Dog Care

What dogs want you to know…but can’t tell you!

Nowadays, owning a dog is nothing short of a fashion statement. Many people assume it’s a simple acquisition and if it doesn’t work they can return it, fix it, or discard it. They overlook the fact that they are dealing with an animal that has feelings, emotions and needs. If you are keen on acquiring a dog it’s important to know the responsibilities before, during, and after your new pet moves in.

The question most people ask when getting a dog is, “What do I want from my dog?” And their answer is always, “A dog that can satisfy my needs. A dog who can be my companion; who I can cuddle with; who I can hike or jog with; who can play with me and my children,” and so on. Although these are lofty ideas for acquiring a dog, owning one involves a far different mindset.

The reality is many people live a lifestyle that doesn’t always have room for a dog. From busy work schedules, children’s sports, and internet-driven downtime, this stressful and hyperactive lifestyle often leaves your dog lacking attention and socialization. Some dogs can adapt BUT the consequences are seldom good.

Naturally, to own a dog you must first be a dog lover. But what is more important, you need to be an animal lover. And to love animals you must understand them and respect their lifestyle and habits, which are a far cry from ours. Many of us regard dogs as pets but in truth they are still part animals. Perhaps not as wild as wolves but clearly not as sophisticated as people. So it’s important that you understand your dog is an animal first and then a pet.

For centuries humans bred dogs to fulfill their specific needs. They were bred to work, guard properties, haul loads, seek out wild animals, kill invasive rodents, and so on. Over time many dogs were allowed to move into the household to live with the family. Breeding and designing dogs with different looks, shapes and sizes took on a different focus. This is when many dogs took on the role known as pets. Keep in mind that a “pet” is still a mild term for “animal” that lives with us in our home with one thing in common – needs that require fulfilling.

Sadly, many people do not take the time to educate themselves properly with what it takes to fulfill a dog; it’s traits and needs. This often results in their dog developing behavioural and emotional problems. Television has jumped on board over the last decade with TV shows, books and trainers all trying to make sense of dog behavioural problems. These are quick fix solutions in an hour-long show about desperate dog owners who can’t understand why their dog is behaving a certain way. Unfortunately, in many cases they get the answer they wished for, but not what they needed to hear and after a short time the problem is back. That is because these owners were not prepared to own a dog in the first place.

People need to realize the facts before getting a dog. Either a puppy or a rescued dog comes with tremendous responsibilities that many people are not mindful of. Most are not intentionally acting on this matter but it has become a casual act of window-shopping with “Isn’t it cute! I’d like one!” Dogs should not be considered a product. Seriously ask yourself, “Am I prepared to care and nurture this animal for the next 12 to 16 years?”

You are the one who ultimately decides to bring a dog into your life, not the other way around.  You need to plan and understand what is involved with owning a dog before moving ahead. Cute puppies don’t last. They grow up, need training, eat more, and demand more. And when they grow old require special care. Can you commit to this?

Stop asking yourself “What do I want from a dog?” But ask yourself, “What does a dog need?” Not many people ask this question when they get a dog as the acquisition tends to be self-focused with “what I want”. Some people assume dogs only need food, water, shelter and love. And as long as they can provide these elements for their dog it will be happy. Yes, these are essentials for a dog but not needs. Needs are based on factors designed in their genes and are requirements for a healthy natural life. Just like people differ, dogs needs differ as well in temperament and activity and care.

Stay tuned for more information about dogs and their care including “What is the best dog for your lifestyle.”

Don’t forget, a dog is only a small piece of your busy life whereas in their lives you are much more.

Why socialization is so important to dogs?

Dogs are pack, social animals. Socialization is a genetic practice and is controlled by instinct. It is part of animal’s survival skill. Without this skill, dogs will not be able to be part of a pack and will not be able to survive. An animal without its pack is usually destined to die early. In the wild if an animal does not have the social skills, it portrays a weakness; therefore it will be kicked out of the pack and left alone to survive, which usually does not have a happy ending. But since the necessity of socialization is in their genes, their instinct demands them to bond with its members and their environment.

Lack of socialization may make some dogs lose the will or the ability to live happy which can causes them stress and stress related diseases. There are many reasons that can cause a dog to be lacking social skills but mainly can happen due to incorrect upbringing.

Some people do not allow their dogs to interact with other dogs at all and the dog does not seem to mind it. That is because the dog may get its socialization with the humans mainly. The dog will do fine as long as there are no other dogs or unusual situations involved in its entire life. The dog will bond with the humans instead. But it will be stressed out if one day the dog is needed to be involved with other dogs or situations where dogs are engaged.

When a puppy enters our lives, they automatically start to bond with the human and other members of that family including the other pets of the family. This is a natural phenomenon that happens but it takes time to develop a complete bond, trust and love with the members. It usually takes about a year.

A puppy, just like any newborn in this world, is pure and simple. All it wants to do is eat, sleep and play. Humans provide the eating (food) and sleeping (shelter) part of their lives very well, but they don’t provide the play (especially with other dogs’) part properly, which is one of the most important parts of a dog life structure.

To you and me, the play may look simply fun play, but it is more than that. It is the important structural part of building the personality, awareness and characteristics of a dog.  First of all it allows your dog to start communicating with other dogs. This communication teaches dogs to learn how to speak dog language and gain social skills. The second part of the play is to be invited to the play by other dogs. This part allows your dog to be accepted in the animal world. The third part which is the physical part of the play allows the dog to gain survival skills and the mental part of the play which allows your dog to learn skills to solve problems. These skills not only improve the dog’s problem solving in the world but also in general aspects of their lives which most of the times it includes humans and human society rules and more.

Puppies should have the opportunity to play, socialize and learn from other dogs especially from balanced adult dogs to gain knowledge and feel comfortable living among all kinds of dogs. Therefore it is important to socialize your puppy with puppies and balanced adults.

As dogs grow up and become adults they still need to practice their social skills. They need to be reminded that they still have to be comfortable and neutral towards other dogs. In many cases dogs do pick up bad behaviours when not socialized properly because the owners have not taught their dogs the right response to certain behaviours or do not know dog body language. Socialization should continue throughout their lives.

Socialization should not be limited to dogs only. Streets, cars, people, birds, objects, sounds, other animals etc. are part of dogs’ lives and they should be included in the socialization exercises.

Most of the socialization should be done outside of the home, where dogs do not relate to anything. Home is a neutral environment. Home is where they eat, rest and sometimes belong to. Outside of the home is where they find food (at least in their mind), socialize with their surroundings, play and learn. When they come home, they are fed (again, in their mind they are fed off the daily hunt) as a reward and the work that they have done, then they rest for the next day.  This is a natural way of allowing dogs to participate in a daily routine.

There are many reasons why people do not provide the situation for their dogs to socialize. I’ve come across many dogs and their owners who seek help after the damage is done and it is too late by not socializing their dogs properly. They expect their dogs to turn around and be social all of a sudden, like nothing has happened in the past.

Here are some of the excuses that people have for not socializing their dogs:

We work at home so we can keep our dog at home with us.

This is a common assumption that people who work at home have. Just because you work at home doesn’t mean that your dog has to as well. They are not humans and dogs need to play, socialize and work outside of their homes. Home is where they eat and relax and play with their family members only. They should be socializing no matter what you are doing.

We have a big yard for my dog(s) to play and romp.

It doesn’t matter how big your yard is, if there is nobody else but you and your dog(s) to socialize in it. Of course if you have few dogs, they are all social among themselves. Home is not where they can socialize with other dogs. They need to meet and great many dogs in their lifetime.

We (our family) play and exercise our dog all day.

Human interaction for dogs is not enough. Dogs have to be involved with other dogs on regular basis. Dogs need to have dog friends’ more than human playmates. They need to meet at least one new dog every week and interact with.

We are going to get (or we’ve got) a second dog for our first dog to play with and socialize.

It is not the number of dogs that you add to your family at home that is important; it is the amount of time your dog(s) gets involved with other dogs outside of the home.

But my dog (socializes) plays well with our neighbour’s dogs.

This is providing limited socialization and causes the dog to become selective. Of course dogs will be okay to play and socialize with the dogs they know the most, if given the opportunity, but what about the dogs that they have never met? How would they react to them?

We go to our local park and meet the same dogs all the time.

Once again this provides limited socialization. Expanding the socialization group will allow your dog to deal with the unknown and unexpected situations.

We go to local parks and we don’t see other dogs.

Then, drive and go to different parks.

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These are just some of the excuses, and trust me there are more. These excuses do not allow your dog to turn into a social, balanced dog.

To better understand what the above excuses mean when not allowing a dog to socialize, let’s use this example:

Just think about this. What happens when you tell a person; “here is a room with enough food, toys, and bedding etc. Go in there and live in it by yourself.  We may add another person to keep you company, later on. We will see you in 5 to 10 years from now and hopefully you will have all the social skills you need to survive the rest of your life and be normal.”

Do you expect a human to deal with this situation and be normal? Of course not. The same applies to dogs.

But, how do you socialize dogs? Here are some ideas:

•Simply, set your goal to allow your dog to meet 500 dogs over its lifetime. Not to only look at them from far, but to interact with them. Interaction means: sniffing each other, maybe engaging in play or some sort and having a positive outcome of the meeting.

• Dogs need to go for walks every day, rain or shine, whether you have a busy life or not. If you simply can’t walk your dog on a daily basis then you shouldn’t have a dog in the first place. Dogs need to move and travel everyday (walk, sniff, mark, meet others, see things) to keep their minds occupied and active.

•Daily walks are the minimum required activity of a dog and it should be at least 30-45 minutes, depending on your dog’s energy level. The walk should be intense and filled with meeting dogs, training and playing.

•Take your dog for walks in the parks every day to meet other dogs and their owners. You and your dog will benefit from socializing with others.

•Socialization is crucial during the first 9 months of Puppy’s life and it should continue on a regular basis after this time.

•Take your dog to different parks. Don’t just stick to your neighbourhood park. If you live in North Vancouver, you can drive to hundreds of public dog parks. You can walk on leash or off leash your dog, as long as they are trained both on leash and off-leashed.

• Don’t take the favourite toy or ball of your dog when going to the parks. Let your dog play and socialize with other dogs rather than its favourite toy. The toy can be played at home.

•Enroll your dog in a dog daycare/playcare that allows all kinds and sizes of balanced dogs to socialize with each other along with activities rather than just giving a basic daily cares.

•Invite dog friends to your place or go to theirs for birthday parties and such.

• Attend dog-related events such as agility or flyball trials, pet store demos, pet fairs to let your dog socialize with other dogs and people.

• Sign up for an obedience classes. It is never too late to work on or refresh your dog’s obedience skills.

•Try to take your dog anywhere you can, walks, shopping, browsing stores and such.

Dogs are just like clay. They are ready to be molded to whatever we shape them to be and they will accept it because they are loyal creatures to the point that they even stay loyal to abusive owners.

It is our responsibility to mold them into good dogs. Most aggressive and bad behaving dogs are that way because of their owners. You may have heard that “a bad dog is the result of a bad owner” and that is so true.

Mold them to the right shape and they will be happier and will thank you and love you even more than you hoped for. Dogs will be happier and healthier if we just were able to satisfy their needs.  Socialization is one of the few requirements for dogs that help them become good dogs.

If we try to understand dogs and see the world from their point of view, we will have happier and healthier dogs. Let’s try to stop satisfying our needs when it comes to dogs or animals and help them to stay what they are while they spend their short lives with us. Animals were not created for humans, but to live among humans.

How can play replace work for dogs?

Most dogs are working dogs of working breeds. Play can replace work they need to do. This is apparent in most high energy/hyper dogs. The solution by the owners and dog professionals usually is exercising the dog to the point that he is so tired he can’t even walk anymore.

Hyper dogs can also become hyper active which leads to some major behavioural issues. They also bear health and physical issues.

To solve this issue you need to look at three parts. Part one is to learn the fact that dogs are naturally not hyper. Some dog’s energy level may be higher than the other but not hyper.  Being hyper is a state of mind that a dog has been driven to and it is an unusual state of mind.

If a dog has got into that state of mind somehow, the reason could be that the dog was over exercised, under exercised, allowed to get into high energy state of mind by being spoiled or not being taught to slow down.

Part two of solution to this issue is to help the dog to become a non-hyper, relaxed dog that can focus on calmness rather than excitement. Any excitement and any activity with excitement or any activity that creates excitement in the dog needs to be avoided or reduced.  That means no more over exercising or under exercising the dog. The exercise routine should be broken down to few short walks/exercise/play sessions with other dogs rather than one or two long and vigorous exercise sessions per day.

Third part of solution to this issue is to include training in dog’s everyday life. Even if the dog has been trained and had previous training, you need to restart and refresh the training. If the dog has not been trained, you should start a formal training program. The training needs to be included in the daily activities and practiced as often as possible.

In reality, when we say dogs are working dogs, it means they like to play. “Work” for dogs is play. When a dog is working, it is actually playing. For instance a herding dog is playing or is doing a recreational activity as it is herding the cattle. A scent dog is looking forward to find the scent so it can get rewarded by a toy to play. The guard dog is enjoying the waiting part of the duty and is looking forward to catch something or someone during its task because that is the reward. So, the process may look like work but the goal is to play. Play gets the dog physically tired as well as mentally stimulated.

Obviously we can’t all allow our dogs to guard, to herd, to find drugs, to attack and so on. Instead, I suggest allowing your dog to be playing with other dogs as much as possible. Playing with other dogs is one of the best ways of exercising and it keeps them happy and balanced because in their mind they are working. Usually dogs will become content mentally and physically after a good play with other dogs.

You can also let your dog to play with toys but not for too long. Keep it short, 5 to 10 minutes each time, up to 3 times a week. More than that becomes an obsession and that will be a stressor.

House Training Solutions

This is a topic that not many dog owners are clear about it and don’t feel comfortable to talk about it either.

Here are some suggestions that will help you ease off this basic yet very important issue.

In general, when you bring a puppy or even an adult dog to your home for the first time, you need to understand and follow some simple and important rules.

First thing first, don’t take them inside your home right away. Walk them around the block for 10 to 15 minutes until they are fully relieved.

Whether you have a yard or not, keep the dog on leash the entire time and introduce the house with your dog on leash. If possible, start from the yard. Let the dog to sniff anything it desires starting from the yard, if it needs to pee or mark territory it can do it there.

Once inside the house let the dog sniff the entire house and then bring it to the yard or take it out for another walk. The excitement of the new house and all the scents will stimulate the dog to need to relieve.

The goal here is not to let the dog to make a mistake. Prevention is always the key. You don’t need to excite the dog when introducing to the new house and the members. Keep it calm.

Take the dog out every hour or so and keep track of their eliminations. Record what they did and at what time for the first few days. This way you can better understand your dog’s bathroom routine. Once you find out their routine, start following it until the routine changes as the dog grows up.

If your dog or puppy is on kibble (dry food) you need to understand that they need more water intake than dogs on other diets. The reason they take in more water is to replace the moisture that is required to keep the dog hydrated and to be able to process the food. Therefore these dogs will need to eliminate more often than the dogs that are on raw or home-cooked diet. You can avoid accidents and improve your dog’s health simply by changing their diet.

One more thing, puppies and dogs need to eliminate any time before and after; eating, playing, sleeping and car rides. Yes, car rides stimulate your dog’s internal system and they need to be walked before and after any car ride no matter how short or long the ride is.

I hope these simple house-training tips will help you with your current and future dog house training issues. Here are some videos that I’ve made to help you out with this issue.