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Yes, ANY Dog Can Bite

We take our staff and pets safety very seriously at the Good Dog Spot. We recently had an incident we wanted to make you aware of and to answer any concerns you might have.

Our Office Manager, Jacob, was badly bitten by a dog who came for a walk in nail trim and slipped out of his collar in the lobby.  Jacob sustained serious lacerations to his face and will require plastic surgery.  We’re not sure when he’ll be back but we’re in close contact and will let everyone know more as we learn more.  Please keep him in your thoughts. (We have a card in our lobby for you to sign if you want to wish him well.)

This is the first time in 10 years we have had such a serious incident. While grateful for that fact, there are several take-aways from this troubling event that we can all learn from.

1) While your dog is in our lobby, your dog is your responsibility. You must supervise them at all times. This also means they must be on a well-fitting collar, harness or gentle leader and leash, and under your control at all times. When the dog is in our care, then he/she is our responsibility.

2) Any dog can bite. Your dog may be well behaved at home or in a comfortable environment, but they may not be as well behaved in an unfamiliar environment or around different people. Please don’t assume they don’t need a leash because they don’t require one at other times. Dogs can get nervous around people, animals and new situations, so “Better safe than sorry” is the rule to follow.

3) Please make sure your pet’s equipment fits properly! Similar to child safety seats, there is a correct way to fit your pet’s collar or harness to ensure they don’t escape from them and they stay safe. They should be checked regularly to ensure that nothing has changed.  Weight loss or gain, thickening or thinning of coat and also excessive pulling all can contribute to collar or harness that is too loose or too tight for your pet.  If you have questions about it, PLEASE ask one of our staff experts. We want to make sure EVERYONE in our facility stays safe.  If you forget your leash or do not feel safe with your pet’s equipment, we have slip leads available in the lobby.  Please leave your pet in your car and get a leash from us.  We will gladly let you borrow one!

We also also found this group on Facebook called The Yellow Dog project which helps owners identify a dog who needs space. Read more about it here.  https://www.facebook.com/TheYellowDogProject

Let’s keep people and pets safe!

 

 

 

 

 

Impulse Control

Teaching Dogs Impulse Control

Dog sitting and waiting

Teaching dogs impulse control will help in all facets of life with your dog. Dogs are very impulsive animals and often act without assessing situations or thinking about consequences. Examples of impulsive behaviors are jumping on people when greeting them, rushing out of doors, eating unknown food or items quickly, and pulling on the leash to sniff things. Teaching impulse control is teaching your dog to think before acting and gives them self-control in exciting or stressful situations. To teach your dog impulse control, think of all the things your dog LOVES and then make them work to get them. By doing this you are requiring that they stop and think about how to get the rewarding item (going for a walk, getting a treat, going out in the yard, etc.) and you are also teaching them about consequences. By listening to you and doing what you ask they get rewarded with the item they want. If they do not listen to you, they do not get rewarded. All good things now come through you. Here are some examples:

  • Train a wait or stay command. With this you ask your dog to stay put in one location while you go about your business. This is useful when making food or going through doorways.
  • Ask your dog to sit and wait at meal times. Your dog should not run up to you and start eating out of the bowl before you even put it on the ground! You could even set up a mat they have to sit on while you put the bowl down and they can only get off of it when you say OK. Every time your dog moves towards you before you say OK, pick up the bowl and start over. Gradually increase the amount of time they have to wait.
  • Ask your dog to sit and wait at all doors and gates. This will help you walk through doors safely without getting pushed over, and can also prevent your dog from running out into a busy road.
  • Teaching your dog leave it. There are many times our dogs try to eat unsafe things in our house or out on walks. Training a leave it commands help teach them to control their urges to immediately eat unknown items, and to instead come to you for a safe, yummy treat.
  • Ask your dog to sit while you put on their collar or harness before a walk. It is no fun having to chase your dog all over because they are so excited to go for a walk that they cannot stay still. If at any point they get up before the collar is snapped, start over.
  • Make your dog sit or stand calmly when greeting people. The general rule should be “all 4 on the floor” meaning all four paws should be touching the floor before they get to say hi to a person. If at any point they jump up, immediately stop giving the dog attention and wait for them to calm down again.

At The Good Dog Spot we work on impulse control all day long. Dogs have to sit and wait at all gates until their name is called to come through. They have to be calm in their crates before getting let out after nap-time. They have to maintain low arousal at playtime and listen to staff members, or else they get a time out from playing. Be sure to carry these practices over at home and soon you will have a dog with excellent self-control!

Leash Reactivity

Leash Reactivity: Causes and Tips on How to Correct

Leash reactivity is a common problem and can make walking with your dog very stressful. Leash reactive dogs become anxious or aggressive as they walk by other dogs and may lunge, bark, and growl as a result. If not addressed, the problem only gets worse and more dangerous. If you are not experienced with dog training, consulting a professional is an important first step in addressing leash reactivity, but here we have provided some information about how you can manage it.

 

What causes leash reactivity?

Walking on a leash is a strange activity for a dog that can inhibit species-typical behaviors, especially when it comes to walking by other dogs. When off-leash, dogs rarely greet head on. They typically take a wide arc around each other and sniff rear ends. When we walk by other dogs while on-leash, the head on greeting can create stress and anxiety for dogs. Owners also tend to tighten the leash to gain better control but this instead can tell our dogs that we are nervous about the interaction, putting them on high alert. The types of walking tools you use can cause pain or discomfort to your dog while you tighten the leash or pull them away from the other dog. Bad past experiences, where friendly greetings turned into a fight, an unleashed dog invaded their space, or owners deliver corrections or yelled at their dog while approaching other dogs, can increase leash anxiety as well. All these things create bad associations with approaching other dogs while on-leash, causing reactive dogs to lash out more and more until the issue is addressed.

 

What can I do to fix it?

  • Recognize your dog’s trigger zone. There is a threshold when approaching other dogs where reactive dogs go from being calm to being anxious and reactive. The threshold could be 5ft away or 100ft away, every dog is different. Learn that threshold then DO NOT cross it. The best thing to do is to avoid walking by other dogs until you have all your tools in place. You need to be vigilant about seeing other dogs before your dog does. Look ahead on sidewalks or trails so you always know when someone is coming then create a game plan, whether going back in the opposite direction or moving off the path to create a safe distance for your dog. If you see someone off-leash with their dog, assume that dog will come running up to yours and avoid them at all costs.
  • Use proper walking tools. Gentle leaders are a great option for reactive dogs because it gives you additional control over where they are moving and looking, while also helping to calm the dogs by applying pressure on the snout. DO NOT use choke, prong, or shock collars on reactive dogs, as these will only exacerbate the problem. Flat collars can also cause discomfort if your dog is a puller.
  • If you do cross the threshold or didn’t see a dog before it was too late (nobody is perfect) DO NOT punish your dog. He is not acting this way to embarrass you or to assert dominance over you. He is anxious and asking to be removed from the situation. If your dog is reacting, move in the opposite direction and say something like “OK let’s go!” in a calm, up-beat manner. Reward your dog for coming with you and try to keep his attention on you with treats as you walk away.
  • Once you have removed the trigger, you will then work on reversing the trigger. Previously, the presence of other dogs has had bad associations, so now we want to make a positive association. How quickly this will happen depends on how long your dog has been reactive without intervention, but with patience and diligence from you, your dog can overcome it.
  • Practice basic behaviors (name recall, touch, sit, down, paw, etc.) while at home so that you can use them to prevent your dog from reacting. When you see another dog, use these tools to keep your dog focused on you while staying behind the threshold of reactivity. Keep the behaviors easy so that your dog is able to focus on you and so that you can keep feeding them yummy treats while other dogs walk by. This starts to create a positive association with seeing other dogs. The more you work on it, the shorter the threshold gets. If you have friends with calm dogs, you can ask them to help you with this.
  • Once your dog is on the path to success, keep in mind that they may never love meeting other dogs while on-leash, and there is nothing wrong with that. Continue to walk by other dogs in an arc to help mimic natural greetings. If you think your dog would enjoy socializing with other dogs, set up off-leash play dates (like daycare!).

 

I don’t have a reactive dog, what can I do to help those that do?

  • DO NOT LET YOUR DOG OFF-LEASH UNLESS THEY STAY WITH YOU (no matter how friendly they are!). Many owners let their dogs off-leash in parks even if their dog does not have a good recall. Off-leash dogs bounding up to dogs on-leash are a nightmare for reactive dog owners. One bad interaction could set back months of training. It could also cause non-reactive dogs to become reactive as it is a rude behavior and not appreciated by most dogs.
  • Don’t be offended if a dog owner walks away from you and your dog, or turns down your offer to let the dogs meet. Reactive dog owners don’t want to be rude, they are just trying to help their dogs improve.
  • If you see an owner pulling their dog off to the side and working with it, try to move your dog by them quickly and quietly. Reactive dogs can be fine with calm, quiet dogs being within their threshold, but dogs that bark at them could trigger bad behavior.

 

How do I prevent my dog from becoming reactive?

  • Keep on-leash greetings optional! Even the most social dogs can have a problem with on-leash greetings. Give your dog some space by walking in an arc around other dogs. If both dogs seem interested in meeting let them do it on their own terms and keep them short. The best way to provide dog playtime is to set up play dates with dogs you know your dog gets along with.
  • Be knowledgeable about dog body language. This will help you know when your dog is uncomfortable approaching or meeting other dogs and help you critically evaluate other dogs interacting with yours. You can prevent bad interactions by learning dog stress signs and being able to recognize rude or aggressive dogs before they approach your dog.
  • Do not tighten, pull at, and punish your dog while walking by other dogs. Training your dog to walk with a loose-leash and having a reliable heel and recall can prevent a lot of walking stress that leads to leash reactivity.

Loose Leash Walking

Loose Leash Training Tips

Before we talk about how to get a well-behaved walking partner, we will address why your dog walks the way it does on a leash. First, we will answer the question “Why does my dog pull?” The answer is because the outside world is so exciting and they can’t wait to check it out! Walking on a leash is a very unnatural thing for a dog. Dogs like to meander around exploring at their own pace, and we ask them to stay tethered to us and walk at our pace. Dogs also pull because they have been rewarded for pulling. As a dog pulls towards a tree to sniff it, they drag their human right along with them and then they get to the tree. They begin to learn that pulling gets them to the scent they are trying to explore and they keep doing it.  You may also have wondered why dogs weave from side to side while on walks. This is how dogs track down scents. When odors come off of an item, they dissipate in a cone shape. Dogs weave within the scent cone until they narrow in on the item itself.

Now that you understand why your dog behaves the way it does on leash, we can talk about how to teach them to walk politely. There are two ways you can do this. The first way is called “becoming a tree.” When using this method, you are passively teaching your dog that pulling is not rewarding by stopping every time they pull on the leash. When you feel pressure at the end of the leash, immediately freeze. Don’t say anything or tug or do anything else, just stay still and hold the leash firmly. Wait until your dog takes a step back or turns toward you, so the leash loosens, then continue walking (you can offer a cheerful “yes” or “OK”). Do this every time your dog pulls and soon your dog will learn that pulling is not getting it what it wants. This method can be slow going at first, but if you are consistent, your dog will learn the association.

The second method involves actively teaching your dog where you do want them to be, rather than where you don’t want them to be. The easiest way to do this is with the clicker. Start this training in a small, familiar environment with few to no distractions, like your living room. Have your dog on leash, with clicker and treats on you (you may want to practice a little without your dog nearby to make sure you are able to click, hold the leash, and offer treats). Start by standing so your dog is right next to you (whichever side you prefer, just be consistent). Click and treat in this position a few times. Next, take a step forward, wait for you dog to take a step and is next to you, click and treat. Continue to take steps and clicking whenever your dog is at your side. Start off slow until you feel like your dog understands what it is being rewarded for. Next, start turning around and moving all over, and click and treat when your dog is right by your side. Once your dog is reliably moving into that position, you can start pairing a cue, such as “heel” or “with me.” Start adding more distractions, like going out to the backyard, or around the block. Don’t advance too quickly and revisit easy steps if your dog starts getting confused.

With either of these methods it is important to remember to let your dog be a dog. It is great to have a dog that can walk politely next to us when we need them to, but it’s also important to let them move around and sniff things. Pay attention to their gaze and lead them to items they are curious about. Let them sniff every other tree if they really want to. Walking daily is similar to us checking our email or Facebook. Your dog is exploring their environment and community, looking for new information. Give them the opportunity to interact with their environment and you will have a happier pooch.

Off-Leash Walking

Tips for Off-Leash Walking

 

Most dog professionals in the US encourage dog owners to keep their dog on-leash unless your dog has a 99.9% reliable heal and recall. Our towns and cities are not built for dogs to be safe off-leash. If your dog does not have a reliable recall they typically are bounding up to other people walking their dog which can create more dog-dog anxiety and aggression issues. With hard work and consistency, you can teach your dog to stay with you while off-leash, which could make walks more enjoyable for both of you. Here are some tips on how to teach your dog to reliably walk with you while off-leash:

  • Know your dog! If your dog has a strong prey drive, walking off-leash may not be the best option. The sight of a squirrel might send them running even with the best of training. Finding enclosed outdoor spaces for them to run free might be a better choice. If your dog has aggression issues towards people or other dogs, keeping your dog on-leash is your safest bet.
  • Train a reliable recall, where no matter the distraction your dog comes running to you.
  • Train a reliable heel while your dog is on-leash. Your dog is reliable when they are paying attention to you instead of pulling at the end of the leash to sniff trees, chase squirrels, or greet humans or dogs walking by.
  • Once your dog is reliable on-leash you can start working on the same training while off-leash. Go back to the basics of starting in your living room, then gradually increasing distractions as your dog is successfully progressing. After the living room, practice in the backyard, then in a fenced in park, then in a remote area away from all roads. Ask friends with dogs to practice the training while they walk by so you are sure your dog will listen with added distractions.
  • Teach your dog to “touch.” This is when they place their nose on your hand. It is a great way for you to keep your dog by your side while people or dogs walk by. Some dogs view “touch” as a fun game and may be more likely to respond to this then asking them to “come” or “leave it.”
  • Make sure that YOU are the most interesting thing to your dog. This starts with not always letting them greet other people or dogs on-leash. As you walk by distractions, you should become more exciting and give them their favorite treats or toy.
  • If your dog is off-leash and runs off instead of listening to you, do not punish them when they return. This will only teach them to not come back in the future. If your dog is off running around instead of coming back to you, try getting on the ground, running the opposite way, or doing some other crazy activity or sound to get their attention. Chasing your dog will likely make them run faster and farther.

Why We Walk Dogs

Dogs Have a Biological Need to Walk

 

 Wild dogs and ancestors of our domestic dogs would travel for hours a day to guard their territory and to obtain resources. Up until a couple of decades ago our dogs were working or free to explore outside rather than sitting on the couch all day as they do now. Many of our domestic dogs were bred for a certain purpose, such as hunting, herding, or other types of work. Even mutts will retain biological drives to physically engage in an activity, and walking is crucial for fulfilling that need.

Walking is physically stimulating and provides many of the same benefits that walking does for humans, such as weight loss or weight maintenance, stronger bones, muscles and joints, improved attention, and disease prevention. Just because your dog has the energy to burn, it does not mean dogs will motivate themselves to exercise. Even if you have a large yard, it takes active participation from their owners to motivate dogs to move. It’s great if you engage in other activities with your dog, such as fetch, running, or agility, but a plain old walk can be extremely beneficial as well.

Walking provides mental stimulation, introducing them to new places, people, dogs, scents, sounds, and sights. Being let out into the same backyard does not provide the same enrichment as an active environment like a park. Dogs are motivated to travel and explore. Allowing them the opportunity to do this makes for a happy, satisfied dog. Ultimately, walking is an activity you should be doing with your dog. If you do not have the time or energy, hiring a dog walker can be a great way to give your dog the opportunity without having to add another item to your to-do list. 

Cat Nutrition

Cat Nutrition

Cats are not far removed from their ancestors, the African wildcat. It is important to keep this in mind when you are rooming with a feline friend. The most important characteristic to remember is that they are obligate carnivores. This means they NEED to eat animal protein to live. They cannot be vegetarians, and thrive best on meat-based, grain-free diets. They are also skilled hunters, making them the biggest threat to local wildlife and conservation efforts (besides humans). These two traits alone play a major role in their overall health and behavior. Here, we will make some recommendations on how to feed your cat to ensure you are doing everything you can to keep them happy and health.

FIRST: Stop free feeding! Cats are built to hunt and stalk their food. We do not recommend allowing your cat to hunt outdoors for the sake of local wildlife, but giving them a way to burn off energy and use their brains and bodies is vital to their overall well-being. Feeding 2-3 meals a day tends to keep cats more physically active and more mentally stimulated. Puzzle feeders are a great option for dry meals because they are required to work for their food. Trixie Pet Products (can be found on Amazon) have great cat puzzle feeders. There is also a No Bowl movement going on, where cat behaviorists are encouraging cat owners to ditch feeding in a bowl altogether, and to find creative ways to offer dry food. More information can be found at https://nobowlcat.com/

We recommend actively playing with your cat before each meal. A typical feline behavior sequence around mealtime goes: stalk, ambush, eat, groom, and sleep. Playing with your cat before feeding helps to mimic this. All cats are playful, you just have to find the right toy and put some imagination into it (some cats do not like to play alone, which is why it is important to set aside special times to play with your cat). Feeding meals also makes cats more receptive to training! Yes, training. Just like your dog, cats can learn commands, and can even be clicker trained. It is all about finding the right motivation. A cat who can feed itself whenever it wants has no reason to listen to you. When you feed meals, your cat has to listen to you at least 2-3 times a day. Ask your cat to sit on a mat before receiving a meal. If you have a vocal cat, wait until they are quietly sitting on their mat.

See? Cat training: four cats quietly, patiently waiting on their mats for dinner.

NEXT: Never feed a dry-only diet! Dry food is very convenient and cost effective for us, but is not good for cats as the sole mode of nutrition. Cats obtain most of their water from food. They do not have a strong thirst drive, so when you only feed dry food you are severely limiting their water-intake. If you have a male cat, this is especially important since they can build up crystals in their urine and become blocked. A blocked cat can cost you thousands in vet bills, so it is better to be proactive and feed wet food. Many vets are now saying ANY wet food is better than ANY dry food. At TGDS, we often advocate for high-quality, meat-based products for your dogs and cats. We do recommend this for your cat as well, but if you cannot afford the high-end canned or raw food for your cat, we still recommend feeding any wet food you can afford at least once a day.

We hope that this information is beneficial to you and your cat. Even though we are called The Good DOG Spot, our staff members are knowledgeable about cats as well, and we are happy to answer any questions!