Dog Parks! Behaviorally and Structurally!

I get a lot of people asking me what I think about dog parks. Whether or not it’s good, if it’s good for their dog(s), and if it’s a must, etc. I also get questions about when they are already there and there are issues such as Dogs are picking on my dog, my dog focuses on a dog, my dog picks fights, my dog doesn’t play etc.

Everything you need to know about dog parks, etiquette and behaviors will be covered as well as what to do if any situation arises!

First things first: What I think about dog parks.

I personally love the idea of a dog park. Fenced or not. The reason is, it’s a fantastic place to let your dog run and be a dog, as well as run off all of that excess energy, as well as do some good quality socialization!

 

Do I think that dog parks would be good for your dog?

Well, it depends! Some dogs absolutely adore the dog park! The smells, the socialization with dogs and people, the quality play time they get there, and training, some dogs love it! There are dogs however, are more reserved. This is where dog parks are not for every dog. Dogs have personalities, just like us. Are they human? No, but they do have preferences as well! If you take your pup there, and it looks like they are not having fun, then either that park is not for them, or dog parks in general are not his forte.

However, that being said, if it’s just socialization that’s the issue, I would definitely start off in a very small group of dogs, maybe 1:1 at the beginning, until they are confident in that area. Play with different breeds of dogs, as they all play differently. By playing 1:1, you will be able to determine your dog’s play style, and what style they play best around! This is also a good time to teach your pup proper play and how to leave play without getting over stimulated.
If they are doing great, start upping the amount of dogs until you feel confident they would do good in a public setting. A great place to test this, is a local pet store that offers play dates! The PetCos in my area all offer a 1 hour play session every Sunday, so definitely check them out!

If you find that even 1:1 play is too overwhelming for your dog (or showing aggression/fear), then it’s time for some counter conditioning. I would contact your nearest positive reinforcement trainer/behaviorist to help with this issue in person. (Blog about fear coming up in the near future)

 

Are dog parks a must?

Dog parks are not a must. There are many other ways that you can exercise your dogs mentally and physically such as walks, hikes, runs, dog walker, doggy daycare, training, mental stimulation toys, etc. If your dog doesn’t seem to enjoy himself there, then it’s not the place for your pup. Dog Parks are just another great outlet for dogs that love that type of environment!

My dog focuses on one dog at the park and seems like he’s picking on them!

This is a confidence issue. Your dog is lacking confidence and thus, picking on another dog that lacks even more confidence. This is equivalent to a bully on the play ground. What I would do, is when you see this behavior first start, remove him from the park and go home. You don’t need to be intimidating about it, just call your dog over, or go to him and clip the leash on and go home. Your dog isn’t ready for the dog park and needs to build more confidence in himself before coming back to the park. By removing him like this, you are also inadvertently telling him that you don’t like the behavior you saw and he doesn’t continue to stay in the environment until he’s better. Once you’ve worked on socialization, you can come back and repeat this if necessary until he plays very well in the park!
My dog runs away from other dogs and doesn’t seem to have fun

This is the same as above, your pup is not ready to be at the park until he’s gain more confidence and learn to play with other dogs. Set up training socialization scenarios, play dates, and if the reaction is too bad, find a positive reinforcement trainer in your area.

 

My dog is mounting another dog, or my dog is being mounted!

This is a typical behavior I see at the dog park. Owners, however, allow this to happen. What is actually happening is that your dog or the other dog is insecure/stressed or over stimulated and it’s expressing it to each other. However, not a lot of dogs will stand by and let another dog mount them, and that’s where a lot of fights come from. If you see this happening, remove your dog, tell the other owner it happened, and leave the park. The park is either too stressful or overstimulating for your dog at this time and would advise to pick another time where that dog, or less dogs don’t frequent at.

 

Behaviors you should be seeing at the park when playing:
*Proper play (Play that is not over stimulated, i.e. over growling, bite and holds, pinning, mounting, etc)

*Sharing toys great

*Running around

*No resource guarding

*And when dogs tell another dog off, they don’t pester the dog until they are calmed down

 

Behaviors to avoid and if seen, leave and pick another time or another park for play:

*Mounting

*Fighting
*Resource guarding people, space, dogs, etc
*Dogs overly focusing on specific dogs aggressively

 

Dogs learn from each other very quickly and dogs learn what works. This is called Social Learning. By removing dogs from certain situations and then teaching them outside the problematic environment what to do, and then take them back in and teach them, they will learn much quicker about what is proper behavior and what isn’t. Dogs do teach each other, however, having two insecure dogs try and teach each other is not the best idea because they already don’t know what to do, and all they end up doing is frustrating themselves. If you have a dog that is confident and knows the ins and outs of proper play, they can then teach the insecure one that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

How to pick a good Dog Park

First I would go there by myself and observe the dogs there at different times of the day for a week to a month. What I would be looking for is dogs that play well together, dogs that don’t get into fights and the pet parents are actively interacting with their dogs. If you see these things, you will know that that time or park is great. You will also go off of what your dog likes. Does he like a lot of dogs? Does he play well with certain breeds, sizes, etc? Factor in everything when you are looking and even talk with the parents that are there about the a park, if they’ve noticed anything negative, how their dogs are etc. This ensures the best time for your pup!

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Why Must They Chew Everything!

Chewing is a big one for most dog owners. Dogs will stick with chewing their items and toys, but some dogs just can’t help themselves when it comes to our clothes, children toys, themselves, our house etc.

First, let’s look at the different reasons why they might be chewing.

*Stress
*Feels good

*Playing

*Anxiety

*Self-Reinforcing

*Boredom/pent up energy

*teething

Now we look at the context of which the chewing is coming from.

*You leave them alone

*New environments/New things/situations in the house

*Lack of exercise

*Wanting to get your attention

Separation Anxiety can definitely pull out the teeth on your items. Chewing is a great stress reliever for all dogs. It works the muscles and makes them feel good. The chewing can vary by how intense their separation anxiety is. It can be just the simple chewed book, to your window and crate being demolished. If it’s the latter, please find a Positive Dog Trainer that specializes in Canine Learning Theory and Counter Conditioning to help with that issue.

When you leave your pup alone and they have a chewing problem when you leave, you have 2 options you can do: Crate him or Block and area off for him to be in (or pen). When you do either of these, you should always do Separation Work to help build confidence in your dog that you are coming back, and when you leave, leave chew toys, kongs filled with yummy treats and various other items that they enjoy. You can even leave paper products for him to purposefully destroy to relieve stress!

Sometimes new things will stress out a puppy. The reason they chew here is the same reason why they chew when being left alone. If you’re going to have company over and that stresses them out, remove them from the room to a quiet area and give them something to do that will mentally stimulate them.

Here’s a video going over how to start to prepare your dog to be left alone:

 

Anytime the chewing happens between the ages 7 weeks to about 8/9 months is most likely going to be related to teething. This stage, dogs are going to be looking for something to help relieve themselves of teething pains. Each dog has a personal preference as to what helps, but in general, a rope toy, a rubber toy with grooves, and a bone will certainly help with teething! If they don’t like rope toys, you can soak it in chicken or beef broth to entice him to chew.

Some dogs do chew for attention and self reinforcing behaviors. With this, you will have to have supervision on him to ensure he doesn’t get into anything you don’t want him to get. Have Bully Sticks and Kongs full of peanut butter or cream cheese to entice him to chew on those. Maybe a rope toy soaked in chicken or beef broth! Some dogs will take items from certain rooms because they have found that gets them attention! Whether it’s good or bad, dogs do what works and if it works for them, they do it again! If it’s a certain item like clothing with a scent (Maybe they seem to target someone in particular), try filling an old socks with fabric or other old socks and tie the end together and that will make a good re-directional toy for your dog to enjoy! Maybe there’s an old shoe that you don’t wear anymore, that can make a great chew as well! (If you teach them, you can teach them the difference between the items you want them to chew on and items you don’t, even if it’s the same type of item)

 

One good overall thing you can do to help reduce the chances of them chewing on something you don’t want is to exercise your pup. Dogs need at least 2 hours of physical and mental exercise each day (more for certain breeds). This will bring down anxiety and stress in dogs, and relieve pent up energy and curb boredom that causes chewing.

 

These are Not the reason why they are chewing:

*To have revenge

*Because they are mad.

*Just to prove a point/to purposefully do it

 

Dogs do not have complex feelings that humans have. People will sometimes put human reasoning on dogs to explain certain behaviors they see, especially chewing after an event. Most of the time, the result of the event is going to be one of the reasons listen above.

 

The type of toys you give to your dog should be a wide variety of sizes, thickness, and textures. Dogs can get bored of one type of toy just as easily as us humans do with certain things, so bringing in a variety of toys should also help curb their chewing habit as well!

You can also teach a wonderful alternate response by teaching them a very reliable drop cue! That way, even if they go to grab the item, you say the command, and they drop the item! Check out the video here:

Happy positive training!

 

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It’s Too Cold and Wet Outside!

We’ve all encountered it when we are raising our puppies. Potty training is going great! Except when it’s cold and rainy. Drat, we’ve hit a standstill and she’s going inside! ARGH!

 

Does this mean that your puppy has forgotten about what it was that we were teaching? Not necessarily.  It typically means that she does not find the rain and cold enjoyable and would rather be inside than outside, especially going potty. 

 

How do I correct this?

 

Well, when it’s raining, get a hole bunch of tasty treats, her favorite toy and get to playing! Out in the rain and cold! That’s right! She doesn’t have a very high opinion of the rain and once she starts to realize that being outside in the cold and rain with her favorite person with her favorite things, she will start to associate great things with the cold and rain!

 

If she is still giving the “you’re crazy mom” look, maybe it’s time to invest in a rain jacket, a sweater, and/or booties to help keep her warm and dry! It may sound silly, but it can make a world of difference for your pup!

 

Some dogs are naturally susceptible to the cold and naturally just don’t like and can’t deal with it. Chihuahuas, Mexican Hairless, Dachshunds, Greyhounds, etc generally cannot deal with colder weather. Help them out with sweaters and jackets and see how that goes!

Once you’ve got your dog comfortable, and out playing in the rain and cold, and they potty, make it so exciting that you can’t take it! They will go “Oh my gosh! This is so exciting going outside to potty in the rain!” And will start to have a positive association in the cold and rain. I would also suggest going on a stricter schedule and restrict their spaces around the house until going outside in the rain is all but old news to the pup!

Check out my potty training blog on how to start potty training basics during this time!

https://hikarufan1.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/look-at-this-mess-potty-training-tips/

 

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Going Behind My Back!

What does your dog do behind your back that just irks you?

 

Is it pottying down the hallway? Is it taking something from the trash and running to chew it?

 

Can you remember the very first time they did the behavior in front of you and what your reaction was? Depending on the first initial reaction you gave to the puppy, is most likely the reason why they are hiding from you to do the act.

Let’s go back to basics!

Dogs learn by association and what works.  There’s an action, a reaction, and a consequence (whether it’s good or bad).  The dog peed (action), Parent Scolded them (reaction), Learned that relieving in from of person is not a good idea ( negative consequence). The puppy just learned that relieving himself in front of you is not a good idea. But, what happens after that? The puppy goes into another room, pees (action), feels awesome/alone (reaction), no owner that scolds them when they relieve them-self (positive consequence).

Which one do you think the puppy is going to repeat? Each time they relieve themselves in the other room, or do the behavior you dislike, the puppy is self reinforcing himself each and every time he does it. An additional reason why he may be going in another room is because he either doesn’t know, or doesn’t find going outside reinforcing, or inconsistency with the training happened.  Self reinforcing behaviors are highly habit forming!

How do I stop this?

If your puppy or dog has a habit of leaving the room to relieve himself or something else, it’s time to have supervision at all times! Yep! We are going back to basics!

Potty training Blog Here: https://hikarufan1.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/look-at-this-mess-potty-training-tips/
Use baby gates or barriers to block off any areas that you don’t want your pup to go into. Close the doors as well.  Make sure that they are within your sight at all times, especially if you’re potty training. Being able to see signs that your puppy needs to go is going to help him learn what gets him to go outside plus gets wonderful things. Being consistent with this is going to make a world of difference!

If it’s a chewing problem, supplement him with bully sticks or kongs, or any toy that he is allowed to chew on! Exercise him more, as chewing is sometimes a result of built up energy and boredom (teething as well depending on the age)

 

When you see your puppy in the act of something you don’t like, try to interrupt him with a positive interrupter and redirect him to what you do want instead and reinforce that. Because dogs learn from association, he will start to realize that great things happen with the behaviors you do like and realize nothing is coming from the behaviors you don’t like.

 

Age can also play a factor in this. If they are under 6 months old, think of them like a child 1 year and less. Asking for full attention, or even full potty training by this age is like asking the 1 year old child to be completely potty training and follow all your commands. Try to be understanding within this time period as well, as this is in the time frame of the imprinting stage. Meaning, anything that happens positively or negatively, they will remember it for the rest of their life. At 6 months and older, you will face a hormonal teen that will be overly stimulated by anything and everything (Think of a teenage boy or an angsty teenage girl!) This stage takes a lot of patience and guidance to help them through this confusing time! After adulthood (around 2 years), they should be calming down and anything that hasn’t been reinforced, or had been self reinforced, will most likely be a habit by now, so you will need to start from the very beginning to teach him good habits. Good news is, the older the dog, the easier the training will be as they are not going through puppy hood!

Here’s how you can teach your dog a positive interrupter!

Positive Interrupters:

 

Good luck!

 

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