FAQ: How do I stop off-leash dogs from approaching?

Answer: You can’t! But there are other things you can do.

Recently a client of many years ago reached out with just this question, and I wrote her a long email about ways to address it. (Clients ask this question on a regular basis, but this is the first time I’ve written down the response.) I’m going to go ahead and paste my response here! You can all see what a terrible person I am when I’m in A Mood. 😉 Ugh, off leash dogs that don’t listen. If I had emojis on my computer, I would add a lot of unimpressed-looking ones. XD There are some hilarious memes and posters about just this problem!

So, first, we do the difficult thing: teach our dogs to ignore other dogs running around off leash. I can’t remember what form of reward/correction we used on Mochi, but I know Taiwan dogs are often fearful, so I doubt it was much! The thing to remember is to practice with all dogs, so that when it’s an off-leash dog, Mochi and Kermit will have a set of known behaviors to fall back on. I would start positive; when there’s another dog and they start to look at it, call their names and reward with treats. Let them look back at the dog, but immediately call their names and reward again. Repeat until they’re looking at you rather than the other dog. Practice on every dog you see, whether or not they’re off leash, so it becomes easy for the pups to ignore other dogs. Eventually, just give them a treat once you’ve passed the dog, then just say, “Good dogs,” when you get past. I STILL praise my dogs when they walk past a barking or off-leash dog. It’s hard not to react when someone is talking to you!

If they’d rather look at the other dog than get a treat but they’re walking beside you, take a sideways step and bump them. It’s a little bit “Oops, I stepped into your space, better check in” and a little bit of a body block (which would be a faster bump). If either flinches or looks stressed, try tapping them gently on the top of their head. Like, “Hello? Anyone there?” When they tune back in, reward with praise/pets/treats, whichever they’ll take.

If they’re walking ahead of you, reach forward to give the leashes as much slack as possible, then jump two steps backward. The goal is for the dogs to pivot quickly to face you. It’s a surprise tactic, so it needs to be quick! (Plus, if you do it slowly it gives them time to brace, and then they drag their feet across the ground. Ouch! Quick is actually safer.) When they’re facing you, praise and reward, shorten your leashes, and head past the dog prepared with treats.

Dogs communicate visually, with their bodies. Just by having your dogs look away, you’re halting the conversation. 80-90% of off-leash dogs won’t approach closely if the other dog is ignoring them. (They might come within ten feet. If it comes closer for a treat, toss a few toward it and keep going.) 

While you’re doing all this, be aware of where your gaze is settling. If you’re watching the dog to see if it’s coming over (which, of course, we all do), you’ve just about guaranteed that it’s going to come over. As soon as you see an off-leash dog, glue your eyes on your dogs. Not only will looking at another dog attract that dog, but if your dogs are tuned into you they’ll see where you’re looking, smell your stress (easily!), and think, “Ah! She’s stressed about that dog! We’d better be stressed, too!” We can’t control our scent, but you can control where your eyes are looking. Look at your dogs! Seek out their gaze, too. Then they’ll think, “We know you’re stressed, but… about us? Why? How can we help make it better?”

Now, of course, some dogs are still going to come running over. (Especially the ones with the idiot owners.) When I’m approached by off-leash dogs, I check what my dogs are saying. If their tails are up and wagging in a relaxed, floppy manner, then I know I can let out a lot of leash (the goal being for my dog to feel like he’s off-leash, so he doesn’t get stressed at being restrained when meeting another dog) and let them say hi. I rarely want my dogs to say hi on walks, but sometimes that’s just easier. Then I can scold the owner at length, if I’m in the mood. 😉

If my dog’s tail isn’t wagging or it’s low, or if it’s pinched against their butt while wagging at the bottom (anxiety), then I know my dog doesn’t want to say hi (even if he’s going over there; he might feel he HAS TO say hi to keep from being attacked). In that case, I’m going to bodily haul my dogs behind me and shorten up their leashes to keep them there, and I’m going to step between my dog and the approaching dog. Then you can do things the nice way, or the frustrated way.

The nice way: continue blocking the dogs. If possible, free one hand to pet the other dog. This helps distract it from your dogs, shows your dogs that it’s safe, and gives you the ability to subtly grab its collar and/or push it away. Do this enough, and the dog will retreat… eventually.

The frustrated way: pull yourself up tall and big, even puffing out your chest and spreading your arms, and — your dogs still behind you — charge several steps toward the approaching dog, bellowing something. Anything will do — you could recite the ABCs — but I usually say something like, “No! Go home!” Most dogs, even aggressive dogs, will slam on the brakes. Occasionally one will still approach slowly and I have to do it the nice way, but usually they decide I’m crazy and they either watch from a distance or go back where they came from. This has the added benefit of getting the owner’s attention. Granted, while they collect their dog they’ll probably say something like, “Don’t yell at my dog! He’s just being a dog! He’s friendly!” but if you’re a really Good Person you’ll ignore it and move on. (Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not.)

In California all dogs have to be on leash unless they’re in a specified off-leash area. I’ve been known to point this out, repeatedly and obnoxiously, if I’m in A Mood. It goes something like,

Me: It’s illegal for your dog to be off leash. Leash him.

Them: He was just in my front yard! It’s my yard!

Me: It’s illegal for your dog to be off leash. Leash him.

Them: Oh, please, it’s not like it’s a big deal if he comes onto the sidewalk to say hi!

Me: It’s illegal for your dog to be off leash. Leash him.

Them: You’re such a bitch! Leash laws are for aggressive dogs, and he’s not aggressive!

Me: It’s illegal for your dog to be off leash. Leash him.

Them: My dog has to learn manners from your dogs!

Me: It’s illegal for your dog to be off leash. Leash him.

You get the idea. 😉 It has the added benefit of really pissing off the other person, because there’s nothing for them to argue with. But, y’know, that’s just when I’m in A Mood. ;-D

Okay, FINALLY, I’ve spoken to some dog walkers who hit similar problems. Their advice has been:

Throw a handful of treats toward the dog to distract it while you leave.

Carry a small “Pet Corrector” canister (the small ones fit in your pocket). When a dog approaches, grab it and let ‘er rip toward the approaching dog. This will also stop your dogs from lunging, but it might be loud enough to scare them into dragging you off into a ditch. We don’t want to traumatize your dogs! (Pet Correctors are just compressed air, so you won’t hurt the dogs.)

Thinking about that, you could also carry a small bottle with pennies or rocks. I’ve been using the small prescription bottles, labels removed, because they fit in my pocket. You could grab that and throw it toward the dog’s front feet. The sudden noise right in front of them will make them startle hard and pause. You can then either retrieve the bottle and continue, leave and come back for your bottle later (to be earth friendly), tie your dogs to something and go get your bottle AND the other dog and walk the other dog home, or… No, that’s all I can think of. 😉

Usually if I’m throwing a bottle of pennies for a reason like that, I throw it hard enough that bits of it break off. Don’t aim at the dog; we’re not trying to hurt him. But aim in front of his feet, so it startles him into a stop. Hopefully it’ll be far enough away from your dogs to keep from freaking them out, too.

Phew. I think that’s all the advice I have in me!

Jenna

Awww, what a baby I am here!

Working with Possessiveness: 1

Damn, I was doing so good with posting every other week or so! …I think. Well, at least it hasn’t been a year!

One of my clients from ye olden times reached out to me with a problem. Their 7 month old Cairn Terrier is getting extremely possessive of food, including chasing one of the older dogs away from their bowl (they already feed the puppy, Max, out of a slow bowl) and growling and lunging at his humans when he puked and they were trying to clean it up.

Since I’m about to have experimental (sort of) spine injections and I’ll be out of it for 2-3 weeks (so sayeth my doctor…eth) (no, I don’t know why I’m writing like this, either), I can’t go see her soon, but I didn’t want to leave her hanging, either.

So! I wrote her instructions on how to begin solving it. And now I pass them on to my blog. Ta da!

My response:

First, increase how much you’re feeding him. At 6-8 months old dogs often eat more than they will eat as an adult. A dog that’s underfed can often become possessive, so let’s make sure that’s not an issue. (Don’t worry if he gets chubby; he’s still growing! Worst case scenario, we can slim him down later, when the problem is resolved.)

Second, when you go to feed him, hold his bowl while he eats, or if he’s eating kibble you can even hand-feed him all or part of it. It’ll stop the possessiveness around his bowl with people in its tracks!

Third, start feeding him on leash. You can hook him to a chair or whatever is handy (probably easiest) or just hang onto him (probably not easiest). When he finishes his food, distract him from even looking at the other dogs’ food. This will probably require treats, but I’m guessing that Bobbie, at least, will keep eating rather than try to come over and get barked/growled/snapped at. The leash will ensure he doesn’t go terrorize Bobbie, and give you a chance to get his attention. If he does start trying to get to the other dogs’ food and is pulling/barking/straining at the least, I’d grab a squirt bottle and, quietly and without any “that’s naughty” noises, give him a surprising squirt to the back of his head. If/when he looks around to see what that was, act innocent and offer a treat! (We’re doing this quietly so as not to alarm the other dogs. They’re already tense about eating, with him acting like a goober.)

Fourth (this is a many-pronged offensive!), start practicing trading him whatever he has for a treat. Start with things you KNOW he won’t be possessive over. If Bobbie and Buster want to get involved, ask them to sit, lay down, shake, etc. when it’s their turn. As Max gets better at trading item for treat, start doing it with things he likes better, until eventually you’ve worked your way up to delicious vomit. (Ew. LOL!)

Fifth, practice being nearby when he has something he might get possessive over. Don’t look at him or talk to him, just hang out nearby as if you wanted to stand there and check your text messages, and you’re not even aware he’s there. The goal is to be far enough away that he’s not growling or tense, and the whites of his eyes aren’t showing. If any of those things are happening, casually take small steps away until they stop.

Fifth and a half, when you’re near him and he has something he’s possessive over, toss him treats. You can either look at him and be like, “Hey, Max, have a treat!” and toss it, or just toss it as if it’s pocket lint. Do whichever keeps him calmer. As he realizes you’re going to come over and toss treats, he’ll start releasing the Thing He Loves and even trotting up to get the treat faster. Yes, he might then dash back to the Thing He Loves, but it’s a huge improvement that will lead to more, easier improvement later!

Ideally, you’ll do these steps and the problem will vanish. More realistically, you’ll do these things and parts of the problem will vanish while others improve and some might not get any better. (Usually, if there’s no improvement, it means you’re doing too much, too soon.) Do these things for a couple of weeks, and then let’s see where you’re at! Hopefully I’ll have a clear enough brain to respond. If I don’t, keep doing these things, and when I come off the heavy pain meds I’ll respond!

And ye, my readers, that was my advice-eth. If I write more instructions in two weeks, I’ll post those here! If I don’t, I’ll write up a next step for those wondering and post it here, anyway. 😉

You can also hit up my YouTube channel. As I board and train I take videos and post them. They’re real-life-dog-trainer videos (which means you’ll often see me with bedhead in my PJs, because dogs never choose convenient times to misbehave) with absolutely no editing or special effects. I’m pretty sure I have some videos on possessive behavior. If not, someone should tell me and I’ll try to make them! 😉


Jenna

Fireworks (and other things that go boom)

Happy 4th of July! The parades, the festivals, the pretty lights in the sky, otherwise known as OMG monsters and the world is exploding we must escape right now!! booms, in dog language. It’s it great?

July 5th is Dogcatcher Day. Or, in other states Don’t Run Over The Loose Dog day. Or, in still other states, OMG My Dog Went Through The Wrought Iron Fence And Escaped day. I n order to be sure your dog isn’t one of these loose felons, it’s important to handle the 4th of July correctly. So without further ado…

Ha! Gotcha! There’s always more ado. If you are one of those people who declares, “You should desensitize your dog to fireworks!” I would like to bow down to you. While I’m down there, I’m going to tie your shoelaces in a knot, so that the next time you step forth to proclaim inanity you fall on your sanctimonious face. Too harsh? Probably. You probably don’t know that a surprising number of dogs have PTSD, and may or may not ever be desensitized. Other people work, a LOT, or have children, or both, or are a single parent or dealing with their own mental or physical issues, and don’t have the extra time to put into desensitizing their dog. (Desensitize, take them for a walk, or get groceries? Hmmm…) As someone with mental issues and what would, to others, to seem extra time, I’m just going to take a moment to say that there are a lot of “easy” things I can’t do.

If you are an owner who CAN desensitize your dog, but didn’t realize that was possible until too late (or just now), then for next year, go forth and begin desensitization! Yay! NOW without further ado…

If Your Dog (or Puppy) is Noise Sensitive

This dog is showing all three major stress signals: his ears are pinched hard against his head, the whites of his eyes are showing, and his lips are pulled so far back I can see the skin at the edges/his back molars. If your dog looks like this at booms, read this!

I don’t know about where you live, but where I live people start shooting off fireworks as early as, oh, Februrary 15th. No, I kid (I don’t), they really start (in earnest) a few days before the 4th of July. If that’s the case, keep an eye on your dog (or puppy, let’s just assume “dog” includes “puppy” and vice versa) the evenings leading up to the 4th. Do they spook at those booms and pops? Do they spook at the first one, then ignore them if they continue? If they don’t spook or do spook but then don’t freak out, go on to the next section. You have an easier job! (Note: this includes most dogs under 12 months, who haven’t experienced fireworks before.) If your dog looks like the one to the right (whites of eyes, pinched ears, back molars showing) you’re in the right place.

Now, steps to ensure your dog will be just fine this year, even if they haven’t been before.

  1. Give your dog something nice and calming a couple of hours beforehand: a sedative, Benedryl, CBD treats, some Trazodone, whatever your vet gave you. You need to give it 2 hours beforehand for it to be fully kicked in before the first boom starts, and some of these things take a LONG time to kick in for a dog. Ignore the label if it says to shorten that window. Trust me on this one.
  2. Wear your dog out. Today, for instance, I’ll be taking Doc and my two boarders to the dog park. I expect it to be crowded. If my dog can’t do a dog park, we’re going to go on 2-3 long walks (instead of the normal 1). The goal: dogs that are so tired they sleep through the booms.
  3. Bring your dog into the house. I think this goes without saying, but just in case.
  4. Play music, preferably something with boom-sounding things: symbols, angry teenage music, whatever. I know, we think, “but classical is best to calm, right?” Sure. But things with booms are best to hide the booms outside. (Alternately, you can do what I do: watch or put on a movie with a lot of explosions!)
  5. Close the windows. “My dog wouldn’t go through the screen,” I hear you cry. Uh huh. The cost of being wrong is a missing dog. The cost of closing the windows is… oh yeah, nothing.
  6. If your dog is crate trained, crate them.
  7. Give them something ridiculously delicious to do instead, like those raw bones you never give them because ew gross, who wants raw bone juice on the floor, or stuffing a kong full of peanut butter, canned dog food, canned cat food, yogurt, pumpkin — whatever — then freezing it, and THEN giving it to them. Mmmm. Delish.
  8. Finally, stay home. If your dog is freaking out and doesn’t have a crate, put them on a leash. If you can stop pacing or barking behavior simply by keeping them beside you, with only a little room to get up and into a more comfortable position, it will dramatically decrease their anxiety. I don’t know why, but it works like a charm.
  9. “But Jenna!” I hear you cry. “I wanted to go see the fireworks!” Please insert the most effective, quelling, unimpressed look here, because that’s what I’m giving the screen right now. BUT, counting for human stupidity error arrogance lack of compassion …-ity, if you must leave, pre-print “lost dog” flyers so you’re ready as soon as you get home. OKAY, FINE, do all of the above. That’s the best advice I can give you. EXCEPT…
  10. Instead of going to see fireworks, have a nervous dog party! I know, COVID. Have a nervous dog party with others who have been vaccinated and wear a mask anyway if it’s more than 5 people! Tell people to bring their dogs! Rules: all dogs must be kept either inside, on a leash, or in a crate at all times. “Will this help my dog feel better? :D” I hear you cry. Probably not. But they’ll be anxious either way, and at least this way you get to enjoy yourself and stop feeling bad about your anxious dog (which WILL help them feel better).

If Your Dog (or Puppy) is Not Noise Sensitive (or if You’ve Never Noticed)

If you’ve never noticed, then they’re probably not noise sensitive. To repeat myself: where I live, people start setting off fireworks as early as, oh, Februrary 15th. No, I kid (I don’t), they really start (in earnest) a few days before the 4th of July. If that’s the case, keep an eye on your dog (or puppy, let’s just assume “dog” includes “puppy” and vice versa) the evenings leading up to the 4th. Do they spook at those booms and pops? Do they spook at the first one, then ignore them if they continue? If this is the case, relaaaaax.

“Oh good, I can just take off, then!” I hear you cry. Well, sure, if your dog is an adult and you’re completely positive they don’t care about fireworks. But in that case, why are you here? If your dog is a puppy, new to you, or nervous, I would suggest some prep work.

  1. If they’re nervous enough to need medication or herbal supplements, go read the above section, because that’s really what you want to do. You can come back and read 3 and 4 here.
  2. If they don’t need meds (or they’re a puppy), read the above section anyway, but skip 1, 6, 9, and 10.
  3. Now, when you hear booms and your dog takes notice (usually either sitting up, barking, or giving little woofs), tell them (in a casual voice) that everything is fine. Call them over if needed (or go get them and put them on a leash so you don’t have to go get them again), and give them pets or treats for coming back. Distract them a bit when they do it again (which they will). If they bark or woof, ignore it. I often tap them on the top of their head to get their attention, and when I have it I tell them how much I love them and other ooey gooey things like that. Sometimes I give them a treat. If they’re struggling to stay focused on me I’ll ask them to do things — sit, down, sit or shake are my favorites, because it doesn’t require that I move. As the booms go off more and more, I keep repeating this. I can even take them for a walk (…around the house or closed-in yard) if that distracts them best. I’m going to tell them how proud of them I am for their bravery (even if they’re not being brave) and how fun and exciting these booms are (even if they look at me like I’ve lost my mind).
  4. Have a confident-dog party! This is especially awesome with puppies. If you know someone who has a dog that isn’t bothered by fireworks, invite them over. (If they’d rather go watch fireworks, ask if you can just borrow the dog.) When a puppy sees that the other dogs aren’t bothered, they might need a little distraction or praise from you, but most often they relax as well. Ahhhhh.
  5. Go enjoy the fireworks! No, I’m totally kidding. If you felt the need to read this, you should stay home. But hey, take these steps and very likely next year you can go enjoy the fireworks, while the dogs chill out in the house and sleep right through the harmless booms.

Jenna

Dog food: explained to the best of my ability

People frequently ask me about dog food, so here it is, my long- (and short-) winded explanation of everything I know. Please keep in mind that I am not a vet and that this is for the “normal” dog. If you have concerns about your dog’s nutrition, you should contact a Certified Veterinary Nutritionist. Also, I live in NorCal, so the stores I’ve listed are local. Sorry, folks.

The short version (in a different order than the long version).

Foods I can recommend:

Just Food For Dogs. They use fresh, human-grade, whole ingredients and are run by certified veterinary nutritionists. They take great pride in funding studies on nutrition and setting the standard for health. Anything from Pet Food Express or Pet People in Los Gatos (both have very high standards).

My dogs are currently on First Mate, grain-friendly. The Kirkland brand dog food (grain free and grain) are very highly rated, and I’ve used it, as well.

For raw/freeze-dried, Stella and Chewy’s and Primal have good reports, and S&C have been around a long time.

Choosing a pre-made food: When choosing a dog food, look at the ingredients list. If you see “by-product,” “corn,” or “soy,” avoid it. Unless it’s a limited ingredient dog food, the first two ingredients OR the first three out of five ingredients should be some type of meat or egg.

Doing research: Look for articles/studies by a Certified Veterinary Nutritionist, not Random Guy or even Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (our usual vets).

Grain free vs grain: From the research I’ve done, foods with grain seem to be better for most dogs. Rice is a less optimal grain. However, breed matters, and every dog is different.

Raw vs cooked: so many pros and cons, there isn’t a short answer.

Homemade vs store-bought: Homemade diets, even ones recommended by vets, leave out essential nutrients. If you want to make food at home, try working with either Just Food For Dogs (.com), or Balancelt through US Davis. Both are certified veterinary nutritionists and can give you balanced diets. Otherwise, use store-bought.

(I have done both, and can say: making 1 week’s worth of food for a 60-lbs dog took 6 hours, all the room in my freezer, and was more expensive than store-bought.)

Organic vs not: there are pros and cons, and no scientific data either way. (I still do it where possible.)

Other resources:

Just Food For Dogs (.com): they use fresh, human-grade, whole ingredients, and are cutting edge.

US Davis: definitely not of a holistic mindset, but still on the cutting edge and with a lot of resources.

Www.DogFoodAdvisor.com: I find it to be fairly in sync with my own ethics and research, including that done by JFFD and UCDavis.

The long version

Where you get your information:

According to the certified veterinary nutritionist at Davis (where I had to take Doc several years back), there’s a difference between a certified vet who works with nutrition and a certified veterinary nutritionist. One is a vet who is interested in the subject and has done work on their own time. The other went to school to learn what, exactly, dogs need to survive, down to vitamins, minerals and whatnot, as well as how foods react in certain cases, food disorders and diseases, how dogs digest, etc, etc. (Per my vet and a few others I’ve spoken to, the vet we take our animals to for their check ups or because they’re sick are like a general practitioner we see for our check ups or when we get sick. They can diagnose and weed out common ailments, but they’ll refer us to a specialist when needed. The certified veterinary nutritionist, CVN from now on, is the specialist.)

This means that any time you want to know something about feeding dogs, want to make sure the facts come from a CVN. On a personal judgment call, I MIGHT listen to a certified vet with an interest in nutrition, if there’s signs that they’ve been accepted as knowledgeable within the nutrition field and/or have studies, papers, etc published in dog medical journals.

Unless otherwise stated, the information I’m using came from the CVN at UC Davis, Just Food For Dogs, or a study published by one or more CVNs.

Grains vs grain-free:

According to most (read: every one I’ve read studies by or spoken to, but I’m sure there are exceptions) CVNs, dogs should eat approximately 30% fruits and veggies, 30% grains, and 30-40% meat in their diet.

Before COVID, young dogs (1-2 years old) began having heart failure and dying in such numbers that the FDA began an investigation. The only link between the dogs was that they’d been fed a grain-free diet. Initial suspects were a lack of taurine and then inclusion of lentils, but both were ruled out as causes. I don’t currently know the state of the investigation.

In anecdotal information, from listening to and in conversations with vets, there’s been quite a few who believe that liver and kidney failure is happening to dogs much earlier than expected when those dogs have been fed high protein or grain-free diets. Studies in rats show that a high-protein diet causes early liver and kidney failure.

Personally, I’ve noticed that if a client complains that their dog is always hungry, then adding a tablespoon of dry oats to their food or switching to a food with grain solves the problem 90% of the time. (Although labradors and sometimes golden retrievers are an exception to this, as they are bred to be hungry.)

However, I have also noticed (and have had other trainers and breeders confirm) that some breeds of dogs that, until VERY recent generations, were expected to hunt their own meals, are more likely to do well on a grain-free diet. Specifically, huskies, dingoes, and basenjiis. (All high energy, hard working, predatory breeds that were released to survive on their own either full time or, in the case of huskies, over the summer months.) German shepherds also seem to do well on grain-free diets, although they haven’t had to hunt for food for a VERY long time! Dogs with skin issues sometimes do better on grain-free diets, as well.

In the wild, dogs are trash scavengers if they live near humans, and hunters if they live in tribal areas with low human population. Canines (including wolves, coyotes, etc) graze, stripping grains off grasses, as well as eating the stomach and intestines of any killed animals first. Since they mostly eat herbivores, this means they’re eating per-digested grains before anything else. Dogs in the wild also eat their own feces (pre-digested food) for many reasons, including if they aren’t getting the correct nutrients. Several times now, but not enough for a pattern, I’ve suggested clients add oats to their dog’s food to stop poop-eating, and it’s worked. (Sources: books on different dog/human relationships worldwide, anthropological and ethnographic histories of dogs where published by reputable sources, The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Wood, histories of humans that mention dogs in passing, personal experience with wild packs in Greece. The last sentence is anecdotal.)

Other bits and pieces about grains: per CVNs, rice is the most difficult thing for our dogs to digest, and minute-oats, cooked quinoa, and similar cooked grains are generally recommended. Dogs struggle to digest grain that isn’t pre-digested/broken down.

The third most common allergen is wheat. Signs of a food allergy are itchy paws, bright pink skin under their chin, and frequent ear infections. (The most common food allergens are chicken and beef. Anything you feed your dog repeatedly is more likely to become an allergen, and CVNs recommend switching protein sources semi-regularly to avoid that.)

Given current trends and research in humans, it’s possible that CVNs are/might change 30% grains to 30% carbs, from such things like sweet potato. I haven’t looked into it at all.

Raw vs cooked:

Vitamins and enzymes break down and are useless at 160F. If you want the nutrients in your dog’s food to be useful, you should look for a food that is cooked at low temps under 160F, has the vitamins and enzymes added after the cooking process is over, is freeze-dried, or is raw. You can also supplement with vitamins and enzymes you add on your own. I would look at Just Food For Dogs or ask your vet.

The downside to raw is that it can carry the same bacteria that make us sick; salmonella, e. coli, and mad cow. Those diseases also make dogs sick. At the greatest risk are old, very young, and dogs with weakened immune systems. (Any bacteria that grows on raw meat left out can also make them sick, although they’re hardier than we are thanks to their shorter intestinal tract and colon. Which segues to…)

A dog’s intestinal tract and colon are shorter than ours, which means that more bacteria are alive in their poop when they defecate. Although we make pick the poop up, the bacteria stay behind and spread across the grass when the sprinklers go on. If you have children playing in the grass, it’s something to keep in mind.

Finding a pre-made food:

Except for limited ingredient foods (which are ideal for dogs with allergies), most dog foods are made up of the first five ingredients on the ingredients list. We tend to look at the “guaranteed analysis” that tells you how much protein, fat, etc is in the food, but it’s very misleading. If a food contains soy, for instance, that can be added to the protein total. But for the most part, dogs can’t use protein that comes from non-meat sources. (There’s some evidence that they can use it if it comes from grain, but let’s just assume meat is best.) Therefore, it’s better to look at the ingredients list than the guaranteed analysis column.

Since the first five ingredients make up the bulk of the food, we want to see that the first two ingredients OR three of the first five ingredients are meat or egg protein sources. Good protein sources will say things like, “chicken,” or, “chicken meal.” The first means there’s chicken in it. The second means there’s dehydrated chicken in it, and it’s protein-dense. (I don’t remember why.) Both mean the whole chicken, including organs and bones, which is exactly what we want.

Suspect proteins are anything labeled “by-product.” The by-products of an animal are things like feathers, beaks, hooves, etc. Hooves are fine in limited quantity, but certainly not as a main ingredient, and feathers and hide are neither digestible nor nutritious.

Other suspect ingredients are corn (a filler; dogs digest it about as well as we do, and there’s little nutritional value) and soy (a filler; useless nutritional value). If either appear in the first five ingredients, I would avoid that food.

Often people will say wheat is bad. Wheat is as good as any other grain, but became so prevalent that many dogs became allergic to it. In small doses it’s just fine.

Rice is another one I look at carefully, since it’s difficult for dogs to digest, and white rice has little nutritional value. Rice is still pretty common in food, since most people don’t know it’s difficult to digest. (I only know because of taking Doc to the CVN at Davis.)

Homemade vs store bought:

Until today, I thought homemade was better, as long as you used recipes from vets. However, I emailed my vet to get the name of a book she’d recommended to me a few years back, and she responded with: “There was a study that came out looking at homemade diets, even those recommended by vets, and found them lacking in many essential nutrients.” She does say that in addition to Just Food For Dogs (which she recommends), US Davis has a nutrition service called Balancelt.

Organic vs not:

This is really a personal choice. No studies have shown a difference in dogs, and even the health and longevity correlations have been thoroughly disproved. There have been multiple studies coming out showing that some organic pesticides are FAR more toxic and dangerous to animals (including dogs) and bees than many of the chemical pesticides.

All that said, I still prefer organic, but I try to be careful and look for things like, “only dog safe pesticides used!”

As an aside, foods from Canada and Europe have to follow much higher quality standards than in the US, both in what they label organic, and in the quality of meats and vegetables used. Generally foods made there are made with human grade ingredients, and many of the toxic organic pesticides have already been banned.

Foods I can recommend:

Freeze-dried and/or raw: Primal Instinct, Stella and Chewy’s (which has been around the longest, to my knowledge), and anything found at Pet Food Express (they have very high standards) or Pet People in Los Gatos (who have even higher standards. They are also very pro grain-free.)

Fresh, human-grade, whole foods: Just Food For Dogs. Created by CVNs, they use fresh, human-grade, whole ingredients and are run by certified veterinary nutritionists. They take great pride in funding studies on nutrition and setting the standard for dog health.

Kibble: Anything at Pet Food Express or Pet People in Los Gatos.

The Kirkland brand dog food (both grain and grain-free) is surprisingly highly rated, but only comes in 35lbs bags.

My dogs are currently on First Mate (available grain-friendly and grain-free), which comes from Canada, where the standards for acceptable dog meat are human-grade or nearly so.

Other resources:

Just Food For Dogs (.com). It is a business, but they’re leading in studies on dog nutrition.

US Davis

Articles by other certified veterinary nutritionists.

I really like www.DogFoodAdvisor.com. I don’t know who runs it, but I find when I compare its reviews to information about dog foods I’ve gotten from certified veterinary nutritionists and calling the dog food companies, it lines up with my ethics and research.

There. I think I gave myself carpal tunnel… XD

Jenna

FAQ: Small Dog Leash Reactivity (Prong Collar Version)

Basically continued from the last post… If my cousin had decided to use a prong collar! Starting, again, with pros and cons for tools.

The first thing to think about is what tool to use. For a small dog, safety is first. The ideal things to use are either a front-clip harness (I recommend the Easy Walk brand, you’ll need a small unless she’s closer to 15-20lbs, and then you’ll need a small/medium – that’s the actual in-between size before medium) or a teeny weeny prong collar. They have pros and cons, which I’ve outlined below. The other kind of tool is a toy she goes crazy about or treats. The treats should be tiny. I haven’t found treats small enough, so often I use something like “mini naturals” or “mini trainers” and then break them into even smaller pieces between my fingers. You can also mix them with her kibble; her kibble will pick up their scent so she’s more likely to eat it as a treat, but you don’t have to give her so many treats that it upsets her stomach!

Front clip harness

Pros: These are excellent at stopping your dog from pulling forward, and they run only a tiny risk of impacting the windpipe and virtually no risk of impacting it dangerously.

Cons: If your dog’s windpipe extends lower than usual (actually, their shoulders sit low on their neck), then when they pull they’ll cough (signs of impacting the windpipe). This means you need to lower the strap that goes across their chest to get it off the windpipe. However, if you lower it too much and she has a long back/short legs, it heightens significantly the risk of her squirming as she pulls forward and getting a leg through, and then walking out of it. If your dog has very short legs compared to their body, that’s a risk anyway. Finally, if you tug upward as they leap and the timing is just perfect, you can flip your dog. Not A Good Thing.

Prong collar:

Pros: Probably the safest thing you can put on a small dog. The prongs keep any pressure off their windpipe, so the risk of impacting it is nil. (If your dog coughs, simply adjust it sideways a quarter of an inch so those prongs aren’t sitting directly on their windpipe. I almost never see this happen, and usually the dog’s movement will keep the collar shifting around, so even if it happens momentarily, it’ll stop almost instantly.) As long as you don’t make the collar too big (it should NOT be able to slide on and off over their head), it’s nearly impossible for them to escape. It’s also really great for correcting naughty behaviors, and because dogs occasionally nip (touching teeth to each other rapidly, NOT trying to harm) if they’re super annoyed, the prongs simulate that nip and the dogs get it.

Cons: People will give you dirty looks. You can solve this by tying a little bandanna over the prong collar, or buying the kind that has cloth already over it, or you can ignore people. 😉 Prong collars are also kind of a pain to put on until you get the hang of it. (Practice doing and undoing it without it being on Pepper, and that’ll help a ton!) The biggest con is, ironically, that they feel it like a nip from another dog. If they’re super focused on a dog and feel it, you run the risk that they will get more aggressive in the moment, because they think the dog bit them from over there!

There are a few other tools you can use, but they’re either ineffective or risk damage (short or long term).

All of the above said, I personally would suggest a prong collar first. Get a little one (the prongs are slender and only about as long as your thumbnail), and try it on right there in the store. You might need someone to show you how to get it on and off without sliding it over her head. You also might need to take a bunch of prongs out to make it fit. I’ve slimmed them down so they only have two or three prongs instead of the ten they came with; that’s perfectly fine! You only need two for windpipe safety. 😉 The other reason to buy it in the store is if you think it might increase her aggression, you can take it back and exchange it for an Easy Walk (front clip) harness.

If you aren’t comfortable with a prong collar, since not everyone is, get an Easy Walk harness! (See the last post for how to properly, safely, and effectively use one.)

Once You Have Your Chosen Tool

If you decided on a prong collar, go get one. The easiest way is to head to the pet store and actually put it on your dog, so that if you need help figuring how out to use it or you need to buy a few extra prongs to make it fit, you can. Your prong collar can sit anywhere on your dog’s neck, it doesn’t matter. You don’t want it sitting on their collar, since it won’t work that way! I want to be able to slide my fingers between the prongs and my dog’s neck, and not get stabbed. I also want to make sure it’s tight enough that it won’t pull off over their head. I’m looking for a balance: if they aren’t pulling, they shouldn’t feel it, but I don’t want to lose my dog or have prong scratch their eyes! (For the same reason, never slide your prong collar on over your dog’s head. Always take it apart and put it around their neck. Practice before you ever put it on them.)

(“But Jenna!” I hear you cry. “I saw a dog trainer on YouTube who said a prong collar should fit snug and high on their neck!” Sure, if you’re using it to control a big dog’s head, but then it’s constantly pronging them. I just… no. If I can avoid it, no.)

Next, we have an additional stage. If she doesn’t know to check in with you when you say “Look” or her name, teach her while in the house. This doesn’t mean you have to do it for days. In fact, you can just do it a few times before your walk. With food involved, it doesn’t take them long to figure that one out! Say her name or ask her to look/watch me/whatever comes automatically, then hand her a treat. Next, do it again while you’re walking. When she looks at you, hand her a treat. Do it about five times, and you’ll be ready to walk.

So, you’re home, you put your prong collar on, you ask her to look a few times, and you open the front door! Keep your leash short at first; you don’t want her building up speed and hitting the end of the prong collar. Ouch. She’ll dash forward, but with your short leash she shouldn’t get more than a foot before the prong collar pulls her up. She’ll probably back off it automatically. Reward, and give her a treat. As she starts to dash forward again, shake your leash.

Now, notice I didn’t say, “Yank on your collar.” No, just shake your leash. The prongs will barely rattle against her, and that’s all we want to start. If you do it too hard, your dog might yelp in surprise, and we’re just trying to avoid that much surprise. This isn’t meant to be bad or painful, so we don’t want to make it that way!

Most likely, a rattle will make your dog jump back in surprise. In your dog’s mind, you just nipped her. (Those prongs, when they’re loose-tight-loose, feel like teeth. Be gentle with your teeth.) She’ll probably look at you like, “WTH?” Give her a treat!

Step out the door and, if needed, rattle again. Treat again!

If your dog is alarmed, clip the leash to the prong collar AND their flat collar. That will limit how much the prong collar moves, so it’s even gentler. Again: we’re not trying to hurt or frighten, we’re trying to communicate.

“Huh?” I hear you cry.

Communicate. We’re not saying, “If you do X I’ll cause you pain!” We’re saying, “When you do X I don’t like it, and I’m communicating that with a little nip, like another dog might do.”

So, now you head down the driveway. You should give her five more treats before you hit the end of a normal sized driveway. That’s treats in VERY quick succession. Every time she pulls you’ll give a rattle. Pretty quickly your rattle won’t work, because she’ll be going, “Ha! That might have startled me the first time, but now I know it’s nothing big.” At that point you can start giving quick little tugs. They’re call “pop”s, and the goal is speed, NOT power. Start with a loose leash (if your leash is straight it’s not loose), give a flick of your wrist, and it should end looser than when you started. Don’t drag, pull, yank, or anything else where you’re making your dog’s feet move. The goal isn’t to bring her back where we want her, it’s to say, “I don’t like it when you pull. Please make a different choice.” When she checks in or comes back, treat!

Now for step two! …Or three? Maybe four. I dunno!

Watch her ears. When a dog is only focused on one thing, to the exclusion of everything else, they pitch their ears forward. It usually creates wrinkles in their forehead, so it’s fairly easy to spot. When dogs are aware of their surroundings (including you, what you think of things, and whether or not you’re preparing to attack the approaching dog) and/or they want to be friendly, they relax their ears sideways. Every time your dog’s ears pitch forward, say her name (or say “look” or “watch me” – whatever your command is) and reward her for looking back at you. If she doesn’t look at you, give a quick tug on the leash. Then say her name and reward when she looks. Dogs frequently pitch their ears forward just before or the instant another dog is in sight; that’s when you want to get her attention on you and your treat, or pop if you need to. If you wait until she’s vocalizing, you’re too late.

With a prong collar you can generally snap a dog out of an aggressive moment even if you don’t catch it early, or even if they ignore your treat. HOWEVER, there’s a flaw: if your dog is REALLY focused on the other dog, they may think the “nip” came from that other dog instead of you! If that happens, their aggression in the moment will be worse. This is a sign that you either need to switch to a different tool (like a front clip harness) and work with that until they’re calmer (at which point you can continue working with a prong collar, which will speed up the process), or you need to keep enough distance between you and the other dogs that your dog doesn’t get that worked up in the first place.

Ready? Set? Go!

Jenna

FAQ: Small Dog Leash Reactivity (Front Clip Harness Version)

My cousin emailed me recently about her little chihuahua-sized dog who, when out on leash, lunges and barks and goes crazy about other dogs. I wrote her two emails, which I’m posting here.

The first thing to think about is what tool to use. For a small dog, safety is first. The ideal things to use are either a front-clip harness (I recommend the Easy Walk brand, you’ll need a small unless she’s closer to 15-20lbs, and then you’ll need a small/medium – that’s the actual in-between size before medium) or a teeny weeny prong collar. They have pros and cons, which I’ve outlined below. The other kind of tool is a toy she goes crazy about or treats. The treats should be tiny. I haven’t found treats small enough, so often I use something like “mini naturals” or “mini trainers” and then break them into even smaller pieces between my fingers. You can also mix them with her kibble; her kibble will pick up their scent so she’s more likely to eat it as a treat, but you don’t have to give her so many treats that it upsets her stomach!

Front clip harness

Pros: These are excellent at stopping your dog from pulling forward, and they run only a tiny risk of impacting the windpipe and virtually no risk of impacting it dangerously.

Cons: If your dog’s windpipe extends lower than usual (actually, their shoulders sit low on their neck), then when they pull they’ll cough (signs of impacting the windpipe). This means you need to lower the strap that goes across their chest to get it off the windpipe. However, if you lower it too much and she has a long back/short legs, it heightens significantly the risk of her squirming as she pulls forward and getting a leg through, and then walking out of it. If your dog has very short legs compared to their body, that’s a risk anyway. Finally, if you tug upward as they leap and the timing is just perfect, you can flip your dog. Not A Good Thing.

Prong collar:

Pros: Probably the safest thing you can put on a small dog. The prongs keep any pressure off their windpipe, so the risk of impacting it is nil. (If your dog coughs, simply adjust it sideways a quarter of an inch so those prongs aren’t sitting directly on their windpipe. I almost never see this happen, and usually the dog’s movement will keep the collar shifting around, so even if it happens momentarily, it’ll stop almost instantly.) As long as you don’t make the collar too big (it should NOT be able to slide on and off over their head), it’s nearly impossible for them to escape. It’s also really great for correcting naughty behaviors, and because dogs occasionally nip (touching teeth to each other rapidly, NOT trying to harm) if they’re super annoyed, the prongs simulate that nip and the dogs get it.

Cons: People will give you dirty looks. You can solve this by tying a little bandanna over the prong collar, or buying the kind that has cloth already over it, or you can ignore people. 😉 Prong collars are also kind of a pain to put on until you get the hang of it. (Practice doing and undoing it without it being on Pepper, and that’ll help a ton!) The biggest con is, ironically, that they feel it like a nip from another dog. If they’re super focused on a dog and feel it, you run the risk that they will get more aggressive in the moment, because they think the dog bit them from over there!

There are a few other tools you can use, but they’re either ineffective or risk damage (short or long term).

All of the above said, I personally would suggest a prong collar first. Get a little one (the prongs are slender and only about as long as your thumbnail), and try it on right there in the store. You might need someone to show you how to get it on and off without sliding it over her head. You also might need to take a bunch of prongs out to make it fit. I’ve slimmed them down so they only have two or three prongs instead of the ten they came with; that’s perfectly fine! You only need two for windpipe safety. 😉 The other reason to buy it in the store is if you think it might increase her aggression, you can take it back and exchange it for an Easy Walk (front clip) harness.

If you aren’t comfortable with a prong collar, since not everyone is, get an Easy Walk harness!

(Wondering how to use a prong collar? The next post has that info! This link will be active a week after this post, when it goes live.)

Once You Have Your Chosen Tool

In this case, Nicole chose a front-clip, Easy Walk Harness. Great choice! You want to make sure it’s sized and used properly. Here’s how:

For you visual learners out there, here are some tips to using it. I do talk through it, but a picture’s worth a thousand words!

Once you’re sized, practice it in the house to make sure she can’t step out of it. Walk forward, turn her quickly when the leash starts to straighten, walk again, repeat a few times. If the harness is gaping when you turn her, the likelihood she can step out of it rises. Same if she’s stepping over your leash, so it threads under or between her front legs before rising to your hand. (This means playing a balancing game between keeping a loose leash that has a little sway to it and not letting it be TOO loose. Once she gets the idea, though, you don’t have to worry about it so much.)

Next, we have additional stages. If she doesn’t know to check in with you when you say “Look” or her name, teach her while in the house. This doesn’t mean you have to do it for days; before you walk out the door, say her name or ask her to look/watch me/whatever comes automatically while you’re walking. When she looks at you, hand her a treat. Do it about five times, and then head out on your walk.

You should give her five more treats before you hit the end of a normal sized driveway! That’s treats in VERY quick succession. You’re also going to turn her whenever she hits the end of her leash. From your front door to your drive, it’s going to look something like this:

*open door

*Pepper dashes out

*you walk briskly backward

*she spins and comes trotting back

*you say her name and fumble for a treat

*she turns and dashes back out

*you walk back farther

*you drop all your treats

*she tries to eat them

*you fend her off and collect them back up

*she dashes out the door, yanking your hand so you re-drop all the treats

*you start cussing

*she pulls at the end of her leash, barking at a squirrel

*you call her name

*she ignores you, because squirrel

*you remember to back up, but she only keeps pulling, backing up as well

*you remember to loosen the leash by reaching forward

*she takes up the slack

*you curse my name

*you drag her back inside and close the door to breathe

*you open the door

*she rushes out

*you back up

*she’s pulled around to follow you but she turns back to the squirrel right away

*you keep backing up, all the way into the back room if you must

*squirrel out of sight, she finally becomes aware of your existence

*you say her name

*she looks at you and wags

*you give her a treat and think, “Yay! Fixed it!”

*phantom-me laughs

*you walk toward the door

*she lunges toward it

*you back up quickly, spinning her around

*she turns

*you say her name

*she looks at you

*you give her a treat

*you wonder why you’re farther away from the door than when you started

*you start toward the door

*she lunges

*you back up and say her name

*she turns and looks at you

*a choir of angels sings

*you give her a treat

*you walk toward the door… and reach it, this time!

*she bolts out

*you back up and say her name

*she looks at you! Cue angels.

*you give her a treat

*you are able to STEP OUT THE DOOR.

*she lunges

*you back up into the house

*she goes with you! Looks at you! Gets a treat!

*you step out the door AGAIN! You even get to close the door!

*she lunges

*you back up into the door

*you rub your head and cuss

*she barks at the squirrel

*you fumble the door open and drag her back inside

*you yell her name

*phantom-me says, “Don’t yell, just say it nicely.”

*she looks at you

*you give her a treat.

*you go back out the door. Close the door. Walk several steps down the drive!

*phantom-me says, “SAY HER NAME AND GIVE HER A TREAT!”

*you say her name.

*she’s too busy staring at the squirrel to respond

*you back up, because now she’s about to be pulling on her leash

*Holy dog, she notices and follows!

*you say her name!

*she ignores you…

*you say her name again!

*she turns her butt to you to watch the squirrel

*you put a treat on her nose without giving it to her, then guide her face up to look at you when she notices. You say her name and give her the treat.

*you start walking

*she doesn’t pull

*you say her name

*she looks! Treat while you walk!

*you say her name again.

*she looks! Treat while you walk!

*you say her name again.

*she looks! Treat while you walk!

*you reach the end of the driveway!

*you say her name again.

*she completely ignores you to bark at the dog she just spotted.

*you back up all the way to the house before she even notices she’s getting pulled backward.

*you curse my name.

*she keeps barking.

*the dog goes out of sight.

*you curse my name.

*you say Pepper’s name.

*phantom-me reminds you to say it nicely.

*you say Pepper’s name nicely.

*she looks! Treat!

*you realize you’re at the door and it’s been ten minutes. You curse my name.

Repeat. 😉

Notice that “you’re” giving her treats long before any dog comes into view. She has to already remember to look at you before any distraction comes into view, which is why you start in the house, pre-squirrel, even. Then you keep it up as soon as you step outside, and then you keep it up down the street. When you’ve given her somewhere around twenty treats as fast as possible, then you can slow down a little bit. If you find you suddenly have to say her name two or three times before she looks up, you need to increase the number of treats again. (This will happen multiple times in a single walk, where you are able to decrease, but then must increase, the number of treats used.)

Now, the final touch: watch her ears. When a dog is only focused on one thing, to the exclusion of everything else, they pitch their ears forward. It usually creates wrinkles in their forehead, so it’s fairly easy to spot. When dogs are aware of their surroundings (including you, what you think of things, and whether or not you’re preparing to attack the approaching dog) and/or they want to be friendly, they relax their ears sideways. Every time Pepper’s ears pitch forward, say her name (or say “look” or “watch me” – whatever your command is) and reward her for looking back at you. If she doesn’t look at you, start walking backward swiftly so that she spins to face you. Then say her name and reward when she looks. Dogs frequently pitch their ears forward just before or the instant another dog is in sight; that’s when you want to get her attention on you and your treat, or turn her back if you need to. If you wait until she’s vocalizing, you’re too late.

If at any point you say her name and she doesn’t respond, stop moving forward! Either stand there and catch her attention with a treat on her nose until you can lead her face around to look at you, or back up as far as you have to.

If she decides she’s full and she doesn’t want any more treats (or she’s stressed or hyper-focused or…), don’t offer them for a little while. Still insist she looks at you when you ask, but reward with a quick pet and praise instead of a treat. (Don’t stop and lavish pets and praise, just give a quick touch and a “good girl!” and keep moving.) Offer a treat again in five minutes, and see if she’s thinking well enough to take it.

A couple of safety tips for turning her around:

You want to start with a slack leash. If it’s tightened, then reach toward her to create slack. If the leash is already straight/taut/tight, then she’s already bracing and instead of pivoting she’ll drag. We don’t want to do that to her little feet!

Move quickly. The slower you go, the more time she’ll have to brace, the more her feet will drag.

When you back up, lift UPWARD with your leash rather than pulling her backward. This will encourage her to hop when she’s pivoted (protecting her feet) and it’ll make sure the leash hasn’t gone under her front legs, and if the luck is bad and you turn her at the same moment she leaps for a dog, then that upward lift will help her keep her balance instead of flipping over. (That doesn’t happen often, but I tend to be very safety minded, especially with little dogs!)

If I were going to boil these long instructions down to something that seemed deceptively easy, they would say:

1. Practice turning her/pivoting her back to you while still in the house 3-5 times.

2. Practice having her look at you either when you say her name or when you give a command (“look” and “watch me” are the most common) 5 times while still in the house.

3. On your walk, the goal is to cue her to look at you instead of pulling or staring (ears forward).

4. If she starts pulling or staring and/or ignores her cue, back up to pivot her around to face you, then start again.

Doesn’t that seem so simple? ;-D

Jenna

Setting Goals: Not Baby Steps, Micro-Movements

Given I was just talking about my lack of patience a couple of posts ago, you might find this a little ironic. But really, it’s about those times when your patience (or stubbornness) is burning out, or you feel like it’s not working fast enough, or you realize that progress isn’t linear. It’s about succeeding despite all of that, instead of giving up.

I first heard the term “micro-movements” reading about a woman with a catastrophic spinal injury. She was told she’d never walk, control her bladder or bowel movements, or do anything from the armpits down. I don’t remember how long it took her, but eventually she could do all of that. Eventually, no one could tell she’d been a paraplegic. When asked how she did it, given she couldn’t even feel her toes and “baby steps” were beyond her, she said she did it via micro-movements. (I believe it involved a biofeedback machine, for those of you who are curious!)

There’s many times when baby steps are too much, especially for a dog showing aggression or extreme fear. I have this video of harnessing a dog named Champion. Champion was so scared that I couldn’t even touch him, much less get a harness on him! So I didn’t focus on touching; that would be a baby step. I just focused on entering his x-pen; a micro-movement.

I shifted the camera angle to get a better look at his body language:

I don’t know if I use the words “micro-movement” in these videos, but I’m definitely DOING it. If I had been aiming for “baby steps,” I’d have been trying to get into his pen, show him the harness, give him treats through it, and see if I could put it over his head. Those are pretty small steps, but often — even when the dog doesn’t have fear issues — those steps are STILL too big.

Another, written example:

I wanted to teach Doc to go jump up on his favorite chair and stay there when I told him to, so that I could answer the door, work with a dog, and more without having him in the way. Then I started “shaping” the behavior: working by baby steps and micro-movements.

The first baby step: I said, “Go to your chair!” and tossed a treat in it. He ran over and, without putting a single paw in his chair, he ate the treat and came running back. Not remotely what I wanted, but I rewarded him for it anyway.

The second micro-movement: I said, “Go to your chair!” and pretended to throw a treat. He ran over to get it, it wasn’t there, and before I could do anything he ran back to me. I tried to stand close enough to be able to throw a treat in the chair before he came running back to me, but it wasn’t uncommon for me to fail. That’s okay! Even with those failures he started to realize that he should keep sniffing, a treat was coming.

The third baby step: when he got to the point where he’d stay there, sniffing, I said, “Go to your chair!” He ran over and started sniffing, and I walked over, encouraged him to jump the rest of the way up, and gave him a treat. If he didn’t stay there sniffing, I didn’t give him a treat. He figured out quick to run over and jump into the chair, at which point…

The fourth micro-movement: I tossed the treat, instead of walking over and giving it to him. If he jumped out of the chair, I didn’t toss the treat.

At this point it became a matter of waiting longer and longer before tossing the treat. As long as he could wait, then telling him to go back to his chair and tossing it when he got there.

Next micro-movement? Doing it from five feet to the right. Then five feet to the left. Then from ten feet farther away.

The next baby step? Doing it from another room.

My ultimate goal was to get him to go run and jump into his chair and stay there when I said, “Go to your chair!” But I didn’t start with that; I started with something much smaller, just getting the behaviors a smidgen closer to what I really wanted every time. Because I didn’t practice every day, sometimes not even every week, and rarely more than three or four times in a row, it took months.

This is part of the trick of dog training: I only ever asked for a tiny thing that we could do. I didn’t ask for the whole thing. I made the goal a micro-movement, and it was success when we did it. On days when it had been too long or he hadn’t slept well or whatever, and he couldn’t do what he could do last time, then the micro-movement was to improve from wherever we were at. Not even to get to where we’d been; just to improve on what was happening that moment. That’s it!

When training feels impossible, like your dog will NEVER stop barking out the window at passersby, don’t make that the goal. Make the goal that they bark less. Or that they come to you when they stop. Or that they glance at you when they stop. Make it attainable, so you don’t burn out.

(Wondering what happened with Champion? There’s a third video for this specific harnessing issue, and in the months since I saw him he’s let go of most of his fears! Go, Champion!)

All Dogs Bite: Dog Safety, Spotting Fear

*Edit: this was scheduled to post some time in mid-April, but given the Bidens just sent their German Shepherds home because one of them was frightening the security staff and there was a “biting incident,” I thought it was relevant. Note: I’m definitely NOT saying that what’s happening in these videos is what happened there. I AM saying feeling like your humans don’t have your back played a big part in what happened at the White House. I’m also saying that the Bush’s dog (in one of the videos below) bit someone, drew blood, but wasn’t sent home, likely because it wasn’t a “scary” breed. I’m feeling a lot of compassion for Mrs. Biden right now, since she made a statement that she’s been trying to settle the dogs in for a month, and now she has to send them home.

…I’m also saying they should have called me, but I bet lots of dog trainers are saying that right now. Hey, uh, Bidens? Especially Mrs. Biden? I voted for you, I understand that it’s important to have your dogs around, I work with LOTS of rescues, and I could fix the problem! I even have a money-back guarantee. 😉

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled post.

Someone sent me a video of a dog attacking a reporter. If you search for that on YouTube, you’ll discover this is far from an unusual scenario! But in every attack, the dogs communicates first.

Most of my training is based on what dogs are telling us. If a stranger walks up, looms over me, touches me, ignores my requests for them to stop, and I’m leashed in place and unable to leave… I’m going to punch them in the junk. Dogs are doing the same thing.

The thing is, we’re always teaching our dogs English. It’s time to learn dog. I’m going to break down a few of these videos so you can see the warning signs and, hopefully, pass them along to any children you know.

Maybe pass them along to some reporters, too…

Let’s start with the first video I was sent. Now, do me a favor: watch each of these videos on mute. (Many of them have people talking, and some aren’t helpful at all.)

Right away, I can see how heavily the dog is panting. Since everyone else is wearing long sleeves and it’s probably not hot, I’m guessing this is a stress pant. (I’d be stressed too if I was surrounded by strangers, held tight against my owner’s legs, and in a studio with bright lights, microphones, etc. Especially if no one could explain to me what was going on, and I could smell the stress coming off my humans. I wouldn’t know it was because they were excited to be on TV!)

:09: Despite the poor video quality, I can see the whites of the dog’s eyes (stress).

:10: He stops panting suddenly, then goes back to it. This is a decision point for him. By stopping, then starting again (or vice versa), he’s letting everyone know that he’s deciding what action to take.

:10-17: This is hard to see because she’s petting his jaw and effectively muffling his communication, but he starts giving small licks (not licking her, more as if he’s wetting his mouth) and swallowing repeatedly. “You are really freaking me out, and I’m trying to tell you that I really need you to stop.”

:16-17: He tries to pull away, and keeps flashing the whites of his eyes. “Stop, I’m stressed.” She doesn’t stop petting him.

:18: He looks at her (without leaning toward her), flashing the whites of his eyes, and gives another panting-pause. “I don’t want to be unfriendly, so now that I retreated and you backed off slightly, I’ll look toward you to reward you. HOWEVER, I’m still stressed.”

:19: She scratches under his chin, which he seems to like for a second.

:20: The woman attacks the dog. What would you call it when someone won’t stop when you ask and even leave as far as you can go, and then pushes your face up and comes at you, teeth first? We, as humans, know she’s going to give him a kiss. But a dog coming from above, who has refused to leave another – trapped – dog alone, arriving teeth first at the other dog’s nose is an attack.

:21: he defends himself. He doesn’t actually fling his whole body into it; do you see how easily she’s able to yank back, and how the officers (?) are able to pull him away so swiftly? He doesn’t try and go after her again. If she’d shoved her arm at him and he’d bitten that, she probably would have ended up with a bruise and some scratches. This is a dog who has done EVERYTHING he can to avoid the situation, only to be attacked, so he gives a warning bite. Why was it so awful?

Ah, that’s the thing. Faces are far more delicate than any other part of our body. He caught her lip, she pulled back, the officers pulled him back, and he didn’t get a chance to open his mouth, so he tore her lip. Obviously, we humans are going to pull away, but the thing is: the dog wasn’t trying to hurt. He was trying to warn, without knowing that faces are that sensitive, or that stupid humans would pull them apart before he could let go. This isn’t an aggressive dog: this is a stressed, freaked out dog communicating brilliantly despite being held in place. This dog does about everything he can to avoid, and when he finally gets attacked, he snaps.

I mean, under the same circumstances, I actually would aim to hurt someone. I wouldn’t have nearly the amount of restraint that this guy shows. I’d probably attack again, just to make sure the freak who kept pawing at me was down for the count.

SHOULD things like this happen? Of course not. Ideally our dogs are so well socialized and treated that they never feel they need to defend themselves. At the same time, if we’re going to drag them into our lives, we really need to learn how to listen to them.

But, hey, maybe it’s just because it’s a mastiff breed. Let’s look at another one.

Here’s another good communicator! He’s not as pinned in place (although he’s still tied via leash so he can’t easily retreat). This one, you can turn the sound on.

:02: Barney is drooping and definitely not wiggly. I can’t see his tail, but the fact that he doesn’t respond at all when someone says his name is a clear indication he doesn’t want to engage.

:08: Lots of people start chattering at him. He moves around to acknowledge, and we finally see his tail. Could it get any lower? A low tail is a dog saying, “I don’t want to engage or do anything right now.” He gamely gives it a tiny wag, but doesn’t look up. “Yeah, I hear you guys. I’m really not in the mood though, okay?”

:08-:15: He’s barely twitching at the sounds around him. Definitely feeling more negative (still or stiff) than positive (relaxed and waggly.) He’s not even sniffing the ground around him, so he’s definitely on the still side. But he’s not threatening anyone (he’s not perfectly still), he’s just unhappy, and he’s trying to tell the people around him that he’s unhappy and – this is important – wants to be left alone. How can I tell? If he didn’t want to be left alone and he was unhappy, his tail would be low, but he’d be looking at people and walking to them to ask for cuddles. He’s not; he’s ignoring them so hard it practically takes effort. (How easy is it to NOT look at someone when they talk to you? Same for dogs.)

:16: Dude goes to pet him, despite his good communication that he wants to be left alone. He reels away first, not trying to attack, while also giving several warning snaps.

:17: Handler pulls Barney away.

:18: Notice now how Barney’s body language changes: his tail comes up (I’m willing to engage, good or bad), as does his head and ears. He faces the reporter, even takes a few steps toward him. “Back. Off.”

:20 Tail still up, he drops his head as he approaches the reporter. “I’m not challenging or being aggressive, but I’m still willing to engage if you’re stupid. Now, are you okay?”

:21: The reporter doesn’t ask for friendship, so Barney doesn’t keep trying. His tail stays up, though (still willing to engage), and he looks around with more alertness. If you were to start the video here, you’d see a happy, alert dog. I mean, sure. He tried to communicate, no one listened, so he corrected the human who blatantly ignored him, and the human went away.

:22: You can see his tail wagging as it comes back down, for just a split second. “I would rather be friends, so let me show you that I still like you, and that I’m not planning on engaging – attacking – again… but I would like you to stay over there, please. I’ll make it easier by not looking at you, either.”

:27: Camera leaves but comes back to show… his tail is down again. He doesn’t WANT to have to correct the humans. He’d rather just be left alone at the moment… which he was saying all along.

(Note that Barney is MUCH less tolerant of stupid humans, as compared to the dogo argentino in the previous video.)

Next: turn the sound off for this, guys, and just skip ahead to the 30 second mark.

Here we have a dog with no escape outlets. His leash is tight, and he’s probably trying to obey a “stay” or “sit” command like a good dog. He’s being given NO personal space.

:31: Freeze! As the view cuts to them, you’ll notice the dog is just finished licking his lips; you can see his tongue pull back into his mouth as he swallows. He’s watching the reporter with the whites of his eyes showing, and he’s maintaining his sit but leaning AWAY from the reporter, who continues petting him. Lip licking + white eyes + leaning away = really freaked out by this guy, and saying so in every way he can.

:33: He looks to his handler for help, but receives none.

:34: He licks his lips some more. Those little lip licks are a big sign that your dog is stressed and asking people to please stop. He does it several times while lowering his head submissively. “Please stop, I’m scared, I don’t know why you’re looming over me, I’m not allowed to escape, please, please stop, I’m submissive, I’ll be good.” This breaks my heart.

:34, and repeated at :36: He looks at the reporter, head still dipped (submissive), whites of the eyes showing, and gives those lip licks. “I’m a puppy, I’ll be a puppy, if you’ll just please stop. I’m scared, I’m starting to panic, no one is listening, the way you’re looming and in my personal space is threatening, but I’m being good.”

:37: AGAIN.

:45: They cut away and cut back, re-showing the above few seconds and continuing.

:45: Whites of the eyes are showing (stress), ears are folded back (I’m a scared puppy), he looks up at the reporter (give me some help).

:47: Lip licking, lowers his head – he’s giving up on getting help, there.

:49 and 50: Starts to glance at his handler, stops because his handler has yet to help him. He’s already given up on getting help from that front. He lowers his body and licks his lips again. Scared. Whites of his eyes are still showing.

:50-:52: He looks at the reporter, who takes hands off his head. At that, he straightens up a little. “Thank god you stopped petting me, finally!” The reporter, however, put his hands on the dog’s neck and traps the dog’s face, forcing it higher.

Skip to the one minute mark, where they repeat the same footage and continue.

1:01: The reporter traps the dog by catching his head and pulling it up. Then the reporter sits up higher, looming like an aggressive dog, scoots even further into the dog’s personal space, so the dog is completely pinned, and comes down at the dog. No matter how much the dog has been asking them to stop and saying he’s a sweet, submissive, scared puppy, in his mind, this reporter is restraining and attacking him anyway. There’s LOTS of white eye on display here.

They helpfully show this in slow motion several times. With the sound off, you can see how incredibly aggressive the reporter looks from the dog’s point of view.

1:20: They show it full speed. The dog finally panics completely, because he’s been pinned and he’s being attacked, so he fights for his life. One big bite with more intention to hurt than either of the other videos, because he’s far more afraid than the other dogs were. (How do I know intent to hurt? Look at how wide his mouth is on contact. The other dogs were already closing their mouths, and never got them that wide in the first place. Their intent was to warn, to deliver a bite that would sting. This guy, even taking into account the movement of the reporter coming toward him and maybe throwing off his aim, is going to bite. He thinks the reporter is going to kill him, and his “pack” – the handler, who hasn’t done anything at all to even acknowledge the dog when he asks for help — is clueless. So, the dog reacts accordingly: defending himself against a deadly threat, knowing he’s on his own.

They pull the dog away. His tail is down – he doesn’t want to engage. If he wanted to be aggressive, his tail would be up. He’s still just scared.

1:21: The handler puts his hand on the dog’s mouth to keep him from biting again. A dog out of his mind with mania or aggression would bite the hand without realizing who it belonged to. This dog just melts.

1:22: They so-helpfully freeze frame here for a second. Notice how the dog looks back toward the reporter. He’s cowering, even as his handler stands, but it’s not his handler he looks to. Why would he? His handler has already told him, repeatedly, through a lack of action, that he’s on his own. So he looks to the threat, to see if the reporter is going to attack again. Whites of his eyes are still showing, his head is still low (instead of high, chest puffed out with confidence), as is his tail. He’s afraid of what he’s looking at: his attacker, the reporter, whom he barely escaped – and clearly he can’t trust his handler, who didn’t step in and, in fact, stood up and abandoned him while he was still cowering and scared.

If you keep watching, you’ll see the bite in slow motion and the width of the jaw that I was talking about. At that point, stop. The show goes on to talk about how dangerous dog’s jaws and teeth are, and how this dog was obviously evil at the core to bite someone who was just petting him.

I can feel my blood pressure rising…

Now, am I saying these people in these videos deserved to be bitten? No, no one deserves to be hurt for their ignorance. The people were trying to be kind, and didn’t know they were causing emotional stress and fear, much less that they were attacking the dogs.

The dogs should be worked with enough to not worry in new situations like these, and they should know they can always retreat instead of attack. AND we, as dog owners, need to remember that most people don’t speak dog. Unless it’s your entire life (and even then), it’s impossible to socialize a dog to every possible circumstance. (I am not, for instance, going to burn down my house to teach my dogs to allow a fireman to carry them out. I can, however, teach them it’s safe to let people carry them, and I can show them that I’m always willing to come to their aid, even if I don’t think it’s necessary, so they know I have their back and they can be braver and more tolerant of things like this, knowing I always help.)

If your dog is telling you they’re under stress (heavy panting, whites of the eyes, ears pinched back, little lip licks, tail down), back them up. Ask the person to stop, or remove your dog from the situation. Just knowing that you’re listening to them will give a dog more confidence and tolerance to deal with stressors because, unlike this last video (well… all the videos, but especially the last one), they don’t think they’re on their own.

A final note: the little lip lick? While a dog might not do that before they snap, if they do it, it’s a major red flag that they’re scared, stressed, and trying to tell you before they are pushed to taking care of the problem themselves. It’s actually a submissive, fearful movement. Your dog is begging for help before they bite.

Depressed as I am? Never fear! The following videos are the anti-dote to this post, with lots of lovely dog rescues and dog love attacks!

But before that… take a look at this “cute” video, and tell me if this dog is enjoying her “buddy,” or always a few seconds short of a bad bite that she’ll probably be blamed for.

Now for the anti-dote videos!

A properly trained personal protection dog and a hilarious host.

Oh no! A vicious group of puppies!
Aww, another dogo argentino!
World’s most dangerous animal (a human) stopped by heroic dog (pit bull).
If only I could put an emoji with little heart eyes here, I would.
Dogs even save their natural arch nemeses!

Jenna

COVID Concerns: Socializing

Happy puppy day! Is it puppy day? I have no idea if there is such a thing, but when you have a puppy, every day is puppy day.

Whether or not you want it to be.

Puppies are a lot of work, and a lot of people decided that the best time to get a puppy is when they’re working from home. It’s smart, really; better to be around so that your puppy isn’t isolated or having to pee on pads when you want them to pee outside, etc. Of course, there’s one big thing that’s on all the minds of the puppy owners: how do you socialize your puppy with people or other dogs when everyone is remaining at a safe social distance?

Well, I have good news for you! First, let’s debunk a big puppy myth. (If you don’t have a puppy, but rather a rescue, you can skip a couple of paragraphs and then read on.)

The Big Myth:

You have to socialize your puppy before 3.5-5 months of age (depending on who you ask). They need to see 60-100 different people and dogs outside their family (depending on who you ask). After that, it’s Too Late and your puppy is Doomed because you’re past that developmental stage and their brain is locked as-is.

The Reality:

Sure, there’s a little bit of brain development around then that helps absorb social skills. It’s also easier for people to learn a new language before the age of 5. I don’t know about you, but I learned Spanish in Junior College, and American Sign Language a year later. I’m sure I’d be better at either if I’d done it before I was 5, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t learn them. It just means I worked a little harder, and unless I really, really work on it, I’ll always have an accent. The same is true of the social development period in puppies. Sure, it’s a little easier during that age, but it’ll happen whenever. Of course, during that age it’s also easier to traumatize them with a bad experience that’ll last the rest of their lives without a lot of work to undo it, so…e

“But Jenna,” I hear you cry. “Why do most dog trainers say otherwise? You’ve got to be wrong.”

Yeah, I don’t blame you, I’d think I was wrong, too. When it comes to this socializing myth of Doom, it helps to look back a little. When Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorists (from now on I’ll refer to them at vet behaviorists) started talking about it in the mid-90s, they were talking about leaving the puppy with their dog family to let mama, siblings, and maybe other dogs teach the puppy its social skills. This remained the case until one specific vet behaviorist (who shall remain unnamed) declared in the late 90s and early 00s that puppies needed to see 100 puppies and 100 people before the age of 3.5 months or they’d be Doomed. He then started a franchise, wrote books, taught classes, and got those books into schools for vet behaviorists and dog trainers. His untried, unresearched theory became law to the next generation of dog trainers. Who wants to test it when you might Doom a puppy to a lifetime of fear and aggression?

It’s SUCH phooey. I have proof! The proof is: every dog you’ve ever seen. Do you really think every rescue had that exposure? Or every back yard dog who loves guests? Or every household dog that’s loved but whose owners worked or were going to school or had the flu in those crucial months? How about service dogs, which aren’t allowed to go see other dogs from day one, because you don’t want them getting distracted by the possibility of saying hi when they need to be working? No. Heck, Cash saw about four people outside his family in the first 8 months of life, and maybe 3 dogs, and he was the best socialized dog I know BY FAR. In twenty years of training dogs, I’ve met four people who managed to introduce their puppies to more than 60 people and/or dogs. I met them because in every case, those dogs were super fearful or super aggressive. I’m NOT saying socializing your puppy will make them fearful or aggressive. My point is simply that lots of dogs don’t have issues and weren’t socialized young.

Deep breath annnnnnnd… let the stress go. Phew.

Now, some socializing is certainly helpful, but since you don’t need a TON and you don’t need it within the first weeks of getting your puppy, it becomes a lot easier in these COVID days. First, the general rules of socializing, for both puppies and dogs:

If your puppy’s tail is low, do not let them go see that person or dog. A low tail indicates timidity, uncertainty, and fear. If your puppy is feeling those things and then goes to say hi, then at best they learn that even if they don’t want to, they have to anyway. At worst they learn that AND they learn that the human is overwhelming and scares them, or the dog over-sniffs them terrifyingly or is aggressive.

Protect your puppy. Lots of puppies and dogs will give a low wag (anxiety!) and crawl toward the scary thing, thinking that the only way to be safe is to make friends. Our job is to let them know that, no, they can avoid it and we’ll protect them. Then they start thinking, “Hey, my parent is listening! If they’re listening, I can take chances and go visit, because I know that if I get scared, they’ll see it and help!” And then we have good experiences. Good experiences, not tons of experiences, is key.

Now, how to do it?

Do you have a friend or family member with a dog who’s willing to visit in a yard or park with everyone masked? Cool, you’ve done it! What about a neighbor? A dog walker? A dog daycare that dogs puppy socials? Many of them are doing them without owners present; just make sure they have enough puppies to sort them into appropriate play groups, with a dog trainer in the room to make sure everyone is safe.

There are apps that come in handy, as well. Nextdoor is a great one; post asking if anyone else has a puppy and they want to safely socialize.

On leash socializing works, too! Follow the tail rules for your puppy (and make sure your puppy doesn’t drag you over there, learning that pulling gets them social time), and for the other dog as well. If the other dog’s tail is stiff, they do NOT want to say hi. Low? Nope, thanks. Super high? They really want to say hi, but might be overwhelming. Mid level and wagging? Perfect! Go say hi to that dog, staying at the end of your six foot leash for proper social distancing.

The same, of course, applies to humans.

“What about the stranger getting COVID germs on my dog, and my dog bringing them back to me on their coat?” I hear you cry.

GOOD QUESTION. Whenever I’m somewhere where other people petted my dogs, I bring them home and spray them with sanitizing spray.

Oh, don’t give me that look. It’s dog-safe sanitizing spray! Read the ingredients: a lot of “skin safe” sprays have alcohol and water, and that’s it. They’re coat-safe, too (though I wouldn’t let my dog drink it; THAT would not be safe.)

“Wait,” I hear you cry. “That’s your advice? See a few people safely and say hi on leash?”

Well… yeah. You don’t need twenty minutes to have done some socializing; you need thirty seconds to say hi and move on.

“This seems too easy. It can’t be right.”

So much of dog training is surprisingly easy, if we just get out of our own way. If you can do this, listening to their tail, and say hi to someone on leash once a week for the first year of their life, you’ve done your socializing. If you ask them to sit before you let them go visit (guide them into it if you need to, with a hand lifting on their collar or chest and the other hand pushing down on their butt), then they learn not to pull to say hi, either, and you’ve gotten around a lot of possible leash reactivity.

Okay! Ready? Set? Go socialize safely, and listen to your dog!

I is socializing! With Jenna’s calves, which are least scary. It counts!

Patience, persistence, and sheer stubborn-headedness

Let me start by saying: I am NOT a patient person. I would definitely say I’m a rather IMpatient person, in fact. My psychiatrist once laughed at me and said, “Boredom is like death to people with ADD.” He was talking about me. He was RIGHT. I’d rather get bitten by a dog than be bored.

Why yes, this is a problem.

But for you, it’s a blessing! First of all, I don’t have the patience to practice something over and over and OVER again, so I tend toward solutions that work quickly. (I also tend toward “good enough,” at least when I can keep my perfectionist streak in check. Do my dogs sit perfectly at the door when a guest comes over? Nah. They sit well enough for me to open the door, and they don’t jump, and I can direct them to give us space for a second, and, eh, good enough. The dogs I board and train tend to do much better, because I’m getting paid. My good enough may not be my client’s good enough!)

Okay, that was a tangent. You expect no less from me, right? Right.

I’m not a patient person. First, I want quick, non-traumatic solutions. Second, I’m not going to tell you to be patient.

However, patience — or something like it — is often needed when training a dog. So I’m going to tell you my big secret: I’m not patient, but I am stubborn. Like a mule. I have a stubborn streak as wide as the Nile is long. I can dig in my heels and narrow my eyes and out-stubborn anyone.

Or anything.

Here’s a cool thing: when they study packs of dogs in the wild, what they find is that there isn’t an alpha dog. There are dogs who often get their way, and there are other important roles, but the thing I care about here and now? The dogs who get their way aren’t violent. In fact, they’re very non-violent. They’re stubborn.

Lily has demonstrated this time and time again for me. She decides she wants to lie in a bed that’s already occupied. So she goes over and lays on and around the other dog. The other dog flashes stress signals. She ignores them, or wags lightly, or gives the other dog a lick. The other dog, realizing there’s no fight but also that this very obnoxious old lady isn’t going to stop, gets up and walks away. Lily wins.

So when I’m handling a dog and it tries to attack another dog across the street and I stop dead and lift slightly on my leash, keeping “my” dog from lunging while lifting their head up (leaving the front paws on the ground) until they get annoyed with that position and let their haunches drop and — hey! — they’re suddenly sitting and I can reward them? It’s not patience getting me to stand there and wait three minutes while “my” dog acts like a maniac. It’s sheer stubbornness.

I’m thinking, Ohhh, no. You’re not going to drag me around. You’re not going to terrorize that dog and owner any more than you are right now. You ARE going to sit down, even if I have to stand here all. Day. Long. Because I WILL. Just try me.

Not very enlightened of me, is it? I don’t care. When I get my way I smile at the dog and tell them they did a good job. Because they did! They did exactly what I wanted, because I am one stubborn mofo.

So if you’re not the patient type, don’t fear! Just be stubborn.

“Fine, you can lay on me. Good lord woman, you’re stubborn.”