering whether or not euthanasia is appropriate for a pet is never easy. However, it can be even more complicated when behavioral considerations are a primary factor in the process. Dr. Christine Calder, a veterinary behaviorist, recently addressed this topic in an article entitled Behavioral Euthanasia: Making the Hard Decision in the May 2022 edition of Downeast Dog News. If you face a decision of this nature, I encourage you to read the article, as Dr. Calder offers very sound advice and potential alternatives.

FMIhttps://downeastdognews.villagesoup.com/p/behavioral-euthanasia-making-the-hard-decision/1907099

Shared Blog Post – All About Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds – They’re NOT!

< Updated 16JAN22 >

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

Many people desperately want a dog in their life but have allergies. There are dog breeds advertised and promoted as being “hypoallergenic.” This would seem to imply that if you get one of these dogs, you will not have an allergic reaction. Sadly, the very suggestion that a dog is “hypoallergenic” is disingenuous. As noted in this recent blog post by Embark, “Being called hypoallergenic means the dog is less likely to cause someone to have an allergic reaction. However, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic.”

If you are searching for a “hypoallergenic” dog, I encourage you to read this blog post from Embark. It provides detailed, scientific information on dog allergies and which breeds may be less of a concern than others for a person that has dog allergies. However, the fact remains no dog will be 100% allergenic.

Embark – All About Hypoallergenic Dog Breedshttps://embarkvet.com/resources/blog/all-about-hypoallergenic-dog-breeds/?

If you are thinking about buying a dog from someone telling you that the dog is “hypoallergenic,” I suggest you talk to other breeders, rescues, and pet professionals before making a financial commitment. At least, ask yourself, “What else have they told me about this dog that might not be true?” The following article from my blog may be helpful as you look for the right dog for you and your family.

Adopting A Pet – Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Familyhttp://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

Book Reviews – Knowledge to Enrich the Life of You and Your Dog – The Best Dog Books of 2021

< A version of this article was published in the December 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 15NOV21 >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/BkRvwNOV2021 >

It’s the holiday season and a time when we often think about giving gifts to others. The greatest gift my parents gave me was a love of reading and a thirst for knowledge. It was a gift given out of love, knowing that it had the potential to benefit not only me but those around me. I believe it was the greatest gift I have ever received. It has nurtured my life-long love of learning, a character trait essential for any professional. What we have learned about dogs and cats in the last 30 years is amazing, and if you haven’t been keeping up, you are out of date as much of what we thought we knew has been proven incomplete or wrong.

As you may know, I often write about my favorite dog book of the year in December. This year I am highlighting two books whose content can help enrich the lives of you and your dog.

Puppy Socialization: What It Is and How to Do It by Marge Rogers and Eileen Anderson contains knowledge essential to anyone who works with puppies, has a puppy, or is contemplating getting a puppy. It is available as a paperback or in multiple e-book formats.  It is available as a paperback or in multiple e-book formats.

The concept of puppy socialization was extensively researched at Maine’s own Jackson Laboratory for 20 years, culminating in the publication of Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog by Scott and Fuller in 1965. Yet, 47 years later, too many in the dog world still do not understand the essential basics of puppy socialization. For example, it has a specific endpoint (12 to 16 weeks of age), it is as important as vaccinations, it doesn’t happen by accident but requires careful planning, it involves meeting more than the neighbors and their dog, it means creating a positive association with new things, requires you to advocate for what is best for your puppy, and is essential for normal social development.

As a canine behavior consultant, I assist people with dogs with deep-seated anxiety and often anti-social behavior that is likely the result of inappropriate or inadequate socialization during the critical period. This debilitating mental illness might have been prevented had the person caring for the dog understood puppy socialization. Reading and following the precepts in Puppy Socialization: What It Is and How to Do It might prevent you from ever needing the services of a canine behavior consultant or veterinary behaviorist.

Rogers and Anderson’s book will teach those who read it what they need to know to socialize their puppy, thus helping them have a great life together. In addition to the easy-to-read text and beautiful photographs, the book includes links to over 50 online videos. Note, it is easiest to access those videos and other online resources from one of the e-book editions.

I am so impressed by Puppy Socialization: What It Is and How to Do It that I am: 1) making it required reading for all Green Acres Kennel Shop staff, 2) incorporating it into the curriculum for my ForceFreePets.com online Puppy Headstart class, 3) will be including copies for all students in that class starting January 1st, and 4) will be gifting the book to several veterinary colleagues so that they may share it with their staff after reading it themselves.

Feeding Dogs. Dry or Raw? The Science Behind The Debate by Conor Brady, PhD. will hopefully end the debate over how to feed our dogs for optimum health. Dr. Brady spent 10-years examining what the scientific literature tells us about canine nutrition answering such questions as: is the dog a carnivore or omnivore, what are the problems with feeding kibble, why are so many people pro-kibble and anti-fresh food despite evidence to the contrary, and how to feed a dog a species-appropriate diet for optimal health. In addition, you will find a comprehensive reference list to the peer-reviewed scientific research supporting the author’s conclusions at the end of each section.

Available as a hardcover book or four e-books, Brady’s Feeding Dogs is worth every penny for those who understand that proper nutrition is the foundation of physical, mental, and emotional health. In my opinion, Feeding Dogs should be required reading for every student of veterinary medicine and recommended to every pet parent interested in optimal nutrition.

If you want to learn more about Feeding Dogs and Dr. Brady before reading the book, I encourage you to listen to this 40-minute interview at https://bit.ly/IntvwDrConorBradyFeedingDogs

No matter which winter holidays you celebrate, I wish you and your pet happy holidays and a great 2022.

Recommended Resources

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

Puppy Essentials 101- Body Language & Socialization – https://bit.ly/BHS-SocBdyLang

Essential Handouts On Body Language, and Canine and Human Behavior from Dr. Sophia YinPuppy – https://bit.ly/YinBodyLang

Socialization and Habituation – http://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Especially for New Puppy Parentshttp://bit.ly/EspcNewPuppyParents

Alone Traininghttp://bit.ly/AloneTraining

Which Companies Are Behind Your Pet’s Food?  – http://bit.ly/PetFoodComp

What I Feed My Dog and Why I Feed What I Do – https://bit.ly/WhatIFeedAndWhy

Pet Food Myths & Facts – No. 1, MYTH – Only a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist is qualified to formulate pet foodhttp://bit.ly/PetFoodMyths-Facts-4MAR21

Pet Nutrition Facts – Do You Want Optimal Nutrition, Low Cost, or Convenience? You CANNOT Have It Allhttp://bit.ly/PetNut-Opt-Cost-Con

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ )

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 1http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups1

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 2http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups2

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 3http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups3

Don Hanson and Dr. Dave Cloutier on Puppy Socialization and Vaccinationhttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/Pet_Tip_-Don_Hanson_and_Dr._Dave_Cloutier_on_Puppy_Socialization_and_Vaccinations.mp3

Podcast – What We Feed Our Pets and Why, with – Don Hanson, Kate Dutra, and Linda Casehttps://bit.ly/WfMw-WhatWeFeed-11JUL20

Podcasts-Two Conversations with Animal Nutritionist Dr. Richard Pattonhttps://bit.ly/WfMw2wPattonAPR21

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©28NOV21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

AVSAB Issues Position Statement on Humane Dog Training – Shock, Prong & Choke Collars Should NEVER Be Used

< A version of this article was published in the OCT 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 10OCT21 >

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

In August, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) issued a position statement on humane dog training. I encourage all veterinarians, dog trainers and behavior consultants, other pet care professionals, animal shelters and rescues, breeders, and pet parents to familiarize themselves with the position statement and the cited studies. This is information they MUST be familiar with to practice ethically. The position statement refutes many myths about dogs, their behavior, and training, such as dominance, pack hierarchy, and the need to be “alpha.” AVSAB concludes its statement with the following:

Based on current scientific evidence, AVSAB recommends that only reward-based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems. Aversive training methods have a damaging effect on both animal welfare and the human-animal bond. There is no evidence that aversive methods are more effective than reward-based methods in any context. AVSAB therefore advises that aversive methods should not be used in animal training or for the treatment of behavior disorders.” [emphasis added]

AVSAB joins the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which have similar position statements. FMI – https://bit.ly/Pos_HumaneTraining

One of the critical reasons for this position is that aversive methods and tools negatively affect animal welfare. They cause distress which is inhumane.

In observational studies, dogs trained with aversive methods or tools showed stress-related behaviors during training, including tense body, lower body posture, lip licking, tail lowering, lifting front leg, panting, yawning, and yelping.” 4–8

In contrast, “Dogs trained with reward-based methods showed increased attentiveness to their owner.” 5

As a pet parent, minimal or no stress and increased attentiveness are precisely what I want in my dog. As a professional dog trainer, I know it is what my clients desire as well. Having a relationship with your dog based on mutual trust is essential to successful training. Anyone who has been intentionally subjected to force, pain, or fear by someone knows those things will NEVER build trust.

Unfortunately, there are also long-term effects related to the use of aversives.

Survey studies have shown an association between the use of aversive training methods and long-term behavior problems including aggressive behavior towards people and other dogs, and anxiety-related behaviors such as avoidance and excitability.” 8–15 Additionally, “Several studies show the effect of aversive training persists beyond the time of training. After dogs learned a cue taught using aversive training methods, they continued to show stress-related behaviors when the cue was presented, suggesting the cue itself had become aversive.” 5,7,8

In other words, the use of aversives can create a lifetime of chronic stress for a dog. Most of us consider our dog our companion, and many refer to their dog as their best friend. But, who wants a life of chronic stress and fear for their best friend? No one, I hope.

Dogs with behavior issues such as reactivity, aggression, anxiety, and hyperactivity are challenging to live with and often have chronic stress in their lives, often creating distress for their person. Since these undesirable behaviors result from an emotional response, they cannot be “trained” away without first building trust. As noted above, aversives NEVER build trust. FMI – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

As a trainer, one of the first things I teach my clients is how to manage their dog and the environment to avert behaviors like aggression and anxiety. These behaviors are much easier to prevent than they are to fix after they develop. Incidentally, studies by Blackwell and Hiby10, 14 demonstrated that dogs trained using rewards are less likely to develop behavior problems than dogs trained with aversives.

Proponents of inhumane training techniques often argue that force is the only way to get results. However, that position is not supported by science. On the other hand, ample evidence in the peer-reviewed literature demonstrates that reward-based training works very well.

Reward-based training methods have been shown to be more effective than aversive methods” .1,2,17

Multiple survey studies have shown higher obedience in dogs trained with reward based methods.”9,14,18

A study by Hiby et al. (2004) “…found that obedience levels were highest for dogs trained exclusively with reward-based methods and lowest for dogs trained exclusively with aversive-based methods.” 14

The evidence from multiple studies is clear; if you want a well-trained dog, the best way to achieve that goal is with rewards, not punishment. I genuinely believe that no one with a dog wants to hurt their dog. If you or your trainer cannot get results without punishment, step back and recognize it’s time for you to learn a better way. Many trainers can help you get the results you want without resorting to aversives.

When looking for a trainer, AVSAB recommends:

An appropriate trainer should avoid any use of training tools that involve pain (choke chains, prong collars, or electronic shock collars), intimidation (squirt bottles, shaker noise cans, compressed air cans, shouting, staring, or forceful manipulation such as “alpha rolls” or “dominance downs”), physical correction techniques (leash jerking, physical force), or flooding (“exposure”). The learner must always feel safe and have the ability to “opt out” of training sessions. All efforts should be made to communicate effectively and respectfully with the learner.”

I sincerely hope that all veterinarians, pet care professionals, pet training and behavior associations, breeders, and animal shelter and rescues will develop their own positions statements and policies that support the AAHA, AVSAB, and PPG positions. It is long past time for people to continue abusing dogs in the name of training.

Recommended Resources

References

AVSAB Humane Dog Training Position Statementhttps://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/AVSAB-Humane-Dog-Training-Position-Statement-2021.pdf

2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelineshttps://www.aaha.org/globalassets/02-guidelines/behavior-management/2015_aaha_canine_and_feline_behavior_management_guidelines_final.pdf

PPG Guiding Principleshttps://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Guiding-Principles

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

How to Select A Dog Trainerhttp://bit.ly/HowToSelectADogTrainer

Important Position Statements Related to Animal Welfare & Care in the USA by Leading Organizations – https://bit.ly/Pos_HumaneTraining

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

What’s Shocking about Shock? – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training – PPG BARKS from the Guild – July 2019http://bit.ly/ShockBARK-JUL2019

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collarshttp://bit.ly/ShockCollars

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship – WWM-SEP2018 http://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – WWM-JAN2019http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-1

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – WWM-FEB2019 –  http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-2

Choke Collar Pathology – an excellent blog post from dog trainer Daniel Antolec on the dangers of using a choke collar on a dog. – http://ppgworldservices.com/2017/06/13/choke-collar-pathology/

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ )

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collarshttp://bit.ly/ShockPodcast

The Pet Professional Guild and the Shock-Free Coalition with Niki Tudgehttp://bit.ly/PodCastShockFree-NikiTudge-2017

What’s Shocking About Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Traininghttp://bit.ly/WfMw-WhatShock-27JUL19

Podcast – Charlee and the Electronic Shock Containment System w-Dan Antolechttps://bit.ly/Blog-Charlee_E-Fence

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee and The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©10OCT21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Puppy Essentials 101- Body Language & Socialization

< A version of this article was published in the Summer 2021 issue of Humanely Speaking, the newsletter of the Bangor Humane Society >

< Updated 11JUL21 >

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

Every puppy has a critical socialization period that starts when we bring them home and ends between 12 and 16 weeks of age. After this period ends, a puppy will likely view anything new as a threat. Therefore, we must socialize our puppies by exposing them to new things in a planned and controlled manner while creating a positive association.

Before beginning socialization, you must first understand canine body language, so you recognize when your puppy is uncomfortable. Incidentally, we see the same signals in adult dogs. Signs of anxiety can be as subtle as; avoiding eye contact, licking their lips, a tightly closed mouth, yawning, and scratching. If these signals do not cause the scary thing to go away, the puppy may give more emphatic signs such as looking away, panting, and trying to hide. When a puppy is terrified, it may growl, bark, lunge, or they may freeze in terror. Unfortunately, many people misunderstand the “freeze.” Since the puppy is not reacting, they believe the puppy is “fine” when in reality, they are terrified. NEVER force a puppy to interact with a living thing or object if they show any hesitation or signs of fear.

Body language indicating your puppy is comfortable includes; a loose wiggly body, an open mouth with their tongue hanging out, and a desire to investigate and move towards a person or object. Unfortunately, most people do not understand how dogs communicate. It is your responsibility to teach family, friends, and all other people who will interact with your puppy how to do so.

The best way to greet a puppy is to squat sidewise at a distance from the puppy and allow the puppy and person to approach you at their own pace. Alternatively, you can slowly move towards the puppy, avoiding direct eye contact and keeping your arms still. At the same time, the person with the puppy will feed them tiny, high-value treats. If the puppy shows any hesitation, stop and try another day. The puppy ALWAYS gets to make a choice.

Between 8 and 12 weeks of age, you need to gently expose your puppy to everything you anticipate they will encounter during their lifetime in a planned and controlled manner. That includes people of all ages, sizes, races, smells, and wearing a wide variety of clothing. Socialization also includes exposing a puppy to other animals and non-living things such as; cars, lawnmowers, boats, snowmobiles, brooms, snow shovels, and more, all in a planned and controlled manner.

Recommended Resources

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

Essential Handouts On Body Language, and Canine and Human Behavior from Dr. Sophia YinPuppy – https://bit.ly/YinBodyLang

Socialization and Habituation – http://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Especially for New Puppy Parentshttp://bit.ly/EspcNewPuppyParents

Alone Traininghttp://bit.ly/AloneTraining

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ )

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 1http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups1

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 2http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups2

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 3http://bit.ly/WfMw-Esp_Pups3

Don Hanson and Dr. Dave Cloutier on Puppy Socialization and Vaccinationhttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/Pet_Tip_-Don_Hanson_and_Dr._Dave_Cloutier_on_Puppy_Socialization_and_Vaccinations.mp3

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©11JUL21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Essential Handouts On Body Language, and Canine and Human Behavior from Dr. Sophia Yin

< Updated 05JUL21 >

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

One of our most important responsibilities is to do everything we can to ensure that our puppy or adult dog feels safe. To do that successfully, we need to understand how dogs communicate. As humans, we like to vocalize; however, the dog prefers more subtle visual signals they make with various parts of their body. While a dog will bark and growl when excited or feeling threatened, they are already severely agitated by the time they do so. By learning your dog’s body language and watching them closely, you will be equipped to help them out of a frightening situation before it escalates out of control. Understanding body language is absolutely essential if you have a puppy that is in its critical socialization period (8 to 16 weeks of age) or an older puppy or adult dog that is fearful or anxious at any level.

The late Dr. Sophia Yin was an amazing veterinarian committed to helping people and dogs live in harmony. She created the following visual resources to aid adults and children. These handouts and posters can be downloaded at https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/free-downloads-posters-handouts-and-more/. Everyone with a dog or those that work with dogs will benefit from these resources.

Body Language of Fear in Dogs – A puppy’s critical socialization period ends somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks of age. During this period, it is up to you to gently expose your puppy to the world so that they do not live life in a state of fear. However, to do this effectively, you need to understand a dog’s subtle body language that indicates they are uncomfortable. These signals are equally important if you have an older dog that is fearful or anxious. To successfully rehabilitate your dog, you need to be able to recognize these signals. When you see one of these signals, you need to gently get your dog out of the situation causing their fear before they start barking, growling, and lunging. This handout is an excellent introduction to these signals.

How to Greet A Dog (And What to Avoid) – Humans and dogs are two separate species with very different understandings of one another’s body language. While most people have the best intentions, they often greet dogs with body language and behavior that the dog will interpret as threatening. A single, unintentional incident can lead to lifelong fears in some dogs. By learning what you see in this handout and ensuring people greet your puppy or adult dog appropriately, you are helping your dog and every other dog that person may interact with in the future. Before introducing your dog to your family, friends, neighbors, or anyone else, I encourage you to provide them with a copy of this handout. I have had students who have posted it on the door to their homes.

How Kids SHOULD Interact with Dogs – Children and dogs do NOT inherently know how to interact around one another. As a parent, it is your responsibility to teach your puppy and children how to live together happily without conflict. That requires time and active supervision. Remember, something can go wrong very quickly. This handout and its companion, How Kids SHOULD NOT Interact with Dogs, provide excellent guidance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Socialization with Other Dogs

How your dog interacts with other dogs will also be important. That is why socializing them with other puppies of the same age, size, and playstyle between 8 and 16 weeks of age is essential. Looking for those same subtle signals outlined in the handout Body Language of Fear in Dogs will be crucial. I recommend that such interactions occur in a puppy headstart class offered by a credentialed trainer committed to reward-based training free of force, fear, and pain.

Daycare facilities with staff experienced in canine body language and behavior may also be an excellent place to help your puppy make new friends in a safe, closely supervised environment. Just remember daycare facilities are not regulated and may not provide adequate training for staff or proper supervision of the dogs in their care.

If you arrange your puppy play sessions with friends, family, or neighbors, I suggest you follow the same guidelines. Ensure that the puppies are of the same approximate age, size, and playstyle. Limit the group to two puppies and make sure each of the puppies has one of their pet parents present. Both pet parents should be familiar with the handout Body Language of Fear in Dogs. They should have all of their attention focused on supervising the puppies. No sessions should last longer than 15 to 20 minutes. If either puppy is at all hesitant about interacting with the other, stop the session and talk to your trainer.

I do not recommend taking a puppy to the dog park until they are at least one year of age. Nor do I recommend taking an adult dog to a dog park if they have not been well socialized. For a dog park to be safe, ALL dogs playing must enjoy the company of ALL other dogs. The dogs also need to be well trained and responsive to their owners. Finally, each dog needs to be accompanied by a pet parent who will be focused entirely on watching their dog; dog parks are not places for people to socialize.

You can find more resources on socialization, canine and human communication, and more below.

Recommended Resources

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

Puppy Socialization and Habituationhttp://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2015/06/27/dog-behavior-puppy-socialization-and-habituation/
OR http://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy

Introduction to Canine Communicationhttp://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/01/16/dog-behavior-introduction-to-canine-communication/

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©05JUL21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

 

Thank You, Trivia & Gus!

< A version of this article was published in the FEB 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 07FEB21 >

< A short link for this page – http://bit.ly/ThankYouTrivia-Gus >

January marks the anniversaries of two of the dogs that have been part of my life. They have both passed, but there is not a day I do not think about them or acknowledge how they helped me to become a better dog trainer and a better person.

Trivia – I had wanted a dog since I was five years old. My parents finally succumbed when I was 17.  I found a puppy at a pet store that was described as “A Poodle/Keeshond mix, and they never found the father.” I didn’t care about the breed; I just wanted a dog. Trivia had wavy hair and was as excited to see me as I was to see her. It was love at first sight. I left the pet shop with her, a collar, a leash, food and water bowls, a couple of toys, a rawhide, and the name of the veterinarian recommended by the pet shop. I was thirty plus dollars poorer but felt like the richest guy on the planet.

Why my parents let me get a dog at this point in our lives, I will never know. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that we had lost my older sister to a brain tumor just days before Christmas. Looking back, their decision makes even less sense, as my dad was scheduled to retire in two months, and they planned on traveling.  I was a junior in high school, active in many extracurricular activities, and had a girlfriend. You know what happened and who did most of the work of caring for Trivia the first few years of her life. My mom. Thank you, mom and dad, for your crazy decision to let me get a dog. It was clearly based on love with no logic involved.

In 1977 I knew nothing about training a dog or the benefits of training a dog, and no one suggested I train Trivia. I regret I did not know then what I know now as I believe I could have made Trivia’s life so much better. Trivia inspires me to help my clients and students do all they can for their furry companions. Thank you, Trivia; you were small but were in no way trivial.  [ FMI – http://bit.ly/TriviaNOV74AUG89 ]

Gus (Laird Gustav MacMoose) – Gus was the first puppy Paula and I raised together. He was a Cairn Terrier, and despite our knowing better, we bought him at a pet shop. Most of my friends in the pet care professions believe that we learn the most from the dogs that are difficult. Paula and I remember Gus as the equivalent of a post-doctoral program.

  • Gus bit me on our first night in puppy class due to my ignorance and the class’s two instructors’ arrogance. That led to my interest in canine behavior and training. [ FMI – http://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance ]
  • Gus was the epitome of a silent thief. He walked off with tools from people working in our home and stole food right out of our hands and those of some of our staff. He taught me that the management of a dog and his environment was as crucial as training.
  • Within the first few months of his life, Gus developed a chronic urinary tract infection, which caused crystals to form in his urine. His veterinarian felt it was due to nutrition but could offer little advice other than to suggest resources where we could teach ourselves more about his nutritional needs. That led to a lifelong interest in pet nutrition for Paula and me and a commitment to educating others. We eventually found the answer for Gus’ crystals in 1997.[ FMI – http://bit.ly/Gus-Nutrition ]
  • Thunderstorms were a significant event for Gus. One to two hours before the thunder and lightning started, he would become agitated. By the time the storm arrived, he was barking and lunging at the door to get outside so he could “kill it.” Most dogs that have issues with thunderstorms want to hide. Not Gus. The medications prescribed by his veterinarian were of no help, nor was the
    Don & Gus in 1991, Before the Alpha Roll

    desensitization CD played at very low levels on a world-class sound system. Gus knew the difference between a real storm and one on the stereo. The closest we came to a cure was moving from Wisconsin to Maine, where thunderstorms were not as frequent.

  • Gus started having seizures as he became older, which were diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Like everything else in his life, Gus lived large, even with seizures, each in the Grand Mal category. He was treated for many years with the medications in use at that time. Even then, he would still have a seizure about every ten days. Eventually, we could not increase the dose of his medication without harming his liver. Paula started investigating complementary therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture. Gus finally found his most significant relief from seizures through acupuncture, which, interestingly, also stooped his reactivity to thunderstorms. Both Paula and I credit Gus for opening our minds to complementary healing modalities that we now use with our pets and ourselves to supplement traditional medicine.

Gus was ultimately the catalyst that caused Paula and me to join the ranks of pet care professionals and to buy Green Acres Kennel Shop. He inspired our interest in behavior, training, nutrition, and complementary healthcare. While there were times, Gus frustrated us beyond belief; there was not a day he did not make us laugh. Thank you, Gus!

Recommended Resources

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

 Our Pets – Remembering Trivia (13NOV74 – 04AUG89) – https://bit.ly/TriviaNOV74AUG89

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationshiphttp://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gushttp://bit.ly/Gus-Nutrition

Thank You, PPG, and Gus Too!http://bit.ly/ThanksPPG-Gus

In Memory of Gus (1991 – 2004)http://bit.ly/InMemoryOfGus

 

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

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