Resource Guarding – “Please Don’t Bite the Baby”

Excerpt…

Resource Guarding can be one of the trickiest behavioral issues to modify and manage because there are so many variations.

  • Some dogs only guard their food
  • Some guard toys
  • Some guard bones
  • Some guard anything that hits the floor
  • Some guard whatever it was they just stole

Regardless of what your dog guards and to what degree, the process is the same. There will be adjustments for management and time needed to modify the behavior, but ultimately it is all about teaching your dog that giving up something is far more profitable then guarding it.

And, occasionally, the guarding will pop up for the rest of your dog’s life during stressful periods, or high energy/excited play, but by keeping your dog’s skills in good working order, you will be able to easily resolve any guarding issues.

I have lived with, Pinball, the ‘Super Villain of Resource Guarding’ and have posted an excerpt about my strategies for working through his issues from my book “Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs.”

We were all a bit worried when our son arrived in our home with the ‘Super villain of Resource Guarding’ living there. However, by teaching Pinball good solid commands, and slowly allow him and my son to spend managed time together, we saw things we never expected to see. This video where Charlie Brown Takes a Dive is a great example of how far a resource guarding dog can come with some skills, management, and persistence.

 

In the end, if your dog guards things, training good skills then working with a good behavior consultant is essential to take those skills and turn them into more positive behaviors.

Pets and your Health, Puppy Training

Dr Frank Adams of SiriusXM’s Doctor Radio has a great show each month called “Pets and your Health.”

Three Golden Puppy Play Date

I was flattered to be invited to speak with them again yesterday, March 7th about puppies and all the questions that come with having a new puppy.

This a wonderful show (not just because they like me) but because Dr. Adams’s guests answer questions on a variety of pet-related topics and showcase the ever increasing data demonstrating how pets make our lives better.

If, like me, you are in your car a lot and have SiriusXM, you can listen for the re-broadcast of this episode Friday 4am to 6am, Sunday 6am to 8am on channel 110. If your not up and awake enough at these times to listen, you can always stream this episode and others on SiriusXM Doctor Radio.

Just as a shout out to SiriusXM Doctor Radio, besides Dr Adams’s shows “Pets and Your Health” and “Pulmonology,” there are plenty of other great shows to listen into, from “Health Care Connect” that answers all your insurance related questions at a time when we all have questions on this topic, to dermatology, men’s health, women’s health, nutrition, child and adult psychology and more.

Odin preparing for his family’s new baby. Good Boy!

Odin’s family took time before their new baby came home to learn how to and what to train Odin to do to keep their family happy and safe together.

Odin’s family is expecting their first baby any day now – maybe today!
Odin preparing
Odin settled near his new baby girl’s automated swing.

When she arrives everyone’s life will be changed. Mom and Dad know what’s happening, Odin probably doesn’t.

In this picture Odin has been given his settle command while the swing gently goes back and forth in close proximity to him.

It is important to see how our dogs behave around new baby gizmos before baby arrives because:
  • There won’t be a lot of time when baby comes home
  • If we wait until baby is actually in the swing or vibrating Pack-n-Play or other moving and/or sound making device, we won’t know if our dog is reacting uncomfortably because of the gizmo or the baby
  • And, if we know ahead of time that our dog is not as comfortable with the baby gizmos, we can desensitize

Odin’s family took time before their new baby came home to learn how to and what to train Odin to do to keep their family happy and safe together.

For more details on how to keep your baby and dog(s) safe and happy together, see:

Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs.

Congratulations to Odin and his family – it is all well worth it!

Things Your Dog Will Love: Thundershirt

The Thundershirt isn’t a dog toy but it is something they’ll love you even more for if they suffer from anxiety or other phobic behaviors.

Thundershirt-MainThe Thundershirt isn’t a dog toy.

It’s not something that dispenses yummy treats.

It isn’t even something that you’d think that your dog would like, but if they experience anxiety from storms, company coming, or crazy human holidays your dog will absolutely love the Thundershirt.

What the Thundershirt is, essentially, is a body wrap that helps the dog become less reactive to anxiety-causing stimuli using deep touch pressure.

Research done in the latter half of the Twentieth Century by Dr. Temple Grandin, amongst others, demonstrated that deep touch pressure had significant positive benefits for individuals on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD. Dr. Grandin’s background with autism inspired her initial research with animals and it was discovered that they can receive the same positive results as seen in humans.

I initially began using the Thundershirt in my own home because Porthos, our black lab-mix, can display Happy-Hunterepisodes of high anxiety related to his OCD, blood sugar fluctuations related to his diabetes, and stress from his other diseases. I also witnessed how well it worked after I suggested that we begin using Thundershirts at ARF, an animal shelter were I consult  in Beacon, New York.  While we did see similarly positive results in the even more chaotic and reactive atmosphere of a shelter we also saw some Thundershirt eating (more on that below).

So, why would you want a Thundershirt for your own dog?

Well, you wouldn’t if you don’t live in a place that has thunderstorms, high winds, holidays with fireworks, holidays with kids in spooky costumes knocking on your door at night, hunters in the woods behind your house shooting guns, etc. I think you get my point.

The Thundershirt is a great tool to add to our positive reinforcement training bag of tricks and it fills all my personal criteria:

  1. It more often than not does what they say it can do – there’s a definite improvement in reactivity when dogs are wearing it. It is recommended that they first be acclimated to it by having them wear it when they are doing something they love – like taking treats, playing ball, or tug.  This allows positive associations along with the physical benefits of the snugness and will help prevent them eating the Thundershirt.
  2. It’s reasonably priced.
  3. I always prefer to exhaust the non-pharmaceutical options available to combat anxiety in dogs before referring owners to a specialist for medical intervention.

One suggestion we have come across – especially in the shelter setting – is to remember that even for kids on the spectrum this kind of pressure has a limited time of effectiveness. Therefore remember that your dog’s Thundershirt will probably only be effective for an hour or so at a time.  Simply remove it, give your dog something great to do, and a little while later it can be put back on them.

I find the Thundershirt to be a really good investment for anxious dogs and I think you will, too.

(Please note:  if your dog has high anxiety please see a behaviorist before trying things out on your own.)

Things Your Dog Will Love: Atomic Treat Ball

The Atomic Treat Ball is a great positive reinforcement tool to control speed eating in dogs as well as to keep them cognitively challenged.

Atomic_Treat_Ball_mainDogs and other canids are natural problem solvers:  you can see it when wolves hunt, when the dogs in our Nose Work classes are tracking down the scent target, or when our own dogs are rooting for that single piece of kibble that fell behind their food bowls.

It’s what they’re wired to do, what they evolved to do, and it’s what they love to do, but the normal life of a dog living in a house doesn’t make for too many riddles to solve – except for the one we don’t want them to solve like how to open the garbage can lid, how to get into the closet, etc.

That’s where the Atomic Treat Ball comes in and why I’ve been using and recommending it to clients for years.

What initially drew me to the Atomic Treat Ball was Porthos had developed problems related to speed eating and I needed to find a way to allow him to get his full dinner in a measured, controlled way. It worked wonders to keep him from bloat and torsion, but after a while it became clear that although he loved the Atomic Treat Ball because it was filled with food he enjoyed it equally as much for the fun involved in getting the food out.

The trick behind the Atomic Treat Ball is in its design. If you take a look at the picture above you’ll see that it’s essentially shaped like four stacked hollow balls – in essence, a molecule – with a single loading hole in one of the balls. The pyramid shape allows dogs to easily roll the toy around without it going out of control under furniture and the single loading hole gives them a reasonably good chance of getting some food out with each go, but it’s an irregular enough reward schedule to neither bore them nor have them run out of kibble too quickly.

Also, unlike a lot of other puzzle toys the empty space inside the Atomic Treat Ball accommodates quite a bit of kibble or snacks. For Porthos we can actually fit about half of his kibble for each meal into his, which helps to slow down his eating greatly but is also really useful if you need to keep your dog busy for a while or if you want to give them a nice treat that will last if they need to spend extended time in their crates, playpens, taking a break from company or the fix-it person who doesn’t need your dog up their backside, etc.

The Atomic Treat Ball is cheap, easy, and – most importantly – it works. It’s a great tool to keep your dog cognitively challenged, which is as important to them as it is to humans as we grow older, and I believe that it’s an indispensable tool to have in our bag of positive reinforcement tricks.