Doggin It… I mean Bloggin It For a Year! Keep on Waggin!

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Today marks the one year anniversary of the Canines By Design blog, and actually, really, the one year anniversary of starting my adventure writing and sharing information with the world about my experiences with canines.

A very supportive family and amazing post-secondary academic experiences helped catalyze the dream of starting my own business that focuses on improving canine lives in our community. There is academic literature being published on a fairly regular basis now that surrounds canine welfare and behaviour and it is up to those of us that have decided to be a voice for canines to continue to learn and help spread this knowledge into our communities.

Canines By Design has created quite a little following of people over various social platforms in the last year, and I wanted to thank all of you for the support and interest in reading what I put up here.  I like to think our little community is drawn together by our like-mindedness towards canines, and our desire to learn as much as we can so that we can be there for them just like they always are for us.

Our positive and inclusionary approach with our canines will become the societal norm, replacing older beliefs with academic proof. Canine behaviour and welfare will stop being a “mystery”, and everyone will be able to share in the benefits of canine companionship!  Spread the word!  Change is a happenin’! 🙂

So THANKS for reading!  And THANKS for the support!  But Most of all, THANK YOU for loving your canine(s)!

Keep checking back each week as Canines By Design continues to explore all things Canine!  ~woof~

Came across this video of dogs underwater in slow motion! Enjoy!

Nose to Tail: Canines By Design Product Review: Ruffwear® Booties!

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Ruffwear GripTex Booties and Web Master Harness.  Photo from gearfordogs.com

Ruffwear GripTex Booties and Web Master Harness. Photo from gearfordogs.com

Wet, snowy, muddy paw prints… ah, the joys of oncoming winter! With much of Canada and the United States enduring cold, wet weather for up to 8 months at a time, we can’t exactly just press pause on our normal routines and wait for a better day. Kudos to all you weather warriors – rain or shine, sleet or snow – we get on our gear and get our canines out to play, walk and run. I do want to give a special shout out to our canine companions here: While we usually have appropriate footwear on for snow or rain, our canines head out on the bare paws their momma gave them!

Paws are amazing things; incredibly engineered and designed to work. I could write an entire article about their physiological design and how incredibly robust they are… but that wouldn’t get to what I’ve found to help you, and your canine, with those extra-extreme weather days. I would rather introduce you to a company and product line they offer that will not only help with cleanup each time you come back from a messy outing, but also help your canine paws guard against the extreme cold, irritation from being constantly wet and dirty and exposed to man-made items such as snow melt, cut pads or webbing, and even help those dogs prone to yeast infections.

Ruffwear®, Inc. is a company that, according to their website, is inspired to keep people and their canines enjoying their outdoor pursuits, whatever the climate, and since 2000, have been creating functional dog products. You might be interested in their high visibility jacket for your canine so you can be safe on dark wintery night runs. For those of you with extreme adventuring dogs, they do make a harness designed specifically to allow you to lift and lower your dogs safely while out mountain climbing. Ruffwear® thinks outside the box when they come up with new products and, I find, their final piece is always well engineered and does just what they say. Check out their website to view their expansive product line.

Ruffwear Snow Trex Boot.  Photo courtesy of www.ruffwear.com

Ruffwear Polar Trex Boot. Photo courtesy of ruffwear.com

With all that said, I want to focus on Ruffwear’s dog boot line. You might be thinking “a whole line”!? Yes, they make three different boots for three different purposes. They sell them as a set of four, or individually if you need to replace a lost or worn out one. For Northerners that find themselves in deep snow or on ice, their Polar Trex™ boots are a great option. With a secure buckling system and built in insulation, these boots are designed to stay on and provide traction and warmth for both short and longer outings on the ice and snow.

Does your dog have dewclaws up front and on the back? Their Bark’n Boot Liners™ can enhance the fit of the boot if your canine’s legs are thin, and also make putting on the boots a cinch since the dewclaws and other pads are already in the sock!

Polar Trex Boots and Omnijore Ruffwear Harness System.  Photo from blessthisstuff.com

Polar Trex Boots and Omnijore Ruffwear Harness System. Photo from blessthisstuff.com

For less snow but still cold climates, where our canines might be playing in muddy or frosty parks, running on wet rocks and shells at the beach and walking over ice melt (or other abrasive/caustic surfaces), their lighter duty Summit Trex™ Boots might be the right fit. They are great for everyday traction needs and for runs on the bike path.

GripTex Boots in Action!  Photo courtesy of ruffwear.com

GripTex Boots in Action! Photo courtesy of ruffwear.com

If you are like me and other West Coasters that are owned by their adventurous dogs, we tend to find ourselves on a mix of surfaces. Muddy trails, wood chips, beaches with sharp rocks and shells, and the occasional jaunt on concrete… the Grip Tex™ boots answer the call. With a robust Vibram® outsole, these boots will make sure that your canine is sure-footed and safe no matter what their day brings along.

Determining functionality and purpose is so important in a marketplace being blasted with new companies and concepts everyday. We want products to do what they are being sold to do: to work and to perform. Ruffwear boots meet these expectations and, in many ways, exceed them. Best of all, their boots can be washed and air-dried so they are clean and ready for the next adventure!

I wasn’t paid or incentivized by Ruffwear® to write this. I just believe that they are doing the right stuff when it comes to canine focused products. Check out their “find a retailer” to locate a dealer close to you. I can’t wait for Canines By Design to have a store in Victoria! When it happens, this is definitely a company you will see well represented on my shelves.

Please contact me at jeremyryder[@]caninesbydesign.ca if you have questions or comments about Ruffwear products or this blog post. Happy Trails!

Fall Blues… Back To School and Back to Reality: Fostering Canine Adaptability, not Destruction

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Nick and Rusty Enjoying the Bergin University Master's Class

Rusty (L) and Nick (R) Enjoying the Bergin University Master’s Program

August has faded into September and thousands of students are heading back for another school year. While students might be dragging their feet, the arrival of fall is usually accompanied by a smile of relief from their parents! (OK, not for parents in B.C., but hopefully the strike will end soon) It means a return to normalcy and a schedule. Summertime activities keep everyone busy and entertained, including your canines: Everyone is home, people are happy and excited, and nice weather usually means frequent trips to a favorite beach, lake or park. When September hits, the kids sigh with procrastination, the parents sigh with relief… and, in many cases, our canines sigh with sadness because their home dynamic changes drastically.

At home, things can get quiet quickly without children playing and moms and dads temporarily home on holidays. Two months is enough time for this level of elevated activity and companionship to become a constant fixture in our canine’s life. With back-to-school and back to work, schedules are shuffled and new routines are made. Sometimes in all the chaos, our furry companions can get missed, and some assurances that they have become used to, and somewhat reliant on, might not happen.

I could spend this whole article talking about variables and how they can have a resultant effect on your canine, but my goal here is to help you ensure your canine has the skills to deal with changes in their routines and help make sure they are adaptable and not destructive.

Pro Tips:

  1. Start new routines slowly and gradually.
  • If you know there is going to be a schedule change for your canine, start preparing for that change by modifying your current schedule gradually over a few days.
  • Have family help out by explaining why this gradual change is important.
  1. Plan ahead to make sure your canine will still get all their necessary exercise, both mental and physical.
  • We have our social lives, work, friends and an integrated community. Your canine has you and a select few others that they rely on for everything. Don’t forget that! If it means waking up earlier to ensure they have had a decent walk and training session prior to a period of time on their own, then schedule it in!
  • Again, have family help out. If you have children, small 10-minute training sessions can become part of their regular schedules before or after school. These moments can become great family bonding time where everyone is together smiling and having fun… including your puppy.
  • If you think an 8 hour work day feels long for you, try being a dog waiting patiently at home. I am blessed that I work in the canine world, which means Zoom is almost always with me. When he isn’t, we try to think of our day in three-hour blocks. Modify your schedule, utilize a trustworthy neighbor or friend, or join a local community walking group. There are many ways to make sure your pup doesn’t have to spend countless hours and days alone waiting to relieve themselves or go socialize.
  1. Always, always set your canine up for success during alone time.
  • Leave music or the TV on to add some ambient noise to the environment so that the house isn’t silent all day as silence can heighten anxiety in canines.
  • Use the same routine when leaving every time. Tell your canine “you will be back” every time. Offer a Kong with a little peanut butter or frozen pumpkin in it to help ease the initial separation and keep them distracted when you go. Doing this consistently will also help your canine pair “positive feelings and excitement” when you leave versus feelings of negativity and fear.
  • Make sure that your canine is in an environment that is safe and enriched. By cleaning up garbage, removing chewable items (power cords), leaving the floors clean and making sure they have access to safe items (items you have had success leaving with them) such as their bed, you help make sure that if they do become anxious that they don’t take it out on something they shouldn’t.
  • As noted above, make sure both their physical and mental needs are taken care of BEFORE you go. A bored mind will wander and an anxious body will only compound this, creating a situation in which your dog may try or do something they have never done before (e.g. chew furniture).

Taking the mental and physical needs of our canines into consideration during periods of transition and change will only help to make your dog adaptable and flexible, decreasing your already-long list of worries and stress.

If you are unsure of what you can leave or do with your canine in your situation, I’m here to help. Contact Canines By Design and I would be glad to help set you and your canine up for success by creating safe space solutions in and around your home.

3 Ways To Make a Bad Situation the Best It Can Be

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Ziggy and Zoom at the Beach!

As we and our dogs make our way through our daily lives, we hope that every experience is happy and pleasant for our canines! Unfortunately, factors in the environment, like bad encounters with other dogs, bolting away from panic or over-stimulation, can very quickly turn positive situations into negative ones.

It is impossible to plan for everything that could happen. If we tried, I think we might all be walking around in plastic bubbles. However, there are a few preventative measures we can take to help our furry companions, and ourselves, best handle (what could be) a traumatic situation:

  1. KNOW YOUR CANINE:

Knowing your canine means working with them to understand their personalities, their fears and their ambitions (or drives). Armed with this knowledge, we can go through routines and avoid moving too far out of our dog’s “zone of comfort” where a reactive behaviour might trump them using their brainpower.

It also empowers us. The deeper our knowledge of the details, the finer tuned our training can become. Not only can we work through new environments and experiences while feeling at ease that we are not causing undue stress and anxiety, but we can utilize their zone of comfort to help them work through past experiences that have left them anxious or unsure.

If your relationship is new, your canine is recovering from medical issues that can influence behaviour, or you are working through behavioural baggage, please also read the Yellow Dog Project post I wrote a couple months ago and visit their website for more details.

  1. BE ENVIRONMENTALLY AWARE:

Knowing your environment starts with knowing what is going on in your personal space. Ever see someone enter a crosswalk right into traffic because they are texting? They are so absorbed in the task at hand that they don’t even realize they are stepping out in front of a moving car! Some of us are gifted with this ability to know what is going on. It is innate to be aware of our surroundings and it is second nature to use our senses, sight and sound, to know what is going on around us. For others, this type of vigilance requires practice. We get lost in our own thoughts, or in the phone call that just came in, and we become blind to what is occurring around us. Practice will increase this ability. Your range of awareness will grow and so give you more time to create a good situation.

  • Look ahead. If you are walking down a trail, try to look as far ahead as possible to see what is coming up. You can avoid sticky situations with other dogs before they even begin by moving to the side. This includes looking up and down – staying clear of those poisonous plants means one less expensive and stressful trip to the vet.
  • Use your hearing. Many of us live in busy cities and towns and this increases the ambient noise we put up with, and actually habituates and dulls our sense of hearing. Yet, we are really good at picking up noises that “just don’t belong” (e.g. a dog suddenly barking with intention). When that happens, trust your instincts. Take your time, and set up for success.
  1. BRING TREATS WITH YOU:

I never leave home with Zoom without bringing my treat bag that I use for teaching and learning new tricks! Treats, especially items that are high reward for your canine (for Zoom, this might be cheese or chicken), give you a lot of power to make a potentially terrible situation a little better. How many of us didn’t like visiting the dentist when we were kids? Once the dentist brought out the sucker jar when they finished, those little ones would leave with a big smile (or at the very least, stop the waterworks and vocal cord workout!).

The same can happen for a dog. Just like us, they will carry “baggage” from experiences in their lives. These experiences shape them and create the dynamic personalities we can see when we compare brothers and sisters from within a litter. If the worst happens when a situation occurs, one of the simplest things we can do after we have removed them from danger is give a quick task request for a behaviour they can do in their sleep (e.g. sit) to get their focus back to you, and then reward them like you have never done before! Yummy treats, happy faces, a favorite toy, lots of petting, and even some distracted goofing around can immediately help your canine off the “red zone” cliff and get them back on track to “happy land”!

It is important for us as caregivers, and our canines, that we can go about our daily lives without undue stress and fear. Past encounters can be traumatizing to both, but avoiding the outdoors or other people and dogs doesn’t do either you or your canine any good. By knowing our dogs and understanding our environment, we can plan ahead to make every situation as positive as we can. Each positive encounter gives our furry friends and us motivation to continue to grow and the mental strength to work through new and exciting situations… with treats, of course!

Want help understanding your canine? If you might be feeling discouraged because you just can’t seem to keep your canine off the “red zone” cliff, contact me anytime to talk about how we can get you and your dog get back on track and back into your community!

Jeeter and Zoom

Jeter and Zoom

 

 

Zone Of Comfort: Make the Most Out of A Stressful Situation

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dockjumping

At Canines By Design we talk a lot about T.A.P. for success, setting-up-for-success, redirection, and proofing.  But one aspect that we have yet to discuss on the blog is working within the “zone of comfort.”

Are you asking yourself “what does that mean?”… or “isn’t that some prop from Get Smart!?”.  Well, we aren’t talking about a Hollywood TV prop, but, like the safe learning space that the (awesome) “cone of silence” was designed to create, building a comfort zone means working with the environment around us to create a positive and, most importantly, educational, experience. And unlike Maxwell Smart’s device, I’ve found a much simpler approach that actually works to achieve the desired outcome!

We all have zones of comfort.  These imaginary force fields around us help dictate our level of ease in social situations, strange environments and when we test new experiences.  Depending on the individual, these zones will vary depending on previous exposure, comfort level, etc. and it is critical to take all factors into account.

Let’s use an example:  Since I work with dogs, sitting on the floor in the middle of 10 full grown canines playing together doesn’t evoke feelings of stress or fear. However, for someone who isn’t used to large dog fests, or only interacted with guard dogs, their perspective on the situation will be totally different.  For someone fearful of canines, such a situation could be so overwhelming that they might shut-down and glean nothing positive from the experience or not even be able to remove themselves from the environment because they are so overwhelmed.  Some dog trainers like to call this “the red zone.”  For the human analogy, we can say this person has started the “flight-or-fight” response.  This response, also known as the acute stress response, is when the sympathetic nervous system responds to the physical or the strong emotional state that has been presented to the body, coordinating various bodily functions (adrenal gland secretion, pupil dilation, increase heart rate, etc.) in order to create the optimum situation for that individual’s survival (1).

Now imagine the situation where we are beginning to expose a newly adopted canine to various environmental factors.  Maybe that dog had spent its first year locked in a backyard, without environmental enrichment.  Maybe that backyard didn’t even have grass or any trees. Now, when we take that pup out and begin to work through different training scenarios, the environment can become very overwhelming, very quickly.  For this particular example, the canine will enter the “red zone” fast – inhibiting their response to our training programs and damaging their overall personal growth.  Part of my graduate thesis examined this phenomenon, and many examples arose in which increased levels of stress (in particular example it was related to training methodology) directly resulted in a decrease in working ability of canines trained for service (2,3,4).

It is therefore very important as caregivers that we keep our canines’ “zone of comfort” in mind when we are out training and setting out educational experiences for success.  Here are some easy ways to keep this in mind while we are out and about:

shield-learning

  1. Keep your dog’s history in mind!
  • If they have had previous negative experiences with something in the environment, their zone for this object/person/dog will be less secure.
  1. Slow and Steady!
  • Fear can be incredibly powerful and debilitating.  We cannot learn when we are in fear for our lives or someone’s well being.  The same goes for canines. Flooding canines emotionally is a very dangerous practice.  Working within what the canine is comfortable with, as slow as it may be, will allow you and your canine to gradually build confidence with that once-scary scenario, and also help you both build a stronger, trusting bond.
  1. Keep it Fun!
  • We always strive to make every situation and experience for canine and caregiver as positive and rewarding as possible.  Success gives everyone a good feeling, and those positive feelings go a long way to help overcome hurdles we encounter and give us further motivation to keep going.

Canines By Design is here for you!  Contact us today to see how our customized approach can help you and your canine work together and create success everyone can see!

1. TheFreeDictionary.com (Medical Dictionary) (2014).  Fight-or-Flight Reaction Definition.  Retrieved from: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/fight-or-flight+reaction.  Accessed on: July 1. 2014.

2. Hilby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., & Bradshaw, J.W.S. (2004).  Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behavior and welfare.  Anim. Welfare, 13: 63-69.

3. Haverbeke, A., Laporte, B., Depiereux, E., Giffroy, J.M., & Diederich, C. (2008). Training methods of military dog handlers and their effects on the team’s performance.  Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 113: 110-122.

4. Haverbeke, A., Messaoudi, F., Depiereux, E., Stevens, M., Giffroy, J.M, & Diederich, C. (2010).  Efficiency of working dogs undergoing a new human familiarization and training program.  J. Vet. Behav., 5: 112-119.

Best Places to Practice Training with your Dog in Victoria, British Columbia

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Here on the blog, I recently wrote about the concept of proofing, and what to proof canine behaviours. Living and exploring in the greater Victoria region, I thought I would share for my fellow Islanders and vacationers alike, some great places that are dog amenable (if not friendly) where you can work on proofing your canine’s behaviours, socialization and have the opportunity to get out as a whole family.

Downtown Victoria:

With a variety of shops, downtown pedestrian walkways, waterfront parks and paths, downtown Victoria offers a wide variety of stimulation for canine and caregiver training. With a lot of activity going on, downtown Victoria will, on average, offer a higher level of stimulation for your canine depending on the time of day you and your furry friend venture around. So, remember to set yourselves up for success and work in environments where you both can succeed. This could mean going out in the early morning when there are less crowds, or being aware of your location and possible “exit” strategies to quieter neighborhood streets if needed. With paved paths and sidewalks, the downtown area offers a good, less muddy, option on those rainy days.

Dallas Road Dog Park:

One of the larger and more popular dog parks in the area, along with an affiliated dog friendly beach and some amazing views, Dallas Road is sure to offer your family a great hour or afternoon. Actively visited, there is always a playgroup to join or use as a proofing situation. Dallas Road can get muddy in spots when it has rained but there is a paved path where you can practice heeling along and also some grassy areas that drain well. Because of its size, Dallas Road Dog Park offers medium to high stimulation, but depending on the weather and the time of day, both low and high levels can be found. Remember to obey off-leash rules. For more info see Paws in Parks.

Butchart Gardens:

Looking for an outdoor event for the whole family or maybe you have relatives or friends visiting but you want to bring Fido along? Perhaps you need a pet friendly spot where you can meet with your friends for a New Years Eve gathering? Butchart Gardens makes the list because the grounds are not only dog friendly, they are dog welcoming! They have recirculating water bowls placed around the grounds and the staff even have biscuits to hand out. Lots of unique smells, sites, and sounds, Butchart Gardens is a great place to practice some proofing, and socialize your canine. Butchart offers a low to medium stimulation and can be a good place to practice on-leash work. NOTE: Because Butchart Gardens are just that, a garden, it is important to make sure you keep track of your sniffing canine so that he/she does not nibble on something exotic and potentially toxic.  It is also the only spot on my list that requires admission (well worth it!!)

Elk Lake/Thetis Lake:

These lakes are two of our family’s favorite spots in Victoria. Both areas offer amazing views, beautiful trails and facilities. Elk Lake has a well-maintained 10km loop and Thetis offers a ~3km or ~4.4km loop as its first accessible activity. Both areas have many more trails to explore above and beyond these two options, plus both have beaches with swimming access that are dog friendly during the tourism off-season (i.e. No dogs off leash on the sand between June 1 and September 15). However, there are spots along the water in both locations where a canine (or person) could take a swim to cool off during the summer. Trails can be busy at peak times, such as sunny nice weekends, so stimulation in these areas will vary depending on time of day and weather conditions. Remember that it’s not always just activity level that can be stimulating: For some canines, simply the sights and smells of a quiet park trail can offer new and novel experiences and present a level of stimulation that a caregiver needs to be aware of while training and proofing.

I’d love to hear your great suggestions of places to take and train your dog in and around Victoria. Where are your favorite spots?

Canines By Design works with clients in all of these locations, plus many more, on Vancouver Island. Where are your “proofing” tough spots? Check out our list of canine services, including on-location proofing, and then call me to talk about a consultation! #caninesbydesign Caninesbydesign.ca

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