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Food in Training: Addressing Concerns and Understanding it’s Importance in Modifying Fear and/or Reactivity

There are many concerns about the use of food in training. First off, will it make our dogs fat? Secondly, will our dog only work for us if we have food? There are also many misconceptions about using food in training as well. First off, a dog owner may assume their dog is not food motivated. Or, they may feel like they are rewarding the dog for their reactive behaviour. We can understand all of these concerns and the below addresses each and why using food is so important. Read more

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Calming Signals: What they are and why they are important

Guinniss demonstrates a paw lift and a lip lick in response to Domi drinking from his water dish

Turid Rugaas, a dog trainer from Norway spent years observing wolves, wild dogs and domestic canines to better understand how they communicate. She came up with the term calming signals when observing canine body language and determined they are a means of communication used by dogs to calm themselves, each other and even humans, other animals or inanimate objects.

Many behaviour problems develop or worsen due to miscommunication and a large part of this is that humans do not often see what our dogs are trying to tell us and each other. Calming signals allow us to better understand how our dogs are communicating. It is important for us to understand calming signals because we will know when to remove our dogs from situations they are uncomfortable with. They are critical to understand when working with fearful/reactive dogs as we will see warning signs before our dogs growl/bare teeth/snap/bite and can even use them to help calm our dogs in times of stress. Read more

Stress in Dogs: What it Looks Like and How it Affects Them

You can tell by the way this dog’s weight and ears are back, its tail is tucked and there is tension that it is under stress.

Stress is the body’s reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment or response. Dogs who are experiencing complex behaviour concerns such as fear, reactivity or anxiety are dogs that tend to be in a high state of stress and arousal. A stressful emotional response will inhibit clear thinking and activate the dog’s emergency response system (the flight of fight system). During this state, learning cannot happen. Stress can be caused by a variety of factors including changes in the household, pain, or exposure to a frightening situation. Any biological or psychological demand will result in stress, and the demand does not necessarily have to involve an aversive; meaning not all stress is bad stress. Read more

Leash Aggression: Why it’s Happening and What We Do to Make it Worse

Leash aggression is an embarrassing problem for dog owners, but one that can be easily modified

In today’s urban world, we are seeing more and more cases of leash aggression develop in dogs. Leash aggression used to be more often seen in dogs that were fearful of and/or had very little exposure to other dogs. However, it is now more common to see social dogs that are great off leash, but turn into barking, lunging and snarling dogs when they see dogs while they are on leash. So why is this? Why does it appear like we have Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with our dogs and what are we usually doing that makes it worse? Read more