7 Ways to Prevent Separation Anxiety

Having a dog with separation anxiety can be a huge financial, safety, and emotional stress. It is so much easier to prevent, prevent, prevent, than fix it. Sometimes owners don’t even realize they are setting their dog up to be anxious when left alone until it’s too late. Here are some ways you can set your dog up to be happy and confident, and keep that terrible anxiety away.

1. Exercise! Make sure your dog always has plenty of physical and mental exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog is a happy owner. Burning off excess energy leaves you with a nice calm dog when you leave. Teaching your dog commands and tricks is also a great way to mentally stimulate them.

2. Don’t feel like you have to spend every waking moment with your dog. Make time during the day for “down time” – it doesn’t have to be hours and hours – but just a break so your dog gets used to being alone.

3. Don’t make a big deal out of leaving. When you leave, if you want to give your pup lots of love and pets, do it 30 minutes before you leave, then gather your things up, and leave calmly. If you give your dogs tons and tons of attention while they are over the top excited, and then you suddenly leave, it makes it much harder for the dog to deal with you being gone.

4. Same goes for coming back home – walk into your house calm and confident. If your dog is going crazy jumping and dancing to see you, keep going about your business, greet your family, set your things down, totally ignoring the dog until they are calm. Then when that energy is down, call them over and love on them like crazy! Always be aware of what state of mind you are rewarding.

5. Give your dog something to do when you leave so you leaving is actually fun and rewarding! A stuffed kong, knuckle bone, antler, or any other safe heavy duty treat that will last a long time will keep your dog busy while you’re gone.

6. Socializing to new places can be a huge help in boosting your dog’s confidence. Going new places not only gets them used to new things, but also tires them out more. This increases their confidence in you, seeing that you can take care of yourself and them. If your dog knows commands, or even fun tricks, do them while you’re out and about in new places.

7. If you do all these things with your dog but still seem to be having a hard time with constant anxiety, panting, whining, or excessive drooling, it may be time to talk to a professional trainer/behavior consultant to diagnose the anxiety properly and get additional tools under your belt.

Kersti Nieto
Certified Dog Trainer
K9 Solutions LLC

7 Ways to Avoid Pack Issues

Having multiple dogs can be a rewarding (and therapeutic!) thing when you have peace in your pack. Issues can arise when you have dogs who are bossy or competing to be leader, especially when you yourself aren’t assuming the position. Without a doubt, humans are the leaders of the pack, allowing our dogs to relax, sit back, and follow our rules. Here are a few pointers on maintaining that leadership role to keep a happy household of dogs.

1. Always maintain a calm, confident, and assertive attitude. If you are freaking out and worrying about your dogs going after each other, stressing over how your relationship will be, then all you will have is a stressed out pack of dogs who are snappy with each other. Dogs feed off of our emotions, so always project confidence.

2. Regular exercise is vital for burning off energy. If your dogs get along great and you use playtime for them to exercise, that’s great! But don’t allow playtime to substitute for a walk. Walking as a confident leader (relaxed and in front with dogs loosely beside or behind) shows the dogs who they are supposed to follow and gets their brains concentrating on you.

3. Have your dogs respect thresholds. Practice by having everyone sit at the doorway. If you have lots of dogs, especially big ones, you can always just have them wait at the door before you call them through. Whichever dog is pushiest should come through that doorway last. Reward good, calm behavior. This will help your most demanding dog see that things happen faster when they are calm. Not rushing the door shows that you control all space, coming and going, and prevents a pack of dogs from hurdling past, through, and over you.

4. Balance your attention and affection. You may have a great pack of dogs, but don’t forget to treat them as individuals. Find the things that each dog enjoys most and then make time for that. For attention, make sure nobody is pushing anyone else out of the way. Spend time with one pup and then on your terms, call the next one over to you. Always show them that you dole out the affection on your terms and never reward a demanding, bossy dog.

5. Be involved in playtime! A rumbly tumbly pack can be having a wonderful time before Fluffy chomps Fido’s ear a bit too hard and then everyone joins in for a brawl. Get your dogs used to your presence between them, bump around while they’re playing happily and practice calling everyone, separating them, maybe have them sit, and then release them to play again. You can do this many times throughout playtime, always supervising and splitting them up when they’re still having a great time. This keeps them focusing on you, keeps playtime fun, and makes recall a part of play so it’s always fun to come to you!

6. Don’t let your dogs guard anything. As the leader, you are the only one who is allowed to protect anything – food, bones, toys, etc. Supervise feeding times and don’t let anyone steal from anyone else’s bowl. This lets everybody know that you are going to stick up for them and keep the peace. If a dog gets growly over a bone, claim the object by stepping on it and backing the dog away, and then they lose that bone. Be the mama dog and let the other dogs know you are keeping everything even.

7. Another great way to maintain calm is by having everybody sit for their dinner. If your dogs haven’t mastered this, you can practice sit for dinner one at a time before you graduate to everyone sitting before being released. Sitting for dinner is showing that you control mealtimes and that it’s no time for wild and crazy play. Like the doorway, the calmest dog gets to eat first.

Kersti Nieto
Certified Dog Trainer
K9 Solutions LLC

7 Ways to Deal with a Destructive Chewer

Photo Sep 16, 7 17 14 PM
Dealing with a powerful chewer can be a huge stress. You may find yourself going through countless pairs of shoes or personal belongings, which can add up quickly. A dog constantly destroying things in the house, especially if it’s the wall or base boards, is no fun to deal with.

1. If you have a crazed chewing dog who just can’t seem to get enough, the first thing you can do is think about what type of dog you have and what your activity level is like. Sometimes a dog with pent up energy will find another outlet to burn off steam if he isn’t getting enough exercise or mental stimulation. Is your dog still ready to go after you get back from a walk? Sometimes even running for 30 minutes with your dog can be enough to give him an adrenaline rush, amping him up for more.

2. Supervision is the easiest step. If you have a known chewer, don’t leave him alone in a room full of shoes, books, a remote, or other temptations you know he will go after. If you cannot supervise, crate him or use an exercise pen so you are sure to set him up for success.

3. Provide your dog with appropriate objects to chew, like antlers, knuckle bones, or natural bones with filling. When you see him going for the wrong item, give him a bone as a substitute. Getting really excited and happy about chewing on a bone can also show your dog that you like when he plays with those things.

4. Age can be a factor in chewing. A young puppy is certainly going to be testing his environment. Start showing him early which things are okay and which ones are not. There are also dogs who will be power chewers their whole lives. By setting the rules early, you can show him what you like him to chew.

5. Chew deterrents work really well for some dogs. There are a lot of items like Bitter Apple, Bitter Yuck, and Bitter Cherry that have an unpleasant taste to stop the dog from chewing. When you try a new product, always be watchful – you may have a dog who likes the bitter taste!

6. With children (and adults!) there are always consequences for actions. If you catch your dog in the act of chewing the base board, you can give him a correction and then lead him straight to his crate. This is fine as long as your dog likes his crate and you give him a treat any other time. You are showing your dog that chewing the wall leads to loss of free time, just like a child going to time out in his room.

7. Some dogs are seeking attention by grabbing things they know upset you. These dogs know that picking up the remote means you will yell “No!! Drop it! Drop it! Get back here!” as you chase them through the house, or yell at them after you’ve found it chewed up. This negative attention is still attention to them, and what they’re hearing is “Yea woohoo! Grab that remote and lets play chase!” If you think this is your dog, try ignoring him when he grabs something and go find something even more interesting, like a squeaky ball. Chances are that he will want what you have, dropping what he has because you did not make a big deal out of it.

Kersti Nieto
Certified Dog Trainer
K9 Solutions LLC

7 Things to Never Let a Child Do to a Dog

I love this. Something about being a team with your buddy so he can be a joy to haveWe have discussed in the past proper children and dog manners, but it can never be stressed enough the importance of supervision and proper dog-kid interactions. Educating early is the best way to encourage good interactions, prevent dog bites, and help our little humans grow up to be great leaders.

1. Never allow a child to pet a dog without permission. Some dogs may not be good with kids, may not feel well, or are in training for service or general good manners.

2. Never allow a child to run up to a dog. They should always approach at a relaxed pace, stopping before getting to the dog, and then allowing the dog to sniff you and close the gap. Since children are at a lower level, a child running straight up to a dog’s face can be very intimidating, especially if they are yelling or waving their arms.

If you don’t know the child approaching, step in front of your dog to block the child and engage them first, while at the same time showing your dog that you are taking care of everything.

3. Never allow a child to pet a dog if the dog is trying to avoid being petted. If the dog is turning away, suddenly panting, staring with a wide eye, turning its back, or all out trying to get away, the worst thing you can do is force a dog into the situation. This is a huge breach of trust and the dog will think you aren’t going to protect her from something that makes her uncomfortable, leaving her no choice but to protect herself.

4. Never let a child pull on, climb, poke, tease, or harass a dog in any way. What seems like affection to us does not say the same thing in dog language. Climbing on, wrapping arms around, or placing ourselves on the dog can be very dominating, making the dog uncomfortable. Some dogs don’t care, some dogs tolerate it, some dogs tolerate it until they have a breaking point, and some dogs hate it from the start. The best thing to do is to respect the dog’s space and not test whether they like it or not.

5. Never allow a child to disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or playing with bones. While no dog is allowed to guard resources, the grown ups can should take care of these behaviors and prevent incidents.

6. Teach children to never run away from a dog. Running from the dog can increase its prey drive, especially if the child is squealing too. Teach children to “make like a tree” and stand still.

7. Never, ever, ever allow a child to play with a dog unsupervised no matter how great the dog is. So many things can go wrong and it certainly has. Safety first.

Kersti Nieto
Certified Dog Trainer
K9 Solutions LLC

7 Tips for Introducing a New Dog to Your Pack

Results are no more pulling on outings (2)

Having a multiple dog pack can be beneficial. Not only is it therapeutic to us, but it allows our dogs to have canine companions as well and give them great outlets for exercise and socializing. If you are considering adding a new dog to your pack, whether you already have one or multiple dogs, here are a few things to consider when introducing the new family member.

1. What is the activity level of your household—yourself and your dog(s)? Are your dogs content with being couch potatoes? Or do they love to romp and play together outside? You want to match the energy level for yourself and your pets. Also consider your dogs’ prey drive if you are considering a small breed. Talk with a trainer about what energy and temperament is a good fit for your family. Rescue groups are always willing to make sure you have a good match as well.

2. When the day comes to bring your new dog home, go straight for a walk. If this is the very first time the dogs are meeting, have someone start walking the original dogs, and then join up with them so the dogs will form one pack. The faster you walk, the easier the dogs will fall into place. You can also take turns walking one dog in front of the other so they have a chance to smell each other while they continue moving. A big walk tires them out and helps them have a calm energy when you get home.

3. As long as all dogs are relaxed and happy, invite them inside the yard or in the house. Remember that this shouldn’t be a big deal at all, so stay relaxed. If you are anxious for them to get along, take another loop around the block and come back to the house fully at ease. Dogs will pick up quickly on nervous energy, so stay cool, confident, and relaxed.

4. Always supervise their initial interactions. If one or both dogs looks like they are becoming excited or stressed, take a break, separate or crate them, and revisit when you are ready.

5. Claim objects as your own to eliminate resource guarding. Your current dogs may want to rush in and grab up whatever bones or toys are around, but humans are the only ones allowed to do that! Have everything picked up so that nothing is lying around, and then make an exercise of it. Show them you are the giver of all things good and tasty.

6. Pay attention to how they are feeling. If it seems like interactions are too much for one dog, maybe the new dog is overwhelmed by change, or the old dog is too excited, continue with the pack walks until you feel comfortable that the energy is more relaxed. Not all dogs are the same, so it may take some longer to adjust to a new setting.

7. Treat each dog like an individual. With the introduction of a new dog, don’t forget the old one-on-one time you had with your first dog(s), and remember to find what makes the new dog tick. You may have one dog who loves jogging by your side, while the other would love nothing more to play fetch for a few minutes. Spending time together is always wonderful, but it’s also important to find outlets to let your dog’s “personality” shine through and build your bond bigger.

Kersti Nieto
Certified Dog Trainer
K9 Solutions LLC

7 Ways to Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby

When bringing home a new member of the family, start thinking about introducing your dog well in advance for this lifestyle change. Don’t bring your baby home and expect your dog to automatically respond correctly or change bad habits overnight. Preparing your dog months ahead will help him accept a new baby in the house more easily when the big day arrives.

1. Think about daily life in the house with a baby. Are there bad habits such as jumping on you or laying on the couch that you would rather undo at this point? Work on these training loopholes now instead of when baby comes. Practice walking around with a baby doll so he gets used to you having a bundle in your arms that he is not allowed to jump on. Same with not jumping on the couch or the swinging chair.

2. Teach your dog the “Wait” command so you can have it handy for not going into any rooms that you want temporarily or permanently off limits such as the baby room while you change diapers or the kitchen while you feed baby.

3. Practice having your dog walk politely next to a stroller before baby comes, including by distractions such as dogs, joggers, squirrels, etc.

4. If your dog has never been around kids before, you can acclimate him to children by going for walks near parks and playgrounds. Be sure your walk is relaxed with your dog besides you.

5. Your dog still needs routine. A lot of times a dog is forgotten and begins to act out to get attention. As your baby grows, supervise all interactions and remember to never allow your dog to get involved when he is not invited or where you are not comfortable with his presence.

6. Have your husband/mother bring the baby blanket from the hospital to allow the dog to smell it to get used to baby’s arrival. When baby comes home, allow your dog to get used to the little bundle in your arms, chairs, etc. around the house and also by taking walks. Take your time to do the actual introduction even if it takes days or weeks.

7. If you are nervous about the actual introduction, wait until you are comfortable so the meeting is positive and happy rather than risk your stress or worry to affect your dog. This will reassure your dog that even though baby has brought a big change to the household, his leaders are not worried and are taking care of things.

Kersti Nieto
Certified Dog Trainer
K9 Solutions, LLC

7 Indoor Activities for You and Your Dog

Between the summer heat and storms, many owners and dogs find themselves stuck indoors. Just because the weather is not conducive to outdoor activities does not mean there is nothing to do! Whether it is pouring rain or 100 degrees outside, it’s the time to get creative with indoor activities.

1. Practice basic commands, especially ones that your dog has yet to master. Mental exercise can make your dog more tired than physical.

2. Turn your house into a playhouse. If you have a long hallway, stairs, a covered porch, or garage, use it to play fetch or practice the Come command. Have your dog sit at the top of the steps with your Stay command, go down first, then call your dog. Repeat going back up. Make it a fun and happy game, and you will not even realize that you are getting exercise too! If you have a treadmill, you can acclimate your dog to walking on it.

3. You can play Hide and Seek to practice Come, get the kids involved, and teach them the foundation to search and rescue. Have one family member hide, then ask your dog to go find them, and then give lots of praise when he finds them! If your dog is more motivated by toys, hide his favorite toy and have him find it. This really gets dogs using their noses!

4. Puzzle Toys are a great way to provide mental exercise as well as build the human-canine bond. Check out all the neat toys on the market that can keep you and your dog involved together such as Nina Ottoson Puzzles or Kyjen Puzzles which you can find at one of our own local pet stores: http://www.animall.org.

5. Teach fun tricks. When you have a lot of time inside, it can be a great time to teach your dog some fun commands like roll over, dance, or speak! Remember to always keep it fun and enjoy yourself. The more genuine you are with teaching tricks, the more receptive the dog will be to your enthusiasm.

6. After an indoor mental exercise, you can take advantage of your dog’s calm state of mind to groom them. Having that calm down time gives you the opportunity to check your dog over, brushing them, checking their teeth, cutting their nails, and giving them a good look over.

7. Cuddle together or set them up with a stuffed kong or chewies such as bully sticks to settle down while you relax!

Kersti Nieto
Certified Dog Trainer
K9 Solutions LLC