What's the Magic Word?

What's the Magic Word?

I am often asked what specific verbal cue to pair with certain behaviors, or whether there is a special word that can convey automatic meaning to the dogs for those high-stakes skills like recall and loose leash walking. I believe some of this is rooted in the images still lingering from traditional dog training of past decades, as the “well-trained dog” is seen responding to loud delivery of common commands like “Come!” “Heel!” “Off!” etc..

My answer to these questions about what cue to use is always the same – whatever word you like best!  There is no magic word, merely sounds or collections of sounds that our dogs can perceive.  The real magic (or science, actually, but you can call it what you want J) is how quickly our dogs pair these meaningless sounds with specific behaviors and learn to respond to the cue – it becomes a green light to perform a behavior they already know well (and hopefully love to do!).

Even though there is no “magic word” that immediately conveys meaning and prompts “obedience” across the dog species, I do believe there is a special word that can have more than average usefulness to your individual dog. 

Characteristics of this “magic word”:

  • It is usually short and rolls easily off your tongue
  • It is pretty easy to remember, because you likely already use it often
  • It is easy to train, because your dog probably already has at least a basic understanding of what it means
  • It is applicable to all sorts of situations

Can you figure out what the magic word is? It's your dog’s name!

This is the single most powerful and meaningful collection of sounds you have for communicating with your dog. When trained intentionally and positively, it is the first step in interrupting and redirecting lots of undesirable behavior; it is also the first step in prompting lots of desirable behavior!

Because of its usefulness in all sorts of situations, and the ways we as humans tend to take this cue for granted, the Name Game is the very first skill we teach in all of our classes and private lessons.  And it’s just as important for dogs that have known their name for a while as it is for dogs that are just learning a name for the very first time.

So let’s do a little review!  Start with the Ping-Pong Game, which is a great foundation focus exercise.

Ok, did your dog ace that one?  Now you are ready for the Name Game!

Now that you’ve primed your dog’s name and turned it into a really fun game, your challenge is to use your name cue in more challenging situations.  Here are a few ways to think about applying this during your normal routine this week:

  • When your dog is pulling ahead on his walk, instead of tugging on the leash, first stop and cue his name.  If he looks back at you, reward with either a treat or the chance to continue on with the walk.
  • If your dog is about to get into something she shouldn’t (like the plate of food left on the coffee table), instead of yelling, first start by cuing her name in a happy excited voice.  If she turns away from the food, throw a party with some high value rewards of her own!
  • When you hear your dog barking in the backyard, instead of knocking on the window or shouting through the door, start by calling your dog’s name.  If he stops barking (even briefly), praise him verbally, or take a treat or toy out into the yard to play for a minute.

If these or any other situations you apply your name cue are too challenging for your dog, take it back down a step and work at a slightly lower difficulty and then work back up.

Remember, with great magic comes great responsibility.  Try to avoid using your dog’s name in anger, or over-using your dog’s name when he is in an overwhelming situation where he can’t respond the way you would like. But if you are able to put a lot of history into this one cue at easy, achievable levels, it can become like your magic word.  Pretty cool, huh? 

Happy training!

CSU Senior Design Project: Canine Exoskeleton for Rehabilitation

CSU Senior Design Project: Canine Exoskeleton for Rehabilitation

We are passionate about keeping dogs and their people active together. This senior design project by a team at CSU has great potential for doing just that for dogs that are fighting a debilitating neurological disease like DM. We are excited to see how this project develops and wanted to share that enthusiasm with you. Check it out! - Amber Q. 

Guest post by Hannah Mikelson, Mechanical Engineering Senior at Colorado State University

Hello fellow dog lovers!

csu-senior-design-project-canine-exoskeleton

My name is Hannah and I am a member of the Canine Exoskeleton for Rehabilitation project! Myself and five other biomedical, mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering students at Colorado State University are passionate about helping dogs and are building a rehabilitation device as part of our senior design capstone project. When completed, this device will help large dogs with neurological disabilities and hind limb paresis regain motor function and muscle tone!

Why is there a need for such a device?

While many dogs are afflicted by neurological diseases such as degenerative myelopathy, intervertebral disc disease, and acute peripheral nerve diseases, large dogs are especially difficult to handle in a rehabilitation setting. Rehabilitation Specialists at veterinary hospitals not only have to lift 100lb dogs, they also have to move the dogs’ limb in a semi-natural movement to help the canine relearn how to walk. This is a great burden to put on the dog caretaker. After speaking with specialists and veterinarians at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and meeting recovering canines, our team was motivated to build a device that would alleviate many of these difficulties. Our exoskeleton will do this by supporting the dog’s weight, moving the hind limbs at specified speeds and ranges of motion determined by the caretaker, and allow for variable support and movement based on the dog’s stage of recovery!

How does it work?

This exoskeleton will incorporate many motors, sensors, pneumatics, and a lot of cool engineering stuff! Once fully developed, the device will be tested in a controlled rehabilitation setting on dogs with varying neurological damage and hind limb paresis.

Rehab-device-csu-senior-design-project-dog-training

By working with the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and local canine prosthetics company, OrthoPets, we have gained great insight into how our device may be utilized, and have had incredible opportunities to meet the dogs that our device may help in the near future! I cannot think of a better way to finish my college career, than to help save lives of our canine companions.

If you or someone you know has had a dog that could benefit from this device, we would love to hear about your experience! Please reach out to us by email at hlmikels@rams.colostate.edu.

Want to learn more about or project? Please visit our website here.

We are fundraising!

Are you interested in supporting this life-improving project?  Please donate to our crowdfunding campaign here. (Hurry! Our campaign ends November 9th!)

Or by donating through CSU here. (In the comments section please write: “Donation to Canine Exoskeleton for Rehabilitation”).

The Canine Exoskeleton for Rehabilitation Senior Design Team

The Canine Exoskeleton for Rehabilitation Senior Design Team

 

Take the Scary out of Halloween for Your Dog

Take the Scary out of Halloween for Your Dog

dog-safety-halloween

The haunted house may be a lifetime thrill for your five year old, but Halloween poses some terrors for your dog that aren’t so fun. If your dog has a near nervous breakdown every time the doorbell rings, Halloween can be a true nightmare for both of you.

Keep in mind that your dog doesn’t understand Halloween. For him, it’s not a meet and greet, it’s a time when people are continuously breaching the security of your home, a home he may have sworn in his doggie heart to protect.

Alternatively, your dog might see this as a time to escape. The door is being opened repeatedly. Fido may think this means he’s finally welcome to express his full wanderlust. Understanding Halloween from your dog’s point of view will help you allay his anxiety and prepare your home to keep him safe.

Do you need to participate?

Remember, you’re not obliged to participate in trick or treating. Even if your neighborhood is a trick or treat designated area, turning off all your porch lights and the lights in the front rooms of the house pretty clearly sends the message that you’re not home--or not playing.

You might be asking, “Is it fair to take my kids trick or treating and then not reciprocate?” Yes, it’s fair. Your first duty is to your children and your animals. If letting people come to the door is going to freak your dog out more than he can bear, I give you complete absolution for keeping your lights off.

If there is any lingering doubt in your mind about whether your dog might bite or claw a child, you need to drop out of Halloween or board your pup.

Consider boarding

Some dogs hate being boarded and some have love affairs with the kennel staff. If your dog shows no signs of stress, such as tucked tail or low whining, after being boarded, you may want to just give him or her a day at the doggie spa.

Many of the higher end doggie daycare and boarding facilities offer grooming, walking, playing, and socialization with other dogs. Your dog might really enjoy all the attention.

Find a safe spot for your dog

Even if you think you have the sweetest, calmest dog in the world, you still need to keep her separate from the trick or treaters.

No dog is completely predictable around people she doesn’t know, especially those strangers wearing weird costumes! Furthermore, some children fear dogs and may exacerbate a dog’s negative reaction to them. 

Some dogs take comfort in their dog crate when things get too hectic. If that’s your dog, you can crate him for the hours of trick or treating which should be roughly 5-9 p.m.

Other safe spots include:

  • A secured yard that keeps a fence between your dog and the rest of the world, including people who come to the door.
  • An enclosed back or side porch.
  • If all else fails, the basement or bathroom

Avoid shutting dogs into spaces where they can do a lot of damage. You don’t want to find your family quilt or expensive hiking gear torn to shreds.

Does your dog really need a costume?

For the most part, dogs don’t need clothes. And, for the most part, they hate being dressed up unless conditioned otherwise. If you cannot resist the temptation to put a costume on your dog, make sure it has no chewable parts and no parts that constrict movement or breathing.

In fact, you should have your dog within sight at all times when he or she is costumed.

Keeping Max safe on Halloween is mostly a matter of common sense. Keep him away from the central drama, and everyone will be happy. And don’t forget to put the chocolate (and other candy with artificial sweeteners like xylitol) up high so he doesn’t indulge in those poisonous treats.

 

Guest post by Bernie the Boxer. Bernie is a seven-year-old boxer who loves playing fetch with his dad, Adrian. He also loves keeping himself busy with BernietheBoxer.com while his parents are at work.

Discrimination in the Dog World - Breaking Down Breed Bias

Discrimination in the Dog World - Breaking Down Breed Bias

Written by Charissa Beaubien KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, SDT Head Trainer

Today I am going to talk about pit bull terriers. You’ve all likely seen many posts or articles on pit bulls, maybe even more so this month. October is Pit Bull Terrier Awareness Month and I want to do my part to bring more attention to the dogs that I work with every day.

I find it particularly interesting that many of my pit bull-owning clients often reach out with a tone of uncertainty when we first chat. They almost always ask me tentatively if I like the breed or if I have worked with them before. Even clients who have been sent to me from people who know that I enjoy the breed and have been told I won’t judge them for the dog that they have still approach with a level of hesitation.

I tell them that I have worked extensively in shelters and rescues and that usually comes with many encounters with pit bull or bully breed dogs. Some of my stories are wonderful, some sad, and others scary. But I have never blamed the breed I was working with, nor the species as a whole. Many dogs who would fail behavior evaluations or were returned due to behavioral issues had the unfortunate circumstance of living in a human world. Humans are the species that creates the “evil” that many see in bully breeds. In the past it has been German Shepherds, Rotweillers, Dobermans, and even the Chihuahua on the receiving end of this confusion, but much like today's bully breeds, these animals themselves are not to blame. Luckily for these dogs, this misunderstanding is not because all people are evil or cruel but are only misinformed. This misinformation is what I want to talk about this month.  

Propaganda

I first want to highlight the role of propaganda in the matter. At least once a week I hear of a dog attack story - this is mostly due to the overwhelming flood of “dog stuff” I subscribe to on my social media. Many times these attacks involve and are inevitably blamed on a pit bull type dog. When photos are included in the news story, often times the dog pictured is not a Pit Bull Terrier but something with a similar body type or look thus labeled as such. It is hard for people to see past that big square head or firm body that so many breeds possess. Test yourself! Take your own “Pick the Pit” test here or here.

Additionally, the media coverage is one sided when it comes to covering dog attacks. A non-pit bull type dog would have to attack almost 5 people or kill a person to receive the coverage a pit bull attack receives. This leads people to have a very biased opinion of the breed as a whole, due to a psychological phenomenon called “Ingroup Cohesion” (check out NPR's “Is he Muslim" for another application of this). This phenomenon pulls people towards things that they know. For example, if you’ve grown up with a golden retriever who you felt an emotional bond with you’re more likely to be drawn to Goldens now. Likewise seeing words such as “aggressive pit bull attacks” leads people to think of their own mortality and thus the object of their fear then is labeled as evil. This feeling is then generalized to any story or interaction that takes place in the future. We then place pit bull terrier in their own group of humongous pack of bad creatures that all act and behave the same. This is simply a coping mechanism we do subconsciously but needs to be brought to the forefront.

When we look at any group of species we often see abnormal things within the group which lead us to form opinions of the group as a whole. This is why racism, sexism, ageism etc. continue to plague our nation. And why so many puppies and dogs are being labeled, blamed, killed, and ‘trained’ with archaic tools. It is not the breed as a whole that should suffer for the few instances of untrained, poorly socialized, or ill-mannered individuals. I want to remind you that these creatures cannot speak out, they cannot effectively communicate, or help themselves out of the human world that we’ve made them exist in. Because of this we need to look at the individual animal, their needs, and their history.

History

The history of American’s fear of canines started with the floppy eared Blood Hound. These dogs were seen as "blood thirsty" beasts that would maim on sight. But that is what they were used for - blood hounds tracked and brought down slaves that had escaped. Is that the dog to blame or the person who trained it?

The blood hound is only the first example in this sad saga however - many breeds throughout the years have been labeled in many ways. Ask anyone their opinion on dogs and they’ll have a story to tell. Maybe it’s as harmless as the shaking Chihuahua they owned or the drooling St. Bernard.  Or maybe it's a more serious story about the breed of dog that bit them as a child. Either way, these are opinions of one person in a sea of many.

More recently in our history President Obama stated in 2013, “[W]e don’t support breed-specific legislation (BSL)– research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resource. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they’re intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.” This statement has been proven to be true time and again in any country or city with BSL laws. The biggest example is Denver, Colorado which has one of the toughest bans in America and yet ranks highest in the nation in dog bites. (Additionally, according to the Denver Animal Shelter three unknown “professionals” decide if your dog is a pit bull or not. What is a professional and what are they a professional in, is not outlined.)

Professionals

This brings me to the many “professionals” who claim to be dog trainers but who are aiding to the downfall of the pit bull terrier. In 2017, animal trainers are still not regulated by any leading authority, that means that anyone can call themselves a dog trainer. While I have worked with many competent dog trainers who don’t have any titles or certifications, I have also worked with many people who do not understand the behavioral sciences. This is dangerous because one mistake can lead us down a slippery slope that can cause severe setbacks to the entire industry. It is well documented in scientific research that the use of outdated tools (electric collars, prong or choke collars, and spray bottles) often lead to heightened aggression in dogs and people. Check out these and many other studies on the subject: “If You're Aggressive, Your Dog Will Be Too”, "How the Alpha Roll Can Turn Your Puppy into an Aggressive Dog".

The “professionals” who are often seen working with pit bull terriers and other bully breeds often subscribe to outdated tools such as these, due to the ‘look’ that they give the dog. That then leads to outdated teachings such as dominance theory, alpha pack theories, and needing to have "a strong hand with a strong dog". This is simply untrue. One of my new favorite quotes is “If it works only for one species it isn’t learning” – FDSA Podcast. If I can train a tiger, lion, and bear I can train a strong breed and all of the above can be naked (no aversive training tools necessary).

Train the Dog, Not the Breed

So how do you create a happy well-adjusted dog of any breed? Start young! Check out Laura VanArendonk Baugh’s new book Social, Civil, and Savvy for a great puppy raising read! Create early positive experiences in short doses daily and get support from a great dog trainer who is recognized in the industry for using scientific-based training methods.  This is true for your older dog as well - working your dog’s brain and brawn is important for all breeds at all ages! I would also encourage everyone to ensure your dog is getting good (mental and physical) exercise outside of the confines of the back yard, a good biologically sound diet, mental stimulation, and FUN things daily.

Additionally, when it comes to those around you who may already have a breed bias, remember that they are just misinformed and that we cannot change their mind with more unkindness towards them or our dogs. Check out “Flip the Script” for more on how to approach people kindly who disagree with you. In this case we can also use systemic desensitization through exposing people in low (but positive) doses to good, healthy bully breed dogs as they are comfortable. But above all, be kind to their fears of dogs and breeds, and show them how smart your dog is!

For more on pit bull terriers and how to help your community check out Best Friends and research more on pit bulls and BSL in your area. 

Photos courtesy of Jordan Flagg

Photos courtesy of Jordan Flagg

5 Tips for Winter Adventures with Your Dog

5 Tips for Winter Adventures with Your Dog

roo-snow-winter-adventure-tips

It seems fitting to write about winter adventure tips on the day of the first snowfall of the season. My puppy has already been out to play a little bit - what do your pups think of the snow?

As you are preparing for lots of winter fun with your pups this year, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Check those paw pads! Running and skidding over ice and snow can cause scrapes and rips on your dog's paw pads.  Additionally, as your dog's paws heat up the snow, it can refreeze around the hair between their toes and make for an uncomfortable romp!  Keep your dog's toe hair trimmed to reduce this, or invest in a pair of snow boots for your dog! We love our Ruffwear PolarTrex boots to keep Roo's feet dry and ice-free.  
     
  • Watch out for anti-freeze!  Antifreeze is poisonous but has a sweet taste, making some dogs and cats attracted to it.  Make sure there are no leaks creating puddles of this substance under your vehicles and that any bottled chemicals are stored out of your dog's reach. Also watch for this in the parking lot before or after your trek with your dog - don't let your dog sneak off under other vehicles!
     
  • Don't forget the water!  Just because it is cold doesn't mean your dog won't get thirsty on your snowshoeing trek.  Eating snow isn't enough to keep your dog hydrated, so don't skip out on that extra water bottle in your pack!
     
  • Tailor your activity! Your dog's age may impact how it feels about the cold weather.  Young puppies will have a harder time staying warm, and older dogs may feel additional discomfort in the cold due to arthritis. Make sure that your dog's outdoor time and activity is age appropriate and considerate of your dog's unique health needs.
     
  • Help your dog take breaks! Your dog may not tell you when he or she needs a break. Lots of dogs are snow maniacs, and love love love to go nonstop.  The cold temperatures can give them an extra burst of energy as well.  But the more tired your dog gets, the higher the likelihood that they could injure themselves during play or push themselves to the point of exhaustion. If you don't see your dog taking breaks on it's own, help them out by giving them something calm to do or putting them back on leash for a short bit of time.  This break is a great time to check on their paw pads!

Happy Adventuring!

Want a graphic for sharing?  Here you go!
(You can also download the PDF version here.)

winter-adventure-safety-tips-for-dogs

Puzzle Me, Please - Part 2

Puzzle Me, Please - Part 2

Last December we blogged about food puzzles: why they are so great and our list of favorites!  But because this sector of the toy store is SO important and so useful to our dogs, it's worth a second mention.  We've recently created a more exhaustive list of food puzzles, as well as some tips on how to utilize them in the best way for your dog!  All in a convenient downloadable handout for you to save for future reference.  Puzzle away!

food-puzzles-for-dogs-dog-training-colorado

You can download this handout (with links) here!

This lovely handout assembled by Charissa!

Homeopathic Remedies for Anxiety in Dogs

Homeopathic Remedies for Anxiety in Dogs

Homeopathic remedies can be a great help to your dog in situations where they are anxious or upset. While not a substitute for training or more advanced behavioral help (when warranted), the right remedy can help your dog get through otherwise overwhelming situations.

But which remedy should you choose?  That really depends on your dog, the type and severity of the anxiety they are experiencing, and what works best for your routine and budget.  The list of homeopathic products on the market is never-ending, and can be understandably overwhelming. To help get you started, here is a list of our go-to recommendations:

 

How to Use Homeopathic Remedies

  • Test out your chosen remedy with your dog when he is NOT especially anxious to see how they respond to it.  If your remedy makes your dog more nervous or uncomfortable, it's not the best remedy to use!
  • Different remedies work best for different dogs. And sometimes using a "cocktail" of remedies could be the best option for your dog.   So if you try one without success, a different or additional remedy would still be worth a try.
  • Once you have found what works best for your dog, try to administer your remedy 30-60 minutes before the anxiety-causing event (vet visit, car ride, guests arriving, etc.).  
  • For chronically anxious dogs, a visit with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist might be warranted for more complete anxiety relief. 

You can download this blog in a handout form here.

Dogs & Bike Trailers!

Dogs & Bike Trailers!

There's nothing quite as cool as biking with your dog, especially in a town like Fort Collins with a fantastic obsession with both bikes and dogs.

Roo loves biking adventures!

Roo loves biking adventures!

There are several different ways that your dog can participate with you on your bike ride, including (but I'm sure not limited to - bike creativity knows no bounds here) perching in a basket, keeping pace alongside, pulling you out in front (hope you have good brakes!), or riding behind in a trailer.  The first or last options are great for dogs that can't go as fast or as far, or during the months when it is too hot for their paw pads to be on the pavement.  

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Sue Whetton, owner of CycleTote Bicycle Trailers to chat about dogs and bike trailers and how those two things fit together! Sue gave me a tour of their production space and explained a little bit about the process of making bike trailers, which was really cool!  

 

Although CycleTote makes bike trailers for all sorts of needs, according to Sue, the CycleTote bike trailer designed specifically for dogs is their best seller. No surprise there!  We know that several of our 4-legged students love their CycleTote trailers!

Casper the Cattle Dog, on one of his first adventures in his CycleTote trailer!

Casper the Cattle Dog, on one of his first adventures in his CycleTote trailer!

June Bug loves to ride in the trailer!

June Bug loves to ride in the trailer!

In order to facilitate a peaceful bike & trailer ride for both you and your dog, there are a few things to consider.

Roo practiced relaxing in his trailer before it got attached to the bike. Our trailer isn't as cool as Casper & June Bug's . . . we hope to upgrade soon!

Roo practiced relaxing in his trailer before it got attached to the bike. Our trailer isn't as cool as Casper & June Bug's . . . we hope to upgrade soon!

One of the most important elements of successful trailer-riding with your dog is getting your dog used to being in the trailer long before it starts moving.  Sue explained that many of their customers turn the trailer into a bed for their dogs first, simply by taking the wheels off and leaving the trailer in their living room for a few weeks.  This allows the dog to learn how to get in and out of the trailer safely, as well as associate the trailer with relaxing, which can be a big help when adding in the biking element!

The second element that prepares your dog up for a successful trailer ride is the stability and safety of the trailer set-up.  Many bike trailers that we try to utilize for our dogs were originally designed for children or cargo, and so may not have the most secure set-up to make our dogs feel comfortable.  With the right modifications, many of these bike trailers could become great doggie-chariots, but here are a few things to consider:

  • A secure attachment point is an essential safety feature. No matter how much your dog loves the trailer and "would NEVER jump out," there is no reason to risk your dog's safety by having them ride "unbuckled."  CycleTote trailers have several options for connecting your dog, although the most popular option is to a strap coming up from the floorboard. 
     
  • A sturdy cover can be a big help if you plan to do a lot of riding in peak sunshine.  Our dogs can get sunburned and overheated even just riding in a trailer if the conditions aren't optimal.  
     
  • A fender or other covering of some kind can help keep rocks and dirt from getting in your dog's face as you ride.  CycleTote uses detachable fenders-sheaths like the blue one above - it slides over the bars connecting the trailer to the bike seat post.

As far as training your dog or puppy to ride in the trailer, once they have acclimated to settling in the trailer while it is stationary, you can start adding in movement little by little.  Go at your dog's pace - some dogs are naturals who take to the experience right away, while others may take a little more time to get comfortable with the ride.  Check out the downloadable handout below for some additional strategies and tips on making your ride with your dog as smooth as possible!

A special thanks to Sue at CycleTote for sharing her bike trailer wisdom with us!  

teaching-your-dog-to-ride-in-the-bike-trailer

Click here to download this handout!

Happy July 4th - Celebrate Safely with Your Pup!

Happy July 4th - Celebrate Safely with Your Pup!

Hi everyone!  Just a quick note as we are gearing up for the loudest holiday of the year to remind you that more pets are lost around this holiday than any other time of year.  

As you are planning your celebrations, please, please take your dog's comfort and safety into account.  While we love having our dogs with us on all sorts of adventures, unless your dog is truly unaffected by loud noises and vibrations, for this holiday it is best to leave them safely secured inside your home while you go watch the fireworks display.

If you will be leaving your dog when there is a chance that fireworks may be set off in the nearby vicinity, create a safe environment for your dog with the following checklist:

  • Make sure that every door is securely latched and locked
  • Consider leaving a radio or television on at a loud volume to help drown out the firework noise
  • Cover windows with curtains or blankets - if your dog is sensitive to flashing lights, this can really help them feel more comfortable if the neighborhood fireworks display is within view
  • If you anticipate that your dog will be stressed, you can try a homeopathic calming aid like lavender essential oil, Dog Appeasing Pheromone diffuser or spray, or Licks
  • Leave your dog with a food puzzle, like a frozen kong or delicious bone, to occupy them and help relieve stress.  Check out our favorites here.

Or, alternatively, adventure to the mountains with your dog, friends, and family and have an off-the-grid & firework-free holiday!  That's our favorite solution. ;) 

Wishing you and your dogs a fun & SAFE Independence Day!

fireworks-pet-safety-dog-training-fort-collins-colorado-july-4th

Why My Dog is Wearing a Muzzle (And How You Should Respond)

Why My Dog is Wearing a Muzzle (And How You Should Respond)

Do you use a muzzle with your dog to make sure that your dog is safe & comfortable while going out in public places?  While this isn't something that every dog needs, for some dogs that are working through various challenges (including reactivity to any type of trigger, the inclination to eat anything and everything from the ground, polite greetings with friendly strangers, etc. etc.), a properly fitted and conditioned muzzle can provide peace of mind for both you and your dog.  

Shunka wore her muzzle when she was introduced to her new little brother to promote positive & safe interaction between them as they were getting to know each other!

Shunka wore her muzzle when she was introduced to her new little brother to promote positive & safe interaction between them as they were getting to know each other!

However, if you do use a muzzle with your dog, or have ever considered using one, I'm sure you have encountered the fact that not everyone is so understanding and tolerant of a muzzled dog out in a public place.  Whether it is the whispers of "that dog will bite you", the quickly shielded children, or the antagonistic "You shouldn't be here if your dog isn't nice" approach, the stigma of wearing a muzzle can be alienating and frustrating.

It doesn't have to be this way though!  If we use the time we are out in public with a muzzled dog as an opportunity for spreading awareness and positive education about muzzles & dogs, it would go a long way!  Obviously this isn't something that every dog is equipped to do, depending on the level they are working at in their behavior modification process.  But if those of us who can spend the extra brain power to spread positive information about muzzle wearing for dogs do so, all muzzled dogs would reap the benefit!

To get this process started, we've created this handout designed to help you and your dog navigate those tricky social situations with greater ease.  You could have some printed for handing out to those who ask (or comment) about your muzzle-wearing pup, or even disseminate this info to family & friends before a get together where they will be around your dog.  While it doesn't have all of the answers for your individual dog's needs, it can help start the conversation and promote a better understanding about muzzles and dogs.

muzzle-wearing-dog-training-fort-collins-colorado

You can download a printable PDF version of this file here if you would like to have a copy to send or print ahead of your next outdoor adventure. 

Please let us know what you think!  If you would like one of these handouts more customized to the specific situation with your dog, let us know and we're happy to help!