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How To Feed Your Dog For Better Behaviour

How to feed your dog for better behaviour

Have you ever noticed that when you start your day with a healthy breakfast – rather than with a doughnut – you’re able to focus much more easily at work?

Dogs also focus better when they eat well.

Your dog’s diet, from their meals and snacks to bones and treats, affects their ability to pick up new skills, control their impulses, and stay focused on you.

What’s For Dinner?

There is little data that shows the correlation between a dog’s diet and their behaviour, despite anecdotal evidence of dogs showing improvements in focus, lethargy, anxiety and aggression when switched to a fresh diet.

What we do know is that your dog’s gut health affects their entire body and their well-being. Adding even small amounts of fresh food to your dog’s processed kibble diet can help their beneficial gut bacteria flourish for improved mood, focus and clarity.

You can also support your dog’s gut health with probiotics. Yogurt and kefir are full of probiotics and safe to give your dog in small amounts, but it’s even better to use a dog-specific probiotic or goat’s milk kefir, which is easier for dogs to digest than kefir made with cow’s milk.

We also know that amino acids like tryptophan and tyrosine help your dog’s body create dopamine and serotonin, hormones that affect your dog’s mood. You can find these amino acids in processed foods, but they’re uncompromised and more bioavailable in fresh protein sources like red meat, eggs, chicken, turkey and fish. Contrary to popular Thanksgiving myth, turkey does not contain especially high levels of tryptophan – you’ll find this amino acid in all fresh meats.

Omega-3 fatty acids also support mood and brain health. You can use fish oil supplements to increase your dog’s intake. Whole food sources like tinned salmon or sardines (packed in water, low sodium) are another powerful way to keep your dog sharp.

While it’s wonderful if you’re able to switch to a raw or cooked, fresh food diet, simply replacing 10 percent of your dog’s kibble with fresh foods can make a difference in their health and behaviour.

When To Feed Your Dog

You might have tried training your dog on an empty stomach to increase their motivation for food rewards. Though a hungry dog definitely has more of a reason to perform well to receive treats, a University of Kentucky study suggests that dogs can focus better after they’ve had a meal.

A hungry dog may make more mistakes in rushed attempts to get food. They may be focusing too readily on the treat, rather than the task itself.

Remember to wait 30 minutes before and after feeding your dog to allow them to exercise. Exercising right before or after a meal can cause bloat, a deadly condition in which the stomach twists and fills with gas.

If you’re doing a lot of training, you can still use parts of your dog’s meals as rewards. You may just want to allow them to eat a small portion beforehand so they won’t be too hungry.

Are Your Treats “High Value”?

When we say to use high value treats, we mean rewards that your dog absolutely loves.

For most dogs, the yummiest treats are smelly, meaty and high in moisture. Dry, cookie-style treats are typically too bland for most dogs to go crazy for, and they just contribute carbs that will make your dog feel sluggish, and in the long run, gain too much weight.

The best treats are made mostly of meat, fish or eggs. To keep them healthy, you may want to look for low fat options. Even so, high quality proteins are a wonderful fuel source that will keep your dog motivated. To maintain your dog’s weight, check out our healthy, high value treat ideas.

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What To Do When You’re Frustrated With Your Dog

What To Do When You Get Frustrated While Training Your Dog

Do you ever feel annoyance, resentment or even anger towards your dog?

It happens to everyone. Even though your dog can’t help making mistakes, it’s normal to feel frustrated at times.

Getting frustrated does not make you a bad dog owner. It just means that it’s time to take a step back, take a breather, and try a new approach to your training problem.

Why Do You Feel Frustrated?

Just as we have to consider the underlying causes behind our dog’s behaviour issues, we should be just as patient with ourselves. Try to figure out why you’re feeling so frustrated.

Is it because you set the bar too high? Are you comparing them with dogs in videos, your neighbor’s dog, or simply expecting too much of them?

Or, are you actually feeling embarrassed by your dog? Do they make a dramatic scene in public? Do you ever feel like they make you look like a bad dog owner? Maybe your family members, neighbors, or complete strangers are complaining, giving you judgemental comments or overwhelming you with unsolicited advice.

These are all valid reasons for feeling extra stressed about training your dog. You may need to work around them. It may be necessary to lower your expectations, or explain to those around you that your dog is still in training.

How Frustration Affects Your Dog

Dogs pick up on our frustration. They can actually detect stress levels through the odour of your sweat, and they are also highly skilled at picking up facial expressions and body language.

Some of your dog’s frustrating behaviours can actually be signs that your dog knows that you are stressed. At times, your dog may appear to be ignoring you, when in reality, they’re giving off “calming signals”.

Dogs use “calming signals” to diffuse situations, to appear non-confrontational. For example, your dog may sniff the grass, yawn, walk away, or refuse to make eye contact. They may seem uninterested and disengaged, when in reality, they’re becoming afraid of you. Your dog is not ignoring you, they’re just trying to appear non-threatening so you’ll calm down.

How To Rewire Your Mindset

When you catch yourself becoming frustrated, especially if your dog is showing calming signals, it’s time to take a break to decompress.

In the meantime, try breaking down your goal into easier, more manageable steps. Try going back a few steps and reinforcing related behaviours that your dog already knows.

Both you and your dog will feel better with those small “wins”. Always end each training session on a good note, even if that means simply asking your dog to “sit” and rewarding them with one last treat. Training sessions should leave you and your dog wanting more, not totally drained and unmotivated.

How To Succeed In Dog Training

To increase your chances of reaching your dog training goals, always set your dog up for success.

Make sure they understand what is being asked of them. If you can’t seem to communicate clearly, try setting up the lesson in a new way. You can use obstacles, a target stick, stickers, markers and other props to guide your dog without the use of physical force or lots of trial and error.

A simple treat upgrade can make a huge difference in the speed of your progress. High-protein treats like meat, cheese, fish and peanut butter are the most motivating. Look for healthy, high value treats that won’t make your dog gain weight.

Work With A Positive Dog Trainer

Healthy Houndz positive dog training serves North York, Toronto and surrounding areas.
You can always vent to us when you’re frustrated with your dog. We get it. We are committed to finding humane, force-free ways to teach dogs, and along the way, we can show you exactly how to break down the communication barriers that cause frustration. Give us a call at 647-749-8731 or contact us today to get started.

What To Do If You Find A Lost Dog

What To Do If You Find A Lost Dog

Have you ever found a lost dog?

The Homeagain microchip company estimates that 1 in 3 pets will get lost at some point in their lifetime. So there’s a good chance that you will come across a dog that needs to be reunited with their family.

Here’s what every dog lover should know to safely help lost dogs:

Supplies To Have In Case You Find A Lost Dog

It’s helpful to have a small supply kit in your home or in your car in case you encounter a lost dog.

You’ll want to include a leash and collar to keep the dog from getting lost again. You may want to pick up a few cheap collars of different sizes, or just pack one simple slip lead. A slip lead can adjust to fit a dog of almost any size, with the added bonus of being easy to put onto a dog without risking a bite.

A lost dog may have gone hours without fresh, clean water, so a collapsible bowl is a must-have. Food is less of a priority, though some treats can be useful for gaining the dog’s trust.

Some  optional items to keep in your found dog kit can include: a towel for keeping muddy paw prints off your car seats, bandages and gauze, and flea/tick spray.

When To Approach A Lost Dog

If you find a lost dog, always be mindful of their body language before making contact with it. Some dogs will readily come up to any human that beckons them, but most lost dogs are scared. They may be difficult to coax towards you, and they may even bite if you approach them too quickly.

Sometimes, lost dogs are scared by approaching humans, and will run further away from the area, making it even more difficult for their owner to locate them. There is also a chance that they will run into a busy road.

If the dog seems scared, but not dangerous, sit or squat close to the ground to make yourself appear non-threatening. It can help to walk backwards while calling the dog towards you in a soft voice. Slowly reach for the dog’s collar, if present, to look for identification tags with their owner’s contact information. Be wary of stiff body language, flattened ears, or a sideways gaze – all signs that the dog may be about to bite.

Do not corner or chase after a dog if they refuse to approach you. Instead, focus on keeping the dog from leaving the area, and call 311 or your nearest animal control services. In North York and Toronto, you can call Toronto Animal Services at 416-338-8723.

What To Do After You’ve Captured A Lost Dog

If you manage to capture a lost dog, it’s best to take them to a shelter or your veterinarian as soon as possible. The lost dog may have picked up fleas, parasites or diseases that could be passed to your family pets, or even your human family, so it’s not a good idea to bring the dog into your home.

Reuniting the dog with their family can be as easy as taking them to a vet or shelter to have their microchip scanned. If the dog does not have a microchip, or if the contact information on it is outdated, the vet or shelter may be able to match the dog with an existing lost pet report.

You may have the option of keeping the dog as a foster in your home until they are reunited with their family. If you cannot take the dog home, you can leave them at the shelter or humane society. Be sure to leave your contact information and call each day for updates, especially if you want to make sure the dog is returned safely, or if you might want to adopt them if they are not reunited with their family.

Helping A Lost Dog Find Their Way Home

Hopefully, the lost dog has a family somewhere, worried and looking all over for them.

You can help the dog’s family find them by:

  • Calling the non-emergency services line at 311 to report a found dog
  • Posting flyers in and around the area where the dog was found, at vet’s offices, pet supply stores, grocery stores, libraries and town centres
  • Posting to your local Facebook group
  • Posting to Craigslist and Kijiji
  • Reporting the lost dog to every local vet’s office, shelter and humane society

If someone reaches out to you after finding your flyer or social media post, it’s imperative that you make sure they’re the dog’s actual owner, not a pet flipper. They should be able to show you photos they have taken of the dog, plus note any distinguishing markings or traits that you have not included on the flyer.

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What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Poison Prevention

dog poison prevention, poisonous household substances and treatment

To a dog owner, the worst feeling in the world is discovering a pile of chocolate wrappers next to your quivering dog.

Or realizing that your dog may have consumed some of your family member’s prescription medications, but you have no idea how much they have eaten.

Most dog poisoning cases are preventable, and yet it can happen to anyone… even if you have a dog who you think would never eat something that isn’t theirs.

For Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month, we’re learning about the most common ways dogs are poisoned in their own home, and how these incidents can be prevented.

What Exactly Does Chocolate Do To Dogs?

Most people know that chocolate is dangerous for dogs, but don’t realize just how dangerous it can be.

Both Theobromine and caffeine in chocolate  cause heart palpitations, hyperactivity and heavy panting, and in large doses, tremors, seizures and heart attacks.

Many chocolate-flavoured snacks are actually low in cocoa, so they may cause no more than an upset stomach. Even a small amount of dark chocolate candy, on the other hand, can be a lethal dose for your dog.

If you’re certain of how much your dog has eaten, you can use a chocolate toxicity calculator to assess the risk. An early sign of theobromine poisoning is hyperactivity – if your dog is running around, drinking a lot of water, or otherwise seems “off”, rush to an emergency vet.

Other Foods That Are Dangerous To Dogs

Grapes and raisins can cause acute kidney failure in dogs. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, lethargy and seizures.

Some dogs eat grapes and do not show signs of kidney damage, while others experience the effects from eating just a few. If your dog eats grapes, raisins, jam or jelly, call your vet – even if they do not show any symptoms.

Some varieties of wild mushrooms are toxic to dogs, though any found at your grocery store are safe to share.

Garlic and onions contain a substance called thiosulfate that can cause anemia in dogs, though it’s unlikely to be harmful in small amounts. Do not worry if your dog sips on some seasoned broth, though small amounts may affect your dog over time.

The Growing Danger Of Xylitol

One of the most recently growing reasons for calls to the ACC is xylitol poisoning. Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in toothpaste, chewing gum, mouthwash, sugar-free candy and breath mints.

Xylitol is also found in some brands of peanut butter, particularly sugar-free varieties. Always check the ingredients in your peanut butter when buying a new jar. Organic, all-natural peanut butter with no sugar or salt added is best for dogs.

It only takes a small amount of xylitol to cause seizures, hypoglycemia and liver failure in dogs. If you suspect your dog has eaten any amount, see an emergency vet right away.

Keep Medicine Out Of Your Dog’s Reach

Prescription and over-the-counter medication are the most common reason for calls to the Animal Poison Control Center. Heart medications, ADHD medication and antidepressants are highly toxic to dogs, and because they’re typically taken daily, it can be too easy to forget to tighten a bottle, or to look out for pills that fall to the floor and roll away.

You should also make sure your pets do not get into vitamin supplements. While water-soluble vitamins like c and b-complex flush out of the body without severe side effects, you should still call your vet if your dog has ingested them. Fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K, though, are more harmful because they can be stored in the liver and fat tissues, so they can build up within the body.

Never use human medications, either prescription or over-the-counter, to attempt to treat your dog at home. Though many dog medications are similar or identical to those used for treating humans, your vet will need to guide you through using a safe dosage for your dog’s weight, age and body condition.

Poisons Encountered On Dog Walks

When you walk your dog or go to the dog park, be vigilant about poisons in your environment.

Discarded cigarettes, cooked bones and chewed gum are some of the most common, harmful litter that dogs can pick up on walks. If your dog likes to scavenge, you can use a muzzle to keep them from eating trash.

Also be on the lookout for poison bait. Some people may set out poison for coyotes. Others, for seemingly no reason, attempt to poison dogs in dog parks. If you see any treats, sausages, meat or anything that could possibly be poisoned or tampered with in your neighborhood or park, it’s best to pick it up before your dog or any others can pick it up. Then, take it to your local police to be tested.

What Should I Do If My Dog Has Been Poisoned?

If you even suspect that your dog has eaten something harmful, call your veterinarian or emergency vet right away. The person on the phone will likely be able to walk you through deciding if you should go in, or just wait to see if your dog develops symptoms. In many cases, by the time your dog shows symptoms, their condition will have progressed, so it’s better to seek treatment sooner rather than later.

Do not attempt to induce vomiting without the guidance of your vet’s office. Inducing vomiting is not always the safest option. In some cases, it’s the right thing to do, but depending on what your dog has eaten and how much time has passed, the substance could cause more harm on its way back up. It is also possible for your dog to aspirate on their own vomit.

At the vet’s office, your vet will typically use an injection of apomorphine to induce vomiting. Then, they may give your dog charcoal to help absorb the poisons before they can reach your dog’s bloodstream.Your dog may be kept overnight for observation.

Treating your dog for poisoning is expensive, especially if you have to go to an emergency vet after-hours. But when it comes to saving your dog’s life, you should not hesitate to rush to your vet. “Waiting it out” may result in your dog showing symptoms only after it’s too late to treat them. In the event of an emergency, your vet may be able to treat your dog right away and discuss payment options once your dog is stable.

Ways To Keep Your Dog From Ever Getting Poisoned

Most poisoning cases are preventable. We all make mistakes as pet parents. No matter how careful you are, you or someone in your family may leave a gift bag of chocolate on the coffee table, for example, or leave medications in a purse where a dog can reach it.

Management is the most effective course of action. Baby gates, cabinet locks and dog-proof containers can all keep your dog away from toxic temptations. If you feel as though management is difficult, for example, if you think you can’t keep your dog away from your chocolate stash – stop buying it, or only buy what you can finish before you get home.

You can train your dog to “leave it” even when faced with a fresh meatball on the floor. You can train a dog to “drop it” when they have the tastiest drumstick in their mouth. You can also keep your dog in the habit of waiting before lunging for a morsel that you dropped in the kitchen.

Punishing your dog for scavenging teaches them to be sneaky. When punished, they tend to just eat forbidden snacks even faster. Positive training is the only way to raise a dog who is happy to comply with boundaries, and will wait for your permission before grabbing everything they see because they trust that you’ll offer them something that’s just as yummy.

Need help with poison prevention training? Learn “leave it”, “drop it”, and “wait” with Healthy Houndz. We offer positive dog training in North York and Toronto so you and your dog can learn to stay safe from common poisons – and have fun while doing it.

Why You Should Let Your Dog Sniff On Walks

Let your dog sniff on walks so they can be both mentally and physically spent by the time you return home.

If you have trouble holding your dog’s attention during a walk, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they are constantly overwhelmed by the aromas in their environment.

While a human being has just 6 million smell receptors, a dog has 300 million – for approximately 40 times more smelling power. Your dog is also closer to the ground, and sniffs up to 5 times per second when they’re investigating an odour.

We can’t expect our dogs to simply ignore this vivid scentscape for the entire duration of each and every walk. Allowing your dog to sniff actually makes your dog happy, more trainable, and more fun to be around.

How Sniffing On Walks Affects Behaviour

Allowing your dog to observe their surroundings and participate in the neighbourhood “pee-mail” exchange is the best way to provide mental stimulation as a part of your everyday routine. When a dog comes home from a scent-enriched walk, they’ll be both physically and mentally worn out.

What’s more, researchers found that dogs who use their noses may actually become more optimistic as a result.

At the start of the study, all participating dogs became familiar with two bowls: one that consistently contained food, and one that never did.

Then the dogs were split into two groups. One group focused on heelwork for two weeks, while the other participated in nosework instead. Nosework typically involves setting up boxes, some baited with food, and giving the dog freedom to find it using their sense of smell.

By the end of the study, the nosework group was quick to check both bowls for food, including the one that was typically empty. The heelwork group, on the other hand, ignored the bowl that was usually left empty.

An unusual study, but what does this tell us? The researchers concluded that giving a dog freedom of choice and allowing them to use their nose actually changes the way the dog thinks.

Freedom to explore, make choices, and use their own natural abilities are all important to your dog’s welfare. Independant, optimistic dogs do not panic when you leave them home alone; they’re able to comfortably relax or entertain themselves in healthy ways without the need for constant guidance.

Don’t Worry About Perfect Heelwork – Do This Instead

While you do need to give your dog opportunities to stop and sniff, you don’t have to let your dog drag you all over town.

If you walk at a relaxed pace and give your dog plenty of chances to sniff at their favourite hotspots, like trees and fire hydrants, they may not feel the need to pull you around. You can even teach cues like “let’s go!”, “take a break”, and “speed up”, to keep your dog in-sync with you.

Work on teaching a solid “leave it” to keep your dog from getting preoccupied with critters, trash and other distractions. Carry treats during the walk to enforce those cues.

You can also use Premack’s principle to depend on treats less often on walks.

Premack’s principle, or the relativity theory of reinforcement, states that contingent access to high-frequency behaviors (“preferred” activities) serves as a reinforcer for the performance of low-frequency behaviors.

To apply Premack’s principle, ask your dog to do something they don’t want to do – like walk by your side, or, if that’s too difficult at that moment, just focus on you – and then allow them to do something fun, like sniffing for ten seconds as a reward. With practice, your dog will pay attention to you more readily because they will trust that they can then do what they want.

Need Help With Your Dog Walks?

If your dog’s out of control on walks, and loose leash training at home hasn’t resulted in much progress, Healthy Houndz can help. We offer positive dog training in North York and Toronto to make walks more fun for you and your dog – without the use of outdated  tools, pain or fear. Contact us today to set up your free dog training consultation.

5 Myths About Positive Training, Debunked

5 Myths About Positive Dog Training... Debunked!

Positive training, short for positive reinforcement based dog training, relies on the use of rewards to motivate dogs to learn cues and tricks and to stop unwanted behaviours.

The use of pain, fear and intimidation is never necessary to teach a dog. With an intimate understanding of how dogs think, positive trainers can use the addition or removal of rewards to teach a dog almost anything.

Some trainers and dog owners, however, do not truly understand why we choose to rely on rewards, rather than punishments, to communicate with dogs. You may have seen these myths circulated by those who are misinformed.

We’re always happy to clear up misconceptions. We aim to help you experience the unmatched joy of using rewards to train your  dog. Here are the biggest myths about positive training, debunked:

Myth #1: Positive trainers let dogs do whatever they want.

Though positive trainers do not rely on punishment, we can actually be some of the strictest dog owners in terms of setting boundaries and keeping high expectations for our own dogs and our clients’ dogs. We use consistency, clear communication and rewards to get our dogs to behave.

We make sure to set boundaries that are purposeful, rather than creating meaningless rules as a power trip. For example, we may teach our dogs to stay engaged during a walk and expect them to stay close to us, even if a rabbit dashes across their path. But we’ll also give our dogs opportunities to sniff freely as a form of mental enrichment.

Myth #2: Positive training is complicated and takes a long time.

In comparison to “quick-fix” training methods, positive training seems to take a long time. However, those flashy, magic bullet trainers depend heavily on the use of aversives to stop unwanted behaviours, which results in instant, yet superficial results.

For example, using a shock collar to zap a dog when it sees a cat may prevent the dog from chasing the cat while wearing the collar, but the dog’s underlying drive to chase the cat will not have been removed. Eventually, the dog’s urge to chase will overpower their fear of the collar, or they may simply choose to chase the cat as soon as the shock collar is removed.

To create lasting behavioural changes, we use games and rewards to actually change the way your dog feels and reacts. We show them that listening to cues is more rewarding than giving in to their urges, and that they do not need to fear whatever is making them react. This is the only way to get your dog to make the correct choices with their own free will – it’s not possible to do that with forceful training methods.

Myth #3: Positive trainers have a limited range of tools in their toolbox.

This is probably the strangest myth of all – yet one we hear a lot. Some people feel that using treats and aversive methods is a “balanced” way to train, those who rely on positive reinforcement are only using one tool – treats.

Of course, this is not true. Positive trainers have a wide range of tools – from treats to toys, clickers, target sticks, haltis, front-clip harnesses, puzzles and barriers, and an even wider range of intangible tools like games, techniques and concepts. We always find creative, unique solutions without the need to resort to causing pain or fear.

Myth #4: Positive trainers would rather see dogs get euthanized than rehabilitated with aversive tools.

The worst myth of all – some people suggest that positive trainers are so adamant about avoiding aversives that they would rather let dogs die than use painful tools. The reason we refuse to use aversives is not because we want to be kind to animals (though that’s a huge perk) – it’s because we know that aversives do not actually work.

It’s not safe or effective to use punishments with dogs who have shown signs of aggression. In fact, we know that confrontational dog training is known to escalate, and in some cases, even cause aggressive behaviours.

Positive training is used to rehabilitate even severely aggressive dogs. Once a dog bites someone, however, they usually cannot be trusted in the same ways that we would trust a typical dog. With a combination of ongoing rehabilitation, management, and possibly rehoming the dog to an experienced owner, an aggressive dog can live a full, happy life.

If it seems that a dog cannot be rehabilitated through positive training, we do not recommend switching to aversives just for the sake of trying everything. This is because using aversives creates an even more dangerous dog.

When dogs are fearful, their signals normally escalate in a healthy, expressive way. It’s okay for dogs to growl when they’re scared or uncomfortable. It tells us to give space, or that we have stepped too far ahead in our training process. Aversives suppress a dog’s ability to express these emotions until they’re bottled up. This creates a dog that looks outwardly calm, but their fear of the situation can overpower their fear of getting punished – making a dog seem to attack “without warning.”

Aggression can sometimes be caused by factors that we cannot control. Genetics, past trauma, even a brain tumor or other neurological issue can cause a dog to be completely unmanageable. When we have to choose between endangering people and other animals, and having a dangerous dog euthanized, we have to be realistic and acknowledge that not every aggressive dog can be rescued.

These situations are extremely rare. Most dogs excel with positive training.

Myth #5: Positive training is just a fad.

Before dogs were dogs, our ancestors lured feral canines to their campsites with scraps of meat. In return, early dogs helped detect prey, ward off strangers from neighboring tribes, and may have even protected their favorite humans from large predators like bears. No leashes needed – early dogs naturally wanted to stay close to the warm fire, tasty leftovers and friendly humans.

The idea of dominating a dog and using force to “put it in its place” did not emerge until after the 1930s and 40s, with the emergence of Swiss animal behaviourist Rudolph Schenkel’s controversial studies on captive wolves.

In Schenkel’s studies, he observed wolves fighting over resources. There seemed to be dominant wolves that would constantly attack weaker wolves over food. Through the next few decades, dog trainers emulated those tough dominant wolves, using alpha rolls to physically force domesticated dogs into submission. Using treats was greatly discouraged.

The problem with Schenkels’ studies? He only observed captive wolves that were forced to live together in close quarters. It was like something straight out of a reality show.

It wasn’t until the 2000s, when researcher David Mech studied a pack of wild wolves, that people realized how inaccurate those early studies were. A real wolf pack is made up of a family unit – a mother, father and puppies. In a real, wild wolf pack, no violence is needed to keep pack members in line. The older family members hunt and provide food for their puppies. The pups learn from example and through playtime.

All this time, trainers of non-canine species, particularly large animals like dolphins, had to rely solely on positive reinforcement. When your student weighs thousands of pounds, you can’t use force or fear to control them.

By the 1980s, Karen Pryor, the biggest proponent of modern dog training as we know it, learned about food rewards and cues from training dolphins. She used hand signals and a whistle to communicate with dolphins and teach them tricks. With the same methods, she found an effective way to teach dogs.

The takeaway: using physical force is actually a fad in dog training, and it’s long outdated. It’s about time we go back to our roots.

See The Power Of Positive In Action

At Healthy Houndz, we raise dogs to have a lifelong love of learning. Every session begins and ends with a waggy tail. Ready to see the change in your dog?

Contact Healthy Houndz for positive dog training in North York and Toronto.

How To Make The Most Of In-Home Private Dog Training

In home private dog training in Toronto and North York, CA

When it comes to dog training, there’s truly no place like home.

In-home private dog training is the easiest way for your trainer to assess your dog’s behaviour in their home environment. Anxious, shy and reactive dogs can learn without the pressure of being around other dogs.

The best part? You get to work one-on-one with your trainer to make lasting changes in your dog’s behaviour with a fully personalized training plan.

Questions To Ask Your Dog Trainer

In-home private dog training is not only an opportunity for your dog to learn; it’s even more important for you to truly understand and retain what you learn during our sessions. Ask plenty of questions to make sure you understand the techniques we use, why we use them, and how you can continue reinforcing good behaviours between sessions.

Here are some examples of questions you might have during a training session:

  • What should I do if my dog doesn’t succeed?
  • What might be causing my dog to act this way?
  • How can my family help keep up with our training?
  • Why are we using this technique?
  • If I can’t do this, is there an alternative technique we can try?
  • How did you do that?
  • Can you show me that again?

Doing Your Homework

In order for your dog to retain new skills and form new habits, you will need to continue training with them in between sessions. You will get “homework” in the form of what to do before the next training sessions, possibly with handouts.

Aim to train your dog in short sessions each day, rather than in long, infrequent sessions. You’ll keep your dog’s attention span fresh and avoid frustration. You should be rewarding your dog every couple of seconds during these short sessions to keep their attention and motivation high. If your dog keeps making errors, make the exercise easier or review cues that they already know.

Help your dog generalize their new skills by practicing in different rooms of your home, in your yard, and then in new environments.

If you have a question between training sessions, you can always get in touch with us. If you’d rather wait until the next session, write down your question so you don’t forget.

Why It’s Important To Be Honest

Sometimes, you might be too busy between training sessions to practice with your dog. At other times, you might completely forget.

The truth is, you can train your dog in as little as five minutes a day, depending on what you are working on, and how quickly you’d like to progress. It’s usually not a lack of time that contributes to us being too “busy” to train our dogs, but a lack of motivation, failure to schedule in time, or even a lack of confidence that you’ll be able to succeed.

Please be honest if you do not manage to work with your dog between training sessions. We can work together to create a set training schedule and make sure you truly understand the exercises. If something doesn’t make sense or seems arbitrary, we can talk more about the purpose of each exercise and what signs of progress you should be looking for.

Life happens. When you’re truly too busy to train your dog, we can find a way to make it work. Being honest allows us to adjust your dog’s training plan accordingly. Even dog trainers sometimes forget and fall behind on their dogs’ training. We’ll never judge you or make you feel bad about forgetting to train. We’re here to help you move forward.

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Why Doesn’t My Dog Listen To Me?

What To Do When Your Dog Doesn't Obey Cues

Are you tired of nagging your dog? Do you wish your dog would listen the first time you asked them to do something?

All dogs will, at some point, refuse to respond to a cue that they already know. There are many reasons why a dog might seem to ignore a cue. All of these reasons can be navigated through training.

You really can train your dog to listen to you anywhere, anytime. Though dogs, like humans, are imperfect, they have an incredibly acute sense of hearing. You do not need to repeat yourself or raise your voice to get your dog to listen better… you just have to get inside their head.

No Need To Repeat Yourself

Does it seem like your dog doesn’t take you seriously until the third time you repeat a cue?

If you have a habit of repeating yourself, your dog might form a habit of delaying their response.

Increase the chance that your dog will listen the first time by making sure you get their attention first. Go back a few steps in your training. Teach your dog to look at you when you say their name, and heavily reward them for making eye contact.

Is Your Dog Actually Using Calming Signals?

Dogs “talk” to us using body language. Many of their signals are very subtle.

When your training session has run a bit too long, or your dog is otherwise tired, frustrated or confused, they may not behave as you would expect. They may also pick up on your frustration and feel as though they don’t know how to please you.

Dogs use calming signals to ease tension in social interactions between other dogs – and with their humans.

You might catch your dog sniffing at nothing in particular in the grass, yawning or avoiding eye contact instead of responding to your commands.

They’re not actually ignoring you. They’re feeling uncomfortable. These are all signs that your dog needs a break. Allow them a chance to explore their surroundings and just “be a dog” for a moment.

When you start up with training again, begin with easy cues. If you’re trying to recall your dog, get closer to them. Offer tastier rewards and more praise. Make sure your dog is having fun – then challenge them to more difficult cues, or more distracting situations.

Get Your Dog To Choose You

No matter where you are, no matter how many squirrels are running around, you can teach your dog that you are the funnest thing in the world.

Make sure your food rewards are truly tasty. Offer bigger bites in more challenging environments, such as when you’re somewhere noisy or there are many distractions.

Your style of training is just as important as your choice of rewards. Make everything a game. If you’re not having fun, your dog isn’t either.

Are Your Expectations Reasonable?

Some dog owners make it look so easy! You might find yourself comparing your dog to those in videos, in movies and in public. The truth is, dogs who seem to always listen to their owners have had hours and hours of practice. They’ve gone through all of the obstacles, mistakes and trials that you have with your dog.

You might be putting your dog in situations that they are not prepared to handle. It’s not unusual for some dogs to become totally unmanageable when let off-leash in an unfamiliar area if they haven’t truly earned your trust through consistent recall training.

This is one of the biggest mistakes dog owners make – letting their dog bite off more than they can chew. The first time your dog is off-leash and ignores you, it’s self-rewarding; they get to enjoy another few minutes of sniffing instead of having to go home. Every other time after that, they build up a habit of choosing the environment over you.

Practice recall in a safe, fenced-in area. Do not only call your dog when it is time to go inside or stop playing. Call them frequently, give them treats, and make a game of it. You can even play hide and seek to help your dog learn that returning to you is a good thing.

What It Really Means To Socialize Your Dog

Socializing your dog is vitally important to helping them learn to listen in any environment, even if they are confronted by a squirrel, another dog, or an interesting human.

Most people think that socializing your dog means to allow them to make friends with everyone. While it’s nice for your dog to be friendly, socializing just means teaching your dog to tolerate a broad range of people, animals and environments.

You want your dog to be familiar with, say, men in hats, and even enjoy being around them, but what you need is for your dog to be exposed to enough people during training sessions so they continue to obey your cues – no matter what.

Dogs Struggle With Generalizing

Your dog has learned to sit politely before you serve each meal, but now that you’re at the park, they seem as though they’ve never heard the word “sit” in their life. What gives?

When you give your dog a cue, they’re not only listening to the sound of your voice, but your body language, the background sounds and smells in their environment, and so many other subtle signals all around them.

Teaching “sit” in one way, one place, is just not enough. Teach “sit” when you are standing in front of your dog. Teach “sit” when you are next to your dog, or across the room. “Sit” at the park. “Sit” at the vet. “Sit” with a whispery voice. “Sit” with a hand cue. On the grass, on the driveway, and on the tile floor. “Sit” until your dog really knows “sit”.

You won’t necessarily have to generalize every cue so extensively. Your dog can get better and better at listening to you in different situations.

Call For Backup

Working with a trainer is the fastest, easiest way to make progress with your dog. A dog trainer doesn’t just train your dog. Using science-backed methods, we help you understand your dog’s mind and help you communicate with them better. These results improve your bond with your dog in ways that last a lifetime. Contact Healthy Houndz today for private dog training in North York and Toronto.

Can Spaying And Neutering Change Your Dog’s Behaviour?

Can spaying and neutering eliminate bad behaviours in dogs?Are you considering spaying or neutering your dog to change their behaviour?

You may hear a buzz of conflicting rumours about sterilization surgery. You may have heard that it could solve your dog’s behavioural issues, or you might be concerned that your dog will be worse off, never to be the same again.

Fortunately, the effects of spaying and neutering on dogs has been studied extensively for the past couple of decades. There’s no simple answer to this question, but we can help you understand the science behind it so you can make an informed choice for your dog.

How Will Spaying Or Neutering Change My Dog’s Behaviour?

Studies are conflicted about how dog’s behaviour is influenced by sterilization surgery.

One source, which included data from over 10,000 dogs, showed a strong positive correlation between spaying and neutering and aggression, fear and anxiety. Dogs who were fixed younger than 12 months seemed to be at an increased risk of behavioural issues.

If your dog already has a behavioural issue, whether they’re showing signs of aggression, anxiety or seem difficult to train, spaying or neutering is not a reliable, or even promising solution. While these issues can, in part, be influenced by hormones, there are so many factors and possible underlying causes.

Work with a professional trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods for behaviour modification. Healthy Houndz dog training in North York and Toronto uses modern, science-based methods to help dogs feel more confident and resolve common behavioural issues.

Can Neutering Stop Urine Marking?

There is evidence that neutering before puberty can reduce urine marking. However, a male dog who is neutered before puberty can still mark. It’s even possible for female dogs to develop a habit of lifting a leg to mark objects with their urine. Intact males may have a stronger urge to mark inside your home.

However, urine marking, alone, is not the best  factor to base your decision on when and if to neuter your male dog. This unwanted behaviour can be resolved through training. In the meantime, a belly band will prevent your dog from urinating indoors.

Does Spaying And Neutering Make Dogs Lazy or Overweight?

There is a strong, well-known positive correlation between spaying/neutering and weight gain.

That does not necessarily mean your pet will gain weight after surgery, at least not if you’re not careful. Your dog’s hormones affect their metabolism, appetite and activity levels. You can encourage your dog to stay active by going for longer walks and setting up indoor activities.

What We Recommend

The best choice for your dog depends on your unique situation and your priorities.

When you get your dog from a shelter or rescue, their policy may be to only adopt out dogs that have been spayed or neutered. So, you may not have a say in the matter.

If you feel there is a strong chance that your dog will be able to escape your home and mate with other dogs, spaying or neutering may be a priority for population control. Intact dogs have a stronger drive to roam and find a mate. However, even spayed and neutered dogs need to be secured with a leash, a tether, or a real fence – not an “invisible” fence.

If you’re able to keep your dog secure, and you’re able to choose when to spay and neuter, it’s best to wait until your dog is fully grown, if you decide to do it at all. Small dogs reach full maturity by 16 months of age, while giant breeds can take up to 2.5 years to fully mature.

When it comes time to spay and neuter, ask your vet if they offer alternative sterilization surgery options. It is possible for male dogs to have a vasectomy and female dogs can undergo an ovary-sparing spay, so they will not be able to reproduce, though their body can still produce all of the same hormones.

Managing Your Intact Dog

If you plan to wait until after your dog is mature to spay or neuter, you’ll need to take a few simple steps to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Males are fertile as early as 6 months of age, and will continue to be fertile throughout their entire life. A male can sense a female in heat up to 3 miles away, so your male may feel compelled to roam.

Your female may experience her first heat as early as 4 months, though the average is 6 months. You will not always notice blood and swelling until midway through her cycle, though she will be most receptive immediately after the bleeding has stopped. She may try to roam when she is receptive. To be on the safe side, avoid off-leash dog parks, hiking areas and beaches for at least three weeks after the first sign of bleeding.

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The Right Way To Crate Train To Stop Barking And Whining

Positive Crate Training To Stop Barking And Whining And Night

Does your puppy keep you up all night?

Sleepless nights take the fun out of having a new puppy. We’ve all been there!

It takes a bit of patience to teach your puppy to love their crate, but you’ll settle into a bedtime routine before you know it. Our force free methods help you get there sooner, with less stress.

These methods also work for adult dogs who have never been crate trained.

Why You Should NEVER Punish Your Dog For Barking In The Crate

When it’s 3AM and your puppy is barking and whining in their crate, you’re bound to be a bit annoyed. It’s tempting to yell at your puppy or turn to aversive training methods, but that’s always a bad idea.

The problem with punishments is that they deceptively create a “quick fix”. Your puppy might quiet down for a few minutes – but they’ll still feel scared and alone, yet unable to express that. This also means the puppy may continue to bark when nobody is home to punish them.

You want your puppy to feel safe and secure so they don’t even want to bark. When the crate is a part of their nighttime routine, they’ll start to fall asleep within minutes of going inside for the night. If they love their crate, they’ll happily nap when you’re not home, instead of barking the whole time.

Force-free crate training means your puppy will not be afraid to bark if they have to go potty, if someone breaks into your home, or if there’s otherwise something wrong. Your puppy will sleep peacefully in their crate because they feel safe and secure, and they have learned that they can trust you to be there when they really need you.

Preparing Your Puppy-Friendly Crate

Your puppy’s crate will be their safe haven.

Line it with a bed that is thick enough to keep your puppy from sinking to the bottom. Furnish it with enough blankets for your puppy to burrow. You may want to use old towels if you’re concerned about chewing or potty accidents.

Crates are valuable tools for potty training because puppies typically do not go potty in them – if the crate is set up correctly. The crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand, turn around, and stretch out, but not so big that they will use one side as a restroom. Most crates come with dividers to make the interior space smaller, then you can make it larger as your puppy grows.

You can use a crate cover or blanket to block out light and sound. That way, your puppy will be able to sleep peacefully inside, even during the day.

Crate Training During The Day

An 8-week old puppy will need to sleep up to 20 hours per day, broken up into naps. So, you’ll have lots of opportunities to create positive crate experiences before bedtime.

The crate should be open most of the time when you are home. You can hide little treats inside for your puppy to find on their own.

Whenever you play with your puppy, you’ll notice that they get very sleepy after about 30 minutes. Encourage your puppy to go into the crate on their own for naps. If it’s comfy enough, your puppy will seek it out without being placed inside.

You can practice locking your puppy in the crate for 15 to 30 minute sessions during the day. Do this while you are in the room, perhaps watching television or washing dishes.

Try putting your puppy in the crate with a Kong or similar fillable food toy. Puppies have sensitive tummies, so go easy on rich treats like peanut butter. You can fill it with their canned or raw food, or kibble that has been soaked in water.

The goal is to crate your puppy for short periods of time so they do not experience separation anxiety. Realistically, though, your puppy may need to be crated for a few hours at a time when you are not home. This will be stressful for them in the beginning, but most dogs adjust quickly.

Crate Training When You Go To Work

If you work at a full-time job every day, you’ll need to speed up your puppy’s crate training. There are plenty of ways to make it easier.

Before you leave, make sure your puppy has pottied, eaten, and had water to drink. Play with your puppy and/or go for a walk so that they are sleepy. Tuck your puppy in. Within a few weeks, your puppy’s sleeping schedule will be synchronized with your work schedule.

At 8-10 weeks old, your puppy will need to go potty at least once every three hours. Smaller puppies may need up to 4 potty breaks during an 8-hour workday. You can hire a dog walker or pet sitter to let your puppy out or take them on walks.

Puppy Potty Camp from Healthy Houndz is excellent for people who work. Not only will your puppy be on the fast-track to going accident-free, they’ll also learn foundational cues and social skills, while spending time with other dogs who act as role models for your puppy.

To prevent barking when you are not around, try putting some music on. Music has been shown in studies to have a calming effect on dogs, particularly reggae and classical tunes. The music can also help drown out the sounds of passersby, which can keep your dog on alert.

The First Few Nights

A bedtime routine will make adjusting to night-time crating so much easier.

Make sure your puppy goes potty one last time. Play until they get tired. Many puppies get wound up at night and tend to nip. Make sure they run out of steam before even attempting to crate them.

You can use a lavender-based essential oil scent to lull your puppy to sleep. Some essential oils are harmful to dogs, so it’s best to use a calming spray that is made for pets.

What To Do If Your Dog Starts Barking In The Crate

A little bit of barking and whining is to be expected at first.

Your first response to crying should be to take your puppy out and give them a chance to go potty. Regardless of whether they “go” or not, they will need to wind down again once they go back in the crate. Tuck them in again. Wait for those little eyes to close.

If you’re certain that your puppy is “empty,” they might be lonely. Place the crate right next to your bed, if possible. Your pup might settle down if they can cuddle with an unlaundered t-shirt that carries your scent.

You could also try emulating the warmth and sounds of sleeping with littermates. A ticking clock and a heat source like a microwaved sock full of rice can help.

Sometimes, puppies bark because they’re bored. If your puppy is awake with the late night puppy zoomies, they may need more exercise during the day. An overstimulated puppy is the hardest to put to bed; it’s better to spend a few extra minutes playing than to let them bark and bark for hours.

Help For Sleep Deprived Puppy Parents

Crate training is one of the hardest parts of having a puppy. If you stick through those first few weeks, though, it’ll be so worth it. And you don’t have to go at it alone.

At Healthy Houndz, we’ve overcome every imaginable puppy problem without using force, pain or fear. Get in touch today to hop on the fast-track to a happy, well-rounded dog.