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News and Information about Dogs, Cats, and Pet Products

Since I’ve been away on my Mommy Sabbatical, my colleagues have been telling me they have seen an increase in a behavior commonly referred to as Resource Guarding. This is when a dog finds something valuable and wants to protect it from the humans or other dogs or pets. The behaviors can look as minimal as walking away with the valuable item or can be as severe as biting. This behavior is unwanted by us but still totally normal and not a dog trying to claim a status of dominance.

There are some things all owners should be doing and not doing to prevent resource guarding with the family dog! If your dog is already showing signs of Resource Guarding, have hope that it is a changeable behavior. There are a few things to keep in mind.

Resource Guarding DO:

Do an exchange with your dog for everything to take. Take a toy, give a treat. Take a stuffed KONG, give a toy. Etc. The mistake made is “I’m your master,” when in fact your dog is just interpreting you as a jerk and learns to guard instead. This is most helpful when a puppy or dog is new to a family.

Do leave your dog alone when eating meals or snacks other than dropping goodies. Always and forever.

Do prevent the opportunity to guard. Separate multiple dogs food bowls and chew toys. Always and forever.

Do train your dog. Training as many behaviors as possible gives your dog default options to offer you to gain access to things they want. It’s important to include a drop and leave it in the mix of behaviors.

Resource Guarding DON’T:

Don’t put your hands in your dog’s food bowl while he eats. Can you imagine if a restaurant server stood at your table with his hands on your plate?!? Just leave the dog alone unless you’re dropping an extra yummy in.

Don’t take anything from your dog and walk off.

Don’t allow you dog access to things he can guard.

Resource Guarding CHANGING BEHAVIOR:

Do have your dog work for everything. No free handouts.  All food, treats, and toys require eye contact, sit or down behavior.

Do hand-feed. Hand-feed can come from your actual hands or from a pouring container. Ask your dog for eye contact or a sit and pour a small amount into their bowl. When the dog finishes, ask for behaviors and pour a small amount, repeat. Include high value food into their diet when your dog automatically begins to offer these behaviors.

Do train a give release or drop cue.

Do train a leave it or off cue.

Do make yourself valuable so your dog knows that when you are around, good things happen and less guarding will “need” to exist.

Don’t punish or challenge a dog displaying resource guarding.

And don’t hesitate to contact a positive reinforcement trainer or your veterinarian for questions or additional help!

You can contact Amber Walker at (630) 53-PUPPY, amber@aitrainers.com or visit her website www.aitrainers.com

 

 

 

 

Amber Walker*Sigh* It happened again.  Another dog bite. It happened to my friend, we will call her Angie.  Angie went to a friend’s house about a week ago to meet their rescue dog.  Angie reached to pet the dog and he bit her hand. I cannot tell you the dog’s name, age, breed, gender, weight, or eye color. And it doesn’t matter.  Normal, healthy dogs all have the same communication.  I also don’t know the history of this dog but there is a good chance, that didn’t matter either.

The breeds ranked as the number one family dogs are my number one cases for aggression. 

According to Angie, it was a decent bite that she probably should have gone to the doctor for.  But she didn’t go and no one will ever know. Angie said, “I’m sure the dog was telling us he didn’t want to be pet but we just didn’t know.”

 

It only takes one.  One growl, lunge, air snap, or bite will end any dog in a shelter and SO many of them could have been avoided.  Once a dog has a bite history, it is almost *impossible* to re-home, and most rescues will not take him.

On a fairly regular basis, I see dogs in the community being put into situations they clearly do not want to be in and the owners have no idea. Just today, I saw the second largest dog bread (100+ pounds) being forced to greet a complete stranger on the street by its owner.  Imagine the damage if the dog decided to bite. “Yes, come pet him.  It’s good for his socialization, ” I heard the owner say to the stranger.  “Not if he doesn’t want to,” I said in my own head.

About 1,000 people EACH DAY receive emergency care for a dog bite and 77% of all dog bites are from family or friend’s dogs.  I feel like I need to say that louder: THERE IS A 77% CHANCE YOUR DOG AT YOUR HOME RIGHT NOW WILL BITE SOMEONE YOU KNOW.  Only 23% of all bites come from a stranger dog the person didn’t know.

Do not force your dog to meet anyone! If your dog does not want to say hello to Aunt Meg, Barack Obama or the Pope, he doesn’t have to!508102843_53b1f641ce

What to LOOK for in a normal health dog: 

  • Lip licking (like peanut butter on the lips or chewing cud)
  • Yawning
  • Leaning back or pulling away from people
  • Face turning away
  • Whale eye (point your chin down and look up, that’s whale eye)
  • Tripod stance (on 3 legs, 4th leg is a bent knee)
  • …and more…

Growling, lunging, air snapping or biting are all a last resort! 

This is not the first time or the last time I will educate about dog bites.  And my 2016 goals are to communicate to the masses about dog body language to help prevent bites!!  Look for me on TV, online, media, magazines, social media and local seminars to learn more.

For more information you can contact Amber Walker at amber@aitrainers.com or www.aitrainers.com.

 

MBB_Profile

Most of us over the age of 16 drive a car, and most of us know how to interpret a traffic signal: Green means go. Red means stop. Yellow means caution.

Tara Palardy, a dog trainer Alberta, Canada, realized that some dogs require extra space and caution when being approached. There are lots of reasons this might be the case – maybe the dog is recovering from surgery, or is older and arthritic, or is a small dog terrified of larger dogs; or maybe the dog is too young to have had sufficient obedience training. In some cases, the dog is a shelter or rescue pet who has been abused or neglected, and struggles with pronounced anxiety among humans. These types of dogs are not necessarily aggressive, but very often contend with ongoing issues of fear or discomfort.

Tara realized that fostering an understanding of these special needs could help enhance the safety and well-being of dogs and humans alike. So in 2012 she began a movement to identify “Yellow Dogs” – in other words, dogs requiring a little extra caution, a little extra space. The Yellow Dog Project has since blossomed into a global initiative to assist these dogs and their pet parents. Its central goal is to educate the public (dog owners and non-owners alike) about how to approach these dogs in an appropriate way that helps them feel more comfortable and secure. It also helps pet parents to recognize when a dog they own may qualify as a Yellow Dog.

 

YellowDogProject1

Yellow Dogs are not necessarily aggressive dogs — they simply require a little extra space, compassion and TLC.

As a not-for profit organization, The Yellow Dog Project oversees educational initiatives that help us humans understand why it’s generally smart to get permission from a dog owner before initiating contact with any dog. It also promotes the use of special yellow ribbons that identify Yellow Dogs as needing some extra space; and encourages pet parents to develop relationships with local positive-reinforcement trainers as a proactive way to assist their beloved pets. All of the monies and donations raised by The Yelllow Dog Project are used to purchase additional ribbon material, representative tee shirts, and educational posters for display.

If you’d like to get involved with The Yellow Dog project, you can download additional details directly by visiting www.theyellowdogproject.com. This site allows you to sign up as a volunteer, make donations, and access helpful resources designed to assist with the unique challenges of Yellow Dog ownership. The organization’s Facebook page is listed as “The Yellow Dog Project” and it can be found on Twitter at @yellowdogproj.

Do you have a Yellow Dog? Do you have firsthand suggestions for interacting with a Yellow Dog, or for helping to make these special pets feel more comfortable and secure? Share with us below!

 

yellow-dog-project-ribbons

The Yellow Dog Project uses special yellow ribbons to alert and educate people about dogs who just require some extra understanding.

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When it comes to people and dogs, there are housebreaking issues. There are diet and feeding issues. And then there are issues of personal space – this is my bubble, this is your bubble. From a safety and well-being standpoint, it’s important to remember that dogs and humans can perceive this last issue very, very differently.

It’s often easy to forget that other creatures (including dogs) don’t always rely on their senses in the same proportions we do. Human beings, for example, depend a great deal on our sense of touch. Often, our very first instinct is to reach out and touch something (which is why stores like Neiman Marcus often have signs that read “please do not touch the merchandise.”).

Dogs, on the other hand, have an extremely sharp sense of smell, and they tend to “scent” the world as a first step toward assessing. They don’t always understand (or welcome) a stranger’s desire to pet them. I learned this the hard way many years ago, when I began doing behavioral rehabilitation work with abused rescue dogs. As you can imagine, most didn’t react kindly when I’d reach out to handle them. But for any dog – particularly dogs in a new situation — touch is just not normally their first mode of interaction.

If you think about things from a dog’s perspective, it makes sense: We’re bigger than most of them, so leaning over their head or back can be perceived as very threatening. We’ve also been taught to make good eye contact with other humans – but to a dog, steady eye contact can be an intimidating sign of dominant aggression.

 

NervousDogs

Not all dogs are ready to be touched or petted the moment they meet a new person.

When you step up to meet a dog for the first time, consider your normal way of greeting. Do you square off in front of him, move in close, lean over his head or back, look him in the eye and/or reach your hand over the top of his face or body? If so, there’s a good chance you could be making that dog feel trapped or uncomfortable. Dogs often speak to us with their body language — telling us to back up or back off, before lashing out in more assertive (and damaging) ways. So as animal-loving humans, it’s always a good idea to understand their discomfort signals. These include the following:

  • “Shaking off” movements
  • Excessing yawning and/or panting
  • Excessive or rapid eye blinking or rolling
  • Repeated lip licking or smacking
  • Tail pulled tightly under the body, or low and tense
  • Attempts to increase physical distance by backing up
  • Looking away several times, or refusal to make eye contact
  • Rigid body posture (including stillness or sudden freezing in place)
  • Crouching, cowering, or trembling
  • Rigid face/jaw (often signaled by a tightly closed mouth)

There are also more pronounced behaviors including submissive posturing (crouching, cowering, even leaking urine), hard stares, outright growling or barking, snarling, snapping, and lunging. But again, when things have progressed to this level, the dog is feeling very threatened and someone could likely get hurt.

 

ScaredDogs

The eyes (and yawns) have it: Nervous eye-rolling or a hard yawn is a dog’s way of saying, “I’m stressed.”

Some dogs, of course, proceed right to these more advanced behaviors. But if you notice any of the signals listed above, that’s your pre-warning. Back away from the dog and modify your approach. If the owner is present and the dog is leashed, you can try crouching down, coming alongside the dog (versus in front), and keeping your hands beneath his chin level. Allow him to make the first move (usually some kind of sniff). It’s often smart to avoid touching the dog until he signals permission (moving close, nuzzling with his head or body). In fact, a really good “get to know you” trick is to throw small treats *away* from your body until the dog initiates contact with you. Stella & Chewy’s Carnivore Crunch is one extremely effective, healthy option – dogs adore it! Do you have other “meet-and-greet” suggestions? Share them with us below!