Friday, June 24, 2011


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Living with a shy dog

Information adapted from Animal Defense League:

Shy Dog Information

When helping dogs, it's important to be aware that some might have never have been in a home environment before; others might have suffered previous abuse. It takes patience and a kind hand and heart to gain the trust of a shy or fearful dog – but the love of this pet companion can be worth the extra effort. Here is some information that should help in the transition of your new family member.

Bringing A Shy Dog Into Your Home

It may take your new pet a few days to settle in; during this time his appetite may be decreased. If your pet is not eating in the first few days, do not be concerned. After two or three days, if he is still not eating, try to mix in some wet food. If she still does not eat, talk to your vet.  Make sure the pet stays hydrated as well.  If the dog goes a day without drinking water, talk to your vet.
Some dogs may have never been in a home before. They may be hesitant to go through doorways and go up stairs, walk on carpet, etc... To help them adjust, start them in one room of your home and slowly introduce to new rooms. It is important for you to give them plenty of space. Give her time to explore on her own. Hugging, petting when not wanted will only slow down the socialization process. Let the dog come to you.  Once the dog settles in, you can try the "breadcrumb" approach. Lay down some tasty treats in a line starting from far away and line them up in succession closer and closer to you. Eventually putting some treats in your lap.   Let the dog take her time picking up the treats. Look away as the dog contemplates taking the treats and walking closer.
Shy dogs also feel better when they perceive that they have a place to escape to.   So when sitting in a room with them, don't block the doorway, don't close the door, don't block the entrance to their kennel or crate.  You don't want them running out of the house, but let them feel like they can escape to a safe place.
Many abandoned or stray dogs have never been on a leash before.   And many of them are very shy about going potty on a leash.  But because many of these dogs have never been in a home before, you might have a hard time getting them back in the house if you let them outside to potty off leash.  Especially if you have a big yard.  Put the dogs on a 20 or 30 foot training leash.  Let them drag it around the yard.  If you have difficulty getting them to come back in the house, slowly pick up the leash and lead them back in. Never leave a dog on a leash unattended. The potential for injury is too great.
Before you start taking the dog for neighborhood walks, be sure that he or she is comfortable on leash close to your house or in your yard.
When you are ready to go on walks, a slip leash or martingale is a must - with a separate collar with ID tags, rabies tag and microchip tag.  

Make sure you have the martingale collar and leash or slip leash securely attached before you open any doors.  Always have a good grip on your leash; there can be many things that may scare your new pet on walks.  More info on martingale collars here: 

More info on slip leads here:
Learning how to walk on a leash can take some time.  Be very patient. Try to not "drag" the dog. Also note that shaking the leash to get the dog's attention is extremly counter-productive.  This frighten a scared dog. 
Be very watchful of children around your new shy dog. In a time of fear, dogs have two options: fight or run. If a child corners a shy dog, or takes away her option to run, she may bite. To avoid any possible incidents, make sure to always supervise when children are with a shy dog (or any dog for that matter. No running or screaming.  And just like adults, children must give the shy dog plenty of space and time.  It is natural for children to be excited about a new pet but they must learn to let the dog come to them.

Have all members of the family be prepared to give small treats to your new pet, and reward your dog every time he comes to sniff or say hi. This will help your new pet feel comfortable with all members of your family.

Pacing and circling can be expected the first few days. These are signals your dog just hasn't quite settled in yet. This should go away as she becomes more comfortable.

It is a good idea to give your new dog a crate. Don't shut the door; just make it nice and comfy inside with food treats and a bed. He may want a quiet place he can go.


Note: Shy dogs should NOT be outside-only dogs.  In the beginning, these fur babies may think they want to be outside only.  But they don't know how good house living is yet.  Leaving a scared dog outside all day, every day will greatly hamper the socialization process.
Once the dog is comfortable with you, comfortable in the house, comfortable on walks, you can start socializing him with other people.  Remind people:
- do not look at your dog
- speak in soft tones
- do not talk with hands
- remove hats, shades, backpacks, loud jewelry
- squat, get or their knees or bend down the their heads.
Have others offer your dogs treats, but have them look away when offering.
My basic philosophy when working with or living with a shy dog:
3 main things:
1.  Patience - it could take days, weeks, months for a shy dog to come out of her shell.  Give them that time.  Rushing things will be counter productive
2.  Leave them alone - Let the shy dog come to you when he is ready.
3.  Keep them secure - keep them far away from open doorways and/or keep barriers in front of doors.  Never open the fence gate when they are in the yard, make sure your yard is every secure and never leave them in the yard unattended - at least until they have settled in.
Note, some professionals advise that shy dogs should not have other dogs around because the shy dog needs to learn to depend on humans.  I personally know of several cases where the exact opposite is true.  I'm not saying adopt a friendly dog just for the scared dog, but I am saying don't isolate the scared dog in an attempt to socialize him.  Let the dog have dog friends, human friends, toys, etc..  Dogs are natural social creatures and most humans can't be with their dogs at all time.  Let them be around others dogs.  It is not only good for socialization, but it can also help them from becoming lonely and board when you are not around.
Related Articles:
Approaching, Socializing Shy Dogs - mainly for shelter situations
Using a slip leash Part I: 
Using a slip leash Part II:
Lost and Found - ID: martingale collars, etc..


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good Cop Bad Cop

I was walking one of my dogs on a nature trail and we came upon another dog and his humans coming towards us from the opposite direction.  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Twinkies in Class

Twinkies in class

The teacher gives the students a note to take home to their parents/legal guardians:

“We will be practicing reward based learning in class tomorrow.  We will give out twinkies for correct answers.  Because we want your child to be highly motivated to learn, please be sure he/she does not eat breakfast before coming to school. Also be sure to reduce the size of her/his dinner accordingly. We will be giving out lots of twinkies and we don’t want your child to gain weight while learning.”

A little far-fetched no?  Then why do we practice this same procedure when training our pets?  Those who have attended a formal training class know that I’m talking about.  The instructor tells you (rightfully so) to reduce your dog’s regular kibble so he/she doesn’t gain weight and to not feed your dog before class so he/she will be hungry and willing to learn. Great advice.   But one thing we need to look out for is what we feed our dogs during training. You don’t want to replace his healthy at-home meal with treats that are laced with sugar, preservatives, artificial coloring etc..

Pet parents are lucky because a lot of things that dogs love are actually good for them – unlike human kids.

I’m actually very lucky (with one of my dogs at least). Matt-Matt will take anything I hand him – even in a highly distracting environment. He is happy to take his own kibble from me, vegetables, fruit etc.. He is even happier to take freeze dried fish, baked chicken, or a grilled sirloin.

Take a good look at that supermarket or pet store treat that you are feeding your dog.  Dogs do not need honey, sugar or salt to make something taste better.  If manufacturers have these items in the food it probably means that it has been so highly processed that all the real flavor is gone. Not only are these snacks physiologically unhealthy, they can also have an effect on your pets mental well being.   Do you feel better or worse after eating a carb heavy or sugar heavy snack?  Your dog might have the same issues.
And what’s the deal with the artificial colors? Does your dog really care if that sugar filled snack has the same color as bacon?

So, you’ve made the decision to carefully review your dog’s treat labels.  While you are at it, go ahead and take a good long look at the ingredients in your dog’s everyday kibble. Don’t just look at the wholesome pictures of fresh meat, fruits and veggies on the package.

A great unbiased dog food review site is
You can click on Index at the bottom of the page to see a list of food reviewed:
Or click reviews to search for your dog food:

Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats
I’ve only read the first couple of chapters.  I’m not endorsing or opposing anything in the book.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Negative Reinforcement Anthem - It's a Hard Knock Life

It’s a hard knock life for us

It’s a hard knock life for us

Stead of treated, we get tricked

Stead of Kisses, we get kicked

It’s a hard knock life

Sometime they even pinch my ear;

All we ever learn is fear

We get yelled at all day long

Stead of love songs, we get prongs.

Sometimes we even get spanked

And by our necks, we get yanked.

It’s a hard knock life

We get poked and we get choked

And we sometimes get alpha-rolled

I wish I knew what they wanted, I just want to do things right

But all they do is punish, when will they ever see the light?

Some days I want to throw the towel in

Sometimes I want to fight

It’s a hard knock life for us

It’s a hard knock life for us

We’d learn so must faster; if you were nice instead of mean

A home with compassion is what fills our dreams

It’s a hard knock life!

Positive training can’t be beat

Get a clicker and some treats

And watch us perform great feats

It’s a better life!

It’s a better life!

It’s a better life!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Question: Advice needed for a shy 16 week old puppy

Until you help the pup with her/his fear issues, you are going to have to be extra vigilant around front doors, when on leash walks, and in the back yard.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why can't I pet your dog?

Why can't I pet your dog?
If a complete stranger walked up to you and asked, "May I drive your car?" or "May I live in your house?" or "May I have your purse", your response is probably going to be "NO!"  Now imagine if the reply to your response is "Why?"  How do you answer that question?  If this happened to me, I would either ignore the person or respond, "It's my house; I paid for it, I owe you no explanation."
Spiritually, my dogs are my family members; but legally, they are my property.  So when I tell someone that they can't pet my dog, can't give my dog a treat, can't approach my dog, etc.. why do I owe some explanation? They are my property; I pay for their food, their vet care, their training, etc..
Let's say that dogs are our family members and not property.  If  a stranger walked up to you and asked, "May I pick up your kid?" or May I take your kid for a ride?" I'm assuming your response would be a resounding no. Imagine once again if the response from the stranger is "Why?"  Do you really owe that person an explanation?   But let's say that you do provide a why.  Your response might be, "I don't know you, I don't trust you with my kid, and my kid doesn't want to go with you."  Now imagine that the well meaning stranger then says "But I'm good with kids; look at your boy, he wants to get in the car with me."  How do you now respond to that?  Do you owe a response?
So, am I supposed to simply let you touch my dog because you are "good with dogs?"  Do I really need to explain why I don't want my family member, my property touched?
If you still need an explanation why certain people don't want strangers touching their dogs, here are just a few
  • The dog could be in training and strangers approaching the dog might hamper that training
  • The dog could be shy and afraid of strangers.  Some pet owners like to ease their dogs into getting used to new people.  Forcing petting on a dog will only make that shyness worse.
  • The dog might have some nervous issues that might cause him/her to bite if approached incorrectly.  The pet parent doesn't want you to get hurt
    • Additionally, the pet parent doesn't want her dog to get a bad reputation for biting or have to have his/her pet put down for biting.  So it's safer for everyone if you keep you distance.
  • The pet parent might be uncomfortable with strangers even if the dog is comfortable.
If you have a strong desire to pet dogs, instead of insisting that you force yourself on strangers' dogs, here are some other ideas
  • Volunteer at a local shelter or with a local rescue groups
    • Sadly there are an abundance of unwanted dogs in this country, so volunteering your time at a shelter will give you a never-ending selection of different dogs to pet. I suggest spending extra time with large black dogs. In general, they tend to have a harder time getting adopted. Even better, ask the staff who hasn't been out of their kennel in a while or ask who gets the least attention, who are the most misunderstood dogs. Then spend time with them.
    • Look into a dog-related profession
      • Pet Sitting
      • Dog Walking
      • Dog Training
      • Dog Grooming
    • Spend time with dogs who belong to friends and family - humans who have given the okay for their dogs to be petted.