Does Your Dog Give Dirty Looks?

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Does Your Dog Give Dirty Looks?We dog owners are often accused by canine researchers of assigning human emotions to our pups. But according to Stanley Coren in his article for Psychology Today, those dirty looks just might be real. Stanley doesn’t have to convince me though. If Haley had a middle finger, she would probably use it occasionally to express her feelings. I should probably be thankful too that she can’t speak because I would be getting an earful every time I tell her to “Go lay down”. Please tell me I’m not alone here, does your dog give dirty looks too?

What Emotions Do Dogs Feel?

In Stanley’s article, he explains that dogs most likely have the emotional equivalence of a 2 1/2 year-old child. They feel excitement (or arousal), distress, contentment, disgust, fear, anger, joy, suspicion, shyness and love or affection. I notice Haley displaying most of these emotions and you probably see them in your dog too, right?

Guilty DogThe more complex emotions like shame, pride, guilt or contempt that develop in children between the ages of 3-5 years are supposed to be beyond the range of what dogs experience. Hmm, I swear Haley feels guilty when she goes dumpster diving in the kitchen trash can. I wonder if some dogs could be more emotionally developed than others. After all, each dog is a little bit different and perhaps some fall into different emotional ranges and might feel guilt or pride. It sure seems like some dogs do a prideful dance while they prance around after stealing a toy away from another dog.

Haley’s Top Three Emotional Tantrums

Whether or not Haley feels the more complex emotions, I love the way she expresses her emotions through her body language and yes, even her occasional dirty looks. Here are her top three ways of letting me know she’s less than pleased with me.

1. The turn around, dirty look while leaving the room.
This doesn’t happen often, but when Haley gets too pushy or doesn’t listen, I tell her to “Go lay down”. She then begins the slow walk out of the room with her head hung low. She always makes sure to turn and shoot me a dirty look before she leaves. Maybe she’s checking to see if I’ll change my mind but it sure looks like a dirty look to me.
2. The “In a minute” protest grumble.
This is Haley’s verbal protest when she has to wait for something and the usual sigh doesn’t make enough of an impact. She likes to combine it with a frustrated grunt as she falls into a down position on the floor.
3. The pouting and suck-up routine.
Just like a 2 year-old child who’s learned to play sides, Haley heads straight to my husband if I tell her “No”. She’ll try to get what she wants from him or will lie down beside him and pout. If we both say no to her, she’ll often go to the far side of the room and pout alone. Luckily, she gets over it quickly though.

Dog Giving Dirty LookI find Haley’s little protests and temper tantrums amusing. I don’t mind the looks, grumbles and pouting at all because they’re all part of her unique personality and they make her more “human” to me. I like knowing what she’s thinking or feeling. One thing I find interesting though is comparing male and female dogs. I’ve often heard that female dogs are a little more emotional or moody in this respect. Since I’ve always had female dogs, maybe some of you can weigh in on your thoughts about that.

Does your dog give dirty looks or show their displeasure with you? It’s pretty humorous when it happens. Tell us how your dog lets you know what’s on their mind or upload their picture in the comment section below!

Grow Young with Your Dog – A Book Review and Giveaway!

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Grow Young With Your Dog - Book Review

Thank you to all who entered the giveaway and congratulations to Shanna, the winner of Mary’s signed copy of Grow Young With Your Dog!

Do we have to accept that as we get older we’re going to feel old and tired? Mary Debono challenges that way of thinking, both for people and their pets, in her book Grow Young with Your Dog. Now that Haley’s a senior dog and I’m—well, not exactly a spring chicken anymore, the idea of staying fit and healthy along with Haley really appeals to me. I want to enjoy our hikes together for years to come and you probably feel the same way about spending quality time with your pup too.

Mary contacted me recently to ask if I would be interested in reading and reviewing her book. I was thrilled that she asked because I was already a big fan of her book and had intended on writing an article about it. Since I already purchased the book on my own, we decided to give a copy to one of you!

A Little About Mary First

Mary Debono is a lifelong animal lover with over 20 years experience in helping thousands of animals overcome physical and psychological challenges. She’s a Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner who has combined that knowledge with animal bio-mechanics, behavior and training knowledge to create her own technique known as Debono Moves. She’s worked successfully with dogs, cats and horses at her practice in Encinitas, CA and has traveled around the world teaching her techniques in workshops. She shares that knowledge with us in her book and her passion for helping animals and people can be felt on every page.

What Does It Mean to Grow Young With Your Dog?

Mary explains in her book that we don’t necessarily have to accept that we’re going to feel worse or have less energy as we get older and that our thoughts and perception of aging can limit our movements. She connects and communicates with animals through gentle hand contact and movements which can lower anxiety, ease arthritis, heal injuries and even regain movement after paralysis. Debono Moves utilizes neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to form or reorganize new neural pathways in response to injury or disease when other pathways have been forgotten or turned off. Through these movements and exercises, both you and your dog can regain a more youthful state together by using the power of touch and connection.

How Debono Moves Helped Haley

Debono Moves
Mary’s book has specific chapters devoted to helping dogs with back problems, neck problems, hip dysplasia and of course, the all too common knee injuries. After Haley’s CCL knee surgery last year, I relied on some of Mary’s theories and techniques. Right after her surgery, Haley came down with a severe case of colitis which went undetected until a fever presented itself. She was in such pain for several days that she held her injured knee high and tight to her belly and refused to lower it at all. Once she was feeling better from the colitis, holding her knee up had become a new habit and she was behind schedule in her rehab progress.

Limping around on three legs and constantly pivoting on her good foot was putting a lot of extra stress on her good knee. In order to get her to lower her leg and begin the process of walking on it again, I used gentle touch and pressure on her upper thigh while she stood on three legs. The light but constant pressure helped her relax her leg a little at a time. After several sessions, she finally brushed her toenails on the carpet, then gradually put more and more weight on her leg. Then, I followed up with Mary’s technique (page 88) where I supported Haley while slowly and carefully shifting her weight to all four legs in a circle. The exercises taught her to relax and trust that she could put weight on her leg again. I was so relieved to get her back on track with her rehab. Whew!

The Many Benefits of Debono Moves

If you have an older dog, Chapter 7—Enhancing the Life of the Older Dog, offers practical tips and exercises to help keep your dog moving more freely. But Mary’s book is not just about helping older or injured dogs. It’s about helping all dogs feel younger and more energetic. Active or athletic dogs can benefit from these exercises too and may see a reduced risk of injury and enhanced athletic ability. If you happen to have a reactive or anxious dog, Debono Moves exercises can help reduce stress and enhance your pup’s overall well-being. Chapter 8 is devoted to exercises just for you, but there are also human exercises incorporated into many of the techniques you do with your dog.

Connected Breathing With Your Dog

Connected Breathing With Your Dog

One of the most valuable benefits of using Mary’s techniques, is the strong bond it creates between you and your dog. And, while you’re helping your dog, you’re reaping the benefits of touch and relaxation too.

The Wrap Up

Grow Young with Your Dog offers practical, easy to understand techniques and exercises that you can use right away to improve the health and well-being of you and your dog. Mary highlights several cases where she’s helped dogs and provides explanations and the techniques she used to get a positive outcome for each dog. The book is well organized so you can quickly jump to the section you need. Each chapter highlights a specific area or problem being treated and includes exercises and key points to review at the end of the chapter. There are plenty of pictures to help illustrate Mary’s techniques.

One of my favorite topics covered!

In Chapter 2—Getting to Know Your Dog in a New Way, Mary shows you how to use your hands to feel and learn about your dog’s anatomy. This method of listening with your hands can help you spot potential trouble areas in movement.

Although Mary’s book is ideal for anyone with a senior dog or a dog that’s dealing with a condition that affects their movement, I would recommend it to any dog owner because of the many benefits you and your dog can enjoy by practicing Debono Moves. As a bonus, the book also includes access to additional audio and video files via Mary’s website.

The Giveaway!

Grow Young With Your Dog BookTo be entered to win a signed copy of Grow Young with Your Dog, leave a comment below and explain how you think Debono Moves would benefit your dog. I’ll choose a winner at random on February 14th, 2017. That’s a perfect Valentines Day gift for you and your pooch! The winner will be contacted via their email address. Please note: Due to the nature of this giveaway, it’s only open to people with a mailing address in the Continental United States.

Thank you, Mary, for providing a copy of your book for one lucky reader. Good luck to all of you! If you don’t want to enter the giveaway but would like a copy of the book, simply head over to Mary’s website then click on the book to order a copy! Are you ready to grow young with your dog?

10 Dog Training Mistakes You Might Be Making

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10 Dog Training Mistakes You Might Be Making

Photo by Stonnie Dennis Dog Photography / CC BY-SA 2.0

The results from my reader survey are in and the number one request is for more articles on dog training. So, let’s get started! How many of these common dog training mistakes are you making? No worries if you’re guilty of a few of these. I’ve made plenty of mistakes too, just ask Haley! This is a brief list but I’ll be expanding on some of these topics throughout the year.

10 Common Dog Training Mistakes

1. You’re not training consistently.
Training your dog takes a certain level of commitment. We all have busy schedules but putting in the work now will pay off in dividends later when you have a well-behaved dog you can be proud of. Set aside time each day to work on training and find ways to work commands into your daily routine. For example, ask your dog to sit before getting her meal or going outside. Practice the down command before she gets a toy.
2. Your rewards aren’t exciting enough.
Make sure you’re using high-value, tasty treats or real food and lots of verbal praise when your dog follows a command. It’s best to train when your dog’s hungry, as they’ll be more enticed and motivated to work for food. Check out these tips if your dog doesn’t work very hard for treats. If your pooch is motivated by toys and playtime, use those as motivation while training. Use whatever your dog loves!
3. Your dog has too much energy.
If a dog hasn’t been exercised or has pent-up energy, it’s almost impossible for them to stay focused on training. Try working with them after a short walk or play session.
4. Your commands are confusing.
Use short cues or commands and avoid throwing in extra words with the commands. Make sure you (and all family members) use the same command and speak them clearly and with confidence. It’s also important not to repeat commands over and over again, sounding like a broken record. Since dogs are better at reading our body language than interpreting our words, consider associating a hand signal along with certain commands, like pointing to the floor when giving the down command.
5. You’re not in the right frame of mind when training.
Attitude is everything, right? If you’re tired or irritated when working with your dog, your training session might not be very productive. Training can be frustrating at times, especially when training certain behaviors like loose leash walking. If it’s not going well, stop and try again later. Dogs are good at sensing our emotions too, so try to make each training session a positive experience for your pup.
Dalmatian Training

Photo by Maja Dumat / CC BY 2.0

6. Your timing is off.
It’s important to anticipate your dog’s next move so you can be ready to reward her as soon as she performs the desired behavior. Dogs associate the reward with what’s happening at the moment or just before receiving a reward. If you’re late in offering the reward, you could be accidentally rewarding the wrong behavior or your dog won’t make the connection with the command. Timing is especially critical if you’re using a clicker to mark a specific behavior. Always end each training session after your dog has achieved some level of success.
7. You’re not using the right tone of voice.
Dogs respond to the excitement and enthusiasm in our voice. Too little excitement or a low, monotone voice might not provoke much enthusiasm back from your dog. On the flip side, too much high-pitched excitement or squealing may cause your dog to lose focus. Shoot for a happy, upbeat tone that’s not too over the top and remember that raising your voice or yelling at your dog is counterproductive. For more tips, read How Our Tone of Voice Affects Dogs.
8. You’re moving along too fast.
Once your dog understands a command, that’s just the beginning. Next, you need to reinforce the command by using it in different situations and slowly working around higher levels of distraction. Also, teaching your dog too many different commands at the same time can be confusing to them. Take your time and allow them to build confidence and success with each command.
9. You’re using a one-size-fits-all training method.
I’m a big believer in positive-reinforcement training because it works so well, but it’s also important to consider the specific personality, breed, age, preferences and history of your dog. Every dog is a little bit different and the key to training success is to discover what motivates your dog to learn while maintaining a positive training environment. When I run into a training roadblock, I try to view the situation from Haley’s perspective and frame of mind. I almost always gain some helpful insight to resolve the issue.
Pit Bull Training

Photo by Richard Masoner / CC BY-SA 2.0

10. Your dog doesn’t trust you.
That might be a tough one to accept but it happens sometimes and it’s hard to train a dog when you don’t have their trust and respect. Some people run into this issue after they’ve adopted a dog that’s been abused by a previous owner. If you take the time to establish a relationship of trust with your dog, training will be much easier.

If you’ve made some of these mistakes, don’t worry, we all have. I’m guilty of not following through with training Haley around distractions and I remember how frustrated I was while trying to teach her not to pull on the leash while walking. That’s a tough one!

Dog training comes easily to some people, they seem to have a rapport with canines and an intuition about their behavior. If you’re not one of those dog owners, don’t worry. You can enroll in an obedience class or hire a trainer to help you at home. If you would rather get your tips from a book, I highly recommend My Smart Puppy by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a simple, straight-forward approach to training your pup and building your training experience and confidence.

I hope these ten tips make your training sessions more productive and pleasant for both you and your dog. Have you made any training mistakes? Share your tips and lessons learned in the comment section below! 10 Dog Training Mistakes You Might Be Making

Help! My Dog Doesn’t Work for Treats

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My Dog Doesn't Work for TreatsWhen it comes to dog training, almost every article you read suggests using food or treats as an incentive, especially with positive reinforcement training. Food is a great motivator for most dogs but every once in a while, I get a comment or email from a reader saying their dog doesn’t work for treats. What? How can it be that some dogs aren’t motivated by food? Those tasty tidbits are like magic wands that can be pulled from your pocket to mesmerize and control your pup’s behavior. Well, at least until they gobble them down. So what’s going on with these dogs that just aren’t interested in treats? Here are eight possibilities.

8 Reasons Your Dog Doesn’t Work for Treats

1. Your dog isn’t hungry.
If you free feed your dog or they’ve just eaten a full meal, they might not be interested in even more food. Your pooch will be more motivated if you train when they’re hungry.
2. Your dog’s not impressed with your offering.
Some people offer pieces of dry food from their dog’s mealtime ration to limit calories, but your dog might not find their normal food all that exciting. Since dogs work harder for food they like, buy some yummy-smelling training treats or try some small pieces of meat or cheese. Some dogs will even turn down one type of treat if they smell or think you have something better. Experiment to see what your dog really loves.
3. Your dog is anxious or scared.
When a dog feels threatened, stressed or is in a high state of alert, they usually won’t take food and will often turn their nose away from it. This can be a useful way of reading your dog’s emotional state.
4. Your dog is overexcited or distracted.
This can happen when your dog finds something in their environment more interesting than the treats you’re offering. Make sure you start training at home, around little or no distractions, then gradually increase the level of distractions.
5. Your dog has a negative association with treats.
This usually happens if you’ve lured your dog into a situation they perceive as negative by using food. For example, luring your dog into his crate before leaving the house or luring them towards something they fear. This type of luring can cause dogs to associate the treat with the negative event and they may avoid taking treats in the future.
6. You’ve abused the power of treats.
If you’ve fooled your dog by pretending to have a treat in order to get them to come to you or follow a command, they soon learn to distrust you and may no longer be motivated by treats, even if you have one.
7. Your dog’s breed isn’t particularly food motivated.
Some breeds (like labs) are very motivated by food and will take a treat even if they’re full. Other breeds aren’t as food motivated or they may be motivated by play or other drives. If your pup will work for toys, play sessions, praise or belly rubs, that’s great too. It’s all about discovering what motivates your dog.
8. Your dog may feel sick or have a medical issue.
If your pup has an upset stomach or the type of treat doesn’t agree with him, he’ll probably turn it down. If this is unusual behavior for your dog or he’s not eating at all, contact your vet to see if he needs to be examined.

While I’m on the topic of using treats for training, here are a few extra tips.

A few more treat tips!

  • If your dog listens and follows commands consistently, but only when you have a treat, it’s time to start weaning your pup off the treats by giving intermittent reinforcements. Offer praise, petting or something else your dog loves while slowly reducing the number of treats for that particular command.
  • After your dog is reliable and weaned off treats for a command, an occasional treat as an intermittent reward is a great way to reinforce their reliability. Even though Haley reliably comes to me when called, an occasional surprise treat keeps her running back to me with enthusiasm!

Dog Sitting for TreatFood is a primary reinforcer for dogs; they need it to survive and it’s a powerful reward that can be used to shape all kinds of behavior. If your dog doesn’t work for treats, try some of the tips above and let me know how they work.

Have you ever had a dog that wasn’t motivated by treats? What worked for your dog? Share your tips and thoughts in the comment section below!


My Dog Doesn't Work for Treats

2017 Pet Blogger Challenge and Reader Survey

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2017 Pet Blogger ChallengeIt’s 2017 and I’ve welcomed in the new year with open arms! To be honest, I was ready to be done with 2016. Even though it was a tough year for my family, it was a good year for the blog and the Pet Blogger Challenge is a nice way to reflect on the past year by answering the ten questions posed by our friends at GoPetFriendly.com But in the spirit of also looking forward, I’ve decided to pair this post with a reader survey so I can hear what’s on your mind and what you would like to read more about in 2017.

So, let’s get started with the answers to the Pet Blogger Challenge. Just click on the plus sign beside each question below to read my answers. When you’re finished, stick around a little longer and complete the survey to let me know how I’m doing.

My answers to the 2017 Pet Blogger Challenge

I’ve been blogging since July of 2014 and my blog is all about dogs, of course! Topics include dog behavior and training guides, tips on how to keep your pup healthy and lots of other interesting articles for anyone who loves dogs as much as I do. Being a resource to help improve the quality of life for our canine friends is one way that I like to give something back for all the love and joy that Haley (and other dogs) have given me over the years.
Celebrating the spikes and overall growth in visitor traffic to my blog has been so rewarding and encouraging. I still laugh when remembering the first time I checked my log file stats after publishing my very first post. I was thrilled at having three visitor hits! That is, until I realized all three hits came from my IP address and they were actually me tweaking the post, haha! Luckily, I’ve come a long way since then.
My favorite post of 2016 was, Is Apoquel Safe for Dogs With Allergies? because of the feedback it continues to receive from so many readers. Because Apoquel is a relatively new drug, the post has become a valuable resource for gathering people’s experience with the drug and highlighting both the positive and negative results they’ve encountered with their dogs. I really appreciate every comment and I hope they’re helpful for anyone wanting to do additional research before starting their dog on Apoquel.
I wish I knew! I haven’t targeted any one strategy in 2016 to increase traffic, but I like to focus on engaging with readers and other bloggers and always appreciate those who share my posts. This is a great opportunity to thank all of you again who have been so kind for sharing my articles in 2016!
Why Does My Dog Greet Me With a Toy got the most traffic last year but not too far behind was the post How to Make Your Dog Howl. The number of hits for both of these posts surprised me because they were simple posts about somewhat quirky dog behavior and I didn’t think they would particularly resonate with a large number of readers. I guess it shows that we all wonder about the little things our pups do just as much as we worry about the bigger issues.
Without a doubt, that would have to be That Mutt by Lindsay Stordahl. Lindsay has been blogging since 2007 and I love how the majority of her articles focus on helping her readers solve problems. I’m inspired by her honest approach to sometimes controversial topics and her generosity in supporting others in the blogging community.
Readers might be surprised to know that Haley actually knows how to eat politely from a fork. Yeah, don’t ask.
I always appreciate the comments and level of engagement of my readers. As bloggers, we sometimes get too focused on the numbers of visitors instead of how engaged those visitors are. If you take the time to answer emails and comments with thoughtful replies, readers are more likely to come back and visit again or subscribe to your email list. I truly appreciate each person who takes the time to leave a comment. One recent comment from Paul (from the post Why Does My Dog Greet Me With a Toy) about the passing of his Rottweiler, Ponti was particularly touching and such a beautiful sentiment. Thank you for sharing your story, Paul!
Because 2016 was such a crazy year for me and my family, I didn’t get to accomplish some of the goals I had set for the blog. They are now my goals for 2017 and include attending the Global Pet Expo in Orlando this spring and completing some in-depth topics I wanted to cover last year. Haley’s looking forward to a road trip in our new trailer this year and she’ll have lots of canine camping tips in the months ahead.
Yes! What’s the secret to compressing images enough so Google’s PageSpeed test is happy, yet they still look decent when displayed on your website? I haven’t figured that one out yet!

2017 Pet Blogger ChallengeIf you’re a pet blogger, now it’s your turn! The challenge is open January 7th, 8th and 9th and I would love to read your answers to these questions. Just head over to GoPetFriendly to get started. It’s a great way to be inspired and learn from our fellow pet bloggers. While you’re there, you might want to read about GoPetFriendly’s fight against copyright infringement and consider contributing to their GoFundMe account.

Sorry, the reader survey is now closed.

I would still love to hear your thoughts and ideas, so head to the comment section below and tell me what you think!

Thanks so much for your input! My mission for the blog has always been to write articles that are helpful to you and your pup and your answers and comments will help me more effectively deliver that content. It’s always refreshing to begin a new year with new goals and plans and although our resolutions may fade away quickly, I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a wonderful year for all of us.

Thanks again to GoPetFriendly for sponsoring the 2017 Pet Blogger Challenge!