Seeking submissive, robotic dog for crated companionship or avoidance.

ImageI came across a review for a trainer today that sent shivers up my spine. I wanted to share excerpts of it with you as it had such an effect on me. 

The reviewer starts out by explaining that their rescue dog came with a lot of baggage including resource guarding, separation anxiety, leash pulling, darting ahead in doorways, and barking at the door. (Typical behaviours for all dogs, not just rescue dogs.) 

They wanted to introduce the dog to the cat. Except the dog had “successfully killed 13 small to medium rodents including 1 chipmunk, 10 baby bunnies and 2 skunks.” So we’ve got a dog with high prey drive and a long history of reinforced behaviour (killing) and we want to set the dog and the cat up for failure by putting them into a home together. 

“I thought it was cute that she followed me around the house and cried when I left. Turns out she thought she was running the show. Not so cute anymore.

What?? She’s running the show by following you around and crying because she’s scared and lonely? How can anyone truly believe this is a dominance issue? Separation Anxiety is a full-blown panic attack, not a status-seeking behaviour. …I digress… 

“With A TON of practice [Dog] was showing all the signs of a submissive and happy dog. We were shocked to see how tired she was at the end of each training session. She was following us down the stairs and through doorways, we have dangled her tennis ball in front of her and she barely even noticed, she rarely barks at the door, but when she does a very small correction is needed.”

That’s my first heartbreak. The poor dog’s spirit is broken. A dog who had clearly been through trauma in the past and had been abandoned at a shelter, returned countless times, is now being punished in the home of the people she thought had saved her life. 

The dog is exhibiting obvious signs of distress through these behaviours and after endless punishment, the dog shuts down, “barely notices” the things that dogs should be happy to see, like tennis balls. 

But wait. It doesn’t stop here. They want to introduce the dog to the cat, remember?

“Then we tried it with [Trainer] present, and armed with our perfected growl and our homemade water bombs. [Dog] wouldn’t even look at [Cat]. She sat in her crate, licking her lips, ears back, calm and submissive. It is safe to say that the changes we see in [Dog] are beyond what we expected.”

I’m sure that if you’ve done your research or trained with us, you know that lip-licking and ears pulled back are signs of stress and anxiety. Not calm and submissive. These are not good signs – they’re signs that the dog has been pushed beyond a threshold. 

How anyone can think that a “submissive” dog is what they want is beyond me. I want a confident, creative, happy dog. Not a slave. I don’t want to punish my best friend so much that they can no longer be a dog, simply a robot…but wait. There’s a little more. 

“We can now watch TV on the couch with [Cat] on our lap and [Dog] lying quietly on the floor beside the couch.” 

That sounds delightful for [Dog]. Congratulations. I’m sure that’s what she hoped for when you picked her up at the shelter that day.

When the unfortunate day comes when you leave [Cat] and [Dog] home alone together and come home to one surviving animal, you will likely blame the dog and give up, sending her back to the shelter, or better yet, to be euthanized…when you should blame yourselves and your trainer. You can blame your trainer for not being educated in animal behaviour and learning theory. You can blame yourselves for not stopping to think for a moment about the best interest of the animals and for failing both your pets. 

I hope that day never comes for this couple, but then again, that poor dog is living a life in a shut down state, constantly being punished for having natural behaviours. Wouldn’t it be better to be placed in a loving home without small animals to prey on? Avoidance isn’t always a bad thing. 

Before you try to train behaviours out of your dog, ask yourself how you want to do that. Do you want to suppress those behaviours and put a lid on a boiling pot? Or do you want to manage the environment as best as you can, while training replacement behaviours? 

When looking for a trainer, find one who doesn’t use punishment to suppress behaviours; instead, creates a realistic training plan with you to manage the environment and replace unwanted behaviours. 

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Dog-Dog Resource Guarding

Does your dog snarl and growl if another dog approaches her when she’s eating or gnawing on a tasty chew? Does she freeze and look sideways when her canine friends try to join her on the bed or couch? How about starting fights at the dog park when there’s a ball in play?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’re not alone. When a dog acts possessively over an item, place or person we call it “resource guarding” and it’s more common than you think.

What you may not realize is that despite thousands of years of successful domestication, dogs are still animals. All animals have instincts and resource guarding is one of them. Dogs have to guard or protect their resources in order to ensure survival; if they don’t, they lose their dinner, their sleeping quarters, their mate, etc… Looking at dogs today, this may seem like a somewhat useless instinct as we provide our dogs with life’s necessities, but then again, what use is prey drive if they’re fed twice a day by us? What use is turning around three times before laying down to sleep when there is no tall grass to flatten on their cozy bed?

The bottom line is that these are all instincts that are pre-programmed into our dogs whether we like it or not. We can either punish them when they follow these instincts, or we can teach them to control these instincts and defer to us instead.

Resource Guarding is classified under the “aggression” umbrella but don’t let that scare you. Aggression is actually a perfectly natural part of a dog’s world; it is us who have decided that it is unacceptable. There are varying levels of resource guarding and I urge you to familiarize yourself with these levels so that you can deal with it appropriately.

Level One is where you’ll find a perfectly acceptable level of resource guarding; your dog gives a growl, a sideways stare, a stiff body, even a bark as a warning to another dog approaching while she is in possession of a high value item (toy, bone, chew, food, etc…). The important thing is that the warnings remain as warnings and the other dog obliges and creates distance. Management and a watchful eye is advised here. You may consider contacting your trainer for assistance.

Level Two is where you’ll find a dog who gives the appropriate warning and then the other dog instead of creating distance, he decides to take action and “fight back” in order to gain control of the other dog’s resource. The dog with the resource will be bullied into letting the resource go and no conflict will take place. This is not ideal but it’s better than a conflict taking place. Management and a watchful eye is advised here. You may consider contacting your trainer for assistance.

Level Three is where things get a little riskier. The dog with the resource gives the appropriate warning and then the other dog instead of creating distance, he decides to take action and “fight back” in order to gain control of the other dog’s resource. The dog with the resource will engage in the conflict and a snarkfest ensues where no damage is done and the situation is quickly resolved. Management and a watchful eye is required here. You should consider contacting your trainer for assistance.

Level Four is increasingly dangerous. The dog with the resource gives no warning signals – instead, he instantly aggresses towards the approaching dog and the other dog is quick to retreat. No fight or damage ensues. OR instead of retreating, the other dog engages in the conflict and a snarkfest ensues where no damage is done and the situation is quickly resolved. Management and a watchful eye is required here. You should consider contacting your trainer for assistance.

Level Five is nearing the most dangerous level of resource guarding because we have a dog that has no warning system, aggresses instantly but luckily his bites are inhibited, meaning he may cause minimal damage but does not severely injure the other dog. Contact your trainer immediately and put in place all management techniques immediately. Do not delay.

Level Six is the most dangerous level of resource guarding because not only do we have a dog that has no warning system, but we also have a dog (or two) with uninhibited bites. This is where we see the most damage done as the dog with the resource has been pushed past his threshold and has learned that aggression works. The damage done by these dogs tends to be more serious in nature, requiring veterinary care. Contact your trainer immediately and put in place all management techniques immediately. Do not delay.

Warning Signals
A bark, snarl, growl, stiff posture, tongue flick, accelerated consumption of the item, or a lunge towards the threat – these are all warning signals. You may not like these behaviours but keep in mind that these signals are clear communication from your dog. It’s a warning system and it’s important to allow your dog the opportunity to communicate and warn others when he is uncomfortable or threatened. If you choose to punish these warning signs, your dog learns not to use them, therefore he jumps to the next best option; a bite. Never punish a warning system. Instead, listen carefully and jump straight into management mode until you can meet with your trainer to devise a behaviour modification plan.

Management
Management is key as resource guarding is rarely “cured” in an animal. In order to manage, you must be hyper-vigilant. Keep all high-value objects secured and out of reach when other dogs are around. When visiting the dog park, ask others to put the toys away until your pup has left the park, or simply opt for a leashed walk until the toys are out of play at the park. If you have a multiple-dog household, feed dogs in separate rooms or in their separate crates. Whatever you do, avoid allowing your dog to be pushed past his/her threshold at any time; don’t set them up to practice the behaviour!

Behaviour Modification
There are a few different ways to modify this behaviour, but none of them should involve punishment or harsh methods as this can make resource guarding much worse, much faster. The bottom line is that you want to teach your dog to use his/her warning system first and foremost. Then you want to teach them that when other dogs approach them while they have a resource in their possession, great things happen and the resource isn’t lost. The modification plan will vary from dog to dog but enlisting the help of an experienced, positive trainer early, is key.

Resource Guarding is often caused and/or exacerbated by stress, so do everything you can to decrease the stresses in your dog’s every day life. Have a vet examine your pet for any health concerns that might be causing this increase in aggressive behaviour as well.

Note: If your dog guards resources from people, please contact your trainer immediately as there is a different management protocol and program for behaviour modification.

Off-Leash Wonders

What an interesting weekend…to say the least. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends recently and you may have noticed since my post-session notes are days late and I’m likely frizzy-haired and cross-eyed when you see me.

I moved from Toronto to Oakville last week and the commute is about two hours each way on transit. (Yes, I’ll be getting an iPad for the GO ride in a couple days!) I love that during those two hours I can read, catch up on voicemails, write notes and maybe even catch a few extra Zs. The downside is that my cancellation policy has had to become far more strict which makes me feel like a grumpy ol’bear at times. First lesson deposits are not something that I ever wanted to implement but now I will have to.

Regardless, I’ve been working long days. This weekend I had two twelve-hour days in a row and by the end of it I was so exhausted that I was somewhat delirious. Saturday was simply back-to-back clients (private, group and behavioural) and Sunday was my Dog Walker Course and then a dry-run of a new class that I’m excited to announce soon (be patient, it’s coming!).

After our dry-run class on Sunday night, I was walking with my colleague back to her car with her pup when three dogs came running up to us off-leash. Her pup is not reactive or problematic in any way, but he is an unneutered adolescent male which means that other dogs may not be totally cool with him. I immediately went on the defensive as I know what Parker’s like with dogs like him and I didn’t want to see this guy get into a tussle. Clearly the owner wasn’t around so I body-blocked the dogs back a bit and then lured them back to their driveway.

Thinking I was successful and taking it a step further, I asked them to stay as I turned to walk away. Stupid me. One of the dogs decided to take the opportunity to bark and lunge at me. I was about 2.5 feet away and he charged at me and gave me a muzzle-punch (level zero on a Cara Shannon Bite Hierarchy chart, so still considered an aggressive move). I walked away as I was tired, cranky and just in no mood to engage and with who? A dog? With no owner present? No thanks. I’d make a quick call to Animal Control and let them know that three dogs are lose and charging people and approaching dogs off leash on a busy intersection. They can take care of it.

We get to the car and lo and behold, the three dogs come around the corner about 100 feet away, this time with their owner. We get the pup in the car and before we can close the hatchback, the three dogs are there, one approaching the back of the car where sits our lovely pup. I body block him back again and say to the owner “It’s not safe for your dog to approach – please call him off.” to which I got an snarly “Control YOUR dog.”I replied – “our dog IS controlled – you need to keep your dogs close to you.” She turned to me with her cranky sneer and says “What do you want me to do? LEASH my dogs?” I start to laugh mainly out of sheer sarcasm and a desperate attempt to not let violent tendencies overcome me. “Um, yeah. Since it IS the law. That WOULD be a good idea.” She tosses a few profanities my way and I turn my back on her as I say “Don’t you run a doggie business? I’ll be sure to spread the word.” She and her three little dogs walked away, off-leash while she texted on her phone without a second look at her dogs.

I admit I was shaking and my colleague did not see the best side of me that day, but things like that really get my goat. It’s enough to make me use positive punishment on a human being. You know what I’m sayin’.

Anyways, I headed home and called Toronto Police and Animal Control to file a full report. These dogs should not be loose, nor should that rude owner get off without at the very least, a warning. What happens if a reactive dog walks by and those dogs approach and it sends the reactive dog past his threshold and into an aggressive incident causing serious damage? Who’s in trouble now? Well, sure the dogs are off-leash and unsupervised and their owner will likely pay the fine, but the reactive dog has to contend with a serious setback – one that is quite traumatic to say the least.

What if a child walks by and the dog decides that a muzzle-punch is old news and breaks skin?

I hope this person makes the right decision and smartens up about her responsibilities as a pet-parent in our city. She makes us all look bad. It’s sad that she runs a business in the pet industry as she’s setting a terrible example for others and poisoning the industry as a whole.

I’m a walking advertisement. When I walk my dogs and even when I’m out in public without them, I’m still representing Whatta Pup! so I act appropriately and reflect a professional image. (Yeah, we all have our bad days.) This woman isn’t aware of that, though. She is not someone I would ever hire or befriend. I certainly will make sure that she doesn’t get any of my business nor the business of anyone who asks me. People like that don’t deserve to succeed.

There. Rant of the day complete. *wink*

When You or your Dog is Bitten

When we take our dogs to off-leash parks and other public places, we run the risk of a bite incident; this is common knowledge. What isn’t common knowledge is how to handle it when it does happen.

So what to do if you or your dog gets bitten by another dog? Let’s run through the steps:

Stay calm and get control
Keep all involved dogs secured by leashes at a distance and stay calm. The dogs are already beyond their threshold and need not to be punished or further stressed. Take a few deep breaths calm yourself before you take any action. If your dog was the victim, you can comfort him/her by gently petting or soothing them with a calm, quiet voice, but wait until they have self-soothed a bit – you do not want to be the next victim – that of a redirected bite (dog bites whatever is closest, due to pain or fear, without intent to harm). While your temper may be flaring and your emotions are running high, try to get ahold of yourself first and foremost.

Assess the Damage
Is there a puncture or broken skin? If it is life-threatening, call 9-1-1 immediately; if it is not, be sure to administer first aid and seek medical attention right away. If your skin is broken at all, you will need to be seen by a doctor in order to have the wound flushed and checked. “Dogs mouths are the cleanest” is a myth. Dogs have enzymes to break down the different things they pick up, but they certainly have plenty to bacteria to share. You will also need a tetanus shot if you are not up to date, and (potentially) antibiotics to fend off infection. If your dog has a puncture, he/she will need to see a veterinarian immediately for the same reasons. Remember that dogs will rarely show that they are in pain, so don’t assume that since they are quiet or seem unaffected that they are not hurting. A trip to the vet is the safest bet.

Exchange information
Speak to the dog’s owner and get their name and contact information – you will need them to give you proof that their dog is up to date on vaccinations. Ideally they will show you a piece of I.D. that proves they are who they say they are and you can follow up for proof of good health and vaccinations. You may come across someone who is afraid or irresponsible; if they refuse to give you information, call the police immediately and let them deal with the situation. (Remember – if they drove to the park, you can take down their license plate and they can be traced that way too.)

Talk to witnesses
This is very important. Speak with anyone who witnessed the incident and ask for their contact information in case you need to call on them down the road. Do not try to convince them of what happened, one way or another; they will have seen whatever they saw and you need to make this short and sweet. Keep in mind that some people may not want to get involved, and they may not want to give out their contact information. Do not pressure them – it is not their responsibility.

Contact Animal Control
This part is very important, despite what normally happens in these situations. When we contact Animal Control, we are simply notifying them of an incident. It does not mean that the dog will be euthanized or that there will be a dramatic scene. They collect the information and investigate. They will speak with the dog’s owner and depending on the severity, they may give a warning and some restrictions (no off-leash parks, must be muzzled in public, etc…) or they may ask that the dog is quarantined or surrendered (this is extremely rare). If you were the victim, you may also be required to speak with Public Health as your doctor will likely tell you.

Legal action
If the dog’s owner does not co-operate and cover the veterinary fees or medical bills for the bite, you have a right to take them to small claims court in order to settle for the associated fees. If you are interested in opening a claim, read about the process online and contact your lawyer for assistance.

Contact your Trainer
This is a good time to contact your Trainer and inform them as well. You may want to set up a session to discuss the next steps to ensure your dog is not traumatized by this incident. Make sure that you “get back on the horse” so to speak; do not avoid other dogs out of fear – continue your normal, everyday routine and continue socializing your dog in safe places with friendly people and dogs.

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Remember to try to stay calm and think positive. Be proactive and educate yourself through the experts around you. Everyone will have an opinion but stick with the true experts – your vet, trainer and lawyer. Keep a cool head and follow the protocol; it’s in place for a reason.

You may be hesitant to contact the authorities, but as a dog owner, you bear a responsibility to help ensure the safety of other people and pets in public places. Failing to report a bite incident shows irresponsibility as a fellow dog-owner. You can’t change the past but you can certainly help to ensure no other person or pet has to be a victim. It also ensures that people are responsible for their pets and it may prompt them to seek behaviour modification for their dog to prevent it from happening again. Just think; next time it could be a child. Do the right thing.

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Important Numbers:
Animal Control 24/7: 416-338-PAWS (7297)
Toronto Police 24/7: 9-1-1 / 416-808-2222
Public Health: 416-338-7600

Dog Owners’ Liability Act

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Date: April 5th, 2011
Author: Caryn Charlie Liles
Copyright, Whatta Pup!

This article is the author’s opinion and for information purposes only. This information should not be taken as legal advice or relied upon in any way. Consult with a lawyer prior to taking any action.

When your Dog Bites

Dog bites are not the most pleasant thing to discuss or think about when it comes to our sweet, loving dogs, but it’s a good idea to be prepared in the unlikely event that it does happen. The last thing you want to do it be unrealistic and tell yourself that your dog will never bite anyone. You also don’t want to ignore any warning signs coming from your dog – if you see signs of stress and anxiety you need to be taking the proper steps to alleviate them with a positive trainer.

So what to do if your dog bites someone? Let’s run through the steps:

Stay calm and get control
Keep your dog secured by his leash and stay calm. In the next few minutes, every reaction you have can make or break the outcome of the situation. Do not punish your dog or scare him further – he is already beyond his threshold and has proven it by biting. No one should touch the dog until you are at home. Keep other people and dogs away from your dog until the situation is under control and you have returned home. Take a few deep breaths calm yourself before you take further action.

Apologize and offer to help
Speak to the victim and get information about the injury – is there a puncture or broken skin? If it is life-threatening, call 911. If it is not, advise the person to seek medical attention right away. Exchange information and a heart-felt apology. They will need your information and you should at least know their name. Offer to pay for their medical expenses relating to the bite. This one step may put you in a better light and even save you from a lawsuit; kindess goes a long way.

Talk to witnesses
This is very important. Speak with anyone who witnessed the incident and ask for their contact information in case you need to call on them down the road. Do not try to convince them of what happened, one way or another; they will have seen whatever they saw and you need to make this short and sweet. Keep in mind that some people may not want to get involved, and they may not want to give out their contact information. Do not pressure them – it is not their responsibility.

Go home and contact your insurance company
You may want to contact your insurance company as some companies will cover dog bites on home policies. Do not open a claim until you have sought legal advise. Simply as the “hypothetical question” when you call your broker. If your policy does not cover bites or you do not wish to open a claim, leave this step out.

Contact your Vet and Trainer
This is a good time to contact your Veterinarian and inform them of the incident; they may want to follow up with a check-up and bloodwork to ensure the dog is not ill or in pain (which can cause dogs to act aggressively). Next, speak with your Trainer and inform them as well. You may want to set up a session to discuss the trigger for this incident or an assessment in order to find out what may have happened to cause this. Listen to what your Vet and Trainer have to say; it may not be what you want to hear, but listen anyways as they are objective and knowledgeable.

Seek legal advice
This step may seem far-fetched, but it is always best to be fully prepared. You may receive a call from the following:

* Public Health
* Police
* Animal Control

If you do get a call from them, you need to know exactly what to say and how to say it so that you are not set up to fail yourself. A lawyer can walk you through these steps. Do not speak with anyone until you have spoken with your lawyer. Do not obstruct the investigation, but request time to speak with your lawyer first. You will likely be required to show proof of vaccinations to Public Health as they must investigate each bite incident and ensure the health and safety of the victim. If the Police and/or Animal Control are involved, you may be preparing for legal action against you, and your dog’s life is on the line.

If that is the case, you will want your lawyer walking you through every step of the way to ensure your pet does not pay dearly.

You may be required to put your dog in quarantine until the investigation is complete, or you may be required to muzzle your dog when he is out in public – if so, do not dispute it; simply work with your trainer in order to properly desensitize your dog to a muzzle as sometimes they can increase a dog’s stress and anxiety. Take responsibility and follow instructions until the muzzle-order is lifted. Do not take the chance of being caught without it and having further charges against you.

Love your dog
Lastly, love your dog just the same as you did the day before. This does not mean your dog is “aggressive” or that he is “bad” – he was pushed past a threshold that caused him to aggress in the moment and the moment has passed. Do not punish your dog – that will make the situation worse and he is likely feeling your stress already. Treat him the same as you did yesterday but put a few new rules in place in order to regain control of the situation and help yourself feel more in control:

* hand-feed every meal in order to control the most important resource
* practice basic training cues (sit, down, come, leave it, look, etc…)
* do not allow your dog on the furniture for now – let him earn access again over time
* ensure his basic needs are met daily (food, water, sleep, potty, exercise)
* avoid highly populated areas and dog parks until the matter is resolved
* avoid any and all stressful situations as he may be feeling “edgy”

Remember to try to stay calm and think positive. Be proactive and educate yourself through the experts around you. Do not discuss the incident with aquaintances at the park and do not set your dog up in the same situation until you have worked with your trainer. Everyone will have an opinion but stick with the true experts – your vet, trainer and lawyer. Hope for a bright outcome and prepare for the worst – just like any other situation.

Be realistic. Some bite incidents will require the dog to be euthanized if the court finds that the risk for a second bite incident is high. Sometimes this is the only humane option though it may not be what we want for our beloved pets. Cross each bridge as you come to it and try to remain calm and in control. You can’t change the past but you can certainly control your actions and reactions in the present.

Date: March 5th, 2011
Author: Caryn Charlie Liles
Copyright, Whatta Pup!

This article is the author’s opinion and for information purposes only. This information should not be taken as legal advice or relied upon in any way. Consult with a lawyer prior to taking any action.

Why Dogs Bite

I often hear dog owners say “oh, my dog would never bite anyone” and I always have to correct them. Unfortunately, no one can predict whether or not their dog will ever bite. It’s like saying that you’ll never put your hands out to catch yourself while falling. For dogs, biting is a natural behaviour in many situations as they use their mouths the same way we use our hands. If something comes too close to us, we use our hands to put distance between us; dogs will use their mouths. If something reaches out and pinches us, we use our hands to bat them away; dogs will again, use their mouths.

Dogs will bite for a variety of reasons, but the most common is fear. For that reason, our greatest responsibility is to socialize our dogs well from an early age, with different people, dogs, noises, sights and smells. A well-socialized dog will always be less fearful. At the first sign of fearful behaviour, we should be working with our dog to desensitize or counter condition them (give them a different and positive association with that which they fear). Dogs don’t generally “get over it”, so to expect this of them is unfair.

When a dog is injured or in pain, they will also likely use their mouth in what we call a “redirected bite”. Recently, a dog was electrocuted on a downtown street and the owner was reportedly bitten. This is an excellent example of a redirected bite – the dog was in pain and when the woman touched him to comfort him, he turned and bit her. He did not bite because he’s aggressive, or a “bad dog” – he bit because he was in pain and his only instinct is to bite in order to attempt to stop whatever is hurting him. He was not trying to hurt his owner – he likely didn’t even realize what he’d done.

Let’s translate this to a walk down the street. Fido is minding his own business when a person in a long dark coat comes racing around the corner holding a newspaper in one hand and an umbrella in the other hand. Fido panics, thinking “this crazy man is coming straight for me and he’s probably going to hit me with one of those two things! I need to stop him!”. So the dog freezes on the spot, pins his ears, lowers his body, and then finally he barks and lunges towards the man as he speeds by, inches away, and happens to catch his leg.

Does this mean the dog is aggressive? Not at all. He was speaking Doglish and few people understand that language. He was trying to give a warning (freezing, pinning ears, lowering his body, barking) and when it was not heeded, he had no choice but to physically make the man back up by giving him a nip – something that is perfectly natural for dogs to do.

Unfortunately, people don’t see things the same way. We think that if a dog bites, he must be aggressive. I say that if a dog bites, he was not set up for success and was likely scared or in pain. If we educate ourselves and learn “Doglish”, we can recognize the signs of stress and anxiety, therefore enabling us to predict a bite incident. Predicting isn’t enough; we need to be able to prevent these incidents and better prepare our dogs – set them up for success.

Another important factor next to socialization, is to ensure that our dogs have good bite inhibition. This means that your dog knows the difference between a soft mouth and a hard mouth (little warning nip vs. a mauling). By working with puppies to teach them proper bite inhibition, you are saving their lives, in a sense. We do this by allowing them to bite at first, delaying our reaction (yelp and walk away), and gradually lowering our threshold for pain until we do not allow any teeth-on-skin contact whatsoever. This is much better than starting off by disallowing any teeth-on-skin contact as the dog will never learn to give a soft nip as a warning – they will jump straight to a hard bite.

Lastly, to coincide with learning “Doglish”, we have to be sure not to punish our dogs when they communicate. This goes against everything we humans naturally think, but look at it this way: when you punish growling or barking, you’re punishing away your dog’s early warning system. Growling and barking are ways that your dog is telling you that she’s uncomfortable. If you punish away the signs of discomfort, you’re not changing your dog’s underlying emotional state; she’s still uncomfortable and/or frightened. What will happen is that your dog will stop giving that early warning (growl or bark) when she’s afraid and she will skip right to the bite when pushed too far and needs to defend herself. By punishing the warning signs, you’ve left her with no other option.

Bottom line is: don’t punish your dog – teach them. Listen to them. If they are uncomfortable or fearful, put some distance between them and “the scary thing” and enlist the help of a positive trainer who will teach you “Doglish” and alleviate your dog’s stress and anxiety.