Blog Dog Training ~ Speaking Dog the Bark Busters Way!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Muzzle training for your dog

Muzzle training for your dogThere was a time when muzzles were considered the sign of a dangerous dog. Fitting a muzzle was a last resort for owners who could not trust their dog not to attack other dogs and/or people. Although muzzles are much more widely used these days for many and various reasons other than aggression, owners are often reluctant to use a muzzle as they feel that it will stigmatize them and their dog. However, muzzles can be useful in many ways and their use shouldn't be discounted.

People generally are more willing to put time and effort into training their dog than they were in the past, and dogs are now, on the whole, sociable and acceptable canine members of our society. These days, UK legislation is much stricter and the penalties for dog owners so much harsher, so sometimes the use of a muzzle is a sensible and safe option. As a positive aid to dog training they allow owners to be more relaxed in the knowledge that, even if they lose control of their dog's behaviour, there may be no significant consequences. A muzzle can also be used to control a dog's habit of eating faeces (coprophagia) whilst out on walks. With the increased incidences of poison being maliciously laid to kill or harm dogs, a muzzle can be an invaluable tool to safeguard dogs who scavenge for food whilst out walking. They can be especially useful to groomers and vets who are handling dogs at close quarters in situations where the dog may be uncomfortable or even stressed.

Bark Busters recommends a basket muzzle, either leather or vinyl, where possible. For dogs who show aggression or who scavenge whilst out on walks, a basket muzzle would be the most appropriate.

We do not recommend a steel muzzle as these are too dangerous and could hurt another dog or person. We also do not recommend a muzzle that encloses the dog's snout or mouth as these can restrict panting or drinking. These can be dangerous for dogs because a dog needs to be able to pant and drink through the muzzle.

Most dogs can be trained to wear a muzzle, and there is an argument that all puppies and young dogs should be introduced to a muzzle in case a situation ever arises where one becomes necessary – for example if a dog becomes stressed at the vets or at the groomers, or if a dog starts to show aggression in certain situations, due to fear. As with anything that we want to introduce to our dogs, planning is required. Be patient and consistent when introducing the dog to the muzzle to ensure that the muzzle has positive associations for your dog. The training should be undertaken over the course of a few days to enable your dog to become accustomed to having the muzzle near his face.

When training your dog to wear a muzzle, the whole experience needs to be pleasant and unthreatening. Don't rush the process. Your voice tones should be soft and happy and lots of praise given at every stage. It's also important to ensure that the muzzle you select fits your dog comfortably, as any pain will create a bad association and reverse any good work you have done.

Some people will introduce the idea of a cone to a dog before presenting the muzzle. This is a way of training a dog to put his nose into something that you are holding, without being worried about doing so. Every time your dog puts his nose into the cone he gets a treat reward and praise. This encourages your dog to want to insert his nose into items that you are holding for him, knowing that there will be a reward. You can change the items as you progress, for example, from a cone, to a child's bucket, to a mug, and eventually to the muzzle itself.

Others will go directly to the muzzle training. In either case, the following steps will help you to accustom your dog to wearing a muzzle:

Step 1

When first introducing the muzzle, allow him to place his nose inside without pressure from you. Don't try to fasten the muzzle at this stage. Begin by placing a dry treat inside the muzzle. Allow him to put his nose inside the muzzle, retrieve the treat, and withdraw his nose. Repeat this several times, moving the muzzle away from him so that he begins to follow the muzzle to retrieve the treat. Praise when his nose is in the muzzle, and remain silent whist the muzzle is off. This will help him to associate the muzzle with good attention.

Stage 2

Introduce treats into the muzzle that take a little longer to chew, or you could use a doggy paste that needs to be licked. The aim here is to enable you to hold the muzzle up to his nose for a longer period. Always praise when the muzzle is over his nose.

Practise this stage for a few days, two to three times per day for around 3 or 4 minutes each time. Once your dog is comfortable with you bringing out the muzzle, and happily puts his nose inside to eat from it, you are ready to progress to the next stage.

Stage 3

Practise feeding treats through the holes in the basket, still without fastening the muzzle around your dog's neck. Make sure you get it right so that your dog can eat the treats posted through the holes before you proceed onto the next stage.

Stage 4

Here we begin to attempt to fasten the muzzle onto your dog's head. Make sure you are armed with approximately 20 high value treats. Things like strips of chicken or small pieces of sausage work well. Place one treat into the muzzle, allow your dog to start chewing the treat and then fasten the strap of the muzzle. Immediately start feeding your high-value treats through the side holes, as you practised in stage 3. As you feed the treats, keep praising your dog. Once all treats are eaten, unstrap the muzzle and cease the praise.

Stage 4 should be repeated for a couple of days, extending the period of time that the muzzle is worn, until your dog can tolerate the muzzle for around 30 minutes. Don't worry if this takes longer than a couple of days for your dog. All dogs are different, and will accept things at different speeds. The important thing is that your dog ends up comfortable with the muzzle over his face. A good sign would be that he wags his tail happily when he sees the muzzle come out.

Keep up the good work by introducing the muzzle when your dog is doing something he enjoys. You may want to continue introducing treats occasionally, and always maintain the praise. If your dog seems to regress in his acceptance of the muzzle, don't get angry or frustrated, simply go back a couple of steps and start again from there.

You can teach your dog to drink water when wearing a basket muzzle by filling his bowl to at least 3 inches. Take him over to the bowl and waggle your fingers in the water, or scoop some water up to encourage him to drink.

If you are at all unsure about your dog's behaviour, muzzle training is a very good idea. An owner who is anxious and worried about what may happen when out on walks will be sending those stress signals down the lead to the dog. With the properly-fitted muzzle in place your dog cannot inflict any major damage onto other dogs or people, and you can therefore be more relaxed. A relaxed owner is more likely to be walking a relaxed dog – a situation that is healthier and happier for both.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How to greet a dog safely & politely

How to greet a dog safely and politelySince you are reading this, you are probably someone who likes dogs! You are certainly not alone. As Bark Busters dog trainers & behaviour therapists, we spend most of our time with dogs. This means that we constantly meet dog lovers, be they owners, children, or passers-by. So we thought we'd give you some advice on how to greet a dog safely and politely.

At the risk of stating the obvious, dog lovers love dogs! They love to talk to them, stroke them, scratch their ears and fuss them. That's great as long as you know the dog, the dog knows you and you have established this behaviour as being acceptable between both of you. However, this can become a potential problem when you assume that all dogs will love the attention and assume all dogs behave like this; especially with a dog you don't know. Your innocent actions could seem threatening to some dogs, so you need to be sure that you know how to act and behave around unknown dogs, and the reasons why, to ensure everyone's safety.

We must appreciate that the behaviour and body language humans display is very different to canine behaviour and could be regarded by canines as offensive and/or an attempt to threaten, challenge or control. Understanding that the behaviour we show when greeting, differs so greatly from a dog's behaviour, is the first step towards making your greeting of an unknown dog, safe, respectful and polite.

How dogs greet
Firstly, look at a greeting from a dog's viewpoint. Well-socialised dogs, meeting for the first time, will be making assessments based on canine behaviour. They see a dog and assess its body language from a distance. Then they may go towards the other dog and stop, still assessing its body language for signals to indicate whether it's relaxed, friendly or anxious, nervous, wary or a threat. A dog is also assessing the threat level of the other dog by its stance. This could be tail up, ears pricked, head up, proud stance, hackles raised, or maybe tail down, ears sideways or down, head lowered and even looking away? Depending on the signals a dog is showing could mean the difference between a confident dog, a nervous or aggressive dog or a relaxed dog with no threat at all. Some dogs may use submissive signals such as immediately dropping to the ground and laying on their back or side. If that's your dog, be happy that it is unlikely to get into trouble! The next step is that they sniff each other's faces and then go head to tail to check each other's signature smell from anal glands and genital areas. After initial greetings and assessments, they may either walk on comfortably, play, or one may show submissive signals, like lowering head, rolling over willingly, or even urinating (especially uncertain pups). The other dog will then usually indicate acceptance to the submissive signals and both will happily go their separate ways.

How humans greet
Humans do not greet in this way! Nor do we naturally recognise these forms of body language signals. Primate behaviour involves meeting face to face, looking into the eyes of the other 'person', using vocal sounds (talking), and lots of use of the hands and arms (touching, stroking, gesticulating, hugging, kissing). If we use this behaviour when greeting an unknown dog, we may be inviting an unwelcome reaction from the dog, and here's why.

You were probably told when young to reach out and show the back of your hand or clenched fist for a dog to sniff before trying to stroke their head. Depending on the dog and its level of human socialisation, this can cause a dog to feel threatened despite your good intentions; consider that many dogs are naturally shy, nervous or timid. Furthermore, there are many hand shy dogs, such as adopted dogs, with an abusive or uncertain past. These dogs, particularly when on lead, may be feeling uncertain and unable to run away. When an unknown person, using their human behaviour, stares straight at a dog's eyes, leans over them, which can be interpreted as controlling or even aggressive behaviour, then moves their arm swiftly towards their head, the dog may be feeling uncomfortable or even threatened. This may cause the dog to issue a nervous warning (growl) or create a noisy response (bark), or react physically at the end of the lead. Consequently, a dog could be wrongly labelled as aggressive.

Of course, there are many dogs that are very well socialised with humans and our rather blunt form of greeting. They love having their head, ears and body ruffled and patted and will jump up and/or show happy wagging tails. Humans are good at recognising that happy-dog body language and understand the dog's desire for that type of greeting. The trouble is that we are not so good at recognising the body language that tells us we are not meeting one of those types of dog!

How to greet a dog safely and politely
Please consider doing the following when thinking about greeting a dog on or off lead in the park, street, or in the dog's home.

First, ask the owner if it is safe to greet their dog. We may teach our children to ask an owner, but in our experience an adult rarely asks the owner of a dog if they can do so. Some people even feel it appropriate to feed treats to their dog without asking permission.

If the owner says not to greet their dog, then please accept this. Don't assume that every dog will like you and because you've had dogs as part of your life for some time that it's okay to keep trying to touch the dog. Up to now, you have most probably met lots of well-socialised dogs.

The best way for people to assess and greet a dog is to do the following: -

  • All greetings must be on the dog's terms. Allow a dog to make the first approach.
  • Don't rush in to fuss a dog.
  • Keep talking to the owner so you don't stare at a dog.
  • Stand very still. Don't make sudden movements.
  • Ignore the dog. Let him come to you to sniff your legs.
  • Do not try to stroke or speak to a dog whilst he's sniffing you… he hasn't finished checking you out. A dog that sniffs you and then retreats, should not be approached, he does not want your advances.
  • After 30 seconds or so you should be fairly sure whether or not the dog wants a fuss.
  • ALWAYS ask the owner first.
  • Even if it is obvious that a dog is happy for a fuss, do not lean over him. Stroke and fuss the upper side of his body but not his head. This indicates that you don't want to be considered controlling. Also, some dogs have very sensitive ears so, if unsure, stay away from them!
  • Don't force yourself on a dog if he moves away from you or indicates in other ways that he is not comfortable. Stop after a few seconds and see whether the dog leans into you or nudges you for more.

As humans, we tend to assume that dogs will understand our intentions and our words but unfortunately that is not the case. Our means of communication differ so greatly from that of dogs. This is why so many people receive a bite or a snap as a result of unwitting behaviour when they approach an unknown dog! By failing to respect canine behaviours, signals and body language whilst imposing attention onto a dog we risk injury to ourselves or others, and put the dog's life at risk too. Some dogs cannot understand the differences between human and canine behaviour. Dogs learn through association and a series of events and interpret our movements and body language through their canine instincts; our words are largely interpreted through voice tone. They assume that you will understand their body language and their signals so it's up to us to ensure that we all recognise the signals and educate ourselves so that we do.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Crate training your dog or puppy

In a recent article, we discussed how to meet your dog’s needs. One of a dog’s needs is for shelter, its own space or den. We know that, in the UK, most dogs live indoors with their human family and so they do have shelter from the extremes of heat or cold, or from wet weather. Having your dog living indoors also means that they are part of your family unit and addresses their fundamental need to be part of a pack.

However, very often dogs need a little extra in terms of shelter. At the very least, most dogs like to have their own bed where they can retire to and know that they won’t be disturbed. Some dogs appreciate something more than this; they like a small dark space to go to where they feel safe. This is where a crate can be useful and fulfils a dog's need to have its own den. It also assists in the management of young dogs who are destructive or fearful of storms and fireworks etc.

By providing a crate, making it comfortable and cosy inside, and covering it with a blanket, you are giving your dog a dedicated small space. This is a space just for your dog, where he can feel safe and he doesn't have to share it with a human.

Select the right crate for your dog
Many dogs love a crate and will naturally seek it out. You will need to source one that is small enough to be cosy, but large enough for them to stand and turn around. If your dog’s precious toys are also in the crate, then this only adds to the feeling of security. Some dogs may be unsure at first so choose somewhere to set up the crate in the house that is accessible but not too busy, and leave the door open so that your dog can enter and exit as often as he wishes. Every time he enters, you can introduce a phrase such as ‘go to your bed’, and praise / reward him once he is in. Allow him to come out, and repeat the exercise until he is confident and comfortable about this new ‘den’. You could try to introduce the crate at feeding times and feed your dog in the crate. This will help to create a positive association with the crate and it will let your dog know that he can eat undisturbed by other pets or children.

Only when your dog is happy to enter and remain in the crate, can you start to close the door for short periods. You should never close the door if your dog is getting stressed. He needs to feel comfortable with the crate first. You can close the door short times when you are eating or, especially if introducing a crate to a puppy, whenever he is having a nap during the day. Gently place him in the crate and close the door. Your dog will soon become confident that he is safe and that you will be available to release him when he is ready. You can gradually increase the length of time to wait before releasing him.

It is worth remembering, however, that not all dogs like crates. You need to stick to your training plan whilst your dog becomes accustomed to the crate, but if your dog panics he could harm himself. Open the door and let him out and go back to having the crate door open for a while longer. We don’t recommend forcing your dog into a crate that he is clearly uncomfortable with…some dogs may never take to it.

Never leave a dog unattended in a crate for long or extended hours, this is unfair and could lead to barking or toileting issues.

Properly managed, crates can assist with toilet training
As with all training it's better to start early when your dog is a puppy, but it's never too late to try to accustom your dog to a crate. If he seems comfortable with the crate, you can use it to help with sleeping through the night and with toilet training. Dogs do not generally like to soil their own beds so, as soon as he wakes up, be ready to take him straight outside to toilet. This may mean that you are disturbed during the night for toilet duties, but it will help you get your puppy house trained much more quickly, and will gradually stop. He will also become accustomed to spending the night in his safe den knowing that you will reappear in the morning.

Providing adequately for crated dogs
If you are going to leave your dog or puppy in a crate for any length of time, you must make sure that water is available. Specially-designed water bowls are available to fit inside crates so that there is no risk of the water being overturned. Apart from overnight, it is not advisable to leave a dog of any age in a crate for more than 4 hours. If you are out during the day for longer than this, it would be best to leave the crate door open and allow you dog the run of one room such as the kitchen or utility room. We don’t recommend crates in hallways as the dog can become disturbed by postmen and passers-by which can lead to guarding and barking issues.

The benefits of crating your do
There are several benefits to crate training your dog. One of these is travel. If your dog is happy in a crate, then the crate can be used for safety in the car. It also means that your dog’s familiar sleeping place is with him if you are staying somewhere new. Additionally, a dog accustomed to a crate will be much happier being crated for airline travel.

A crate can be a fabulous tool for providing a designated resting and sleeping place. As with all training, do your research, be consistent, and never try to force your dog into something that frightens him. Your local Bark Busters trainer can help you with all aspects of crate training.

Bark Busters trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Choosing the right puppy

As Bark Busters dog trainers, we find that the New Year is a busy time for puppy training. If you are thinking of getting a puppy it is worth taking time to think about and prepare yourself for what you are taking on, and to make sure that the puppy you buy is right for you and your family. Having the right dog, properly trained, will bring you joy for years to come.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a puppy. Consider the breed you are thinking of and be sure that you can handle its size, temperament, and the amount of exercise it will need as it grows into an adult dog. Some of the registered breeds can be prone to known medical conditions so check these out before you go ahead. A cross-breed can be excellent but unless you know the size of the parents it is sometimes difficult to know how large the dog will become.

How to identify the right breeder
Talk to and visit breeders. Always buy your puppy from a reputable breeder that specialises in only one or two breeds. A reputable breeder should check your situation before allowing you to take one of the litter. They will need to know whether you have a secure garden, what time you have available for training, how much time will the dog spend home alone etc.

Make sure you can visit their premises and see the mother, and where possible the father, with the puppies. If you go to a domestic property to view a puppy, make sure that the puppies and their mother live together, and that the house has signs of dogs living there. There have been some terrible stories recently about puppy dealers, so make sure you are 100% confident that the person you are buying from is an ethical and licensed breeder or a reputable rescue centre.

As well as seeing the mother of the puppies it's advisable to see the father too. The temperament of both mother and father must be sound and of a good nature. Your puppy will inherit some of their temperament traits.

Never take a puppy under 8 weeks old if offered, as puppies need to stay with their mother and siblings for those first crucial weeks whilst they learn to interact and communicate with other dogs. This will help to avoid behaviour problems in the future. Whilst you are viewing the puppies, always try to see the whole litter at play, and be mindful that the puppy sitting on its own away from the rest of the litter may have some temperament issues that may be difficult for a first-time puppy owner to address. Similarly, the puppy that is confident and comes bounding over to you may be challenging as he likes to make his own decisions! Try to choose a puppy that best reflects your personality.

Choosing the puppy to suit your personality
The best puppy to choose would be the one who is playing with his siblings but not being too rough. If you pick him up and he is happy to be cuddled without mouthing too much or wriggling to get away, then that could be the puppy for you. If you feel that you would like two puppies to be company for each other, choose a male and a female, as that mix of a male and a female is far more compatible, than two of the same sex. If you really want two of the same sex, then, providing you are going to have them de-sexed, two males are preferable to two females, as in our experience, females are the more prevalent types we deal with when called in to address problems such as Sibling Rivalry.

Bringing a new puppy home
When you bring your puppy home, be mindful that the puppy will be unsure and scared when taken away from its mother and siblings. Be prepared for crying and whimpering and be patient. He will need somewhere small, dark and cosy to sleep, and will preferably have a small toy or blanket brought with him to remind him of his litter-mates. Our crate training article may help.

Ensure that you register your puppy with your vet and start the course of injections as soon as possible. Also, be aware of the laws surrounding identification and speak to your vet about microchipping as it is now compulsorily in the UK.

A free WaggTagg™ dog identification tag is provided with each Bark Busters Home Dog Training package.

One of the main concerns we hear about puppies is toilet training. Puppies will have lots of accidents but they won’t toilet in your house on purpose or to spite you! As with everything with puppies, this issue needs consistency and perseverance. Be prepared to go outside with your puppy in all weathers on a regular basis whilst you encourage him to toilet outside. A lot of hard work and consistency in the first few weeks will pay dividends in the long run.

Puppy training to suit your needs
If you need assistance in settling or training your puppy, Bark Busters has a training programme that will suit you and we will be happy to help you understand your puppy and why it does the things it does.

This information is brought to you by Bark Busters in the interest of good puppy management.

Bark Busters Home Dog Training has trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

Adopting a dog from a rescue centre

If you have decided that you want a dog, it is often a good idea to consider rehoming a dog from one of the many rescue centres around the UK. There are lots of lovely dogs who find themselves at rescue centres through no fault of their own. They just want a home and will very often prove to be loving and loyal lifelong companions to their new owners. Many dogs find kennel life stressful so offering a new home to such a dog is an act that benefits both you and the dog you choose to adopt.

Consider UK based rescues first rather than choose a sad-looking dog or puppy from a photo on a foreign rescue site. Whilst these dogs are just as deserving of a home, as dogs from UK rescues, it will be difficult for you to assess its personality without meeting the dog first. Once you’ve committed and the dog has been brought over to the UK, you may have problems. If this happens, then the poor dog may have to be surrendered to an already full UK rescue centre. If you adopt a dog from a UK rescue, then they are more than likely on hand to help you if you run into problems.

Also, avoid adopting from free ads on websites or similar, or from a ‘friend of a friend’. These may be stolen dogs or puppies and the truth about their background and behaviour may be withheld from you.

The best place to start
If you're thinking of adopting, the first thing to do is to look at the websites for the various shelters or, if you don’t have access to the internet, phone your local shelter and have a chat with them about your requirements and ask them if they have a dog that may suit you. If you do have access to the internet, most rescue centre websites will feature photographs of the dogs available for adoption, together with some basic information (name, breed, age, sex, temperament). Look at the dogs available and consider your own situation and how the dog will fit into your life and your household. Consider the cost of feeding them a good-quality diet and whether your budget can accommodate that expense (please don’t be tempted to feed low-budget, low-quality foods as these often contribute to unwanted behaviour and illnesses which can prove expensive and can see the dog returned to the shelter).

Choosing the right breed or type of dog
Choose breeds that are, or are likely to become, a size you can handle. If you have an active, outdoor lifestyle, you can choose an active young dog or a breed of dog that requires plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. For example, many springer spaniels and border collies are surrendered because their owners didn’t anticipate the mental and physical stimulation needed by their dogs. Before you rescue one, be sure that you are prepared and are being realistic about how much extra exercise you will be willing to take on. Don’t choose a breed of dog because it will force you to get out and get fit unless you are 100% sure about your commitment. In most cases, this doesn’t happen and it is the dog that suffers. If you prefer a slower pace of life, you may want to consider a smaller breed or an older dog who doesn’t need lots of exercise. Retired Greyhounds can make fabulous pets for the older or less active person; they are big enough not to trip over, happy to walk sedately on a lead around streets, and more than happy to laze on a comfortable bed.

Having decided which dog(s) you are interested in, contact the rescue centre by telephone and arrange to go and meet the dog… and possibly others that the rescue may recommend to you. At this visit, and before you meet and fall in love with the dog, ask lots of questions to further establish whether this is the right pet for you. Your questions may include: -

  • Was the dog surrendered or is it a stray?
  • If surrendered, what is its history? Why was it surrendered?
  • Has the dog been evaluated by a behaviourist? What are the findings?
  • How does the dog behave around other dogs and animals?
  • How does the dog behave around children?
  • Is there evidence of any training?
  • Is he friendly towards the staff, allowing them to take him out and return him to his kennel without issues?

These are all basic questions, and ones that the rescue centre staff will be happy to answer. In fact, they will expect you to want to know this information and will probably have the answers prepared for you in advance.

How to greet a dog for the first time
When you do meet the dog, you should try to assess his personality and temperament with the help of the kennel staff. The dog may be slightly wary of you at first. You are a stranger, so this is understandable. Allow him to make the approaches and set the pace of your greeting. Try to remain still and calm and allow the dog to come to you and sniff you. Don't just reach out to pet him as he may still be wary. It’s a good idea not to wear any strong perfumes or after shave when going to meet your selected dog for the first time, that way the dog can catch your scent which will help him to assess you. Once you and the staff feel that the dog is settled, you can interact a little more. He may not be ready to play or chase a ball for you, but he may be happy to let you have the lead and take him for a walk, or interact with him off lead in a secure area. Look out for signs of him shrinking away from you, cowering or shaking if you move your hands, speak loudly or make sudden noises such as a sneeze or cough. These may be signs that the dog either has been mistreated in its past or does not have a stable temperament and could need a lot of rehabilitation. This type of behaviour in a dog doesn’t mean that the dog is not suitable for adoption, but it may mean that, unless you have the skills to cope with and retrain a dog like this, you will struggle in situations around people or other dogs, that you can’t control. Consider whether this dog is right for you or whether it would be better suited to a different home. Don’t feel that you are letting the dog down by not taking him. Better he goes to the right home rather than end up back at the shelter or, even worse, euthanized because he has bitten. Look for a dog whose personality is suited to your level of knowledge and skill; a dog you can live with and cope with.

On the other hand, the dog you choose to meet may leap all over you, lick your face, and wag his tail so hard that he can barely stand still. This is lovely, enthusiastic behaviour and great if you can cope with this level of exuberance in your home. Also, once the initial enthusiasm has calmed down, check for those signs mentioned earlier… shying away from your hands, cowering and behaving in a fearful way.

In just the same way as selecting a puppy from a litter, the confident “me first” puppies and the ones that hide at the back of the pen are the ones for people with lots of experience and knowledge around dogs. Unless you are one of those people, you are probably better looking at the mild-mannered, middle of the pack dogs or puppies.

The same theory applies to rescue dogs. There are hundreds of dogs deserving a second chance at a ‘furever’ home. Most of them will make perfect family pets and loyal companions. If you are honest with yourself and realistic about your expectations and abilities, you will be able to take home the dog that is right for you. Choose carefully and you will be doing both yourself and the dog you rehome a great kindness. Then you can look forward to years of happiness and friendship.

This information is brought to you by Bark Busters in the interest of animal welfare and the great work that animal rescues and shelters do.

Bark Busters dog trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Christmas: Keeping your dog safe

Christmas is fast approaching again, so we would like to remind you of some important things to consider when preparing for the Festive Season with your dog.

Foods
Many dried fruits are poisonous to dogs so don’t allow them access to grapes, the cheeseboard, or any Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or mince pies.

Your Christmas dinner and the lovely big turkey that has been roasting all morning will be very tempting to your dog, but be careful about allowing him to partake in this meal. Onions, including leeks, and onion powder that may be found in stuffing mixes, can cause liver damage or a rare form of anaemia in dogs. This applies to both cooked and raw onions and leeks. Additionally, gravy can be very fatty, salty and too rich for your dog, so keep him away from the gravy boat and don’t allow him to lick your plates clean!

Salt can be dangerous to dogs as they cannot process excess quantities. Especially in an older dog, too much salt can cause kidney damage. So please watch out for the bowls of salted treats and make sure they aren’t easily accessible for your dog.

At Christmas, there will be quantities of sweets and chocolate around your house. Chocolate is very tempting for dogs but it can be a lethal temptation for them! Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include hyper-excitability, vomiting, frequent urination, diarrhoea, rapid breathing, weakness and seizures. If you discover that your dog has eaten chocolate and is displaying these symptoms, contact your vet immediately. Store chocolate well out of the way of your dog, and make his Christmas treats be something more natural for dogs. Also, discarded sweet wrappers can be very tempting too. Sweet wrappers can get trapped in the stomach and digestive system making for a very sick dog, and the need for an operation to remove them.

Never be tempted to feed your dog the cooked bone from a joint or the cooked carcass of a roasted bird. Cooked bones can cause internal damage as they splinter.

Alcohol
Make sure alcoholic drinks are out of the way of your dog. Your dog may be tempted to sample the contents of a glass left on the floor or a low coffee table.

Please be mindful that, if you are drunk, your dog may not recognise you instantly as he normally does. He may be fearful of you and back away or growl at you. Try to keep your voice calm and neutral, don’t rush to touch him, and allow him to work out that it's really you.

Decorations
Please do ensure that Christmas decorations are out of reach of your dog, especially a puppy who will be interested to sample the delights of tinsel, baubles and Christmas tree lights. Also, if you’re in the process of toilet training a puppy using paper in the house, don’t leave wrapped presents under the tree as it is likely that the puppy will use them as a toilet. Don’t reprimand your puppy for mistakes like this…he is learning.

Presents
Please ensure that any small parts of toys, and any batteries are always out of the reach of your dog. If he swallows a battery, please seek veterinary advice. If you are going to buy presents for your dog, please ensure that they are toys manufactured specifically for dogs. Buy dog toys from a reputable pet shop or manufacturer and go for quality rather than quantity.

Visitors
Dogs often love visitors and all the extra attention they bring. However, please ensure that your dog doesn’t become overwhelmed with attention. Particularly watch his interaction with children, and create a safe space for your dog to retreat to if things become too much. Don’t allow anyone to approach your dog once he has gone to his safe space. You may have to be firm with visitors, but you are responsible for the well-being of your dog, and you need to be sure that he won’t be pushed to his limits. Also, if you are holding a party, ensure that alcoholic drinks and party food are not left lying on the floor where your dog can help himself…you could end up with a very poorly pooch! Very often, dogs do not appreciate loud music so be mindful of this and allow him to go to his safe space, or turn the music down.

Fireworks
Please think twice before letting off fireworks to celebrate Christmas. Fireworks are one of the main complaints we hear from dog owners; they can cause extreme anxiety to dogs as they don’t understand the loud bangs. Doing without the fireworks will be appreciated by both your dog and those that live in the area.

If you prepare yourself, and try to view the Christmas wonderland of your home through your dog’s eyes, we are sure that you will be able to enjoy a safe and happy Christmas with your pet.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Meeting your dog's needs

As we all know, if you are a dog lover, owning a dog can be great fun and rewarding for all members of the family. However, the joy of owning a dog also brings with it a commitment from you that will last around 12 years or even longer. During that time, you will face challenges, frustrations and financial demands that may put a strain on your pockets, your relationship with your dog, and sometimes even your relationship with other members of your household!

With a view to minimizing any potential challenges and frustrations, we would like to offer some advice on how to ensure that your relationship with your dog is the best that it can be, so that you have a happy, healthy, well-behaved dog who will, in turn, offer you years of loyalty and joy that only dogs can bring.

Firstly, when choosing a dog, ensure you have some knowledge of the breeds available to you. Choose a dog that is most likely to fit into your lifestyle by reviewing their potential size, cost of feeding, amount of exercise they are likely to need, and ensure that you have sufficient room in your house and sufficient levels of income, fitness and time to be able to accommodate their needs.

Having considered these factors and decided which breed of dog is right for you, you will be on the right track for bringing into your home a dog who will be easily loved by all members of the family. Your dog will be a positive addition to your life providing you ensure that you are fulfilling his/her basic needs. Our Bark Buster trainers meet hundreds of dogs every week in their homes where their behavioural issues are causing their owners stress, tension and frustration. One of the first things we will explain to you is this; a big step towards a better-behaved dog is to ensure that their four basic needs are being addressed.

Feed your dog a good quality food. Do your own research and do not be persuaded by high-profile television advertising. Feed the best food you can within your budget, and consider visiting the independent comparison website www.allaboutdogfood.com where you can view most of the available dog foods and compare their ingredients, ratings and price. Also worth remembering is that, just like humans, dogs can fail to thrive, or even develop behavioural issues if fed a constant diet of low quality, processed food. Don’t be afraid to add in some fresh vegetables, fish, meat, and even some fruit. Again, do some research on what to feed and what to avoid before you start doing this.

Dogs are sociable animals that thrive in family units (or packs). Once they live in your home with you, then is what they perceive as their family unit; you become their pack. They won’t view you as humans who are naturally in charge in the human world…they simply see you as other members of the unit. Just like you, they instinctively know that the unit needs to be safe, but unlike you, they won’t automatically think that, because you are the adult human, you oversee the safety. In the dog’s eyes, for the family unit to be safe, there needs to be a leader. If your dog doesn’t see you as a leader – if he can train you to respond to his demands, yet ignore your commands, then he will start to regard you as a weaker member of the family and will feel it is his duty to step up and take charge of safety and security of the family both inside and outside the home. This can lead to many problems including nuisance barking, aggression towards other dogs or people visiting, poor leadwork, and poor recall. So, to give your dog a feeling of safety, it is important that he regards you as a good leader who he respects and feels he can depend upon for consistent and wise guidance.

If you decide to own a dog, you have a duty to ensure that your dog has a warm, dry, safe shelter protected from all elements. In the UK, most dogs live inside our home, unlike their counterparts in other countries. Clearly this naturally means that, as a dog has access to the house with the humans, he will have adequate shelter. However, some dogs, especially nervous dogs or those in households with young children may appreciate a small, dark space of their own where they can take themselves away from the family hullabaloo, and relax. Your Bark Busters trainer will happily explain to you the benefits of creating an indoor pen for your dog who may benefit from a smaller space within the house where they can retire and safely relax.

Every dog needs to be trained for them to live harmoniously with humans. This doesn’t mean that you need to turn your dog into a machine, or that you need to be a dog trainer to own a dog. However, you should ensure that you can train the basics. You Bark Busters trainer will be able to help with this. Training can also be fun and entertaining for your dog. By using his brain, he is using energy. Playing with your dog, and training him provides him with mental stimulation and builds up your bond. He learns how to respond to your commands, and learns that the correct response brings praise and reward. By learning through positive interaction, your dog will be much more responsive to you. He will also be mentally tired after a training and play session and this will help to alleviate potential problems of an under-stimulated, under-exercised dog who could become destructive.

By ensuring that you meet your dog’s needs, you can avoid many of the potential behaviours that can harm our relationships with our dogs, and look forward too many years of happy dog ownership. Also, don’t forget that, by meeting his needs, you will have years of unconditional love, someone also pleased to see you, and someone who always wants to go out with you and be in your company.

Bark Busters trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

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