Tag Archives: enrichment

Nature VS Nurture: Puppy Socialization

When it comes to the question of “Nature VS Nurture” there’s no easy answer. The best answer is usually: BOTH. Dogs are born with an innate temperament, which is generally influenced by their breeding. We also influence how they respond to the world around them.

Quickly, let’s talk about temperament and learned behavior. Temperament is something your dog is born with. This cannot be changed, and is “the card they’re dealt.” Some dogs are naturally more outgoing, some dogs are naturally more fearful. This is normal, and important for you to be aware of, as knowing your pup and his tendencies will enable you to choose the best training and socialization path. Next, learned behavior is how we influence our dogs. This can be HUGE! Your puppy (and dog!) is constantly learning, and everything is training, whether you intend it to be, or not.

So, how can we best set our puppies up for success? Early socialization is key. Once your vet has cleared your pup to explore the world – go for it!! Get your pup to the park, take her to play dates, sign up for a training class. Learning from other dogs is super beneficial at this time. Go anywhere and everywhere with her! Thankfully, before your pup is ready for the world, there are some things you can do at home, too! Expose her to new textures – hard wood flooring, tile, carpet. Expose her to new scents – food, grass, flowers. Expose her to different chew items – tendons, pig ears, bones. This last one will be big as your pup starts teething, too! A great rule is 100 experiences in 100 days. Get creative, and have fun with it.

There’s no such thing as over socialization. Especially if you have a pup that’s less confident, you may be fighting against nature to help him out in this area. If you have a breed that has tendencies to guard, you’re going to have to work extra hard early to be sure those behaviors are kept in check. So. . .know the nature, provide the nurture, and enjoy your pup!

Have you had a behavioral problem that you don’t quite know how to resolve? We’re here and LOVE to help! Ask away, and your question may be featured in an upcoming newsletter!
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Success!

Ever have a dog with a behavioral problem, and you don’t know what to do about it? Check out this success story. . .there is hope!

Hi Aja,

Success!  Primrose is going down the stairs every time!  I have all three dogs in my room at night and in the morning I get up, ignore them and just go downstairs.  At first, Primrose was the last one to come down, but now she just goes down whenever she can.  I fed her the first two days on the stairs and by the end of the second day, she went down the stairs with the older dog with no hesitation!  Primrose used to go upstairs alone during the day and whine to come down.  Now she isn’t even going up there during the day unless I go.  She must have been going up alone to get away from stress before.  I’ve really made everyone aware that she has anxiety issues and to work with her.

Your advice and knowledge was very helpful.  I’m still playing the games with all of the dogs and I have the Thunder Shirt too.  The “touch” training has helped to keep the dogs from being so demanding.

Thank you again for your help!

Sincerely,

Catherine, Primrose, Sansa and Tuki

Need help with your dogs? Contact us! http://muttmagic.com

 

Indoor Enrichment Activities

As winter is winding down, we’re getting hit hard this year! If you and your dogs are going stir crazy, below are some great indoor activities that you can do to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors.

 

1. Hide and Seek- Tap into your dog’s ability to scent, and his desire to be with you! Have family members take turns hiding throughout the house, and calling the dog. As your dog becomes proficient at finding you, eliminate the call and let his nose do the work!

 

2. Food Games- The use of a food toy (ex- kibble nibble or tug-a-jug. . .not your standard Kong!) is great for stimulation when you’re not around, and sometimes when you are! Don’t have these laying around the house? Hide your dog’s meal of kibble, split into many servings, throughout the house in various locations. Another great way to use your dog’s nose and problem solving skills.

 

3. Obedience- Of course, teaching your dog new tricks is also a great way to break up the monotony! Find something new and challenging to teach- indoors is always a great place to start. By the time it warms up, your dog will be ready for the challenges that practicing outside will bring, as well!

 

Aja Harris-Brown

Trainer/Behaviorist

Mutt Magic Training, Inc.

Visit us online: www.muttmagic.com

 

Be a LEADER!!

Most dogs, like most people, are natural followers. In fact, humans have bred dogs to follow our leadership for thousands of years. Even if you’re not a natural-born leader, your dog needs you to learn to be one for his sake!

Many behavioral problems are a result of a lack of leadership in the home. (As you well know I’ll say: The rest are likely a result of a lack of exercise!) Leadership related behavioral problems can be seen in anxious dogs and dominant dogs alike. In fact, a simple lack of leadership that can magnify fear, anxiety, dominance, and many other common behavioral concerns. Leadership is essential for a newly adopted dog, as well as one that has been in your home for years.

So, what are some actions that you can take to become a better leader for your dog? An easy start is a “Nothing in Life is Free” program (NILF, for short). This means that your dog must work for everything that she gets. It can include sitting and waiting for food (being on a feeding schedule, if free-fed), performing obedience for affection and/or treats, having a handler enter/exit doors first (This includes being let into the yard!), and staying off of the furniture. These are some simple, but highly effective, changes that can be made. The best part? They won’t take extra time in your daily routine!

One more note to make regarding leadership: It’s important to remember that in a pack of dogs, it’s always the submissive dog to initiate play and interaction from the other dogs. (Watch them at the dog park, it’s true!) Because of this, be sure that your dog is the one to initiate play time with you, and not the other way around. If you initiate ball play, you’re inadvertently putting yourself in a submissive position. Wait for your dog to request play time or affection. From there, you have the choice to play or not- and now you’re the leader. Simple!

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Appropriately Exercising Your Dog in the Heat

Heat can be very dangerous to our pets. Last month, I repeated an essay by Dawn Rexroad on the “Hidden Dangers of Summer,” which included information on parasites that are common, as well as how to recognize and, more importantly, prevent, heat stroke. This month, let’s address how to safely exercise your dog so that he doesn’t go stir crazy during the summer months we should all enjoy!

Especially during these months, when I ask clients the question I always ask “How much exercise does your dog get?” The answer is often “Plenty, her tongue is hanging on the ground by the time we’re done!” While panting can be a sign that the dog is winded, it can also be a sign that the dog is hot, or even stressed. Panting alone cannot be an indicator of adequate exercise. However, if you notice a fat, swollen tongue, that is probably a sign that you need to make an effort to cool your dog down.

So, how do we safely ensure that the dogs get the amount of exercise that they need? I don’t recall a summer where we’ve had this many days over 100 degrees in a row, but it’s time to start getting creative! Personally, I’ve been making an effort to go to bed early and wake up to walk dogs at a safe time. I learned that even 8am is too late to walk the dogs the distance they need to go for proper exercise. So, we’ve been getting up and walking at 7am. Late night walks are an option for those that are night owls, as well. Swimming can be a GREAT way to exercise dogs and keep them cool, if your dog is inclined to like the water. Fortunately, swimming is also an activity that we can join them in, staying cool ourselves! Last, indoor activities can suffice in some cases. For some dogs that I normally walk in the afternoon, I’ll give them a quick potty break, and then give them a run on a treadmill (if one is available and when the dog has been introduced to it properly).

While there is no substitute for proper exercise, other activities such as teaching new commands using target training (watch: teaching touch), playing hide and seek, and having interactive toys and puzzles for your dog to play with are good ideas. These will all burn some mental energy, which can help keep them entertained during the day when it’s not safe to play outside.

Be creative; exercise and train safely. Enjoy your summer!

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Everyday dog needs

Some dogs are content with simple provisions of food, shelter, and our affection. Of course, these are the basic necessities of pet ownership. However, most dogs need more than this, and failure to provide the other essentials can make for not only an unhappy and disobedient dog, but a sad owner, too! If you’re the lucky one whose dog waits patiently by the door for you to get home, feed him, and give him a pat on the head, kudos. If not, please read on for important tips on how to fulfill another three of your dog’s needs to keep him well balanced in the home.

The number one thing that many dogs could use more of is exercise. Aside from keeping your dog trim, healthy, and in good shape, the appropriate amount of exercise can also keep behavioral issues from surfacing. A great example of this is Star, a now 6-year-old rescue dog that came into my home when she was 1.5-years-old. When she arrived, I was heavy into biking the dogs using a Springer. Star would get several 4 mile runs along side of my bike per week. Somehow, she was arriving home from her runs just as energized as when we left, however. As she was settling into her home here, she developed sores on her feet from chewing on them. After ruling out anything medical, I bumped up her exercise routine. Now, after her runs, we would play ball in the yard until she was visibly tired. Her sores healed and she was now a relaxed, happy dog. The 4 mile runs weren’t enough for the 1.5-year-old Star!! Thankfully for all of us, most dogs don’t need this excessive amount of exercise. Thankfully for me, the 6-year-old Star doesn’t need that much anymore, either! The sores on her feet are a great example of how an unfulfilled exercise need can manifest into a behavioral problem, however. Behavioral problems aren’t all like Star’s. Some dogs may bark, whine, fuss with housemates, chew, or otherwise be destructive around the house. Many of these behaviors can be corrected by more exercise.

The next need that dogs benefit from, is discipline. This is not to be read “punishment,” because discipline has a very different meaning. Most dogs, like people, don’t desire to be the leader. They are much more happy and content with structure, and being given a clear role in the household. If they are forced to take on this leadership role (even if it’s not intentional!) many problems can develop. Anxiety is one great example of many behavioral issues that can benefit from additional discipline. Anxiety  is something that is being seen more and more in our pet dogs. In fact, it is being seen to the extent that it is being medicated. Of course, there are dogs out there that are simply imbalanced. However, a lot of the anxiety cases that I see can be remedied with more discipline in the home! What exactly does this
mean? Beginning a “Nothing in life is free” (NILF) routine with your dog in the home is a great start. With this, your dog needs to earn everything that she gets. This means that in order to receive even the basics- food and affection, she must do something. The task and reward should be balanced. For example: sitting, waiting as a food bowl is placed on the ground, and giving attention, earns the ability to be released to eat a meal. Such strong discipline is not needed to earn a pat on the head. It is one of your dog’s basic needs, however, and discipline can fix certain behavioral issues.

The last need to be addressed (for now) is that of mental stimulation. Smart dogs get into trouble. It’s true!! If your dog is not being mentally challenged, he may decide to challenge himself, and that rarely ends with a happy owner. Some dogs need more stimulation than others. Thankfully, the range of options to entertain your dog is almost endless. A food or puzzle toy for your dog to work on while you’re away is a good idea for some, while other dogs may benefit more from the interaction they get with you in a training class. Some may need the interaction of a dog walker or daycare during the day. There are even dogs out there that will need to learn something new every week to keep them out of trouble. . .if you own one of these guys, you’ll know it! In these cases, you have the rare ability to get truly creative with entertaining your dog. If you run out of creative energy, picking up a “dog tricks” book can jump start you into a one-dog circus act that will surly keep your dog (and house guests) entertained.

As we all know, most of our relationships with our dogs are very complex in nature. I like to sum it up by my favorite quote, by an unknown author: “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” Often, it is a lack of one or more of the needs discussed that can lead to kinks in the relationship with our dogs. Thankfully, the fixes are within our abilities. Train safe, and be well.
Aja Harris

Owner/Trainer/Behaviorist

Mutt Magic Training

www.muttmagic.com