What to do when your dog is scared

When I first got a puppy, it was really important to me that I did absolutely everything right in raising her. Needless to say, despite my good intentions, I did not do a perfect job of it. I tried. I researched a LOT and could rattle off all the “periods” a puppy goes through, how to handle each period, what needs to be done, what critical socialization has to happen… I won’t say I did a totally terrible job. In

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Choices and Happiness

Eileen of Eileen and Dogs recently wrote a piece on giving dogs choices and Patricia McConnell wrote one on what makes your dog happy?. They’re both of a similar tone and it made me think about what makes Betsy happy. I often feel sorry for dogs – they’re at our mercy in most ways: We control their food, their water, when they get to go to the bathroom, and when they get to leave the house. We force them to

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Nature vs Nurture in Dog Behaviour

A study was published back in May that weighed in on the nature-vs-nurture debate. The researchers reviewed 50 years worth of twin studies and determined that who you are is basically 50-50. 50% environment, 50% genes. This was a human study, not a dog study, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that a similar outcome would be true of dogs. In fact, I might venture to say, with a, “I am not a scientist and basically am just

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How to Greet a Dog

I love dogs a lot. A lot a lot. I do not often greet them, however. So I guess the first tip in “Greeting dogs 101” is “Don’t.” This is a bit of an exaggeration of course. Every situation is different and sometimes it is fine to say hello to a dog, but when in doubt, don’t bother. Illustration courtesy of doggiedrawings.net Here are some situations where I definitely will not greet a dog: The dog is ignoring me. No

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Rewarding Good Choices

I think I touched on this briefly before in Five ways to enrich your dog’s life, where I mentioned teaching your dog to lie down on the floor instead of counter surfing. The principle behind it is instead of asking your dog for a behaviour and then rewarding them when they do it, you need to catch your dog choosing to do something without being asked, and rewarding them for making good choices. A lot of dog training is simply

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Do dogs get better at learning with practice?

When Betsy was young(er) and I first started teaching her tricks, we both found it quite challenging. I’d spend several days focusing on teaching her a new trick, Betsy would express her frustration on day one, and slowly we’d build up until she had a mental breakthrough and suddenly everything would fall into place. (As soon as Betsy figures out what I want, she gets all excited and performs the trick so joyfully, I swear she’s puffing up with pride

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The greeting stretch

I have read lots of articles about the basics of dog calming signals, and lots too about all the different play moves that dogs will try, but less about other, more everyday dog body language, like, “Hey ‘sup.” I never really thought about it too much… I had read so many articles about calming signals that I guess I just assumed, “Whelp, that is how dogs talk. Just lip licks and yawns all day every day. Done deal.” But then

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Social Learning in Dogs

I remember reading awhile ago that there was a study done on puppies who watched their mother work (e.g. pulling a cart) vs puppies who never watched their mother work. The results of this study showed that puppies who observed their mother at work learned the skill themselves much quicker than the puppies who never got to watch their mother. Something about that article stuck with me, so now, when Betsy and I attend agility class, we often hang back

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Reinforcement Schedules in Dog Training

In dog training, we are often told to keep your rewards unpredictable. “Don’t reward every time, dogs are going to be more obedient if your rewards are like the lottery.” One thing I hate about dog training advice is that the people dispensing it never back up what they say with any reference to scientific studies. That doesn’t mean those studies don’t exist, just that I have to go hunting for them on my own 😉 I tend to reward

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