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Eliminate Food-Guarding Behavior in 7 Steps

Guarding possessions, whether it be food, a special toy, or any other item, is a normal behavior in dogs. When dogs ran wild, they were forced to guard their possessions to survive. Those who did guard their food, and/or their family were more likely to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, this could become an issue for us, as their family.

Guarding behavior can range from completely harmless to extremely aggressive. Some dogs guard their resources from everyone. And, others guard their possessions from only certain people (like ‘strangers’).

Some dogs guard their bone. Some dogs guard their toy. Some dogs guard their food.

Which of the above is your dog doing?

We’ll talk about how to resolve these issues. And, if your dog isn’t resource guarding, we’ll talk about how to prevent resource guarding as well.

Prevent the Behavior

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If you have a puppy, now is an excellent time to begin preventing resource guarding. Puppies are prone to developing food guarding behavior because they must compete with their litter mates.

As soon as you bring your dog home, you should begin hand-feeding. Sit down with your puppy and feed him one piece of kibble at a time. Speak softly to your puppy as you’re feeding.

Once your dog is comfortable with hand-feeding, you can move to the bowl. Set the bowl in your lap or directly next to you. Watch your dog’s behavior as she’s eating with you. Continue speaking to your dog in a soft, positive voice as she’s eating.

My Dog is Already Food Guarding

If your dog is currently guarding her food, there are ways to desensitize your dog. The process we will use is known as counterconditioning.

While completing these exercises, be sure to listen to vocalizations and watch your dog’s body language. This will help you understand how he or she is feeling during this time.

The First Step: Only Standing Nearby

You need to go about this step-by-step. Try standing a few feet away from your dog while she’s eating her kibble. During the first step, you should not try to move closer. Calmly talk to her in a reassuring manner while she’s eating. This should be repeated a minimum of ten times before moving to the next step.

The Second Step: Standing and One Step

In the second step, you should still begin by standing a few feet away from your dog. But, you can take one step closer to your dog at this time. When you take your step, throw a treat toward your dog’s food bowl. Then, step back to where you were in the first place. Each day, you can take an extra step (as long as your dog is calm/relaxed). Step 2 should also be repeated a minimum of ten times before moving to step 3.

Step 3: Standing and Walking Away

If your dog has successfully mastered steps 1 and 2, you can move on to step 3. If your dog is still uncomfortable, please stay with the first two steps.

In the third step, continue talking to your dog in a soft tone, while walking toward his food bowl. Stand next to your dog’s food bowl, place a treat in the bowl, and walk away slowly. This step should be repeated a minimum of ten times.

Step 4: The Treat Trick

Continue applying what you have learned in the first three steps. In this step, while your dog is eating, you can hold a treat in your hand. Slowly show your dog the treat as he’s eating his meal. This step should encourage your dog to stop eating what’s in the bowl and take the treat. Once your dog has taken the treat, walk away and stand a few feet away from your dog. Continue to do this at each mealtime until your dog has finished eating.

Step 5: Pick Up the Bowl

The next step… raising the bowl. Please only attempt this step if your dog is 100% comfortable with steps 1-4.

Stand next to your dog and pick up her bowl with one hand. Don’t pick it up all the way… only lift the bowl slightly from the floor. Then, return the bowl to your dog immediately.

Step 6: Now She’s Comfy

Once your dog is comfortable with step 5, you can take the bowl away, place a treat in the bowl, and return it. Your dog now associates you with goodies. At this point, your dog should no longer have any problem with you being near her food.

Step 7: The Final Step

The final stage is to help the other members of your family go through all six steps. Be sure everyone in the household completes the steps in the same manner you did. And, don’t skip a step! This will allow your dog to learn there’s no reason to guard his food… not only from you but from anyone.

DO NOT PUNISH

Do not punish your dog for guarding her food. Your dog is guarding her food because she thinks you’re going to take it away and she won’t get it back. Punishment often results in the behavior worsening as the trust between you and your dog is lost.

DISCLAIMER:

If your dog becomes aggressive with his or her food, you should not attempt to resolve this behavior on your own. Please contact a Canine Behaviorist to assist in the process.

 

6 Steps to Potty Training Your Puppy

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Young puppies have an extremely hard time holding their bladder and will need to relieve themselves frequently. Potty training isn’t an easy process, but with time and dedication, you’ll have a much easier time as your pup gets older.

Potty training should begin the moment you pick up your puppy. This will help her get on the right track, sooner. Although she may have accidents, she will begin to understand what is expected of her. And, this will mean less clean-up for you. In this article, we’ll go through the steps of potty training… the ‘do’s,’ and the ‘do not’s.’

Step 1: Praise Your Puppy Excessively

Being required to go potty in a designated area is new to any dog. A dog’s instincts don’t tell them they’re not permitted to use the bathroom inside the house. Their instincts tell them to find an area where they don’t sleep or eat, and use the bathroom there, whether inside or outside.

That’s why it’s so important to praise your dog excessively when he uses the potty outside. Your dog needs your feedback to be successful in potty training (and all other types of training). Be sure to praise your puppy immediately after they potty outside… or else they won’t know what you’re praising them for.

The praise can be in the form of an excited “yay, good job,” a yummy low-calorie treat or kibble, or both. Many dog lovers carry around a handful of kibble in their pockets out of their puppy’s daily portions.

Step 2: Utilize a Crate

There’s controversy in the dog world about using crates… some dog lovers want a crate and others feel it’s not necessary. But, the crate essentially becomes your dog’s ‘den’ or ‘safe space.’ The crate is also helpful because puppies don’t like to use the bathroom where they sleep.

The crate should have a soft layer of padding to it. A dog bed generally works just fine. The crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand up and move around, but not large enough for your pup to relieve himself and move to another spot to sleep.

You can also place toys in the crate with your puppy so they’re able to play if they get bored. Mental puzzle toys, and some type of chew toy, are usually best. The Kong toys work extremely well, they’re mentally stimulating, and puppies generally can’t rip them to shreds. One of the biggest mistakes puppy parents make is grabbing a toy that looks neat, but their puppy shreds the toy into small pieces and end up swallowing parts of the toy. This could lead to a blockage… and we don’t want that to happen.

For this step, it’s critical to note that puppies should not stay in their crates for long periods of time. The crate should only be utilized when you’re not able to pay attention to your puppy. Then, once their potty trained, you can leave the door to their crate open so they’re able to freely enter and exit.

Step 3: No Punishments

Punishing your puppy for urinating or defecating on the floor can do more harm than good. By the time you find out your puppy has had an accident, your pup likely doesn’t remember what they did. And, even if you catch them in the act, punishing your puppy could permanently damage the bond and trust they have with you.

Staying calm when they have an accident is essential. You shouldn’t yell, chase, or smack your puppy. You also shouldn’t ‘rub his nose in it.’ Not only will you lose their trust, but they will associate going potty with punishment and may resort to using the bathroom in areas you won’t find.

Some dog lovers will argue, ‘but rubbing her nose in it works.’ And, yes… sometimes it does. But, you risk the bond you will have with her for the rest of her life by using punishment as a learning method.

Step 4: Show Her Where to Go

If you catch your puppy in the act, instead of punishing, try to re-direct her attention. You can re-direct her attention by saying “let’s go potty outside” or something similar. Then, immediately bring her outside to show her where it’s okay to use the bathroom. Then, once she uses the bathroom in your designed area, that’s when you can excessively praise her. She will connect the dots, and learn you are happy when she uses the bathroom in that particular area.

Step 5: Don’t Overuse Puppy Pads

You can, and should, have puppy pads in the house while you’re training your pup. But, you shouldn’t set them up in multiple areas around the house. This is confusing to a puppy, and they won’t understand why it’s not okay to use the bathroom in the house. They also may not be able to distinguish between a puppy pad and an area rug, or why she’s allowed to use the bathroom in some areas of the home but not others.

Step 6: Establish a Routine

Establishing a routine with any puppy or adult dog is critical. Dogs have a great sense of time, and if you have a set routine it will make potty training much easier. For example, if you always take her potty after she eats, she will understand after she eats she goes potty outside. This may take time- so don’t get upset if she doesn’t immediately understand the routine. Don’t worry- she will.

The Bottom Line on Potty Training

The most important step you should be aware of in this process is to always be positive with your puppy. Dogs and puppies are eager to please you. They want to make you happy as often as possible. Also, understand every dog is different, and some puppies may take longer than others to learn what’s expected of them.

5 Steps for Successful Leash Walking

Dogs aren’t natural leash walkers. And, it takes patience to train a dog to walk on a leash… so don’t feel discouraged if your dog isn’t quite comfortable yet. It can be frustrating to feel a constant tug at the leash… but remember if they’ve never walked on a leash before- it’s a completely new experience.

Before you begin, make sure you have the right equipment to walk your dog. Yes, the right collar/harness and leash make a huge difference. Don’t choose a leash that’s too long, or too short. Harnesses* are generally recommended for beginners, too. A harness is less likely to harm your dog when they tug than a collar (especially for small dogs- if you tug on a small dog or puppy’s collar, you put the dog at risk for a collapsed trachea).

…featured on Moving Babies! Featured on MovingBabies

Dogs are also generally more at ease with a harness* than with a collar- which helps during training.

Training Steps for Leash Walking

Step 1: Help Your Dog Acclimate

Your dog should be given some time to get used to the collar or harness before you strap a leash to her. Try putting the collar or harness on, then give praise in the form of a low-calorie, healthy treat or a “Great job!” Give your dog a few days to get used to having the collar or harness on his or her body.

After a few days pass, you can clip the leash on your dog. Try just walking inside the house at first- where he or she feels comfortable. There are fewer distractions inside- and if your dog slips off the collar/harness or you lose the leash- you’ll be certain she’s safe.

You can even let him drag the leash around the house- giving him plenty of praise along the way. So, he associates the leash with happiness and rewards.

 Step 2: Teach Off-Leash Commands

Ensuring your dog has the basic obedience skills mastered will help you with leash training. Your dog should understand, “sit” and “come,” at minimum so you can make sure she’s safe outside. Teacher her these commands also strengthens the bond you share with your dog- which results in more trust.

When a dog trusts you, you are more likely to have success on the leash. She will understand you aren’t doing anything to put her in harm’s way.

Step 3: Give Her Commands While on the Leash

Now that your dog is comfortable wearing the collar/harness, and you have mastered some basic obedience commands, you can start working on her general obedience while on the leash (again, indoors).

Step 4: Walking Outside

When you first walk outside, remember- to a dog- there are so many things to see, smell, hear. You might notice your puppy or dog is easily distracted. That’s okay. Try to keep the walks short. And, keep a handful of low-calorie snacks in your pocket to re-direct her attention if she gets distracted.

Step 5: Prevent Pulling

You’re ready to go outside, and she’s no longer afraid of the leash, but she’s still tugging on the leash… now what? When she begins to tug, turn the opposite direction of the way you’re walking. For example, if you’re walking west through your yard, immediately turn east (being careful not to tug). You might see her look at you like “what are you doing?” But soon, she will understand you are the leader.

I Need More Help!

If you need more help regarding leash walking, feel free to join the Dog Behavior Group on Facebook where readers of the Dog Behavior Blog share ideas and ask questions.

How to Talk to a Nervous Dog

How to Talk to a Nervous Dog

Even the most confident dogs will feel nervous sometimes. Fear and anxiety are deeply rooted, automatic responses to real or perceived dangers. These triggers will vary from dog to dog (remember, every dog is different), but triggers might include:

  • Loud noises
  • Strangers
  • Other dogs
  • Small children
  • Confinement

You know your dog best and being alert to their potential triggers will help decrease or prevent their anxiety. So, what should you do when your dog is displaying signs of anxiety?

Showing Love to a Nervous Dog

Dog lovers are sometimes unsure as to what they should do when their dog is nervous, or anxious, because they’re worried they may reinforce the behavior. But, when it comes to fear, anxiety, and stress, there’s a difference.

Let’s think about it from our perspective. Let’s say we’re afraid of small spaces. And, we’re riding in an elevator. If your significant other soothes you while you’re in the elevator, will you stop fearing small spaces? Probably not. But, your significant other soothing you might help, right?

No one likes to be anxious, or scared, and it’s not a reaction that can be easily controlled. Or, really controlled at all. Your dog isn’t acting scared to get your attention. But, how you respond to their fear or anxiety could reduce the intensity of the situation.

Soothing a Nervous Dog

When your talking to your dog, and he is nervous, you should talk softly, and relatively high-pitched. This gets their attention, and may reassure him you’re there and he’s safe.

You should never yell at your dog when she’s nervous or anxious. This will add to their fear or anxiety. And, will likely result in the problem worsening.

Oh, The Treats!

If you’re going somewhere you know your dog will be anxious, or afraid of, bring some treats with you. Treats* will help to re-direct her attention to something more positive… you!

Watch Your Body Language

You’ll hear me talk about body language a lot when referring to canine behavior. That’s because body language is extremely important- for both us and our dog.

If your dog is nervous at home, instead of hovering over him and talking, get down to his level. You may add to his fear by ‘hovering.’ Getting to his level may make him feel more comfortable.

You shouldn’t handle your dog too much, or pet your dog too much, in a fearful situation… unless your dog is looking for you to. Some dogs want you to be right next to them, petting them, comforting them. But, other dogs need a little space when they’re not feeling comfortable. You know your dog the best- so you make this call.

Empathy in Fearful Situations

You should never force your dog into a situation when they’re nervous- whether this be meeting another dog, another person, or being in an unfamiliar space. A nervous dog could become

Dog Talk: The Full Edition

Dog Talk: The Full Edition is now available on Amazon. Discover the world from your dog’s perspective. Learn why your dog is behaving the way she is. And, solutions to nearly every dog behavior problem.  Learn what makes your dog ‘tick,’ how to improve your bond, and methods of training.

The Chapter Outline of Dog Talk: The Full Edition

The chapter outline is as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to the Dog
  • Chapter 2: Canine Intelligence
  • Chapter 3: The Bond We Share
  • Chapter 4: Before You Adopt
  • Chapter 5: Bringing Your Dog Home
  • Chapter 6: Basic Training
  • Chapter 7: Training Methods
  • Chapter 8: Aggression in Dogs
  • Chapter 9: Separation Anxiety
  • Chapter 10: Barking Excessively
  • Chapter 11: Inappropriate Chewing
  • Chapter 12: Preventing Destructive Digging
  • Chapter 13: General Behavioral Problems
  • Chapter 14: Punishment is NOT the Answer
  • Chapter 15: Your Dog’s Health
  • Chapter 16: Canine Nutrition
  • Chapter 17: Dinner and Treat Recipes
  • Chapter 18: Basic Grooming

Amber L. Drake’s Testimonials

  • “Amber is amazing! I was dog sitting when I discovered Mama Husky was pregnant. We knew it couldn’t be a big litter because she was barely showing but none the less… I have never been around a dog giving birth and I had NO IDEA what to do. Luckily I went to school with Amber and we remained friends. I messaged her immediately! She talked me through everything from how the mom was acting to how to handle her after the birth. Mom and baby did wonderfully and made it just fine. If she had not have been there, I don’t know what I would’ve done.” – Noelle W., Lexington, SC
  • “Where to begin? My dog had so many problems. She went to the bathroom indoors, chewed the walls, pillows and anything else she could find. She stole our clothes out of the hamper and hid them all over the house. Attacked our lab and attacked the cats. Tipped the garbage to eat the garbage. Barked anytime she sees anything outside. Jumps on people. Jumped on my kids. With Amber’s help we were able to see some progress. She worked with us every step of the way and was always there when we needed help.” – Paula B., Sherman, NY
  • “Amber’s help with modifying my dog’s behavior has been invaluable. My lab had too many behavior problems to list and Amber helped me every step of the way.” -Sherry S., San Antonio, TX
  • “Amber is amazing at what she does. She spends so much time learning more information to tell us and her heart is really in it.” -Pat B.
  • “Amber did a great job with our dog, Lily. She has never been left in the care of anyone else before so we were nervous to say the least. Lily’s experience with Amber was great. She came home happy. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Amber’s services again!” -Shannon H.
  • “Amber is everything you look for in a canine behaviorist. She’s reliable, compassionate, calm, willing and able to provide expert help, flexible, friendly, and above all reassuring that anything that’s going on with your pup can be worked on.” -Ana P., Jamestown, NY
  • “We brought our dog to Amber’s home after some reactive episodes in bigger daycare programs; his adjustment to Amber and her family was stress-free and very quick. I would recommend Amber to anyone.” -Ana P., Jamestown, NY “Amber did a great job with my dog while we were home for the holidays. Would definitely recommend her services!” -Daniel S. “Amber is professional and super attentive to the needs of our pet. We will be using Amber again.” -Debra W. “We are so thankful for Amber.” -Darlene B., Jamestown, NY “Amber was wonderful to work with. She was super flexible, answered all my questions, and took great care of Luna. I would recommend Amber to anyone!” -Marissa M., Bemus Point, NY
  • “Amber was great with my pup. I will definitely be using her services again.” -Jane C.

How to Get Your Pup to be All Ears

Dogs are an intelligent species; they can assist the disabled and are great detectives. However, at times we do feel that our dogs aren’t smart as they don’t listen to our commands.  Of course, it is difficult to make your dog walk off leash or to get him to leave the chicken bone he found outside. You keep shouting “Bad Boy”, “Bad Boy” but he just won’t respond, and you end up feeling helpless & confused. Whether you are a new dog-parent or you have had your baby for years, you may experience this behavior. Well, keep your worries aside as this guide explains the basics of teaching your pup to listen to you.

Communication is Key

The first step is to build a connection with your dog. Dogs are animals, and we can’t expect them to speak our language. They begin to understand our commands when they are trained to do so. Begin with talking to your dog, use simple and short sentences. Make sure you use the same words each time as your pooch will learn with repetition. Use a tone that is soft and immediately catches attention. Don’t shout or whine as your pup may get scared or upset.

You can use gestures as well, teach your dog to sit, stand or stay using basic gestures. Combining gestures with verbal commands help the dog understand effectively.

Where to Begin?

Start with teaching your dog his name. Make sure you train your pup in a quiet place with no distractions involved. Say his name and if he looks at you, immediately say “Yes” in a praising tone. Repeat this couple of times, try doing it when you are in another room and see if he comes running to you. Afterward, you can teach the basic commands such as Stand up, sit, lie down and stay.

Positive Reinforcement

Your pooch needs a motivator to make him listen to your commands and what is better than his favorite treats. Every time your dog does what he is asked to, offer him something he loves. Along with the treats you need to use a signal as a cue, say “Yes” or “Good Boy” whenever he behaves well.

Keep Practicing

We have all heard of the phrase practice makes man perfect, well the same goes for dogs. You need to repeat the same commands multiple times, using the same words and tone each time. If you started teaching your dog in your living room without any distractions, practice the same techniques in different settings with distractions around. Eventually, your pooch will perfect the ability to respond to the cues.

Figure out Why Your Dog Isn’t Listening

If your dog doesn’t respond to the cue the first time, try to find out the cause. Is it because there are too many distractions that are overwhelming your pup? Maybe there are interesting things around that fascinate your pooch. Whatever the reason may be, find it and try to teach to your dog from the basics in the new environment.

Your puppy may also choose to ignore your commands if that is the case, reinforce the behavior by incorporating short training lessons into his daily routine. Once your little pup grows up and begins to have adventures on his own, the connection between the two of you may weaken. In that case, you are the one responsible for making things work, spend time with your dog, plan new activities and strengthen the bond.

One thing to always keep in mind is that it’s all about training. No breed or genes will influence your dog’s behavior as much as your teaching. Remember that it will require patience; there will be times when you’ll want to express anger, but that is never the solution. Combine the skills with the effective tools, and you’ll be able to train your dog in no time.

Talk to you again soon,

Jenny Perkins, Guest Blogger at DogBehaviorBlog & Blogger at HerePup.com

 

 

My Dog Eats Too Fast, What Do I Do?

There are many dogs who eat way too fast. You may not think there is harm in eating too quickly but, dogs who eat too fast can develop several health issues including bloat and obesity.

But, how can you get him to eat slower?

Slow Feed Bowls

My recommendation for dogs who eat too quickly is a slow feed bowl. There are so many benefits to slow feed bowls, and so many different kinds! Benefits include:

  • Lower risk of bloat and obesity
  • Mental stimulation/ problem solving
  • Improved digestion

Amber L. Drake’s Favorite Slow-Feed/Puzzle Bowls

I have chosen several of my favorite food bowls below. Please feel free to take a look!

Get Your Dog to Stop Pulling on the Leash

It’s almost time to take your dog for a walk but first you need to get mentally prepared. You are about to go for a walk with your dog… which should be an enjoyable experience but your anxiety is kicking in about your dog pulling on the leash the entire walk. By the time you return from you walk, you are completely exhausted from trying to hold onto the leash the hold time.

It’s time to get your dog to stop pulling on the leash.

Take a look at the tips below!

Always Use the Same Leash

Using the same leash is important for each walk. The leash should not be retractable as this basically gives your dog permission to pull. The dog thinks…

“If I pull, she will give me more room to roam.”

The leash should be relatively short (not overly short but 5-6 feet is good) so your dog understands he should stay next to you for the duration of the walk.

Don’t Let Him Pull You

You should never allow your dog to pull you.

This is an area where you must remain consistent. If you aren’t consistent and allow the dog to pull sometimes, he won’t understand why you’re upset when he pulls other times.

Reward Good Behavior

If your dog is paying attention to you, reward him in some way. This could be in the form of praise or a low-calorie treat.

Walking with a Harness

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Walking with a harness can help significantly. Petsafe recently released their new product, the Petsafe Easy Walk Harness , that discourages your dog from pulling while walking on the leash. This product is particularly helpful for those who are beginner dog guardians.

The leash is comfortable for your dog, too. So, you don’t have to worry about your dog being uncomfortable on your walk. Instead of putting pressure on the dog’s throat (like a traditional collar and leash), the easy-walk harness puts the pressure on their chest making it easier to train them to walk on a leash properly.

 

Help! My Dog Won’t Stop Jumping on Everyone!

Help! My dog won’t stop jumping on me! This is a common behavior problem encountered by canine behaviorists. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a behavior problem that your dog will have forever unless you don’t fix it. Your dog can learn how to act appropriately around you and your guests.

Understand the Reason Why

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Understanding why your dog is jumping is important in helping to reduce the behavior. Understanding your dog is also helpful in reducing the frustration you feel when the behavior begins.

Dogs jump all the time, it is natural for your dog to jump when he is excited. Dogs will jump when they want to play, when they are excited to see you (or someone else) and when they simply want your attention.

This behavior usually starts as a puppy. Seriously, how many of us can resist a puppy that jumps up for us to hold her?

In order to stop this behavior, you need to be consistent, remain calm and be willing to take the time to fix it.

Remain Consistent

Consistency is extremely important. If you allow your dog to jump sometimes, he is going to think it’s okay to jump all the time. If you don’t want him to jump, you must be consistent in your training.

Teach Your Dog to Sit

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Of course your dog probably already knows how to ‘sit’ if you’re looking at this article.

Teaching him to sit when he greets you or someone else can prevent him from jumping on you. He can’t sit and jump at the same time. This also gives him enough time to calm down a little before greeting you when you get home.

When your dog has all four little paws planted on the floor, give him a treat. Don’t pay him any attention until he is down on all four paws.