Dog Bite Prevention and Safety

Keep Your Dog and Your Family Safe from Dog Bites

Did you know that in the US, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year? And, of those incidents, 77% of them are bites from the family pet (or a friend’s pet), and 50% of bites occur on the owner’s property? This means that you are more likely to be bitten by your own family dog than someone elses!

The next important fact to know is that dog bites rarely happen “out of the blue, all of a sudden”. Most dogs exhibit a wide range of body language and signals to indicate they are uncomfortable with the situation. The problem is, humans either do not understand or choose to ignore those clear communication signals. The dog is forced to either tolerate, run away, or bite.

The first thing you should do is learn how to greet and interact with dogs appropriately. The first rule is you should always ask the owner of the other dog if is it OK to say hello to them. Not all dogs will tolerate a stranger giving them a rough head pet. This is especially important to teach children. Lili Chin. of www.doggiedrawings.net created this great illustration called “How Not To Greet A Dog”:

How Not To Greet A Dog

Needless to say – dogs do not like head pets, people leading over them, staring them in the face, scrunching their hears, hugging them chest to chest, or kisses to the head. You never see two dogs greeting each other this way. You DO see primates greeting this way though – and guess what, we’re primates.

The second thing you should do is learn how to read canine body language. Once you know what to look for, it becomes very obvious when a dog is upset or in a position where a bite is possible. Visit www.doggonesafe.com and view the “Learn to Speak Dog” section here: http://www.doggonesafe.com/Speak_Dog

A few examples of signs of anxiety in a dog include

  • Head turns away from you
  • Panting
  • Whale Eye / Half Moon Eye (whites of eyes showing, especially when normally you never see them)
  • Scratching
  • Shake-off (as if the dog was wet, but he’s dry) after the hugging/touching ends
  • Yawning
  • Lip-Licking
  • Standing up and walking away

If your dog does these things while being touched or greeted by other people, this is a sign that your dog is uncomfortable. If you don’t listen to them, they may feel like they have no choice but to start showing signs of aggression like. Many people fail to even notice these more obvious signs:

  • Body stiffens
  • Lip curls / showing teeth
  • Low growl
  • Nose-bumping (jumping up to bump his nose against yours)
  • Air biting (intentionally biting and missing as a warning shot)

The third thing you should do, especially if you are the owner of a new puppy, is ensure they are extremely well socialized by the time they turn 13 weeks of age! Ensure your new puppy has met over 100 different types of people, has been handled in a variety of ways (but always gently), and fed yummy treats. This early socialization helps increase the tolerance that your puppy will have for the types of greetings they don’t like.

Lastly… if you have a young one, or are inviting young ones over to your house where they will interact with a dog – teach them that dogs are not stuffed animals or playthings – basically do the opposite of what is in the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsheRA3uP-Y

And here is a video of Gunner the Dalmation displaying every warning behaviour possible that precedes a bite. I have no idea what the mother of this toddler is thinking!!!

Top 7 Misconceptions About Clicker Training (And Food-Based Training)

Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about clicker training (and food-based training). While many of our new students are excited and eager to finally have a clicker training school that isn’t a two hour drive away from Downtown Toronto, some come to us a bit unsure or a bit on the fence – so if you are on the fence, this article is for you. Here are the top 7 misconceptions about clicker training that we hear when we meet new students.

Myth 1. I have to carry a clicker with me at all times or else the dog won’t perform.

Truth: Clickers are only used in the learning phase of a new behavior. After a behavior is nearly fluent, it is no longer needed.

Myth 2. If I train with food, I will need to have food with me at all times, forever, or else the dog won’t perform.

Truth: Lure-reward food-based training will create food dependency. Lure-reward training is not the same as clicker training, even though some lure-reward trainers use clickers incorrectly. Clicker trainers do not use food as a lure (or if they do, they use them extremely sparingly). If you train properly, you will not need to show your dog a treat first before it performs, nor will you necessarily have to feed your dog every time it performs. In fact, the opposite is true – if you continue to feed your dog for every correct response for too long, the dog won’t perform reliably. Clicker training actually requires you adopt what we call a variable schedule of reinforcement – in plain English, phasing out food.

 

Myth 3. Dogs get fat being trained with food.

Truth: Food rewards are prepared so small that they represent a relatively small percentage of total food intake per week. Also, in low-distraction environments or for easy behaviors, a dog’s regular meal can be used for training. I’ve never met a clicker trained dog that was overweight – most are pretty svelte since they often compete in dog sports as their training progresses.

 

Ha! Do I look fat to you?
Ha! Do I look fat to you?

 

Myth 4. If I train with food, the dog will beg for food.

Truth: Feeding your dog at the dinner table teaches them to beg at the dinner table. Giving food out by hand for no reason will teach a dog to beg for food. Training with food teaches the dog that food is only given in exchange for work performed, and only when we request the work. Well trained dogs actually never beg for food because the circumstances in which they can earn food is so black and white, they understand when it’s not available and when it’s available – and that is on our terms.

 

Myth 5. Clicker Trainers are “New Age-y” and “Soft” on their dogs

Truth: False!!! The best clicker trainers are extremely hard on their dogs. We are hard on the criteria we require our dogs to perform to in order to earn reinforcement. We are stingy on keeping access to rewards and reinforcement contingent on performing behaviors. Since nobody wants to carry around food forever, myself included, I use everything else that the dog wants in life to reinforce training. If my dogs don’t go into their crate and lay down, they don’t eat. If they don’t sit and stay while I open the door, the door never opens. If they don’t keep the leash loose while we are walking towards the dog park, we never get to the dog park.

What is true though is we will never use physical punishment in training because it is unnecessary – you can train reliable behaviors and proof them against distractions without having to inflict pain.

 

Myth 6. The dog will hear clicks from other students in class and get confused.

Truth: Dogs are experts at discriminating. Only clicks that come from the handler result in a food reward, so dogs quickly learn to ignore clicks that come from other directions.

 

Myth 7. Clicker training is a fad and it will be gone soon.

Truth: Clicker training comes from the work of B.F. Skinner and one of the earliest examples of clicker training was his graduate students, Marian and Keller Breland, clicker training pigeons to assist in aerial bombing in World War II. In the 1960s, Karen Pryor brought clicker training to dolphin training, and today it is now used to train practically every species of animal known to man. If it is good enough for the military and good enough for Sea World, isn’t it good enough for your family pet?

New Puppy Training: Top 5 Tips

German Shepherd and Doberman Puppy Play

Hopefully you are reading this article BEFORE your new puppy arrives! Puppyhood is a very brief period of a dog’s life and getting it right from the start will save you a lot of heartache and headache down the road. Here are our Top 5 Puppy Training Tips to help you out!

German Shepherd and Doberman Puppy Play
German Shepherd and Doberman Puppy Play in Puppy Socialization Class

Tip 1: Socialization

Puppy socialization is the process of exposing your new puppy to a wide variety of experiences in a safe, comfortable, and positive way. Puppies under the age of 14 weeks are extremely impressionable and early, positive experiences prior to this age can help ensure that your puppy grows up to be confident. The biggest mistake puppy owners make is thinking their dog is “too small” or “too fragile” and should stay at home until they get older. These dogs will never be as confident or relaxed as they could be. Moral of the story – take your puppy with you everywhere!

 

Tip 2: Disease Prevention

Puppies do not have a fully functional immune system and as such should not be exposed to dogs of unknown vaccination history or other areas of potential contamination. There is a particularly strong strain of Parvovirus that is prevalent in Toronto that will absolutely cripple a young puppy. Until your veterinarian advises, do not take your puppy to places like the dog park! Do attend a Puppy Socialization class, or arrange for play dates with adult dogs whose health background you are aware of.

 

Tip 3: House Breaking

The easiest and most effective way to house break a dog is through crate training. It is cruel to NOT crate train a dog, since a dog that is crate trained will love their crate and will be comfortable staying there for long periods of time. A dog that loves their crate can go anywhere (air travel, dog shows, dog sport events, hotels, car rides, etc.). A puppy should not have unsupervised access around the house – you are just asking for accidents to happen everywhere and the more they have accidents, the harder it is to house break your new puppy.

 

Tip 4: Chewing, Biting, and Destructive Behavior

Dogs chew. Puppies chew like crazy as they teethe and this will continue even as the adult teeth come out. Confine your puppy in an X-pen when they are unsupervised so they can’t chew inappropriate items. Make sure your puppy has a wide assortment of chew toys, and help them develop a preference to chew items like marrow bones or kongs by feeding meals out of them. Also, if your puppy is mouthy on you, don’t punish your dog – just put the dog away and give them something else to chew on. Nipping goes away on its own.

 

Tip 5: Begin Training and Establish House Rules on Day One

With positive reinforcement training, an animal can be trained as soon as it can see and hear. We start training puppies at When Hounds Fly at 8 weeks if possible; some breeders begin clicker training weeks before that. The earlier you start, the better, since early clicker training helps develop a thinking and creative dog early in their life. Similarly, set clear rules for your dog on day one. It is easier to relax them later, than take away privileges later. For example, if you know your Great Dane shouldn’t be on the bed or couch, don’t let your Great Dane puppy on the bed or couch, ever! Or, if you know it’ll be a problem if your soon-to-be 100 lb Newfoundland jumps on grandma, don’t greet and cuddle a jumping 20 lb Newfoundland puppy! Also, a puppy that is frequently left home alone for short amounts of time is far less likely to develop separation anxiety later in life.

 

We encourage all new puppy owners to enroll in our Puppy Socialization class! While we take puppies up to 16 weeks of age, we would encourage anyone getting a new puppy to start sooner and not delay.

What Type of Dog Collar or Harness Should I Use?

Confused by the myriad of options at the pet store when it comes to buying the right collar for your dog? Here’s a brief introduction and review of the common types of humane collars and harnesses on the market, how they work, and what they’re best for.

Flat Collar, Buckle Collar

What is it? A basic collar that goes around the neck of the dog. They can be fastened with belt-style buckles or clips.

What are they good for? Simple and inexpensive. Can be used to keep tags/ID on a dog in conjunction with harnesses or a head collar. Flat collars are best used for small to large dogs that can loose leash walk reliably.

What are the downsides? Dogs that aren’t trained to loose leash walk can choke themselves, causing stress to the eyes, neck, trachea, and even thyroid. This is especially dangerous for flat faced dogs that can suffer from a prolapsed eyeball from the pressure.

 

Front Clip Harness (Sense-ation Harness, Easywalk Harness, Freedom Harness)

 

What is it? A harness where the leash fastens to the chest. The design of the harness discourages pulling.

What are they good for? All dogs! But especially dogs that pull.

What are the downsides? Toy dogs, or short dogs will likely have their leash get caught between their legs frequently due to the attachment point. Harnesses can be chewed and destroyed if left on while unattended.

 

Rear Clip Harness (H-style harness, Vest harness, Buddy Belts, etc.)

What is it? A harness where the leash fastens to the back of the harness (along the dog’s back).

What are they good for? Toy dogs, or very short dogs, to protect their fragile necks and keep the leash near the top of the dog so they don’t get caught up between their legs.

What are the downsides? Rear clip harnesses do not reduce pulling. Harnesses can be chewed and destroyed if left on while unattended.

 

Martingale Collar

What is it? A collar that has a limited-slip component that tightens the leash becomes taught. They slip over the dog’s head.

What are they good for? Dogs with thick necks and small heads (sighthounds) that can back out and slip out of flat collars.

What are the downsides? Frequently they are misused as choke collars (sized too small, when tight, can choke and even suffocate a dog). Dogs can get caught in a martingale collar and hang themselves.

 

Head collar (i.e. Halti, Gentle Leader, Snoot Loop)

What is it? A collar that loops behind the dog’s ears and over their muzzle.

What are they good for? Dogs that are mildly reactive to various stimuli (dogs, people, cats, squirrels, etc.) as if required, you can redirect the dog’s gaze. By design they also discourage pulling, even more so than a front clip harness.

What are the downsides? Head collars attach to a very sensitive part of a dog’s neck and if the handler jerks the leash, or a dog lunges on the leash while wearing a head collar, their neck can be injured. Many people mistake the muzzle loop as a muzzle and may think your dog is aggressive.

Expecting Puppy? Must-Have Books

Puppy arriving soon?

Here are two books that we consider to be the absolute gold-standard in puppy raising/training books today.

We’re sharing this because we want to make sure that our prospective students get started on the right foot. Many of the best selling books on dog training are actually full of inaccurate information, or place the emphasis on often irrelevant concerns.

Unfortunately, neither of these outstanding books are available at your local bookstore. Fortunately, both are easy to order, and both are available as eBooks.

Our Top Pick – Puppy Start Right by Kenneth Martin, DVM, and Debbie Martin, RVT, VTS (Behavior)

Ideal for puppies and dogs of all ages, this book is a must-have resource for dog trainers, puppy socialization class instructors, and dog parents.

Whether you are raising a new puppy or have an adolescent or adult dog, Puppy Start Right can help solve many common nuisance behaviors. Puppy Start Right is a positive approach to problem-solving, prevention, and training—without the use of punishment.

Foundation training exercises are perfect for the household companion dog or the future star in competitive dog sports. Exercises include teaching your dog to focus and offer attention, targeting behaviors including a place or bed cue, the recall, sits and downs (stay cues), loose-leash walking, and the “bring,” “drop it,” and “leave it” cues. Enjoy step-by-step instructions with corresponding photos!

Order at www.clickertraining.com or www.dogwise.com.

Or, available from Amazon.com as a Kindle eReader Edition.

A Close Second – Available as an eBook! – Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Sophia Yin, DVM

With 176 pages and over 400 photos, Dr. Yin explains why puppies do what they do, how even minor modifications in their environment and your inter- actions can dramatically affect their behavior, and how quickly they can learn when you set them up for success. This visual guide provides readers with a step-by-step plan for bonding with their pup, learning to communicate clearly, and providing the pup with essential life skills.

Chapters include:

  • How Your Puppy Developed Before You Got Her
  • Why Start Training So Soon
  • A Foolproof Potty Training Program
  • Dr.Yin’sLearn to Earn Program for Puppies
  • Socializing Your Pup to Dogs, People, and Handling
  • A Head Start on the Rest

Order here: http://drsophiayin.com/perfectpuppy

On Dog Walkers

A responsible and conscientious dog owner selects all their dog care professionals (veterinarian, trainer, groomer, etc.) with care. There is, however, one professional, that needs to be chosen more carefully than any. Yes, even over your dog trainer. That’s your dog walker.

Dog walkers spend a considerable amount of time with your dog. So much of the physical and mental well-being of your dog is dependent on how your dog walker operates his or her business and what their knowledge of dog behavior is like. Unfortunately, many dog walkers that I see would not meet my expectations – I would not put my own dogs in the care of most of the dog walkers I see out there.

I have the luxury of working mostly evenings and weekends – so I take my boys out for walks during the same hours that most dog owners are at work. I walk amongst the dog walkers. I’m often confused for them.

In recent months, some of the things I’ve witnessed include:

– Constant leash corrections – I was picking up Chase (the Jack Russell that I was training for eTalk) and in the span of just a thirty second elevator ride with a dog walker, I counted twenty leash corrections on a Golden Retriever puppy that must have only been 14 weeks old. All the dog was doing was sniffing, or looking around. By the end of the week, if you extrapolate that, that puppy will have received approximately 2000 leash corrections – and not once been taught what to actually do (how about asking the puppy to sit?)

– Violent “alpha rolling” – at Cherry Beach I witnessed a dog walker tackle and then sit on a Chocolate Lab. The dog walker must have been around 200 lbs in weight. Besides creating a dog that is afraid of people/physical touch, that kind of crushing weight can break bones or at minimum cause stress and damage to the spine.

– Bored, unexercised dogs – I see dog walkers that take their groups to the same boring concrete tennis court day in, day out. The dogs don’t even move anymore. They just sit there bored out of their mind. Mentally unstimulated, physically unexercised. What a waste. The worst offender I’ve seen is a dog walker that takes a group of dogs on a leash walk around a 400 meter oval track round and round for an hour – it’s the saddest group of dogs I’ve ever seen.

– Related to boredom – wandering dogs. I go to the dog park armed with amazing treats and squeeky balls, and I’ve worked hard to pump up my dogs’ motivation for toys. They fetch. They chase me down when I hide or run away. Often, a “stray” dog from a dog walker’s group will notice us having so much fun and latch on and try to hang out with us. I’ve left Cherry Beach and headed to the parking lot and have had dogs follow me out – dog walker nowhere to be seen.

Bored dogs at off leash dog parks make their own fun. If they’re not chasing balls or sticks or moving around, I’m fairly certain they’ll end up bothering other owners and other dogs. That’s how inappropriate play, bullying, and eventually fighting breaks out. Dogs that are subjected to physical punishment, especially when delivered by the unskilled hands of a dog walker (you can’t possible time punishment correctly if you’re in charge of six dogs) will eventually develop fear and aggression. In both cases I would rather see the dog stay at home for nine hours a day.

But, enough with the negative! There is hope… there are good dog walkers out there. They are in the minority so I hope you are lucky enough to have one. Last summer, I tagged along with Julie (she is a dog walker by day, and has two employees that walks dogs for her as well) because I wanted to learn a bit about what good dog walkers do, and also improve my own skills in handling multiple dogs at once off leash. I brought my video camera and here’s a montage of what a brilliant group dog walk should look like:

Good dog walkers:

  1. Bring treats. Every day these people are with your dog for about two hours. There are many opportunities where your dogs will do something brilliant – that behavior should be reinforced, so it is repeated. Julie reinforces dogs for making good choices – especially recall.
  2. Get them hooked on fetch. Three great things come from fetch. Gives physical exercise, conditioning a new reinforcer (dogs that’ll do anything for the ball to be thrown), and keeps them busy and out of trouble.
  3. Keep moving. No sitting on a park bench checking text messages, while your dog harasses other dogs due to boredom and causes fights.
  4. Consider mental stimulation. A leash walk around and around the same block is about as exciting as going on a treadmill, as is going to the same fenced in box five days a week. Your dog walker should mix it up regularly.
  5. Pay attention and avoid problems. Strange dog with testicles on a pinch collar hard staring at your dogs coming this way? Recall your dogs and move away quickly. Every other person and dog is a potential risk that requires assessment and the best solution to problems is to avoid them altogether.
  6. Realize they’re not a dog trainer. Julie is, but most aren’t. I recently received an email from a great dog walker I know. She included her client, and described her dog’s recent displays of aggression, and asked for help. A professional knows their limits.

If you’re considering a dog walker, or currently have one, ask hard questions and get good answers. A bad choice – your dog will suffer and you will see the behavioural fallout. A good choice – you’ll see countless benefits, such as improved off-leash recall and a tired, relaxed dog.

Coming When Called!
Duke and Petey Coming When Called!