August 31, 2019
What is “Normal” Dog Behavior?
In an effort to understand why their dogs do what they do, owners frequently want to know,” is this behavior normal?” Answering this question keeps our staff busy. The first thing that must be explained is that dogs, although definitely members of our families, are not humans. Therefore, the behaviors that we can expect from them are far different than those of our two legged family members.
Normal doggie behavior allows dogs to bite, bark, chew, eliminate at will, jump on their friends and chase prey animals. All of our dogs are going to exhibit some form of these behaviors. The trick is to teach them how to act like a dog, while having appropriate manners to live in harmony with humans. We must meet their needs and teach them how to interact with us.
Few people realize quite what they are getting into when they first decide to bring that cute little puppy home. There will be sleepless nights, and many accidents to clean up before the puppy learns to eliminate outside. All the members of your household will have holes in their flesh from needle sharp puppy teeth. Puppies have to learn that humans are far more fragile than their canine counterparts, and don’t find being gnawed on an enjoyable experience. Small children will be jumped on and knocked over. Adults will be jumped on and have clothes damaged. Puppies jump on each other all the time, they don’t understand why we find it so offensive. We have to take the time to teach them that although it is perfectly acceptable to jump on their canine friends, they have to show more restraint when it comes to the human members of their pack. Puppies are noisy little creatures. They vocalize when they are happy, when they are lonely, while playing, for attention, and sometimes simply because they like the sound of their own voice. It is our job to let them know when vocalization is acceptable, and when it is not. This can be a very hard lesson for them to learn. Chewing is fabulous fun for puppies and can be a great stress reliever. We need to provide them with lots of acceptable chew toys and teach them what fun it is to chew the provided items. We also have to understand that the puppy is still going to chew on many things that we are not happy about. For dogs, biting is a necessary defense mechanism. We should be able to provide them with a safe enough environment that biting in self defense is unnecessary. It is our job to socialize them properly to people, other dogs and other animals. This socialization process enables our dogs to gain the coping skills that will prevent many unnecessary bites or injuries to everyone who is exposed to our canine companions. Being natural predators, dogs chase things that move, especially anything that runs from them. This behavior can be modified to work in our favor. Herding dogs are extraordinary predators with this behavior modified to chase but not attack. Their instinct to chase is put to good use. One good herding dog does the job of several men when moving or controlling livestock.
Many of the “problems” that our clients present to us are a result of the dog’s needs not being met. When deciding to get a puppy, one should take into consideration what that individuals requirements are going to be. Does this breed need a lot of exercise? Does this individual puppy appear shy or overly pushy? Do you have the time, emotional, and financial resources to properly care for a dog? Is patience one of your virtues?
Most dogs require a great deal more exercise than people realize. Numerous “problem” behaviors occur due to lack of sufficient exercise. A great deal of the excessive chewing, stealing of objects, jumping, and mouthing can be significantly reduced by providing adequate exercise.
Lack of proper socialization is the second major cause for behavior problems in our dogs. In order to achieve maximum socialization, a puppy needs to be exposed in a safe manner to many types of people, dogs and situations before it reaches the age of 16 weeks. Puppies who do not receive this exposure have a much greater potential for turning into dogs with fear and or aggression issues. These problems are far easier to prevent than to cure. A high quality puppy class, and an investment of time and effort on the part of the owner can prevent most of these problems.
August 31, 2019
What Are Your Pets Really Telling You?
Have you ever looked at Fido and wondered what he was trying to say? Has Fluffy asked repeatedly for you to do something, and you just don’t understand what she wants?
Our dogs and cats have many methods of communicating with us, as we do them. Unfortunately, many times neither of us understands the other. The primary mode of communication for people is verbal, while a great deal of animal communications is through body language. Take the time to really observe your dog or cat and you will soon understand just how eloquent they are.
When Fluffy rubs her head against you and purrs, is she really saying “I love you”? Actually she is marking you as her property. She obviously loves you enough to want the world of other cats to know that you are hers exclusively. How does it feel to be owned by a cat?
Cats also mark their territory when they stretch and scratch with their front paws. This is an important part of what makes your cat comfortable in her environment. Scratching posts and surfaces allow Fluffy to happily scratch, stretch and mark without harming your furnishings. Tell Fluffy that you understand how important this activity is to her, by providing many adequate surfaces for her to call her own.
Fluffy is howling in the middle of the night. This goes on night after night, driving you to distraction. You’ve tried a visit to the vet and found the little screamer is perfectly healthy. You get up several times a night and feed her. Still she cries. What is she trying to say? Often, you find that she is quieter on weekend nights, than she is throughout the week. Find games and activities that she enjoys and play with her on weekdays. Spend time with her the way that you do on weekends. She’ll be happier with the added attention and it will help her to sleep when you want to.
Many of the behaviors that bemuse us in our cats are re-directed predator responses. Fluffy doesn’t have the opportunity to chase birds and torment mice, so she uses us for practice. Your spouse walks past the sofa first thing in the morning, and you hear the yell as Fluffy dives out from under the sofa and attacks his bare leg. Fido is sitting in the kitchen, patiently waiting for dinner, when Fluffy rushes into the room, jumps up and delivers a quick left jab to Fido's jaw, immediately leaping out of range. Stalking and darting in to attack are vital tools for a small predator like our cat. Since we provide their prey in the form of tasty pre-formed kibbles and mushy canned mouse in a designer dish, they have to look harder for ways to keep their skills sharp.
You come home from a long day at work and Fido immediately jumps up into your face. You’ve asked him not to jump, you’ve even yelled at him for jumping, yet he continues to leap on you every time he sees you. Why? Fido is trying in the best way that he knows how to greet you politely in the very best doggy manner. He’s jumping for joy, while trying to get high enough to greet you by sniffing your mouth. This is tough, you don’t like it and you are over five feet off the ground. One highly appropriate greeting ritual between dogs is to sniff each others lips. Fido is merely attempting to introduce you to proper doggy manners. You can attain an acceptable human/canine compromise by teaching Fido to sit for greeting and having the humans in his world come down to his level for proper sniffing and greeting. His needs are met and you escape without paw prints on you shoulders, and slobber on your face.
You and Fido are having a wonderful time bonding in obedience class, when suddenly Fido starts yawning. Great big toothy doggy yawns. You ask yourself, did I walk him too far before class? Is he too tired to concentrate? Is the class too slow for him? Is he bored? Is he just being stubborn? In reality, Fido is attempting to calm himself and everyone around him. He is stressed, perhaps doesn’t understand the lesson, and is trying to let you know that he needs some down time. Dogs know that yawning in each others faces is actually good manners for “you’re coming on to strong and you’re stressing me out!” They do their best to help us understand their needs. They tell us that they are overwhelmed, and yet we push them harder and say that they are “stubborn”. What we have here is a failure to communicate!!
You and slightly shy Miss Fido head for your favorite dog park. You arrive and let Miss Fido off her leash for a romp with her friends. You walk over to talk to the other doggy parents while Miss Fido runs off to join her regular evening companions. All of a sudden, you see your normally outgoing Miss Fido stop and turn 45 degrees toward an approaching canine that you’ve never seen here before. What exactly is happening? Do you need to go and save her? Is she paralyzed with fear? Does she sense a threat that you, with your limited human senses, cannot perceive? Is she merely distracted by something you don’t see, and therefore unaware of the approaching dog? Miss Fido is politely informing the over exuberant newcomer that she is not willing to meet him right now. She will be happy to perform introductions when he decides to approach civilly. Turning 45 degrees to another dog merely means “you are a bit overwhelming, please tone it down a bit”. It’s their way of telling each other that they are coming on too strong. This can help you out when a dog is being to pushy around you. Turn 45 degrees to him and watch mister pushy become mister apologetic.
You are out for a walk in your neighborhood when you turn a corner and find a strange dog standing and watching you. You see that his tail is wagging. Do you take this as a sign that he is friendly and safe to approach? Don’t count on it. A wagging tail is simply a sign of a state of arousal. This dog might be friendly, but there is just as big a chance that he will bite you. Trust what the whole dog has to say, never go by the language of just one end of the animal.
How many times when you have come home, has Fido greeted you at the door yodeling and woo-wooing? He carries on the entire time it takes you to get settled, change out of your work clothes, and fix a snack. Often he adds a few not so delicate head butts to his speech. What exactly is he trying to say? Perhaps he is doing his best imitation of a human greeting. He is using verbal communication to tell you all about his day, and to ask you about yours. He is physically touching you, to communicate to you just how happy he is to see you. The canine equivalent of a greeting hug? If you analyze what happens when you come home to a human family member, isn’t the routine very similar? They say hello, perhaps hug you, frequently follow you around and share parts of their day with you. If Fido makes this much effort to understand and mimic your behavior, think of how much better your communication would be if you took the time to bark and wag with him occasionally.
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