February 2016

Counter-Conditioning and Desensitization

Subscribers Only — Counter-Conditioning and Desensitization (CC&D) Counter-conditioning involves changing your dog’s association with a scary or arousing stimulus from negative to positive. Desensitization is starting with a very low-level intensity of aversive stimulus until the dog habituates to (or changes his association with) the aversive, and then gradually increasing the strength until the dog is comfortable with the stimulus at full intensity. The easiest way to give most dogs a positive association and to help them become comfortable…   More...

Helping Itchy Dogs

In late autumn, we closed our pool, an annual event that all four of our swim-loving dogs dread. They will swim as long into the fall season as we allow and I am pretty certain that our Toller, Chippy, would bring out an ice pick and break his way through the ice if he could. In addition to the daily joy, excitement, and happiness that our pool brings to us all, we have found that it has had an additional benefit for some of our dogs. The pool and the daily swims that it provides help to keep itchy dogs from itching all summer long.   More...

Eye Contact in Dog Training

Subscribers Only — It’s really not natural for dogs to offer direct and prolonged eye contact. In the dog world, direct eye contact is a threat, and the appropriate response to a direct stare is to look away as a deference or appeasement behavior (“I’m not challenging you/please don’t hurt me!”). In many human cultures, however, direct eye contact is considered polite – it means the other is focused and attentive – and it has certainly come to mean that in the dog training world.   More...

It's All in Your Dog's Eyes

Teaching our dogs to look at us is important for training; if we have their attention, we can get them to work with us. If we can keep their attention, we can keep them working with us even in the face of distractions. These things are big accomplishments, but the value of teaching eye contact is even bigger!   More...

What Love Means to Your Dog

Subscribers Only — When it comes to love, dogs offer all of the devotion with none of the guile. They won’t sign up for a secret account on Match.com, or see another owner behind your back. And that flirtation with the pet sitter … well, it’s harmless. After all, there’s a reason dogs have a reputation for being faithful friends. Reciprocating, though, can sometimes be a challenge. Dogs, you remember, approached our hearth; it has been in many ways a rather lopsided arrangement in the love department since the dawn of time. And with our busy lives and competing priorities, we humans have altogether too few opportunities to return that cupidity in kind – although, given how utterly and completely most of our dogs rely on us, that’s a tall order under even the best of circumstances.   More...

Could My Dog Be Racist?

Subscribers Only — Almost as soon as I walked into Boomer’s house I could tell his owner was nervous. This isn’t all that unusual when meeting a new client for the first time. I always have my new clients put the dog in another room so we can get acquainted with each other and have some time to chat without being distracted. Very often, the clients are uneasy during these initial consultations; I’ve grown accustomed to it. After all, often they have agonized over acknowledging their dog’s issues and their decision to call in a professional. But after a few minutes, I could tell there was something more. I’d been called to help her dog with his reactive behavior. She related that he lunged and barked at some people as they walked by. During our discussion, she seemed unusually pensive and was having difficulty making eye contact with me. So I pressed, “Is there anything else you need to tell me? Whatever it is, you’re safe and can tell me without fear of judgment.” She finally looked up at me and whispered, “I think my dog is racist. He hates black people.”   More...

Approved Dry Dog Food List: 2016

Subscribers Only — What follows is a list of foods that meet all of our selection criteria. Whether or not you have seen them before, or can get them, may depend on where you live and where you shop – although, remember, many of these products are increasingly available through online pet supply retailers.   More...

2016 Approved Dry Dog Foods: Whole Dog Journal's Annual Ratings

Subscribers Only — Many people are under the impression that all dog food labeled as “complete and balanced” contains an ideal, uniform amount of nutrients – just enough of what dogs need, but not too much. Meats like chicken, venison, and beef provide a good amount of protein, but how much is too much? Some dog foods are heavy on the grain products, but whether this is healthy or unhealthy completely depends on your dog. Some people are under the impression that dogs don't need vegetables, but dogs DO need a certain helping of vitamins and minerals so excluding veggies is a bad idea. To get Whole Dog Journal's full analysis of the best dry dog foods out there, read on!   More...

A Good Dog in the Making

There was a week in December when I had 16 foster dogs staying with me. It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds; 15 of them were puppies – they took up only two crates’ worth of space at night! Nine of those puppies were from one litter of pit bull-mixes that were brought into my local shelter. Six were from another litter, perhaps Chihuahua/terrier-mixes, and are being fostered by a friend, but she was traveling (with her own three dogs!) over Christmas and couldn’t drag the tiny puppies along, too. Both sets of puppies were estimated to be about 4 to 5 weeks old when they were brought to the shelter by people who claimed to “find them.” The last foster who was with me – and is still with me – is a year-old hound.   More...