Posts Tagged ‘Dog Behavior’

One of my past posts “I Do” I talked about making a commitment to your dog. This is the story of my commitment to Stella who has challenged my sanity in just about every which way I can think of. I got Stella from a pretty rough situation. Now that I think about it my first and second dogs were both rescues. Bently and Stella both came from some pretty awful living conditions.

When I first met Stella or Nina as she was called at the time it was in the West end of Ottawa. I was supposed to see her at the beach but instead was taken back to someones house. I felt a bit uneasy and the scenario only got worse from there. The guy I was dealing with told me that he had to get rid of this dog and he was leaving the country the following day. I pressed him about what would happen if I didn’t take her. He replied with “Not sure. Might just have to leave her in this apartment”.

He went inside one of the town houses and returned with Stella and two people shouting at one other. I heard the female voice asking him where he was taking the dog. While the male voice angrily yelled that he “didn’t care and he didn’t want the thing there in the first place”. He brought Stella out on a short dirty pink leash and handed her to me and I walked her around a bit. She was very timid and it was pretty easy to tell that the people where she was were mistreating her. If you raised a hand too quickly she would cower it was clear they were at the least hitting her to punish her. She was pretty sweet showed me no aggression and Lilly seemed to be somewhat ok with her. My fiance walked her and Lilly a bit and then asked me what I thought. I asked the guy if we could have a minute. We both were still reeling from the loss of my first dog Bently who died in  a freak accident. We wanted to take a second and not jump into anything we weren’t ready for. We both thought that  she was being hit judging by the way she was acting but she was sweet and seemed to almost at once accept Lilly’s limits socially. We were stuck between the classic “rock and a hard place.”

I asked the guy how much he wanted for her. I forget what I paid but I think it was 200 bucks but I mean at this point what could I do.  My fiance and I being the animal people we are couldn’t stand the idea of her going back in their to face those abusive people again. We drove the kid to an ATM. I paid him, he told me a bit more, he claimed she was a pit bull, I could teach her to bite on command if I wanted (in my head I was thinking thank god I saved this dog). I mean who knows what would have happened to her if she was left there any longer. Personally my fiance and I think Stella is a Great Dane, Boxer, and some sort of hunting dog mix. She is way too large to be a pit bull. Who really knows. We dropped this guy back off at the beach and drove Stella away.

I didn’t really get to see much out of Stella before agreeing to take her. The first few days went ok then it was as if all the sudden she let her personality come out. Crate training was out of hand. No matter what we did she would scream for hours and hours. I tried everything in the book. I have crate trained many of my dogs and have never encountered anything like this. Force free, Cesar Millan, heck even  bribes to be quiet didn’t work. Finally after what seemed like an eternity she learned that her crate was just a place to relax chill out, a home away from home if you will.

That was only the start of a long list of ticks that pushed my fiance and I to the limit. I talk about getting  a dog that matches your energy. Tarah and I are on the “kinda active” side. Were not couch potatoes but we don’t run 10 k a day either. Stella we quickly came to learn had more energy than any dog we had ever had. Ok no problem we will just walk and Rollerblade more no big deal. Here’s the catch Stella was terrified to leave the drive way. She absolutely refused some days laying on the ground like a dead body. Leaving home could be a half an hour ordeal in it self. Often while rollerblading she would stop with no warning sending me flying backwards. I mentioned she had a lot of energy but it was impossible to get her to drain it. Everyone she would meet she would jump up on and tackle. Treats and positive reinforcement did little to sway her need to hug everyone she encountered.

Her bad manners didn’t stop at people. At the dog park she would guard any large ball many times leading to a tug of war show down with someone else. Other people playing fetch, nope she would steal whatever they were throwing ball stick it didn’t matter. Recalll seemed like something that was optional at the time, if she felt like it. My fiance and I often wondered what it was we were doing wrong. I am not blaming Stella. Looking back on it we had just been missing out on a connection some where. We were following the same blue print I had with Bently. Who at this point had been the exact opposite of Stella in every way. If we had people over and put Stella on her lead she would run around often close lining people and even once her self. It was as if no matter what we did to exercise her both physically and mentally nothing seemed to matter. We were at a complete loss as to how one dog could be so vastly different when we were training them the same way.

Recently my fiance and I admitted to each other that at one point we both thought that we had bitten off way more than we could chew with Stella. We weren’t sure if our efforts were ever going to pay off. We thought we were pretty good dog people but who knows maybe Bently was a fluke.  Finally Stella slowly started to make progress. First with the drive way. She started to leave and actually enjoy rollerblading. At this time I had been  taking Stella to a secluded dirt path and doing off leash work with her. I let go of my anxiety and trusted her, something I hadn’t been able to do before. This is when things really changed for me. I believe that dogs work off energy. They can feel energy and react to it. Don’t believe me, think about the last time you tried to get your dog to listen to you while you were angry. It never works as well as when your calm and collected. I truly believe that she could feel that up until then that I didn’t fully trust her and it was keeping us from properly bonding. Today Stella is a well-behaved ambassador for whatever breed she is. Most people comment on how well-behaved she is and are blown away to find out she just turned one. She is definately one of the hardest dogs I’ve ever personally owned. Stella is a prime example of a tough puppy that with hard work and discipline has transformed into an amazing dog.

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So today I was having a bit of a hard time deciding on a topic. I had spent a few weeks before starting this blog getting ideas together for posts. My goals are to talk about pit bulls in a good light, my fostering experience, and the BSL here in Ontario. Sadly I read an article that again painted pit bulls in a negative light and unjustly so. If you’d like to read it you can click here. These were my thoughts.

The article leads with  that the attack was un provoked as many do. Dog language can be subtle and more than likely it was missed dog language that lead to the attack. It is something that people commonly  miss out on. It could have been as something as small as a lip curl or one dog displaying another subtle form of dominance. At times the body language can be very hard to pick up on.

The article goes on to paint a pretty vivid and negative image of pit bulls. The story is that she was walking by a group of men who “called out at her”. The next thing she knew there was a un muzzled “pit bull shaking her small dog every which way”. Let me say in no way am I excusing or condoning what happened here. Everytime a dog bites someone  it is tragic. A bite usually comes from a negative situation from both sides human and dog. The article goes on to say the man fled and the police are still searching for him and his “pit bull”. I have to ask this. During the chaos of a dog attack how was this person, whose profession is not identifying dogs, properly identify that this dog was a “pit bull”. Shelters are wrong 87.5% of the time when identifying dogs. These are trained professionals who have time to examine each dog not just a look during a moment of complete mayhem. It makes me think about a dog we had in BIN named Guinness. He was labeled a pit bull when he is actually a swiss mountain dog. So I wonder how in the mix of all the chaos and a dog fight that this person was able to positively identify that this dog was  pit bull. It may have been one or not but the point is here are pit bulls in the media being portrayed as a “snarling mass of muscle and teeth”. The authorities stated that if it was a pit bull it should have been muzzled not committing either way. Yet the article says pit bull over 5 times.

I did some research into dog bites and the articles that surround them. Many dog attack articles sight that the attacking dog was a “pit bull” or “pit bull mix”. Many of the police reports accompanying these attacks site no breed of dog at all. So I wonder where did this magical pit bull come from. Well let’s face it a small dog biting someone’s hand and the person requiring 5-10 stitches is no headline grabber. On the contrast a head line like “Pit Bull Mauls Man, requires 50 stitches” pulls people in and grabs readers. It’s a shame that so many journalists are being so irresponsible and ruining the reputation of a whole breed just to entertain readers. On average pit bulls score much better on temperament tests than many other “family dogs”. Lilly has grown up with pit bulls her whole life.  In many instances there is no hard evidence  at all  to support that  the attacking dog was in fact a pit bull. In many cases it seems some writer took it upon themselves to just assume what kind of dog it was. If this author was reporting on  a plane crash  I find it hard to believe that people would be so understanding of falsifying facts just to gain headlines.

I’ve said it in my past posts that pit bulls fall into what I believe are power breeds of dogs. These guys require the extra mile in most cases. Some popular ones including Dobermanns, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Mastiffs. Many of these breeds at one time or another were subject to BSL laws in the past. Not everyone has what it takes to responsibly own one. Many people buy dogs to selfishly fulfill something inside themselves or portray an image never thinking about what the dogs needs are. What the article fails to do is place the responsiblity where it belongs on the owner. They talked about his tattered clothes as if that had anything to do with his out of control dog or maybe it was to add to the negative image many people have of pit bull owners.  Today it seems as if people just get dogs and assume that they will behave with little to no effort on their part. Or maybe that they should behave because we humans are “in charge”. They couldn’t be more wrong. When we get a dog we are making a commitment to giving a dog what it needs to feel fulfilled each day. It is our responsibility to train them show them rules, boundaries, discipline (which is different from punishment), and appropriate interactions with the world around them. I guess it’s just a shame people aren’t more responsible with their pets and journalists with their words. Both create a bad image for a loyal and loving breed of dog.

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Thought I’d include a picture of one of those “snarling masses of muscle”.

So I just wanted to take a quick second to update everyone and say a few things. I just wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to read and share!! Second we had an a great time at BIN’s Spring Fling yesterday (Opie was pooped right out). It was a huge success and we wanted to thank everyone for coming out and helping us spread the word. Third I thought I’d welcome Forrest to the pack. He is our newest foster. It seems the poor thing has spent quite a bit of time at the shelter (right now were just adjusting to the world around us although I can tell being neglected has made him a nervous little guy). I’m not blaming the shelter I know they did the best they could there are just too many dogs and not enough people to properly care for them all each day. Well you’ve got a stable home here little guy.

Here are a few pics of his first day and a half.

forrest4 Forrest Forrest1 Forrest2 forrest3

 

 

Wedding

Spring is in the air or if your here in Ottawa then it’s buried underneath the snow somewhere. With my fiancé and I quickly approaching our wedding (we’re tying the knot in November) the word commitment comes to mind. Now for those of you thinking of getting a dog this spring this “C” word applies to you too.  Similar to marriage being a commitment so is getting a dog especially a puppy. Let me say I love puppies my girls are 1, 1 1/2, and Opie must be about six months now (he is snoring away next to me). But puppies are a lot of work. Most of the time people are over whelmed with how cute a puppy is without really ever considering what it takes to raise a dog. Many people overlook adopting an adult dog over looking the many benefits (I mean other than giving a totally deserving guy a home). Many are already house and crate trained. Check with your local rescue or shelter to see what dogs  their care that are adults and up for adoption.

One thing to consider is exercise. It is a major factor in a dog being happy and well BALANCED. No exercise No Bueno. Sure it is easy to exercise a puppy now while he is small and a short run poops him out but what needs to be considered is what kind of exercise he will need in the future. All dogs need it large or small. Now there are a few things that vary how much exercise a dog needs. These things being age, size, energy level, sometimes even breed. Without even touching on rules, boundaries, and proper behavior. Just exercise itself is a minimum half an hour a day commitment and that would be a low energy level dog. If you fall in this category consider yourself lucky some most dogs need more. In an ideal scenario I get my pack out twice a day one Rollerblade in the AM before breakfast this helps your dog to feel as if they are working for food something they naturally do in the wild. Sometimes for the second activity we switch it up go for a walk, go to the river for a swim, go hiking, walk in the city. Variety can help when things are getting repetitive. When it’s too cold out we rent an indoor hall in Ottawa where we can play fetch, run an agility course, Stella likes to play find it (she finds a treat hidden amongst a bunch of toys and other distractions.)

Exercise is only a portion of having a balanced dog, showing him how to behave is another. It’s your responsibility to show him proper and improper behavior as well as socialization with other people and animals. Obedience and training classes can help as well. But having a well-balanced dog goes far beyond having him sit or stay. It’s our job show our dogs what are appropriate interactions with the world around them. Just getting out and walking around with your dog aids in proper socialization. He will see strangers and be put in new situations. When introducing something remember to take it slow and make it positive. Always end on a positive note. That way you dog will associate this with something positive. These are only a few of the components that when all put together give you a well-behaved balanced dog.

Back to actually getting a dog. I am a firm believer in adoption from a shelter or rescue. I hear a lot from people “well we would adopt but we want a puppy.” The rescue we foster and volunteer for BULLIES IN NEED has a bunch of puppies right now (for anyone interested in adopting outside of ONTARIO let me know). Another common one is “I want a small dog”.  Friends of mine from high school rescue Chihuahuas. Going to show dogs big and small, old and young are in need of homes all across North America. More importantly than size or breed getting a dog to match your energy level can help in having a happy home. Explain your energy level to the people at the rescue or shelter and they should be able to help match you to a suited dog. If you run 5 miles a day then you need a dog that can keep up with an active life style. If you’re more of a couch potato then a lower energy dog would suit you better. Bear in mind all dogs need exercise every day. But in this instance adopting senior dog may fit your life style better. Whatever the case may be there is a dog out there for you. He’s waiting at a shelter or rescue for you to come find him.

Despite all of our picking and choosing I believe firmly you get the dog you need not the dog you want. Let me explain. When I was living in Jersey I was having a really rough time. Some things in my life were changing and I just wasn’t happy with them.  That was when I rescued Bently. For a long time that dog was my rock. Without my fiancé and Bently I’m not sure what I would have done. When I rescued Stella here in Ottawa it was a bit different of a story. I found myself more angry and frustrated with life. Stella has shown me patience and whatever scenario you find yourself in, find the joy in it. She’s the type of dog that is just happy-go-lucky. It’s hard to look at her and not smile. Rarely is she not bouncing around in a care free way. Lilly our small dog is a snuggler and seems to know when you’re feeling blue and will snuggle right up to you to make you feel better. My fiancé got her when I had an apartment in New Jersey and was away for quite a while and needed a companion. Our dogs are always trying to teach us something we just have to have the intuition and patience to figure out exactly what that is.

So I thought I’d start today by saying this right out. I am a big follower of Cesar Millan. I have read some of his books, watched his show and dvds. When Millan came to Ottawa we had even went to see him. I practice a lot of what he teaches and his philosophes and guess what they work. Do I live by everything he says no. Am I deluded enough to think that his way is the only and right way? No.  But Millan has been at this a long time and I believe there is much merit to his work. There are studies for both sides showing how his methods do and don’t work. There are also many studies done that show  crime is down when it is not. Or how pit bulls are dangerous dogs.  Like most things in life nothing is absolute. Most things tend to linger in the grey area. Crime is down in some areas. Some pit bulls are dangerous. Whether we made them that was is a whole other debate. While Millan encourages others to seek other options and even acknowledges that his way is not the only one. I see many of these other so-called “professionals” tearing him down saying if you follow Cesar your wrong. I was recently pointed to a blog where the trainer goes on and on about “no force” training and how it is the only way and how horrible Cesar is. I wonder why so many of these other “professional trainers” spend so much time attacking him instead of doing what he does, helping dogs. Millan is always respectful when it comes to the teaching methods of others. I wonder why others aren’t a bit more secure in their methods. By tearing him down it seems like these so-called “professionals” are trying to eliminate an option for us instead of doing what Millan does and let us choose what works best for us. I am always suspicious of other people when they so openly tear someone down. It’s unprofessional and speaks volumes about them. As an open-minded young adult I find value in many different ways of training dogs. No one way is the right way. It’s closed-minded people just like this that clutch so dearly to the lame idea that “their way is the only way”. It’s mindsets like this that support the BSL here in Ottawa. That the only way to curb dog bites is outlaw all pit bulls. Someone so closed-minded they can’t peer outside the box and say “Hey you know what there might just be another way to do this. Not better than mine just different”.

If at nothing else we can all agree what an ADVOCATE FOR OUR BREED he is. Millan has numerous pit bull dogs that are all ambassadors for our breed. He has also rehabed countless Pit mixes. Please try telling me you wouldn’t enjoy a dog as well-behaved as Daddy was or Junior is. Most of us at home can only dream of having a dog as balanced as that. If you’re sitting there shaking your head then I know there is nothing I can say to you. Millan must be the dog beating mad man some people will make him out to be. You sound like the PETA people who say poke balls are harmful to Pikachu. In the end I wonder why nay sayers are so quick to pound their chest and tout their way as being the only one. While Millan humbly takes the opposite approach. If you do not agree with his methods he openly invites you to explore your other options. Never once will you catch him trying to boast his methods as the only ones that work.

The people who seek out Millan are trying to change their pets behavior which has become out of hand and sometimes even dangerous. Millan encourages owners to take responsibility for the situation and own it. Something many trainers do not do. In the end who are you to judge someone based upon their beliefs. Taking it one step further to belittle them and make them feel bad for attempting to train their dog, well that speaks loads more about you than the people who follow Cesar Millan. These people should be applauded for putting in the work instead of just dropping fido off at the pound when “he just wont behave right”.  I always find it odd when professionals are so closed-minded that they can’t see anyone elses work having any value. With all of Millan’s supporters out their its kinda hard to argue and say his methods don’t work. I’m not saying that you need to agree with him 100& but trying to deny that his methods work at all is ridiculous. So if Millan so easily accepts their being other ways to train dogs, I guess the real question is why can’t you?

I got up at 9:30 this morning with the full intention of letting the dogs out and writing something for this blog. It’s my goal for the first 30 days to write something everyday. I let everyone out for their morning pee and poop and sat down to read a few articles look over some topic ideas and write something. Pretty much from the get go our little guy Opie (we foster him for Bullies In Need a great rescue who is always looking for volunteers and foster homes contact me for more info) had a bunch of spunk and so did his older sister Stella who is normally lazy in the morning. I immediately knew I was going to be getting very little done this morning until I drained some energy. So I put on my warm clothes strapped on my roller blades and off we went. Thankfully they are all asleep now which frees me up to write this.

I know in the title of my article I said training and you could certainly look at it that way. I prefer to think of them as behavior expectations. I find when people hear the word train they think of treats and dogs sitting as their owner wags a biscuit over their head. What people don’t understand is puppies from day one are formulating exactly what is expected of them and exactly what you allow them to do. I touch on this concept in a previous post . A lot of people think that for a dog learn he needs to be a certain age or you can’t teach him anything. I find just the opposite. The earlier you start the easier your making your life. An amazing example of this would be our foster dog Opie.

By the time we got Opie from Bullies in Need we were well aware of the fact that it is never too early to start showing your dog acceptable behavior. When he came to us he was just a bit more than 8 weeks old. One key thing with dogs is patience for both of you. You need to have patience in showing them what you want and they show patience by waiting for your command before doing anything. Your dog should be looking to for leadership at all times. For instance when you are letting your dog out of its cage it should not just burst out the second you unlatch the door like a charging bull. Instead you should be able to unlatch the door open it and walk away ( I can turn my back even round the corner). Repition is key. It took Opie about a week to pick up on what the proper way to exit you cage was. None the less at 8 weeks he was already learning what was expected from him at home. Another prime example involving doors would be letting them out. Your dog should not be crowding you at the door. Opie was taught just like the rest of our dogs that an open door is just that an open door. It’s that simple nothing more nothing less. Just because a door is open does not mean you may go out of it without my permission. Same with entering some where the human always goes in first and the dog once he is calm and submissive. Never should your dog be allowed to bound into the house ahead of you. This is your home you let him live here not the other way around and by letting him just run in ahead of he is affective saying this is HIS home.

The best part about this is each time you make them wait and return to a calm submissive state it drains energy. Not physically but mentally. Sometimes mental work is just as hard for them as running or physical exercise. Conditioning is the key. A prime example is Opie and our kitchen. When we cook in the kitchen we don’t allow our dogs in there. For Lilly and Stella this  wasnt always a rule so they will occasionally drift into the kitchen where as Opie has learned that by quickly exiting the kitchen and lying down gets him a food reward. Let me explain the reward. It is my expectation that you remain outside the kitchen but laying down calmly is above and beyond so in our house we choose to reward such behavior ( I would strongly recommend that you try this at home.)

My point is showing them first what you expect is a much better way than letting them do whatever they want and then begin at 4 months to place expectations on their behavior. I’m not saying at all that it wouldn’t be possible for the 4 month old to learn (you can teach all dogs new behavior and place new expectations on them) but it is much easier to never let your dog form behaviors that you don’t agree with. Even as a puppy correcting undesirable behavior is a must and creating new desirable behaviors is possible.

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