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Online Dog Training Classes… Do They Really Work?

Are you thinking of taking online dog training classes, but aren’t sure if they’ll work for you?

While not all courses are the same, you and your dog can learn a lot from home by following an online curriculum that can easily fit into your schedule, and at your own pace. 

Without leaving home, you can teach your dog to be more confident, better at picking up new skills, and best of all, more fun to be around. 

You’ll Love Online Dog Training Classes If…

When it comes to private or group training sessions, there is usually a lot of information to take in all while you’re trying to work with your dog. This can make it tough to retain what you’ve learned. 

With an online training class, you can replay lessons as much as you wish, take notes, and email your instructor when you have questions. 

 From the comfort of home, you can train without distractions, e.g. other dogs, noises, and other people. If your dog is reactive or still learning how to pay attention to you in a distracting environment, online training classes are a godsend. 

In group classes, you and your dog may have trouble keeping up with the pace of the class… or you may even pick up new skills faster than the other student teams. An online class gives you a curriculum to follow, but you can always revert back to steps or jump ahead whenever you’d like. 

Before You Begin

First, make sure you select a class that covers topics that personally interest you. Are you excited to learn brain training games to teach your dog? Or are you looking forward to raising your puppy into a well-rounded adult?

The class you choose should not only cover what actions to take with your dog, but why you’ll be taking them, and how to set your dog up for success. They should also focus on using rewards and games to make training fun, whether you’re improving on problem behaviours or learning new tricks. 

Why Online Dog Training Classes Might Not Be For You

There are definitely some benefits to in-person training classes that online courses just cannot replace. 

When you work with a private, in-home trainer, your trainer can see how you work with your dog and help you diagnose issues based on your own strengths and weaknesses, your dog’s subtle body language cues, and the unique dynamic of your household. 

In some cases, in-person professional help is a must to avoid rehoming your dog. Aggression, severe reactivity, and resource guarding are often made worse when owners try to work on these issues at home, even with online guidance. 

How To Make The Most Of Online Dog Training Classes

As with all classes, you’ll get more value from online dog training classes when you take them seriously and focus on making progress, rather than completing the course as quickly as possible. 

Carve out some time each day to work on the course lessons. If there are ten units, for example, you might create a lesson plan to work on one unit per week. Maybe you would do the coursework on Mondays, then practice with your dog every day after work for the next few days. 

It could be difficult to watch the course videos and train your dog at the same time. Writing things down actually boosts your memory, and you’ll know what to work on when you’re done watching. 

If you’re not reaching your goals, get in touch with your course instructor for clarity or for additional information. You may find yourself hesitating to move forward if you don’t completely understand the course material, if you don’t feel confident in your training and communication skills, or if you feel like your dog is not understanding what you’re asking of them. 

Your instructor wants your questions and your feedback to help them make even better courses in the future. Most of all, they want you and your dog to succeed. Don’t be afraid to reach out!

How To Help Your Dog Adjust To Your New Baby

How To Help Your Dog Adjust To Your New Baby

A new baby is fun, exciting, and stressful all at once, especially for the family dog. 

Sadly, the addition of a new baby is a common reason for families to give their dogs up for adoption. 

Some dogs may pose a biting risk, while others may constantly get into the baby’s things. Some families simply find it overwhelming to care for their dog while they’re attending to their new baby around the clock.

Use these tips to help your dog adjust to your new baby so you can keep your family together and set up your kids, both furry and human, for a lifetime of friendship. 

Before Your Baby Arrives

If your baby is still on the way, you can get your dog used to the sights, sounds, and smells of a baby by having friends with children come to visit you.

It’s not necessary for your dog to interact with visiting babies and children. Socialization does not mean forced interactions. Instead, focus on making sure your dog does not find kids overly interesting or scary. 

You can also try playing baby sound effects on YouTube to help desensitize your dog before the baby comes. 

Some relaxed playtime, a stuffed Kong, or a long-lasting chew treat can keep your dog calm when they’re surrounded by unusual sounds and smells. 

Setting Boundaries Between Your Baby And Your Dog

Though babies who grow up with dogs have stronger immune systems and are less likely to develop colds, ear infections, asthma and allergies, you may still need to limit contact during the first few months of your baby’s life. Ask your pediatrician how much contact you can safely allow between your baby and your dog. 

Before your baby is born, you can carry around a doll in your arms, in a carrier and in a stroller to help your dog learn boundaries. You’ll need to train your dog not to jump to keep them from licking the baby or scratching them with their paws. 

Management tools like baby gates, crates, and a securely lidded garbage can will all come in handy from the time the baby comes home until your baby is a toddler. 

Setting Up Your Kids For A Lifetime Of Friendship

No matter how sweet your dog is, you should not allow your baby and your dog to spend time alone together. They should not be unsupervised, even momentarily, until you’re absolutely sure that your child has learned to respect your dog.

When your kid is old enough, teach them to leave the dog alone while they’re sleeping or eating, and to play safely using soft toys. They should know how to pet your dog in ways that they enjoy, and to never hit the dog or pull at their ears or tail. Your child should never sit on your dog’s back, even for brief photo ops. 

Ask For Help

As a new parent, you’ll discover that you need your family and friends more than ever. Not only will you need an occasional break from the baby, you’ll also need help making sure your dog gets love, playtime, and walks. 

It’s okay to ask close friends and family to give your dog some love, too. You can also hire a dog walker to take your dog out, or put them in doggy daycare, even if it’s just for a few days each week. 

Positive training is essential when helping your dog adjust to your new baby. 

As you set up boundaries, such as teaching your dog to stay out of the baby’s room, you’ll want to make sure lessons are taught in a fun, positive way. You want your dog to associate the baby with positive experiences, rather than thinking, “every time I see the baby, I get in trouble!”

Get in touch with Healthy Houndz for positive training in Toronto and North York. 

How To Help Your Dog Stay Calm At The Vet’s Office

How To Help Your Dog Stay Calm At The Vet's Office

Does your dog get nervous at the vet’s office? 

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can teach your dog to feel comfortable around your vet and even look forward to visits. 

Learn how to help your dog stay calm at the vet’s office, behave calmly in the waiting room, and find the best Fear-Free vets who can minimize stress during procedures. 

Why Dogs Hate The Vet

Naturally, we’d expect our dogs to be nervous when visiting their vet after associating them with painful shots and invasive tests. 

But some dogs become anxious when they’re in the waiting room of a vet they’re visiting for the first time. Why is that? 

As it turns out, dogs really can smell fear.

When a dog gets scared, they may express their anal glands. Other dogs can pick up on that scent and recognize the stress-related odour. Dogs also release odours from apocrine glands all over their body that may cause other dogs to pick up on their stress. 

Also, dogs can pick up on the smell of sweat that contains stress hormones, so they may notice if you’re feeling anxious about taking them to the vet, or if other people in the waiting room are feeling stressed. 

Of course, dogs may become fearful at the vet if they are not comfortable being handled by strangers, if they’re poked and prodded for tests, and when they get vaccines. 

Though you can’t do much to prevent your dog from smelling fear, or from experiencing potentially stressful procedures, there are ways we can minimize stress and help dogs have an overall positive time at the vet’s office. 

Find The Right Vet

Shopping around for a vet can be tough enough as it is. You need to find a practice in a convenient location, with the services your dog needs, with staff who make you feel comfortable. But it’s also worth considering whether or not the practice is fear-free certified. 

Fear Free programs help vets and other pet professionals conduct services in ways that are less stressful to pets. Some practices are Fear Free certified, while others are not, but may have staff who have gone through the professional program to help your dog stay calm at the vet’s office.

In Toronto, Downtown Toronto Animal Hospital is one of the few veterinary practices that holds a Fear Free certification. 

Wellesley Animal Hospital is not Fear Free certified, but many members of their staff have been certified individually. 

You can find certified practices in the Fear Free directory. If your vet’s office is not Fear Free certified, you can still ask about what measures they take to minimize stress in their patients. 

Teach Your Dog To Love Their Vet

You can prepare for vet visits by taking your dog on fun car rides. Short rides to a nearby park, or even to a drive-thru, can be a good way to get your dog excited about going in the car. 

Ask your vet if you can bring your dog for “friendly visits”.

A friendly visit is when you stop by for a few minutes to let the staff pet your dog and offer them treats. That way your dog will look forward to coming in when they have an appointment. 

While you’re waiting to be seen for your appointment, keep your dog in a carrier or on a short lead. If they’ll take treats, you can feed small bite periodically to keep your dog’s focus on you, not on your surroundings. Your dog doesn’t need to do anything to earn their treats while they’re at the vet. You’ll be using food to build a positive association, rather than reward a behaviour. 

Your dog should be muzzle-trained, regardless of whether they normally have to wear a muzzle at the vet. Muzzling is often necessary for preventative measures during bloodwork, nail clipping, and vaccines, and it’ll be much less traumatic if your dog gets to wear a muzzle they’re familiar with, rather than the cloth muzzle at your vet’s. 

How To Help Your Dog Stay Calm At The Vet’s Office

Some vets will let you bypass the waiting room and allow you to wait in your car instead. Many vets will allow this if you call from your cell phone to let them know you’ve arrived, and they’ll call you back when the exam room becomes available. 

If that’s not an option, or if you’d prefer to stay in the waiting room, you can use a scented bandana to help prevent your dog from getting worked up over fear-based scents. You can use Adaptil, a synthetic version of the calming pheromone that dogs release after having a litter of puppies. You can also try a lavender-based calming spray. 

Be sure to bring your own high value treats, as the dry biscuits that many vets offer aren’t tasty enough to get your dog’s attention while they’re feeling stressed. 

Positive Training For Nervous Dogs At Healthy Houndz

Does your dog struggle with anxiety? Reward-based training is the best way to help them overcome their fears and learn new skills. Get private, in-home dog training for Toronto and North York from Healthy Houndz! Contact us to get started.

Dog Friendly Hiking Trails In Toronto

Dog Friendly Hiking Trails in Toronto

Autumn is the perfect time of year to hike with your dog, with brisk weather to keep your dog from overheating. Plus the changing leaves make a gorgeous backdrop for photos. 

Though many hiking trails allow dogs, some are more dog-friendly than others, with off-leash hiking trails and fenced-in dog parks. 

Here are some of the best dog friendly hiking trails in Toronto:

Sherwood Park has over 40 acres to explore with your dog. They allow dogs on their walking trails, and also has a fenced-in off-leash area for dogs. There are also designated off-leash pathways where you can let your dog run free, as long as they’re recall trained and stay within your sight. 

190 Sherwood Ave, Toronto, ON M4P 2A8, Canada

High Park is one of the largest parks in the city, spanning nearly 400 acres. Dogs must be leashed everywhere with the exception of the off-leash dog park. The dog park section is not fully fenced, so you should only let your dog loose if they’re reliably recall trained. 

Find High Park on Google Maps

Taylor Creek has over 50 trails that you can explore with your dog. Dogs were once permitted to hike off-leash, but the rules changed when the park became a protected wildlife area. Now, letting your dog loose can lead to a hefty fine. You can however, let your dog run around in the fenced off-leash dog park and make friends. 

 Find Taylor Creek Dog Park On Google Maps

Colonel Samuel Smith Park has lakeside hiking trails and is known as being a great site for birdwatchers. Though you may not let your dog off-leash on the hiking trails, it has a fenced-in dog park. 

dr 4b6, 65 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Dr, Etobicoke, ON M8V 4B6, Canada

Thorton Bales Park has some challenging trails and steep slopes, great for tiring out a high-energy adult dog. 

19th Sideroad, King, ON L7B 1K5, Canada

Bronte Creek Park is one of the few hiking sites that allow dogs to hike off-leash on their trails. Dogs are also permitted to swim in the river. 

3201 Upper Middle Rd W, Oakville, ON, CA, L6M 4GS

Which Toronto Parks Aren’t Dog Friendly?

Most parks and hiking sites allow dogs to walk around on-leash. However, always double check if you’re headed to a place that might be a wildlife conservation area or a national park. To preserve endangered species of plants and animals, certain parks don’t allow dogs at all, on-leash or otherwise. 

When Should I Allow My Dog Off-Leash?

Only let your dog loose in areas that have signage that specifically permit off-leash dogs. If you don’t see any signs, you will have to follow leash laws. Keep your dog on a regular 6-foot leash at all times. 

Even on off-leash trails, you may want to use a leash. If your dog doesn’t have reliable recall, they can get into a lot of danger. Would your dog return to you if they spotted a deer? A snake? A bear? A coyote?

Keeping Your Dog Safe While Hiking

Always apply some kind of flea and tick protection prior to your hike. You may use a monthly preventative like Frontline, though keep in mind that some dogs have adverse reactions to those chemicals and some pests are becoming resistant to them. You may want to use a natural repellent like Wondercide instead of, or in conjunction with, conventional preventatives. 

If you’re letting your dog off-leash in an unfenced area, always carry a pungent snack like freeze dried liver or beef jerky. Keep the leash in your hand or in your pocket so you can round your dog up if they’re getting too distracted to recall reliably. 

Keep on the lookout for foxtail grass and poison ivy, as well as anything your dog might be tempted to eat, like mushrooms or discarded food on the trails. 

Always bring plenty of water, plus a collapsible travel bowl for your dog. It doesn’t matter how short the hike will be. Remember, short hikes tend to be the most dangerous, as people never expect to get lost or sidetracked. 

Get Your Dog Ready To Hit The Trails!

Need help with training a reliable recall? Call Healthy Houndz for dog training in Toronto and North York. We look forward to helping you do more with your dog.

7 Reasons Why Your Dog Ignores You

Reason Why Your Dog Doesn't Listen To You

Is your dog stubborn? Does your dog ignore you, even though they know what you’re telling them to do?

It may seem that way, but there’s always an underlying reason. 

Dogs don’t purposefully disobey us to spite us. As they’re unconditionally loving even when we step on their tail or serve dinner late, we must be patient with our dogs when they don’t act as we expect.

Here are  the top seven real reasons why your dog ignores you:

1. Your dog doesn’t understand what you want. 

You may think that your dog understands what you’re asking of them… but do they really? 

Dogs understand clear, concise cues. They tend to understand “sit,” but may have trouble with “please sit darling so I can put your collar on and we can go outside for a walk.”

And that’s if you taught the cue to the point of fluency in the first place. You may simply need more practice. Try going back to square one and using one of the three core training techniques to reteach that skill. 

Research shows that dogs understand hand signals better than verbal cues. You can use a combination of hand signals and words to get your dog to understand you more easily. 

2. Your dog isn’t motivated by your treats. 

Food gets your dog excited about training, and can actually rewire their brain to feel calmer and happier in stressful situations. Using really yummy, aromatic treats will ensure that your dog doesn’t ignore you. You don’t need to become dependent on treats, but it helps to reward your dog regularly to keep them motivated. 

The best treats for training are cheap, healthy, and easy to find. Try some scrambled eggs. For something more portable, dehydrate your own chicken jerky. Even kibble moistened with a few drops of bacon drippings can catch your dog’s attention without making them gain weight. 

3. Your dog has developed an aversion. 

Usually when you call your dog, you give them a treat or a cuddle. But sometimes when you call your dog, and you put them in the bath, or you clip their nails, or put them in the car and take them to the vet.

Your dog may hesitate to come when called because they don’t know whether they’re getting a treat or a bath. 

To work on an aversion to being called, you can make those rough experiences more pleasant. 

Instead of struggling to do your dog’s nails every few weeks, try the no-fear way to trim your dog’s nails. 

Try visiting your vet with your dog just to say hello. Most vets will be happy to pet your dog and offer them a treat when you pop by. 

Changing the way your dog feels about nail trims, vet visits and baths will take time. In the meantime, choose a new emergency recall word, and only use it when you can offer your dog a delicious treat. 

4. Your dog is uncomfortable or in pain. 

Does your dog love to do their “roll over” trick – only on a bed or a soft carpet? It may hurt their back when they try to do it on your kitchen floor? 

Do they refuse to sit if they’re on hot sand or gravel? Maybe it hurts their paws. 

Sometimes it’s not that obvious. Your dog may have an underlying health condition that makes them tired, irritable, or can make it painful for them to do what you ask of them. 

5. Your dog is too distracted to listen. 

Does your dog listen perfectly in your living room, but act totally different at the park? 

In a space full of noises and distractions, it can be difficult for your dog to tune out the environment and focus on you. You can teach your dog to ignore distractions, it just takes some practice. 

You may want to start working on training by the front of your house, in your backyard, or another place that might be a little bit more distracting than your living room, but not overwhelming. Work on simple cues, and keep training short and easy.

In distracting areas, you may need higher value treats. While your dog may listen for kibble at home, you may need beef jerky to get their attention when you’re walking downtown. 

Along with treats, you can also use the environment as a reward. Work with your dog for just 30 seconds, and then use a cue such as “release!” to let them sniff freely. 

This is a good example of the Premack Principle – increasing instances of a low probability behaviour (your dog sitting when you’re surrounded by distractions) by reinforcing it with a high probability behaviour (your dog sniffing a tree.) Your dog will be more likely to “sit” for you if they know that you’ll immediately let them go sniff a tree. 

6. Your dog needs help with generalizing.

Another reason your dog doesn’t listen at the park: they don’t generalize very easily. 

You tell your dog “sit” in your living room while you’re sitting on the couch. Your dog is able to understand you not only because they know you’ll reward them for responding to “sit,” but also because you’ve training them while sitting in front of them in your living room.

“Sit,” at that point, does not yet mean“sit while I’m standing, holding your lead, while I’m catching up with my friend at the park”.

To train your dog so they’re truly fluent with their cues, you’ll need to practice in the kitchen, while you’re standing next to them, while you’re sitting, while you’re across the room, in a box, with a fox… you get the idea. 

7. Your dog is frustrated with you. 

Does it ever seem like your dog doesn’t listen to you when you’re standing right in front of them? Do they avoid eye contact, sniff the ground, and just seem to ignore you?

Sometimes the stress of training can make your dog anxious. If you’re feeling frustrated with them, they can pick up on that, but they may still not know how to appease you. 

Dogs may resort to calming signals when they don’t know how to respond to your cues. This is a common way for dogs to communicate between one another to keep the peace. They yawn, sniff the ground, and avoid eye contact as though to say, “I’m trying not to do anything to make you mad at me. I come in peace”.

Keep training sessions short, light-hearted and fun. If your dog is having trouble picking up on something, look for signs that they’re getting closer to success. 

Give treats generously – at least every ten seconds, even if they are not doing everything perfectly. Training should always feel like a game, not a chore, for both you and your dog. 

Still Not Sure Why Your Dog Ignores You?

Still not making any progress? Feel like you’re stuck in the same patterns? Resolving training issues isn’t always as simple as reading an article and instantly knowing the solution to your specific issue. 


Working with a professional positive dog trainer is the best way to learn how to communicate so your dog listens. Contact Healthy Houndz today to learn more about our private dog training programs in North York and Toronto.

What If My Dog Isn’t Food Motivated?

Using food as a reward is a huge part of positive reinforcement dog training. But what if your dog isn’t food motivated?

Often dogs that don’t seem to care about treats just need a little extra help. You can learn how to use food in a way that excites them and gets their attention. 

Positive reinforcement training isn’t just about treats. If your dog truly doesn’t care for food, you can use other rewards and tools to teach them to love learning. 

Is Your Dog Overwhelmed? 

Do you remember how hard it was to eat breakfast on your first day of school? You may have been so nervous that you couldn’t even think about food. 

When a dog becomes stressed, possibly because they see a cat across the road, their heart rate accelerates and blood flows to their muscles and the action centres of the brain, away from the digestion system. 

That’s why your dog might be thrilled to gobble up their kibble at mealtimes, but will totally ignore it when you offer it as a reward when you’re at the park. 

The bigger the distraction, the better your food reward should be. You might not be able to call your dog away from a cat if they know you have kibble in your pocket, but if you have roasted beef or turkey, they might find it easier to listen. 

But sometimes you could dangle a rare steak in front of your dog and they’ll still ignore you. 

Is Your Environment Too Distracting?

It’s important that you set your dog up for success. 

Letting your dog loose in a field full of gophers with little recall training and expecting them to come immediately when called, is like expecting a kindergartner to do calculus. It’s just too hard. It’s not that your dog isn’t food motivated, they’re just not yet up for the challenge.

If you use high value rewards and train in low-to-moderate distraction settings, your dog will get accustomed to listening to you. Over time, you’ll build good habits so your dog can become reliable off-lead. 

Non-Treat Rewards For A Dog That Isn’t Food Motivated

You don’t always have to use treats to reward your dog. 

Dogs who are on restrictive diets and those don’t like treats can learn using positive reinforcement too. 

Toys can be just as rewarding as treats. You just have to find the right toy. It could be a ball that bounces just right. Or, it could be a brand new stuffed toy that you only let your dog play with during training sessions. 

You can even try dog toys made out of genuine rabbit pelts or sheepskin. The scent of real fur drives most dogs nuts. 

If you’re teaching loose-leash walking, allowing your dog to move forward can be enough of a reward in itself. When your dog pulls, stop walking. When they walk politely at your side, keep going, or even pick up speed to keep the walk exciting. 

Don’t underestimate the power of verbal praise. Throw a little party when your dog gets something right. If the sound of the words “good dog!” makes their tail wag, it can be a great motivator. 

Even petting can motivate your dog. There’s nothing like a good backscratch for a job well done.

More Dog Training Help From Healthy Houndz

Now that your dog is excited to learn, you can teach new skills and work on unwanted behaviours. If you need more help, get in touch with Healthy Houndz for private dog training in Toronto and North York.

Resource Guarding In Dogs – What To Do If Your Dog Gets Aggressive Over Food

Your dog’s almost finished with their bone, leaving a small piece that they might choke on. You go to confiscate it, only for your dog to growl and stare up at you like they’re ready to attack.

It feels awful to hear your own dog growl at you. You might feel concerned, scared, or even disrespected. 

Resource guarding is a common behavioural issue, even in otherwise well behaved dogs. 

What Exactly IS Resource Guarding?

If your dog is resource guarding, they’re acting possessive about any valuable resource. 

This typically manifests as your dog growling when someone tries to take away their food or treat.

But some dogs become protective of toys or beds. They can even become protective of you, growling if anyone comes to close while they’re sitting in your lap. 

Dogs may show signs of resource guarding around you, your family members, and even other animals in your family.

When Resource Guarding Becomes A Problem

Dogs growl to communicate. If your dog growls, it’s just their way of letting you know that they are scared or anxious. 

While you can teach your dog to trust you around their food or treats, it’s never okay to punish them for growling. Dogs who are punished for growling typically escalate quickly, especially if they have experienced physical punishments in the past. It’s not unusual for them to bite without warning. 

So, if your dog is resource guarding, your priority should be to make them feel more comfortable around resources so they won’t feel the need to growl. 

Dealing With Resource Guarding At Home

The key is to make your dog feel good about interactions that they currently find stressful.

You can teach your dog “leave it” and “drop it” using tasty, high value treats. If they are possessive of their favorite spot on the couch, you can teach them “off.”

But those cues can’t be taught if your dog is a highly stressed, severe resource guarder.

Attempts at training your dog while they’re on high alert can result in added stress, even a bite. 

It’s important to back off when your dog growls. It’s a sign that you’ve gone too far over their boundaries. 

Progress with resource guarding is slow and steady. If the problem is severe, we may start with simply tossing the dog treats from across the room so they can feel comfortable chewing with someone present. 

Resource guarding can be complex, and dangerous. A mistake can result in a bad bite. A really bad bite can result in your dog having to be euthanized. This is why we don’t recommend working on this issue at home unless it’s very mild. 

Food Aggression With Other Dogs

When your dog becomes aggressive towards your other dog, it’s harder to manage. Dogs need to be able to communicate with one another.

It’s acceptable for your dog to growl, so that your other dog knows to back off. But sometimes dogs do not respect one another’s boundaries, and may still try to snatch food or toys from their canine housemates – resulting in a nasty fight. 

If your dog’s resource guarding issue is limited to other dogs, the best thing you can do is feed them separately. When your dog feels safe while they eat or enjoy treats, they won’t feel the need to attack your other dog.

Feeding your dogs in separate crates is always a good idea. It can help reinforce positive feelings about being in a crate. You’ll also keep food off the floor, and you won’t have to worry about kids or guests bothering your dogs while they eat. 

When To Seek A Professional Trainer

Even with proper management and at-home conditioning, having a dog who resource guards can be dangerous. It’s best to work with a professional trainer who is experienced in resource guarding issues. 

Many well-meaning dog owners who attempt to fix resource guarding end up making it worse. It’s often because they try to progress too quickly. They tend to think their dog looks calm, missing subtle signs of stress, and then overstep the dog’s boundaries, resulting in a bite. It’s best to work with a professional trainer who is experienced in resource guarding issues. 

Call Healthy Houndz today for info about our private dog training in North York and Toronto

7 Memories To Make With Your Dog

7 Memories To Make With Your Dog

It’s amazing how much of an impact our dogs have on us during their short time here on earth. 

To make the most of it, try making these seven memories with your dog. These are some of the most powerful ways you can cherish your dog, and make memories that you’ll have long after they’ve crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.

Watch The Sunrise And Sunset

Find excuses to travel, even if it’s just a one-hour road trip to a new park. Wake up extra early to catch the sunrise, or find a wide open space where you can watch the sunset together. Natural outdoor light is always best for photographs too. 

A Photo With Every Family Member

Everyone who loves your dog should have their own photo with them. Take the time to make sure you take a photo of just your dog and your brother-in-law, each of your kids, your mom, your aunt, all of your friends – anyone who is an important part of your dog’s life. 

A Letter To Your Dog

Write your dog a letter. They’ll never be able to read it, but sometimes, they somehow seem to understand when we talk to them. Read it aloud, and see how they react. You can turn this into a birthday tradition, or write to them any time you’re having a training issue, or just feeling down.

A Day At The Beach

Not all dogs like to swim, but you’ll never know until you give it a try with your dog. Visit a dog-friendly beach, bay or lake with your dog, and see what they do. You can try walking along the shore to see if your dog decides to wade with you, or throwing a toy to see if your dog goes after it. 

Remember, all dogs have the bradycardia reflex, which stimulates them to paddle when they’re in water, but that doesn’t mean they can swim, nor that they enjoy it. So, we strongly advise that you do not force your dog into the water, or pull them in by their leash. Let them explore slowly at their own pace. If they don’t want to go into the water, that’s perfectly fine. They may prefer to watch birds fly over the water, or dig holes in the sand. 

Watch out for toxic blue green algae, which has been known to kill dogs. Only swim in waters that have been tested to be safe for humans to swim, and that are popular swimming spots. If you’re not sure, just stay away. If your dog isn’t social, try going early in the morning or on a weekday.

It’s best to keep your dog on-lead unless they have absolutely perfect recall. Would your dog stop in their tracks and return to you if you catch them drinking saltwater? Or if they’re eating a rotten fish, full of sharp bones? If not, a regular lead or long line will keep your dog safe while they have fun. 

Birthdays

When was your dog born? If you don’t know, you can celebrate their “gotcha day”, they day they were adopted. You can also celebrate their birthday on August 1, or “DOGust” the universal birthday of all rescue dogs. 

Nobody likes having diarrhea on their birthday, so avoid overly rich birthday treats. Most doggy birthday cakes are bland and full of carbs and sugar. Adding raw or cooked eggs, chicken, beef or turkey to your dog’s usual food is enough to make their birthday meals special. 

Try a fun activity on your dog’s big day. Maybe you can get the whole family involved in a game of hide and seek. Or, go for a long walk at their favorite park, allowing for plenty of mindful sniffing and introspection. 

It’s your dog’s special day, so resist the urge to do things that you’d enjoy, but they might not, such as putting them in a funny hat. Some dogs like being dressed up, but if yours doesn’t, you can always add accessories via photo stickers in post-editing. 

Signature Trick

Every dog should have their own signature trick – a cute skill that they have mastered with lots of practice. 

If your dog doesn’t know a lot of cues, it can be something simple, like “shake” or “spin” or “wave”. These cues are easiest to teach through a technique called luring. Lure your dog into raising a paw by holding a treat over their opposite shoulder. Or, lure them into a spin in several steps: start with a quarter spin, then move up to a half-spin, until your dog can spin in a full circle.

The best signature tricks are based on your dog’s natural behaviours. If your dog always stretches when they get up from a nap, you can use capturing to turn this into a “bow” or “curtsy” cue. 

Going Shopping

Try taking your dog to a pet supply store and see what they pick out. Do they seem to go for certain types of toys? Do they prefer bully sticks, or do they take you to the pig ears? Fuzzy stuffed toys, bones, or balls? 

Shopping in a pet store can be a good way to socialize your dog, but like all public places, they have their hazards: viruses, for puppies who are not yet vaccinated, and potentially aggressive dogs or overenthusiastic children, either of which can create negative experiences that can instill new fears in your dog. 

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OCD In Dogs: What You Should Know

OCD in dogs: signs, treatments and other psychiatric conditions in dogs

Did you know that dogs can suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Though we cannot truly understand the thought patterns behind a dog’s behaviours, and whether or not they’re propelled by compulsive thoughts, many dogs show similar signs as those seen in people.

What Does OCD In Dogs Look Like?

OCD in dogs often manifests as a repetitive habit that has begun to affect their life. 

For example, it’s not unusual for a dog to chase their tail from time to time. But this can develop into a way of coping with stress, boredom, or anxiety. Your dog may chase their tail constantly, past the point of exhaustion. It may affect their ability to live a normal life. 

Another common compulsion is chasing light. It often starts with chasing the dot of a laser pointer as an indoor game. We strongly discourage the use of laser pointers because this game does not allow your dog the satisfaction of a catch. 

If you absolutely insist on using a laser pointer, only use it to get your dog revved up, and to direct them onto a toy. Then, encourage them to chase the toy. If your dog’s mind stays on “seeking” mode, without the final thrill of the catch, it’s as though they’re never satisfied, and they never know when the game ends.

Laser pointers are dangerous because dogs have trouble generalizing. They often learn to chase any shimmer of light, even reflections off windows, bowls of water and their own ID tags, which quickly allow this habit to take over their life.

Not all cases of OCD have a direct, preventable trigger. Certain breeds, like Retrievers, Dobermans and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are prone to OCD behaviours.

How OCD In Dogs Is Diagnosed

Some potential symptoms of OCD can look like symptoms of other health issues.

For example, a dog may chew their tail obsessively when stressed, but the actual trigger could be chronic pain or itching. 

That’s why it’s important that you go to your vet for a full blood panel and fecal test. Ruling out any other underlying health condition, your vet can make a diagnosis and set up a treatment plan.

Treating OCD in dogs usually means more exercise and mental stimulation. Though OCD is a psychiatric disorder, not a behavioural issue, professional, positive dog training can help you learn to stimulate your dog’s mind and reduce sources of anxiety. 

Your vet may prescribe drugs that your dog may or may not need for the rest of their life. Conventional drugs can sometimes be used with holistic treatments like CBD oil to help with anxiety, and a fresh diet. 

The sooner you start a treatment plan for your dog, the better the prognosis will be. It is possible for your dog to have a good quality of life for many years with OCD, and the associated behaviours can be reduced or even completely stopped. 

Other Conditions That Affect Dogs

Veterinary experts suspect that dogs may also be affected by autism, which can also manifest as repetitive behaviours, along with trancing, problems with socialization and episodic aggression. Little research has been conducted on autism in dogs, though researchers have noted that certain breeds like Bull Terriers and Jack Russell Terriers seem more likely to show autism-like symptoms. 

We do know, as well,that dogs can be affected by a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Canine cognitive dysfunction in senior dogs causes them to be forgetful, disoriented, anxious and sometimes aggressive. CCD symptoms often worsen at night, similar to “sundowning” in humans with Alzheimer’s. 

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. 

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