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  • Dog Barking: What Is My Dog Saying? 🤔

    Dog Barking: What Is My Dog Saying? 🤔 Growing up I often heard the saying, in Spanish, "Dog that barks, doesn't bite." And through the years, as a dog trainer, I've found that to be quite true. The key takeaway from that saying for me was not that a dog who barks will never bite, but rather that if a dog is barking, you are less likely to get bitten because the bark is acting as a form of communication, and in many cases, a warning. But that's mostly useful to keep in mind when dealing with a dog you don't know. But what about our own dogs at home? What are they saying when they're barking around us, or perhaps right at us? Here's a quick list of what your dog could be saying and why: 1. Boredom/Pent-up energy: If you know me well, you probably saw this one coming a mile away. Being as big on enrichment as I am, I am no stranger to homes where a key reason behind their dog's barking is they have little to no outlets to their energy. Sometimes barking itself is an activity that dogs either enjoy or need to do, so providing them with environments where they can do that can be part of their enrichment as well. The good news is that this motive for barking is very much preventable if you are consistent and creative with your dog's daily/ enrichment routine. 2. Expressing concern/Wanting space: Think of the mailman or the person who drops off your Amazon package at your door. You have an idea of when they're coming, why and how long they'll be there. Those are important details that your dog doesn't have or understand the same way we do, and so it becomes normal for them to bark when they hear someone outside to express concern as well as to alert you, and the person outside too. If you heard someone at your front door that you didn't expect, you might not say something right away, but you'll probably do something about it to get more information, before actually worrying. This is something that's a bit tougher for dogs to do before feeling concerned, but not only that, we've actually raised and bred dogs through hundreds (and even thousands) of years, to act as a reliable alarm system. But if you have a dog at home that gets concerned when they hear something outside your door, try this. And if their concern happens to be outdoors, help them take space, take a break and reset from the environment or individual (dog, human or object) that worries them. 3. Excitement/Overstimulation: Just like an overly excited toddler OR an overly tired toddler, both mindsets can cause your dog to bark. It can also contain a mixture of the first two points, especially when a dog doesn't have a lot of access to thinking skills development and calming activities. But even the most experienced and most trained dogs have a limit, and many will use barking as a way to let you know that they've reached it. A quick solution at that moment is to change their scenery, as it can allow their brain to take a much-needed break and reboot. And if you'd like to help your dog become skilled, in the arts of regulating their excitement and other emotions, I highly recommend this exercise. 4. Frustration: This one is pretty synonymous with the last point, but worth mentioning because there can be instances where the best thing you can do to respond is to wait. An example situation would be if your dog is trying to figure out a food puzzle, but they can't quite crack it and so they start barking. Either right at it or at you. This can be an opportunity for you to let your dog figure out the puzzle on their own by trying something else, OR, this can be an opportunity for you to let your dog figure out that you will help them only if/when they're not asking for your help by barking. And so it's important that you pay attention to the barking, as an indicator of your dog's limits, but also what tends to lead to it, so that you can either assist or redirect them, before they reach that point of frustration and bark. Remember that with barking, just like with any other behaviour your dog does, there's always a reason or motive behind it and it's important to take a moment to think of what that reason might be. It may not be listed here, or it may be an amalgamation of the points above and more. But the important idea to note is that it's an opportunity for our dogs to feel heard, and for us to show them that we hear them before they even feel the need to bark. Because the more you can tend to a need before an unwanted behaviour starts to form, the more you remove the need for that behaviour to become a habit in the first place.

  • Dog Growling: What It Means and How You Should React

    Dog Growling: What It Means and How You Should React Dog growling is a reliable way dogs communicate not only with one another but with us as well. Simply put, growling is a dog's way of letting others know that something in their environment or sometimes within themselves, isn't feeling too good. Think of growling the same you would think of someone saying "Hey, right now I could use some space. Maybe we can revisit this at a later time." and it's imperative that we hear this, and act accordingly. Barring any mental/health-related concerns, you can trust me when I say that dogs won't resort to growling, snarling or barking for no reason. But regardless of the reason, if it's your dog that is growling, you want to ensure that they, above all, leave the interaction in question feeling like YOU heard them and were there to guide them and help them walk through their emotions. Doing so will make it easier for them to resort to other ways of communicating (such as taking space on their own, or looking at you for guidance and trust) that you'll be happier seeing instead. Here are some common situations where your dog may growl and what you can do. 1. Feeding time. Whether it's you or another dog approaching your dog, it's completely normal for your dog to growl. This is a healthy and normal way for your dog to ask for space, while they eat. Dogs don't live in a world where it's unlikely that someone else may steal their food, or something they value. Thus growling is a way to ensure that they get to keep what they value, just as we do! When others try to take what's ours, we'll resort to ways of ensuring that doesn't happen. How to react: Give your dog space and time. If this happens often or if you have multiple dogs in their environment, make sure to separate them to minimize stress and the risk of the situation escalating. Once your dog is no longer growling and feeling relaxed after feeding, help them walk away from that setting for a moment, and let them return to it with a lighter, more mellow mindset. Avoid reacting/punishing/providing any type of corrections to your dog(s) during that moment, as that is likely to encourage further growling and for your dog to want to try to limit any interactions with other dogs or you, around feeding time. 2. Toys. Similarly to feeding time, toys can mean quite a lot for dogs. I particularly see this be an issue with dogs who don't have too many regular outlets for mental and physical enrichment and thus, when the opportunity does present itself, they are less likely to want to share the activity or toy they value. How to react: Similarly to feeding time, you will want to give your dog a moment to regulate his own emotions and come back to you once he's feeling better and more relaxed. If you feel as though they guard or growl towards you around a specific toy, you can practice playing with a toy they might feel less strongly towards first. Also pay close attention to the moments where their mindset switches from guarded and unsure to relaxed and mellow, as this is where you can reward them with your affection, or perhaps even a walk with treats, to let them know that you like that they did their best to manage their emotions. The more you do this, the quicker they will snap themselves out of that growling-like mindset and be 100% themselves once again! 3. Playtime. Though playtime is generally a light and loose type of activity, growling can happen at any moment when a dog doesn't feel heard by those he's playing with. Just like us, dogs will have limits and boundaries that are important to consider. Sometimes however, especially with young dogs and/or in the middle of an exciting activity, dogs may not read each other's cues that a break is needed, and thus a growl may be necessary for one dog to make things clear to another, that play (or a type of) needs to come to a halt. How to react: Playtime must and should always be supervised, and by knowing your dog well, you should be able to notice early signs that your dog is going from playful to feeling annoyed, frustrated or may need a break in general. A stiff body or hair, a lack of relaxed movement and fixated eyes can all be indicators that a dog is about to reach their limit and your cue to help put a pause to things so that you can provide your dog with a cooldown break before resuming or perhaps taking a permanent break. If these signs are missed and the dog starts growling, it's important that you minimize contact with other dogs as soon as possible (particularly if they're not responding to your dog's body language well) by guiding the other dog away, before also guiding yours away for a mental break from it all. 4. Stressful situations. If you know your dog is going to be walking into a stressful situation, it's then very likely that they will make it clear to you that they would prefer to not be there, by growling at elements of that setting, such as dogs or other people. How to react: Stressful environments must be avoided at all costs. If it's a specific destination, avoid going there, and try going to other locations that are a little bit easier on your dog, and reward happy and relaxed actions there first. If the stressful environment is your home, like when guests are coming over, you can use your dog's leash to help them walk with you indoors, while someone else answers the door, to help your dog walk through his feelings. Once he starts to feel more mellow, you can slowly engage with the visitors little by little. If growling towards guests may potentially escalate, it may be best to either avoid the situation altogether by having your dog stay at someone else's home or to have a positive reinforcement trainer with you, to help you guide your dog to make better choices, in different stressful situations. No matter what the scenario or situation is, your dog growls, snarls, barks, and even bites as a way to communicate. And 99.99% of the time, what they're trying to communicate is that the were feeling stressed or worried, and also not heard by those around them. So make sure that you ask yourselves "How could I have prevented that?" to minimize any risks in the future, and also ask yourselves "How would I like my best friend to help me when I'm not feeling good about something?"

  • Here’s How I React When Dogs Bark at the Door

    Here’s How I React When Dogs Bark at the Door (Watch on YouTube) Let's get a few things out of the way (and trust me when I say that remembering them really helps!) 1. Dogs were originally bred to accomplish different types of amazing tasks and purposes. One of which was to alert us, should there be an immediate threat or danger nearby. This is where a dog's highly developed senses came in handy. This was also at a much different period in time than now. Remembering this will help you feel less annoyed or frustrated that your dog is barking, when it's definitely not something they're doing to make you feel bad, but rather because they deem it to be a productive behaviour. This can be in part due to genetics, but also in part due to that dog's own experiences (with you, their environment, even themselves, and more). 2. Leaning on the idea of dogs being bred for specific activities, you want to ensure that your dogs get proper physical, mental and social outlets. Having these in place will minimize the likelihood that your dog isn't doing more than alerting you. Boredom, pent-up energy and overall frustration from a lack of proper outlets can increase the likelihood that your dog will bark and at which intensity. With that out of the way, take a close look at the video and follow along with the steps I take to help guide Lilo (the toy Poodle mix) and Mocha (the Cocker Spaniel mix). 1. My first reaction is to listen and not react. I do this because my dogs are the ones talking right now. I want them to feel heard (with practice and time, doing this will make it easier for them to hear you more quickly) but also I know that while they're feeling in alert, overly excited and barking, they're likely not going to have an easy time hearing me anyway. So I prefer to.. 2. Get up, walk and wait for eye contact/acknowledgement. You can see here that Mocha's brain wheels started to go off early on (he's a younger pup I've been working with for most of his life, whereas I didn't meet Lilo until her later adult years.) and thus started checking in with me which is when I recognized that by saying thank you. "Be the person your dog thinks you are." – C.J. Frick 3. I used the leash to guide Mocha to a specific spot where him and I both feel comfortable with having him be there, like the couch. I keep the leash on Mocha at times, to make it easier on me to guide him, especially if he's feeling a bit unsure about a situation like there potentially being someone at the door. I praised further with my tone, my voice and some affection. 4. Repeated 1 & 2 with Lilo but instead of asking her to go to a specific location, I instead engaged her further with play. I did this because she has a tougher time than Mocha when it comes to making choices around the door/barking scenario, so going into a game helps redirect that excitement in a positive way. A dog feeling overly energetic, even if only momentarily, may have a tough time staying in one spot anyway. In that case, a game is a far better choice. With time, whether it's a location or a game, your dog can learn that these are better ways of reacting to the door. 5. Invite them to do something they felt they need to, once their mind begins to naturally settle. Once Lilo was more focused on the toy and Mocha was settled and waiting on the couch, it was then time for me to show them in what way I would like them to go to the door. Meaning I wan't to show them that they can go to the door but in a calm way, and achieve the same goal of making sure everyone is feeling good, safe and guided.

  • Product Review: Activity Matz Garden Game

    ✔️ Healthiest alternative to a dog bowl ✔️ Relaxes and overexcited/tired dog's mind ✔️ Slows down eating in an engaging way This food snuffle mat is 100% a must-have! regardless of your dog's age, breed, or personality. A snuffle mat like this one can easily replace your dog's bowl (and I recommend you do) as a more engaging way for your dog to search and find his food by snuffling for each piece. Snuffling and scavenging-like exercises are natural for dogs and other animals, and incredibly beneficial. Through snuffling and using their nose, dogs also get to slow down their brain and effectively regulate their own emotions. Young dogs and puppies benefit from this highly, as it's normal for them to feel easily excited about the world around them and are not yet equipped with the means to easily regulate their own feelings. This is where snuffle mats come in super handy! Most snuffle mats are machine washable but this one, in particular, should be okay with being hand-washed, except perhaps the toys it comes with. You can also use your dog's other toys, not only the ones it comes with. Just like other snuffle mats, this one is really easy to transport as it also comes with a hook & loop closure to keep it neatly closed and put away. You can bring it to places where your dog could use some help winding down and settling, by snuffling. This is one of the biggest and most convenient advantages of snuffle mats over food puzzles. 3 ways your dog could play with it. 1. Easy challenge: Hide treats or dry food under plush material & encourage your dog to sniff them out. 2. Increased challenge: Hide treats in pockets and cover them with the toys. 3. Ultimate challenge: Hide treats in 5 treat pockets & secure them with hook & loop closure and hide treats with toys for a harder challenge. Make sure to supervise its usage. If your dog starts chewing it or throwing it around, it may be best to switch to a more physically stimulating game at that time, before trying again. Strongly recommend! 10/10

  • (Guest Post) Expectations Lead to Disappointment

    Expectations Lead to Disappointment (Original Post from Trizane Dog Services, by Reanna Ali) A story of true acceptance. It’s taken me a while to get to this place with Amelia. It’s taken me over 3 years to get here, almost 4 years to realize this, and nearly a year later to post this. Before we get into it, you can also head over to my podcast to hear it, if you choose. It’s challenging to live with a dog who struggles on a daily basis… pair that with your own expectations. I’m sad to admit that it’s taken me this long to learn. I train with kindness, love and compassion, but sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve unexpectedly learned as time passed, that if you let go of your expectations you can no longer be disappointed. Amelia is not a disappointment to me in the least. She’s a brilliant dog. She’s good company, a wonderful companion, we trained together, we work together, she even graduated alongside me at Karen Pryor Academy (KPA), service dog coaching, and The Fearful Dog Project. She’s helped me to realize a lot of my dog training life lessons. She’s helped me to help other families and dogs, but it comes at a cost to her. Circling back to being a professional dog trainer, it doesn’t mean we don’t have goals for ourselves or for our dogs and what we think we should be able to achieve in our partnership. Taking a step back now, I can see how far we’ve come as a team. Albeit not what I expected and a long journey to get here. I too, suffer from “my old dog”, “my other dog”, “my first dog syndrome.” I had these expectations and goals of what I thought Amelia should be and be able to do. I think my turning point at true acceptance and realizing our path was in 2020. That year was not kind to Amelia. We’ve made significant strides and overall her quality of life living with anxiety (keeping her safe, below threshold, happy and calm), but that year was a doozy. After spending majority of the year trying to “fix” her I realized that she needed time. She needed time to rebound from sensory overload. 2020 was our first year with COVID-19. We went from daily walks where we saw no one, I mean not a soul to be seen. You can imagine people were also going stir crazy at this time being couped up in their homes, they soon took to the parks, nature trails and parkettes in their area for daily strolls and exercise. As this happened more and more people began appearing on our usual route. After not seeing people for weeks, we started to encounter them. As the world re-opened, Amelia got sensory overload at this sudden influx of people. I tried everything. I tried training, not training, medicating, desensitizing, counter conditioning, a vet behaviourist even! – I exhausted all of my options. The last straw was medicating. Her personality changed. She no longer found joy in the small things she used to. This was not how I imagined her life to be. After weaning her off, I gave her time. That time grew into weeks, which grew into months, that grew into a year. Reflecting back I realized we were still out, we still did things! We still encountered people. That downtime allowed her to recover and unbeknownst to me, we were still doing everything we normally did, but on a much smaller scale. During that time I tried to bring back that joy, to make her happy, to see that sparkle in her eyes -the enthusiasm. I just wanted to make her happy, because ultimately when she was happy, I was happy. Fast forward to January 2022 (I know, I know, it’s taken me this long to post a whole year has passed) – we are going for walks, we enjoy hiking, we go to the drive-thru, we visit neighbours. Who would’ve thought?! I certainly didn’t. Her behaviour and nuances elevated me as a trainer and person. I have a lot to be thankful for. Sometimes if you let life flow it will take you where you need to be. Trust the process even if you don’t know exactly what it means. Amelia is a magnificent animal and has shown incredible resilience. Will she ever be able to do things we all hope and dream and think every dog should be and do… no, but that’s ok. True acceptance comes from observing the animal in front of you and changing your expectations to meet theirs. To meet them at their darkest and support them. It’s not about us and our silly notions of what should be, abandon your beliefs and enjoy what you have. Even the smallest sparkle still shines. True acceptance.

  • Quick Reaction: Amazon's Bestselling Dog Toy

    Exploring the Hype Around Amazon's Bestselling Dog Toy The following is currently Amazon's #1 best-selling dog toy: the Chuckit! ball (pack of 2). I'm quite happy about that! This lets me know that fun and physical exercises are a priority for a lot of pet parents and people in the industry. The best part about this I'm a big fan of the Chuckit! brand as a whole. There's really nothing better than going out to an open field, whipping out their launcher, loading it with a ball and throwing it for your eager pooch to run and fetch. If your dog isn't the best or most interested in fetching like a pro or consistent with bringing the ball each time, you can load up and launch a second ball for them to run after. The fun doesn't end there, however. Especially if the weather is limiting you and your dog a bit, you can have a lot of fun indoors with the Chuckit! ball by playing fetch inside, but even better, by combining it with puzzle-like games. For example, an easy game you can use this ball for is by bringing out a muffin baking pan and putting different treats in some of the cups but covering all of it with balls, for your dog to have to use their nose. How to not use this toy As I would advise with most balls, it's best to keep them stored away, for best use. Keeping your dog's balls away and not constantly available will help prevent any destructive chewing, which could be dangerous for your dog if they eat it, and of course not ideal if you'd like to avoid having to purchase another. But also, by storing the ball away and bringing it out when it's time to play, you have a better chance at ensuring that your dog will feel as interested and engaged in the game as possible, with you.

  • Helping Your Dog Relax During Dinner Time

    Does your dog have a tough time remaining calm and relaxed when it’s human dinner time? Try this: 1️⃣ Make sure that your dog has had plenty of proper physical, mental and social enrichment exercises prior to dinner time. This will help them feel more mellow and thus be able to remain at ease more easily. 2️⃣ If needed, use a leash to make it so your dog can’t get too close to you (especially if they tend to jump) and your food. Though tethering can help, depending on how difficult this is for your dog, one family member may need to walk with your dog inside your home to help redirect them away from the others while they eat. 3️⃣ The moment your dog starts showing you signs of relaxation on their own (which is far more fruitful if done without verbal cues from you), be sure to repeatedly reinforce these choices with their food, treats or even toys. It’s also important to note that if you don’t provide your dog with human food near the table, they’re far more likely to give you space and time when you’re eating.

  • My Top 3 Favourite Dog Food Puzzles

    My Top 3 Dog Food Puzzles From Amazon Food puzzles are probably one of the best toys available for dogs. Especially when it comes to feeding time! So let's throw out the food bowl and take a look at this quick list of my top 3 favourite food puzzles that you can find today on Amazon. The Dog Twister Puzzle This is by far my all-time favourite puzzle! It's also one of the most difficult ones. But I have a secret tip to share with you when it comes to puzzles.. the harder they are the better! Not only because they can be super engaging for your dog, but mainly because if a puzzle is difficult, you can get creative in how you choose to make it easier. As opposed to a puzzle that is already too easy, forcing you to get even more creative to make it more difficult. The Dog Casino Puzzle This one can sometimes feel (to your dog) even more difficult than the Dog Twister because it requires that your dog figures out exactly how to pull out the drawers AFTER having unlocked the corresponding bone. You may need to start off slowly, to help your dog with this one as you go along in order to ensure that they don't feel discouraged and frustrated. The Dog Brick Puzzle Probably the easiest one on this list, but the most diverse! What I enjoy the most about this particular food puzzle is its versatility and how your dog can enjoy it in different ways. It's one you can fit inside the freezer with its pieces containing frozen treats inside of them. Your dog will then need to move its different pieces around to find where you hid each treat, and spend some extra time licking the frozen ones!

  • 14 Quotes That Go Hand in Hand With Raising a Dog

    Here are 14 quotes I love sharing when working with pet parents, or that I simply like reminding myself of, when working with any dog! - Disobedience is a demand for change. - Seek to understand before being understood. - A plan is only as good as those who see it through. - The best confidence builder is experience. - You hold onto friends by keeping your heart a little softer than your head. - Compromise is a virtue to be cultivated, not a weakness to be despised. - A lesson learned is a lesson earned. - The first step to correcting a mistake is patience. - Sometimes, accepting help is harder than offering it. - Where there’s a will, there’s a way. - Love comes in all shapes and sizes. - When we rescue others, we rescue ourselves. - Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem. - Embrace others for their differences, for that makes you whole.

  • Potty Training: Should I Use Bells?

    I personally don’t recommend using bells, where your dog needs to ring it to signal that they need a bathroom break. In general, it’s better that your pup practices waiting for things to happen/be started by you, as opposed to him learning that he needs to prompt or budge you for something to happen. A smart dog will quickly learn that (even without a bell system in place) if you don’t make sure to provide things when needed, but before being asked. Smart dogs can also even practice using the bell as a way to just get your attention and be outside without the need to pee (which can then also hinder the association), in which case, it’s also recommended that they get all the attention and enrichment outlets they need before they have to ask for it. Have you tried logging the amount of time between pees? How long can he handle vs how much time between bathroom breaks? Figure out what his bladder can handle and take him out accordingly to that, before he even realizes that he needs to go out. Once you have that down, you can start increasing the amount of time between bathroom breaks slowly. I do, however, recommend using a catbell with your pup! Here's how and why.

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