Tomorrow is July 4th, the day when the most dogs run away from home out of fear. To help make July 4th an enjoyable day for your dog instead of a terrorizing one, follow these tips:

1) Be aware of your emotions on the days leading up to the holiday. Are you nervous, anxious or fearful because your dog will feel it and think that something bad is coming. Instead, stay cool, stay calm and think thoughts of leadership to help communicate to your dog that nothing out of the ordinary is going to happen.

2) Take your dog on a REALLY long walk on the morning of July 4th (like 2 hours ending at the dog park). Add a backpack loaded with water bottles if you have one. Take your dog for a long swim at the beach. Get him as tired as you know how so that when the excitement begins (family, BBQ, laughter, fireworks, etc), he will be too tired to respond.

3) If your dog is fearful, put him on a leash and attach the leash to your belt loop. Don’t talk to him, pet him, or feel sorry for him, just keep chill and pretend like he’s not there. This will show your dog that there’s nothing to worry about because the pack leader isn’t worried about it.

4) If you don’t have the mental ability to ignore your dog through calm, assertive leadership and you suspect that your dog will have a really hard time with the fireworks, consider boarding your dog at a vet’s clinic so that your dog can stay safe and contained  instead of bolting.

Have a safe and happy 4th! Happy Birthday, America!

Lead your dog!

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I came across your site while I was desperately surfing the net to find someone who can help me with an issue I have with one of my dogs. My husband and I live in Dubai and we have 2 dogs mixed breed dogs that get along really well. 

One of our dogs, Bailey, is literally scared of anyone. He is fine with us petting him but he is not ok with anyone else. He was about 2 months when we got him and he was scared then. I thought it would pass by eventually.

The major problem I have with Bailey is that I can’t get him to walk on the leash, so whenever we need to take him out to the vet or grooming salon, we have to carry him! So we don’t do walks with him because he runs away whenever I take the leash. I was hoping you could guide me with some points of action.

Warm Regards,
A Concerned Owner

Dear Concerned Owner,
Thank you for your e-mail. I hope these guidelines will be of some use to you–know that they are my personal opinion and fit in with my personal training philosophy of positive reinforcement and intervention.
I had a dog who was very fearful, so I am familiar with the issues involved with fearful dogs and them “shutting down” and needing to be carried. Let me say that with fearful dogs it is all about TRUST which takes a long, long time. Take small steps, knowing that this issue is far harder to cure than aggression or dominance because of the time it takes to cure. But it is possible!! Here are some thoughts for you to consider.
1) When you pet a dog, you are rewarding their state of mind whether you mean to or not. When a baby is scared, you pick it up and comfort it, but that is not what you should do with dogs. When you pet a fearful dog you are telling him “keep being scared, and I will keep giving you attention”. It is impossible to correct fear through affection; you cannot love your dog into being unafraid. When Bailey is afraid, it is best to not give him any touch, any eye contact, or any vocal attention. Ignore the issue. By ignoring you will be transferring the message “there is nothing to worry about”. Read more about the the right time to give affection here.
2) To help Bailey with his issue of fearing people and strangers, you need to instruct visitors to not look at, touch, or talk to Bailey. Just have them completely ignore him. Dogs learn to trust through smell, then sight, then sound. Once enough visitors come through without giving any attention to Bailey at all, he will want to experience them in this order: sniffing them (continue to ignore!), then looking at them, and then being touched/talked to.
3) I agree with you, that the biggest issue is not being able to walk Bailey. The longer a dog goes without walking, the more energy he will have built up into his system, and the longer he will fight you to not have to face his fear. The first thing I would do is put a leash on him, and let him do something he loves (ex. eat, play with a ball, given a bone, etc) and don’t touch the leash, let him drag it around. He needs to associate the leash with something good, not with something bad (remember, this takes time). Then he needs to learn that wearing a leash means forward motion. In order to teach him this, you need to show him some tough love. Don’t look at him or talk to him, but apply gentle pressure to the leash (ex. pull on the leash with just two fingers). Don’t release the tension until he makes any kind of forward movement. As soon as he steps forward reward him by relaxing the tension. Then do it again, and again. Do this only inside the house until he is moving in any direction with the leash on (may take days!). Then I would carry him/drive him to an area he has never been before (he may associate outside your front door with fear since that has always been his battleground). Then do the same thing outside: apply steady pressure on the leash until he moves, then reward him by relaxing the tension. When you encounter something that makes him fearful, practice no touch, no talk, and no eye contact. Then ask him to move forward again.
Lastly, I am a firm believer in treadmills since it forces the fearful dog to move forward. If you have access to one, please read my article on treadmills!

Hope these things give you something to think about. You CAN make Bailey the dog of your dreams!

Lead your dog!

When my husband and I adopted Princeton, our German Shorthaired Pointer, 1 1/2 years ago, we did not know how much he would teach us. We did not know what it was truly like to have a dog with too much energy. We did not know the repercussions of adopting a fear-based dog. But all this a more has been taught to us by this amazing brown-ball of pure energy.

Recently when walking four dogs, a cop pulled over next to me. My first thought was, “uh-oh”. Either he’s going to ask to see all the dogs’ city tags (which has never been requested of me, but I’ve heard some dog walkers get ticketed if all their dogs don’t have tags), OR he’s just stopping for a friendly chat. Luckily it was the later. “How old’s your Shorthair?” He asked. “About 3” I say. “Please tell me he calmed down when he turned three” the cop says “because I’ve got a 6 month old that’s driving me crazy!” He asked what I’d learned from Princeton and after the conversation I felt like there was so much more to be said. Thus this post…

Reflections on living with a GSP in the city:

1- You MUST exercise your dog everyday or you will have an out-of-control pup. If your dog has a strong retrieving instinct, you can give him the job of fetching the tennis ball every morning in the park and burn the edge off that way (if you don’t know what a Chuck-It is, you really ought to!). However the best way to build a relationship with your dog, assert your leadership, and tire your pup out is to take a walk. Yes, your dog can run for hours without stopping, but making him walk gives him purpose. And making him walk NEXT to you, solidifies your leadership. You can read more about mastering the walk here. When the dogs are at my parents house they get exercised on the treadmill. Yes, the treadmill. It’s totally realistic and a HUGE help when you are sick or tired or it’s bad weather. Train your dog to ride the treadmill by reading this article.

2-GSP’s love routine. Peeing on the same tree, eating around the same time everyday, exercising around the same time everyday, etc, really gives them structure which they love. My guy knows that we walk in the morning, and I take them out for a quick pee around 5pm and 10pm. During the quick pee’s they are to empty their bladders on the tree outside our home and then come back inside. Princeton no longer needs a leash on for these afternoon/evening outings. He knows what to do and how to do it. It’s great.

3- Utilize their strengths and give your dog a job. If you hunt with your dog, you will know that you must have high training expectations since a fault could result in the death of your dog in the field. By all means, utilize your dog’s hunting instincts to build the relationship and give him a job. My Princeton couldn’t hunt if he tried. He points every once in a while, but he’s flighty and wanders; and we’re happy with him being a pet instead of a working dog. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t utilize his strengths: running! First time we took our guy to a 5 acre dog park, he ran without stopping for 5 hours! So, we taught him the art of bikejoring. German Shorthair’s are the second most popular breed used in the sport of joring next to huskies. We taught Princeton that when he has his x-back racing harness on, it’s time to pull. He pulls us on a bike or rollerblades, and I’ve even had him pull a log thru town. It really drains his energy and NOT mine (the ever present problem when owning a GSP). Sounds crazy, and I’m sure several of my neighbors think I am, but it has helped take the edge off his energy in our little condo.

Other things we’ve learned apply to all dogs: teach obedience early, good leash skills are a must, socialize early and often, expose to children early, and exercise, exercise, exercise!

I feel that every runner should have a dog with them. There are so many un-exercised dogs in America and so very many recreational runners.  There are even companies here in Chicago that will send a runner to your house and take your dog on a run for a fee–brilliant! If you do wish to run with your dog, there are some things you should keep in mind.

1) Build up slowly. If you are used to running 6 miles at once, that doesn’t mean your dog is. Slowly build up your dog’s endurance just as you did. Not only do their muscles need to get into shape, but their feet do too.

2) Running in hot weather causes extra risks. Dogs can’t sweat, they only pant. Keep plenty of water handy before, after, and during a warm run. If you are concerned that you went too far and your dog is overheating, put them in the bathtub or cool them off with a hose. Also, pay attention to the temperature of pavement. Hot sidewalks can cause blisters on your dog’s paws.

3) Don’t allow your dog to pee on every tree and street-lamp. Give them opportunity to relieve themselves at the beginning and the end of a run.

4) You don’t need to allow your dog to sniff every dog you pass. Keeping your dog in “work mode” allows you both a sufficient and satisfying workout by keeping your heart-rate up.

5) Finally, a word regarding equipment. Make sure you have a sufficient standard leash (not a flexi or retractable leash which limits your control). I think it best to run your dog in a collar that will be loose when your dog is heeling properly by your right side (the best position for running). It seems dangerous to me to have your dog run in a prong collar due to the possibility of your dog being impaled if it should trip and fall on its’ neck. If your dog is a puller, better to use a chain and snap it to the side when your dog begins to move in front of you–keep it loose when your dog is behaving properly.

Have a good run! Lead your dog!

Today I took a trip up to north side of Chicago along the lake and saw many-a-dog on a Saturday morning stroll with their owners. More power to ya, owners! Get those pups exercised and socialized! What was upsetting was seeing one dog wearing a prong collar dragging its owners along. I think prong collars have some short-term uses as a training device–I’m not against them in the right hands. But what made me feel so awful is that this dog had not been taught to walk on a loose lead and as such the owners were allowing the prongs to dig into the dog’s neck for the entirety of their walk. That is torturous!!!

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the city and I took one of my afternoon walks to the park were there were 9 dogs off-leash socializing. I knew most all the dogs by name and their owners–it was a great time to reconnect after a long and brutal winter. One owner had added a puppy to the family (she felt sorry for it and “rescued” it from a pet store, but that’s another story). She was paper training the toy poodle and this was the pup’s debut into the outside (the dog was 3 months old).  The part that I looked most unhappily upon in this whole situation is that she had a harness on her pup and was encouraging her to walk in front at the end of the leash. Early on she was teaching her pup that “tension on the leash is what I want.”

One topic of conversation amongst the group of dog owners was a certain very large Norwegian Ridgeback who dislikes a few dogs in the park. One owner commented that the best way to handle that dog is to double-up on the leash and hold on for dear life because “if he ever got away it would take several grown men to separate him from another dog”.

These situations made me want to shout to the heavens again that there is another way! If you think the only way to control your dog is through muscle strength you’re about to have a revelation: you can communicate with your dog in such a way that HE is the one does the work. When your dog is at the very end of its lead: it is impossible to give a proper leash correction, it is impossible to control how your dog meets and greets others, if you are using the wrong equipment you can inflict lasting bodily harm on your dog, and it forces the owner to be tense and communicate tension to their dog.

So this week I want to propose two things. First- practice having a tense leash only when you are giving an instantaneous leash correction. I don’t care if your dog is in front of you or not at this point, just focus on having some amount of loose swoop to your leash. Second- try to get your dog to do what you want on his own. More on this next week, but here’s what I mean: if your dog is on the couch, don’t pick him up and set him on the floor, make him get off himself by pointing and claiming the couch with your energy and body language. Lead your dog–don’t muscle him! 🙂

Dog agility classes are a great way to enhance communication with your dog. I recently reviewed three agility books by Jane Simmons-Moake on my dog product review site (DoggieProductReview.com). You can read the review on those agility books here. To continue along the theme I wanted to highlight some agility equipment that can be purchased on Amazon if you wish to teach or supplement your teaching at home.

18 foot Tunnel: $45, not professional grade material but it does teach the job and is more suited to agility than a children’s play tunnel due to the size of the opening and the great length.

Collapsed Tunnel Chute. $46. I feel like this one isn’t quite worth it. I would rather purchase the 18 foot tunnel and just tie a sheet onto the end to teach the “chute” obstacle. Some of the reviews stated that they got it for $10 or $20, but I think they must have raised the price since then. I would check back on this one every few months to see if they lower the price again. For $20 I think it would definitely be worth it!

Petsafe Agility Weave Poles. $56. If you want to teach weave poles for cheap, you can purchase some PVC pipe and drive it into the ground in your backyard. But if you want to be able to mow your yard and still teach weave poles, this product isn’t bad. It also works well if you want to set up a course indoors. They aren’t super duper stable, but they will get the job done. Excelling at poles means practice, practice, practice!

Tire jump. For only $20 this product is definitely worth it. The “tire” they include is basically worthless, but if you purchase a cheap hula hoop (from a dollar store) and replace the tire with the hoop you will be golden. It’s hard to construct something yourself to hold up a hula hoop (believe me, I’ve tried) so $20 for a frame is worth it for me.

Lastly the bar jump. Here is a set of four for $90. I know, you just said “Ninety dollars?” but everywhere else they cost $55 for ONE! These come with a nice carrying case and are adjustable to your desired height.  Again, trying to make PVC jumps yourself can be done, I just found it extremely trying and unrewarding. Spend $90 and skip the stress.

Agility classes are often offered at your local park district for a small fee or at many dog training facilities. Whether you decide to invest in a group class or teach your dog yourself, you are sure to have a blast! All breeds can do agility from Chihuahuas to Great Danes! I’ll leave you with a photo of myself and Mr. Bennett my schnauzer at agility class. Lead your dog!

After 1 1/2 years, I’m still not satisfied where Princeton is at on the walk. He still tends to go in front of me. So I realized two weeks ago that I haven’t been following through on leash corrections. I would snap the leash and have him back up until he was next to me again, but his mind never snapped out of “move forward” mode. As soon as I would walk again, he would push the limit again. So I decided to step it up a notch and make him give me eye contact after every leash corrections. I give him a vocal correction or snap him, he backs up, and then I step in front of him (facing him). If he gives me eye contact we move forward again. If he doesn’t give me eye contact I back him up with my body (backing him up the whole city block if necessary) until he gives me eye contact. He caught on really quickly and is looking at me much more readily. I’ve also noticed that he’s more in-tune with where my legs are at. Making him more inclined to stop himself before I have to correct him. I see progress! Remember to follow through till eye correction–this goes for the walk and in the house! They really respect you for it! Lead Your Dog!

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