February 23, 2012
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Have you ever considered hosting a foreign exchange student in your home for a year? If so, you kindly thought about what he or she would need to feel welcome and at ease the moment they walked through your door. I believe that bringing a dog into our home is very much the same situation. Here are some things I think are essential to help your new companion get a great start.
Buying or adopting a “trained” dog in the hopes that all of the work is done for you is a nice idea. My experience sometimes tells a different story.
Years ago, while my husband and I were visiting friends, something happened. Our friends were avid coin collectors and had amassed quite a large collection. They were showing us some of the rarer and more interesting coins and left them on a table when we went out for dinner. Upon returning, we found the coins scattered across the living room floor. Many were missing. Yes, the more valuable ones were among the missing.
This is the story of a horse called “Clever Hans" that took place in the early 1900s. Hans was owned by a retired mathematics instructor named Wilhelm von Osten. He lived in Berlin and was in his 60s at the time of this scenario.
A few weeks ago, I met three young men from the United Kingdown who were bicycling around the world. Yes, you read that correctly, around the world. They were sitting outside of McDonalds working on their bikes after eating “double orders” of food. I was fascinated by their journey and asked them many questions.
After a life enriched with outside activities and basking in the sun all summer long, our dogs can start feeling all pent up and bored, too.
I’ll bet every dog- and cat-owning family has their special Christmas traditions. Our family did, and much of it revolved around sparing the beautiful heirloom ornaments on the tree, not to mention the tree itself.
We’ve all seen dogs tied up in front of stores and restaurants downtown. They are tethered, and their owners are not there to intervene on their behalf.
You’ve worked hard to teach your dog to greet people nicely at the door. No more paws on shoulders. No more shredded clothes. He’s sitting politely and waiting to be petted. Now, that job is over. Or is it?
Well, it’s upon us. Halloween might be a most confusing night for dogs. I can only imagine what is going through my dog Stuart’s mind.
I had asked some visiting nieces to tell me about their dog, Buddy. They all agreed they loved him very much but said he was stubborn and not too smart. They said he didn’t respond very quickly to a couple of cues, namely “come” and “sit.”
Did you ever think about how much pressure a dog-loving society might be putting on the average dog owner? There seem to be specific expectations placed on dog owners that relate to dog social skills and play.
My friend often calls me with questions about problem behavior. For a long time, we seemed to play tug of war between the love she feels for the dogs and dealing with the behavior with which she was struggling.
I was in the park helping a new puppy owner get started on the path to raising the dog of her dreams when two families with children approached and asked if they could pet her puppy. Hooray for parents who are teaching their children to ask permission before petting a dog.
In my lifetime, I’ve seen the world of dog and horse training evolve from one-size-fits-all, punishment-based training to a gentler science-based approach to learning and behavior.
I’m always deeply and profoundly touched by the powerful connections people have with their dogs. After a dog dies, it's hard to know whether to get a new dog right away. The truth is, there’s not one right answer.
For dogs as well as humans, it’s difficult to learn new skills in a new or distracting environment. I often ask, “Can you imagine trying to learn algebra while attending a Broncos game?”
Have you ever considered what it might feel like to be taken to a place where no one speaks your language or understands your culture yet expects you to conduct yourself by an unspoken set of rules? I often ask this of new pet owners.
“Here I am, over 60 and raising my first puppy.”
You may have a dog that suffers from thunderstormphobia or know someone whose dog does. This is a very upsetting problem for owners and dogs, and it can be the cause of serious injury to some of our favorite canines.
In the United States and some European countries, using soft direct eye contact is considered to be a sign of attentiveness, honesty, confidence and respect for what the other person is saying.
A young woman stopped me in the grocery store inquiring about training her “crazy” dog. Now, I don’t train dogs in the grocery store, but I did try to dispel a common misconception about how we perceive dog behavior problems.
Dogs are so good at reading our body language and are quick to learn the consequences of their actions. It’s how they survive. Labels such as “stubborn” can get in the way of understanding the real problem. Dogs know what works for them from past experience.
Giving a reinforcing food treat to your dog when he does what you have asked is one way of giving immediate feedback that he can understand.
People tend to think that a dog trainer’s dog is perfect. Dog owners who see trainers walking their dogs around town might think, “I wish my dog would be well-behaved like that one.” The reality is that many of us have dogs that are challenging, but trainers have the skills and take the time to train them. Over-the-top dogs require a lot of supervision, management and constant and consistent training. My 6-year-old English bull terrier, Stuart, is such a dog.
We’ve all heard it said, “A wagging tail means a friendly dog.” It’s risky to live by this statement because there’s more to the story.
The topic of hugging dogs comes up so often and has such important repercussions that it’s worth addressing again and again.
When I trained my first dog not to pull while on a leash in the 1950s, the only equipment we used was a choke chain and a six-foot leash. We now have so many choices of equipment that is effective and gentler on our dogs and us.
A friend recently shared a concern with me about her high-energy puppy. She said she was worried that she might “slip up” and the pup would learn something she didn’t want her to learn.
Thankfully, our equipment and methods for teaching dogs have changed dramatically since then. We now have so many more choices of equipment that are effective and gentler on our dogs and us.
Well-meaning but misinformed dog owners who let their dogs run loose may call out, “Oh, don’t worry. He’s friendly!” We hear it every day.
Dogs are all the same species, but their temperament, emotional makeup and attachment can be as different as with any two human beings.
We rarely tap into the fullness of a dog’s mental capacity during his or her lifetime. And, as with humans, it’s beneficial to start learning early and continue perfecting new skills throughout life.
As humans, our bodies can betray attempts to mask our intent. For dogs, body language is their primary form of communication.
Have you wondered why some dogs bark day and night in your neighbor’s yard? Have you thought there could be a connection between the breed, age or temperament of the dog as well as his environment?
Freedom alone can create an out-of-control dog. He may be headed for the animal shelter if he doesn’t get help. His freedom needs to be balanced with some rules and leadership.
Young? Athletic? Home alone? Bored? No, this isn’t a young adult looking for a date. It may be your dog.
Frequently we ask new pet owners why they got a dog. They often tell us that the new dog is “for the kids” or “to keep my other dog company.”