Category - Advice

How to Cope with an Overprotective/Defensive Dog

puppy-trainingWhen it comes to protection, most of us think of highly trained police or military dogs, who’s main purpose (usually), after all is said and everything is considered, is really to help provide safety to the handler. It isn’t to hurt criminals or to help ‘find the bad guy’, although those are useful skills.

After all, dogs are a naturally protective species. The desire to keep ‘family members’ safe is highly instinctual, even genetically ingrained. This makes perfect sense, since the average wild dog or wolf relies on its pack for survival.
Step One: Understanding
The first step to coping with an overprotective dog, even a dangerous one, is to understand the situation. What is causing the dog to feel the need to be defensive? Was it something that happened in the past, or does the dog view someone’s behavior as threatening? Certain breeds are simply more prone to defensive behavior due to original breeding, such as several livestock guardian breeds.

For example, the famous Rottweiler is believed to have been first bred during ancient Rome, about 2,000 years ago, to help guard and protect livestock (among other purposes).

You can’t truly begin to treat the dog’s unwanted behavior until you understand why it is occuring. What you Don’t Want to Do is simply try and punish these protective behaviors. Punishment might simply reinforce the dog’s need to offer protection.
Step Two: Reinforcing Social Skills
In fact, socialization is probably one of, if not the single most important skill anyone will ever teach their dog. Outside of trauma, such as a physical attack in the dog’s (either to the dog or someone else) past, a properly socialized puppy will very rarely ever become overprotective to the point of becoming a danger to the well being of others.

If they don’t see humans as a threat because they’ve learned to enjoy being around them, there is no need for a dog to feel defensive.

If a dog does feel the need to offer protection because he has learned to consider a person a possible threat, you’ll need to teach him to enjoy that person, not fear him. The basic training principle you need to consider is called ‘Counter-conditioning’, which essentially amounts to pairing something the dog enjoys with the thing he fears.

If the dog enjoys that ‘thing’ more than he fears the ‘other thing’, he should begin to enjoy that thing he once feared because it means he gets to experience the other thing he loves.

A loose example would entail teaching a dog not to fear water by slowly tossing the stick out further and further, so he is forced to gradually enter the water in order to retrieve it. Once the dog retrieves the stick, he is rewarded with that delicious piece of meat. The desire for meat far outweighs the desire not to get wet.
The Fearful Dog
To a human, that cowering, shivering, pathetic looking shelter dog huddled in the corner of his crate, doing his best to look as small and unthreatening as possible, has the potential to be more dangerous than that dominant animal snarling and standing tall, staring you dead in the eye.

This is because the dominant dog probably isn’t feeling his very life is threatened. He is just telling you to back off, this area is his. You know exactly what he wants. The shaking animal huddled in the corner, however, might feel his life is at stake. His capability of ‘flight’ has been taken away; it is the very definition of being backed into a corner. His only options left, as he sees them, is to either do nothing and hope the threat goes away or respond with force in order to protect himself.

An example would be a neglected puppy mill dog, or the victim of home abuse. These dogs have suffered a form of trauma, and socializing them could be a long and tedious process. In nearly every single situation these dogs can be saved with the gently care of an Educated, Experienced Trainer or Behaviorist.

When it comes to these extremes, you don’t want to simply ‘let things go’ and hope they improve, or try and cut corners by doing things yourself (unless you have done extensive research and are experienced).

Sometimes, all it takes to rehabilitate this dog is love, patience, and gentle nurturing over time.

Getting in Shape With Your Dog: 5 Activities for Summer

How long to train a dogThere’s something counterintuitive about leaving your dog at home while you go out for a workout.  Many domestic dogs aren’t getting enough exercise as it is, and we humans could always do with a little more fresh air and a little less Netflix.

Why not combine the two?  Rather than feeling guilty every time you leave your pup at home to head to a stuffy gym, consider ways that you can spend time with your dog and get some much-needed exercise for you both.  Read on for five summertime activities to help you and your dog get in shape while having fun at the same time.

Follow That Dog

Dog walking (or running, depending on the fitness levels of both you and your dog) is the obvious way of getting in shape with your dog.  Unfortunately, dog walks can quickly become a monotonous exercise, where the two of you robotically retrace the same steps and follow the same path day after day.

For a fun and interesting twist give your dog what they’ve always wanted and let them lead – at least part of the way.  Pretend that your dog knows exactly where they want to go, and let them use their inbuilt GPS (a keen sense of smell) to determine your route.  So as to not let your walk get out of hand (you don’t want to find yourself stranded three towns over) work out how long you’d like your walk to take – say, 30 minutes – and then let your dog lead the way for about two thirds of that time (in our example, that would be 20 minutes).  For the remaining time, you can take over the walk again and make a straight line for home.

Remember that part of the activity is to let your dog stop and sniff as much as they choose.  Imagine your dog’s delight!


If you are lucky enough to live in an area with – or have easy enough access to – hiking trails, this could be the perfect way to have some outdoor fun in the sun with your dog.  If you’ve never hiked before, try not to be too worried about the equipment or fitness levels required. There’s nothing to say that you have to hike the entire trail each time – just do as much as you and your dog are both comfortable with, before heading back.  Just make sure you’ve got enough water and snacks to sustain you both, and slowly build your way up to longer heights.


It may never have crossed your mind to combine yoga and playtime with your dog, but it’s a trend that’s becoming quite popular throughout the US.  Dog yoga, or “doga”, is being offered in some progressive pet-friendly yoga centers, with some even offering mindfulness classes for humans and dogs to take together.  

Even if you don’t have a dog yoga class near you, there are plenty of online videos and other resources that show different ways of practicing yoga with your dog.  Once you’ve mastered a few of the poses, ask someone to take some photos or videos of your efforts: if you’ve ever seen clips of dogs and humans doing yoga together, you’ll agree it’s incredibly clever and cute.

If you do manage to find a dog-friendly yoga class for both of you to attend, check out 5 ways to keep your dog safe at public events.

If yoga is not your thing, look for fitness or Boot Camp classes that include dogs.  We’ve even heard of classes that specialize in helping people in wheelchairs or those with limited mobility to improve their fitness and flexibility while spending valuable time with their dogs.

Water Sports

Summertime is the perfect time of the year to engage in outdoor water sports, and there are plenty of activities that your dog would love to join in.  Stand-up paddleboarding is the perfect example. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to standing on the paddleboard on dry land before venturing out into the water, and if you’re not an experienced paddleboarder yourself, it’s best to organize a lesson for both you and your dog so you’ll both get the most out of the activity.

Most dogs naturally love the water and are confident swimmers, but of course, you want to make sure you have a well fitted and brightly colored lifejacket on your dog just in case.  


Dancing would come pretty high on the list of fun things to teach your dog.  It may be hard to believe, but “musical canine freestyle” is a recognized competitive sport that people and their dogs can take pretty seriously.  Involving humans and dogs dancing together to a choreographed routine, participating in events organized by the Musical Dog Sport Association can see dogs and humans earning trophies and training for hours on end.

If you like the idea of enjoying a fun dance workout with your dog but you’re looking for something a little more low-key, try turning on your favorite up-tempo music and using online videos or other guides to teach your dog dance moves, like moving in sync with you, and weaving between your legs.  As long as you’re both having fun and enjoying the music together, you’re sure to burn calories and have a few laughs at the same time.


The benefits of heading outside with your dog for a mutually beneficial summertime workout are obvious: much-needed fresh air and exercise for both of you, plus a rare chance to spend some relaxing quality time with your dog.

There is an additional benefit of working out with your dog: it feels like fun, not like a workout.  You could probably burn off the same amount of calories in the same amount of time on an elliptical trainer at the gym or by going hiking with your dog.  You could increase your upper body strength by swimming laps at your local aquatic center, or you could take your dog stand-up paddle boarding.

Which would be more enjoyable?  If you had time for just one activity on a sunny Sunday afternoon, which would make you feel like you’ve had a weekend well spent?

About The Author: James Woller is a long-time dog enthusiast, and co-owner of Jet Pet Resort and Release the Hounds, professional dog service companies.

5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe at Public Events

We love to pamper our pooches and show them how much we appreciate their existence, and dog owners do this in many different ways. They make tribute posts on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Pooch parents also treat their fur babies to a fancy meal (like steak) and puppicino or take them out to the doggy park or the beach. Those who have the time and resources will take their pets for a fun trip to make the day extra special.

Whether you’re chilling at home with your pet or going hiking, the most important thing is to keep your pet safe and happy. To do that, follow these safety precautions.

Keep Your Dog Hydrated

If you’re going to the bark, beach, anywhere out (even your backyard), it’s important to keep your dog hydrated all the time, especially in the middle of the day. Dogs have a higher body temperature than humans do (101–102°F in dogs versus 97.6–99.6°F in humans). So look out for warning signs of dehydration in your dog, like panting, loss of energy and appetite, and dry nose and gums.

Dogs don’t sweat in the same way people do because dogs have insulating coats. Their sweat glands are on their pads and ear canal, but perspiring only plays a minor role in regulating their temperature.

Their coat keeps them warm in the cold and cool under the heat. However, dogs are usually very active creatures, so they can easily get overheated, especially when playing outside under the sun.

Bring potable water for your pet wherever you go, whether you’re going out or staying in on National Dog Day. In fact, you should make drinking water available for your dog all the time.

Check the Ground Temperature before Going Out

Your pooch isn’t as hard-wearing as you think they are (no matter how often you’ve seen them fall and get up like nothing happened). They can get bruised, wounded, and sprained too. Most of all, they can get burned when you take them out for a walk on hot concrete.

They may look thick and sturdy, but a dog’s paw pads can get easily injured when walking on sharp, rough surfaces and heated ground. Yes, your dog probably loves their walks, but that shouldn’t be a good-enough reason to risk their health.

If you have plans of going out with your canine friend, check the weather and temperature for the day. Go out when it gets cooler, like early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or during the evening. Check the ground temperature with the back of your hand. If it’s too hot for you to lay your hand on for five minutes, then it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.

Unlike people, they don’t have any protective wear on their paws. And even if you make them wear shoes, it still isn’t advisable to go out on hot days for fear of hyperthermia (a.k.a. overheating) and dehydration.

Dogs can get injuries and infection from their surroundings because of their active and dirt-filled lifestyle. Always check your dog’s paws after going out or if you notice them constantly licking or gnawing on the body part. Get it checked by the vet immediately if you notice an injury or something unusual on their paw.

Let Your Dog Wear a LED Collar

This year’s National Dog Day falls on a weekend, which makes it perfect for camping, hiking, or adventuring with your pooch. You can take your dog by a lake and enjoy barbecuing with the rest of the family.

Fido can go for a swim, help you catch fish, and explore the wilderness with you. They’re guaranteed to have a blast sniffing interesting smells and chasing tiny animals. The wilderness can offer many fun and exciting activities for you and your dog.

But accidents can happen in an uncontrollable environment. With how curious and playful dogs are, your buddy can wander off and get lost. If you’re planning an outdoor trip with Fido, you need to ensure their safety and prepare for unexpecting events. Let your dog wear a bright LED dog collar if you’re staying out or camping overnight. This way, you won’t lose sight of them even in the dark.

Sometimes, dogs exhibit their stubborn streaks at the most opportune moment. That’s why you should always keep your eyes on them or have them on a long leash when you’re outdoors. If your pet isn’t microchipped yet, you should get them chipped now. In case your dog gets lost, people can scan your dog’s microchip to find you.

Stay Away from Fireworks

Most, if not all, dogs absolutely hate fireworks. Dog hearing is much better than that of humans, so fireworks are much louder and more jarring to their ears. The deafening explosion can make them scared and anxious. This can cause them great stress, which isn’t good for their health.

Responsible dog owners know not to risk their dog’s safety no matter how beautiful or grand fireworks are. However, you can help your dog stay calm by creating a distraction for them. Some owner let their dogs listen to calming music with a earphone. Others use pressure wraps of vests.

On holiday when fireworks abound (like the Fourth of July), make sure to take your dog inside the house and give them a comfortable place to hide. Seal all exits to stop Fido from escaping outside out of panic, and give them a distraction so they don’t concentrate on the noise. Most of all, keep them company so they can feel safe and protected.

Avoid Unhealthy Food

Dogs are fond of eating scrumptious food (like meat, meat, or meat). They also love to eat not-so-scrumptious “food” that can’t be named here (lest it offends others’ sensibilities). But taste doesn’t always have anything to do with what’s good or bad for their furry bodies. Believe it or not, your dog is sensitive to a lot of food that humans eat (and don’t eat).

If you’re planning to treat your buddy to a delicious meal, make sure that it’s not something that they’ll throw up or will harm their body later. Don’t season that steak or give them a bone. Canine bodies are much more vulnerable to the unhealthy effects of sodium, sugar, and other seasonings.

Bones are also harmful to dogs. They can puncture the digestive system, cause intestinal problems, obstruct vital organs, and harm your dog’s mouth and teeth.

Other things you should never feed your dog are apple core, avocado, chocolate, garlic, grapes, onion, peach, persimmon, plum, raisins, and any food with alcohol, caffeine, and xylitol in it.

All dogs deserved to be loved and pampered by their owners. From bringing water (and food) to avoiding harmful food and treats, these tips will help you fill the special day with fun and excitement.

Helping a Dog That is Afraid of Thunder or Fireworks

jack-russelDogs can be very afraid of loud sounds. For some owners, this is a MAJOR PROBLEM. For the dog, it can be extremely traumatic.

Most owners don’t know what to do. What usually happens is this:

1. The dog will be shaking from fear.

2. The owner will pet the dog in order to calm it down.

This rarely works. In fact, I have never seen this work! What usually happens is that the petting has the opposite effect.

While petting the dog, the owner is unwittingly nurturing insecurity in the dog. This can make him think that shaking and being scared is pleasurable to you.

There are many ways to desensitize a dog to loud sounds. In this article, I will discuss 2 simple methods. For the 1st method, you’ll need a recording of thunder and/or fireworks.

Play the recording at the lowest level possible while the dog is eating or playing with you. Every few days or a week, raise the volume one notch.

The idea is to gradually associate thunder with eating, playing and good times. If the dog starts shaking at a certain volume, do not raise the volume any higher. If this happens, continue to work with the dog at that volume or lower.

Once the dog has success with a certain volume, then it is time to move up. This method will not work on all dogs. There is no “one size fits all” solution for all dogs. Every dog is different.

Looking for a simpler approach? What if electromagnetism was causing your dog to fear thunderstorms?

Every heard of the “Storm Defender” for dogs? It’s like a cape that can help them cope. In my experience, it’s more effective than the thunder shirt. Here is a link for the Storm Defender cape for dogs.

One Way to Reduce Dog Fights in Dog Parks

Photo by runge.marius

Dog fights in dog parks are very common. I have seen many personally. On rare occasions, dogs have even been killed in dog parks.

There are many ways to prevent or lessen the odds of a dog fight. Today, I’ll outline one of the simplest ways.

What I am going to write will sound counter intuitive to many dog owners. Yet, it is a simple trick that has been shown to work.

Let me start out by saying that many people bring their dogs to the dog park for the wrong reason. They bring their dogs to the dog park for exercise. This is a bad idea.

Dog parks should be used for socialization not exercise. For example, many people will throw a ball in the dog park. They do this so that there dog will run after the ball and get exercise.

I never bring toys into the dog park. I don’t even go in if I see someone with a toy. Fighting over toys is one of the most common issues in any dog park.

However, avoiding toys is not what this article is about. This article is about exercising your dog before they enter the dog park.

As I stated earlier, this will sound counter intuitive to many dog owners. I wouldn’t have believe it myself if someone had told me this a few years ago.

However, my experience has taught me a new way to look at things. I have personally seen and broke up dozens of dog fights.

Dog fights are very dangerous. Often, many dogs will get involved and sometimes humans get bit too.

A tired dog is generally a good dog. A common scenario goes like this. A person works all day while their dog is home alone.

When the owner comes back, they feel bad and take the dog to the dog park. There is nothing wrong with that but they should go for a long walk first.

The average dog needs a 1 hour walk before entering a dog park. A high energy dog may need a 45 jog before entering the dog park.

Bringing a high energy dog that has not been exercised first can cause a bring problem. That dog may be the aggressor. Or, that dog might agitate another dog.

Imagine if every owner brought their dogs in tired. I don’t mean that every dog should go into a dog park in order to take a nap. That would be silly.

Tired does not me exhausted. They still need enough energy to play and socialize. However, they shouldn’t have too much energy. This is what often leads to dog fights.

There are other reasons for dog fights. It can not solely be blamed on not exercising the dog. But, exercising the dog first will reduce the chances of a dog fight.

It allows them to sniff, play in a less rough manner and generally be less anxious.

Don’t believe me. I don’t want you to believe me. I want you to experience this yourself.

Jog with your dog for about 30 minutes before going into the dog park. Experience the difference in you own dog’s behavior.

Keep in mind, dog’s are often meeting new dogs in the dog park. They don’t know each other. Bringing them in calm is a safe way to introduce them to each other.

I’m not saying that this will prevent all dog fights. There are many factors that can lead to dog fights. With that being said, exercising them first is one way to reduce the chances of a dog fight from happening.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the dog park!

How You Feed Your Dog Can Affect Training

dog-biscuitsDid you know that how you feed our dog can actually affect their training? A dog’s feeding routine is one of the first questions I’ve always asked my clients about, and so many hadn’t been aware of the impact that food, and how it’s served can have on behavior and the training process. Sometimes, implementing a small change during that first visit makes a big difference very quickly. Most dogs are fed one of two ways. “Free-feeding”, or leaving a bowl of food out at all times or for several hours at a time for the dog to eat whenever they want, is one. The other is serving food at regular mealtimes. Food is offered at somewhat regular times and either eaten right away, or taken up after a certain amount of time if not eaten. For example, you feed your dog in the morning while you get ready for work, but pick it up before you leave, eaten or not. I have always recommended to my clients to feed their dogs meals, if possible, rather than free-feeding. This has several benefits.


Feeding habits should always considered in  the house training strategy. Free feeding can sabotage your new pet. Feeding regular meals will help establish a generally regular poop schedule. For puppies, that means you will have a good idea of when a big potty time is coming, before an accident happens – and setting your puppy up to succeed is the most important part of house training.


Training your dog requires motivation on your dog’s part, and it’s up to you to find out what your dog will work best for. Something your dog really, really wants, AND that you can use to your advantage. It can be anything from a bite of a treat to a tennis ball or tug toy. Whatever gets your dog excited that you can also control. Food, naturally, is a very popular motivator used for training because it’s readily available and goes over very, very well with many dogs.

But what if your dog is hard to train because she doesn’t seem to care about anything you can offer? She ignores treats and is not ball-obsessed. It seems that if you don’t leave food out, she’ll starve.  But actually, not having constant access to food should improve and encourage the development of a healthy appetite. This can really help with “only dogs”, who don’t have another dog around to “compete” with over food or toys.

When your dog looks forward to their dinner (and breakfast or lunch), mealtime becomes a fun and highly anticipated event, and you are the focus for what your dog needs and wants. Instead of the always-full “magic food bowl”, it’s YOU who brings the deliciousness. You have control of that resource and that gives you your dog’s attention. And that means more respect – and better learning!


Controlling meals also lets you easily keep an eye on how much is being consumed. If you’re trying to manage weight, portions are easier to control. If there is any change in appetite, you’ll pick up on it right away, and that can give you an early warning that your dog may be sick. And administering medication may be easier because it’s more likely to be eaten with a relished meal.

Depending on your dog’s age and specific needs, you may serve your dog as often as several times a day (puppies need more frequent meals) or as little as just once a day. Almost all dogs can benefit from meals rather than free feeding; but there are exceptions. Some dogs with medical issues and certain breeds are much more likely to experience conditions like hypoglycemia. If there is any question, ask your vet! But if your dog is okay to do so, consider feeding meals instead of free-feeding for awhile, and see what a difference it can make for you and your dog. Let me know what changes you notice!

How You Feed Your Dog Can Affect Your Training

Q&A: How to get my dog to sleep through the night?

I have a 9-week old jack Russell x foxy and I’m having issues getting him to sleep through the night. Currently he is in a small room downstairs (can’t be upstairs with us as its all carpet) and we leave him with a puppy Kong bone, loads of toys an old shirt of my husbands and his bed plus pee pads. He has no issue going to bed he doesn’t whine when we walk upstairs however he does get upset at 3am I go down and let him out for the toilet (99% of the time he does a poo) but then when I put him back to bed he cries. We live in a townhouse and after 25mins of him howling and barking I have to go down it’s not fair on the neighbors so I end up sleeping on the lounge with him (he will sleep through until 7).

I’m not sure what to do I know you’re not meant to give in after a toilet break but I feel so bad for our neighbors at that hour. He had a set bedtime 10pm and we play with him until his very tired (usually he falls asleep around 9:45 or at least lays down not interested in play) and we feed him his dinner at 6:30.  Kate

Hello Kate and thanks for reaching out,

Your puppy is doing quite well if he only wakes up once in the night at this age! I can hear you about the whining and barking especially if you live in a close-knit neighborhood! Here’s likely what is going on. Your puppy falls asleep well at night time because you tire him out and drain his energy. Then, he wakes up in the middle of the night because he needs to go outside. This is reasonable and perfect as you want that. Then, he goes from being in your company to being alone again, and this time he’s no longer tired as before. The house is dark again, the home is silent and he wants you to come back. So he starts whining/howling/barking behavior, and since his bladder and bowels are empty, he is doing it clearly because he wants companionship. Normally, as you know, this type of barking/whining should be totally ignored. Instead, by going downstairs, you reinforce it. Who can blame you though, you are just trying to not bother the neighbors! Sounds like you need some type of compromise here. Here are some options:

Get a crate and keep him in a crate upstairs with you. With the crate he should be unlikely to have an accident as puppies normally do not like to soil where they sleep so they’ll whine and whine to get your attention so they can be taken out. After his 3AM outing, since you are nearby, he’ll likely relax and fall asleep again as he does when you sleep downstairs.

At 3AM after going outside to eliminate, you can try to play with him again and see if you can get that energy drained again as you do prior to bedtime. This can be a pain, but better 25 minutes of play time than 25 minutes of whining/barking. If you go this route, expect to do this though every single night as it becomes a deeply ingrained habit and your pup may whine at 3am even once he has better bladder/bowel control just to get to play!

At 3AM after going outside, try to leave him with a stuffed Kong that will keep him busy enough for some time until he gets tired and hopefully falls asleep.

Personally, I think the best option is the crate. Introduce the crate, make it a rewarding place to be and start using it so that you can speed up the house training process while providing him your reassuring presence. At this age, most puppies want to be around their family and they get distressed if they’re left alone. Then, as your puppy grows, you can gradually move the crate farther and farther away from your bedroom.

Or even better, since it sounds like your bedroom is on the second floor, let him stay downstairs so access to the outside is faster. When you’re on a second floor, by the time you walk downstairs, your puppy may have an accident so staying downstairs is better for easy access to the yard. Then, once your puppy has an empty bladder/bowel, take him upstairs and let him stay in the crate until 7AM. A win-win situation for all!


Q&A: How to get my dog to stop being aggressive towards people and other dogs?

barkingI have an elderly dog (around 11 years), and she’s always been the kind of dog to do what she wants no matter what I say. I have tried everything I can think of. If I walk her she is constantly pulling on the leash, jumping towards people and either attacking or overwhelmingly jumping up on other dogs. I have tried making her lie down every time a dog passes with a stern “stay” or “no”. I should clarify that she is one of the few dogs that responds to “no” decently. Anyways, even when I’m holding her down, she continues to wiggle and try to get to the person/dog. I know I’m doing something wrong, because a dog really can’t be that bad.. So I was hoping you’d be able to help me out with ideas? ~Brooke

Greetings, and thank you for reaching out,

The most common problems owners face in training dogs are lack of consistency and giving up when things are starting to get better, even if it doesn’t look that way.. When this happens, this causes the bad behavior to resurface even stronger than before. It often starts like this: one day you decide to not let your dog pull on the leash, so you may make the leash shorter and perhaps even give a correction under the form of a leash pop every time your dogs pulls. (I am not an advocate for delivering leash pops, just making an example) You do this several times, then you notice that it’s not working because your dog is trying to pull more than before, so you give up or you may try something different. This is the most common scenario I encounter when people consult me and tell me that they have tried almost everything. There are two main problems occurring when this happens:

1) inconsistency makes behavior problems worse. So if 2 out of 10 attempts to pull, your dog gets to meet a dog, your dog will take advantage of that because trying to pull yields results. It’s sort of like playing the lottery, if you win every now and then, you’ll soon become addicted to playing.

2) the extinction burst phenomenon. It’s often easy to give up when something seems like it’s not working, when in reality it’s really starting to work , but it doesn’t look that way. To better understand this phenomenon, you must learn about extinction bursts. So let’s say your dog is pulling, you decide to stop your dog from pulling, but then your dog pulls more than before, why does this happen? It happens because your dog has pulled pretty much all her life, so after you start making a change, your dog will pull more than before because she has always been used to you allowing her to pull. It’s as if your dog was thinking “this is really odd, usually when I pull, my owners just follows and I get to meet another dogs, maybe I should try pulling even stronger than before.” For sake of a comparison, think of a child who cries at the store to get candy. Mom gives candy always to keep the child quiet.

The day mom doesn’t buy candy, what happens? The child starts screaming, throwing a fit. If mom stays strong and doesn’t give in, chances are eventually the child will learn to stop crying and asking candy. If mom gives in though, mom will have more problems than before and you’ll bet the candy-asking behavior will never stop and only get worse and worse. In dogs, the same thing happens. So keep in mind that behaviors with a history of reinforcement tend to get worse before they get better.

So the ultimate secret is to not give up when the behaviors worsens. If your dog has pretty much always done what she wants for all her life, and now you would try to make a change in that, consider that you will encounter resistance. Lots of it. But if you ignore the extinction burst and keep up with the rules, you will see results. Gradually, you will see less pulling mixed with some pulling still, but you will notice a difference. Keep it up and your training will yield results.

Here are a few tips I want to share with you on how to deal with this situation:

1) Invest in a no-pull harness that has a leash that attaches to a ring in the front.

2) Arm yourself with the tastiest treats

3) Start walking your dog in a quiet road first.

4) Stick to the rule that every time your dog pulls, you will stop in your tracks.

5) Call your dog back to your side, reward and resume walking.

6) Repeat over and over and over, until your dog gets the idea that pulling makes you stop and staying next to you makes you walk. To make it clear: a tense leash is your brake, a loose leash is your accelerator.

7) Only after your dog has attained enough improvement, may you introduce distractions such as other people or dogs.

8) I suggest that you look into “LAT, look at that training”, where every time your dog sees a person or dog she is fed tasty treats. There are some videos on You Tube depicting the exercise. Also is handy to teach your dog to do attention heeling as you walk by distractions.

9) Also look into keeping a “dog under threshold.” That means not exposing your dog to overwhelming situations where your dog cannot control herself. When you say you put your dog in a down, it sounds like your dog is too overwhelmed to be able to listen. You need to work at farther distances where the exercise is much easier.

10) Also, not sure what breed your dog is, but at 11 years old you may start seeing a bit of cognitive decline some dogs. Yes, you can train a dog new tricks and many elderly dogs can be trained, but consider that at this age, some dogs may be a bit slower to follow commands and they may have a harder time coping with certain situation, so the golden rule to be a splitter and not a lumper comes particularly handy here. Don’t ask too much at once, split your goals into smaller attainable steps and reward for compliance. I hope this helps!

Q&A: How to make my dog comfortable in his crate?

We have a 3mo old lab that every time I put into his crate he started rapidly breathing and salivating while he screams and howls, chews on the door of the crate and continues until he wears himself out. He calms down long enough to catch his breath and starts again. I have fed him when I place him in the crate and he doesn’t eat, he just spills the food and proceeds to salivate to and cry. We have been at this for 3 weeks. I have to be able to crate him. I would welcome and suggestions and appreciate any help you might offer. Thank you.

Thanks, Pam

Hello Pam, and thank you for reaching out.

You are describing a pup who is breathing fast and salivating when you close him in the crate. If these symptoms occur only when your dog is closed in the crate, they are highly suggestive of anxiety associated with confinement. Salivation, rapid breathing, screaming and howling are your dog’s ways to let you know he is very uncomfortable. Additionally, the fact that your dog refuses to eat is also suggestive of anxiety as a dog who is highly stressed won’t eat.

Why is your dog stressed when closed in the crate? There may be various reasons. The anxiety may be caused from the fear of being closed up in the crate or from the fear of being separated from you, and sometimes both, which is often seen in dogs who start associating being closed up in a crate with the owner leaving. This is often seen when the dog starts noticing a pattern where being closed up becomes a pre-departure cue suggesting that the owner is leaving.

It’s important at this point determining what’s exactly causing the behavior. There are several ways to determine this. Here are some pointers: Does your dog act this way even when he is not closed in the crate and you must leave the house? To find out, the best way is leaving your dog in a puppy-proofed room with plenty of toys and recording his behavior during a brief absence. If your recording reveals that your dog is breathing rapidly, drooling, vocalizing and trying to get out of the room, there are chances you might be really dealing with a case of separation anxiety. Showing your recording to a behavior professional can help you further determine this.

Does your dog act this way when he is crated and you are around? To find out, you would have to crate your puppy and stick closely nearby without leaving for some time. Do this at a time you never leave the house, for example, in the evening. Read a book or watch TV and determine if your presence is helping to calm him down.

If you have determined your dog still gets upset even when he’s not crated and you are out and about, most likely you are dealing with a case of separation anxiety. Your dog is a bit young to show signs of separation anxiety as usually it affects puppies around 4 to 6 months in age, but it’s not unheard of it affecting some puppies earlier. This is something that will take some time to address, but with an early age of onset you have better chances at success if it’s caught early and nipped in the bud. In this case, I would highly suggest consulting with a dog behavior professional for a step-by-step behavior modification plan where your puppy will be gradually desensitized to better tolerate your departures. A good read would be Nicole Wilde’s book: “Don’t Leave Me” which offers an insight on what to do.

If your puppy instead shows signs of distress regardless if he is left alone in the crate or in your presence, most likely you are dealing with a severe case of fear of confinement or barrier frustration. Barrier frustration causes stress and “tantrums” when dogs are confined and affected dogs experience severe distress along with destructive attempts to escape the crate. In this case, treatment would involve teaching the puppy to tolerate confinement instead of teaching him to tolerate being separated from you. Following are some tips on how to teach a dog to better tolerate crate confinement.

• If your dog has a hard time tolerating the crate and you must leave your puppy for quite some time, you can try confining him in what Ian Dunbar calls a long-term confinement area. This is a puppy-proofed area with tiles (kitchen, bathroom or exercise pen) where your dog has more room to romp and access to a crate that is left open so your dog can go in and out at will. You will also add a water bowl, plenty of safe chew toys and a doggy toilet in the farthest corner away from the bed, crate and water. This may be the fastest solution as many dogs feel less nervous once they have access to more space and the ability to engage in different activities, (chew, sleep, drink, walk around, eliminate)

• If you absolutely must crate, then you must dedicate several days to make the crate a more pleasant place. This may take some time to accomplish. Start on a weekend when you are home. Keep the crate open and place a high value treat or favorite toy in there. When your dog goes inside to eat the treat or get the toy, praise you pup and place more inside to replace them. You want your dog to develop positive associations with the crate. Never close your puppy inside at this stage!

• Continue adding goodies to the crate, but this time add longer lasting ones. A Kong stuffed with goodies, a bone (make sure it’s suitable for puppies under 6 months) or his meal scattered inside are some ideas. Your goal is to have your pup enjoy these goodies inside the crate and spend some more time in there. Don’t close your puppy inside yet!

• As time goes by, your puppy will start investigating more and more the crate. From a scary place of confinement, it’s starting to become a treasure cove! Now, start placing goodies inside the crate (the smellier, the better) and close the crate with your puppy outside the crate. The goal is getting your puppy to be really eager to go inside. You want to catch him pawing at the crate, whining to get in. Open the crate and let your puppy inside and allow him to eat the goodies. Repeat several times.

• Finally, after some time, you can start letting your puppy in the crate to get the goodies, close him briefly—(the time your puppy has to eat them) and open him as soon as he is done, before your puppy has even time to whine or ask to get out. This will help him understand that good things happen in the crate and good things end out of the crate.

• As time goes by, start giving your dog longer lasting treats that will allow your puppy to be closed for longer periods of time. You can freeze a Kong with some goodies inside which take some time to finish up.

• Consider that crating a tired puppy ups your chances for success for him to nap. Play with your puppy for some time, go on a walk and provide loads of mental stimulation before crating him. Then, let him find a long-lasting goody in the crate. After managing to eat the long-lasting goody, he may feel more compelled to nap.

• Make it a rule to reward only calm behavior. If at some point your puppy is more accepting of the crate (doesn’t show signs of anxiety anymore) and you catch him whining and pawing to ask to be let out, ignore these attempts to get your attention and let him out only once he’s quiet. Stay nearby so you can promptly open when you notice a pause in his whining or pawing at the crate behavior. Do this as well with other behaviors your puppy displays. For instance, put the leash on only when your puppy seems calmer, feed his food only when he’s quiet, toss a ball only after your puppy sits or calmly waits. You want to reward only calm behaviors.

• Make sure the crate isn’t in an area where your pup is exposed to scary noises or where the crate gets too warm or cold. Never use a crate for punishment. It should always be a great place to be.

If you are not seeing much progress or do not have the time, consider that a long-term confinement area may be a better choice for your puppy. Not all puppies do well in crates. I hope this helps! Best wishes and kind regards!

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