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Pet Happenings June 2010

Dog Aggression or Leash Reactivity?
by Marthina McClay
Dog Trainer/Behavioral Counselor -

When dogs greet in a natural setting (not in today’s urban living) they greet in a “C” shape curve or side by side to smell each other’s rear ends. They don’t go up to each other face-to-face and stare. This is considered rude and offensive behavior.

Now that dogs have to be on leashes in our communities, as it is the law (and safer for all concerned), dogs can’t just go up and perform their normal greeting behavior. When a dog does see another dog from a distance, across the street, usually on a walk, it is normal for him to look over and see who it is. He can’t interact with the dog normally (such as smelling to get to know him, etc.). He can only SEE the other dog. The other dog may look at him, too. This can potentially create a staring situation across the street. This may cause your dog to feel insecure about the other dog. When he sees the other dog “staring” at him, he may see it as the rude, offensive staring behavior mentioned above. He pulls forward and feels the pull of the leash. He feels restrained from being able to approach. Frustration ensues, and after a number of times he begins to feel frustrated seeing other dogs while on a leash at a distance. This is what is called conditioned frustration or leash reactivity.

This can happen with any breed, and it is common in today’s style of living. This is not just an issue specific to strong breeds like Pit Bulls. Also, this does not mean that your dog is necessarily dog-aggressive or less tolerant of other dogs, especially if your dog is fine playing with his select, properly-introduced friends off-leash.

The way to curb and/or prevent this behavior is to reinforce a differential behavior. This means that you teach your dog to focus on something else instead of the dog over there. This can be a “sit” and “watch me” or you can also have your dog perform a down-stay and look at you at the same time. Continuing to walk with your dog and having him look at you while passing the other dog is also very successful at keeping your dog from even locking into a stare-down with the other dog. Timing is key; don’t even let your dog stare at the other dog at all. This eliminates the frustration before it can even begin. If you wait until he’s already frustrated, lunging and pulling forward, he may not even hear you say “look” or “watch me” at that point.

These distraction techniques will prevent frustration from building up while on-leash around other dogs. A good leash manners class can help you learn these very simple techniques. Then you can take these techniques outside the class and use them in life in many different situations.

Establishing good leadership with your Dog is a very good way to start. This also helps your dog feel that someone is in charge and gives him a better sense of security around other dogs.

The above is a very good way to set a good example in public with your dog showing good manners around other dogs. He can be taught to even be calm and focused on you even when other dogs are riled. This is very impressive in public and really shows off your dog as a good manner’s ambassador.


The Dog Owner’s Guide to Summer
by Kaye J. Davis

Warm summer days offer more time for you to spend outside with your dog. While bright sun and hot temperatures of summer may be nice for a day outside for us, they can be dangerous for dogs.

All dogs are susceptible to heat stroke but dark colored dogs, overweight dogs, older or frail dogs, and brachycephalic dogs (those cute dogs with smashed in noses) are at higher risk than others. Dogs, especially light colored ones, are also susceptible to sunburn. The good news is that these threats to your pooch are preventable. Here are some things you can do to help your canine companion during the hot summer month.

Never leave your dog unattended in your car or truck. The heat inside a vehicle, even one in the shade, can climb very quickly. At times, the heat in your car can go up to double what it is outside. You may think you can help them keep cool by leaving a window open, but that really doesn’t offer much help. Take them with you when you leave your vehicle. If you can’t, do your dog a favor and leave him or her home.

Keep your dogs fur trimmed in the summer. A dog’s internal temperature is higher than humans, but they can still overheat. Keep your dog cool in the summer by keeping thick or long fur under control. Don’t go too short when trimming your dog however, if too much skin is exposed your dog may get sunburned.

Limit the time you spend in the direct, midday sun with your dog. Don’t keep them in the backyard without shade and plenty of water to drink. You can even help keep your dog cool in the summer months by keeping a kid sized pool in a shaded area for your dog to splash around in.

Just like humans, dogs can be burned by the sun, especially the nose, tips of the ears and around the lip area. If you need to be outside during the hottest time of the day you can apply sun-block to your dog’s nose and the exposed skin on the ears, you should always avoid sun-blocks that contain zinc or PABA.

When you walk your dog in the summer months, remember the pads on their feet are sensitive. You can help keep them cool by watching where they are walking. Sidewalks and road surfaces are extremely hot when they are receiving direct sunshine. Help your dog keep cool by walking them on grassy surfaces when the sun is at its hottest.
Be extra diligent about having fresh, cool water on hand for your pet. Keep their bowls at home full, and don’t forget to leave them a pool in the backyard if they must hang out there for any amount of time. If you are walking with your dog, or spending the day at the park, be sure to have plenty of water with you to help keep your dog hydrated.

You may want your dog with you as much as possible, but for the sake of their health you should know when they can be with you, and when they should just stay home. Keeping your dog cool in the summer months is not that hard as long as you give it a little thought. Keep exposure to the midday sun to a minimum, offer plenty of water and shade, and keep exercise to a minimum. They will love you for it.

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