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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

3 Things You Can Do to Recondition Your Reactive Dog

Here is a popular topic: Working with a reactive dog. In our dog training business, we see a lot of reactive behavior. Many dog owners struggle with reactive behavior in their dogs. They are frustrated and anxious because their dog misbehaves on-leash by lunging and barking frantically at other dogs, or bicycles, or even people. Often times this will make them walk their dogs at odd hours of the day, to ensure they won't meet anyone, or they may even refrain from taking their dogs out at all.

What many dog owners don't realize is that most reactive dogs are not necessarily aggressive, but rather insecure or excited. The reactive behavior actually comes out of insecurity or is caused by hyper-excitement.
A fearful or anxious reactive behavior, however, can easily turn into aggression. In fearful/anxious dogs, the main reason for the reactive barking and lunging is due to the fact that the owner is holding the dog on a tight leash and conveys an anxious or stressed out mood. A lot of dog owners will unconsciously tense up and hold their dog back. This tense hold on the leash conveys to the dog that there is something to worry about, so the dog is on alert. Because he is fearful or unsure of himself, he barks and lunges. He does this in the hopes the imaginary threat (the other dog or person) will see him as tough and will walk away. The closer the "threat" comes, the more the dog barks and lunges.

On the other hand, if the dog is hyper-excited, then he is barking and lunging out of excitement. Unable to contain himself, he jumps around wanting to make lots of noise to draw attention to himself, in the hopes the other dog, or person will come over and give him attention. This type of dog will usually whine or bark excitedly the closer the person or other dog gets.

No matter what the reason for your dog's reactive behavior, there are 3 main things you can do to help your dog get over his reactive behavior and recondition him to be more relaxed and better behaved on-leash.

1. Teach your dog to NEVER pull on the leash

The first and most important behavior to teach a dog that is reactive is to condition him to walk on a loose leash. This is something that only 50% of dog owners actually teach their dogs! We teach all our customers to expect their dogs to walk on a loose leash. When your reactive dog is taught to walk in this way, he is conditioned to this behavior. Because it is his job to keep the leash loose, he is unable to display his lunging, which will take away much of the reactive behavior.
When we teach a reactive dog to walk on a loose leash, he immediately becomes less reactive, because now he won't lunge or pull. What remains is a barking dog, which is much easier to handle.

2. Redirect your dog with a correction or a scent

Once your dog has learned to walk without pulling on the leash, you can practice redirecting the reactive barking by interrupting his behavior. There are two ways to do this:
1. You can give your dog a correction. This is usually a tug or sideways pull with the leash and works best if you use a training collar ( https://amzn.to/2HIjCEc). The tug is like a tab on the shoulder, telling your dog to pay attention to you.
2. You can use a high-value treat, something with a strong smell that will grab your dog's attention and get him refocused. Do not GIVE the treat to the dog, rather hold it in your closed fist and offer the scent only to redirect his attention.

When you encounter a trigger - something that usually causes a reactive behavior in your dog - try to redirect with either method before the dog escalates into the reactive behavior. If he is already barking, put some distance between you and the trigger and continue to work on redirecting the dog. It is very important to have a loose leash! If your dog still pulls on the leash, you need to go back to the first exercise and recondition your dog to NEVER pull on the leash!

3. Display a calm and confident posture

Now that your dog knows to NEVER pull on the leash and you are able to redirect his behavior, you will be able to walk him through any situations. One of the most important aspects of working with a reactive dog is to maintain a calm and confident posture. Most dog owners unintentionally actually trigger a dog's reactive behavior, because they tense up and tighten up on the leash when they see another dog or something that might trigger the reactiveness in their dogs.
First and foremost, don't be embarrassed or frustrated when your dog gets reactive. See it as an opportunity to train him. If he doesn't react, how can you train him not to?
Then, become aware of your own body language. BREATHE and relax your shoulders! Keep the leash loose at all cost. If the dog can't feel you on the tight leash, he is on his own. You may hear a frustrated bark, but a dog on a loose leash won't lunge or act stupid.
If the dog escalates, put some distance between you and the trigger. I am not suggesting to avoid the trigger, I just want you to be a few feet away until you can get the dog redirected and under control. When he is paying attention to you, bring him closer to the trigger and expect him to keep the leash loose. You may have to keep going closer and then again further away, working with your dog on the reactive behavior by redirecting him. This will only work if you send a calm and confident signal! If you feel frustrated, end the exercise and walk away. A stressed out handler CANNOT control a reactive dog.

We have worked with many dog owners that had problems with their dog being reactive. Don't get caught up in the why and move to resolve the issue by becoming a calm and confident handler, teach your dog to always walk on a loose leash and learn to see the signals of him getting into the reactive state to interrupt and redirect early in the process.  

By becoming the one in control of your own dog's behavior, you will soon see a well-mannered dog that is less reactive. You will be confident in walking your dog anywhere. When your dog escalates, you will know what to do and will remain calm and in control.

Thank you for stopping by. Keep your paws on the road and please comment and share!

About  Birgit Walker
  Jim and Birgit have trained dogs in Arizona, California, Montana, and Hawaii. They offer dog training services through their company Modern Canine Services in Phoenix, Arizona. Birgit just published two books Chew On This - Homemade Dog Treat Recipes, and Keep Your Paws on the Road - A Practical Guide to Traveling with Dogs. She also authors a blog and newsletter and offers a lively Facebook group that shares dog travel adventures. Jim and Birgit travel with their three dogs throughout the US in their Fifth Wheel.

For more information about Modern Canine Services, please visit ModernCanineServices.com or contact BIRGIT WALKER at (602) 688-4060. You can also email under BJWMCS@gmail.com

Friday, April 13, 2018

5 Important Skills Your Dog Should Know Before Traveling

With the summer vacation time approaching, you are planning your next getaway and may want to take your dog with you. Statistics show more people are traveling with their pets each year. There are many dog-friendly restaurants and overnight accommodations to choose from. However, traveling with your dog does require a lot of planning and preparation. Planning a dog-friendly travel route is important, but you will also need to prepare your dog for the vacation. Whether you take your dog on vacation or a road-trip, your dog needs to have mastered certain skills to make her a good traveler and to ensure she is welcomed at dog-friendly places. So before you take your beloved pet, review this list of skills your dog should know before traveling.

1. Proper Leash Behavior

A well-behaved dog walks without pulling on the leash and needs to be able to walk past other dogs, people, bikes and skateboards, or loud noisy motorcycles without lunging or barking. Although it’s impossible to train for every scenario, it’s a good idea to practice in your hometown before you take your dog on vacation with you. You can practice with your dog on-leash by taking her to crowded areas, such as Farmers’ Markets or outdoor festivities. If you haven’t taken your dog to local dog-friendly restaurants, it’s a good idea to go to a few in your area and teach your dog to lay under the table out of everyone's way. Your dog should be calm and remain off the tables and chairs. Remember, there are other guests, who may not want your dog to lick the plates or tabletops, and it also is against health code regulations.

Going for our walks together

2.Comfortable being left alone in unfamiliar surroundings

A well-behaved dog should be able to be left unattended in a hotel room or RV without barking or destructive behavior. Be sure to practice leaving your dog in unfamiliar surroundings before you go on an extended vacation trip. Always provide your dog with plenty of exercise before you leave her unattended. Exercise is a great way to make sure your dog is relaxed and comfortable. Bring her dog bedding from home to provide the familiarity of home to any overnight accommodation. If your dog is uncomfortable being left behind, the crate is a good way to ensure she will not destroy any furnishings in the hotel room or vacation rental.

Jaeger and Heidi in our vacation rental in San Diego

3. Staying in a Crate or Pet Carrier
Crate training is another important skill you should teach your dog before traveling. Many hotels and vacations rentals require dogs to be crated while left alone in the room and being in the crate or pet carrier is a must for dogs that travel by airplane or train. Most dogs feel comfortable and secure in a crate, but they have to be introduced to the crate properly and ahead of travel time. Purchase your crate or pet carrier well in advance. Let her explore it for a few days at home, in familiar surroundings. You need to teach her to remain in the crate for several hours. Have her sleep in it overnight at home. Start by putting her familiar dog bedding and her toys inside. Small dogs that will travel in a pet carrier, need to remain quiet and calm while traveling in this way. It is important to get your dog used to this. You don’t want your dog to whine or bark while traveling in the carrier on a long flight.

Apollo in his crate
 You may also like to read one of my previous blog posts on Crate Training:

4. Respecting Open Doorways

Teach your dog to respect open doorways and to never bolt through an open door. This is a very important behavior any traveling dog should know. Most dogs get lost during travel because they run out of an open doorway or the travel vehicle. Take the time to train your dog to wait and be invited to walk through any door, whether car door or hotel room door and to come to you when called.
This is an easy skill to teach. You can see how to teach your dog to respect the car door by watching our You Tube video:

5. Potty On Command

Here is a skill your dog can easily learn and it will make your travel time much more enjoyable: teach her to potty on command. This can be an invaluable behavior when traveling. Small dogs, that travel by airplane, can be trained to use a potty pad to relieve themselves in public bathrooms in-between flights. Also, this is wonderful when you take quick potty breaks on the road. Most of the time, your dog will be distracted by the new surroundings and to busy smelling all the new smells to think about relieving herself. If you train her to potty on command, you will always be able to get her to do her thing no matter how many distractions there are. It is a great way to be able to have your dog empty her bladder and bowels before you go to busy outdoor festivities, check into your hotel, or go to a patio restaurant.

Traveling with your dog is rewarding and fun, but it does require some added preparation. It’s a good idea to get started early and prepare yourself and your pet for your upcoming travel adventure.

Birgit Walker is a Canine Travel Expert and the co-author of Keep Your Paws on the Road – A Practical Guide to Traveling with Dogs.
For more information about the book go to our website at www.moderncanineservices.com/books

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Why I Love Making my Own Dog Treats

Most dog owners enjoy giving treats to their pets. Some may use them for rewards during training, while others simply love to give a treat to spoil their pet. There are many choices when it comes to buying dog treats and high quality treats can be very expensive. Recently, I started to make my own dog treats and found out it is very easy and inexpensive and my dogs love them. However, making my own treats isn’t just less expensive, it also offers me the opportunity to carefully choose the ingredients I want to use. I can even add herbs and oils that have holistic properties. If you would like to make your own dog treats, here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Choose Ingredients carefully

The beauty about making your dog treats at home is that you are able to carefully choose ingredients based on your dog’s preferences or food sensitivities.
Making your own treats is a great way to include vegetables and herbs you may otherwise not feed. I love making dog biscuits with shredded carrots and spinach. I use blue berries and yogurt in one of my dog treats and even made up a recipe for fresh breath cookies that includes mint and parsley!
If your dog has a food sensitivity, it is easy to substitute ingredients. I use brown rice flour in a lot of my recipes, which is a great substitute for wheat flour. I have used applesauce instead of eggs if a pet had reactions to eggs.

2. Add Natural Remedies to Heal

There are many ingredients that I use in my homemade dog treats that help with my dog’s health. For example, to help with arthritis I add turmeric to my dog treats, it has anti-inflammatory properties. You can also use flaxseed, as it also helps with inflammation, in addition to providing the needed nutrients for a healthy coat and skin.
If my dog has a stomach upset, or a spurt of diarrhea, I make some delicious dog biscuits with canned pumpkin. Pumpkin also helps with constipation.
When I want to use holistic oils, such as CBD oil, which helps with pain or anxiety, I choose a no-bake recipe to ensure the oil does not loose it’s effectiveness due to high temperatures in baking.

3. Avoid harmful ingredients

The benefit of homemade dog treats is that they contain no artificial flavors, chemicals or preservatives. Be sure to choose only dog-approved ingredients, and never use any ingredient that contains artificial sweeteners. Also some ingredients that are healthy for humans, such as garlic, are toxic for dogs, so be sure to research new ingredient before using them in your treats.
I make sure that I use only natural unsweetened applesauce in my recipes. Many regular applesauce may include sweeteners, which can be harmful to dogs. The same applies to peanut butter. PB is one of the most used ingredients in homemade dog treats. Be sure to use a natural peanut butter and never use anything that has the words “light” on it, as this is a sure indicator that the item was made with artificial sweetener.

4. Make small patches and store treats properly

Homemade dog treats are healthy and contain no preservative. It is therefore important to store them in an airtight container in your refrigerator or freeze them. I prefer to make smaller patches that I can use up within one of two weeks. Never leave your homemade dog treats at room temperature, as they will quickly mold!

visit our website for information on our books

5. Have fun and think outside the box

Once I started making my own dog treats, I realized that there are a lot of great recipes available on the internet and I started to experiment with my own. There are many ways to spoil your dog, from making baked biscuits and non-bake treats to pupsicles, which are frozen dog treats. If you enjoy cooking or baking for your family, you will love making your own dog treats.

When I started to share my recipes online, through my blog, I got a lot of positive feedback and I published my own dog treat recipe book.

By Birgit Walker

Birgit is the author of two books Chew On This - Homemade Dog Treat Recipes, and Keep Your Paws on the Road - A Practical Guide to Traveling with Dogs. She also writes a blog and offers a lively Facebook group that shares dog travel adventures. Visit her on her website at ModernCanineServices.com

Friday, March 2, 2018

Proper Behavior at the Dog Park

Taking your dog to the dog park is a great way to exercise and socialize your pet. However, before you take your dog, make sure he is ready to go. First your dog must be healthy and fully vaccinated, before you take him to an area where there are a lot of other dogs. Secondly, your dog must respond to your recall command and be well-behaved. The most common problem with dogs at the park is hyperexcitment. Hyperexcited dogs are hard to control. Their energy can easily trigger dog fights.  

Here are a few tips to make your dog park visit a great experience for both of you.

1. Start outside the dog park

 We recommend that you take a few moments before you enter into the park to assess the situation. Walk around the perimeter and take notice of the different dogs and their behavior. Ensure your dog is calm and quiet. Do not enter the park if your dog is overly excited. Use the area outside the park to calm your dog and get him to relax.

2. Choose the right area

Most dog parks offer a fenced in area with a double gate. The small area between the two gates allows you to take the leash off your dog before you enter into the off-leash area within the confines of the park. Enter into the gate area, take the leash off your dog and then open the gate to the park. If the park offers two sections, often marked as "small dogs" and "large dogs," choose the area that best fits your dog’s size.

3. Walk around the park

When you arrive, some of the dogs inside the park will be coming over to the gate area to see the new arrival. Walk into the park and start strolling around. Don't just walk in and stand still.  Decide, based on the energy of the other dogs, where you will go.  If you notice a pack of dogs playing rough, walk into a different area. Your dog will usually follow you or stay close to you, so walk into the area that has the dogs you want your pet to interact with.

4. Let Fido play

If your dog is outgoing and plays with other dogs in the park, relax and allow him to interact. You can watch from a distance. If you feel the energy is too high or there is some posturing that might turn into a dogfight, simply call your dog to you and walk toward a different area of the park. It is never a good idea to physically pull dogs from a dog-crowded area, as this can cause a dog fight. If you have worked with your dog on the recall command, he should follow your directions and come with you, when called.

Let your dog run with the other dogs, or, if there are no other dogs, walk the perimeter and let your dog explore the park. Be sure to pick up after your pet!

5.Throw the ball

We usually do not recommend bringing toys to the dog park, as they can stimulate the dogs into dominating behavior. However, sometimes you are the only one at the park and there are no other dogs to play with. In this instance,  it is a good idea to throw a ball or frisbee to give your dog some added exercise.

I'd love to hear from you, please comment below!

Until next time: Keep your Paws on the Road.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

How to Teach Your Dog to Run next to Your Bicycle

Taking your dog with you on bicycle rides is a lot of fun and can be a great way to provide exercise for both of you.

Before you start the exercise, decide on what side of the bicycle you want your dog to run. I like Apollo on the right side of the bicycle. This way he is out of traffic when I ride down the road. A lot of people like the dog on the left side of the bicycle, because this is the side they walk their dogs in a heel position. Either side is fine, just remain consistent.
Choose an area that is safe to practice. It is best to have no traffic and little distractions. I started in our driveway and at a nearby park. 

Here are 3 easy steps to get your dog used to running next to your bicycle.

1. Walk between your dog and the bicycle:

Start by walking your dog on a loose leash next to you and push your bicycle at the same time. This helps the dog get used to being near the bicycle, while you provide him with the comfort and security. Walk slowly at first, in a straight line. As the dog gets used to this, make turns and increase speed.

2. Walk the dog next to the bicycle:

The next step is to walk the dog next to the bicycle, with you on the opposite side. This teaches the dog to be comfortable right next to the bike. Make sure he walks calmly and on a loose leash. Keep the leash short, so the dog stays to the side of the bicycle. You do not want your dog to get in front of or behind the bike. Control the length of the leash to ensure that he stays on the side.
To teach your dog to keep an eye on the bike and turn with you, start weaving back and forth while walking and eventually start making turns with the bike. Make sure he is comfortable with turning both ways before you proceed to the next step.

3. Ride your bicycle with the dog next to you:

Now get onto the bike and ride at a slow speed with the dog right next to you. Again, ensure that the dog remains to the side of the bike and does not get in front or behind it. The leash must be loose, do not allow your dog to pull, as this is both dangerous to you and him. A strong pulling dog can cause you to fall off the bicycle and pulling on the leash can damage your dog's airways. 
Ride slowly at first and make weaving patterns and turns in the controlled area. Give your dog time to get accustomed to running next to the bicycle before you take him out into areas with traffic or distractions. Running next to the bike is a great way to provide exercise, but start out slowly. Keep your training sessions short and make sure you have water for your dog.

Don't take your dog into heavy traffic until you have conditioned him properly.

 Continue to practice in areas that are away from traffic until you are comfortable your dog is properly trained. 
Any size dog can enjoy running next to the bike for exercise, but if you like biking and go on long rides, you may consider having a dog trailer or a basket, depending on your dog's size. This will give you the opportunity to have your dog with you on long bike rides. 
Thank you for stopping by, until next time: Keep Your Paws on the Road! 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Alternative Natural Herbal Supplements to Treat Pain and Inflammation in Your Dog

My sweet dog Jaeger is getting older. He is 12 now and has had some arthritis and joint pain. I have been giving him glucosamine and chondroitin supplements over the past years to help with these.

More recently, Jaeger was showing signs of increased pain and discomfort and I took him to the vet. The vet confirmed that Jaeger had arthritis and prescribed Carprofen, a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs).  After just two days on this medication, I could tell Jaeger was not doing well. He became increasingly depressed, would hide in corners, and did not want to eat at all. I called the vet and he recommended we take Jaeger off the medication and see if the symptoms where caused by it or by the pain. Within a day of being off the medication, Jaeger became more alert and started to eat again. The vet suggested we try a different kind of medication, this time Meloxicam. Jaeger seemed to do better on the new medication. He was eating and drinking normally and had regular body functions. However, within being on the medication for 2 weeks, I noticed he was having difficulty walking. He seemed dazed and had a hard time getting up.  He would wobble and could hardly assume the position to do his business. At times, he would walk someplace and then just stand there, as though he did not know what to do.
I decided to take Jaeger off the medication and within a few days, he was back to normal. Now it was clear to me that I had to find alternatives to NSAID medications for him. I began to research natural supplements and reached out on several online groups to see what others were doing for their dogs.

Alternative natural herbal supplements to treat pain and inflammation in dogs

Here are 4 alternative natural herbal supplements I have found. The most important aspect of these 4 is that they have no severe side effects. As with any new supplement, it is important to start with small quantities and to gradually increase the dose. Make sure you follow the dosage based on your dog's weight.

1. Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric is a spice made from the turmeric plant and is the most widely used herb for arthritis and joint pain. It has been used in India for centuries to treat many ailments and has been studied in both humans and animals. It is an anti-inflammatory and also enhances circulation in the body. In addition, turmeric also benefits liver functions.
Curcumin is the chemical found in turmeric, that is the reason for the anti-inflammatory properties. When you look for supplements, the names turmeric and curcumin are often used interchangeably.

2. Fish or Krill Oil

Fish oils are used for their high omega-3 content. They contain EPA and DHA, two essential fatty acids. Many people with arthritis take fish oil supplements.  EPA is the ingredient that is the anti-inflammatory agent in fish oil. If you, like me, are concerned about the mercury, Krill oil may be a better option for your dog. Krill are a small shrimplike planktonic crusacean and are said to contain much less mercury. Their oil is equally high in the EPA and DHA.

3. Boswellia

 Boswellia is also known as Franincense. It is a resin extract from a tree bark.  Research has shown that boswellic aids a normal inflammatory response by blocking enzymes that then inhibit the synthesis of leukotrienes. It has also been shown to support healthy cartilage in the joints.
For more information on this amazing supplement and details about the Swiss research on it's effects on dogs, go to Springtime Inc: about-boswellia

4. CBD Tinctures

CBD stands for cannabidiol and is a compound found in hemp. CBD is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people or animals feel “stoned.” Scientific and clinical research shows CBD as an alternative treatment for a wide range of conditions, including arthritis and chronic pain. To find out more about this amazing supplement online, go to Axis Hemp Company.  Tonja King, owner of Axis Hemp Company says: " CBD is a great source for aiding dogs with arthritis, we have seen the benefits for many pets after adding it as a supplement."


There are a lot of other natural supplements out there and I am still continuing to research them. As with any anti-inflammatory agent, remember that they prolong time it takes for the blood to clot, so if you give them to your pet, be sure to tell your veterinarian. If your dog is undergoing surgery, it is important to stop use of any anti-inflammatory treatment at least 5 days prior to the surgery! 

Disclaimer Statement:

This article includes information regarding supplements for dogs with arthritis or joint pain. I am not a veterinarian, nor do I claim to have any special knowledge of any of these products. I have used these supplements for my dog with positive results. I am not being paid, nor did I receive any free or discounted products to include them in my blog.