Tag Archives: Humane Society of Harford County

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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New Dog Introductions

Selecting an appropriate new dog to bring home, as well as selecting new playmates for dogs in your household always requires introducing the dogs. There are a few points to remember to ensure that all new greetings are as successful as they can be. A few general rules to keep in mind are: 1. Male-Female pairs tend to do better long term; 2. Adult dogs that get along initially will typically continue to do so; and 3. Walking the dogs together before greeting can greatly improve chances for appropriate greetings, especially with dogs that are selective.

Male-Female pairs are best because there will be less competition between the dogs. In a pack, there is always an alpha male and an alpha female. (Of course, in your pack at home, you should be the dominant leader, although that’s another topic all together!) Keeping opposite sex pairings can reduce dominance scuffles, which can be intense. In multi-dog households or playgroups, it’s best to determine who the top dogs are, and keep a watchful eye to be sure that other dogs do not challenge this role.

Contrary to the popular myth, adult dogs are better new additions! Getting a puppy to have it “grow up” with the other dog or with the family greatly increases the risk that the puppy will challenge an adult dog as he/she matures. If you select a new addition to your household as an adult and your current dog is receptive from the initial greeting, chances are that the roles will not be challenged in the future because both dogs are mentally mature. Mental maturity in most dogs happens between the ages of 2-4 years, which often depends on the breed and the individual dog.

Now . . .you think you have found the perfect match. It’s time to introduce the dogs! Start on neutral territory, and do not allow the dogs to greet right away. Take the dogs on a long walk side-by-side to start. The longer the walk the better, as greetings will be less intense if the dogs have burned some energy. As you’re walking, take turns having one dog walk in front and the other behind. This will give both you and the dogs the opportunity to watch behaviors. Plus, it will give the dogs an opportunity to pick up on the other dogs scent.

Once the walk is over, as the handler, you must make the decision if it’s the right time to let the dogs greet. Happy, but relaxed, posture is key. Do not allow the dogs to greet head-on; this can present a challenge to some dogs. Head-to-tail, or a sideways greeting is better, as this allows the dogs to learn each others scent. With loose leashes, allow the dogs to approach naturally; you should notice one or both dogs veering slightly to one side, with bodies curved. If the dogs are pulling toward each other with tight leashes, more walking may be needed.

Some dogs are able to meet with new dogs quickly and easily, while other dogs may need more time to get used to a new household or playgroup addition. This depends greatly on the individual dog, with breed and gender playing a role in this as well. Always know your dog and his/her reactions, anticipate responses, and watch behaviors for the best new intros.

Have safe introductions, and enjoy your new addition!

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Happy Tail!

What’s your dog’s story? Some of our beloved pets are blessed to have an easy and short one. While that’s not the case with all of them, it’s nice to know that those with a longer story can have happy endings, and be amazing pets for us!

Rory, as she was known at the Humane Society of Harford County (HSHC), came in as a stray. She had a massive tumor on her side, and was wondering around Bel Air when animal control picked her up and brought her in. (HSHC is Harford County Animal Control’s drop off location for stray animals.) She had a wonderful temperament and did well at the shelter. One of our local rescues, Dogs XL, heard about her and her medical condition, and decided to take her on. (Amazing things can happen when the rescue community works together!) After a successful surgery – her tumor was benign! – she ultimately found her forever home locally, and is now known as Tori!

There’s more to her story, though. Settled into her new environment and healthy, she began to test her boundaries. Not unlike some Danes, she began to present some dog aggression while out on walks. To gain some initial control, Tori’s new owners participated in a private lesson, and then were able to get her into one of Mutt Magic’s group training classes with Claire Sharp. They worked on control around dogs, among other things. Her new owners have this to say about her:

“Tori loves children, so my goal is to find a role for her as a therapy dog for kids.  I was so happy that we passed the good canine citizen test so we can move to the next step.”

Tori was always an awesome dog. With a little work and dedication to her, she is now also a Canine Good Citizen. WHAT A HAPPY TAIL!

Tori, during her group training course!

Starting a training journal

Keeping a training journal while working with your dogs can be very rewarding. I often suggest this to clients that own dogs with behavioral concerns when they enter into a training program, although this can be very useful for all dogs. I keep one for each of my dogs, in fact. Now that we’re well into the new year, I can look back to last year’s entries to see how my dogs have progressed, and what still needs to be worked on. Perfect!

What should go in a journal entry?

Every month, I create a calendar as the first entry. Then, I mark each date that I’ve trained. I also mark when I’ve exercised the dogs, what the exercise routine was, and what the temperature was outside. This way, I have an overview that I can easily reference that shows how many days the dogs and I have worked together and what we’ve done.

Following the calendar page, I enter detailed information regarding what was accomplished on each training date. Did the dogs do anything well? Did they need more attention on certain aspects of what we worked on? How was their endurance when exercising? These details will help you to adjust your next training and/or exercise session.

Next, once you’ve progressed and have several entries, you can look back to see how far you’ve come! I suggest monthly and yearly reviews. This is particularly beneficial if you’re trying to accomplish something specific like behavior management, competitive obedience, or endurance training. It can be used for anything, however. If you come up with a new use for journaling your dog’s progress, please share it with us! info@muttmagic.com

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Popularity and Population Density of the “pit bull”

Puppy

Photo courtesy of Bartlett Image.

With this recent Maryland ruling that “pit bull” dogs are inherently dangerous, it’s time to take a look at the popularity and population density of the breed. It’s absurd, even for owners of a docile dog of any breed, to think that there aren’t variations in the breed as well as responsibility in ownership. Because your dog does not bite, does not mean that other dogs haven’t. For the victims of dog bites, we are doing an injustice by thinking this way. Let’s take a look at some real information, instead.

I’m going to address a few breeds in particular for the simple reason that they have had marked increases in popularity over certain time frames, NOT because I believe that any other breed is better than the dogs addressed. It’s true that, as the population density of a particular breed goes up, the bite statistics go up. Let’s ignore the numerous reasons bite statistics are inaccurate, for now.

Right now on average, our local shelters have a 66% “pit bull” population versus all other breeds. (Based on five local area shelters. See breakdown at the end of article) The population density is higher the closer to the city, as one may expect. It is historically true for all dogs, that the higher the popularity of a breed, the higher the number of that breed in the shelter. 66% is probably a low estimate to the actual “pit bull” density in our area because two of the five shelters surveyed are limited admittance, and one specifically has a limited number of “pit bulls” allowed into the program. The population of “pit bull” type dogs has been significantly increasing over the last ten years or so. In fact, during the years of 1997-2007, the AKC Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a smaller relative of the UKC’s American Pit Bull Terrier, has seen a 69% AKC registration  increase. (http://www.akc.org/press_center/facts_stats.cfm?page=popular_pooches)

Just 20 years ago, in the 1990’s, “the years following the release of the second movie [101 Dalmatians], the Dalmatian breed suffered greatly at the hands of irresponsible breeders and inexperienced owners. . . Dalmatians were abandoned in large numbers by their original owners and left with animal shelters.” (http://aquariumcouncil.org/docs/library/2/Release_Nemo_FINAL.PDF)  This goes to show that the popularity of a breed will show in the shelters. Ten years following this, the“AKC registrations of Dalmatians decreased 90%.” . . .as did their numbers in the shelter. (http://www.akc.org/press_center/facts_stats.cfm?page=popular_pooches) If we go back 30 years, “The cocker spaniel was the most popular dog of the 1980s. It earned the No. 1 most registered dog breed spot from 1983 to 1990.” http://www.ehow.com/list_7738692_top-breeds-dogs-1980s.html#ixzz1uUGkPeNe During this same time frame, it was noted in a Palm Beach County Comparison of most severe bites by dog breed, that the Cocker Spaniel ranked #2 in 1988, during its reign of popularity. (http://www.nokillnow.com/DogBiteStudies.pdf) Is the Cocker Spaniel an “inherently dangerous” dog? I think not!

So, what’s the solution to the problem? (The problem being an over population of a specific breed, not a court ruling) Pet owners: Spay and Neuter your pets. Reputable breeders: Heavily screen potential new owners. Require spay/neuter contracts for pet dogs. Let’s address the over population and responsibility in ownership. It’s the only thing that’s going to save our dogs.

Statistics of “pit bull” density in 5 local shelters in Maryland:

TOTALS FOR ALL LOCAL SHELTERS COMBINED

Number of pit bulls/mixes- 196

Number of all other dogs- 102

Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelters- 66%

MD SPCA: 3300 Falls Rd., Baltimore, MD

Limited admittance shelter. Only selected dogs enter the program. Limited pit bulls allowed.

Number of pit bulls/mixes- 7

Number of all other dogs- 23

Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 30% (As of 5/1/12)

Baltimore Humane: 1601 Nicodemus Rd., Reisterstown, MD

Limited admittance shelter.

Number of pit bulls/mixes- 31

Number of all other dogs- 6

Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 84% (As of 5/1/12)

BARCS: 301 Stockholm St., Baltimore, MD

Open admittance shelter. City’s animal control drop.

Number of pit bulls/mixes- 135

Number of all other dogs- 41

Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 77% (As of 5/2/12)

Harford County Humane Society: 2208 Connolly Rd., Fallston, MD

Open admittance shelter. Harford County’s animal control drop.

Number of pit bulls/mixes- 17

Number of all other dogs- 16

Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 52% (As of 5/2/12)

Baltimore County Shelter: 13800 Manor Rd., Baldwin, MD

Open admittance shelter. Baltimore County’s animal control drop.

Number of pit bulls/mixes- 6

Number of all other dogs- 16

Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 27% (As of 5/2/12)

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