As we come close to five years of providing dog training services, I am more excited about what the future holds for When Hounds Fly than ever before.
We have a lot planned and I look forward to sharing more with you over the coming weeks.
The first bit of news is… no, this is not in fact us visiting a church community center… this is us after getting the keys to the additional training space we have signed the lease on! When we’re done, we’ll have 3000+ square feet dedicated to dog training excellence.
Perhaps you know the house on your street where as soon as you walk by, you are greeted by a frantic and not-so-friendly sounding bark and bump on a glass window?
Oh look, there’s that dog – he always barks at us when we walk by this house.
Many owners think that letting their dog stare out the window is a way to let their dog “enjoy” the view while they are left home alone and that it’s a form of relaxation. After all, we love sitting on our porches in the summer and letting the world pass us by, right?
Unfortunately, allowing your dog to stare out windows when unsupervised is potentially a very harmful activity, and in a relatively short amount of time, can cause your dog to bark and lunge aggressively at dogs and people on the street. It also prevents them from resting – they are always hyper vigilant for very long durations, every day, and unable to truly relax and de-stress.
Typically, a well-socialized and friendly dog is given access to their new window ledge in his new home (or sometimes even access to a window in a lower-storey condo). He sees a dog being walked on the street, and gets excited because he want to go visit the dog to socialize. But, he can’t! He’s stuck behind glass. He feels disappointed and also frustrated.
Every single day, he sits at the window, and classical conditioning is occurring. The sight of people walking by causes excitement, and then frustration at the fact he is stuck behind a glass window. Soon, instead of being happy to see a dog and person on the street, he immediately feels frustrated and eventually angry. This is called barrier frustration.
A lot of times, this conditioned emotional response to people and dogs on the street generalizes to not just when inside, but also when outside on a leash walk. Now, the dog that barks and lunges at things behind the window also does this when outside on leash walks.
After months or even years of this conditioning – the frustration builds up to a point where some dogs, if allowed to rush out the front door left ajar, will run out and actually bite someone walking by. After tens of thousands of people and dogs walking by, the frustration has transformed into serious aggression. This is also called “chain rage”, where dogs on tie outs in suburban and rural property become highly aggressive due to years of barrier frustration.
To avoid this problem, never allow your dog to have unsupervised access to look out windows, or even in the yard through fences. Don’t leave your dog in the yard all day while you’re at work. Instead, restrict access when they’re unsupervised through window coverings, privacy film, crating/confinement, or simply preventing access to the room these windows are in. When you’re with your dog by the window or yard, and they notice people and dogs walking by your property, mark and reinforce them with food, play, and praise, for calmly noticing passerbys, so you help train behavior and condition positive associations with passerbys.
Curious about the types of dogs that have taken classes at When Hounds Fly this year?
Below is a list of all the breed types (and counts) that have taken classes with us for the first time. This doesn’t include students that joined us in previous years and came back in 2013 for additional classes though.
Dogs without clear pedigree (i.e. owner specified as a “Beagle mix” or “Lab Mix”) and popular cross-breeds (i.e. Golden Retriver / Poodle mix, or Pug / Beagle mix) were simply categorized in the “Mixed” group.
Apologies there were a few very rare breeds that were missing from our database, and we may have missed one or two really obscure breeds.
The Top 5
#5 – Beagle (9 in total)
#4 – Boston Terrier (9 in total)
#3 – Australian Shepherd (9 in total)
#2 – Labrador Retriever (12 in total)
#1 – Golden Retriever (15 in total)
Dog Breed – Full List and Count
Afghan Hound 1
Airedale Terrier 1
Akita Inu 1
Australian Cattle Dog 1
Australian Shepherd 9
Belgian Shepherd Dog 1
Berger Picard 1
Bernese Mountain Dog 4
Bichon Frisé 1
Black Russian Terrier 1
Border Collie 4
Border Terrier 5
Boston Terrier 9
Brittany Spaniel 3
Brussels Griffon 2
Cairn Terrier 2
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 2
Chihuahua (Short Coat) 4
Chow Chow 1
Coton de Tulear 3
Doberman Pinscher 4
Dogue de Bordeaux 1
Dutch Shepherd Dog 1
English Cocker Spaniel 1
English Springer Spaniel 3
Flat-Coated Retriever 1
Fox Terrier (Smooth) 1
French Bulldog 4
German Shepherd Dog 8
German Shorthaired Pointer 2
Golden Retriever 15
Great Dane 4
Icelandic Sheepdog 1
Italian Greyhound 4
Jack Russell Terrier 2
Labrador Retriever 12
Lagotto Romagnolo 1
Lakeland Terrier 3
Miniature Pinscher 1
Miniature Schnauzer 4
Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever 2
Old English Sheepdog 2
Poodle (Miniature) 1
Poodle (Standard) 2
Poodle (Toy) 2
Portuguese Water Dog 6
Rhodesian Ridgeback 4
Shetland Sheepdog 1
Shiba Inu 4
Shih Tzu 4
Siberian Husky 5
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier 5
Vizsla (Smooth-Haired) 6
Welsh Corgi (Pembroke) 3
Welsh Terrier 1
West Highland White Terrier 2
Yorkshire Terrier 3
Saturday Afternoon, 3:00PM, Trinity Bellwoods Dog Bowl
This weekend I caught up with a couple that had taken group classes in the summer. Their roughly two year old rescue lab mix had been doing great. Right after adoption, leash pulling was their major problem, and they were proud (and I was pleasantly surprised!) that just six months later, the dog walked on a loose leash, even on the way to the dog park, and all they did to create that was click then treat for walking on a loose leash (They were able to totally fade out food reinforcement for leash walking very quickly they remarked).
They hired me for a private lesson because they observed and their dog walker observed that their dog was being rude with other dogs at the dog park. First, lots of mounting and humping. Second, chasing down and harassing dogs that were nervous or had “given up”. Third, grappling other dogs by their collars during wrestling.
Our appointment was for 3pm on Saturday afternoon, and after meeting at the school, we walked towards Trinity Bellwoods to enter the dog bowl – the official off-leash area for dogs in the park, so I could observe their dog’s behaviour and offer suggestions on what to do to improve it.
We started off by having her to some basic exercises (sit, down, offering attention, etc.) and then we released her to go play.
She found a Golden Retriever and proceeded to wrestle, and very quickly mounted and humped him. “Too bad!” I said, as I went to get her, moved her away by her harness, and leashed her up. Timeout time.
We tried again in a minute, and this time she ran into the mix of dogs at the park. Within a few seconds, a Doberman, German Shepherd, and Rottie mix started chasing her. It was starting to look ugly. She ran and ran, and eventually came to a halt, and offered appeasement signals (c-shaped spine, head low, whale eye, pinned ears) and the pack of three dogs wouldn’t let up. I ran into the group and physically shielded her from all three, and the owner of the Doberman saw me do this and proceeded to collect his dog. The remaining two dogs moved on by themselves. Their owners were absent.
I moved with my clients’ to the other side of the bowl and we let her go again. This time, she found a slightly smaller mixed breed dog and started giving chase. She was now chasing down a dog and making him feel uncomfortable! The same appeasement signals were being offered. We jumped in and quickly timed out our dog. What a hypocrite, we all thought!
Off in the distance, the three dogs that were bullying my clients’ dog were doing it to somebody else’s dog, but this time, no one was intervening. We had enough distance so I wasn’t concerned about my clients’ dog’s well being. But somebody’s dog was not very happy.
On the way out, our clients’ dog went to visit the German Shepherd. He told her off, hard, just because she entered his space. She got the hint and we moved on. Another dog went to visit the German Shepherd, and he got told off. I quickly realized that the Shepherd was resource guarding his owners. Yet they had brought their resource guarding dog and were just sitting around the dog bowl thinking nothing of it.
THIS is What Goes On?
I don’t go to these parks with my own dogs. I forget what goes on in places like this. Enclosed spaces devoid of anything interesting where too many dogs hang out – understimulated by the environment, but overaroused by other dogs. Too many people think that these dogs are playing and having fun. They were not. There was serious bullying and overarousal going on.
Today at lunch something connected. I get a lot of aggression cases where clients report that their dog was “well socialized” and spent a lot of time at the dog park. What I came to realize is all the owners with their dogs at the dog bowl that day were there because they really think that’s what the definition of dog socialization is, and that’s what dog play looks like.
If you took the average dog and had them stay in a poisoned environment like that for any length of time for weeks or months, I would be surprised if that dog did not develop an aggression problem. All that happens is dogs get bullied, these dogs learn that other dogs can be dangerous or threatening, my owners don’t help me at all, and the only way to get relief is to fight for it.
THIS is Normal
This is a video from a nearby park of two dogs meeting. One is trying a bit too hard. (OK, mine, the Beagle). The other dog offers some calming signals (head turn, look away, lay down) to communicate some discomfort. For the most part the Beagle backs off and the video ends with him reciprocating a head turn. After that the two just went off and did their own thing.
This is a video of Rachael taking a group of dogs out for a hike. This would be a great example of an alternative to being taken to a concrete, paved dog run.
THIS is NOT Healthy – But Sadly Normal at Dog Parks
In this above video by Sue Sternberg, you can see a small dog doing appeasement gestures and clearly asking for help. Owner intervention is required immediately. If I owned the little dog I would body-block him and even just pick him up and immediately leave the park. If this dog is repeatedly taken to the dog park and experiences this, I have no doubt he will develop a serious dog aggression problem very quickly.
“Oh, but that’s how dogs play”
“My dog likes playing rough”
“Your dog needs to toughen up!”
“Let them work it out.”
Too commonly heard at places like the dog bowl. All wrong. That’s why I don’t go to places like that anymore, especially when it is busy.
Recognize Oncoming Disasters When You See Them
This is why I cringe a little when I hear of my clients’ taking their puppies to the dog park. I hope they have learned what we have taught them in puppy class, so they can identify what is good play and what is bullying. I also hope that they don’t unlearn due to the off-repeated mantras that well-intentioned but really uneducated owners parrot at dog parks. This Saturday afternoon at the dog bowl was a mess. Recognize a disaster in the making when you see it and keep your dog safe. Socialize, don’t traumatize your dog.
(Updated – Nov 19: A couple of commenters with a good eye did point out that the original video I used from puppy class wasn’t the best example. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WehLVdUPHpc – Things pointed out were tail tucked, trying to climb into person’s legs etc. for relief. So I am switching it out for another video that is a better example, I hope. The Springer and Beagle were good friends by the end of class and in future socialization classes though, so don’t worry about her!)
I went to visit Marcel’s home for a private lesson to help his new family help him adjust to city living. He is very excited when he sees other dogs on his walks. He’s getting better but it’s going to take time.
As I approached their home and locked up my bike, I saw this illustration taped to their home’s front door.
Please think about it when you are out walking your dog. Dogs that are reactive and are in training are loved terribly by their families and they deserve our consideration. When people let their dogs rush up without permission (usually off-leash) and set off dogs like Marcel, I just don’t think they understand how it makes their owners feel. Keeping your dog on-leash and in-control in public spaces, and asking permission before allowing your dog to say hello – it is a small courtesy that goes a long way.
This past weekend, on Saturday, April 6, the Pawsway offered testing for the CKC Canine Good Neighbour certification. I am proud to say that all four of our alumni that registered to take the test passed with flying colours!
Introducing Our Newest Canine Good Neighbours
In order of completion, we have…
Theodore is a rescue from the Toronto Humane Society, estimated to be somewhere between 1-2 years old. Katrina, his owner, took classes with him just recently at our Avenue Road location. Katrina only adopted Theodore in November! Excellent work.
Molly is a two year old Leonberger. Gaye, her owner, did puppy classes nearly two years ago with us, Foundation Skills class, and recently completed our Canine Good Neighbour prep class. Gaye intends to continue with Molly’s testing so she can pursue a Therapy Dog certification. She’s pretty much there I think! Well done!
Last but not least, we have Miko and Ellie, both Havaneses. Ellie did Foundation Skills with us, and Miko did both Puppy Class and Foundation Skills with us; both of them recently finished our CGN prep class (and they were classmates with Molly). Well done, Jim and Inge!
At the very last minute, I decided to actually bring my Beagle/Jack Russell-mix, Petey, for the examination as well. He has a “colourful history” (I will leave it at that) so I was particularly delighted that he did well, especially handling, restraint, and grooming by a stranger.
Tips for the Examination
Here’s a video showing how the examination was run at the Pawsway.
The way the evaluator with the Pawsway ran the test is atypical of what you’ll see on YouTube and in other CGN tests I have participated in. There is no “ring” per se, and instead of fabricating distractions via volunteers in the ring, we were just taken outside to Queens Quay where no shortage of people, cyclists, joggers, and dogs passed by. Without the structure of a performance venue, with a formal crating area and ring to enter, a handful of the dogs from a dog sports/obedience background actually had a harder time staying focused in the more general chaos of the Pawsway. Midway through my examination, a group of Cairn terriers entered the Pawsway and were barking their heads off.
If your dog has a lot of experience in doing group classes or dog sports events (Rally Obedience trials, Agility trials, or even fun matches) you might be have a better likelihood of passing the test if you do it with a club/group that runs it more like an obedience trial.
The other tip is, in a more traditional format, one dog enters the ring, and all 12 tests are done back to back, meaning your dog is finished and done in about 15 minutes. If you watch this video, this is what a more typical CGN examination/test would look like:
At the Pawsway, groups were evaluated at once, so the entire test took about 45 minutes to complete. That is a very long time for a dog to wait and be patient without any primary reinforcement (treats, toys etc.). A dog can fade and lose focus over that duration quite easily. In total, we were at the Pawsway for 2 hours. Of course, the first hour where we were waiting, I was practicing, training, and keeping Petey busy, and reinforcing good behaviour with treats.
The plus side to waiting for a Pawsway event to try is, you can take your dog there many times prior to the event, so that the space itself loses its novelty, and you can practice. In many situations, the examination site is not accessible, so the day of the exam is the first time your dog may have ever been there – this can be very distracting for them.
Finally, after over three years of running modular, start any-time Puppy Socialization and Foundation skills classes, we are delighted to launch our third modular program – Dog Sports Fundamentals.
The exercises chosen for this program are consistently taught as foundation/building block exercises by world-class agility and obedience competitors. Besides serving as an awesome foundation for your future in dog sports, they are, by themselves, really fun and neat tricks – and they’re challenging!
A couple of months ago I got an email from friends saying they had been thinking about it, and they wanted to get a puppy. They wanted some tips and also some feedback. They recently found a breeder that was selling Golden Doodles (Golden Retriever/Poodle crosses) online and they had went to visit the breeder to see the puppies. Here’s what they said they saw:
The litter of puppies was living in a shed in the backyard. It was clean but separate from the house
There were two unsold 6 month old puppies on the premises and they were CRAZY
They could take the puppies home right away if they wanted.
They had the good sense not to make an impulse decision, so instead they went home and emailed and asked what I thought.
I broke it to them and said they had basically visited a back yard breeder/puppy mill operation.
Sorry To Break It To You, But…
If you bought your puppy online with a credit card from a web site that sounds like “perfectpuppies.com” or “buyapuppyonline.com”, you probably got a puppy mill puppy.
If you bought your puppy from the window of a pet store, you definitely got a puppy mill puppy.
If you answered an advertisement on Kijiji, you got a back yard breeder puppy.
If you didn’t have to actually apply and go through a selection process to get your puppy.. well anyways you get the idea.
Other than the animal rights aspects of this (see horrible puppy mill video here) why should anyone care? These backyard bred puppies weren’t abused at all. They were just raised by people who got two dogs together and made a litter. We’ll get them at 8 weeks old and do a great job at socializing them and training them, and live happily ever after, right?
What Happens Before 8 Weeks Matters a Ton
Grisha Stewart, her in book, Behavior Adjustment Training, talks about her own dog, Peanut. She rescued Peanut from the shelter at ten weeks old. Peanut ended up being severely dog and people reactive. How could this be? She was a professional dog trainer, and she took him to two six-week puppy classes and two six-week adolescent dog classes. She used systematic desensitization and classical counter-conditioning to try to help Peanut get over his fears. The problems began before Peanut was even born.
Genetics: Peanut’s mother was so fear-aggressive, the shelter had to euthanize her.
Chemical Stress in Utero: Peanut’s mother lived in presumably not-so-nice conditions when Peanut was in-utero – this stress affects the development of all the puppies she was carrying.
Environmental Stress: From eight weeks to ten weeks, during a critical developmental period where puppies start becoming aware of danger, his entire litter was exposed to a building full of fearful dogs, and he was also neutered at eight weeks old. Not a place or a procedure for a young puppy to learn the world is safe and wonderful.
Basically, much of how your puppy will turn out is determined before you even take your puppy home. Therefore, where you get your puppy matters a ton.
(FYI, Peanut is a therapy dog now. But it took her jedi-like skills to make it happen and in doing so, she created an entire protocol for helping dogs get over fear.)
Find the Right Breeder, Get the Right Puppy
When you have determined what breed you want and what is appropriate for you (a whole separate topic), start looking for a breeder and think about all the things that Peanut had against him.
Genetics – What were the parents like? Are they health tested? Are they therapy dogs/CGN titled? Sport titles?
In-Utero Stress – What kind of environment does the bitch live in? (Imagine what it must be like to go through the gestation period inside a filthy, uncomfortable puppy mill with dozens of other barking dogs, or be in an uncomfortable backyard shed, isolated from social contact)
Environment from birth to 8 weeks – What kind of environment do the puppies live in as their eyes open, ears start hearing, and they start learning about the world? What are they being socialized to, and how are they being socialized? Or are they living in a back yard shed, where they will have never seen anything other than the four walls of the room?
Responsible breeders also take measures to reduce pet overpopulation. This can be done by offering to take back the dog at any stage of its life (it puts the onus on the breeder to select appropriate homes for each puppy) and possibly through a spay/neuter clause in the contract.
Early Socialization Starts Before 8 Weeks
Two years ago I hosted a Puppy Socialization Party for a 7-week old litter of Icelandic Sheepdogs from Solhundur Icelandic Sheepdogs. Prior to leaving the litter to go to their forever homes, these dogs have been on car rides, to a dog training school, met dozens of people (house visitors to their house, as well as people out and about) and had even had some beginner clicker training.
This past winter break, Rachael and I were invited to go to a Puppy Socialization Party at Van Wijn Tuin Dutch Shepherds. In this video you can see the puppies live inside a home environment, where they are exposed to a variety of surfaces, meet a variety of people (including one child this evening), have all sorts of cameras with flashes point at them, and have these strange house visitors even feed them to start building positive associations with strangers.
Responsible breeders have to put in so much more effort than their kijiji/puppy mill counterparts. Consider the amount of work to be done… it is literally a full time job for months for one person to properly raise a litter of puppies in a textbook fashion. This socialization has to even include being taken off property to other places (in a safe fashion, taking into consideration risks of disease).
These puppies will have been exposed to almost all of the items of Dr. Sophia Yin’s Socialization Checklist before they have even left the litter. How lucky are these guys vs. their backyard breeder counterparts?
Let’s say you do this perfectly – you find the best breeder that has litter after litter of champion show dogs, agility superstars, and therapy dogs with brilliant temperaments, and they raise the litter according to procedures such as the Puppy Prodigies Early Learning Program – and then you take the reigns and enroll in a high quality puppy socialization program and continue the process of careful socialization and training – all of this is no guarantee of the perfect dog.
Mother Nature can have a way of throwing you a curve ball. Casey Lomonaco, writer, and dog trainer/behaviour consultant extraordinare, did everything textbook with her puppy, Cuba, yet when he hit adolescence, he started exhibiting highly reactive behavior in very strange situations. You can read about her experience here: http://www.rewardingbehaviors.com/2012/10/06/voyage-with-cuba-the-next-leg/
Close to a Sure Thing: Adopt a Mature Dog
This is just my opinion, but I believe that if you want to maximize the chance that you’ll end up with a dog that fits your ideal lifestyle, the best way to do this is to rescue a mature adult dog. In particular, a foster-to-adopt arrangement would be ideal, since oftentimes, problem behaviors are suppressed until after the dog has been placed in a normal home environment. A four year old dog, confirmed to be good with children, is likely to remain good with children for the rest of his life. A three year old dog that sleeps at home calmly all day, is likely not to develop separation anxiety later in life. A two year old dog that loves tug, loves food, and loves training, would probably make a great project dog for dog sports.
That being said, even this is no guarantee, since fear and anxiety can be learned (my seven year old Petey, who is totally neutral towards dogs, could be attacked savagely by a dog tomorrow, and become dog aggressive because of it) or develop with age (changes in visual acuity, pains and discomfort, dementia, etc.) Many of my clients’ own dogs started off being good with all dogs, but due to repeated attacks or being charged by off-leash dogs, learned to become aggressive.
A Lifelong Commitment
Regardless of how you end up with your dog, you chose him, not the other way around. He didn’t ask to go home with you – it was your decision and yours alone. For that reason, you have an obligation to stick with them right till the end. And, if you care about the welfare of animals, and you don’t want puppy mills and backyard breeders to produce litters of fearful and aggressive dogs that end up in shelters, where you get your puppy is what makes the difference.
My friends ended up finding another Golden Doodle breeder. Some key differences – the litter was being raised in the family house, where they were exposed to people all day long, as well as the sights and sounds of a household. They were able to meet the parents. And, the puppy is doing great in puppy class – fearless, loves to play, self-regulates arousal, accepts handling and restraint, likes people, and is pretty easy to train. They have “normal” puppy challenges such as house training, inappropriate chewing, nipping etc. I hope that they never have to worry about fear, reactivity, and aggression problems. Otherwise they might have to become professional dog trainers to develop the skills to overcome them.
Recently I was a guest on a Toronto-area talkshow, Goldhawk Live. They invited Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong to talk about his proposal to allow select city parks to have “off leash” hours for dogs early in the morning and later at night. I was brought on as a dog behaviour expert for the show.
One of the points I made was that the majority of dog owners are good owners who respect leash laws, pick up after their dogs, and invest in training and do their best to keep their dog from infringing upon the rights of others. The minority spoil it for good dog owners, and make us all look bad.
Certainly, while good dog owners can socially shame others to do things like pick up their dog’s poop, unfortunately, that only goes so far. We need more enforcement of bylaws so that those bad apples respect leash laws, pick up after their dogs, and start behaving responsibly.
This is what I saw today on King Street West in the middle of the day. A dog tethered to a bicycle, riding in traffic. It is a horrible idea and a copycat behaviour I am seeing more of.
What bad behaviours drive YOU crazy? Comment below and let’s discuss.