Mental Stimulation: Getting the best out of your dog

Did you know, boredom and excess energy are two common reasons for behaviour problems in dogs. This makes sense because they’ve been naturally bred to lead very active lives. Wild dogs spend about 80% of their waking hours hunting and scavenging for food. Domestic dogs have been helping and working alongside us for thousands of years, for tasks such as hunting, farming or protection. For example, retrievers and pointers were bred to locate and fetch game and water birds. Scent hounds, like coonhounds and beagles, were bred to find rabbits, foxes and other small prey. Dogs like German shepherds, collies, cattle dogs and sheepdogs were bred to herd livestock.

Whether dogs were working for us or scavenging on their own, their survival once depended on lots of exercise and problem solving. But what about now?Dog Resting on Floor

Today that’s changed. While we’re away at work all day, they generally have not much else to do but sleep. The result is dogs who are bored, often overweight and have too much energy. It’s a perfect recipe for behaviour problems.

How do we fix this problem?

It’s not necessary to quit your job, take up duck hunting or get yourself a bunch of sheep to keep your dog out of trouble. However, we encourage you to find ways to exercise not only their body, but their brain. And because we all lead busy lives, and can’t always hire a Dog Walker or Daycare Service, if you give your dog “jobs” to do when they’re by herself, they’ll be less likely to come up with her own ways to occupy her time, like chewing your couch, raiding the trash or eating your favourite pair of shoes.

Nik Training Dogs

We, at Dharma Dog Services, have been putting this idea to practise with our Social Club crew, with a new program called “Today We’re Working On…”. We know that all of our Social Club dogs already get an abundance of physical exercise they need, and socialisation, at our Daycare, but what about mental exercise? This where we have stepped in. The results? Some very happy, tired, well behaved dogs! And of course, happy owners!

Below you will see some of the exercises that we have been doing with our dogs. Some behavioural exercises, some fun games and tricks – both just as satisfying for you and your dog.

If you want any tips on games you can play with your dog, or leave for your dog to do whilst you are at work, let us know! Or if you have any of your own, I’d love to hear them. We’re always looking for creative ideas, and requests, that we can put into practise with our crew. Learn more about our Social Club here – or like us on Facebook for more videos & updates.

Today We’re Working On… Patience!

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…Listening!

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…Show Us Your Tricks!

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Leash Training with Dogs

Dog on Leash

Dogs are not born knowing that they shouldn’t pull ahead or lag behind on a leash. Here at Dharma Dog we understand that some people find teaching leash manners to be challenging because dogs move faster than us and are excited about exploring their surroundings, in and around Vancouver. Leashes also constrain their natural behaviours and movements, to want to run around or even to stop and sniff. The most critical thing to remember is to never allow your dog to pull. If you’re inconsistent, your dog will continue to try pulling because sometimes, it pays off.

Until your dog learns to walk without pulling, consider all walks training sessions. If you’re doing this at home, keep training sessions short for maximum concentration. And since these loose-leash training sessions will be too short and slow to provide adequate exercise, find other ways to exercise your dog until he’s mastered walking.
Teaching a dog to walk without pulling requires plenty of rewards. Use desirable treats that your dog doesn’t get at other times. Soft treats are also great to use so your dog can eat them quickly and continue training.

If your dog gets wildly excited before you’ve even left for your walk, you need to focus on that before anything else. Walk to the door and pick up the leash. If your dog races around, barks, whines, spins or jumps up, just stand completely still. Do and say absolutely nothing until your dog calms down a bit. As soon as he/or she is calm, slowly reach toward her to clip on the leash. If she starts to bounce around or jump up on you, quickly bring your hands (and the leash) back toward your body, holding constant pressure. Wait until your dog has all four paws on the floor again. Then slowly reach toward her again to attach her leash. Repeat this sequence until your dog can stand in front of you, without jumping up or running around, while you clip on her leash. This may seem like a tedious exercise at first, but if you’re consistent, your hard work will pay off. Eventually, your dog will learn to stand still while you attach her leash.

Choosing the Right Walking Equipment

While you’re teaching your dog not to pull, you should be using a six-foot cotton leash. Retractable leashes, or leashes longer than six feet in length are great for trained dogs, but they don’t work if you’re trying to teach your dog not to pull on leash.

Cotton Leash

Having a retractable leash before your dog is leash trained can cause all sorts of panic. For example, in the above scenario, if your dog is being approached by an aggressive dog, it is nearly impossible to get control of the situation if the need arises. It’s much easier to regain control of – or protect — a dog at the end of a six-foot standard flat leash than it is if he’s 20 or so feet away at the end of what amounts to a thin string. The thin string of the these leashes can also easily break, or cause burns, cuts, or injuries to the dog if jerked too suddenly.

Dogs Who Resist Walking on Leash

Some dogs may actually be reluctant to walk on leash. Instead of pulling, they freeze or turn around and pull back toward home. Often these dogs are fearful, and they need help feeling comfortable when walking on leash.

When your dog freezes, you can try stopping a few feet in front of your dog and waiting. If he shows any signs of moving toward you, say “Yes!” and reach toward him to deliver a treat, showing good behaviour. Praise and reward him only for forward movement. It will also help to walk your dog in quieter areas at first. Instead of walking on a busy road, opt for a quiet residential street or a path through the park. Even sitting on a quiet beach might do the trick to allow your dog to get used to being on leash.

Choosing the Right Dog Food

Your dog is one of the family, and when it comes to their nutrition, it can get confusing. There are so many different websites and different opinions in favor, and against, raw diets. We hear that a raw diet can relieve your dog of many allergy agents found in kibble, whereas on the other hand, we here that a raw diet has harmful side effects, such a salmonella poisoning and bacterial infections.

dog foodWhen your dog adds so much to your own life, you want to keep him/or her healthy & happy – so where do you start?

Well, it’s important to remember that dogs are individuals, just like people. This means that there is no one food that is best for every dog. It is common to find that if we were to feed a group of dogs a brand of very well formulated food, most of them may do great on it, some not as well, and it may actually cause gastrointestinal upset in a few dogs. Again, there is no single food or product that will guarantee your dog has the very best health.
But not to worry, there are many well formulated dog foods to choose from today, and it is fine to try several to determine which one works best for your dog. Below are some tips to consider when buying dog food.

1. Consider your dog’s stage of life
Make sure that the food your choice is suited to your dog’s stage of life. A puppy eating an adult food will not get the higher amounts of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals he/or she requires for proper growth. An adult dog eating puppy food is likely to become overweight. An older dog may need a senior food that is more easily digested. When it comes to nutrition, one size does not fit all.

Puppies eating nutritious food

2. Nutritional needs, and reading ingredients
People often wonder if they should feed dry food, semi-moist or canned. Although dry food is widely recommended, this is dependable on the individual dog, and you will need to consider prioritizing nutritional needs. We also have to remember that just like human food, the best-tasting food is often not the most nutritious. Usually foods with “tasty bits” are sold to satisfy the human’s emotional needs more than the dogs nutritional needs and are often the cause of obesity (a common killer of dogs).

Look at the ingredients.

High-quality ingredients are essential for a healthy food. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established guidelines for regulators to govern claims a pet food company can make on its label. If the food is said to contain a single ingredient, it must contain at least 95% of that ingredient, not including water. If a combination of ingredients is advertised, that combination has to make up at least 95% of the food. For instance, if the food claims to be made solely of beef, beef makes up 95% of the food.
Reading and trying to understand the ingredients in your dog’s food will serve as a very important stage to finding the right dog food for your pet. Reason being, is you will find that some brands of dog food are made from inexpensive ingredients that are not easily digested, and will not provide the best nutrition. While they may technically meet the legal specifications for percentages of protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc., these foods have lower energy values and lower-grade proteins. Because of this, many health-building nutrients may pass right through your dog’s system without being absorbed.

3. Take your time in switching foods
If you find that your dog is not reacting well with a certain brand or type of dog food, it is important to switch a dog to a new food over the course of 7-10 days. Make sure you allow ample time for your dog to make the transition from his current food to the new one. Normal bacteria in the intestine help your dog digest food. A sudden change in food can lead to changes in the number and type of these bacteria, making it harder for food to be digested, and resulting in intestinal upset. You can help prevent this by mixing 25% new and 75% old food, and feed that for at least 3 days. If all goes well, go to 50% of each type of food for 3 days, then 75% new and 25% old for 3 days. By now, your pet should be ready to eat only the new food. If problems occur, consult your veterinarian for advice.

Once you have found a food that is nutritionally sound and works well for your dog, take a look at your dog after he/or she has been on the new food for at least one month. Bright eyes, a shiny coat, good body condition (not too thin or overweight), and good energy will let you know you are doing a good job with your pet’s nutrition.

Brushing Your Dog and Other helpful hints.

grooming table

How to prepare your dog for the groomer?Here at Dharma Dog, we are constantly trying to teach our clients new things to help their dog be happy and comfortable when they are in their own home. Although this comes in many aspects, training and socialisation being two of those, knowing the at home care and preparation for your dog’s grooming is just as important. What many people don’t realise is that adding the simplest extra details to your dogs at home grooming, can make a life of difference to the job of your professional Groomer, and also your wallet!

The thing of it is, even if your dog has minimal hair and you do all of your dog’s grooming care yourself at home, you’re still going to want to teach him or her how to behave for the whole process, without traumatizing them. And although people may believe that this only applies to small dogs, or dogs with a lot of hair, larger & short haired dogs need just as much training than small dogs, especially while young, since it will be MUCH harder to control them once they learn to throw their weight around. It’s also important to remember to employ proper positive reinforcement techniques with larger dogs, since (especially if going to an actual Groomer) you can’t just “force” them through the process.

Rosie B&A

Below we’ve listed some tips on what you can do at home to make the transition into grooming a successful one.

General Atmosphere

Although Dharma Dog likes to keep a calm spa-like atmosphere, some grooming shops can be very noisy, busy, and filled with other dogs. Your dog will be crated when not actively being groomed, which means crate training is a necessity for dogs of all shapes and sizes. You do not want to put your dog through a traumatizing experiencing, crying at the top of its lungs trying to get out, or worse, eliminating in its kennel. This also makes the process take longer, if the dog needs to be rewashed, and therefore may end up costing you more money.

Socialization is a huge part of preparing your dog for future grooms. It’s common sense to be doing this regardless, but letting your dog experience lots of new places, people, and other dogs will help him or her enjoy the atmosphere of the Groomer as opposed to dreading it.

Bath Time

lucy before

Most likely, your dog will be put in a tub with running water out of a spray nozzle, not a filled tub. He or she will be soaked down, possibly have his or her anal glands expressed, if requested, and soaped up. Water and shampoo will be coming in contact with every inch of your dog, including his or her face, and he or she will need to be prepared to be manhandled all over.

You can help get your dog used to running water just by exposing him or her to it at a young age. Remember, though, work slow! If you go to fast and blast your dog in the face, you’re going to make them afraid and imprint them with fear. You can just set them in the tub and start the water running at bath time, or even just to practise. If you don’t want your dog getting wet, stand them where the water’s pooling a bit, and let them explore if they’re curious, and remember to praise and possibly treat for good behaviour. Remember though, if your dog gets wet, you will need to comb them as they dry, and after they’re dry, or they will mat up. Water + No Comb Out = Matted Dog!

This is also a good opportunity to try and teach your dog how to stand calmly. It’s difficult when default mode for a dog is a “sit”, because while the dog is technically being good, it’s impossible to wash and rinse a sitting dog. Work on something of a “Stand Up” command, and if your dog responds to this well ,make sure to tell your Groomer whatever word you use so that they can reinforce that behaviour. Teach your dog to stand still, then work up to standing there while you pick up and rub paws, lifting their tail, and rubbing their face – only praising them when they don’t pull away. This may take some time, and no Groomer is going to expect a puppy or new rescue to be perfect right away. However, standing still for everything is the ultimate goal.

Drying & Brushing

Whether hand drying on the grooming table, or blow-drying in the kennel, your dog will have warm, possibly loud, air blown on them during the grooming process. The easiest thing you can work on with your dog at home is by using your own hairdryer. However, please remember, whenever working with a human hairdryer and dogs, use the coolest setting. Even though dog dryers do heat up quite a bit, they don’t get nearly as hot as we use on our own hair. When working with your dog, first let them sniff the dryer and let them get used to it. Then, hold it back from them (so you don’t surprise them) and turn it on, with the air facing away. Work on letting them get used to the noise at first. Once they’re fine with that, work on slowly introducing them to the air flow.

Once your work with the dryer goes well, you can introduce a brush into the mix. Depending on your dog, your Groomer may use any number of brushes for drying, but the default would be a slicker brush, so a small, soft one is best for training. You don’t have to brush hard, just get the dog used to the feeling while having the air on them at the same time. You should already be working at home at brushing and combing your dog to keep him or her mat free. We see so many people come through and it’s simply too late to de-mat their dog, which means the Groomer has no choice but to shave out the area to save your dog the pain and stress. It is also important to remember that even if your Groomer can de-mat your dog, it does come at a hefty cost. If you start early combing your dog down to the skin, then he or she should be a pro in no time.

After your initial grooming, it’s never too soon to start brushing your dog. Don’t wait a month to start. Do it the next day. Brushing just 5 minutes a day can do wonders!

Kokonee before & after

Talking to Your Groomer

Afterall, there is only so much prep work you can do at home before bringing your dog for a haircut. No dog is perfect, and we understand this, so it’s important to discuss with your Groomer things you’ve been working on, commands you use, and most importantly, areas your dog is still having trouble.

Further to this, it is also very important to be as clear as day when discussing your dogs grooming needs with your Groomer. You don’t want anything lost in translation. If you’re trying a new Groomer, and if you have photos of how you want your dog to look, this can be very helpful. It’s also best that you fully understand the type of haircut that you would like for your dog and any implications that may occur. Overall, a good Groomer should be very knowledgeable and should be able to guide you through this process if you are not 100% sure.

Bringing up the Perfect Puppy

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Did you or your family happen to get a new puppy for Christmas? Puppies can bring the greatest of joys! The affection, and sheer innocence can brighten everyone’s day and add a sense of anticipation to return home from a long hard … Continue reading

Never Give Up-Dharma Dog Motivation

Here is a truth for all of you out there in Dharma Land… Life can be hard.

Yup, there it is, the truth and a little hard motivation.

We all have good days, and we sometimes have bad ones. Never do we ALWAYS have good or bad. It’s a big pet peeve of mine and for some reason, I feel like many of us might forget that life is supposed to be challenging. If you tear you dress, or spill wine on your shirt, or your girlfriend dumps you, do not say “Why does this always happens to me?” It doesn’t. It might seem to happen often and perhaps it happens to you more than others, however, I can guarantee that it isn’t constantly happening to you. Right this second, are you being dumped? Are you tearing your shirt? Probably not, and if so, why are you reading my blog while you’re being dumped?

Being in business is tough. It really is. It’s like an emotional roller coaster that you’re just trying to hang on to. The other day my uncle said to me “it seems like you have huge emotional peaks and a positive outlook on the business some days, and on others seem low and pessimistic.” This might ring true, but I never ever pity myself, or ask “why me?”  I answered back, “welcome to entrepreneurship.”

I am generally a very positive person, and believe that you can realistically achieve any goal you set out for yourself. I believe that there  is always a means to achieve most goals, as long as you follow a path.

I have peer in business who is a perfect example of how a negative state of mind can just crumble any momentum that you’ve built. Many times I have seen him on the verge of tears, or angry, or yelling, or complaining… Whining! “This always happens to me!” -he’ll whine to whoever listens..and not many people do. It get’s tiring. If I happen to be in his presence when he’s complaining about how things never work out for him I have three standard responses that I guarantee he probably hates hearing as much as I dislike hearing the self-pity he spews.

1. “It gets better. It always does.” – this is my go to very often, especially when I know his machinery will work, or computer’s will be repaired. The fact is, it ALWAYS GETS BETTER.

2. “What are you doing to change the problem?” – This is my response if I’ve heard him make the same complaint before. Why has he not learned to prevent the issue? Learn from your mistakes!

3. “That sucks.Now move on.” – Maybe I’m a little cold about at times, but there is literally always someone in a worse situation than yourself. Are you eating? Do you have a roof over your head? Are you alive? Do you have friends? Family? A job? Try not to focus on the hard times, rather, try to look at what’s going right.

This wasn’t much of a “dog blog” today, and I apologize for that.

Maybe this can help someone out there who just feels like life continually deals them lemons. The fact is life is dealing EVERYONE lemons. Some of us just know that you can use those lemons to your advantage.

Lemonade anyone?

Nik

lemondae

When life give you lemons…

 

What an Unpleasant Surprise (Our Dog Left Us)

We came home from dinner with the in-laws last night around 10 pm. It was a great night, great food and a little basketball to boot.

We left our dog alone for 4 hours. This is a regular occurrence, and not really out of the norm of our day-to-day lives. We usually come home to a happy dog and we are glad to see him as well.

Last night, however, was a little different.

Our dog was really happy to see us. I mean, over excited anxious kind of happy. I didn’t really think much of it at the time but it was definitely some foreshadowing for what I would discover later.

We were taking care of business, putting the baby to bed and winding down. My wife went upstairs to our bedroom where I heard gasping for air and shouting, “Gross!” She hurried down the stairs and stated dejectedly, “Theres mushy dog poop in our bedroom!”  Gross was right. I’d not really experienced this phenomena with my dog since he was a puppy so I was out of practice in regards to cleaning it without damaging our carpets further. The poor guy had an upset stomach. (He’s okay now: vet checked and approved.)

I started doing some research and came across the most effective ways to remove dog poo and dog pee out of carpet.

I’m almost embarrassed writing this but I found the information useful and decided to share the nitty-gritty with you all 🙂

Poo:

Step 1: Pick up any large chunks.

Step 2: LET IT DRY…

Step 3: When it is completely dry, use a fork (one that you’re comfortable with never ever using again) and scrape all of the dried poop OUT of your carpet.

Step 4: vacuum all of nasty dried poop.

Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4.

Step 6: With a bucket of hot water and laundry detergent, use a sponge to gently remove any discoloration.

Step 7: Repeat if necessary.

 

Pee:

Once again… I apologize for todays content.

Step 1: Use papertowel and place it on the area soaked with urine and BLOT.

Step 2: Really press down on the towel to remove ALL moisture from the carpet.

Step 3: Enzyme cleaners are the best to kill any odour or bacteria. You can find these at your local vacuum stores and many pet stores.

Step 4: After using your cleaning solution, blot again and dry.

Step 5: Use the cleaner again and cover with wax paper or cellophane to keep the area wet.

Step 6: After about two days you can expect to have fully removed the stain and killed any off-gassing odours.

Step 7: If this hasn’t help consider calling a professional carpet cleaner.

 

Good luck! I hope that this helps… Better yet, I hope that you never have to use this information 😛Image

Dog Grooming in Vancouver

I felt like writing a more personal blog today. Maybe giving our readers some insight to what goes on behind the scenes at a new dog grooming shop.

When we decided to open Dharma Dog Daycare and Grooming, it was merely a pipe dream.

I had a successful dog training  business and Joanne was working full-time in the business development center at a car dealership and teaching piano on the side.  We were busy. Very busy.

We then found out we were expecting a baby! That was definitely the best news! After much thought and soul-searching we decided that it would be best to sell my dog training business and start anew. I wanted a job/business that allowed me to leave my work at home, and as most dog trainers will tell you that cell phone doesn’t stop ringing just because you’re not training. There are constant emails, and phone calls, some very happy, some very unhappy, and that ultimately leads to a lot of stress.Believe me when I say this, dog training is up to the owner! However, many people could not seem to grasp this concept and seemed to only practice while I was with them. I found this to be rather frustrating and given my medical history I needed a less stressful career.

We sat down and really began conceptualizing our business. So we would work full-time, come home and work on our business. Day in and day out.  Now remember, Joanne was pregnant at this point. She has the greatest work ethic, and at times had to be reminded to slow down.

After finishing our planning we began the process of looking for a location. It was a frustrating experience as we felt that property managers or building owners didn’t take us as seriously due to our age. We finally found a building that we really liked and made a very serious bid for it. First week went by. Two weeks went by. Three weeks went by. Finally, a counter offer! Ouch, it was not what were hoping for.

I was really disheartened and felt like this was going to continue to be an uphill climb.

Meanwhile, Joanne continued to tell me how smelly Vegas (see pic below) was getting. I continued to balk at her and deny it completely. “He smells like a dog, silly ” was often my reply… or “he smells like roses” … this went on for a few weeks during the location search process.  Eventually, I came home to what smelled like a mix of wet dog, rotten vegetables, and dirt…It was time for Vegas to see the groomer.

We went to a local hole in the wall groom shop. Nothing fancy, in fact I disliked taking Vegas to most shops as I found them to be unorganized, loud and smelly. I preferred giving him baths at home. However, I needed to call in the big guns for this smelly dog.

While at the groomers to pick up my stressed out and tired dog, the groomer and I started to chat about the difficulties I was having finding a location. She nudged me with her elbow playfully and mentioned, “I have a second location….”

“What?! Where? How? Really?” Was my response. She began to tell me how she wasn’t able to run the second location and it ultimately was falling apart.

I was introduced to a smelly, run down little grooming shop. Now most people would have ran away. Not me. I saw the beauty and potential in the space. I shook some hands, signed a cheque, and got to renovating the very next day! This was around February 2013. One month later, we opened on the most progressive day of the year, March 4th!  We turned a rundown smelly little shop into our pride and joy: Dharma Dog Daycare & Grooming!

There is still some stress, but I think that comes with opening a new business, having a baby, getting married, and buying a house all in the same year.. but I wouldn’t change it for the world 🙂Image

 

 

Dog Friendly Summer Events in Vancouver

Growing up, I remember my mom giving me extra chores if I was to utter the phrase, “I’m bored…” and learned quickly to occupy myself with social events in order to avoid the responsibilities around the house! I wasn’t much of a bookworm, so finding out what was going on in the neighbourhood or with my circle of friends was crucial to avoid the dusting and the vacuuming, the tub scrubbing and the kitchen prep duties. Now as an adult, I can’t wait to finish the household chores so I can do the same! As my Uncle Darrell joked as he landed in Vancouver from his hometown of Charlotte, NC, “If you’re bored in this city, there’s somethin’ wrong with you!” And he’s right, we have endless opportunities to keep us entertained.

So which of these awesome things to do are pet-friendly? It’s not like we’re going to leave our favorite four legged friend at home in the overheated house or condo while we explore what Vancouver has to offer! Here’s a list of some dog friendly events coming up right in our backyard.

Tuesday July 23rd
Free Outdoor Movies at Stanley Park – Throughout the summer FreshAirCinema (The Outdoor Movie Company) will be partnering with various organizations across BC to offer FREE outdoor movie nights on massive 3 story inflatable movie screens! Today’s movie is The Breakfast Club.

Friday July 26th
Enchanted Evenings Concert Series – Enchant your evenings with the critically acclaimed concert series at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden every Friday night of July and August, 2013. Celebrate the Enchanted Evening’s 20th anniversary season with a range of musical performances including traditional Peking Opera, upcoming Jazz sensations, soulful Blues, and Afro Cuban rhythms! Tonight’s musical performance: Diane Lines Trio – American classics through the ages. Click here for ticket information.

Saturday July 27th
Celebration of Light Fireworks Celebration: (United Kingdom) – The most talked about event of the summer, the Celebration of Light is back for another year! The Vancouver summer favourite is back for its 22nd anniversary. For three nights the skies over English Bay light up in a musical pyrotechnic extravaganza.

Caribbean Days Festival – This is a weekend of tropical rhythm, cuisine, carnival and culture as only the Caribbean can offer. Over the years, the Festival has grown into the largest Caribbean event on the local calendar, Drawing tens of thousands of attendees, it is among the very largest cultural events in BC, Canada.
Sunday July 28th
Food Cart Fest – Each week over 20 food carts will be complemented by community markets, live music, DJs, craft food vendors, and kids’ activities. Food Cart Fest takes place every Sunday from 12pm-6pm at 215 West 1st Avenue (between the Cambie Street Bridge and the Olympic Village). The site is next to the Seawall and a short walk from the Canada Line’s Olympic Village Station, the Aquabus’ Spyglass Place Dock, and major bus routes along Broadway, Cambie, Main, West 2nd Avenue.
Have fun in the sun and don’t forget to check out our other blogs regarding sun safety and how to spot when your dog is showing signs of sun stroke.

How to Speak Your Dog’s Language

Your dog might not speak English, but there are many communication devices they use to let you know how they’re feeling.

Bark, bark means I’m hungry.

Bark, bark, bark means I want to go for a drive.

Whine, bark, whine means I have to go to the bathroom.

Bark, whine, whine, bark means I want to go for a walk.

Well, maybe not, but wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy!

It’s a fact that as much as we like to think we can calm our dogs down like no other, dogs will often feel more comfortable in the presence of another dog in a stressful situation. For example, during a groom.

Here are four signals you can look for that might help you understand your dog’s current frame of mind.

Let’s start with the face. When a dog is slightly stressed or hoping to calm another animal or a person down they will show many signals. One to keep an eye out for is a simple yawn. It doesn’t mean the dog is tired, it is more likely to indicate that it may be stressed out or excited. A lick of the lips is a very good indicator that the dog is potentially uncomfortable. The current situation is causing them to give this calming signal. Dogs use this to diffuse situations. A dog’s eyes are also used to do the same. Notice if they are half shut or if you can see the whites of the eyes (known as whale eye), these are all calming signals dogs use to communicate with each other.

The direction of a dog’s face and body can indicate quite a bit as well. If a dog is acting polite, they will often direct their gaze or body at an angle, to avoid direct eye contact and therefore to avoid confrontation. Many dogs have hair or fur that can raise along the spine. This is known as piloerection or raising its hackles. A dog’s hackles will be raised for a number of reasons; fear, aggression, insecurity, startled or aroused feelings, excitement, or interest. So pay particular attention to your dog when that is occurring and try to gauge why the hackles are being raised. Some dogs naturally have raised hackles like a rhodesian ridgeback.

A dog’s tail can be a huge indicator of what their state of mind is. The common misconception is that a wagging tail means a friendly dog. Wagging tail can indicate general excitement, nervousness, or happiness and other emotions. Therefore it is difficult to gauge a dog’s emotional state based on their tail movement. Try to look for things like the position of the tail. For example, if it’s straight up in the air, chances are your dog is feeling like a boss. However, if it’s tucked between their legs, chances are they are very scared or unsure. If the tail is neutral, just hanging, the dog is most likely in a calm state and does not wish to ruffle anyone’s feathers around them.

There are many other signals to look for, but the point I’m trying to make is that a dog communicates using all of these body language signals and more. While a dog may bark, whine or growl, those are not their primary communication devices. As humans are a verbal species, there tend to be many miscommunications between human to dogs. Take the time to be quiet, and simply observe what your dog is doing in order to have a better understanding of what they are trying to communicate. In no time, you will begin to see patterns in your dog’s behaviour and have a better understand of what they need.

View this YouTube video demonstrating canine communication to see how an adult dog teaches a puppy how to go down stairs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDKDC_IUnOA