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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. 

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.