Human training for anxiety

Dog training isn’t all about training dogs. Quite often, it’s about training people as well.

Here’s the situation: your dog has attacked other dogs/people/pulled you over/yanked on you/etc. Now, whenever you see a situation in which your dog might react, you get stressed. You have anxiety over your dog’s behavior, and consequently, your dog is more likely to react because they can see you’re anxious about something, and they’re going to help! Nice of them, isn’t it?

These are the anti-stress/relaxation techniques that I use, and tell my clients to use, whenever we’re working with an especially difficult case of anxiety.

Daily activities (to be done every day):

1. Visualize. We know for sure it works in building muscle and playing sports, and most people believe it helps in everything else, too. When I’m dealing with something anxiety provoking, I visualize it going well. I also visualize it going poorly, and the way in which I would awesomely and miraculously re-gain control and end everything right. There are a whole lot of guides on how to visualize, so I’ll leave you to follow one of those links.
A warning: one study found that visualizing brought the same emotional satisfaction as actually DOING it, and therefore people were less likely to act. Act!

2. Police and replace negative thought patterns. If you find yourself thinking, “My dog will NEVER be able to walk nicely past another dog like that!” stop and think of three positive things about your dog. “My dog is doing better today than yesterday,” “There was that one time last week when my dog walked nicely past another dog,” “My dog can walk nicely past other dogs across the street,” “I’m trying new things, and me and my dog are improving.” Even, “My dog is ADORABLE.” Focus on the good, and start trying to weed out the bad. While there isn’t any scientific bases for this, I do find that if people start focusing on what’s going right, they’re more able to relax and more hopeful. If I constantly correct my dogs, I end up in a bad mood. If I correct while also praising for good behavior, then I feel like my dogs are pretty awesome!

Occasional activities (choose one each day):

1. Tense/relax. This is actually a relaxation technique taught to me by a physical therapist years ago. We tend to carry some tension in our muscles (shoulders, neck, lower back) when we’re, well, tense. It becomes so common that we don’t even notice we’re tense! So, purposefully tense a muscle group. Let’s say calves. Purposefully tense your calves, count to ten, and then relax them. The contract between tensing and relaxing gives your body a chance to see what relaxed actually feels like, and then to relax! Not only does it help you start to physically relax, but it feels pretty good, too. I do it all the time; when I’m driving, when I’m seated, when I’m watching a movie. If I notice I’m rolling my head or doing other tight-muscle behaviors, I’ll tense that muscle group and let it relax again. Now, say it with me: Ahhhh!

2. Breathe deeply (and tense/relax). We all know this, right? Breathe in slowly through the nose, and out through the mouth. The goal is to release tension (again) and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. You can do this in conjunction with tensing/relaxing, too. See something that will trigger your dog? Take a deep breath in and breathe out slowly, relaxing as you do so. If your dog is paying attention, they’ll do better at staying relaxed, too. If they aren’t paying attention and you have to correct, you’re far more likely to keep your calm — which will keep from feeding their energetic state!

3. Meditate or do yoga. I hate both of these. Slow down? Stop thinking? PISH! But I can’t deny that when I do it, I stay calmer and more centered overall. If you have a dog that’s really trying your patience, maybe it’s time for some you-care. The kind you don’t necessarily like, but is awfully good for you.

The lazy, impatient person’s guide to meditation: Set your alarm clock 5 minutes earlier. When it goes off, hit snooze. Grumble. Sit up. Curse a little. Take a breath. Imagine the air molecule you just inhaled whizzing around your lungs. Remember all the crap you have to do today. Wish you had some coffee. Bring your mind back tot he molecule, and exhale. Imagine it whooshing out. Did you turn off the oven? Well, it was last on days ago, so if you didn’t you’re dead, anyway. Inhale and think of air molecule. Exhale and imagine it zipping around. You’re bored of the air molecule. Your foot itches. Inhale and imagine it getting SUCKED into your blood stream. Exhale and follow the molecule’s progress to your heard. Is that your dog whining? Surely not. Think about the air molecule. The alarm goes off! Huzzah, you’re done!

Or, The lazy, impatient person’s guide to yoga: Find a spot where your feet will not slip. Get your iPad, laptop, or notebook out. Search “Sun salutation” on youtube (or click here). Sit and drink your coffee while watching it with one eye. Finally decide you should probably do this, too. Click on this person so you can do it without stopping constantly. Wish you were that flexible. Wonder where they find all these tiny, tiny yoga people. Do it six times. Smile at the way your dog wags when you go into downward dog. Decide you want someone with a different voice — okay, now you have to search for it yourself. ūüėČ

Things like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises and the like may not seem like they’re help you when you hit your dog’s trigger, but in fact they will. Overall lower your body’s stress levels, teaching your brain how to react in an emergency (visualization), and re-coding calming behaviors into your neurons means that when a bad moment arises, it won’t be as bad as it was before. It’ll especially be better if you remember your deep breathing exercises in the middle of it!

Now go, and be calm!

Jenna

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Walking: two case studies

One of the things I love best about my job is finding the methods that work best with specific dogs. I’ve blogged about walking before (a lot), and now I’m going to do it again.

I’m looking at two very different case studies: Darcy and Obi. Both dogs are highly leash reactive (which means aggressive toward other dogs when they’re on their leashes, but fine when they’re off leash).

1. Darcy

Darcy is a 40-pound mix, very leggy and energetic, around 2 years old. She was rescued around 1-1.5 years by her lovely family, who work very hard with her. To look at her, you’d guess she’s a border collie mix of some sort, with some shepherd or doberman or rottweiler, given the color on her legs.

After working with Darcy for nearly a year with improvement I would normally expect to see in a few months, we decided I should take her out on my own for a few days to see what I could find that would work for her. This is what worked.

First we used a slip lead. A martingale would have worked, too. A prong collar increased her anxiety and aggression, and a face harness — because of the leaping, flipping, and lunging she does — could be dangerous. Though Darcy knows a perfect heel, I quickly found that when she was already stressed out or feeling reactive, confining her that way made her worse in the long term. We did a lot of no-pull walking, but I didn’t focus on whether or not she was right beside me; just that she was on a loose leash and relaxed. If I saw a dog coming or we neared a stationary dog, I would do soft reversals (not reprimanding her, just turning away) and let her feet move. We did a lot of circling — in the horse world, it would be called lunging, when the animal circles around you at the end of their lead. Keeping in motion kept her calmer overall.

Now, I couldn’t have her at that length when another dog walked right past, because even though she stayed calmer overall, she was still aggressive. So as the dog neared I would ask her to sit and focus on me and my treat. We then did puppy push-ups: “Down! Good, here’s your treat. Sit! Good, treat. Down! Good, treat. Sit!” And so on. This worked short term to get a dog past successfully, but I found that if I tried it as the dog was approaching from a distance, over the long term the inability to burn off her energy by circling, and the intensity of following commands ramped up her anxiety, stress, and aggression levels.

As soon as the dog was past, we went back to circling to burn off the energy created by a passing dog. When she looked calmer, we would walk forward.

As I mentioned, I didn’t keep her to a perfect heel. I asked her to get no farther forward than hip-to-hip, and if she pulled farther than that I reversed or circled to bring her back. (Her mom’s verbal “whoops!” also worked to remind her.) I also didn’t worry too much about where her ears were. In most dogs, correcting for forward ears/wrinkles solves most of the problem. With Darcy, it didn’t solve the problem and only made her more stressed, inching up her levels of aggression. Instead, I focused on keeping her feet moving when we could, distracting with treats when we couldn’t, and reversals or circles to keep her nearby. There was virtually no correcting of any sort, just re-directing and distraction.

The closest we got to a correction was to force her into a circle or reversal with me when she leaped toward another dog, which was definitely a physical dragging her around with me if she was really intent! Even then, however, I wasn’t telling her she’d done something wrong, I was just telling her she¬†had to come with me, silly puppy.

When passing other dogs, we would circle away, and as we came back around I would put a handful of treats in front of her nose, to catch her attention before she saw the other dog again. As she was working at getting the treats, we were able to walk closer before she fixated on the dog. When she did, we circled and started again with the treats. As she realized that lunging didn’t work — we just circled away — and we were able to burn off energy, she was able to stay focused on the treats and walk by.

In talking with her “mom” I learned that her walks after this were relaxed and easy, and her stool was normal. This tells me that she wasn’t too stressed out or becoming more aggressive. The current plan is to do “normal,” easy, non-dog walks 4-5 days a week to keep her calm, and work in heavy dog areas 2 days a week. This should give her time to practice without ramping up her energy/excitement/aggression, as she is easily ramped up.

2. Obi

Obi is a 80-90 pound pit bull/boxer mix who is about 2 years old. He was brought home as a puppy but not socialized on leash, and is now struggling with learning NOT to be leash reactive. Much like Darcy, he’s very nice off-leash.

We tried many things with Obi before we found what works.

Obi does best if we can get him to remain calm and contained. When we first started he couldn’t walk on a leash at all. We put him on a prong collar (which he ignored). Then I started. Every time he drew ahead of me (which was every step), we stopped and he had to sit. He got a treat, and we moved on. One more step, stop, and sit. Treat. Walk on. This creates a very SLOW walk, but after a week he knew to walk beside me with only occasional sit reminders, and because the prong collar was always loose, it now became a deterrent: he realized pulling was uncomfortable.

We also stopped and sat any time he wrinkled his forehead (focused on something to the exclusion of me). Like I said. Very. Slow. Walk.

First off, this creates an automatic sit. What that means is that your dog’s cue to sit is that your feet stopped moving. It’s really handy. It also means that if Obi is seated, he’s not lunging. (Note that he CAN lunge simply by getting up, but repeating this pattern starts to teach him to sit, remain seated, and stay calm.)

Once Obi got to a point where he was walking automatically by my side (head to hip), I would correct if he wasn’t. His correction was five quick steps backwards by me (not turning around; just walking backwards) with 3-5 hard, sharp yanks on his prong collar.¬†Obi is expected to remain in a perfect heel, because it keeps him calm. Running like Darcy does makes him much more aggressive. (Note that this is a heavy duty correction.)

Next, we started practicing focusing on me and treats, stopping to sit as we neared a dog until, finally, we were able to walk past the dog. If I knew that Obi would lose focus no matter what and get aggressive at fifteen feet, then we started walking past at sixteen feet. He was probably wrinkling, maybe whining, but he wasn’t lunging. When he was behaving (not wrinkling) there, we got closer. We worked with a lot of stationary dogs behind fences or tied to things. (We walked outside the dog park A LOT.)

If the dog was coming toward us, we worked on sitting and focusing on the treat. If Obi lunged, I picked him straight up as high as I could (I want his weight on his back legs, not hanging off his neck/the collar), waited until I felt him try to sit down, then let him go down and sit again. We finished sitting, calmed, got a treat, and moved on. Bit by bit, he’s been able to stay seated when a dog walks by.

As he got better walking past dogs as well, I would allow him to first focus on a treat as we went past. (When he refused them, I stopped offering; he was too interested in the other dog.) Then he started getting his treat only after we got past. We were also able to add the same five-steps-backward correction as he improved around other dogs, which initially only increased his aggression when he was fixating on dogs. Now he knows it’s us (not the dog), that he’s doing something wrong, and he needs to tune in.

Obi is still a work in progress, but he’s significantly better. He does best with a walk daily around other dogs. He gets obsessive and backslides fairly easily, so the more often we can work around other dogs, the better. In addition, instead of getting worked up he gets exhausted and sleeps the rest of the day. That’s a bonus!

Jenna

My dog bit someone. Now what?

A few weeks back I put up a post that explained when it was acceptable for a dog to bite a person. (The short answer: NEVER. Dogs can learn to walk away.) But today I’m going to talk about what happens when your dog DOES bite someone.

Let me tell you a story. It’s a true story. It happened in early 2010. I was called in to work with a dog for dog aggression (aggression toward other dogs). As soon as I walked into the house I could see that this dog was aggressive toward everyone — including me. After some pointed questions, I learned the dog had bit two other people. The owner said, “But those were understandable.” In both cases, food had been involved.

In our next session together, I stepped in front of the dog to block his eye line to my dog. The dog attacked me. The owner was horrified. That was the only time I’ve ever gone to the emergency room for a dog bite!

The owner was, understandably, appalled. She couldn’t believe her dog would do something like that — even though he’d done it twice before. She offered to pay my health insurance¬†deductible, and I told her I didn’t want her to. I’d rather she acknowledge what happened and keep the dog in training, so it didn’t happen to someone else. She agreed.

It took me several weeks to heal and get back to work, and over that time something fascinating (and frustrating) happened. She started dodging my calls. She told a fellow acquaintance that he’d “nipped” me. She insisted it hadn’t been bad, leading her roommate to eventually ask her to leave. When I did catch her on the phone, she made excuses.

She could not deal with the fact that her dog had bitten someone, and so she denied it had happened. Eventually, she moved.

I’m sorry to say that this is more typical than not. Most people don’t spot the signs of growing aggression because they don’t know them. Therefore, when their dog DOES bite someone, it’s a surprise. We then very quickly make this leap:

My dog bit someone.
Dogs are not supposed to bite no matter what.
Only “evil” dogs bite.
My dog isn’t an “evil” dog. Most of the time, my dog is awesome.
Therefore, my dog couldn’t have bitten that person. It must have been a fluke. There must be an excusable reason behind it.
Since my dog isn’t an “evil” dog and this was clearly a fluke, MY DOG DOESN’T BITE. That was a nip, or a warning. My dog is a “good” dog.

This is the worst thing a person can do. You can’t fix a problem if you can’t acknowledge a problem. I also see this, and it makes me feel wonderful:

My dog bit someone.
Dogs aren’t supposed to bite no matter what.
Only “evil” dogs bite.
My dog isn’t an “evil” dog. Most of the time, my dog is awesome.
Therefore, possibly the supposition that only “evil” dogs bite is wrong. Or possibly my dog is going down the wrong path.
Either way, I need to deal with it now so my dog can go back to being its awesome, trustworthy self.

If your dog has bitten someone, acknowledge that it happened, and get help. In 99% of cases, it’s solvable — IF you get help. If you don’t, things will only get worse.

There are signs that your dog is heading down the wrong path before they bite someone, and it’s helpful to know what they are. So, in the usual order of severity:

1. Your dog stops moving out of your way, or physically pushes you around.

2. Your dog growls at you over its food or a favorite toy (but never any other time).

3. Your dog watches your or others with perfect stillness, eyes steady instead of nose twitching.

4. Your dog looks at you or others out of the corner of his eye, possibly also growling.

5. Your dog bares his teeth (wrinkles his nose) at you or others.

6. Your dog snaps at/toward you or others.

7. Your dog bites.

If you see any of these signs, talk to someone. Read some books. The earlier you catch it the less of a problem it is. In the early stages, you can probably even solve it on your own before your dog gets to the point of trying to bite. (If your dog is at or past the fourth stage, it’s time to get help. If you do the wrong thing you’ll either increase the aggression or get hurt. If your dog is growling at you over his food or a favorite toy, deal with the earlier stages in other areas of his life, and at least talk to a trainer about the food/toy possession.)

Now, if your dog has already bitten someone, GET HELP. Doing it once isn’t a fluke. They will do it again, and if you push too hard or incorrectly, they’ll do it to you. Admit there is a problem, acknowledge you need help to solve it, and get help. Denying it will only make matters worse. Your dog isn’t an “evil” dog because they’ve learned to bite, but they are making poor life choices! They need some direction to make better choices. You’re also not a bad owner because your dog is making poor life choices: you did the best you could with the information you had. Now it’s time to get more information!

Finally, make sure you tell the trainer if your dog has ever snapped at anyone, for any reason. It changes how they might work with your dog, and what they might suggest. There’s always a way to make things better, but it won’t happen if you don’t try!

Jenna

My dog bit someone, but it’s okay because…

(If your dog has already bitten someone, you should head to this post.)

It’s time to have this conversation! This is the conversation where we talk about when it’s acceptable for a dog to bite a person.

“My dog bit someone, but it’s okay because they were guarding their food/favorite toy, and that’s instinctive for dogs.”

No. It’s not okay for your dog to guard their food/favorite toy from a human and, in doing so, bite a person. The appropriate response is for your dog to give up the food/favorite toy. That, by the way, is also instinctive for dogs.

“But it’s their favorite.”

Doesn’t matter.

And the person got up in their face.”

Doesn’t matter.

“And this was after I told the person repeatedly¬†that my dog bites, and they needed to leave my dog alone.”

That sounds like an annoying situation and person. But it doesn’t matter. Your dog still shouldn’t have bitten that person. Your dog was in the wrong no matter what the person was doing. And if you know your dog bites, why was it around people you had to warn away?

“I was having ¬†a party.”

Do you have a bedroom you can put your dog? Or a muzzle for your dog?

“…Okay, but my dog bit a person and it’s okay because my dog is afraid of children, and this stranger let their kid run right up to my dog and my dog snapped out of terror.”

Aww. Poor puppy. I can see how that would be scary. But it’s still not okay for your dog to bite someone. Your dog is still in the wrong.

“But they were under attack!”

Yeah. They need to learn to retreat instead of biting. It’s not okay.

“My dog bit someone, but it’s okay because–”

No.

“But–”

No. It’s still not okay for your dog to bite someone. Don’t even go there.

“But this person BROKE INTO MY HOUSE.”

Ah! Okay. Now let’s talk legalities. In the state of California (you’ll have to look up your own state laws if you live outside of California) a dog is considered a weapon, and is therefore subject to the same rules as one. You can shoot someone if they’re breaking into your house. You can shoot someone who is threatening you. You cannot shoot someone who has broken in your house but is trying to leave. So: Was the person who broke into your house threatening you or still breaking in when your dog bit them?

“Yes!”

Then that was an acceptable time to bite someone.

Alternately, “No, they were running away.”

Then it’s not okay that your dog bit them.

“But they¬†broke into my house!

I know. I’m not saying if it’s morally right or wrong, I’m just telling you what the law says.

“But dogs are predators, and they chase and bite fleeing people! How am I supposed to call my dog off someone who broke in and is now running away?”

Lots of training. Your dog was in the wrong.

“My dog bit someone, but it’s okay because I hate that someone.”

You hate that someone… and so your put your¬†dog’s life at risk by encouraging them to bite? First off, I think you need to check your priorities, and second off, that’s still not okay.

“My dog bit someone, but it’s okay because it was at a party and someone stepped on my poor dog, and they bit in their panic.”

That is awful. But it’s still not okay for your dog to bite someone.

“My dog bit someone, but–”

No.

“My dog–”

No.

“My–”

Nu uh.

“–”

Hsssst! Bad dog. No biting!

Jenna
(This post has been brought to you by alllll the many excuses I’ve heard over the years. It is never okay for your dog to bite someone. Full stop. No more excuses: if you have this problem, it’s time to solve it!)

FAQ: How do I teach my dog to defend itself?

I get this question occasionally: How do I teach my dog to defend itself from people or other dogs?

Here is the short answer: DON’T.

Ready for the long answer? Okay!

You NEVER EVER EVER EVER teach a dog to defend itself. NEVER EVER EVER. First off, in doing so what you’re really teaching them is that they shouldn’t listen to you about who is dangerous and who is not (because you’re telling them to decide on their own in order to defend themselves), second that they are allowed to attack people and other dogs, and third that you aren’t going to help them in a tight situation. When it comes to people, legally speaking it doesn’t really matter if the guy is beating your dog with a bat: if the dog bites back, it is highly likely the dog will be blamed. The appropriate coping mechanism for a dog in a bad situation is to find you and get you to help. If it’s a person who then attacks YOU, dogs that are either guard breeds or have learned to listen to their owner’s body language (ie, are submissive) will see that there’s a problem, and then defend you.

Honestly, the best solution for both dog and human attacks is for the dog to¬†retreat. It takes two to fight: two together can cause the death of one of them. But if you’ve taught your dog to retreat, then there is no fight, and any injuries — if there are any — are minor.

The long and short of it is that dogs shouldn’t ever attack people, unless those people are attacking their humans and those people provoked it. (Even then, the expectation is that the dog will stop as soon as the people start to retreat. In California, the¬†expectation¬†is that if someone retreats and your dog is not stopped, the dog is considered a weapon and you are at fault and can be sued.) If you attack and your dog backs you up, the dog gets put down. If the dog defends himself, the dog gets put down. The only time this might work out okay is if someone attacks you, your dog defends you, and when the people stop attacking your dog stops defending. The dog’s reaction to violence towards itself needs to be to run — and it’s your job to tell the humans to stop or get him out of that situation.

When you teach a dog to defend itself, dogs don’t specify “Defend myself against abuse.” They hear, “Defend myself against things I don’t like.” When that works for abuse, then the next thing they start doing is being aggressive toward someone who accidentally hurts them (like steps on a paw, or uses them for help rising and hits a soft spot, or when a little kid tugs too hard on the ears), then they get aggressive at someone who takes their food or toy, then someone who walks too close to their food or toy, then someone who looks too much at their favorite pet, and so on. Soon you have a dog who is attacking people for virtually no reason because the dog has learned that, hey, violence works to get what they want.

It’s much harder to re-train a dog than to teach it not to fight in the first place.

Finally, dogs protect people who are in danger. If someone attacks you, your body language will stiffen (stiff = bad emotional state to dogs) and your dog will step up to protect, doing what needs to be done. You don’t have to teach him that.¬†So don’t worry that because you’re teaching him not to attack people and not to defend himself, that will apply to you. All you’re really teaching him is to turn the other cheek — something we could all learn!

The next question might be: HOW do I teach my dog to leave a bad situation?

The next time a person yells at you or a dog barks at you and your dog does nothing, praise lavishly. If your dog looks over, pull them away and when they stop looking, praise lavishly. If your dog tries to engage without your okay, pull them away fast, get their attention, then walk them away while praising lavishly. I mean seriously, lavishly. Like they won the Nobel Prize. If a dog barks and your dog either leaves or looks to you for guidance — you’ve got this answer now, right? Right!

Enough of this, and most dogs will figure it out!

Because I take my dogs to dog parks, and because I use them with dog-aggressive dogs, they’re under fire more than most. I’ve done a LOT of work to make sure that if they do get attacked, their first line of defense is to leave. This keeps them safe: 99% of attacking dogs will stop attacking when the other dog runs away and/or lays down. That’s what I want: an end to the fight! 99% of people can’t keep up with a running dog, which means my dog can outrun any human attacker. Woo hoo! This is a good thing.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Jenna

Dogs vs Cats: who wins?

Recently, a few of my friends have been introducing their dogs to their significant others’ cats. I’ve done this myself; my two dogs with my girlfriend’s cats, and several clients have needed cat/dog help over the last month.

Tis the season, I suppose?

Whatever the case, let’s talk about cat/dog relations. Here’s my opinion on dogs and cats: No matter what happens, it’s the dog’s fault.

“Now wait a minute!” I hear you cry. “What if my dog’s just trying to play, and hasn’t touched the cat?”

It’s the dog’s fault.

“But my dog didn’t hurt the cat!”

It terrified the cat, even if your dog was only trying to play. It’s the dog’s fault. In fact, if your dog were sleeping, and your cat came up and slapped him in the face, and the dog jumped up which startled the cat, it’s still the dog’s fault.

Here’s the thing: the dog can kill the cat. I heard from someone today whose 30-pound wheaton terrier killed a cat. Even if the dog doesn’t kill the cat, it could severely hurt the cat.

Cats can hurt dogs, too, but it takes a lot more effort, and it doesn’t come naturally to them. Though cats and dogs are both hunters, generations have gone into dogs to make them hunt things the size of cats (and bigger), and generations have gone into cats to make them run from hunters that are bigger than them — which will trigger a dog into chasing them.

What does this mean? It means a dog’s instinct will tell it to chase and play with a cat that runs — and most cats run. When dogs play, it’s essentially hunting (and that’s assuming your dog won’t activelly hunt the cat). Whether or not your dog is being aggressive, your cat is going to be terrified. Cats don’t read dog body language, it isn’t going to look at the dog and think, “Hey, it’s just playing.” It’s going to look at the dog and say, “Hey, this animal is trying to eat me!” whether or not that’s the case. Do you really want your cat feeling that it’s life is in danger?

Further, how do you override the dog’s instinct to chase when the cat runs? It depends, in part, on the dog (and the breed). For instance, my pit bull Lily spent her puppyhood being bullied by a cat; she avoids them naturally, and I only have to encourage that. My king shepherd Cash takes a bit more careful management, but knowing his bloodlines helps: king shepherds are a mix of German shepherds (a shepherding and guard breed), malamutes (which are hunters) and great Pyrenees (herd protectors). Mostly protective bloodlines, but that malamute means that, as much of a wussy baby as Cash is, I make sure that if he gets interested in the cats, I step in.

Now, in general I have a few tips for cat/dog relations.

First, I always recommend introducing dogs to cats on leash. If my dog so much as looks at the cat, even just glancing, I give them a sharp tug. When they look away from the cat, I pet them calmly and tell them they’re good.

This is basically it; I reward the dogs only when they’re ignoring the cats, and they get in trouble when they so much as look at the cats. At some point, you’ll be introducing your dogs off leash; they already have to be so aware to be careful with the cat that if the cat leaps and dashes, we can call the dog off just by expressing unhappiness — and then I’d chase the dog right out of the room to express more unhappiness.

I want my dogs feeling that the cats are the ULTIMATE gods in the household; animals that dogs are wary of are less likely to be hunted.

If you don’t want to supervise your dogs for hours, or they aren’t hunting breeds, another option is to keep the dogs caged/crated to give the cats time to sniff and check out the dogs safely. I’d give the cats several hours, preferably all day (or night), and then I’d still keep the dogs on leash when they first come out, so the cats don’t get scared off right away. Cats that are comfortable around the dogs are less likely to run, which means they’re less likely to be chased.

I’m a dog person through and through, but even I know that my dogs, my darlings, my sweeties, my super fluffy adorable peaceful puppies, are hunters at the root of their nature, and I want my girlfriend’s cats to feel safe. As safe as my dogs do!

J

A note on upcoming classes

Hi, everyone!

As people have asked when my dog aggressive classes will be starting back up, I’m hosting them once a month through the holidays, and then we’ll start again more regularly in the spring. Dog aggression classes are by invitation only! I want my clients who are practicing to be as safe as possible. If you’d like to join in, send me an email (or comment here) and I’ll let you know about the cut rates for assessments before you can join class.

If you are a dog walker in the area, I’m hosting classes on why and how to walk dogs properly, including different types of techniques for doing so. I admit that my motives are mostly selfish: I want to refer my clients to good dog walkers that I know won’t mess up my training! If you’re interested in learning, email me or comment here.

Finally, keep an eye out on the blog for tips on trees, presents, and exciting ribbons coming up!

Jenna