Friday, May 31, 2019

Dogs & Kids: Assume they aren't listening ...

Assume the worst. Assume they know nothing. Assume they do not absorb anything. ... I'm of course talking about the kids! I had a recent picture I posted on my Facebook timeline of my refrigerator which adorns many things but one of them is a set of kid and dog posters. I leave these up, they are laminated and stay there at all times. I do this because kids should never be given as much credit as "oh they know they shouldn't do that ... or they know they should do this ..."

When you work with kids and dogs you need to assume that your child needs to be reminded, molded and trained daily just like your dog does. Just because you showed your child, or told them, once that pulling Fido's tail isn't nice doesn't mean they will think about this each and every time they come near a dog.

It's really important that kids are reminded often and given opportunities to practice what they have been previously taught. I have 3 kids –– a 10 year old and a set of 6 year old twins. The 10 year old is definitely getting better about having to be reminded and having to practice as much education on dog behavior and body language than my 6 year olds. However, that's because I've been doing this with her for a long time. 

I'm a Certified Dog Trainer, a licensed Family Paws Parent Educator and a trainer with The Family dog. However, this doesn't exempt me from teaching and training my kids all the time on dog behavior and body language. 

Download on my website
Each dog we encounter is a learning opportunity. I will stop and say "what does that dog seem to be feeling?" "What body language can you identify?" "Do you think he wants to be approached or left alone?" It's so important that parents understand that dogs are sentient beings and can change from one minute to the next just like children ... and adults! This means we need to always be aware of what a dog is "saying" or trying to "say" with its body language and actions. This is how we make Dog Aware Generations –– generations of kids that learn how to always read a dog and stop and think before acting. This will almost always ensure safety and a pleasurable experience for both dog and child. 

So be sure you are practicing educating your children on canine body language and what their actions may mean. But don't stop at one lesson. Use dogs you see or are around as learning opportunities, use your own dog as a learning tool. Go over pictures of dogs and their body language. Do this as often as you can. Learning is on-going!

I have several resources on my website for kid and dog education and training. One of my favorites is the poster above for kids that is from stopthe77.com and The Family Dog.

Copyright© 2019. All rights reserved. 
–––––––––––––––––––––
Stacy Greer, CPDT-KA
Sunshine Dog Training & Behavior
sunshinedog.com 
servicing Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas

Monday, May 13, 2019

I'm a professional dog trainer & I don't walk my dogs.


I’ve wanted to say this out loud for so long, so I’ll say it again … I don’t walk my dogs and I’m a professional dog trainer. Oh sure I have walked my dogs –– gone on hikes, in public places, at events, at [training] classes … but regular, daily exercise such as walks down my street –– nope. My dogs don’t get those types of walks. 

This blog post may compliment my blog post from quite a while back titled “Stop walking your dog.” If you’ve not read that you should read it when you have a moment, it’s lengthy but full of lots of great information and resources.

So, back to the topic of this post—My dogs and their lack of getting daily walks. Yeah. I know I must be a lazy dog owner right? … or maybe just a terrible dog owner—gasp! My dogs must be sad and fat, right? Actually, my dogs are quite the opposite of either of those. In the past 15 years I’ve had 5 personal dogs –– a Great Dane, a Labrador Retriever, a Jack Russell Terrier, an Australian Shepherd and a Beagle.  None of them receive(d) regular daily walks. (I currently have the Aussie and the Beagle as the others have passed.)

Each of my dogs has (had) a fulfilled life because they are (were) mentally engaged far more than the average dog. They have (had) a lovely balance of, I’d say about 90% mental exercise and 10% physical exercise. Well, my Great Dane had only about 1% physical exercise, his choice completely of course! That guy adorned a couch far better than any throw blanket ever could! Alas, I digress . . .

Let's get something straight first  exercising your dog is not wrong and it is definitely beneficial to your dog. Hey, every living creature needs to get physically active in some way, including humans, right?! So, I'm not advocating for people to never exercise their dogs. I'm simply stating that exercise isn't the "fix" that so many dog owners have been led to believe it is. This includes behavior problems as well as weight problems. Yup. That's a whole other topic in itself (weight problems in healthy dogs). So, I'll save that for a different blog post.

The issue with most dogs today is that they are not mentally stimulated properly and/or enough. Yet, is has been drilled into dog owners’ heads that physical exercise will fix all the things!  In fact, I find this to be such a myth it’s becoming a problem in the sense that people are trying to exercise their dogs to fix behavior issues and missing the boat completely. Of course, this isn’t by a fault of the owner. I get it. It’s been so ingrained in people’s minds that “an exercised dog is a tired dog and a tired dog is a good dog” that dog owners are attempting to achieve this, mostly with minimal success.

What I see most of today in the dogs I work with are stressed dogs, dogs riddled with anxiety, dogs with lack of boundaries and training, and dogs not set up to have their brains enriched in the way that they should. Please don't read this as me stating that dogs aren't being cared for properly. I'm simply stating what I see a lot of. Most, if not all of it, is by no fault of the dog's owner. People don't know what they don't know –– this is why I write this blog ... and now do free webinars on my Facebook page!

I see people who want to put forth all the time and energy to exercise their dogs. So much so that they almost have a resistance to setting up enrichment and would rather get out and walk or run their dogs. For some I know that it's the dog owner who sees it as a way for them to get out and exercise, and that's totally fine. It really is. Again, there is nothing wrong with exercising your dog or yourself! Obviously exercise is in fact important.

But what I often see are humans who are walking their dogs because they think if they don't they are a bad dog owner, or the dog won't be fulfilled, or the dog's behavior issues will be worse or, or, or ... The guilt of not walking their dog forces them to do it. I see a lot of dog owners who would quite honestly rather not walk their dog. So if that's you, then this is directed at you. You don't have to do it. 

If you find solace in it or feel like it's something you really have to do, by all means do it! Also, I'm not stating you shouldn't walk your dog. I'm only stating that I don't personally walk mine and if you wish you could just not walk yours, I say –– then don't!

Guess what? You don't have to walk your dog. You can stop walking your dog if it’s stressing you out and/or if it’s stressing your dog out. Stop if it’s not helping the issues you thought it would help. Stop if you dread it. Just stop if you just don’t feel like doing it that day, or every day. Just don’t. And don't feel guilty about it. It's going to be alright! You can make up for it in so many other ways. I promise!

WHAT YOU CAN DO INSTEAD OF DAILY WALKS

1. Train your dog
 in your home or in a group class outside of your home. Maintain the training. Do it regularly, not just one class here or there. A trained dog is a good dog, even better than a tired dog ... because a trained dog is a tired dog!

2. Take your dog camping or hiking 
as you see fit (if it suits you or your schedule). I know that hiking is exercise but it's not a daily walk in your 'hood. This is actually a great form of enrichment for dogs that would be suited for this.

3. Play with your dog.
 Tug? Ball? Fetch? Play with your dog is great, even better if you incorporate some impulse control exercises (drop, go get it, sit, etc.) in with the play.

4. Provide mental enrichment & stimulation
 (see my blog post on this) This is your golden goose right here, and there are soooo many ways you can enrich your dog. My blog post explains many different ways to do this.

5. Work on relaxation exercises.
 Teach your dog to chill. (Great read on this here.) Many dogs that are amped up or energetic need more downtime not more exercise. I actually go into great detail in another blog post I wrote on this. You can read it here.

6. Let your dog sleep. Most dogs don't get enough sleep, just like humans! Did you know that dogs should sleep 16-18 hours a day?! Interesting read on sleep in dogs here.

So, see. You're not a bad owner if you don't walk your dog regularly. There are tons of ways to meet your dog's needs. But, again, if you do enjoy walking daily or weekly with your dog by all means do that. Just note that adding in some of the above things to your dog's exercise routine will have increasingly great outcomes for your dog's mental and behavioral health!





Copyright© 2019. All rights reserved. 
–––––––––––––––––––––
Stacy Greer, CPDT-KA
Sunshine Dog Training & Behavior
servicing Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas