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How To Teach Your Dog Basic Sign Language

How To Teach Your Dog Basic Sign Language - dog seen through hands making a heart

Does your dog rush to the door when they notice you putting your shoes on? Do they always seem to know when you’re happy, and rush to your side when you’re upset?

Your dog is always paying attention to your body language, maybe more than you even realize. 

Understanding hand signs and gestures is a wonderful addition to your dog’s skillset. You can build upon your dog’s natural fluency in nonverbal communication, and understand one another on a whole  ‘nother level.

Why Your Dog Should Know Sign Language

Hand signals can be used anytime your dog cannot hear you. Loud public parks, hiking trails and other noisy areas can make it difficult for your dog to understand your verbal cues.

Deaf dogs are typically taught with hand cues, and even hearing dogs may eventually lose their sense of hearing as they get older.

Sign language can also be a useful skill to have if you have a therapy dog, particularly one who might go to schools or nursing homes that may have deaf or nonverbal children or adults who would love to communicate with your dog without having to use words.

A University of Naples study suggests that dogs are significantly better at understanding gestures than verbal commands. What’s more, when given conflicting cues (being told to “sit” while offering a “lie down” gesture) the dogs consistently obeyed the gesture, not the verbal command. 

Dogs must use nonverbal communication to read their doggy peers, so it makes sense that they’re better at picking up hand signals. Of course, you can still use verbal cues, too; it just may be more effective to use a combination of the two to ensure that your dog always understands you.

Universal Dog Training Hand Signals

Do you want your dog to be able to understand most people? This could come in handy if they are ever lost, if you’re raising them as a foster dog, or if you just prefer the universal hand signals. 

Images from Dog Training Excellence, a great resource to learn more about positive dog training and behavioural science.

Watch Me

Before you can ask your dog to do anything, you’ll need to be able to get their attention. Teach the “watch me” cue to encourage your dog to make eye contact with you. Teaching this skill makes your dog more apt to check in with you. Use the verbal cue when you’re not within  your dog’s line of sight, and use the hand signal in noisy areas.

To teach watch me, just point at your eyes. At first, you might need to use a treat to help train your dog’s gaze. The moment your dog makes eye contact, praise them and give them a reward. Practice watch me every time you have a training session, and at random times throughout the day. See if your dog can make eye contact with you in distracting environments, like a park. 

Sit

The universal hand signal for “sit” goes like this: hold your hand at your side, palm facing forwards, then bring your hand up as though you’re about to throw something over your shoulder. 

To teach “sit” you can place a small treat between your fingers, and let your dog have it once they sit, as you bring up your hand. Luring your dog is an effective way to get your dog’s attention and get them into the correct position, but you shouldn’t depend on it too heavily. Wean off the lure as soon as you can, so your dog learns to watch your hands for directions, rather than always looking for a treat to follow with their nose. 

Stay

The hand signal for “stay” is about what you’d expect – you put your palm out in front of your dog like a crossing guard. Start with very short intervals, and gradually up the challenge. 

Come

The hand signal for “come” is to hold both arms out wide, then bring your palms to your chest. Easy-peasy, right? Work on “come” and “stay” to reinforce a good recall if your dog is ever off-leash. 

Work on distance or duration at once, rather than simultaneously, to help set your dog up for success. If your dog gets up too soon, it means you’ve progressed too quickly. Just “reset” your dog into a stay again, then give it another try. 

Images are a little difficult to format properly on this document. They’ll appear next to their corresponding passages in the WordPress doc, credited to the website.

Some people prefer that their dog only listen to their owner, and may even teach cues in another language, and make up unique hand signals. This is perfectly fine – it’s up to your preference. 

American Sign Language Inspired Hand Signals

If you live or work around anyone who is deaf or nonverbal, it can be fun to teach your dog hand signals inspired by American Sign Language.

If your dog knows “speak” try teaching them to bark when you give them the sign for “talk”.

Images from LifePrint.com, a wonderful resource for learning more about American Sign Language.

Also try teaching your dog “eat” by using the eat sign. Just put your fingers together and move them towards your mouth right before giving your dog their meals.

Teach Your Dog To Communicate Nonverbally

Though your dog can’t really learn to do sign language with their paws, you can teach them skills that they can use to communicate with you.

If your dog has accidents, or you just want to make sure they communicate when they need out, it can help to have potty bells hanging from your door that your dog can ring when they need to go outside. 

You can also teach your dog to paw at their bowl when they’re hungry – a skill they’ll surely abuse, but you might appreciate it if you tend to lose track of mealtimes. Just wait for your dog to approach their bowl, drop a single piece of food inside, and wait for them to approach it again. They will quickly realize that going near the bowl, and then pawing at it, will prompt you to drop in another piece of food. Be warned, this little skill can turn into an annoying habit, but can be stopped if you simply ignore it. 

Learn More With Healthy Houndz!

Ready to learn even more ways to communicate with your dog and teach new skills with the help of positive reinforcement? Get private, in-home dog training for Toronto and North York from Healthy Houndz! Contact us to get started. 

What To Do When Your Dog Hates Your Spouse

You adopted your dog to be the heart of your family… 

But what happens when they don’t seem to love everyone?

It’s not unusual for dogs to have favourite humans. But it can put a big strain on your relationship if it feels like your dog hates your spouse or someone else in your family.

If your dog ignores, barks at, or just doesn’t get along with someone, it’s typically just because they need more time to bond. With a little extra work, your spouse can become another one of your dog’s best friends. Remember, dogs always have the capacity for more love.

Do You Have The Right Expectations?

It can take up to a year, or more, after adoption for your dog to fully bond with family members. Those bonds will continue to evolve for the rest of the dog’s life. 

So it’s not abnormal for a new dog to take a while to warm up to everyone. 

Your family might also have unrealistic expectations about training. 

Similarly, it can take up to a year to get a handle on certain behavioural issues. Your dog might not be fully potty trained, or they might destroy personal belongings. Sometimes, you’ll need to remind your family members to not take these incidences personally. 

If you’re having trouble managing behavioural issues, seek professional, force-free training. It’s the best way to build relationships based on trust and communication. If your family member attempts to control the dog’s behaviour using fear-based punishments, it can put a strain on their relationship. 

Remember to be patient with your human family members too. They may just be learning how to communicate with a dog, while you may have grown up with dogs your whole life. Talk to your family about any frustrations they might be experiencing when it comes to dog ownership, and help them see those issues in new ways. 

Why Do Some Dogs Bond With One Person? 

Some dog breeds, like Retrievers, are known to love everyone.

Others are notorious one-person dogs. 

Chihuahuas, Chow Chows, Akitas, Beagles and German Shepherds are known to be loyal to just a few people, or even just one person. 

Even these dogs, however, can bond with multiple people. As with humans, their relationships are always unique. For example, if one person always gives them table scraps at dinner, that’s who they’ll always badger and beg. They may consistently cuddle with whomever spends the most time on the couch, and may seek meals from whomever normally feeds them. 

If your spouse or other family member wants to form a stronger bond with your dog, you should allow them to feed the dog all of their meals. If that person isn’t good at measuring or remembering mealtimes, you can use small containers and a timer to keep them on track. 

Training is another powerful way to establish a bond. 

You can also encourage them to walk the dog more often, play games, and to use toys to play with them. 

There’s no need to bend rules or bribe the dog for their love. Dogs need boundaries and structure to feel secure. Remind your spouse that feeding table scraps will not earn the dog’s love, but using bites of yummy, healthy treats as training rewards will

What If My Dog Is Aggressive Towards My Family Member?

If your dog growls or snaps at your family member, the issue may be too serious to handle on your own. These issues can escalate, especially if that family member may retaliate by shouting or yelling. 

Your human family member’s safety comes first. If your dog tries to bite them when they come near the bed, for example, you’ll need to crate your dog at night. If they become aggressive over food, you may need to feed them outside. 

Be prepared to work with a professional trainer or behaviourist. If your family member does not feel safe in their own home, you have no choice but to either rehabilitate your dog or to rehome them. 

Most behavioural issues are fixable. Dogs do not dominate people, nor do they hold grudges. They can learn to bond with anyone in their life, so long that they feel safe and are treated with kindness and patience. 

Common Behavioural Changes In Senior Dogs – And How To Deal With Them

Behavioural Changes In Senior Dogs - Accidents, Aggression and Anxiety in Older Dogs

Has your once-trained senior dog been having lapses in behaviour?

It’s incredibly common for older dogs to seem like they’ve forgotten skills they learned early in life. 

Most behavioural changes in senior dogs can be chalked up to a medical or cognitive issue. 

Here’s what you need to know to help your senior dog thrive in their later years.

Why Your Senior Dog Is Having Accidents

Your senior dog was potty-trained as a puppy, and it’s been years since they peed or pooped in the house. All of a sudden, you’re coming home to accidents again. You may even catch your senior dog relieving his or herself indoors even though they’ve recently been outside. 

First, you’ll need to rule out medical incontinence. Urinary tract infections, stones or tumors can make your dog feel the need to urinate, even if there is only a small amount of urine in their bladder. 

Neurological issues, certain medications, and hormonal changes, particularly in females, are all possible reasons why your dog might have accidents. 

No matter what, do not punish your senior for having potty accidents. Your vet may or may not be able to treat the underlying condition. If they can’t, the best thing to do is keep your senior comfortable. 

Potty pads, doggy diapers and waterproof furniture covers can all help you keep your home clean when you have an incontinent senior.

Grumpiness Or Aggression In Senior Dogs

Has old age brought out a grumpy side in your senior? They might growl or snap at younger dogs, children, and other family members that they once tolerated. 

Unexpected aggression, growling or general orneriness can often be attributed to vision loss, hearing loss, neurological issues or hidden pain. An urgent vet visit is in order if your senior dog is experiencing such a change in disposition. 

Make sure your senior dog always feels safe and secure. Use baby gates or crates to give them space from rowdy younger dogs or other pets. Instruct children to be kind, quiet and gentle around the dog, and only approach with permission, never unsupervised. 

Is Your Senior Dog Suffering From Canine Cognitive Dementia (CCD)?

Just like humans, dogs can develop dementia in their later years. 

Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dementia (CCD) include:

  • Becoming fearful of familiar people and objects
  • Getting lost in their own home or yard
  • Getting stuck in corners
  • Having accidents not explained by an underlying medical issue
  • Worsening symptoms at night (sundowning)

Though there’s no cure for CCD, fresh food and nutritional and holistic supplements can slow its progression. Antioxidants like Vitamin E and C have both been shown to be helpful in managing symptoms. 

You can add these in the form of supplements or add whole food sources in the form of fruits and veggies such as carrots, spinach, blueberries and raspberries. Pureed produce are easiest for your dog to digest and break down into nutrients to be utilized by their body.

Teaching new, brain-training games can also help your senior with CCD. Hide-and-seek, hide-the-treat, and simple food puzzles can all be helpful. Even just taking your dog for mindful walks exposes them to new stimuli to keep their mind active. 

How To Support Your Older Dog In Their Later Years

For your senior dog, the best thing you can do is make sure they feel safe and loved, even if they make mistakes. 

Provide the best possible food, quality of care, and most of all, patience, for your aging senior. They have spent most of their life being your most loyal friend. Remember that while their needs are changing, they still love you just as much as the day you first brought them home. 

Learn More About Dog Behaviour

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If you have any questions about your dog’s behaviour, send us a message or give us a call at 647-749-8931. 

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

For some people, wet, sloppy kisses is the best part of having a dog. For others… not so much

Whether or not you let your dog lick your face is a  personal preference.

Here are some things you need to know if you’re unsure if you should allow this habit to continue.

Why Your Dog Licks Your Face… It’s Not Always A Kiss!

Is a lick from a dog simply their version of an affectionate kiss? Sort of, but not always. 

A lick can definitely be a display of affection. Your dog might run up to you and lick your face, with flailing tail, when you arrive home. Or, they might wake you up with “good morning” kisses.

These types of licks mirror how a feral puppy or wolf cub would lick the corners of their parents’ or older relatives’ mouths when they come back from a hunt. Their parent would then regurgitate tasty, predigested meat from the hunt for the pups to eat. 

You might notice that your dog licks your face more around their mealtimes. It’s no coincidence! Dogs may still carry over that instinct to use licking as a way to get food.

Patricia McConnell, PhD, applied animal behaviourist, has discovered another interesting reason why dogs lick: she calls it a “kiss to dismiss”. Dogs may use facial licking as a way to get a person or another dog to go away. 

For example, if your dog feels uncomfortable when you put your face close to theirs, they may lick you as a gentle way of getting you to give them space. 

Can I Get Sick If I Let My Dog Lick My Face?

Though dogs do carry zoonotic bacteria in their mouths, meaning bacteria that can be passed from dogs to humans, it’s rare for people to actually get sick this way. 

Even so, it’s best to turn your face away when your dog licks you so they don’t lick the inside of your nose or mouth. That way, you can prevent bacteria from entering your bloodstream. You should also keep wounds or open sores covered for the same reason.

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Kid’s Face?

Kids are low to the ground – and may have crumbs or smudges of food on their face – making them an ideal target for sloppy dog kisses. 

While a lick on the face is unlikely to harm a healthy child, it might not be safe for very young children whose immune systems are not yet fully developed. 

The biggest concern, though, is that children are not yet skilled at knowing when a dog wants to give kisses, and when a dog should be left alone. 

If you let your kids make a habit of getting kisses from the dog, they’ll be at greater risk for getting bitten. 

Statistics show that when dog bites happen to children, about 32 percent of the time, they occur on the face and neck. This is likely because of the way kids tend to lean in for hugs and kisses. Teach your kids about dog body language early on, and instruct them to stay away from dogs while they are eating and sleeping.

How Do You React To Your Dog Licking Your Face?

Dogs lick us to make us react, or because we seem to like it. 

If your dog licks you while you’re snuggling, you can give them a different way to show affection. You can offer them your hand to lick instead, if you don’t mind that. 

If your dog licks you when you come home, it can be helpful to discourage jumping. You can also teach your dog to greet you by bringing you a toy. 

Overreacting by shouting or pushing your dog away can actually turn licking into a fun game. It’s better to just turn away, and ask for an alternative behaviour. The less you react, the less fun you are to kiss!

Learn New Ways To Communicate With Your Dog

There are so many ways to show affection, communicate, and bond with your dog besides licking. Positive training sets a strong foundation for your relationship, and makes it easy to replace unwanted habits with good ones. 

For professional, private dog training in Toronto and North York, get in touch with Healthy Houndz. 

Should I Let Strangers Pet My Dog?

Does your adorable dog make everyone stop and stare? 

Are people always asking to pet your dog – or even  taking it upon themselves to reach down without asking?

Even grown adults sometimes forget their manners when they see a cute dog. If your dog is friendly, that might be okay. 

But you have little control over these interactions. Some people do not realize that not every dog is comfortable around strangers. They may tower over, corner, or sneak up behind a dog, creating a scary situation. 

Others may lean in for a kiss or hug. Wouldn’t you be startled if a stranger did that to you?

Scary interactions can turn a friendly dog into a reactive one. Even the friendliest, most well behaved dog can get scared and bite.

What To Do When A Stranger Wants To Pet Your Dog

Watch your dog’s body language carefully any time someone asks to pet your dog or starts to approach. 

If your dog has a loose, soft facial expression, an open-mouthed “smile,” and starts to walk towards the stranger, they probably would be okay with getting pets. If you’re okay with this, it’s perfectly fine to allow it. If you want, tell the stranger about your dog’s preference for ear scratches, or offer them a treat to pass to your dog.

However, even if your dog loves strangers, it’s perfectly fine if you want to decline it anyway. 

You may be working on loose leash walking. You may prefer your dog to focus on you, rather than constantly seeking attention from strangers. Or, maybe you just don’t have time or the social energy to deal with this on walks. 

Remember, it’s your dog. You don’t have to have a valid reason or excuse to decide that you do not want to let people pet them.

What To Say When You Don’t Want To Be “Rude”

Ideally, people will leave you alone if you just say, “please don’t pet my dog”. You don’t have to explain yourself. 

But some people will ask questions, or insist, or even get angry. Unfortunately, some people believe that all dogs in public should be free for petting.

Offering a quick explanation can make it easier to get rid of people who don’t take “no” for an answer.

You can try:

  • My dog’s nervous around people
  • We’re in a big rush, we have to get going
  • We’re working on training and can’t have distractions

Tips For Letting Strangers Pet Your Dog

If you do want to let people pet your dog, you should be prepared to speak up if your dog’s body language has changed, or if they’re overstepping boundaries. 

Be especially careful of children, as they often get bitten because they do not yet recognize body language, and they do not realize that dogs don’t enjoy tight hugs and kisses on the face. 

For kids, it’s best to preface the interaction with “please move slowly, stick your hand out for her to sniff, please don’t pick her up, no hugs or kisses please”.

Be wary of kids who run up to your dog without their parents’ permission. It’s best to only allow kids to interact if they have a watchful parent closeby who is also advising them on polite doggy manners.

Prevent Unwanted Petting Before It Happens

People may be less likely to reach for your dog if they’re wearing some type of gear.

Try a harness like one from the Julius K9 brand, on which you can attach patches that say “do not pet” or “I’m nervous” or “in training”. This is not to fake the appearance of a service dog – just to lessen the chances that your dog will be approached.

The Yellow Dog Project is a movement that promotes the use of yellow ribbons to signify that a dog needs space.

Adding a yellow ribbon to your dog’s leash, or using a yellow leash and collar, can be helpful. Not everyone knows what the yellow means, though. You may want to get a yellow leash that says “caution” or “nervous”.

Lastly, you can offer alternative ways for people to enjoy your dog. 

You can show off your dog’s tricks instead of letting people approach. 

You could even let people give your dog’s treats, but only if it does not make them nervous. If your dog is nervous about taking treats from a stranger’s hand, encourage people to toss the treat down instead.

More Help For Nervous Dogs

Taking your dog for a walk should be fun. If you’re having trouble enjoying your walks, you can get there with lots of positive reinforcement and help from a professional trainer. Get modern, positive reinforcement based training in Toronto and North York from Healthy Houndz.

What To Do If Your Dog Doesn’t Like Toys

dog doesn't like toys

Toys aren’t just for puppies – they’re a powerful tool for training and bonding for dogs of all breeds, ages and sizes.

You can use toys as a reward so you don’t have to overload your dog with treats every time you want to work on training.

You can also use toys to redirect excess energy, and to build upon your dog’s ability to pay attention to you around distractions.

But none of this is possible if your dog doesn’t like toys.

No worries – dogs who don’t like toys can be taught how much fun they can be.

Why Doesn’t Your Dog Like Toys?

There can be an underlying reason why toys are not capturing your dog’s attention.

If you recently adopted your dog, they may need some time to acclimate to your home and start to bond with you before they will be relaxed enough to play.

If your dog is older, and never played with toys as a puppy, you can still teach them how to play – it just might not come naturally, at first. With a little time, you can unleash your dog’s inner puppy.

Sometimes, a medical issue may cause pain or lethargy, which can keep your dog from wanting to play. Check your dog’s teeth – grabbing a toy can be painful if your dog suffers from tooth pain.

About 80 percent of dogs will have some form of dental disease by age three. Brushing and chewing on raw meaty bones can keep plaque off, while you may need to see your vet for a professional cleaning if your dog has swollen gums, yellow or brown tartar, or loose teeth.

And while it’s normal for dogs to slow down as they get older, most dogs are playful into their senior years. Keep an eye out for arthritis, heart disease, Cushing’s disease, and other chronic illnesses that can be treated to lengthen your dog’s playful golden age.

Some breeds are more playful than others, but all dogs love to play. Your Yorkie might be a cuddly lap-dog, for example, but they still have those terrier instincts that make them chase after small, fuzzy objects.

Finding Your Dog’s Favourite Toys

Every dog has a unique taste in toys. Some like rubber balls that bounce, others prefer fuzzy toys with long hair that they can grab. Try toys of different sizes, textures and fabrics. Some big dogs actually like small toys; just make sure each toy is large enough that it cannot fit entirely in your dog’s mouth to prevent a choking hazard.

There are even toys made out of real rabbit pelts that attract even the pickiest dogs. They are rarely found in stores; you may have to shop online.

Your Dog Needs You To Play

Dogs typically do not play with their toys on their own. Bring the toy to life! Start by waving it around, moving it slowly within reach, and quickly whipping it away as it catches your dog’s gaze.

Try hiding the toy under a blanket, then move it around like a mouse. Most dogs cannot resist checking out the mysterious lump.

Dogs are also very receptive to social cues. If you make it seem like you’re enjoying the toys, your dog will want to try them too. Try playing with your dog’s toys nearby, but don’t look directly at your dog or interact until they come over to see what the fuss is about.

Games To Play With Dogs And Toys

Unstructured play with toys is a great way to bond with your dog. However, your dog might be more interested in learning skills that involve toys.

Find it! At first, pat the toy and give your dog a treat when they touch it. Then, start to hide the toy in easy spots, and treat your dog for finding it. Once your dog gets the concept, you can add a cue like “find it!” or “search!”. As your dog gets even better at this, you can use it to practice “stay” while you hide the toy in another room for a challenging toy hunt.

Fetch! Encourage your dog to pick up their toy and give it to you from a very short distance – even just beside them. Reward them for any attempts to pick up the toy and place it near you. It’s okay if your dog doesn’t get it right away.

Clean up! Once your dog learns to fetch, you can encourage them to place their toy in their basket instead of giving it to you.

Tug-o-war! Tugging comes naturally to most dogs. Contrary to what you may have heard, it does not lead to aggression or behavioural issues. It’s just a good way to exercise the muscles in your dog’s legs, neck and jaws. Just be sure to keep your dog’s paws on the ground – lifting them up by the teeth while the latch on can cause a back injury.

For More Fun With Your Dog…

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5 Things Your Dog Wants You To Know About Separation Anxiety

What Your Dog Wants You To Know About Separation Anxiety

Though nothing beats staying at home with your dog, you’ll need to leave them home alone at some point.

Your normally well-behaved dog may act much differently when you’re not around. But it’s not as though your dog waits for you to leave to indulge in making messes.

We’re all our dogs know. We’re their family, their entire social life, and their sole source of entertainment. We’re their whole world. Of course they get upset when we leave.

Separation anxiety is incredibly common, but it’s also one of the most manageable behavioural issues. Take away the anxiety of being left alone, and your dog can actually enjoy quiet time when you leave.

1. Your Dog Might Be Showing Separation Anxiety In Different Ways

Do you ever dread coming home to your dog?

Maybe you’re hoping you won’t get another note from your neighbour, whose baby couldn’t nap because your dog barked all day. Or maybe another set of throw pillows will have “exploded” all over the house.

Or your house-trained dog may be having messy accidents again. Maybe your dog typically takes out their anxiety on herself, chewing raw spots on her paws or tail.

These are all signs that your dog is feeling stressed when you’re away.

However, they’re also common signs of medical issues, or other behavioural problems. For example, if your house-trained dog is having potty accidents, they may be suffering from a urinary tract infection. A dog who is chewing at their skin may actually have allergies.

Before moving forward, discuss your dog’s symptoms with your veterinarian. You will need to rule out any medical issues before proceeding with training.

Once you rule out any underlying medical issues, you can start working with a professional trainer who specializes in anxiety-related behavioural issues. Healthy Houndz is a professional dog training company serving Toronto and North York. Get in touch to get started on finding the root cause of your dog’s symptoms.

2. Some Dogs Are More Likely To Experience Separation Anxiety Than Others

Your dog did not only inherit floppy ears or spots from their parents. They also inherited a predisposition to certain behavioural issues. Your dog’s personality is determined by their past experiences, family history, diet and environment.

Highly social dogs, like the Labrador Retriever, Bichon Frise, Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Yorkie are all bred for companionship, which means they do not always adapt easily to being left alone.

Working breeds like the Border Collie and German Shepherd are highly intelligent and high-energy, but that also means they can easily become bored or understimulated if left alone.

Even so, no dog breed is immune to separation anxiety. Rescue dogs, especially those with an abusive or unknown past, can also be prone to anxiety issues.

Separation anxiety is not a sign that you’ve loved your dog too much. It’s not a sign that your dog is spoiled. It’s usually not anyone’s fault, though it can be prevented and treated.

3. Your Home Environment May Make Separation Anxiety Worse

When your home is empty, it’s a different place for your dog. In a quiet home, your dog can become more alert to outdoor noises. They may feel especially stressed when a perceived threat passes by, especially when you’re not around to tell them how to react appropriately.

Certain genres of music have been shown to help relieve anxiety in dogs. Playing music while you’re away can also overpower outside noises that can put your dog on alert.

You can also get window cling film to blur out the sight of people and other animals who pass by. While you may wonder if window-watching could be a way for your dog to pass time, it’s actually a huge source of stress. Every time someone passes, your dog’s heart rate accelerates. If many people pass your home throughout the day, your dog can never truly relax.

When your dog no longer spends time by the window, they’ll break the habit of watching and waiting for you to come back. Just as a watched pot does not boil, time will go by faster when your dog is distracted or napping when you’re gone, rather than staring and looking out for your car.

4. Crating Can Help Reduce Separation Anxiety

If your dog is destructive while you are away, crating is critical for their own safety. It could be very dangerous if your dog ingests pieces of furniture, shoes, children’s toys, or anything that is not designed to be chewed. That said, most chew toys, like antlers and Nylabones, can crack teeth or cause choking, so they are best used with supervision.

If your dog has potty accidents, crating will likely reduce their occurrence. Dogs typically do not like to mess where they sleep, though some anxious dogs do have accidents in their crates.

Your dog’s crate should be their happy place. If your dog is not crate trained, you’ll want to work on that before leaving your dog crated while you’re away.

When combined with a regular routine, crating can actually eliminate separation anxiety. In a crate, your dog has few choices: they can play with any toys or food puzzles you leave inside, or they can sleep. They can’t pace, make messes or otherwise practice bad habits. Over time, your dog will actually relax the moment they go into their crate.

5. Boredom Can Lead To Separation Anxiety

Dogs sleep about 12-18 hours per day. So, if they get all of their naptime in while you are home, they will not be able to sleep when you go away. Going for longer, more vigorous walks right before you leave can help your dog nap instead of waiting up for you.

If you don’t have enough time to get your dog tired before you leave, you can provide activities to occupy them instead. Food toys like the Kong can be filled with moist food like peanut butter, yogurt, pureed fruits and veggies, scrambled eggs or ground beef. You can freeze a filled Kong so it lasts longer.

When Your Dog Has Severe Separation Anxiety

The steps above will work for mild cases, but for dogs with severe separation anxiety, or for those who have been struggling for a long time, professional help might be necessary.

A positive reinforcement trainer can show you how to break patterns and create new, healthy habits to make separation anxiety easier for you and your dog.
Contact Healthy Houndz today to start making meaningful progress by working on your dog’s emotional health and sense of well-being.

How To Manage Excessive Barking

Does your dog bark at everything? Are they so noisy that it’s disrupting your life, and making your neighbours complain?

Excessive barking is one of the most common reasons people surrender their dogs. The problem can range from mild annoyance, to having your landlord threaten to evict you.

Many people feel they have no choice but to turn to harmful training methods like bark collars to get their dog to stop barking. Their intentions are not necessarily cruel, but a last resort chosen out of desperation.

Unfortunately, bark collars tend to make the problem worse. Barking is often rooted in fear, and when you add an unpleasant stimulus to a scary experience, your dog’s urge to bark will only become stronger than the need to avoid punishment. This leads some people to resort to increasingly harsher punishments, which bring on negative side effects such as destruction, aggression or extreme fearfulness.

On the bright side, positive reinforcement is an effective way to control barking. You can keep your dog and your home without resorting to harsh training methods. The best part? Your bond will be even stronger once you’re through.

Why Dogs Bark

Whether your dog is barking on walks, or in your home, the root cause is usually fear.

When your dog barks at the mail carrier, the mail carrier disappears. Of course, we know this is because the mail carrier has continued on their route. In your dog’s eyes though, they were able to make the perceived threat go away by barking at it.

Your dog also barks to alert you. This is especially true if you have a “watch dog” breed. You may not be surprised if your Doberman, Rottweiler or Great Pyrenees feels the need to protect your property.

However, small breeds like most Terriers, along with Chihuahuas, were also bred to alert their owners to trespassers. Even tiny dogs can help deter home invaders, so you should not aim to erase your dog’s bark.

How You May Be Contributing To Excessive Barking

Whether your dog is barking to protect your home, or because they’re concerned about other dogs or humans on walks, you can greatly reduce the severity and length of their barking spells by changing the way you react.

When your dog barks, you may naturally want to carry them away from the window, or tug them away on their leash. It’s not unusual to feel embarrassed, annoyed, or even angry with your dog.

You too, will feel better once you change your perspective. If your dog barks, you can acknowledge them and even thank them for being alert. This can be enough to greatly reduce the length and severity of your dog’s barking spells.

At first, your dog may be so worked up that they may not be able to divert their attention to you. In that case, you’ll want to manage your dog’s exposure to triggers – not forever, just during the training period.

If your dog barks at dogs and people on walks, you can walk during quieter hours. You can change up your route, and cross the street when your dog sees someone or something they don’t like. Your dog may still react, but it’ll be much easier to work on their reactivity at a greater distance.

If your dog barks excessively at home, you can use calming music, put frosted window film at your dog’s eye level, and use baby gates to keep them away from high-stress areas like the front door.

Training Your Dog From The Inside Out

Have you ever tried to distract your dog with treats while they were in full-fledged barking mode? It probably didn’t work. But, that does not mean that rewards cannot be used to successfully reduce barking.

When your dog is overstimulated, their “fight or flight” response is at work. Their digestive system actually shuts down. They cannot accept treats, and may not even hear you trying to get their attention.

Your dog cannot learn when they’re in “fight or flight” mode. This is why we increase distance and reduce distractions before working with the dog.

Timing is everything. Try creating a fun, positive experience the moment your dog notices the trigger – before they start to bark,  before they go into fight or flight mode.

If you miss the window between your dog noticing the trigger, and the start of a barking episode, you may have to wait it out or create more distance between your dog and the trigger. Stay calm and positive, and praise your dog once they do stop barking. With practice, it’ll take less and less time to regain your dog’s focus.

Is Excessive Barking Always Linked To Fear Or Anxiety?

Barking is a symptom of many different emotional conditions. It could be caused by reactivity, boredom or even excitement.

The tips above might not help reduce your dog’s barking, depending on the actual cause. We’ll cover tips related to different issues in the future, but if you need immediate help, feel free to reach out to Healthy Houndz on Facebook or send us an email.

Help With Excessive Barking

Managing barking is tough, especially if it’s been going on for a while. You’ll make much faster progress with the help of a professional positive dog trainer.

Call Healthy Houndz today for dog training in Toronto and North York, or send us a message through our contact form.

How To Keep Your Dog Happy Without A Fenced Yard

Are you moving with your dog from a house to an apartment? Or wondering if you should get a dog if you don’t have a fenced-in backyard?

As it turns out, your dog’s happiness and well-being is not dependent on whether you have a yard or not. In fact, many apartment dogs have more fulfilling lives than those who live in houses with yards.

Why Your Dog Doesn’t Need A Yard To Get Exercise

A fenced yard is a wonderful thing – but it’s not the only way your dog can get exercise and mental stimulation.

In fact, dogs do not necessarily get adequate exercise from being let out into a yard on their own. It’s not unusual for dogs to find destructive ways to entertain themselves in a yard. For example, they may develop a habit of “fence-fighting” or barking aggressively through the fence with a next door neighbour’s dog.

Not having a yard means you will need to actively take your dog outside and interact with them. You can go on a long, relaxed walk, or go for a quick jog when you’re short on time. You can even use a step tracker app on your phone to track your dog’s daily activity.

Entertaining Your Dog Indoors

You can play all of the games you’d play with your dog in a yard in your own living room. It will just take a bit of creativity while you work with a smaller space.

Hide-and-seek, nosework and free play with toys are all fun to do indoors. Remember, you do not always need to use strenuous physical activity to provide mental stimulation and lessen unwanted behaviours. You can also fill your dog’s schedule with long-lasting chews, puzzle toys, and teaching new tricks.

Alternative Ways To Get Off-Lead Time

Though your dog may get plenty of exercise on walks, you can use safe, fenced-in areas to practice recall and play fetch. Off-lead time is also a good way to give your dog an opportunity to sniff and explore freely.

Playtime At The Dog Park

Dog park experiences are hit-or-miss. Your dog could make wonderful new friends. They may enjoy playing with other dogs. But just one scary interaction with an aggressive dog park visitor can lead to fear-based issues like reactivity.

If you’re going to go to a dog park, you may want to go when there are no more than two or three other dogs around. Dog parks tend to be very crowded on weekday afternoons and weekends. You can get up early and  try taking your dog before work, or going on your lunch break.

Make sure you’re well-versed in dog body language before taking your dog to play. If your dog is bullying other dogs, or has become a bully, be prepared to leave right away.

Stay Safe With A Long Line

Some areas have posted signs that specify that your dog must be on a standard length lead, while others do not specify. To give your dog more freedom without the risks of going off-lead, you can use a long line, a lunge line, or a few leads clipped together.

Use your long lead in a wide open area where you won’t risk getting tangled. No matter how friendly your dog is, be careful of letting them run up to people and other dogs. Dog-friendly beaches, fields and other open spaces are perfect for using your long lead.

Need Help Getting Your Dog To Adjust To Apartment Living?

Having a dog in an apartment does come with its own unique challenges. Your dog may not be used to the sounds of people moving about the building, and they may bark while you’re away, leading to noise complaints from your neighbours.

Not to worry – you don’t have to do this on your own. Working with a positive trainer is the best way to understand your dog’s issues and help them learn to love living in your new space. Contact Healthy Houndz for positive training in Toronto and North York.

How To Foster A Dog

Are you interested in fostering a dog?

It’s a wonderful way to help a dog in need while bringing a big source of love into your home.

Research shows that even short-term fostering reduces stress in shelter dogs, helping to bring out their truly unique, lovable personality and giving them a better chance at finding a family.

In return, you’ll have more opportunities to love dogs, and to learn about them. Here’s how you can become a fantastic foster to a lucky shelter dog.

How Does Fostering A Dog Work?

Shelters are often overrun with animals and have no choice but to euthanize to make room for more intakes. By allowing you to keep a dog until they are adopted, the shelter can free up a kennel for another adoptable pet.

You can also foster for a rescue. Some private rescues are not actually facilities, but a network of volunteer foster families.

The shelter or rescue typically provides medical care, and you will usually have to fund day-to-day costs like food, a bed, and toys. You’ll treat your foster as a member of your family, going for walks, doing basic training and providing love and attention.

You typically do not have to worry about finding the dog a home, though you can help by having the dog wear an “adopt me!” collar or bandana when you’re out and about. The shelter or rescue will screen out adoptee applications and communicate with you to find the perfect forever home.

Increasing Your Chances Of Getting Approved

Every shelter and rescue has their own set of requirements for foster homes. You may be required to have a fenced-in yard, for example. They may have guidelines for people with children and other pets. Your children may need to be older than a certain age, and your pets may need to be spayed/neutered and up to date on vaccines.

Do not be discouraged if your application is not approved. Though you may not have a fenced-in yard, for example, you may be willing to walk the dog several times per day. A private rescue may have more lenient requirements than your local city shelter.

Bringing Your Foster Dog Home

Taking your new foster dog out of the noisy shelter and into your warm, comfy home will be a great source of stress relief. Even so, it will take them at least two weeks to fully adjust to your home – maybe longer.

Your family, including your own pets, may be excited to greet your new foster. Allow your foster to acclimate at their own pace. You should give your foster their own, isolated space to eat and sleep, either a crate in a quiet room or an area sectioned off with baby gates.

Once your new foster is settled in, you can start bringing them to public places. Socialization is important for fosters of all ages. A friendly dog will be more likely to find a home.

Another way to give your foster dog a better chance of finding a family: teach them to walk calmly on a leash.

While teaching tricks is fun, foundational skills are more important for helping your foster get adopted. If you need help with potty training, loose leash walking, or other skills, use a positive trainer like Healthy Houndz.

Foster dogs are especially prone to fear-based behavioural issues, but compassionate training brings out their hidden talents and their enthusiasm to learn.

We provide humane, positive training in North York and Toronto. Contact Healthy Houndz today to get started.

Alternatives To Fostering

Have you discovered that fostering a dog is not right for you? There are many other ways you can help dogs in need.

Can you foster a dog for a limited period of time? Look for organizations that support military families who may need care for their dog while they are stationed for a few months. Another option is to seek out a homeless shelter or women’s shelter that does not allow pets. You could care for a dog while their owner gets back on their feet.

Also consider becoming a puppy raiser for a guide dog organization. During the first year of the puppy’s life, you’ll teach them basic commands and provide early socialization. Then, you’ll return the puppy to the organization, where they will graduate to advanced training to later become a service dog for a disabled person.

If your life or your household does not have room for a dog, you can also try volunteering at a shelter. It can be as simple as taking a dog out for a walk once a week.