Prevention is so much easier than curing!
View this email in your browser
Canine Behavior Associates
Academy of Dog Behavior
at Humane Society Silicon Valley

Level I - Starts on September 11, 2016
If you're interested in learning more about dog behavior or becoming a professional in the dog world, check out the Academy. This 40 hour class is convenient for working people, avoids the commute (Sunday afternoons at Humane Society Silicon Valley), and you'll meet a bunch of great people.  The next class starts September 11th  and runs through November 20th For more info, please click here:   Academy of Dog Behavior

Advanced Modules for Academy Grads at
Humane Society Silicon Valley
  • Leash Reactivity will be held from 1:00 to 5:00 pm on Saturdays, October 29th, November 5th and November 12th.
  • Shelter Dog Evaluations will be held from 1 to 5 pm on Sundays, December 4th, 11th, and 18th.
  • Training Breed Types (Bullies, Terriers, Herding Dogs and Guardians) will be held on Sundays, January 8th, 15th and 27th.
Predict & Prevent Behavior Problems

Setting yourself up for Success

All dogs have some problems – some are large, while some are barely worth mentioning.    Maybe your dog is anxious when you leave, barks in the home, has house-training issues, doesn’t get along with other dogs, or is frightened of strangers.  Most of us try to solve these issues once they’ve arrived, which is logical.   However, there are a great number of potential problems that can actually be prevented with far less effort.

Being proactive is important for several reasons, not the least being the difficulty of actually modifying entrenched behavior problems!

Proper Puppy Behavior with Dogs and People
We’d like our young dogs to get along with other dogs, and to be polite with people.  However, many owners and, in fact, many puppy classes give young dogs puppy privileges well past when they should.  Puppy privileges are behaviors like jumping up on people, gnawing or biting on clothing or being obnoxious to other dogs.  All these behaviors are totally normal and part of the exploration involved in growing up...but they're not really acceptable in an adolescent or adult dog.  

When you work on appropriate behaviors in a puppy, you can do so gently and quietly.  If you wait until the behaviors have matured, it gets more complicated.   For instance, if a puppy chews on something you’d rather he didn’t, you can take it out of his mouth, and replace it with something more appropriate.  In fact, you can surround him with things you don’t mind him chewing on, and make the inappropriate stuff more inaccessible.   If a puppy chews on you, you can freeze and quietly reprimand, then substitute other material as well.  If you wait until your puppy is an adolescent, it will take a lot more time and effort.  As a matter of fact, shelters are full of adolescent dogs who never learned how to behave properly. 

Pups and Other Dogs

Generally speaking, when a pup plays with an adult dog and goes over the line, the adult dog will correct the pup.  On the other hand, when a puppy is playing with another puppy, that doesn’t happen. Even if the other puppy squeals, it might not stop the first puppy's actions.
So in order to prevent the behavior, our pups should interact with adult dogs as much or more than they interact with puppies.   At the least, puppy classes should contain one or two adults, and people should intervene quickly, if it looks like one dog is bullying another.  Puppy bullying becomes adolescent bullying which can become extremely anti-social.   
Proper Adolescent Behavior
Perhaps you acquired your dog as an adolescent.   It's a bit tougher, but you can prevent problems with a young adult as well.   The most important thing is, of course, to not accept behaviors you don’t much like some of the time.   Though this seems obvious, there are many people who think feeding the dog from the table occasionally won’t hurt** (It does. Intermittent reinforcement is extremely powerful; just ask gamblers, waiting for their next jackpot).   Some owners allow their dogs to pull them wherever they go, because it’s so much work to teach them not to pull, and some allow them to jump up on some people, and then reprimand them when the do the same to others. 

***by the way, there’s nothing wrong with people food.  In fact, dog food is people food, ground up, cooked and made relatively tasteless.   Dogs won’t learn to beg if you give them dog food – they’ll learn to beg if you give them food from the table.
A great number of people let their dogs play roughly at dog parks, assuming that the dogs will regulate themselves.   Some will, but many won’t, and some individuals will learn to bully other dogs, while others will learn that their owners won’t help them if they are bullied. 

Dogs also to play "catch me if you can," when they don’t want to leave the dog park.  They are effectively learning that they don’t have to come when called. 
These potential problems can be prevented by monitoring young dogs, so that by the time they’re adults, they don’t need quite so much oversight.    Ways to teach not jumping on people include sitting before attention, moving into the dog, or leaving a leash on for control.  There are many ways to teach polite walking (too many for this article).  And begging...well don't let them start!

With regard to other dogs, your pup's first choice of companions should be you and your family, whether it includes just humans or humans and other animals.    When you allow your dog to get most of her fun from others, it diminishes your importance, your dog’s dependence on you, and thus her tendency to listen to you.  Much as people like to call dogs their “fur-kids,” they’re not people.   When we raise children, one of our goals is to teach independence.  When we raise dogs, we should try to keep them dependent – after, all, they'll never have to leave home and earn a living.     
All this is a way of saying that though dog parks are fun, they aren’t necessary, and can actually influence dogs to behave in inappropriate ways.    On the other hand, dog sports and activities are super – they increase cooperation, and enhance the human/canine bond. 
Leaving issues (Separation Anxiety)
If it were up to your dog, you would never be apart – dogs are hardwired family animals; most won’t willingly be separated.  Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, we can’t be with our dogs 24/7, and actually most of us don’t want to be.   We can fairly easily prevent separation anxiety or other issues around being left behind – like bossy, demanding barking.    The best way is to start leaving your dog as soon as you’ve acquired him, for short periods of time, which can be handled fairly easily by the dog.   Establish a routine, leaving him in an area or crate, telling him you’ll be back, then going away for just a minute or two. 

In the beginning, it doesn’t even matter much if he’s vocalizing – you still act as though this is No Big Deal, either coming or going.  When he seems to be coping with short periods of time, you can start to vary the length from short to longer.   Some people like to give dogs a goodbye gift (cookie or Kong), but if you start this early enough, you may not even have to do this. 
Resource Guarding

Another potential problem is resource guarding.   Some dogs have more of a tendency to guard their stuff than others, but it's usually fairly simple to prevent possession by doing a little hand feeding of food, making sure the toys and chewies they get aren't TOO valuable, and hanging around pretty close to them while they're involved with something tasty. 
That way they won't see you as a threat.  It's not generally a great idea to arbitrarily take stuff away from the dog; he may well see you as a potential enemy! 
Reactivity to Dogs or People


As we’ve discussed before, a lot of dog-reactive dogs are just frustrated greeters.  They’ve never learned to contain their energy upon seeing other dogs.   The most effective way of preventing this problem is teaching a dog to walk politely on leash and to ignore other dogs unless invited to greet.   

Dogs can also be very fearful, a topic we discussed in earlier newsletters.  Preventing the reflexive behaviors of fearful dogs can be quite difficult, but one method – not often discussed but a worthy topic – is making sure our dogs aren’t overly stressed or excited.  For instance, if you expose a sensitive dog to too many experiences in a fairly short time period, you might have unwanted consequences. So, if you take your dog to the vet, then  to a pet store, then someone comes to visit, you might be asking too much.  Like people, dogs only have so much self-control.  If you use it all up, then their behavior can turn ugly.   Many dogs can get through three or four hours of a barbecue, only to snap at someone they liked just an hour ago.   
If you don't know whether your dog is stressed, just do some careful observing. Stressed dogs will show a variety of signals – they might pant a lot, try to find an out of the way spot to lie down, get irritable and growly, or their tail will start to drop and stay down as the day goes on.   if you see any of these symptoms, escorting the dog gently to a resting spot might be a great idea.  
Chronic stress is not good for anyone – not you, not your dog.   So if walking your dog every day in your neighborhood is a stressful, anxiety-producing event, it might be a good idea to consider other ways to help your dog get the physical and mental exercise she needs.  

  • Playing Ball or Frisbee
  • Searching for favorite items in the yard
  • Walking your dog in a quiet neighborhood where you can walk in the middle of the street

There’s some interesting research on exercise, stress and reactivity, available here.   In this paper, researcher Linda Cooper actually suggests that dropping the amount of exercise can help certain reactive dogs.  This flies in the face of most conventional wisdom, but deserves some consideration. 

It's important to remember that the behaviors addressed here are within the normal range.  There are dogs who are pathologically possessive, genetically aggressive, or so fearfully reactive that they cannot handle the world without careful handling.  Taking preemptive action is never bad, but cannot always prevent poor behaviors. 
Working with Fearful Dogs was addressed in This Newsletter

On Leash Reactivity to Dogs was addressed in This Newsletter
If you or someone you know would like a consultation, or to see a topic covered in this newsletter, please email
Trish King
Tricia Breen

Art by Robin King
Copyright © 2016 Canine Behavior Associates, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp