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!

Click here to view Video (1)
Click here to view Video (2)

…Listening!

Click here to view Video (1)

…Show Us Your Tricks!

Click here to view Video (1)
Click here to view Video (2)

Kennels, Sitting, Boarding? – Oh my!

If you’re planning on heading away from Vancouver, and haven’t used a pet boarding facility before, we understand that the process might be a little over-whelming and even worrying for some dog owners. While some facilities still favor the long rows of kennels — where your pet may also have access to a small outdoor run — there are many other options. Here at Dharma Dog, although not bias, we are on team In-Home Boarding!

Below, I will discuss the different options of Pet Boarding, and what may or may not be suitable for your furry family member.

Dog Kennels/Catteries

Happy Dog in a Kennel

If your pet is crate trained, then staying in a crate or kennel will probably make your dog feel ­more secure while away from home. But for pets that aren’t crate trained, staying in a crate or kennel can be more stressful then anything, and may entice your dog to feel like they are trapped. Some boarding facilities keep the pets all together in large rooms, where the animals can interact with each other and socialize, similar to a daycare facility. It is important to ensure that your dogs temperament is suitable for this environment. If your dog is already attending a daycare or Social Club environment during the day, ensure to ask the Office Assistant how they react when left alone, and how they react at the end of their day – Remembering that your dog will not be picked up at the end of each day and may be kept in that environment for a few days, to a few weeks depending on your vacation.

Pet Sitting

There are multiple ways you can use a Pet Sitter in Vancouver. Deciding whether you want a sitter to feed, walk and be available for playtime only is a solid option. Another popular option is to have the Pet Sitter stay in your house, mixing House-Sitting & Pet-Sitting in one. It is easy to think that your dog will be comfortable in his/or her own environment at home, which is extremely true for some dogs, but you also have to consider your dogs need to protect. Having a stranger visit, or live, in your dogs environment can cause your dog to become very territorial, and may make the Pet Sitters stay difficult, and possibly even dangerous. Before you leave on Vacation ensure that you introduce your Pet Sitter to your dogs, maybe even on multiple occasions. Another good option is to schedule a few Dog Walking sessions with your Pet Sitter and dog. This Dog Happy in his bedwill allow your dog to get to know the person looking after him or/her whilst you’re away, and be comfortable around their presence.

In-Home Pet Boarding

While enlisting a pet sitter is a good option, so is in-home pet boarding. In-home boarding involves your dog staying at a pet sitter’s own home while you’re on vacation and can be a great option for dogs who require a lot of attention and love from their Pet Sitters. Unlike Kennels, and hiring a Pet Sitter for visits only, most in-home pet boarding services act like a fun & playful getaway for your dog. Many boarding services will also allow many different placement options for your dog. For example, if you live in an apartment with a low-energy dog, then it’s likely that your pooch will be set up in a similar environment. If your dog is used to having a large backyard with lots of exercise & a furry friend, same goes. Although, in-home pet boarding is our favourite option here at Dharma Dog, we can’t be biased. The main worry with in-home pet boarding can be separation anxiety.
Although anxiety may occur no matter which option you choose, you need to take the right precautionary steps before choosing this option. Just like Pet Sitting, maybe consider introducing your dog to your in-home boarding sitters before you leave. It might also be a good idea to leave your dog with a friend, and let them report back to see how they reacted for the night.

Once you’ve donDog on a vacation, sitting by the poole your homework on potential options, often the best way to select a facility is by asking questions. Find out about the facilities processes, find referrals, reviews and recommendations. And at the end of the day, if you trust your instincts, I’m sure you and your furry friend will have a wonderful & relaxing vacation.

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.

Vancouver’s Best Dog Trainers

Here is my list of Vancouver’s best dog trainers.

This list will be a little biased because I will most definitely include myself 😉

I’m comfortable writing a list like this because we all have a little something to offer. Although I am confident in my abilities to teach and help rehabilitate dogs, I only offer one on one services. This may not be the right fit for some of you. There are also circumstances where I will help you learn to understand your dog better, but you may desire a group setting where you can work on agility!

Here are a few of my favourite Vancouver based dog trainers in no particular order.

Shannon Malmberg  from Zen Dog

Shannon is pleasant to speak with and is extremely knowledgeable. She offers a large group class or private consults if necessary.

Donna Hall From Hot Diggity Dog

Donna is a clicker training wiz and a really nice person who truly cares about the dogs she works with. She’s also a pretty decent poker player 🙂 Unfortunately she’ll be moving to Victoria! : (

Shelagh Begg from Dizine Canine

If you have a “bully breed” she’s an excellent choice!

Dog Smart is an alternative that offers long term training for those of you that feel you’d like constant guidance. Class settings, clicker training and a cool store.

I may as well include Dharma Dog! Call 604-327-3649 or email us at: info@dharmadogservices.com

As a certified behaviour specialist  and member of CAPPDT and of the APDT  I offer a variety of methods but really focus on the natural communication of dogs and learning how to build a lasting bond with them. I believe in a hands off approach and really focus on teaching you to better understand your dog. Recently I made a video of a leash training session.

Dog trainer vancouver

Dog Trainer Nik Fabisiak and his trusty sidekick Vegas

Good luck on your search for a dog trainer, but remember, it’s all about finding someone that you’re comfortable with and willing to follow their direction.

P.S. If your dog trainer makes you fee small and dumb for asking questions I suggest you fire them! No room for ego in any industry, especially dog training! 😉

 

Have fun!

 

Nik

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Dog Boarding Tips

Top 10 Dog Boarding Tips

It’s all too often that we get a phone call here at Dharma Dog Services with a panicked voice at the other end of the line “Can you take my dog?! Something has come up and we have no one to watch him! ”  Most of the time we will make every effort to accommodate, and if for whatever reason we can’t help directly, we will find you an alternative!

So here are some tips to ensure you are not only making sure that you can book your dog, but that you are choosing a quality service.

1. Book In Advance! 

Especially during the holiday seasons; Winter Holidays, Spring Break, Summer, or any long weekends. We have been nearly booked up for the summer for a couple of months now!

2. Do Your Research

Reading this blog is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s important to research a few places so you can compare the level of care, prices, and environment.

3. To Kennel,Board, or pet sit. 

Each option has it’s merits, however, each is very different.

Kenneling is often just that, kenneling! A dog will remain in a kennel through out the day and receive three 20 minutes walks. The price is significantly lower than the other options, but it is easily my least favourite. Price range: $15-30

Boarding involves bringing a dog into an open environment, often in another home. it’s much like a temporary foster situation. The dog will receive ample attention and is treating like one of the family. Lots of exercise and open air runs! This option is my FAVOURITE!  Price Range: $40-65

Pet Sitting is another alternative that is pretty good. It involves having your dog care professional stay at your house! The dog’s life will literally be the exact same except that he will have a replacement house keeper 😉 Cost:$55-125

4. Pack Carefully:

Be sure to provide the exact amount of food plus a little extra for the length of the stay. Bedding if necessary, I often suggest packing a t-shirt of some sort with your scent on it, and a toy! Just remember that toys get lost in the shuffle at times and it’s likely that the facility that you choose to hire will have some provided. If you have medicine for the dog be sure to write the instructions VERY specifically.

5. Email Updates

Email updates are a great way to keep track of your dog. If you’d like videos, emails, or pictures be sure to emphasize this to your facility of choice. Some places offer this as a free services, while others have it as an a la carte option

6. Cleanliness

Don’t trust a place that smells of dog pee! A little smell is no big deal, but just remember that if it smells of urine strongly, chances are their cleaning procedures aren’t up to snuff. If you notice a ton of fur on the ground, or dirt everywhere, they are probably not cleaning to the health standards you should expect.

7. Trustworthiness

as for reviews, letters of reference, or speak to your animal care professionals to get a good idea of a places reputation.

8. Exercise

How much exercise do they offer? Are there hikes?Play time? Socialization? Ask away, you may be shocked to find the truth.

9. Insurance

Are they insured? If anything happens to your dog who is liable? Great questions to ask?

10. FUN!

I seem to end all of my advice posts the same way. The main thing is that your dog has fun! Is at peace, and gets to relax while your away.

 

 

Warm regards,

dharma dog daycare

Yay work!

 

Nik

 

Dog Eat Dog

I am feeling a tremendous amount of pressure these days.

We are developing our dog walking program and really want it to be a smooth transition. We have a new website in the works www.dharmadogservices.com and it looks great! I can’t wait to release it.

We have our Coconut oil on the shelves and I couldn’t be happier about offering such a fantastic product.

We are launching our treats in the next few weeks too!

We will be carrying a selection of raw food for all of you purists out there’s as well.

We have two of the best groomers in Vancouver.

I have loads of experience and I continue to learn as much as possible about dogs and their world.

Our dog training program starts in July.

So why am I feeling so much pressure? It would seem that it’s self imposed and I suppose that’s normal.

Todays blog is cathartic and will allow me to vent a bit.

All of this pressure that I feel is because I truly want to offer a top-notch service.  I guess when it comes down to it, all of the planning and dreams mean nothing unless you can execute. Argh…. Well, stick with us to see if we can pull it off 🙂

dogs waiting for treats

Waiting in line for treats

Sorry for the short narcissitic post today.

Nik

 

How To Train Your Dog

How to train your dog? Well, the answer is not going to be what you’d like to hear. Or maybe you’ve already come to expect it.

Training your dog is all relative. It depends on so many factors and it would take a while to even begin to explain. I’m here to be informative in an abbreviated form today. I am often asked a variety of dog training questions by nearly every dog owner when they first meet me. “How do I get my dog to stop barking at everything?” is a very common question. Sometimes I’m asked “How do I get my dog to come back when I call him?” My answer is often very similar and almost always greeted with frustration or dissapointment. Some people will understand and dive right in learning as much about their fuzzy friends communication as they can. My answer is this “Each dog is different. I’ll have to ask you few questions to establish your dogs temperament, and really get to the route of the problem.”

That’s right, I answer thir questions with more questions! Those that care to listen will succeed, those that want the easy answer are not as close to allevaiting their dogs behaviour problems as they hoped.

My goal as a behaviourist is simple; Help humans learn to communicate clearly with their dog. Not the other way around. If you spoke English your entire life and I tried to teach you a listen but spoke only in Spanish, how successful do you think our lesson would be? Maybe you would learn eventually, but chances are you’d have to learn to understand Spanish first and that would likely take some time. My approach with dogs is similar. As humans we speak countless languages and have variety of dialects. Yet, we expext dogs to be able to learn them all. While dogs are able to demonstrate an ability to form word associations. a great example is this border collie who has roughly the same ability to understand human language as your average 3 year old human. But, that’s just it, your average 3 year old has a limited vocabulary! So do dogs.

Dogs speak an entirely different language that is much easier for us humans to learn. It’s made up of mainly body language and tiny cues that when trained to see can make a ton of sense.

So, when you ask me “How do I train my dog?”

Expect me to train you!

 

Warm regards,

Dog trainer vancouver

Dog Trainer Nik Fabisiak and his trusty sidekick Vegas

 

Nik

The Day My Dog Let Me Down

The day my dog let me down was an eye-opening experience. You see, I often hear clients, friends, family members, or people I meet walking their dogs complain of their dogs lack of perfection. I’m guilty at times of the same complaint. This story may help you ease up on your four-legged friend.

A few years ago I went through a life changing physical ailment. As many of my loyal readers will know I went through a couple of brain surgeries as a result of a tumour. I also had to go through radiation therapy. It was really at this stage of my life that I knew I had a passion to work with dogs and really began to find a path for myself.

While undergoing radiation therapy I became very weak. I was determined not to believe that I was weak and would often fight through the fatigue, sickness, and pain. In the early stages of treatment I went to gym EVERYDAY. Now, I’m not sure what I was trying to prove but for some reason I would haul my weak ass out to gym, pale-faced and all and try to ride the exercise bike. I couldn’t even last 5 minutes. My goal wasn’t a marathon or to set any records, my goal was to last 20 minutes on that bloody stationary bike. I worked at it and struggled through the motions. Each stride took more effort than the last but I eventually achieved my goal. It took a few weeks and I still don’t know why it was important to me to prove that I was physically okay. After each session at the gym I’d drink a chocolate milk and walk home. Well, one day I just couldn’t do it. I looked at the kilometer walk to the gym as an incredibly daunting task. I just couldn’t imagine torturing myself with the walk to and from the gym just to ride a bike… it didn’t make sense to me anymore.  It was at this time that I befriended a family members dog named Buddy. Buddy was an old husky /german shepherd mutt with attitude. He was old but playful and loved going on walks. Buddy was also extremely protective and could really be counted on as your “right hand man”.

I developed a real bond with Buddy and we would go on a daily walk after my radiation therapy to the park. He and I would sit side by side on the ground and just stare of in the distance at the mountain view. Sometimes I’d have a coffee or tea. It was a really peaceful time of my life amid all of the fear, stress, and confusion of going through the illness.

I grew to really feel that Buddy had my back! So even though I weak and vulnerable I always felt secure.

One day on one of our walks through the east side we came across quite a commotion, and Buddy was on high alert! We came across an elderly chinese woman yelling and being yelled at by two women who looked like they were on or had been on a variety of drugs.  In my normal state of being when I am healthy I’d have no problem stepping up to them and protecting the old woman. But,  I was not normal. I could barely handle a 20 minute bike ride at the gym. My legs felt like lead. So did my arms. My head was spinning. I was a shell of my normal self. I thought it through, and made brief eye contact with Buddy. He had my back. I knew it. So I mustered up my courage and made my way over to the women and shouted weakly ” Hey, leave her alone and just go!”  I think that I may have caught them off guard because they stopped swearing at the old woman. They eventually cursed some profanities at me and said something to the effect of “Don’t be a hero”

Well, I was determined to be a hero. Big mistake. The two women started making their way towards Buddy and me.I glanced down at him and he looked poised and ready to go. This was it. He gave them a snarl and with that I suddenly felt very secure.

The ladies continued to curse me as the came near and I didn’t like the looks of what was in their hands. Out of nowhere a brick came flying at us! But it wasn’t from the menacing women it was thrown by the old chinese woman from the top of her stairs! Now she was feeling brave and continued to yell very quickly in mandarin so I have no clue as to what she was saying but it definitely sounded angry!

The other two ladies were now near enough that they had their anger focused at me. I let go of the snarling Buddy to take them on and hopefully run them off. He gave one final growl… and then started wagging his behind. He became friendly with them! sigh. So much for my loyal “protector”. I successfully chased them off on my own, but not before they got to pet Buddy.  The police showed up shortly afterwards and I had to give a statement. I was seething. Why did he let me down? I just couldn’t understand. After going through all of the motions of ferocity he dropped the ball. Or did I just misunderstand him?

Once home and having the chance to reflect, I realized that perhaps I placed these large expectations on him with out ever truly taking the time to teach him. Buddy died a few months after that having suffered with a tumour himself. I miss that guy.

I adopted Vegas a few months afterward and spent hours of one on one time training him.

So just remember, that for all of the lofty expectations we have on our dogs, how much time, and I mean really, have we spent teaching them?

Nik

bad dog?

This owner is scolding her dog

Bark! Understand why your dog appears to bark unnecessarily

To understand why your dog barks unnecessarily is a tricky subject.

Barking is something dogs often do to sound the alarm of a potential threat (in his mind).  Unfortunately for you and your neighbours, these ‘threats’ can include squirrels, birds, people or dogs walking by, noises, the garbage man, etc. Dogs may also bark when excited to initiate play, however this isn’t the focus of this blog.

 

A dog that barks at everyday occurrences is not a good watchdog. A dog like this is similar to a car alarm that keeps going off for no reason. People will eventually take no notice, even when he barks for a legitimate reason. He will only annoy the entire neighbourhood.

A good watchdog is one that barks only when something out of the ordinary happens; when someone attempts to enter your property or when there is imminent danger like a house fire.  Dogs naturally protect their territory but you need to teach him what is not a threat to you, your family or the territory.

 

Dogs that bark a lot can be of various personality types.  The very confident dog will feel it is his duty to ward off everything and everybody from his turf.  He is insistent in his warnings and is vigilant in keeping things away.  The timid or fearful dog may be very worried about these scary threats, as he feels vulnerable. He will do everything in his power to keep them from approaching his domain so he or his pack isn’t hurt.  This can even escalates into growling and biting.

 

 

A dog may also be barking to call the pack back to him (separation anxiety) as he is worried for his safety and that of the pack.

 

These are all natural survival instincts for dogs.  Since they are dogs living in a human society, we need to teach them in their own language what warrants concern, what is acceptable barking, and what is not.

 

Things that you can put in place to help the situation include:

 

Don’t react to your dog every time he barks by calling him, going to him, or yelling at him.  You are only reinforcing his ‘calling of the pack’ responsibility.

Provide a safe place for him to sleep and relax when he is left alone.  Patrolling an entire house is a huge job that will require lots of barking.

Provide your dog with a sense of strong leadership from you.  He will feel less vulnerable if he knows you are capable of taking care of him and the pack.  This includes setting rules, getting him to work for you by following and focusing, and not acceding to requests from him for attention, games, coming in or going out, etc.

Understanding the temperament of your dog, the constant messages he’s sending to you and others, and the scope of his concern is paramount to educating him and controlling the barking.  Some solutions that are available to stop barking can possibly make the matter worse. So any gimmicky item (bark collars etc) can actually put a great deal of stress on your dog. Although it stops him from barking unnecessarily he definitely is still feeling the need to bark and will not actually understand that he shouldn’t be.

If you’re frustrated by your dogs barking and require help understanding your pet, I highly recommend that you seek proffessional help. Find a trainer that you’re comfortable with and follow through on their instructions.

Good luck!

 

Nik

dog barking out window

SOme dog’s think that it’s necessary to announce the presence of danger…

Fireworks and Dogs = Bad Mix

Well, it’s that time of year again. Leaves falling,raking them up, leaves falling again, raking them up again. I could go on for another few paragraphs about the gentle ebb and flow that is our fall season but I digress. Another guarantee is the loud bangs and pops associated with a plethora of fire crackers and fireworks that will be illuminating the nights sky and providing a cacophony of irritatingly loud noises over the next few weeks. Just to clarify, I don’t mind fireworks personally as much as the opening paragraph may lead you to believe, it’s just that my favourite dog Vegas isn’t a huge fan and I really feel for him. So here are a few suggestions to help your dog cope with the loud and high pitched noises that are terribly confusing and freightening to many canines.

For scientific explanation of why dogs may feel pain when hearing fireworks please click this sentence.

It’s really important to provide your dog with a safe, quiet place that may muffle the noise. Instinctively dogs are denning animals so providing a crate may help them feel more secure.

Provide soothing music, and aromatherapy to help create a more peaceful and stress free environment like we do at Dharma Dog.

You can also try to counter condition the intense reactions by building a more positive association with the noises such a offering special treats which they dont usually consume or playing some of their favourite games.

Remember, living with a dog means learning to understand your role and often in the case of fear issues your role is to be calm and protective so your dog will trust your judgement.

Fearful dog

This dog is hiding under it’s bed because it wasnt provided an alternate den to call home