Raising Litter Mates



Getting a new dog is always fun. Adding a new dog to your established pack can be tricky - but possible. Although getting a new puppy, a rescue or a foster is exciting - remember your current pack at home. If you have cats, remember that not all dogs have been raised with cats- some are quite aggressive toward kitties. A new addition is added stress for everyone involved. Make sure you have the time and resources as well as alternatives - just in case life throws something unexpected at you!

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Rehabilitating an Older Dog.

I see it quite frequently - hear about it often, the quarrels in an off leash dog area. The reason I say area is only because some places are not "officially" dog parks.

I think off leash socialization with a variety of different sized dogs and of course different breeds is important. The one thing to remember is that not all dogs are behaved or well-mannered, not all dogs "play nice", but for the most part dogs sort themselves out - they don't need human assistance in most cases.

I recently observed a situation where a "rescue" or "adopted" dog was brought into an established pack ( 2 or more dogs ). The rescue is quite a bit older ( over 6 years of age ) so of course this dog has ingrained behaviours, some of which are considered "not acceptable". Remember that although the cage card says " good with people, good with kids, good with cats and good with other dogs" doesn't necessarily mean that it is all true. I mean, think about it, how do they test this? Do they take the dogs into several different homes to determine its triggers? Take the dog and push it to it's limit? I think its wishful thinking to say that they do - in reality I don't think this happens, or does it?

I am all for rescuing dogs - rehabilitating an older dog can be tricky and challenging - and of course frustrating. One has to take into consideration that perhaps certain words are "trigger" words. What we believe "come" to mean could instantly put fear in a dog ( maybe they associate the command with leash time, or angry owner on the other end ) all these things need to be taken into consideration. Remember that dogs don't understand the English language - you can teach a dog to "sit" using the word "jump" what difference does it make to the dog? Teach the dog a foreign language - teach it French, who cares!

Also, keep in mind that it's almost like having a puppy again ( except harder ) you have to train/re-teach/re-condition. You have to gain Fido's trust before you can expect to see results. I can't tell you how long it will take - but I do believe that the older the dog - the longer it takes ( more baggage ).

If the dog is not used to being around other dogs and shows aggression - make an effort to socialize him/her. I would start with small group socialization (friends with well-mannered generally good dogs). I don't think its a good idea to take a newly rescued dog into an off leash dog area at peak time. This may result in the dog becoming more fearful, more anxious and act more aggressive especially with loose dogs around and Fido being on a leash. I would also leave the other pack members at home for the first little while. Your rescue needs one on one time with you. This dog has the rest of the day to hang with its pack members at home - take this time out to give Fido 100% of your attention in new environments. I have difficulty with keeping an eye on two (2) when I'm by myself - I generally like to keep my pups close in a big off leash area. I am not a big fan of my dogs being on the opposite end of the field as me - there is always potential for trouble with so many dogs and people in one area, I feel safer when the dogs are in eye contact range.

Little rewards mean a lot! Reward tiny progress, correct "bad" behaviour immediately. This doesn't mean Filet Mignon for a "sit" or any physical harm when unacceptable behaviours happen. When you pass another dog and your rescue doesn't growl or lunge - reward. Simple. Fast. Effective. If you keep this up chances are pretty high that the dog will clue in that ignoring other dogs means a reward, most importantly being able to get your dog to focus on you instead of the "distraction" is the biggest accomplishment!

I remember using this technique with Kratos and Taro around kids and bikes - individually. I walked them around the school at the busiest times and tiny rewards for sitting and watching kids run by. I took them to a heavily bike populated area and jogging area - they were rewarded for no lunging or attempting to chase. Soon the chasing stopped, the "leave- it" command was reinforced, and the jumping stopped. However, today, I am ashamed to admit that Kratos jumped up on a little girl! Hasn't done that in AGES! I corrected him immediately - he went back on his leash for the rest of the walk around the park. Totally embarrassing I know!!

Remember that dogs aren't psychic. The worst thing you can do for your dog is keep him distant from his worst fears/triggers. You need to find a way to communicate with your dog to let him/her know what is expected of him, what is acceptable. Your dog needs you to help him build that confidence he is lacking. Remember that ingrained behaviours ( good or bad ) are like habits - very hard to break. If you have a dog that has barked its entire 8 years ( before you ) you can't expect that habit to be broken in a week or two. Building trust with your new dog is very important for confidence building, and confident dogs are usually well balanced dogs which results in a healthy, happy relationship between you and your fur buddy! If you are in a situation where you feel like you have bitten more than you can chew - start looking for an experienced trainer!

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