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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is It Possible to Raise a “Perfect” Dog……….YES!!! And here’s how

Think you can’t raise a perfect dog, think again. I have two. A female German Shepherd named Heidi and her friend, a miniature long haired Dachshund male named Fritz. I love them dearly. We are a pack. And it is very clear; I am the leader of the pack. There are many factors in canine development. But if you follow these simple rules, you too can have the dog you always dreamed of.
1.      Genetics: If your budget allows, find a reputable breeder. Do your homework. There are people out there that produce puppies and call themselves breeders. I think not. There is much to successful breeding. If you can, meet the parents and you should be able to get a reasonable idea of what you’re getting. If you get a dog from a shelter, make sure to spend some time with the dog or hire a canine professional to assist you in your choice.
2.      Training: Don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish. Hire a trainer. Again, do your homework. There are allot of good trainers out there, and allot of bad ones too.
3.      Exercise: There are two forms of exercise: mental and physical. Your dog is a social animal and needs to interact with you. A good game of fetch, once a day, is worth its weight in gold.
4.      Management: For the first two years of a dog’s life, their home should be a crate. If you’re not supervising the dog, they are in a crate. Reason is you have to save them from themselves. If a dog tears something up in your home, than he/she has to be reprimanded. That is a negative. If all his interaction with you is on a positive note, than you will have a better relationship with the dog.
5.      Food: There are allot of dog foods out there that are junk. Again, do your homework. There are many web sites out there that rate dog food. Once more, don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish. Also educate yourself in canine nutrition. Dogs are omnivores. That means they can eat anything. I feed my dogs a varied diet of kibble, fruits and vegetables as well as ground turkey, chicken and beef.
6.      Patience: Some people think that when a dog is 6 months old it is grown up. Wrong. Depending on the dog it can take up to 2 years for a dog to mature. Don’t expect adult behavior from a puppy, you’ll be disappointed. Enjoy them while they are young.
  There is so much more to dog ownership. This should be fun. A dog should be an enhancement to your life and not a second job. But if you follow these rules, you too can have a perfect dog.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Not For Everybody

This is from an article I published in the Pueblo Chieftain Sunday March 11, 2012


  This is in response to Christine Luceros comment on pit bulls. I have been an animal behaviorist for over 30 years. The truth about pit bulls and any “strong breed” dog is that they are not for everybody. I find in my experience that people get dogs for many reasons. In some cases they neither have the experience nor the knowledge to own certain animals. Yet our laws allow them to purchase any dog they want. Many people are very irresponsible when it comes to dog ownership. I wouldn’t even consider getting a Tiger for a pet. They are beautiful animals but I know nothing about them and I would be in way over my head. This is a great article Gary Wilkes wrote on pits: http://www.dogsbite.org/pdf/pit-bulls-gary-wilkes-spring-2010-off-lead.pdf. He is a world redound behaviorist.
  You have a double sided problem here: on one hand you have pit bull owners trying to convince the world, pit bulls get a “bad rap”. And on the other hand you have some people pushing the issue that Pit bulls are “bad dogs”. Neither are correct. I have trained probably in excess of 50 pits in my day. They basically train pretty easy, in my opinion not the smartest dogs I have ever worked with but not bad. Do a majority have an animal aggression problem, yes. But if you get a well-bred pit, and engage in very heavy socialization from 8 weeks on, and obedience training, there should be no problem. If anyone has any comments or concerns they can contact me via my website.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Language of Dogs

  Did you know that more than 80% of human to human communication is non-verbal? It's even higher in canines. Sarah Kalnaj has a great video on the subject. Dogs have a hard time with the concept of language, this is a human thing. However dogs can learn individual words. Depending on the dog, by the time a dog is between 3 and 5 years of age, they can learn between 100 and 300 English words.
  Here are some tips:

Turning the head away: Peaceful intentions. Avoiding possible conflict. Prevents eye contact, which most dogs find threatening.
Lip licking: Peaceful intentions. Calms a social group, eases tension. But it also may precede a bite from a fearful dog.
Yawning: Stress reducer. Commonly observed at the veterinarian’s office or at the groomer.
Tail positions: Up means confidence. Down signals a relaxed or submissive state. Between legs means fear. Wagging with entire body signals joy. Wagging without the body indicates stress, interest or excitement.
Raised hackles: The dog feels threatened or is overstimulated.
Shivering: Fear, tension or overstimulated.
Paw lift: Forward weight distribution signals a friendly state or begging. Rear weight distribution could indicate fear or distrust.
Closed mouth: Precedes bite. Helps gain scent, conveys seriousness. 
Open mouth: Relaxed.
Grimace: Tense jaw muscles with mouth pulled back at corners exposing canines or all teeth signals fear, excitement or aggression.
Whale eye (whites of eyes visible, dilated pupils): Conveys fear or aggression.
Presenting stomach: Laying squarely on back with paws over center of chest signals submission or trust. On side, lifting one hind leg indicates fear, apprehension or fearful submission.
Sneeze: During or after enjoyable activity signals happiness. 
Bowing: Means the dog is playful.
Breathing: Through stomach signals a relaxed state. Through chest indicates excitment or stress.
Sniffing ground: This is a calming signal that shows peaceful intent, relief of stress or an attempt to gain a scent.
Freezing: Signals the dog is contemplating a fight or flight.
Drooling: During the presence of food means the dog is hungry. During stressful situations signals fear and, for dogs that suffer car-sickness, often precedes vomiting.
  So the next time your dog tries to talk to you, listen!

Man’s Best Friend, Really

  I often heard this saying. Ever since I was a kid. I got my first dog when I was about 6 years old, actually it was my grandparent’s dog, but they lived in the apartment right below us. He was a Beagle and they named him “Prince”. He and I were best friends. He actually bit many people, but I wasn’t one of them.
  I also have heard that “dogs really want to please you”. In my studies, I have read that that wasn’t really true and dogs really want to please themselves. I can see that in some cases. And though my training techniques are based in science, I can’t help being anthropomorphic (that word means to “humanize”) and believing they really do want to please me.
  Dogs live to play. Weather they are puppies or 12 years old. Dogs are social animals. It is important for them to socialize with other dogs as well as their human counterparts. They love interaction. As a matter of fact, when you see a dog waging its tail, it doesn’t always mean it’s happy, but merely it wants to “engage’ you.
  Dogs serve a myriad of roles in our society. Some are trained to use their noses to sniff out bombs and drugs. Others detect seizure in some patients. Some serve as service dogs. Others  as therapy dogs. Some work in police and military roles providing protection. Some are Seeing Eye dogs. Whatever the role, they are usually eager to step up to the plate and, pardon the pun, work their tails off.
  I have a miniature Dachshund named “Fritz” and a German shepherd named “Heidi”. They are my world. We are a pack. Sometimes I don’t know how I would get through a day without the both of them. I recently re-located to Colorado from NY. Being all alone out here isn’t easy. But when I look at them and they look at me, everything is alright.
  Anyone who owns a dog knows what I am talking about, and anyone who don’t, if your lifestyle permits, should try it. For all they do for us, they really are man’s best friend.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Choosing The Wrong Dog

  This is a very common problem I am faced with. Many times people get the “wrong breed” for their lifestyle. The reasons for getting the dog people get are as varied as the owners. Very rarely people consult a canine professional BEFORE they get the dog, to see which breed is best for them. I had a case one time of a woman in her late 30’s. She had an aspiring career as a school teacher. She also took some evening classes. On top of that, she needed to “have a life”. She went to the local shelter and adopted a Jack Russell Terrier. She kept it crated all day. She came home, fed it, let it out, then back in the crate. She wondered why the dog had aggression issues. When I first met the dog and had him on the leash, he was so aggressive, and flipping around, I thought I had a blue fish on the line. After about 45 minutes he was my best friend and didn’t want me to leave. We were playing and having allot of fun. Something he never experienced before. The moral of the story here is that this woman should have gotten a gold fish as a pet. When I asked her what inspired her to get a “Jack” she said she wanted a dog like the one in a popular TV show. She couldn’t tell me why, she just wanted one.
  Adopting older dogs is a good alternative, if high energy and time is an issue. Most older dogs “know the game”, are house broken already, and all they do is eat, sleep, go out and love you. This is great for someone “on-the-go” or an older person looking for companionship.
  If you have a young, high energy family with children, you may want to consider one of America’s favorite breeds, the Golden Retriever. They are even tempered, great with kids, love high energy activities, and are easy to train.
  Here is a good one. Some people get “strong breeds’. The reasons here are varied. Some people who acquire these breeds (pit bulls, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinchers, to name a few) have no idea what they are getting themselves into. They all start out great as puppies, but they grow up. And get big. And can get aggressive. And if you’re not qualified to deal with this or have not hired a qualified trainer, you’re in trouble. Or should I say your both in trouble, you and the dog. Because if the dog bites someone and hurts them, you get sued and he gets euthanized.
  Remember, when you get a dog, you are starting a RELATIONSHIP. A dog is not like a stick of furniture. It is a living thing that has both physical and emotional needs. Dogs are social animals and require interaction with their owners. Don’t forget that.
  Education is the key here. BEFORE you decide to get a dog, consult a canine professional. Someone with good credentials in the dog community. There are allot of good trainers out there (yours truly) and there are allot of bad ones as well. Do your homework. You’ll be glad you did. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dog on Dog aggression

  It never ceases to amaze me how people interact with their dogs. Many people I encounter have absolutely NO control over their pets whatsoever. That is why when I take either of my dogs for a walk down the street, I carry pepper spray and a big stick. I thought that moving out west would be better than living in NY, but I was wrong.
  You MUST protect your dog. If your dog gets attacked, just once, he can become dog aggressive. Most people out there are totally clueless on even how to break up a dog fight. It’s a pretty scary thing.
  Many people get the wrong dog. I see it all the time. I haven’t been able to figure out the motivation behind getting the dog they have. One common reason is looks. They like the look of the dog.
  Now here is a million dollar question: why don’t local laws allow you to keep a Tiger in your back yard? You guessed it, because if it gets loose it can kill somebody. Now I don’t mean to be facetious, but common sense isn’t so common anymore. Here is a good article about that: http://news.yahoo.com/incompetent-people-too-ignorant-know-175402902.html

  Now I hate to come off sarcastic but this is a subject close to my heart. Dog on dog aggression does occur, but far too often, and is, in most cases, preventable. In NJ there is a trainer/behaviorist Karen Fazio. She has just written an article that I think is one of the best I have ever read on the subject: http://www.linkedin.com/news?viewArticle=&articleID=5580365058451439670&gid=2204700&type=member&item=97947300&articleURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Enj%2Ecom%2Fpets%2Findex%2Essf%2F2012%2F02%2Fdog-on-dog_aggression_dda_caus%2Ehtml&urlhash=W7VY&goback=%2Egde_2204700_member_97947300.
  Read this. If you have a dog that is a potential threat, get involved with a good behaviorist and nip it in the bud. You and all around you will be glad you did.