Wednesday, June 27, 2018

4 Beginner Tips for Foolproof Dog Socialization

How to Socialize a Dog

Socialization is an important part of dog training. Depending on the circumstances, it can start in puppyhood or later in life, but without it, you might be facing an uphill battle when it comes to forming a lasting partnership with your dog.
While dog behavior is ultimately a vast and complex topic, here we've broken down four basic socialization tips for you and your dog to follow. So sit, stay and read.

1. Be Consistent

Consistency is key to achieving just about anything in life, and that’s no different for socialization or dog training. Think about how difficult it would be for you to learn the piano if your instructor only showed up once a month and used a different set of music terminology each time. Most dogs are eager to learn and interact with you, however, dog training isn’t a one-and-done deal. Consistency isn't just about your dog's behavior, it's about yours as well.

For example:
  • Use the same command each time
    • e.g., "down" and "off" aren't interchangeable
  • If you're going to make your dog sit when meeting strangers on Monday & Tuesday, you need to follow through on this behavior from Wednesday through Sunday as well

Making sure your dog gets plenty of exposure to other dogs and humans is critical to proper socialization. While your dog may always bark at the mailman for interrupting nap time, we encourage you to purposefully create an environment in which your dog can practice being a good boy or girl often and regularly.

  • Take your dog on regular walks
  • Find an off-leash dog park
  • Participate in obedience, agility or trick classes

2. Reward! Reward! Reward!

Socializing your dog is all about linking positive associations to desired behaviors. While dog training can certainly be frustrating at times, it's simply not possible to elicit positive responses from negative reinforcements.
Your dog's behavior is a direct reflection of your training. A difficult dog isn't "doing it on purpose" or "out of spite"; aside from a few selective genetic traits, your dog simply isn't preprogrammed.
To get the most out of any training, couple consistency with reward.

3. Start Early

The best time to start socializing your dog is now. Whether your pup is just a few months old or you'd like to get an older companion accustomed to friends, family or guests, the sooner you can begin the process the better.
Your dog isn't born with the skills he or she will need to become an ideal companion, however, thanks to centuries of selective breeding your dog already possesses the potential. It's your job to unleash this potential, through consistent training and positive reinforcement.

The Overly-Excited Dog

Most dogs you'll encounter throughout your lifetime will fall into this category. But just because your dog is already eager to meet other dogs or humans, doesn't mean he or she won't require socialization training.
Dogs that get too frisky, jump up or seemingly have no boundaries will require socialization to help them play and interact within the confines of normal doggy boundaries. To achieve this,

  • Let other dogs tell your dog or puppy "no"
  • Intervene and redirect attention using positive rewards
  • Start training the basics such as "sit" and "stay" early

The Cautious Dog

Some dogs are just born worriers. You can't change your dog's personality, but you can help these traits not turn to fear or aggression by intervening early on.

  • Give your dog a job
  • Provide plenty of praise
  • Don't push it

Dogs are doers. From sniffing out bombs to getting your slippers, all dogs are willing and capable to some extend in this department. Of course, training for the job requires work, diligence and patience; a well-trained dog isn't born, he is made.
But don't worry: it doesn’t take complicated jobs such as leading the blind to keep them busy and engaged. You can build your dog's confidence simply by making him or her wait before eating or going outside, letting your dogs carry their own pack while hiking or teaching easy retrieval and release skills.

No matter how you choose to approach it, praise will be a key component to your success. Some dogs prefer eye contact and pets while others want to go straight for the ball or the treat. How you praise your dog is up to you, but it's important to remember that all accomplishments - no matter how small - deserve and require your praise in order to instill a sense of well-being and confidence in your dog over time.

Finally, don't push your dog into scenarios he or she is not comfortable with. You've probably heard differing opinions on this, from "don't coddle" to "sink or swim", but we're here to tell you from years of experience that if your dog feels threatened, fearful or insecure, you cannot remedy the situation with force.

Your dog might never be a social party girl; the goal of socialization isn't to create a new personality for your dog, it's to ensure that your dog is capable of stepping out into the world without trepidation.
Take your time, assess your dog's mood by observing his or her body language, and let them walk away or even hide if they feel like it. Over time, with repeated exposure and positive reinforcement, your dog will emerge from his shell.

The Aggressive Dog

Sometimes, dogs become aggressive. You might adopt an aggressive dog or raise one on your own. Aggression is an avoidable and treatable behavior that's affected by early socialization, training and genetics.
There are various types of aggression that can occur, most of which are the result of fear and insecurity. Early intervention is your best bet to avoiding aggression, but if you're already dealing with an aggressive dog, there are still various things you can do to correct this behavior.
A very common type of aggression, even in typically good-natured dogs, tends to be leash aggression so let’s discuss this in more detail.

The reason leash aggression occurs is because it creates a sense of insecurity for your dog. Facing another dog on a leash places your dog into a position he or she wouldn't normally be in when a friendly greeting occurs. Your dog doesn't know he should simply chalk up this awkward direct face-to-face contact to the leash, and instead tries to distance himself from the situation by exhibiting warning signs such as growling, barking or lunging.

To make matters worse, there's often a well-intentioned but misguided owner on the other end of the leash. As dogs approach one another, you might notice a shift in body language such as lowered tail or flattened eats. Your response?
Your instinct tells you to tighten the leash, but this actually reinforces a feeling of tension to further increase stress in your dog.
How do you stop aggression?

  • Train at home
  • Limit exposure to other dogs
  • Provide distraction & positive reinforcement

Training while at home ensures that your dog is able to give you his or her undivided attention for extended periods of time. Teaching your dog common commands such as sit or lay down in a non-threatening environment will help you to apply these skills more naturally when things aren’t so relaxed.
While ultimately the goal is to help your dog understand he doesn't have to be aggressive on the leash, setting realistic goals will help you both to stick out this process. If you normally walk during doggy rush hour or your regular route just happens to be a thoroughfare for other animals, think about what you can change to limit exposure to other dogs.
You want to be able to encounter a few dogs in each walk, in order to begin retraining. Remember that jerking the leash, yelling or other forms of punishment will create an even more negative association, so you should never punish your dog in an effort to correct his aggressive behavior.
Using a treat reward while walking is easy, but you must pay attention. If you see your dog notice another dog, provide a treat before he or she has time to react. Continue to give treats until the dog has passed.

You may need to redirect your dog's attention entirely, by turning him away from other dogs as they pass. You can also walk around other dogs in a large arc to avoid head-on contact.
If your dog is clearly agitated or acting aggressive throughout this process, you’ve demanded too much too soon. Try observing dogs from afar for a while.

4. Learn to Speak Your Dog's Language

Teach your dog to “speak” and he'll still just be barking. While your dog may become verbal in order to communicate, much of how your dog actually speaks is conveyed via non-verbal body language. Learning a dog's body language is a valuable skill that'll help you provide proper socialization while avoiding common mistakes new pet owners make.

If your dog shows signs of irritation, fear or aggression, intervening with distraction and positive reward will help you to mitigate a potentially dreadful situation.
Your dog provides many cues to you throughout the day, from making eye contact while cuddling to play-bowing as you chase him around the yard. Some cues can be much more subtle such as a raised eyebrow or a quick head tilt.
This helpful chart from Canine Strategies displays 15 common, yet oftentimes misinterpreted, body language cues you should be aware of as you socialize your dog. Keeping your pup's tail, eyes, ears, mouth and overall posture in mind when making proper introductions at home or while out will allow you to quickly intervene before problems have the chance to arise.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The 5 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Dog Nail Clipping

Proper Nail Care for Your Dog

We're often asked about doggy nail care, so we thought it best to compile a blog article covering your most frequently asked questions.

1. Should I use a clipper or a nail grinder?

Ah, the age-old question: Which tool is best for the job? In this case, it's not so easy since each of these tools have their own pros and cons. Which tool you choose should ultimately depend on whether the pros can outweigh the cons for your particular situation.
Fear not, you can master both of these tools with a little patience and diligence. Just like anything else worth doing, clipping nails takes time and practice. After all, it's a new skill for you - and your pup.

About Nail Clippers

There are a couple of styles of clippers to consider: the scissor clipper and a guillotine-style clipper. (As if nail clipping wasn’t intimidating enough as it is.)

The scissor clipper is probably what's best known to you. You tend to find these clippers at most pet stores and everywhere online; scissor clippers are very low-maintenance and come in a variety of sizes. They don't require sharpening, and because they can apply a large amount of force, they can cut through thick nails on large dogs pretty easily.

The guillotine-style clipper looks exactly how it sounds. Rather than two blades coming down
together in a scissor motion, the guillotine uses one blade that comes down straight in order to get the job done. These clippers are really only recommended for small dogs since you can't apply as much force with them, and the guillotine blade does need to be replaced regularly. 

Both styles of clippers are highly affordable, under $15 on Amazon. When buying tools for dog grooming, saving a few extra dollars by going with a less reputable brand simply isn't worth it. We recommend the Safari clippers for small and large dogs, and the Resco guillotine clipper for your smaller companions only.

Nail Clipper Pros

Scissor clippers need virtually no maintenance. Guillotine clippers should have their blades replaced. All clippers have the potential to dull so it’s important to replace your tools if you notice difficulty cutting or nail splintering.
These small tools will fit into any bag or side pocket for travel, and can be easily stowed away in a small bathroom drawer.

Not many things you'll buy for your dog over the course of his or her lifetime will cost you under $20. Nail clippers don't require a big investment and are affordable to replace.

With a snip-snip-snip, you're done and done. Nail clipping isn't a time-consuming task like most other grooming procedures.

Nail Clipper Cons

The Quick
The quick lives inside your dog's nail and it's filled with many tiny nerve endings and blood vessels. We often hear from dog owners who've accidentally clipped into the quick, resulting in bleeding and crying. More on this common issue below.

It's also very easy to pinch the quick, even if you don’t cut it, when using clippers. This is why your dog tends to pull back as soon as he sees the clippers come out.

As you're cutting your dog's nails, you shouldn't find any splintering or breaking but sometimes this does occur. The most common culprit for this issue is a dull blade.

About the Dremel

A dremel, or nail grinder, is an alternative tool for trimming your dog's nails. Dremels are most commonly used for sanding, polishing or sharpening, and they can pack quite a powerful punch. A dog nail dremel such as this one is intended to provide a safe and effective alternative to clipping with rotations up to 13,000 RPMs (professional shop dremels can easily rotate at 35,000 RPMs so we don't recommend using one of these).

Dremel Pros

Clipper Anxiety
If your dog flips out at the sight of a clipper, it might be time to switch to a dremel (more on this below).

More Control
Unlike with a clipper, a dremel will allow you to literally remove millimeters off your dog's nails. This can be a great solution to the problem of bleeding.

Easy, Smooth Shortening
Dremels won't break or shatter nails. As a matter of fact, you can easily round nail edges with a dremel for a smooth appearance.

Dremel Cons

The Quick
If your main worry when clipping nails is hitting the quick, the dremel is not a foolproof solution. The quick lives inside the nail, and anytime you start cutting into the nail - whether it's with a clipper or a dremel - you do risk hitting the quick.

Pretty Scary
If your dog doesn't like new noises, the dremel probably won't be for him. Additionally, a dremel causes vibrations that some dogs simply won't tolerate. Hold an electric toothbrush up to your dog's nail to see how he or she responds. If the reaction is adverse, avoid the dremel.

When you sand, you create nail dust. This is not an issue health-wise but it can be irritating to the lining or your nose or your eyes, and of course creates additional clean up.

2. My dog won't hold still. What do I do?

Whether you're using a clipper or a dremel, the reason your dog won't hold still is likely the same: you've pinched or even cut the quick. Due to the amount of nerve endings residing in the quick, this was a painful experience for him or her. One or two times of pinching the quick, and they'll quickly associate the glimmer of the clipper with pain.

But your dog's nails have to be cut. So what's the solution?
If you power through it, you’ll risk cutting into the quick even more.

Therefore, take your time. Cut only in very small increments, then reward your pup immediately with a treat. In the beginning, consider cutting only one nail before letting them wander off again. This doesn't breed bad habits, it breeds trust in the process.
Your dog's nails don't grow at astronomical rates, so it’s not detrimental to take breaks. You'll be amazed at how quickly your dog becomes accustomed to the idea of nail trimming once the pressure is off.

3. My dog has black nails. How can I tell where the quick is?

If your dog as white nails, it's very easy to tell where the quick ends. But black nails are completely opaque and hide the quick, making nail cutting an even more daunting task.
Here's the thing about the quick: it's not always in the same place in the nail. The quick of your dog's nail actually recedes the more nail you cut off.


If your dog has long nails, the quick will almost reach the tip of the nail. So when cutting long nails, only cut off only a small increment.
Once you’ve made the initial cut, the quick will begin to recede. If you wait a week, you won't notice much nail growth, but now is a good time to cut off a little bit more. Again, use only small increments.
As this process continues, the quick will become shorter and you'll be able to cut down the nail to its ideal length.

What is the ideal length of a dog's nail?
The quick won't recede infinitely, which means that you're always at risk of nipping it if you go too short. Deciding the ideal length of your dog's nails is very easy.

Stand your dog up.
Are his nails touching the ground? If so, they're still too long. The pitter patter of puppy feet throughout the house should never turn to a clickety clacker.

4. How often should I trim my dog’s nails?

Every dog's nails grow at different rates. Dogs that spend a lot of time taking walks outside, particularly on rougher terrain, will naturally have their nails ground down.
Your dog's nails should always remain above the floor when he or she is standing up. Because the nail quick will protrude further into the nail the longer you wait in between trimmings, we recommend cutting off a bit each week.

5. My dog keeps bleeding when I cut his nails. Help!

Cut the nails more frequently and cut the nails only in small increments. Cutting off small increments will greatly reduce the risk of cutting into the quick. Once the nail's been cut down a bit, the quick will actually recede a small amount. Use this to your advantage; don't wait until the nail is long again to cut off another small increment, rather keep trimming once a week. This helps the quick stay short.
Your dog's nails only need to be short enough to stay off the ground. For most dogs, a small once-a-week trim is plenty.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Pros & Cons of the Maltese Breed

If you're looking for a sweet, charming little companion for years to come, a Maltese is a great choice. This breed is affectionate and small, which means they retain a puppy-like appearance for their entire lives. As with any dog, there are positive and negative aspects of this breed that you should consider before deciding to make a Maltese part of your family.

The Pros of Owning a Maltese

1. Temperament
In general, the breed is sweet, gentle and playful. Maltese are content to snuggle with their human family for long periods of time, and they’re always ready to tag along on whatever adventures your day has in store. These are friendly, outgoing dogs, so be ready to make lots of friends when you take your Maltese for walks, to the park or your local watering hole. Maltese dogs are also known to remain active and playful well into old age.

2. Trainability
Some toy breeds can be stubborn or overly aggressive, but the Maltese defies these stereotypes. This breed is intelligent and good-natured, and responds very well to reward-based training. Maltese are an especially good choice for someone who is new to owning a dog.

3. Adaptability
Because of their size and easygoing demeanor, Maltese dogs are able to adapt well to living in small
spaces such as an apartment. They don't need large yards or tons of space to exercise, which is helpful for those who don't have access to a fenced-in lawn. Playing indoors or going for daily walks is typically enough to keep a Maltese healthy both mentally and physically.

4. Kid-friendliness
Maltese are very loyal to their humans, and because they are sweet-tempered, they usually do well as a family pet. They are able to get along well with children and other pets. If possible, you should socialize your Maltese as early and often as possible to instill good manners and listening skills.

5. Overall Health
Most small purebred dogs are prone to specific sets of health issues and the Maltese is no exception. However, these dogs are generally very hardy, healthy little companions who live long and happy lives without major health concerns.

The Cons of Owning a Maltese

1. You Can't Say No
This breed is one that you just can't resist. Even owners who firmly swear they won't spoil their dog end up giving in to the sweet, dark eyes and cute little button nose. It's no surprise that the Maltese is well-known for always getting what it wants.
We’re not above spoiling our pups either, but remember that boundaries for your dog (and yourself) are as important as proper diet and exercise. Boundaries give dogs security and confidence, and dogs with jobs that use their natural talents tend to be calmer and happier.

2. Keeping White Fur Clean
Even if your dog is strictly an inside pet, breeds with white fur are prone to getting brown stains, particularly around the eyes, mouth and anywhere he regularly licks. This is because of a substance in the dog's saliva and tears that causes a change in pH. Over time, this can stain the fur a pinkish or brownish color.

Maltese owners can use products like Doggone White pH Perfect Powder to prevent this from happening or treat stains that may have already occurred.

3. Temperature Sensitivity
Depending on where you live and how much outdoor activity you enjoy, this should be an important factor when deciding on whether or not to opt for the Maltese. These little dogs aren't well-suited to extreme temperatures or weather, so owners should be careful about when they go outside. It's usually best to have an indoor bathroom option for this breed since they don't do well in extremely hot, cold or damp weather.

The Joys of Owning a Maltese

The joys of owning a Maltese are many. Maltese are sweet, playful and intelligent, and they are relatively low-maintenance, especially once you find a grooming style that suits you. Overall, the Maltese is a popular choice for all types of dog lovers and a wonderful addition to any dog lover's life.