Dogs are constantly communicating with us telling us how they feel. We can use this information to better understand them and their state of mind in any moment. Dogs are experts at reading human body language so it is time to get up to par!
Three main stress signals given off by dogs can alert or warn you. The dog gives these signals to communicate that it needs space or distance from that person, animal or thing it is confronted with. Using this information to know when a dog is becoming stressed can be used to help him. You can respond by backing away, walking him or her away from the ‘scary’ thing, or to take a break from grooming or any stressful event.
Most people can see and read dog body language very well. We are quite good at this with dogs that are not ours and even non-pet owners can read canine body language well. The breakdown in communication is what these signals mean and translate to in human words. The dog’s 3 main stress signals will be explained and soon you will be translating dog body language like a pro!
1. Lip Lick
What it looks like: dog licking his lips. It can be deceptive to us because it is often interpreted as the dog being hungry or thirsty. The dog is telling you he is getting stressed, unless of course you are holding a dish of kibble! Stopping direct eye contact by looking away will communicate back that you acknowledge his stress and are showing no threat. If you were head on with the dog, turn slightly to the side as this is a less threatening posture.
2. Look Away
What it looks like: the dog turns his entire head to the side, looking away from you or the ‘scary’ person. Often accompanied by the Lip Lick, the Look Away is a classic canine communication signal. Just because they are looking away does not mean they cannot see you. The dog has wider vision than us and this allows him to see us even better. Often you can catch the eyes darting back towards you as the head remains looking away. A socially appropriate response is to reciprocate the behavior, so go ahead and offer a look away in return. You cannot see the dog as well from the side, so do not look away as far as to having the dog out of your sight. Rather, glance away or down, tilting and relaxing your head and neck muscles. Soften and relax your gaze.
3. Paw Raise
What it looks like: giving paw. Look for a Paw Raise in the next full body photo of a dog you see. Cameras are close to dogs’ faces often making then nervous give a Paw Raise. The dog is not asking you to take his paw! This would make him more uncomfortable. To show the dog you recognize and understand that he is stressed you can shift your weight to one leg, take a lazy or slouched posture, and Look Away.
Next time you are watching your dogs play or greet others count how many Lip Licks, Look Aways, and Paw Raises your dog gives. After some practice watching two dogs play, notice which dog gives the stress signal first and if the other dogs mirrors or reciprocates the communication signal. Now that is a glimpse into the complex social world of our domestic canine companions! Now let’s go train!
Release commands used in dog training are cues like “OKAY” or “FREE”. This tells the dog that they are done working or performing the command. Using a release command is a key element of achieving reliability in training.
Almost any dog can SIT on command, but how many pop up and run seconds after following the command? Most. SIT until the handler says otherwise is essentially a STAY. If we do not utilize a release command we are unable to communicate when the dog can get up from a SIT or when he can move again from a STAY.
The release must be built into our training to provide a clear and precise communication system with our dog. We often get focused on obedience and getting the dog to SIT or DOWN, that we forget about the other half; telling them when they are done working. You have a clock, calendar, or supervisor to tell you when you are done working. Life would be stressful and confusing if you never knew when the job was done. It would also not be very rewarding.
Simply finishing a job, or obedience task, is rewarding in itself. You do not get a paycheck for doing your laundry but you feel satisfied when it is done and hanging clean in the closet. Dogs get the same self-satisfaction when they complete an obedience task. Therefore, it is critical that they know when the task is done.
A release command is taught by using a single word every time you use an obedience command. This may seem cumbersome in the beginning, but the adjustment results in a huge shift towards reliability and consistency in your dog’s obedience. Dog logic is all or none, black and white, and always or never. Sometimes or maybe is unclear, causing confusion and stress. Using a release command sometimes is unclear.
If you request a SIT, you must follow through with a release such as OKAY. When beginning training and introducing the release command, it must come before the dog breaks the sit or down command. To be effective you must be quick. If the dog gets up before you can release them, repeat the obedience SIT or DOWN command and try again. Over time with repetition and reinforcement, you will extend the amount of time between SIT and OKAY. This is where your release magically becomes a STAY!
When your dog is grasping the SIT and OKAY and DOWN and OKAY you can expand his training by generalizing the command. For dogs who love car rides, have them SIT and release OKAY when you are ready for them to jump into the car. Same thing when getting out; they can SIT on the seat waiting until you tell them OKAY to jump out.
Get the safety and control the release command provides. Enjoy the clear communication with your dog and feel great about providing the direction your canine companion is looking for.
We hope you enjoyed, now GO TRAIN!
There a great deal of training collars available for sale. These collars are training tools with a purpose for their use. Knowing what collar is best for your training needs can be confusing, but we aim to clarify the main types of training collars, what they are used for and how to use them. Any tool can be used improperly, and so we strive to provide you with choices through education.
Read on to find the best training collar for your dog!
1. Flat buckle collar
Fits snugly and securely to help prevent escape with either a metal or plastic clip. Fit snugly on the neck allowing 2 fingers space under. Does not help to decease pulling and you cannot give a leash correction for pulling with this style collar. This collar is a staple though for tags and identification purposes and can be worn by virtually any dog safely 24/7. Can also be a fashion statement!
2. Martingale or Slip collar
Like the flat buckle collar but has an additional loop that tightens when the dog pulls on the leash. Great for skinny necked dogs or for dogs who are experienced slipping their collars. To fit, slide the collar over the dog’s head and adjust the strap so that the collar is snug on the neck, allowing 2 fingers to fit under. This collar will not stop your dog from pulling and is not designed to be used with corrections.
These collars have become very popular but can be unsafe if left on without the leash attached and you supervising because they do tighten. Never leave this collar on when you are not holding the other end of the leash.
3. Metal choke collar
A single straight chain that becomes a collar when you pull it through one of the two “O” rings. This must be slipped over the dog’s head so the smallest length size that still slides easily over the ears is the correct fit. When the dog is wearing the collar, it should look like a sideways letter “P” with your leash attached to the tail of the “P”. This allows the chain to easily glide when corrections are given and when the dog is walking on a loose leash.
If your collar is on upside down with the “P” facing up rather than down, it will stay stuck and will not release keeping tension on the dog. You do not want that. This is a training collar to be used with corrections; allowing the dog to keep constant tension does not train him and can damage the neck and throat area. This correction is a quick pop and release, the sound of the chain gliding being the punishment.
These collars are difficult to use because you must be familiar and comfortable with the pop and release correction and even when you are, the collar constantly slides down the neck. Corrections are ineffective when the collar is not high on the neck. Never leave this collar on when you are not holding the other end of the leash.
4. Prong collar
Metal collar with prongs or can be a plastic style collar with plastic prongs. The collar is fitted high on the neck just behind the ears. It should be snug and not slip or twist around the neck during use. Lengthen or shorten the collar by adding or removing links to get a snug fit high on the neck. The best and only brand we recommend is Herm Springer. Other brands have difficult to use clips, faulty clasps, and rough edges on the prongs.
The Herm Springer comes in 3 gauges: fine, medium, heavy. The size of the dog does not determine the gauge to use. The correction needed is how you determine the gauge to use. Fine offers the greatest correction and control while medium works for most all dogs. If a dog needs correction but less than what the medium gauge provides, use a plastic prong collar. Starmak is a quality choice. Consult a qualified and experienced dog trainer to help determine whether to use a plastic or metal collar.
This collar is easy to use improperly, and with any tool we need to use it responsibly. This collar will give you great control immediately. The way it works is by giving a quick pop and release style correction in the direction you are correcting. There must not be continued tension on the leash. We highly recommend consulting an experienced trainer to learn how to properly use this training tool. Never leave this collar on when you are not holding the other end of the leash.
The best training collar fits your dog and is used properly allowing your to reach your training goals. Armed with his knowledge you will be better able to identify types of training collars, know what their purpose is, how to fit them, and most importantly, the proper way to use them. Go train!
You have found the perfect dog for you and now it is time to shop until you drop. At least that’s what the pet stores want you to do. All the extra spending is not necessary, you can get the basics on a budget! Get started for about $250 with our top 5 must-have essentials:
1. Crate $100
All new dogs regardless of age need to house training. Choose the size that allows your dog to stand up, turn around and lay down. Plastic or metal? The plastic crates work great for car trips and keep fur and dirt in the crate. Wire models allow more air but are not great for transporting pets. Escape artists will do best in a heavy-gauge metal crate with every corner, side and top reinforced with metal clips from the hardware store. If you have a puppy that is growing you can buy 2 plastic crates (one now and one when the growing stops) or you can buy one large metal crate that comes with a divider and move it as he grows.
Bedding should be an old towel or rug for dogs who will not chew it as this can be very dangerous. If the dog or puppy is soiling, then no bedding either because they will soil in their crate then push the dirty towel to the back and enjoy a ‘clean’ house. Blankets come as the training progresses.
2. Food $50
Sorry, this is not the department to save money. Create health from the inside out and you will help avoid allergies, hot spots, fleas, ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea and picky eating. What you don’t spend on food you will spend on the vet. You want your dog or puppy to feel great, free of tummy issues and itchy skin. Physical health also has a direct impact on learning ability!
The food isles are absolutely intimidating. Beautiful packaging designed for YOU, not your dog. Natural, holistic, flavor, freeze-dried, how would you ever choose? I suggest reaching out to a canine nutritionist at a private pet food store that can recommend a biologically appropriate diet for your dog and minimal chemicals. We use Open Farm.
3. Treats $0
Okay, maybe a few dollars but almost free! Don’t skip the training; this is how you will form a relationship with you newest family member and the way to kindly show them the ropes of life with you. Puppies 6 months and under love sliced cheese and cheese will make you their favorite person! Older dogs can have cut up hot dogs. Keep the pieces of cheese and hot dogs small and plentiful during your training sessions. Cooked green beans, baked sweet potatoes slices, and raw carrots and apples also make great training treats for many dogs. Stuff the red Kong toy with any of these foods or peanut butter for a fun treat in the crate.
4. Toys $60
The basics for all dogs are a squeaky tennis ball, rope tug, red Kong, and for chewing a Nylabone and real antler. These few items will provide games you can play with your dog, enrichment on his own, and the absolute need for chewing. You could spend $500 in this isle, but remember, you are on a budget.
5. Leash & Collar $30
All you need is a flat buckle collar and a plain 6-foot leash. The collars with a belt-style metal buckle are the strongest and most secure. So many options, but stick to the basics. You should be able to put two fingers under the collar but not looser than that or it may slip. Puppies and growing or weight-gaining dogs need their collar checked daily for proper fit.
These Budget Essentials will help you to keep it safe and keep it fun while making it affordable to get started with your new puppy or rescue dog! Happy training!
It is pleasing to consider adopting a dog rather than buying a new puppy. While there are many benefits to adopting, you want to be sure you find the right dog for you. There are so many dogs to choose from that it makes finding the perfect match challenging. It would almost be easier if we could take them all home!
A few helpful tips in your quest to find the perfect rescue dog will help keep you on track as you browse the newspaper ads and local shelters. Having this information will help you to identify your needs and limitations to make level-headed and planned decisions. Without a clear plan you can be led to any cute doggie face and may adopt a dog that clashes with you rather than one that fits your lifestyle. Here are our top 3 tips for picking the perfect pup:
1. Energy Level. Choose the right energy level for you. Do not get a dog with the intention of becoming more active, although that likely will happen! If you are a moderately active person chose a low energy dog. Only if you already run/hike/bike choose a dog who is bouncing from one wall to the next without touching the floor.
2. Personality. Dogs and people can be placed into one of four personality groups: amiable (warm, friendly, likes touch, body contact), expressive (socially animated, humorous, class clown, pushes rather than touching), analytical (quiet, reserved, methodical, minimal touching), and driver (controlled, formal, intense, driven, limited toucher). Determine your personality type and find a lovely dog with the same personality!
3. Breed. You can choose a breed you like but be sure you read up on that breed if you have not owned one before. While some pure breeds can be found at the shelter, many are mixes. If the dog is mixed breed, it is best if the differing breeds are in the same breed group such as Herding, Hound, Working, Sporting, Terrier, or Toy. For example, I would suggest a beagle-basset mix, hound-hound mix, over a border collie-basset mix, a herder-hound mix. Any dog can be a great dog but staying within breed groups unifies genetic behavior. And take this with a grain of salt because many shelter dogs are labeled incorrectly; you can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge a breed by its coat.
There you have it. Try this clear cut and simple plan to find and chose the dog that is best for you and you will certainly be the best for your dog! Take your time and ask for an overnight trial before adopting. And when you are ready sign those papers and celebrate!
Next up: Everything you need for a new dog or puppy ON A BUDGET
Can Your Dog Sniff Out a Bad guy?
Numerous accounts exist of pet owners claiming that their dog saved their life by warning them of a strangers’ ill intent. Can dogs really determine whether a person is bad or good? Maybe you have a story to share.
The dog is a highly social animal specially adapted to living with people. Dogs are always working to minimize conflict and working to get along. The dog wants to increase good things that happen to him and decrease the chance of bad things from happening to him. The ability to recognize and respond to human emotion is a social behavior dogs are capable of. Dog trainers know if you are fearful of something your dog is likely to copy you.
A dog’s sense of smell is far greater than ours, so it is plausible that they can smell an aggressive person before we can tell if they plan to harm us. As a person’s aggression increases, testosterone levels increase. Another source of detecting a human’s inner emotional state could be attributed to biological events such as body language & facial expressions, heart rate, perspiration, respiration rate. When a person is thinking, or preparing, for an aggressive act their testosterone levels increase, their heart rate rises, facial muscles tense, and perspiration increases as their body prepares to “fight”.
Does a dog sniff person for raised testosterone levels? Do they listen for as increased heart or respiration rate? Do they look to the face for tiny muscle movements telltale of aggressive thoughts? Do they observe for dominate body postures? Do they conserve energy by letting their human do all this processing for them?
Dogs have emotions and experience them in response to odor, they have a superb sense of smell, the ability to detect biological changes associated with seizures, the ability to read facial expressions. They also tend to synchronize with their humans, feeling how they feel by simply copying them.
Currently, however, we cannot validate that a dog can smell a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person. We do know the odor associated with a ‘bad’ person is increased testosterone, but this hormone, like insulin, cannot be isolated from the human body for testing because we also have blood, water, sugar, and other fluids inside of us. This has halted the testing of dogs’ ability to detect changes in hormone levels occurring in humans.
This does not mean that dogs cannot detect and decipher emotion in humans. It means we cannot scientifically validate that they can smell ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people.
We do know that dogs can decipher emotion in humans. They recognize and recall memories and emotions associated with odor, they actively read facial expressions and body language of humans, can notice subtle biological changes so minute they are invisible to humans, such as in seizure alerting.
This remarkable ability gives dogs a glimpse into the emotional lives of humans. Although it cannot be tested scientifically, I believe dogs can and are determining whether a stranger might be good or bad. Next time your normally happy, care-free dog feels unsure about a stranger it just might be best to listen to him and get out of there!
How about you? Has your dog ever told you that a person is bad guy? Did this save your life? Share your dog’s story!
Spring is in the air and puppies are everywhere! So cute are they until we have puddles on the floor and chewed up rugs. Puppies are very impressionable and live in the moment, going about their day doing what they please. Sometimes, though, what pleases them does not please us. Read on to learn how to stop troublesome puppy behavior with a few training tricks!
It sounds simple in hindsight but is not so obvious when starting out. If your puppy does not have access to the rug/sneakers/furniture can he or she cannot chew it up. How do we limit access to household items? Keep the puppy in a room separate from the items he or she is chewing up or soiling on, OR put them items away and out of reach.
This may require some purely functional home redecorating to a more minimal look. Roll up area rugs and put them in storage. Put plants on high counters, outside or in a closed room. Get an under-cabinet trash can. Install quality baby gates in doorways and close off rooms not in use. Put shoes in closets and children’s toys into toyboxes. This is a prevention method of training which sets up the dog for success. If he or she cannot choose to chew up a shoe because it is in the closet you have just turned an ounce of prevention into a pound of gold.
When your puppy does have access to items you cannot remove such as furniture or wall to wall carpeting use gates and doors to keep your puppy with you, in sight. This allows you to provide training because you will be able to catch your puppy in the act of chewing, soiling or engaging in unwanted behavior. This is critical because dogs can only learn in the moment. Being present when the wrong behavior occurs is half the battle. What you do in response is also half the battle.
So you look across the room and there she is, squatting! Our instinct is to yell “stop” but this may frighten your puppy and he or she could become fearful of you or your loud voice. The best training tip is to get to the puppy quickly and simply pick them up. This is awful enough to the puppy and usually makes them stop going. No words, no punishments. Carry the puppy outside to a designated potty spot.
What about catching your dog chewing up furniture? Same thing. Do not yell or punish your puppy. Simply go to them and encourage them to physically move away from the thing they were chewing. Do this by calling them to you or offering play with a toy or chew bone.
Focusing on punishment creates a nervous fearful puppy. Instead use food, treats, toys, play, petting and just time with you to prevent naughty behavior from occurring and redirecting it when it does happen.
Stop a smell the flowers with your puppy, he will be a teen in just six months!
Katie Weibel, Master Dog Trainer. Providing training for companion, service and working dogs, sharing knowledge and expertise.