Multi-mutts

Posted on February 15, 2021May 7, 2021Categories UncategorizedTags

Living with more than one dog can be challenging–especially if they don’t get along. This article will discuss how to keep your home safe, and how to keep your fur-family friendly.

My Boxer was a target for the nicest of dogs, so I wasn’t encouraging when my new boyfriend wanted to adopt a 115lb dog-aggressive Presa Canario. “You’re a dog trainer–you’ll fix him” he said. Our story has a happy ending; that man is now my husband and that dog is now a wonderfully well-behaved member of our family. It was A LOT of work, and though eventually it got easier–it was a cordial relationship–never a playful one.

Doug and Roscoe

Adult dogs are not nearly as social as they are in our fantasies. They will not necessarily readily accept having a new “friend” in their house, sharing their life. Dogs are prone to jealous behaviour, such as standing stiff between their owners and other dogs. This is one of those problematic behaviours that we accidentally or purposefully reward and strengthen. It is hard not to–it is adorable when our dogs claim us and show their affinity. Some people mistake this fear-based anxious resource guarding behaviour as protective and therefore desirable.

What is desirable is having dogs that are comfortable and safe in their own homes. We want our dogs to be able to happily and patiently watch other dogs interact with us. To follow are basic guidelines, your dogs may also require muzzle training and/or strong consideration as to whether or not you are capable of safety managing them. Please consult with a professional reward-based dog trainer to help you assess and handle your dogs.

How to bond dogs together

Walking in tandem and doing tricks together will bond your dogs. Have a partner walk one dog while you walk the other, beginning as far away as opposite sides of the street. Put your bodies between the dogs’ bodies and keep plenty of distance between you as you walk together. Let them sniff the ground near each other, but avoid on-leash interactions, keeping incidental on-leash interactions to 3 seconds max. Doing things side by side and keeping each dog under control lets them relax and get used to the other dog’s presence. Doing things side-by-side is much preferable to being face-to-face, getting all stiff and squirrelly, while we stand around waiting for something bad to happen.

When we are ready to allow dogs to get close, do so with a chain link fence between the dogs at first. Test those waters by walking the dogs along the fence line and then walking away. Keep interactions short, encouraging the dogs to move along and come back to you for reinforcement. Happily praise them the entire time that they sniff one another. If either dog appears stiff, is looking away, showing the whites of their eyes, has their ears back, or their tail tucked, immediately break off the interaction by encouraging both dogs to walk away with their handler. Follow each interaction (even stiff ones) with food rewards. To connect your food reward to the other dog, practice saying “yes” when they look at the other dog. Soon, we will delay our marker and wait until our dogs look back to us, expecting the treat. Click here for more info on using food to help dogs overcome reactivity to other dogs.

Increase your dogs’ confidence in general by learning new, fun tricks that are challenging but achievable. 10 minutes a day of teaching new tricks goes a long way toward making dogs more obedient in general but also more confident and happy. Agility and parkour are particularly effective confidence boosting activities. At first, your dogs many be afraid to go through a dark tunnel or take a leap of faith over a big jump. With your encouragement, your dogs will learn to trust you more and will feel that they know what to do and what to expect from you and from the other dog too. Let them focus on their relationship with you and recognize that the other dog is being handled by the other person–so they can just relax! Read more about how obedience training helps dogs control their fear here.

How to manage dogs in the house

Eventually, your obedience training will be so good that you can just drop them into a ‘down’ and they will be parked. For now, use your leashes to manage them in the house. It was a long time (many months) before I allowed the dogs to roam freely and interact without me structuring every move. Keep your dog on a leash and lead them directly to their spot when you come home from walks. Tie the leash to your waist or sturdy posts and keep them with you when you move around the house.

Feed dogs separately, in separate rooms or kennels is preferable, especially when the dogs are enjoying long chews/bones. Ensure that toys, treats, and chewables are kept out of their reach unless the dogs are securely separated.

Over time, you’ll be training the dogs to do more and more side-by-side, but always remember that you are better safe than sorry. Animals are unpredictable, but fights over toys and treats are easily predictable and preventable arguments. Fighting over attention requires a bit more finesse.

Training dogs to wait their turn for your attention

At first, we will train each dog separately, accomplish this by training with a partner or by taking one dog to a quiet room to train alone while the other enjoys a long chew. Once we have the basics, especially holding their ‘down‘ position, we can progress to alternating training 2 dogs in the same room, taking increasingly longer turns between dogs. Finally, we want to handle and interact with all of our dogs at once.

Each dog should have a ’spot/place’ (this could be a dog bed, a kennel, or a pedestal). Teach them to stay there. Encourage your dogs to lie down as much as possible. Accomplish this by delivering food to them, dropping it on the ground between their forearms often enough that they don’t want to move. As I mentioned, at first you may need to tether leashes to something solid–like another person.

Have your partner stand right next to dog #1’s spot and deliver food as often as needed while you get dog #2 onto their spot. Just as we might proof any distraction, we will get the dogs used to seeing us walk over to our other dog, working up to seeing us give them treats, to asking them to get up, to performing a single trick, to performing multiple tricks before returning to them to reinforce them for being such a gracious and patient audience. We will only progress as fast as the dogs are comfortable holding their positions. Once it seems like your partner is not really helping at all and you are able to return back and forth between dogs without the dogs popping up, your partner can start backing away and only step forward to help dog #1 back to position if needed. More and more, the dogs are being handled by just one person who goes back and forth between the dogs. Finally, you’ll invite both dogs to perform tricks side-by-side for one handler.

Leap Dog is a fun trick for multiple dogs


Please enjoy a couple of double-dog tricks, featuring Doug and Roscoe. Notice that in all our videos, there is always a dog lying down, patiently waiting for their turn. The dog that is waiting is still working and is still earning praise and treats for waiting, and that allows them to enjoy it and to feel secure watching the other dog earn rewards too, especially affection from me.

Peek-a-boo!

New Puppy in the house?

A common situation is an older dog being forced to accept a rambunctious new puppy. Don’t leave it up to your older dog to teach your puppy how to play gently and respectfully–that leads to vet bills and lousy relationships. Keep your new puppy on a leash and let your older dog come to them–if they want to. Let your older dog realize that interactions with puppy are always followed by tasty treats from you.

Feeding your older dog after puppy gets in their face accomplishes two things. 1: Your older dog will like your puppy more. 2: Your older dog will come looking to you for treats when puppy is annoying. Your older dog tattling on puppy to you is certainly preferable to them attacking the puppy. Interactions between dogs should be surrounded by praise and rewards coming from us, not us tensely saying “No!” as they interact while still letting things escalate to fights. Don’t be afraid to use your leash in the house, it may seem like too simple of a solution, but it works. Your older dog should not be expected to tolerate a puppy charging all over them all day.

Let your older dog realize that if puppy gets rough, you will be there to remove them. Teach your puppy to respect your older dog’s lip curls, growls, and other requests for space like walking away by encouraging puppy to move along. Never chastise the communication of your older dog. We want our older dog to express just how much puppy they can tolerate, and then we step in to make sure puppy doesn’t push it any farther than that. The sooner your new puppy learns basic obedience, the sooner you can ditch the leash and simply tell puppy how to act around your dog, finally enjoying a sense of normalcy.

How to recognize normal dog play

Service Dog Laws in British Columbia.

Posted on February 1, 2021May 7, 2021Categories UncategorizedTags , , , , , ,

There has been a lot of confusion over service dog laws in BC.

Some people think that a service dog isn’t legal unless they have a BC certification. This is wrong! A visitor from Ontario, for example, wouldn’t have BC certification, would they? But they still have a right to bring their service dog with them.

We hope this video we made will help clear up some of the confusion.

Please like and share to help raise awareness and understanding!

Best of the Barking Butler

Posted on March 19, 2020May 7, 2021Categories Assistance Dog Skills, Great Tricks, Training Methods, Uncategorized, VideosTags , , , , , , , , ,

Have you ever wished your dog could pass your husband that wrench? Or that you could send your dog to the garden with a note for mother? One of the best tricks you can teach your barking butler is to deliver objects to targets. In this article, we will go through the 3 simple steps it takes to teach your dog to deliver an object to another person.

Roscoe learns to deliver an object between 2 people

Teach ‘take it to mom/dad’

Pre-requisite training: Retrieving is required, knowing names is helpful too.

Step 1: Stand 8 ft apart from your partner. The sender has the dog retrieve an easy item like a glove by handing it to them or tossing it on the ground. The sender cues ‘get it,’ but as the dog comes to deliver it, the sender points and says ‘take it to (name).’

Step 2: Now the sender must be quiet and let the receiver do the talking. Sender stands still and stares at the receiver while they ask the dog to ‘bring it here.’ The sender cannot offer any further encouragement, nor should they cue the dog again. This is key. If the sender keeps talking, the dog won’t stop looking at them and go off to the receiver.

Step 3: Fade the hint by waiting 2 full seconds after the sender says “take it to-” before helping. Your dog will already be on their way over most of the time, and will require less and less encouragement from the receiver.

Simple as 1-2-3! Now you can try new objects and locations. Increase distance until the dog can deliver to someone in another room without the receiver helping at all.

Troubleshooting

Near the end of the video I left some demonstrations of how to handle setbacks, such as the dog dropping the item either halfway there or just as they deliver it. At one point Roscoe simply trots off without ever getting the item.

The person who is to receive the delivery is the person who needs to encourage the retrieve. The sender must always remain silent after giving the ‘take it to’ cue.

If the dog drops the item, ask them to retrieve it again rather than picking it up yourself.

If the ‘get it’ is a complete fail to begin with (as in the case that they march off with nothing), then the sender will have to call the dog back to start over, but once the dog has the item, the sender must stay silent.

Enjoy your dog’s new skill!

Move over, Lassie, here comes my dog, and he’s got a message for you and my mom! (that he’s the bestest boy there is).

New Puppy? This is priority 1

Posted on February 9, 2019April 12, 2021Categories Kids and Pets, Puppyhood, UncategorizedTags

Socialization and Conditioning

Ensuring your puppy is adequately socialized and conditioned to accept and enjoy the oddities, stressors, and changes in life is among the most urgent training tasks you must accomplish NOW, before your puppy reaches 16 weeks of age.

This critical period cannot be missed. Your puppy must have a wide array of pleasant experiences with people of all kinds, and dogs of every age and breed. You’ll need to find nice cats to mingle with, and don’t forget the cows, pigs, goats, birds, and rabbits, as many species as possible, especially the ones your dog is likely to encounter in their lifetime. Your puppy will need to meet kids and babies in a controlled setting with gentle, controlled kids. Your puppy will need to learn to love being alone, bandaged, handled, groomed, and examined by the vet too. You’ll need to accomplish all this, and much more, by the time your puppy is 16 weeks old.

But What About The Vaccinations?

Yes, you should socialize your puppy BEFORE their shots are complete. I refer you to the AVSAB Puppy Socialization Position Statement and I encourage you to socialize early. Your 8-week-old puppy may already be woefully behind if they were raised in a barn, kennel, or any space separated from the hustle and bustle of the kind of environment you intend for them to cope with. Good breeders have a single litter raised in their kitchen and they purposefully expose puppies to varied stimuli.

What’s the risk?

Under socialized dogs are fearful of new situations. Failure to socialize will mean that interactions with strangers will be terrifying rather than joyful. Being groomed will be a stressful nightmare that repeats each month rather than a lovely ‘spa day’ treat. Your dog will shudder and run at the sound of loud trucks, fireworks, and thunderstorms, and shriek with fear on Halloween, making them more likely to run away and/or get lost and/or struck by a vehicle. They will bark at the vacuum, men with canes, and people who use wheelchairs. You dog may snap or bite when a child unexpectedly pokes them or tugs their tail. Indeed, socialization is a life and death matter.

How to socialize safely

It isn’t good enough to simply take your puppy everywhere and meet as many people as possible. Good socialization is pleasant, low stress, and low risk. We want your puppy to LOVE kids, to LOVE being groomed, to LOVE the world they live in. The best way to ensure that your puppy loves the new friends they meet, becomes confident with the surfaces they walk on, and learns to accept their time spent alone happily is to pair these new things with treats. Offering your puppy a tasty treat, a toy you know they love, pets, and praise when they bravely explore the world will help your puppy make positive associations to potentially scary stimuli like people wearing Halloween masks, screaming children running by, skateboards, clanging pans, and gunfire.

Allow your puppy to approach and explore at their own pace, never force or try to ‘flood’ your puppy by remaining too long, too close, or in too intense of a situation for your puppy to be comfortable. Meet only friendly, vaccinated, gentle dogs. Socializing with puppies of similar age is very important for bite inhibition. Attending a well-run puppy class well before your puppy is 14 weeks of age will allow your puppy to socialize in a relatively sterile environment and minimize the risk of contracting parvovirus. You should continue to reward and encourage friendly, playful behaviour throughout adolescence.

Going to puppy play school is fun!

Classical conditioning is the learning process that allows us to ensure that dogs make positive associations. Pair great things like treats with potentially irritating, scary, or loud things like truck backfires, kennel time, wearing garments like boots, umbrellas opening, getting accidentally stepped on, things falling on the ground, children screaming etc.

Parvo is transmitted through feces, so inviting a friend over to your clean, fenced yard to play is a great idea.

Prevent resource guarding

Do not constantly put your hand in your dog’s dish or take away their bones and toys to teach them to “get used to it”.

  1. Make a few positive associations so that your dog loves having you near their dish. Toss liver treats into your puppy’s dish of kibble. Take the dish away and add more liver before returning it.
  2. Make a few good trades so that your puppy learns to eagerly give up prized possessions when asked. An old toy for this fresh bone, sure!
  3. And then, just leave your puppy alone most of the time to eat, chew, and sleep in peace.  

Socializing with dogs

Don’t just toss them into the dog park. Choosing playmates that are well-matched is important. We want our puppies to meet a good variety of dogs but all of them should be puppy-friendly and vaccinated. Playmates of the same age are particularly great for burning off playful energy. The sensitive period for socialization is a time when puppies are primed to accept novelty but they are also primed to be negatively impacted by traumatic experiences. They are learning about the world and we want them to learn that the world is safe.

Socializing with kids

It is of the utmost importance that children are NEVER left alone with dogs or puppies, and that parents and kids take responsibility for learning, reading, and respecting canine body language.

Rewarding puppies with treats, praise, and petting when they see, hear, or are touched by kids can help. Being around kids should be wonderful, try not to scold or punish puppies too much around kids. Instead, expect that without guidance, your puppy will be a puppy. They will run around jumping, kissing, nipping, chasing, barking, and generally be a puppy. Be proactive, use your leash, treats, and obedience training to teach your pup how to interact calmly and appropriately in the first place so that everyone can have a great experience.

Allow them to communicate (even if that means growling!) to prevent and avoid bites. If your puppy seems uncomfortable, stop socializing. Dogs need an escape route and a responsible adult to look out for their signs of discomfort. Make sure your socialization protocol is safe, stress free, and rewarding for your new puppy.

Teach kids to stroke dogs on the back and to avoid touching their head, face, feet, ears, and tails. 1 child at a time petting for 3 seconds at a time is a good rule of thumb. After 3 seconds, ask kids to back away to check if the puppy still comes to them for more.

Watch our video on introducing your puppy to touch, handling, and grooming tools

Check out this great socialization checklist from Dr. Sophia Yin

Well, you’ve got your work cut out for you so get out there and have fun socializing your puppy!