Author Archives: Mary Green

Dog Training 911

posted March 9th, 2013 by

by Mary Green

Q Is there anything you can suggest to keep my dog from eating his poop?

A The correct term is coprophagia, which means the consumption of feces. “Yuck!” That’s how we, as pet owners, feel about eating poop. To dogs, it’s perfectly acceptable behavior. For flies, dung-beetles, and pigs, this is survival.

Probably at some point in their lives, all dogs will eat poop. Always check with your veterinarian before trying any supplements or home remedies on your pet. Also, be certain that he is getting enough exercise—physical exercise and mental stimulation. Boredom is often a contributing factor in poop eating. These tips will help with varying results.

Q Our family would like to adopt a dog. We have no animals in our household and would like to teach our kids (ages 11 and 9) some responsibility. How do we select a shelter dog?

A it’s so encouraging to me as a professional trainer to hear someone such as you pre-planning for a pet! People frequently acquire pets on impulse, but afterward, “buyer’s remorse” sets in, and the pet is relinquished or abandoned.

Before you look at any dogs (because if you see them you will go home with one), sit down as a family and discuss the following factors, such as: appearance, size, sex, activity and exercise requirements, grooming requirements, etc. Decide what is flexible and non-negotiable.

Then you can begin to look at dogs that fi t your ideal pet profile. By doing some research online, you can find shelter dogs by description or breed type and learn a little about them before you go visit.

When you go visit, ask the adoption counselor if there is any history that they know of about the dogs. Was he surrendered by a previous owner? Was he a stray? Did he come from a puppy mill or hoarding situation? This information isn’t always available, but it can be helpful if known.

The staff and volunteers who have been taking care of the dogs you are looking at will have a pretty good idea about the personality and behavior of the dogs. They may know if he is shy or fearful of kids or men, if he is safe around cats or if he tries to keep his kennel clean.

When you are meeting the dogs under consideration for your family, be sure to choose a dog that is sociable. The dog that is hanging out in the back of the kennel, or not approaching the people, is not going to be the best choice for a family with young kids. in your household, where this will be an only (or first) pet, be sure that the candidate is seeking out the attention of the people rather than the other animals.

While I am not familiar with the adoption policies of all the rescue groups and shelters in the area, I do know that many of them do not adopt out animals the same day that you meet them. I think this is a great policy! This allows the organization adequate time to check your references, and it gives you some time to think and re-think your decision.

It also gives you time to go purchase food, toys, a crate, leash and a collar, which is fun for the kids and builds anticipation. You can even make a daily schedule of dog chores, such as feeding and exercise, to involve the kids in the adoption process.

The bottom line is that successful adoption and integration of a pet into your household takes research, commitment, flexibility and a good amount of patience.

Dog Training 911

posted January 14th, 2013 by

by Mary Green

Q We have a decent sized back yard, and our dog gets to run and play there as much as he wants. But I always hear that you should take your dog for a walk every day for exercise. Is that really necessary?

A There are a lot of reasons why walks are considered a necessary part of your dog’s behavioral wellness. If your dog just goes outside to “do his business” and doesn’t really rip and run, he may be under-exercised. If he is running the fence with neighbor dogs, he may be over stimulated. If he is left in the yard without human companionship, he is not getting necessary socialization.

The yard can become pretty boring if you aren’t adding interesting things like food delivery toys, or interactive toys on a regular basis. When he is out for a walk, your dog can learn about his neighborhood. Besides getting physical exercise, he is taking in all the sights and, more importantly, the scents of the area. A short walk can really tire him out.

There are indoor games as well that help alleviate boredom and give your dog mental exercise. Toys that deliver food are wonderful. There is a wide array from Kong toys, to Buster Cubes, to Kibble Nibble. Some food delivery toys are also chew-toys, but some are not. There are interactive puzzle toys in which the dog has to problem solve in order to get the treats. Any game that encourages a dog to use his nose is another great way to exercise your dog.

Q I have a puppy that is about 5 months old. This is not the first puppy that I’ve raised, and I’ve never had a pup this difficult. I’ve always trained them on my own at home, but I feel this one is more than I can handle. Should I take him to obedience classes?

A Puppies, like children, are as different as night and day. Your previous puppies may have been of a different breed. Your current puppy could be the same breed as you’ve had before, but could be atypical (or maybe your last puppy was atypical for the breed). And, as we get older we are perhaps less tolerant of puppy behavior. Difficult is hard to define. A pup could be difficult to house-train but easy to take for a walk. He could be difficult on a car ride but easily crate-trained.

Training classes are a great first step toward forging a better relationship with your pet. K9 Manners & More classes are full of people who are on their way to having that well mannered pet that is a real part of the family. There is also a social aspect of being in a class with other people who are going through your same challenges. It’s fun to see your friends in class whether you’re a dog or a person! Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a training class, and do your homework to find the class that is right for you.

Q Can dogs and cats ever get along?

A Sure! If the dog and the cat are both members of the family, it can take some work to get along, but it can work. The first step is careful introduction of the new pet to the established family pet. Say, for example, you are bringing home a dog that you don’t know is cat-safe or not. You must first ensure the safety of the cat. Be sure that the dog does not have any opportunity to chase the cat. He can be confined in a crate when supervision isn’t possible, and be carefully supervised—on leash— when introductions are being made. If the cat bolts, and the dog chases… it’s game on! Prevent the dog from being able to do chase.

Cats that are outdoors are particularly at risk of being attacked by dogs. Dogs view them as intruders the same as squirrels. And dogs outside tend to pack-up on cats, even if individually they seem to get along. 

Training 911

posted November 24th, 2012 by

 Q. Can a biting dog be rehabilitated?

 A. Without a crystal ball, I can’t answer that.

 On a daily basis, I talk with pet owners who have dogs that bite. They don’t always disclose this information, but they must know they have a problem or else they would not have picked up the phone. They may have been told by their vet, friend, or family member that they need help. They are often embarrassed and may feel they have failed Pet Parenting 101.

Here are some recent calls:

Dog A “He has never really bitten anyone, but he has nipped at several people, even our grandchildren. Though we trust him completely not to hurt either of us.”

Dog B “My two dogs were fighting and one bit me on my thumb when I was trying to break it up. But she thought she was biting the other dog.”

Dog C “I was walking my dogs, and my neighbor was driving by. He rolled his window down and stuck his finger out and was calling my dog’s name. My dog nipped his finger.”

Dog D “A teenage girl was running from my dog because he was barking at her, and he caught up with her and nipped at her leg.”

Dog E “I was cleaning up around my dog’s food bowl, and he growled and nipped at me.”

Dog F “My dog bit a vet tech that was trying to trim his toenails. He didn’t break the skin, but they muzzled him and held him down to finish.”

Dog G “I have a 9-monthold puppy that grabs my arm when we are on a walk. When do they grow out of the mouthing stage?”

If these are not bites, then what is a bite? The owners can call it “nipping,” “mouthing” or “grabbing,” but they are bites. The owner of Dog E was smart enough not to push the dog into biting.

Dr. Ian Dunbar, PhD, BV etMed MRCVS1, has classified dog bites on a scale of 1 to 6. Through an objective evaluation of wound pathology, Dr. Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale* is a tool for pet owners, veterinarians and trainers to evaluate the severity of a biting problem and the prognosis. A Level 1 bite is classified as “obnoxious or aggressive behavior but no skin-contact by teeth,” and Level 2 is “skin-contact by teeth but no skin-puncture. However, [there] may be skin nicks (less than one-tenth of an inch deep) and slight bleeding caused by forward or lateral movement of teeth against skin, but no vertical punctures.”

If the owner statements above are true, most of these bites fall into Level 1 and Level 2 classification. These comprise nearly 99 percent of incidents and most have an excellent prognosis.

Dunbar identifies Level 3 and 4 bites as punctures and bruising. A Level 3 has a fair to good prognosis (with caveats); Level 4 has a poor prognosis. Level 5 is a multiple-bite incident or a multiple- attack incident, and a Level 6 bite victim is dead—these are extremely dangerous dogs.

If we review the above scenarios, here’s my assessment:

Dog A Be very, very watchful… especially around the grandchildren. Don’t allow the dog and the kids to play chase-and-be-chased games. Nipping is considered a Level 1 bite, and while the prognosis for rehabilitation is quite good, you should not tackle this on your own.

Dog B When dogs are fighting, and a person is bitten while trying to intervene, it’s not likely that the dog “accidently” bit. More likely is he was getting you to back off, so he could continue. Your dog probably showed bite inhibition by only giving you a mild bite. The fighting is more the problem than the biting.

Dog C Was your dog off leash? If your neighborhood is within city limits, and your dog is off leash on a walk, you may be violating the leash laws. If he was on leash, you should not have gotten close enough to the car for him to jump up and nip. It sounds like a Level 1, but could possibly be a Level 2. Most likely, some management on your part can prevent this from recurring

Dog D This is a scary scenario. If your dog was barking at the girl, she was right to be scared. His bark might have been a warning to stay away, and he was not comfortable. I don’t know if he was off leash, or broke free in order to chase her, but chase/nip of a person is predatory behavior. Enlist a qualified trainer.

Dog E This is a pretty clear picture of Resource Guarding. Read the book “MINE! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding In Dogs,” by Jean Donaldson. This is a practical how-to guide, which would help a pet owner determine if this is a behavior problem he or she can tackle or should seek the help of a qualified trainer.

Dog F I have no idea what level bite this was, but if you desensitize him to the handling and actual nail trimming, you should have a good prognosis. He may have already been stressed out, and this put him over the top.

Dog G This adolescent dog still mouthing at 9 months of age is not going to outgrow the behavior. But you have an excellent prognosis with some basic obedience and the help of a good trainer.

There are many factors to consider when arriving at a prognosis:

Behavior modification is more difficult for an adult dog.

Are there children in the household?

Can the owners use solid management practices?

Poor health and medical problems can compromise behavior modification.

It is hard to rehabilitate a dog that doesn’t get enough exercise.

Is the owner even in the picture, or is someone else caring for the dog? …and so on.

Our society seems to have zero tolerance when it comes to biting dogs. The dog’s owner says, “The dog nipped her;” (perhaps a Level 1 Bite on the Dunbar scale), but the victim’s statement is, “The dog bit me.” Depending on the circumstances, I might say that the dog showed remarkable restraint and bite inhibition. I have known owners who elected to euthanize the dog to avoid litigation.

I have known owners who felt euthanasia was easier than behavior modification. And I have known owners who were in denial as to the severity of the dog’s biting problem and chose to do nothing.

It’s not possible to say with 100 percent certainty that a dog will not bite. No one can make such guarantees. We do know that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The good news is that most “nippers” can become much more reliable with proper training and management and can be good citizens of society.

Veterinarian, Animal Behaviorist, and Dog Trainer, Dr. Ian Dunbar received his veterinary degree and a Special Honors degree in Physiology & Biochemistry from the Royal Veterinary College (London University) plus a doctorate in animal behavior from the Psychology Department at UC Berkeley.

*Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale (Official Authorized Version)

An assessment of the severity of biting problems based on an objective evaluation of wound pathology can be found at: assets/pdf/Ian%20Dunbar%20 Dog%20Bite%20Scale.pdf

Mary Green

Dog Training 411

posted July 15th, 2012 by

by Mary Green

Q Is there any way I can stop my dog from barking at everyone and ev­erything that goes down my street? I like to leave my solid door open and the storm door closed, but Lacey spends the day barking. She doesn’t charge the door, thank goodness, but the barking needs to stop.

A It’s hard to completely extinguish barking, and perhaps that’s not what we want to do. One benefit of hav­ing dogs, even small ones, is that they can sound the alarm to warn you of a threat. It is possible, though, to teach a dog to stop barking when you tell her and maybe help her discriminate be­tween what is and isn’t bark-worthy.

You might start by covering the storm door with a decorative window film available at home improvement stores. There are lots of patterns avail­able, and you could select one that is opaque enough that she can’t see out, but the light comes through. Of course, you may only need to apply it to the lower portion of the door.

The most effective training option may be to teach Lacey the meaning of “that’s enough” or a similar signal. To do this, sit with her at the door, and when she barks, tell her, “That’s enough,” and give her a treat. It may feel like you’re rewarding her for barking—that’s OK, because at least for the second she is eating the treat, she isn’t barking. You can continue to give her treats until the person (distraction) is out of her sight. Pretty soon, she is barking one time and coming to you for her treat!

Teaching an alternate behavior is an­other option. When Lacey starts to bark at the door, call her to you and give her a toy, preferably something that squeaks and have her hold or carry it. When Parker, my Boxer, was a little guy, he would be so excited that he would grab whatever was handy, which often was a sock. We could say, “Parker, put a sock in it!” and he would grab a toy, bone or sock. To this day, nine years later, Parker still greets everyone with something in his mouth. At least the barking was muffled!

You might teach Lacey to go away from the door. At K9 Manners & More, we teach a “go to mat” skill that comes in very handy for this type of problem. By having Lacey go and lie down on her mat or dog bed, she is removing herself from the excitement of the door and us­ing self-control.

Q Are little dogs harder to train than regular size dogs?

A I’m not sure what you consider “regular size dogs” to be, since dogs come in all sizes! From toy and small dogs, such as Yorkshire Terriers or Chihuahuas to giant breeds like the Newfoundland and the Irish Wolfhound, the size of the dog’s brain will change, but the manner in which they learn is the same. There are perhaps notable differences in trainability.

In 1994, Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, wrote a book on dog intelligence, “The Intelligence of Dogs.” The book explains Coren’s theories about the differences in intel­ligence between different breeds of dogs. Coren published a second edition in 2006. He defines three aspects of dog intelligence in the book. Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, retrieving, guard­ing or supplying companionship. Adap­tive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems on his own. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans.

There are reasons why one might think little dogs are harder to train. Training little dogs may be physically hard on a person because of the need to bend over more than with a me­dium or large dog. A small dog’s tum­my fills up quickly on treats, making a training session very brief. Small dogs often are afraid of being stepped on or picked up, so they may stay out of arms’ reach. They also have a compara­tively small bladder, and housetraining may be more challenging than with a larger dog.

One thing is for certain in dogs… One size does not fit all!

Dog Training 411

posted May 15th, 2012 by

by Mary Green

Q My mother, who is 80 years old, wants a companion dog. She re­cently lost her elderly little dog and is really lonely without him. I am con­cerned about her being able to house train a new dog, and I worry about a dog knocking her down or scratching her skin. I’m not really excited about the prospect, but I want my mom to be happy. Suggestions?  — Karen

ASeniors and pets have so much to offer each other; I hope you are open to supporting your mother in bringing a new pet into her household. Besides the companionship a pet can provide for your mother, being respon­sible for feeding and watering the dog and toileting him can really give her a reason to get up and going in the morn­ings. Dogs always seem to wake up hap­py and ready to get on about the daily business. Their happy attitude works wonders toward getting their humans motivated, too! Petting and stroking an animal has been proven to lower blood pressure—so there are even health ben­efits to pet ownership.

My recommendation would be to bring in an older dog rather than a puppy. I would also recommend a dog not over about 15 lbs. Some groups only adopt senior dogs to senior citi­zens. Dogs that are 7 or 8 years old are often overlooked at a shelter, but have a lot of living yet to do! As you meet prospective pets for your mom, look for a dog that is friendly and wants to be petted, or wants to sit in your lap, but is not “clingy.” A dog that can settle down with a toy or chew bone, or is crate trained, will give your mother suf­ficient space and time to do what she needs to do without having him underfoot.

I understand your concerns about an octo­genarian being responsible for house training a new dog. A small dog can learn to eliminate on the wee wee pads or in a litter box. You also might consider installing a doggie door if that is possible. If you fashion a small yard (maybe an exercise pen) just out­side of the doggie door, the dog can’t go through the doggie door and get to the remotest point in the yard! If a dog is in a foster situation, you might know if you are adopting a house-trained dog.

Could a family member volunteer to take mother’s dog to a training class? She could be included in doing the homework, and she might enjoy the class outings without having to manage the dog at the same time. Someone else could teach the dog how to greet properly without jumping up and how not to be underfoot. At K9 Manners & More, we have a Day Training program where the professional trainers work with the dogs, and then teach the own­ers what to do.

Don’t just rush out and get your mother a dog. Do your homework to find the right fit for her. The shelters are full of previously owned and loved family pets looking for a new family. Sometimes people lose their jobs and/ or homes, and move where they cannot take their pets. Not all dogs at the shel­ter are from hoarding situations, puppy mills or from the rough streets.

Lastly, have a plan in place for caring for your mother’s dog’s needs: veteri­nary transportation and care, purchas­ing food and supplies, and see to his or her grooming needs. And have a plan of who will take care of your mother’s dog should she be hospitalized short term, or long term, and who will be respon­sible for the dog in the event of your mother’s passing away

Training 411

posted September 15th, 2011 by

by Mary Green

Q I’m fostering a dog right now that really needs some socialization. She is usually really timid around people she doesn’t know. I’ve had her a month now, and it took her a couple of weeks to get used to me. My mom came over the other day and Daisy urinated twice like she was scared. But another time, when we were on a walk, she acted like she wanted to make friends with a lady and then growled at her. I want to help her. What should I do?

A Kudos to you for fostering Daisy and helping her get some skills to be more adoptable! I think it’s a plus that she has bonded with you. Hopefully, by bonding with you, Daisy will show that she can bond with a forever owner. Socializing an adult dog is a bit tricky. Make greeting a new person a very lowkey event for her. You should remove the social pressure she may feel about a person coming too close, or touching her. In your home, have Daisy on leash when people come over. Have some very yummy treats available or a favorite ball or tug toy that she only gets when there is company. She does not have to interact with the company! It’s important that she just make a happy association between company and a really special treat. Let Daisy determine whether or not she wants to approach people, but instruct them not to reach out to her or pet her. Those first meetings should be very brief and not too stressful.
It could be that Daisy urinated when your mom came over because she was unsure about mom. The greeting between the two of you could have been too energetic for her. Maybe you were excited to see mom, and show off Daisy. Or, Mom could have been over solicitous with Daisy (in a loving manner) and it was just too much pressure. Dogs may urinate out of submission, over stimulation, or stress. Daisy may have growled at the lady on her walk because she was getting a little too close. Daisy may have been comfortable enough to reach forward to catch a sniff or two, but if the lady reached toward her, or moved closer, it signaled danger. If a greeting lasts a bit too long (by dog standards) a dog may become stressed. A dog will growl to increase the distance between herself and the stranger. As you meet people on a walk, and you stop to chat, just have Daisy sit politely beside you – or behind you if she’s insecure. If she moves toward the person, just instruct her to sit. You can use the same positive association that you use at home – people equal food! The treats don’t have to come from the stranger, and they should not come from the stranger. You should begin to see Daisy look at you expectantly for a treat when she sees a stranger on a walk. Once that’s happening, you know her perception is changing. Well intentioned people often speculate that a rescued or found dog may have been mistreated, or abused. We can’t ask them about their history with people, but it may just be that she never learned that people are a valuable resource. If Daisy is threatening visitors in your home, or menacing people on walks, you should consult with a professional.

Q We have a little dog that humps our toddler every chance he gets. He doesn’t do this to my husband or me, but he sure tries to go to town with the baby! Help!!

AYikes – no one likes to be the recipient of the dog’s unwelcomed advances. Poor baby! I assume he is grabbing the toddler around his waist. Humping, or mounting behavior, is when a dog clasps his forelegs around something (or someone) and moves his hips forward and backward. Your dog isn’t necessarily trying to “dominate” the baby. Sometimes mounting behavior is for a show of strength or prowess, but it can also be an invitation to play, or just something to do that feels good. Altered male dogs still do mounting behavior, as do many females. Adolescent males are probably the most notorious “humpers,” often choosing a favorite stuffed animal or pillow as his object d’amour. So how do you stop it? You might have to keep your dog on leash when the baby is mobile. Just leave the leash attached and let the dog drag it around. If he makes a beeline to the baby, just interrupt him – step on the leash and call him to you. Teach the toddler how to throw a toy for the dog. If he is running after a toy, he’s not close enough to hump! Please don’t punish the dog. Instead, redirect him to something else to do. If you punish him for humping, he could just decide that the presence of the baby, not his own behavior, is what angers you. Encourage great interactions with baby and dog so they can build a great relationship. When my son was a toddler, our dogs thought he was a Cheerios dispenser. They followed him everywhere, as he dropped Cheerios like the Pied Piper. As he grew, they developed a very strong, lifelong bond.

Mary Green, CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer Knowledge Assessed), owns K9 Manners
& More in Broken Arrow. She is a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, an associate of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and an AKC CGC (Canine Good Citizen) evaluator.

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