Dog Friendly Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: Proofing and Training Locations Revisited

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newspaperLast week CHEK News profiled Victoria, British Columbia as the second most dog friendly city in Canada.  While we vow to become number one, Victoria already offers a multitude of dog friendly locations and activities that you and your companion can take part in.  CHEK asked for Canines By Design’s opinion on the topic of dogs in Victoria, and you should check out that interview here!

One of the concepts I have written about here on the blog is that of proofing, and what means to “proof” canine behaviours. Through living in and exploring the greater Victoria region, I thought I would share for my fellow Islanders and vacationers alike, some specific 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, remembedowntown victoriar 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.  There are lots of “pet-friendly” shops which you can bring your dog right inside to help you with your shopping and they are often marked with a “pet friendly” sign

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. dog park signActively 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:

Thetis Lake ParkThese 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 to find out how we can improve your already amazing canine relationship! #caninesbydesign Caninesbydesign.ca

Paws First: Considerations When Getting A Dog

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sleeping puppy “Let’s get a puppy!” When we start to think about welcoming a dog into our lives, we all-too-often get swept away in the romance of the idea. We hear about all the mental and physical benefits of being a canine caregiver. The good news is they are true! Us “dog people” know that being with our four-legged friends is nothing short of awesome! But, let’s come back down to Earth for a minute. There are some real logistics and important considerations to take into account before you take the leap into puppy parenthood.

I’ve been asked numerous times about “what it’s like getting a dog.” By request, the following is an essentials guide to adopting a canine into your family. The basic considerations form three categories: Time, Cost (initial and annual) and Lifestyle Impact. The purpose here is not to overwhelm you, but instead offer some variables to consider that can be overlooked (and make for “fun” surprises later!).  All to often the large picture of getting a dog and what that means is overlooked, leading to these fantastic companions being left to fend for themselves or integrated into a adoption system hoping they are taken home before it is to late.

Note: Each category could include much more detail than what is listed here. If you’d like more information on any particular topic or want to add something that I’ve missed, please leave a comment below.

Time:  

Dogs are social creatures. They love to be with their calendar:clockfamily “pack” and need to get out and socialize with their human and canine communities. Time investment depends on many, many factors. Regardless of breed, size or age, all dogs need daily appropriate (safe, healthy and fun) activity. This includes both mental and physical stimulation. Going for walks, meeting a friends at the off-leash park, dropping and picking up from doggy daycare, trips to the beach, going out to do their business, and regular training sessions all take time during your day. Depending on your living situation (e.g. within the city or in a condo/apartment) getting to locations with green space, off-leash zoning, etc. can increase the time allotment required for each activity. Scheduling plans and arrangements beforehand can make sure you and your family has your canine’s needs covered before you get stuck with no time and no fun.

Puppies

Bringing a puppy into the home is a grand adventure. Just like any adventure, it that takes some planning and forethought to accomplish. We all have jobs and schedules we need to keep – but puppies do too. They need to go out and do their business on a frequent, set schedule as they learn the household rules. They also have a high requirement for socialization. It is extremely important that puppies are taken out into their communities to meet lots of new people and dogs regularly and that they are involved in educational programs such as puppy, basic and advanced training. If you work full time at a facility or office that does not have a pet policy in place, you should inquire as to the reasons/rules and see if they are open for change. In the meantime, taking some vacation time and/or having a network of people that can help fill in those moments is vital and could mean the difference between coming back to a happy puppy and a mess on the carpet or a trip to the vet (or both).

Rescues

Rescues, whether they are adults, puppies or seniors, need special time consideration as they adjust to their new lives in their forever home. Rescuing is an extremely rewarding experience but we need recognize that these canines have been through recent trauma. Regardless of their past lives and the dog rescuebehaviours they have learned from those experiences, simply going through a rescue situation and adjusting to a new life (with a new home, new smells and new parents) is a lot to go through. It is reasonable to assume that the behaviour you see within the first few days may change as they become more comfortable with their new surroundings. For some, that means they will settle down; for others, they can become more adventurous as they explore their new boundaries. You need time to begin to understand their behaviours, likes and dislikes. Make sure you account for this, especially over the first three to four weeks and then make a plan to ensure they keep learning good behaviours and unlearn some of their past, less productive, behaviours.

Remember…

You can’t expect perfect behaviour (there is no such thing), so you should be ready to reward the best behaviour and redirect the less-than-perfect habits. Developing a balance between structured events and “fun time” within their routine early on can help them understand what is expected of them in their new home and out in the world – a framework that will certainly pay off for you both tenfold down the road. Unsure of how your canine will react in a particular scenario? Check out our post on the Yellow Dog Project to find out how you can be more prepared!

Cost:

You want to comfortably budget your new family member into your life. What can you expect to pay up front and what do dollar-551932_1280annual costs look like? Below is a breakdown of the costs to begin care for a canine, with information sourced from the BC SPCA. Some one-time costs may vary depending on the organization, region and the size of dog you are interested in (e.g. crates can range up towards $200 depending on size and quality and bedding can be quite expensive depending on the materials used [e.g. memory foam]).

One Time Costs

Adoption fee
(Approximate estimation only, please check with your local Branch for current adoption prices)
 $145.00-$395.00
Spaying (female) and tattoo
(Approximate estimation only, please check with your local Veterinarian for actual prices. BC SPCA adoption fee includes spay/neuter & tattoo)
 $156.00-$265.00
Food and water dishes  $15.00
Collar and leash  $25.00
Brush and comb  $15.00
Toys – balls, frisbees, etc.  $25.00
Crate  $65.00
Total  $290.00-$540.00*

*Please note that is not the adoption cost at a BC SPCA shelter, rather the estimated expenses related to being an animal guardian.

Annual Expenses (12-15 years)

The annual expenses here were again retrieved from the BC SPCA website. I would treat these numbers as guide to the very basic costs that each category could represent. Cost of food and treats will depend on size, breed, activity and type of food being fed (large bags of food can range up to $85-90/bag versus the given $45.00/bag, and raw diets can be more). Veterinary care can cost more, especially while you are getting “comfortable” with your canine, their tendencies and behaviours. One extra trip a year that includes a test and/or medication will potentially double the value given and it goes up from there. It is also more likely that puppies and senior canines will need more frequent care as puppies get their initial checkups and seniors receive their continual preventative care such as blood panels and teeth cleaning.

You can also save money by learning basic groomingdollar-42338_1280 techniques and performing them on your own. Brushing your canine’s teeth regularly can save huge costs later in life when periodontal disease can be disastrous. Knowing how to properly trim your canine’s nails in a low stress and positive way can save in time and money in the long run. Want to learn a fast, low stress technique? Contact me to set up a grooming training session!

Food  12 bags dog food (18kg) @ $45.00  $540.00
Biscuit treats  2 boxes per month @ $5.00  $120.00
Veterinary care  Yearly Visit – exam and vaccinations  $200.00+
Nail clipping  6 trips to the vet  @ $15.00  $90.00
License fee  $30.00
Grooming  Spring bath and brush out  $40.00
Vacation  2 weeks dog care  @ $25/day  $350.00
Total  $1,370.00*

*Please note that is not the adoption cost at a BC SPCA shelter, rather the estimated expenses related to being an animal guardian.

Reference: http://www.spca.bc.ca/pet-care/adoption/5-steps-to-adoption/cost-of-care.html#.VLVnOyeqQio

Lifestyle Impact:

The introduction of a canine family member into our life is a truly amazing experience, but it does bring significant and very road tripreal changes to our routines. Without over-personifying the relationship, the easiest way to describe the change is like being responsible for a younger sibling or having a child in our care. While we still have flexibility in our time, we are now stewards for the mental and physical needs of a dependent living creature. Dogs cannot feed themselves, take themselves for a walk or go to the vet without our help. Each activity and checklist item above is a reason to consider how your daily schedule will change when you address their needs.

A good way to picture your day as a canine caregiver is to write on a weekly calendar what your normal “me” day would be. Now add in 2-3 daily feeding times, training time, play time, and snuggle time with your new family member and then take a look at your new schedule. Is it feasible? Is it something that you can realistically do?  That you still want to do? Some day-to-day activities and events can/will change, but a dog’s basic needs (mental and physical) will not.

Some of us are lucky to work in a pet friendly office, work from home or use our house as a base of operations, and/or have a spouse or a committed friend who does. Having someone to help can be a big relief, especially when emergencies and last minute things come up (and they will). Determine if this new lifestyle is fair to both of you. Are you willing to give up a date night to take care of a sick puppy, or change your old routine so that they can get out a few times during the day? Alternatively, do you have a budget for doggy daycare or a dog walker? , and making sure that both the caregiver and canine are able to find a happy one.

Other situations to take into account are events like traveling, which usually means your spouse/partner will be withSleepypod1 you. We don’t want our vacation to turn into our canine’s nightmare, so we need to plan out house sitters, determine how long to be away and make sure all their needs will continue to be met. If your canine is coming with you on your trip, you might find you can no longer stay at your forever favorite hotel in location “X” because they don’t have a pet policy in place to allow four-legged guests. While finding pet friendly hotels is becoming easier, they aren’t everywhere. Beyond hotels, there are many other considerations to take into account when canines travel with us. Canines By Design tackled this subject so if you would like more information, check out our post on traveling with your dogs.

Offering a loving home to canine previously exempt from the opportunity, or watching a puppy grow up and develop their own personalities as a beloved family member is in itself a rewarding experience, regardless of our personal gains as a “dog person”. We know that becoming active canine caregivers is a remarkable experience that brings us many mental and physical benefits, but is important that we take a step back to first assess the topics above to ensure that we continue to feel this way throughout our canines’ lives. While 12 to 15 years is only a snapshot in our own lifelines, it is the entirety of our dogs’ lives. Considering their daily quality of life will help make sure we are prepared to be there for the entirety of the good and the bad that life throws at us.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.     — Author Unknown

Making Your List, and Checking It Twice For a Dog-Safe Christmas!

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Zoom Getting Ready For Christmas

Zoom Getting Ready For Christmas

It is hard to believe that we are wrapping up 2014 already! Feels like it wasn’t too long ago that Canines By Design opened its doors in Victoria and started sharing information and education! As we all get ready for the holidays, we wanted to just remind everyone of a cornerstone concept for Canines By Design – Setting Up For Success – and how employing this thought process will help you and your dog stay happy and healthy as you embark on the New Year.

Deck the halls with dog-safe practices!

The holiday season usually brings with it a change in décor in the house, with decorations, garland, candles, wreaths, and sometimes Christmas trees being introduced into the home environment. Some of our favorite decorations are very toxic and very dangerous to canines and are especially important to keep at a safe distance from their inquisitive mouths.

Poinsettias Getting Ready For the Holidays!

Poinsettias Getting Ready For the Holidays!

  • Poinsettias, Lilies, Holly, and Mistletoe are all very toxic to dogs and can kill. If you have a canine that is new to a house full of holiday cheer or you are entertaining guests and cannot monitor your canine effectively, DO NOT use these in your house. If you feel they must be there, try using the faux (silk) variety of the plants to eliminate the risk.
  • Snow globes can contain ethylene glycol (antifreeze), which is inviting to dogs because it tastes sweet, but is a serious player in unintentional deaths from poisoning. Place them where they can’t be looked at as balls to play with.
  • While Tinsel isn’t “toxic”, it is extremely dangerous. It grabs
    Tinsel

    Tinsel

    and cuts at the walls of the intestine and can be deadly if ingested. Keep all tinsel out of reach or try a new decoration with less serious consequences.

Tethered Tree

Tethered Tree

  • We have all seen pictures of the fallen Christmas tree and offending dog looking guilty beside it. Instead of inviting disaster (and broken ornaments) into your home, tether your tree to the wall if possible. A couple of nails and some baling twine will eliminate a big risk. If you think it looks “ugly,” you can decorate the twine with ribbon or hang your Christmas cards along it to hide it!
  • Holiday Foods: Grapes, Raisins, and Currants can all cause
    Chocolate Contains Theobromine

    Chocolate Contains Theobromine

    Kidney failure in canines. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is highly toxic to dogs. Fatty Foods such as skin and gravy in large quantities can cause inflammation of the pancreas, abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody, loose stools. While I think if turkey is being served, everyone should have a little piece at Christmas (ok, not those with a poultry allergy), don’t give your dog the scraps. Save them a little piece of lean meat that they can snack on later for good behaviour and make sure that you don’t feed them at the dinner table. Try to also avoid putting snacks and treats on low counters and tables as they might be just a little too inviting for those new puppies and rescues that have recently joined the family.

T.A.P. A better Relationship:

One of our first posts this year, T.A.P. stands for Train, Appropriate Activity, and being Positive, positive, positive. Remembering this acronym is an easy way to remember to work with your canine throughout the holiday season and how you can make sure their needs and requirements are still being met amongst the celebrating and family time.

Play Time

Play Time!!!

T: Train

Take time everyday to work through the various commands that your canine already knows.  Two 10-minute sessions a day with my Labrador are enough to run through the expansive list of behaviors that my boy knows (and even includes helping me tidy up the recycling around the house, and putting plastic bottles into the appropriate bin!).  Also try changing up the location when you are doing the training session.  Maybe one day you will work on the commands at home, and the next you will perform them while out on your walk.  See any differences?  Behaviors can change depending on the environment so “proofing commands” in different locations with different environmental factors will help ensure that your canine will listen the next time it wants to run across the field to say hello to their best buddy.

A: Appropriate Activity

Daily exercise is as important to a canine’s health as it is to ours.  All breeds, small, large, flat-nosed, round, or dainty, will benefit from activity every single day.  The key to this is appropriate activity. Dogs come in quite a spectrum of sizes that have a direct impact on their physical capabilities.  So think of activities that are appropriate to the physical limitations of the canine (e.g. age, size, and breed related restrictions) as well as positive for their development and behaviour (e.g. non-destructive behaviour). It is important that these limitations are taken into account while partaking in daily activities to ensure that your daily play sessions are fun, productive, and free from harm.

P: Positive, Positive, Positive

The third, while arguably the simplest, can be the most difficult to embrace 100% of the time.  It is to keep interactions, activities, and environmental situations positive for both you and your canine.  Just like in our human education system, encouraging and constructive environments develop well-adjusted individuals keen to contribute positively to those around them.  The same goes for you and your dog: keeping interactions positive will ensure that you both are willing and ready the next time a training situation arises.  I like to tell clients that they should always “set up for success.” Set up your canine to succeed as best he can, as often as possible.  You will be happy your dog is succeeding, and he/she will be happy that they are doing the appropriate, and rewarding, thing. Most importantly, your canine will be willing to “play-ball” again as they learn that success feels GREAT!!

This is a very busy time of year. As forward-thinking canine caregivers, we attempt to balance the needs our families including our four-legged members. Holidays provide a break; a chance to have fun, smile and remember what we are grateful for. Incorporating this list is just a small step to ensure that your canine stays safe and has as much fun as you! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!

Consistency Matters: 3 Areas That Will Improve In Your Canine Relationship

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Consistency At Dinner Time Helps Create Good Dinner-Time Manners

Consistency At Feeding Time Helps Create Good Dinner-Time Manners

Professionals do not become “Pro’s” overnight. Doctors do not become doctors on a hope and a dream, NHL All-Stars do not achieve greatness by sitting on the couch, and people dedicated to a deep understanding of canine behaviour don’t just wake up one day with the ability to speak “animal.” Such individuals work diligently and train mentally and physically to create the basic skill set required to master their area of expertise. Consistent effort and practice of the fundamentals are important exercises that help all types of professionals excel and reach the top!

That word, consistency, pops up quite a bit. Consistency can be defined as the “steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc.” (Dictionary.com, 2014). In the canine world, we talk about consistency of technique, timing, methodology, reward, punishment, routine, etc. but we don’t necessarily say why we want to be consistent. Well consistency, or being dependable with action and response, in all aspects of your relationship with your canine can have a profoundly positive impact!

All relationships are built on the basics of communication. Consistency, or acting in a consistent way as you instruct, praise, correct and go about navigating the world around you, will greatly help canines understand your requests and current emotional state. Consistency can give them clues on how to respond or prepare to respond. Being consistent will help our canines through:

Practice Practice Practice.  Zoom Helping Unload his favorite groceries

Practice Practice Practice. Zoom Helping Unload his favorite groceries

Reliability: Instructing, praising, redirecting and timing are the cornerstones to educating your canine in both an effective and efficient way during training sessions and new encounters. By structuring your training sessions and creating a plan to achieve new goals, we can control our learning sessions more effectively and add to our ability to remain consistent throughout the process.   By doing so, we are actually able to increase the reliability our canine’s behaviour across different situations and scenarios as they come up in our day-to-day lives.

Faster learning/sharper learning curve: Adding a level of consistency to our interactions with our canines will help them understand what is being asked of them regardless of the situation. If your dog has gone through a learning process where the actions and results are the same every time, the connection between cause and effect quickly becomes quite clear for them…. If this happens, and I act this way, this outcome (e.g. praise) will occur. If the outcome to their response varies in each “trial” or occurrence, then the connection becomes muddled and it will take longer to learn the right behaviour, as well as the possibility of learning the wrong behaviour can also arise. This is a basic fundamental of behavioural conditioning (both in a classical and operant sense) but isn’t necessarily thought of in a “practical application” sort of way when we are out in the world with our canines.

Emotional Understanding: Along with increased reliability of behaviour and ability for faster learning, working on the consistency within us will help our canines understand our emotional state. If we react to the same situations in a similar fashion each time, our emotional response remains consistent and our canines will begin to learn what we are/are not comfortable with. They can then begin to predict how we will react, thus speeding up their response to various situations and furthering the development of the human-canine bond. Don’t believe me? An article just released at the end of November shows canines demonstrating an understanding of subtle changes in human communication such as emotional tone, intonation and volume changes. Read more on how dogs do understand their master’s voice.

Adding consistency to our interactions with our canines requires practice. After a training session or new encounter/situation has come up, take an introspective moment to assess what went on, how your canine behaved, and most importantly, how you behaved and responded (acted). You may quickly find a key… possibly why the scenario worked out perfectly, and maybe why it could have gone better and how you can facilitate that the next time!

Need help with your consistency? Like a personal trainer for physical fitness, a large part of my work is assessing the areas of your canine relationship that could use more consistent effort. I design and chart training sessions and goals that you and your dog can follow and achieve together!

References:

Dictionary.com (2014). Consistency Definition. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/consistency. Accessed on: December 9th, 2014.

TheeAmigos

Minimizing Canine Anxiety: Steps to Take and Products to Try

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This room need's a "Safe Space" for this pup

This room need’s a “Safe Space” for this pup

In an ideal world, canines would be raised in positive, enriched environments that are free from fear and punishment, where their interactions within the community (both canine and human) are constructive and educational. Free from negativity, their potentials could all be met, allowing them to lead dynamic and integrated lives.

The world is… imperfect. As hard as we try, things happen. Sometimes on a grand scale, such as being involved in a car accident and developing a deep seeded fear of vehicles and travel, or being born into hostile situations where every food scrap is closely guarded for fear of not eating again. Things can happen on a smaller scale too. Sometimes, we have to shift our schedules because of a new job, or because we are moving to a new location. These changes disrupt what was once a familiar day, and can cause anxiety in ourselves and those around us. Same is true for our dogs.

Where the Two Roads Diverge

Where the Two Roads Diverge

Negative encounters, swings in schedules, new additions to the family, and changes within the home structure can all be a cause for anxiety in canines. At Canines By Design, we often talk about setting our canines up for success, proofing, and regular, dynamic socializing as being corner stones to creating a well balanced dog. If our canines can lead dynamic lives, enjoying new experiences, meeting new people, and going to new places, we are in a sense setting them up for success by creating an environment in which “change” and “new” becomes a regular part of life and their vocabulary, and not something to be fearful of.

But as I said, even in these situations, things can happen, fears can be created, and anxiety can be seen and felt. So what can be done?

... Well It Looks Comfy For Him Still!

… Well It Looks Comfy For Him Still!

Lets use the example of separation anxiety in canines. Separation anxiety is when the act of us leaving our canine causes a stress response in them, which can be acted out in a variety of behaviours such as soiling in the house, property destruction, self mutilation, pacing, excessive barking, etc. Regardless of how the behaviour arose, separation anxiety causes unrest in our dog’s lives and in turn causes the same unrest in our own lives. We will worry about what they are doing, maybe their behaviours have become destructive, and we will worry about what is being destroyed or if they have eaten something they shouldn’t have and if they should go into the veterinarian.

Sound familiar? We all want our canines to feel safe “in their own skin”. As caregivers and there are a few things we can do to help decrease the stress involved when canines have to spend some time on their own and suffer from separation anxiety:

  1. First and foremost, separation anxiety is treatable with patience and regular work to address the problem areas. Using customized desensitization programs (something we do here at Canines By Design), a program can be developed for your specific case that will take you and your canine through small incremental changes that help bolster understanding and comfort, rather than shock and fear.
  2. Create a safe space for your canine. This, along with environmental enrichment, is a specialty of Canines By Design. Whether it is in the office space at work, or your house (inside or out), or even in the car, it is important that we make sure that if they do have to spend time alone, we create an environment that they cannot get hurt, especially if their anxiety overwhelms their “common sense”. Items like power cords, plugins, chewable items like buckles, and even what is on the counter are all part of the considerations we take into account when setting up your “safe space”.
  3. Utilize your friends and family around you to help take the anxiety off of you and your canine. Puppy play-dates, good doggy day cares, and house sitters are all ways to keep your mind at ease, and make sure your pup is out having good experiences and leading dynamic lives. While this doesn’t address the separation anxiety directly, it gives you a way to avoid the behaviours that can be harmful to their health (mental and physical) while you work through your desensitization program.
  4. Make sure their needs are met before they spend some time alone. If they have just had a wonderful play with their best friend at the local park, and they are good and tired, they will be less likely to act out of boredom and stress, and be more likely to sleep and relax. Physical release such as exercise has a wonderful cascading effect on our physiology, releasing positive endorphins that make us, and our dogs feel good.
  5. Leave music or the T.V. on for them. Silent rooms cause our senses to become heightened and hyper vigilant. Same for our canines, and their senses such as hearing are already many fold stronger than our own. Utilizing the T.V. or radio (easy listening music) helps to dull them. You can even use a fan as the white noise will interrupt the noises they may hear outside their homes (whether it’s a house or apartment) and help them relax and worry less about what is going on. Need a portable solution? Load up your smart phone with your canine’s favorite tunes and play it off the speaker.
  6. Another sense to think about is smell. A great product line called Adaptil has focused on this, where they use products that mimic the pheromones released by a nursing mother. While pheromones don’t exactly have a “smell”, they act on a deep level, and the pheromones released by a nursing mother act to calm and ease anxious puppies. Their product lines are geared for canines of all ages, and from my experience have been very successful in helping ease many different types of anxiety including separation anxiety.
  7. Canines are social animals. They like to be around their piers, whether it is other dogs or humans. For some, separation anxiety stems from the lack of comfort that comes from being touched or snuggled in with their favorite person or playmate. Anxiety vests were created to help ease these cases. One brand, Thundershirts, are probably the original, and these snug fitting vests were created to give the wearer the feeling of being constantly hugged and touched.  Check out their sizing information for a size that works for your canine.
Ellie Having a Stress Free Moment

Ellie Having a Stress Free Moment

Anxiety related behaviours including separation anxiety are treatable. They require patience, positivity, and diligence to work through, but with the right tools and desensitization program, all canines can feel comfortable in their own skin and anxiety related behaviours CAN be drastically reduced if not completely cured. Not sure if your dog suffers from anxiety? Check out this blog on anxiety symptoms for more information.

Ghosts, Ghouls and Drool: 7 Ways To Prepare your Dog for a Safe Halloween (+ Free Treat Recipe!)

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Ireland Practicing Being A Ghost

Ireland Practicing Being A Ghost

Halloween is fast approaching! For many kids (and some adults too!), that means dressing up as their favorite superhero or Halloween character, lots of candy, and even a little spooking!  For our dogs, especially young puppies, or those that haven’t ever experienced this strange onslaught of the senses, Halloween can be as confusing and scary as a fireworks show!

Think about it: Costumes cover our faces and add weird appendages to our features, strange people come constantly to our front door and yell… loudly! Is it any wonder that many canines display strong anxiety to these things? We might also put our canines right in the thick of it, taking them for a walk or bringing them along as a companion for our little trick or treaters. Imagine what they must be thinking when they come across that scary witch or graveyard of skulls?!

I often talk about the concept of “setting up for success” and for occasions such as Halloween where costumes are meant to evoke strong and sometimes frightening emotions, this concept becomes very important. In the service dog world, we proof and prepare canines for many different scenarios and possibilities that they may encounter during their busy lives helping out their family. In controlled environments, we expose dogs to the lights and sounds of emergency vehicles, encourage volunteers to come dressed in their work clothes to bring along the smells of the community and we have very generous fireman and police officers take time to come to the facilities in full gear, to expose the developing puppies to funny helmets, gas masks, oxygen tanks, and utility belts covered in things that might look like toys. However, for the majority of “household” canines, their exposure and learning experiences are slightly different. Some have a very integrative life, are out in the community all the time (or as much as possible), meeting new people and new things. Others spend some, or all of their lives around a few houses, and the local park. For any dog, at either end of the exposure spectrum, going around the corner and coming face to face with a Yeti, or someone dressed up as our favorite martial arts turtle can be quite a shock, and can evoke emotion and behaviours that we have never witnessed or experienced EVER!

You Thought I was Cute Before!!

You Thought I was Cute Before!!

So what can we do? Here is a list of things to keep in mind around the Halloween season and some ways to make All Hallows’ Eve as positive as possible:

For those of us with canine-enriched lives

  1. Have a good play with your dog at the local park or in your backyard well before you have to start handing out candy. Make sure their needs are met!
  2. Take them for a “business” run (pee and poop) before the trick-or-treaters are out and about. Usually it is still daylight at this point so you will also be less likely to be surprised by a costumed ghoul or ghost. Then take them out after when things have drastically calmed down and most, if not all, of the families have gone home.
  3. Usually someone stays at home to hand out candy. GREAT! Don’t leave your dog in the front room or by the front door unattended where they can be over stimulated by commotion outside and knocking/doorbell ringing. It also avoids any possible escape attempts.
  4. Set up a quiet and safe room for the canine. Put on the TV or turn the radio on with some nice easy listening, and pull the blinds over the window. For some, just running a fan in the room is enough white noise to block out stimulation happening at the front door. Make sure the room is safe for the dog, whatever their age. If they become stressed, they can act out on furniture, electrical cords, and doors. Set them up for success by minimizing dangerous items.
  5. If you are at the front door, take some time to check on them at a decent frequency. Reinforce their quiet behaviour with verbal praise and even the occasional delicious treat. (It is treat night for everyone else, after all! See below for a great recipe.) If they become anxious or unsure, spend some time to quiet them down and redirect these tense emotions towards a fun or happy thing. Get out their favorite toy or puzzle and have them work through it. Spend a little time running through their various commands so they redirect onto the task at hand, not what is going on outside.
  6. If your dog barks at the doorbell… Contact Canines By Design and we can help fix that, but for now, watch for people coming to the house or tape over the door bell with a sign to say “do not ring”.
  7. Make sure the candy and chocolate is out of reach from them. Also make sure that your children or guests know that the canine cannot have any “people” treats. Many kids like to spread out their candy on the floor to check out their “haul” after trick-or-treating. That’s fine… just maybe close the door to their bedroom first to avoid any canines snacking!

If you are out and come across a dog:

  1. Do not approach (even if you know the dog): Remember you are wearing a costume: Canines are very good at reading body language, facial expressions, and verbal language. We are running around having fun with raised/excited voices and covered faces (masks or makeup)… it doesn’t exactly give them a fair chance to assess the situation. If you have to go say hello, remove your mask and return your emotional level back to a relaxed and calm state before doing so. Even your own canine may second-guess that it is actually you when you are dressed up to scare!
  2. If you are going up to a house and you hear a dog barking from very near or right behind the door, turn around and head to the next house. While we want to give the benefit of the doubt to those caregivers, we cannot assume that the dog will be OK with us near their house and their people. They are already showing sign of arousal and they may make the wrong assumption and turn a fun night into a negative one.

MOST Importantly… Have FUN with your families this Halloween! While canines might not get the concept of dressing up and going door to door, they can still have fun and a delicious treat too! Try this easy recipe:

Simple Peanut Butter Pumpkin Canine Treats:

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups Peanut Butter (Natural)

1 cup of 100% Pure Pumpkin Puree, canned. (Not Pumpkin Pie Filling)

1 ¾ cups Whole Wheat Flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together peanut butter and pumpkin. Sift in the flour ¼ cup at a time just until the dough in no longer sticky.
  3. Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper until it is about ¼” thick.
  4. Use your favorite puppy or Halloween-themed cookie cutter to cut the shapes. Place on prepared cookie sheets
  5. Bake @ 350 for 8-10 minutes (non-convection setting). Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container (2 week shelf life) or freeze for up to 3 months.
Ready To Hit The Town!!

Zoom and Ember Ready To Hit The Town!!

NOTE: I would like to thank Kathryn Koh for the photos she sent me to use in this blog post.  Kathryn is very involved with my school, Bergin University, back in Sonoma Valley, California.  She volunteers to take many of the beautiful pictures of all the Bergin dogs, she is an active puppy raiser, trainer, foster home, canine caregiver, and helps out the school anyway she can!!  Many Thanks from here in Victoria!

Canine Intelligence: How Our Understanding Continues To Grow

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Making Light Work of a Heavy Snack

Making Light Work of a Heavy Snack

I was going to write an article this week about canine intelligence, but I quickly ran into a conundrum… they are intelligent in so many ways, I’m going to have to write a book, not a blog post!!!

Canine intelligence and what it means, stands for, and how it is represented is a hot topic these days. For a long time, we didn’t look at canines as intelligent, but rather we thought they were gifted with their nose, and something that we can train and mold to complete tasks.  Those tasks may have been something we didn’t want to do ourselves, or that we found canines could actually do more efficiently. While there are some magnificent examples of highly trained human trackers, a bloodhound’s nose is hard to beat.

But the tables have turned. Societal shifts have opened our eyes to explore our world through a different lens. We are more empathetic towards animals, their needs, and have turned our perspectives from being “master’s of the universe” to welfare minded “caretakers” (…this may be a generalization as there are still far too many people who either ignore or refuse to believe this, but that is a topic for another blog). We have begun to explore the possibilities not by what they can do for us, but rather what we can simply learn from them by taking a step back and looking at the world through their eyes.

We have come to understand that not all animals, especially dogs, are created equal. There is an unexplored intelligence that we are just beginning to uncover and attempt to understand. While being humans, we are still confined to understanding intelligence by how we have defined it, we are still uncovering many aspects of canine life that we once thought was completely untrue, or impossible.

I thought an easy way to share some of the ways that canines are amazing us, and showing just how intelligent they are, would be to group these concepts into areas we as humans tend to think about intelligence, and share some amazing links to some stories to demonstrate these areas.

Nose Work

Nose Work

Scent (nose) Intelligence:

This has been linked with canines for a long, long time. Helping on hunts, detecting predators lurking just outside our camps, canine olfaction has always been considered one of their strong suites. Imagine telling someone 30 years ago that scientific research would be able to show that they are actually so intelligent in this way, that they could in fact act as more reliable early warning detection systems for particular cancers than some of our best “man-made” medical equipment. Don’t believe me? Check out these links:

http://www.dogsdetectcancer.org/

http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/nbec.2014.13.issue-1/nbec-2014-0003/nbec-2014-0003.xml (sorry, you can only access the abstract without purchase).

Google Search: Canine Cancer Detection, or Google Scholar: Canine VOC detection and then pick “since 2014” for the newest articles.

Verbal Intelligence:

Immediately one thinks “dogs don’t speak words, so how can they have a verbal intelligence!?”. Well canines bark, and these barks do mean something. Canines also have a very important, and complex body language that they use to “silently” speak to one another. They can ALSO read our body language and what we are doing and interacting with! Furthermore, canines are great listeners (OK, most of the time :)), and have an incredible ability to understand human language… now imagine living in a world where this is going on all the time!! That is some serious thinking power!

Vocabulary:

Chaser the Border collie has the same understanding of vocabulary as a three-year-old child:

http://www.amazon.ca/Chaser-Unlocking-Genius-Knows-Thousand/dp/0544102576

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hi8HFdPMsiM

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-smartest-dog-in-the-world/

Body Language:

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/canine-body-language

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0035437

Auditory:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201211/how-dogs-bark-in-different-languages (a neat article in how dogs bark in different language courtesy of one of my Master’s Degree Professors, Stanley Coren)

What Did You Say!!?

What Did You Say!!?

Visual Intelligence:

People used to think of dogs as completely colour blind, but this is not true. We learnt at Bergin University that canines are dichromatic, not trichromatic, so to say they are colour blind is a misnomer. Canines can see colours in the environment; they just see them slightly differently than we do. Stan Coren writes:

“Instead of seeing the rainbow as violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow, orange and red, dogs would see it as dark blue, light blue, gray, light yellow, darker yellow (sort of brown), and very dark gray. In other words, dogs see the colors of the world as basically yellow, blue and gray. They see the colors green, yellow and orange as yellowish, and they see violet and blue as blue. Blue-green is seen as a gray”. Reference: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/200810/can-dogs-see-colors).

One thing that Bergin University is demonstrating is that canines are capable of a form of reading. While not scientifically demonstrated how this occurs this video will get your grey cells working trying to figure out how they can look at a cue card and understand what it means without any auditory reinforcement by the trainer in the later stages of their training! AMAZING!! (I LOVE MY SCHOOL!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Egvz_dZ1qv4 (this is an older video… facility has changed (now for three years).

Physical Intelligence:

While I alluded to canine’s inability to open jars earlier (not having opposable thumbs will do that), they do have an amazing ability when it comes to their physicality and using it in intelligent ways. Anyone (like myself) who has worked within Service Dog organizations can certainly attest to this. The ways that they are able to help out it truly amazing!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-WrDMxw_mY – Turning on a light switch (Sae can sure raise her voice up high!! What Excitement!! All students at Bergin work with canines training for full service certification).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbFISCnTQgc -learning to pull a wheel chair at Bergin’s new facility.

http://vimeo.com/52965741 -Zoom Learning to recycle bottles (this was early on in my Master’s Program). We are required to teach our own dogs a higher-level job by shaping and linking smaller instructions together.

With all this said, I must also put in a disclaimer. These changes to our mindsets have gotten us excited, and the media excited, to seek out and find out more about canine intelligence. It is important that we continue forward with an open mind, but also be careful not to jump to any conclusions before we are able to match our gut feelings with rigorous studies that either approve or disprove particular theories and ideas. This isn’t to say that these intelligences we witness don’t exist, we just need to put our thinking caps on to determine how we can accurately measure and record. Our canines are truly amazing. They offer emotional and physical support, they can help us live longer, and they always seem to bring a smile to our faces. I am a firm believer that we are just beginning to truly understand our canines, so next time you are looking into your dogs eyes wondering what they are thinking, just know, they are looking right back at you, and might be wondering the same thing. -J