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Environmental Desensitization – Helping a Student’s Dog

When you are working on helping your dog become less reactive towards other dogs, a factor that often comes about is having difficulty even having them focus on you rather than the environment. One reason this can happen is a dog’s distress about being in outdoor locations where many of their triggers (stressors) have been in the past. Another reason might be being overstimulated by all the novel smells and sights in the new place. Still another reason may be the expectation that the environment is one in which independent play takes place, not training activities that are focus-dependent.

Recently a client contacted me asking for help with her reactivity class training homework with her dog…

ThunderCaps – Calming an Over-Stimulating World

In our modern densely-populated and noisy urban society, dogs can often live much of their lives outdoors in a state of high visual stimulation. Surprising encounters at close distances and limited opportunities to escape are part of this picture also. The ThunderCap™ is a tool that can be used to reduce the stimulation of these environments. They can also be helpful in the environmental management program of dogs who have reactivity.

“Fine” is a Four-Letter Word

Have you ever looked at your dog and thought that she looks “fine”? Have you described your own or another person’s pet as “fine” when you describe them to your friends? Beware, the word “fine” is often not so fine!

Calming Signals or Stress Signs?

When working with clients, I am often asked about the body language of the dogs that we are working with. One question that comes up, particularly with those who have some background in behavior and training, is about whether certain behaviors we are seeing are Calming Signals or stress signs.

The Misunderstood Muzzle

Muzzles are some of the most misunderstood, but most important, tools in dog training. It is a way to keep your dog and others around her safe while providing opportunities for training. A muzzled dog is not a bad dog, and may not even be a dog that bites. However it is a dog whose people are being proactive and safe.

A Note from Dr. Valli – Synergy Snapshot

A lot has changed with our practice since our last blog article. Previously, we were doing house call consultations only, and running classes out of dog daycares and boutique pet stores. While we enjoyed doing that, we really wanted a place that we could call “home”. After almost a year and a half of searching, we found a location in NW Portland that worked very well for us, and we named it the Synergy Behavior Center.

Say What? Whale Eye

Whale eye occurs when a dog’s head is pointed one way but their eyes are looking at something in a different direction. The whites of the eyes can be seen as an arc. It can be thought of as looking out of the corner of the eye. Dogs who show this behavior are typically concerned about something that is going on around them.

Pet Prep – Part 1 – Shelter and Sustenance

Since hearing about the potential dangers of a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest and Portland in particular, I have decided that I would like to find ways to teach people how to help their pets in a disaster. I want to share with you some of the things that I am learning from my own research and from the NET (Neighborhood Emergency Team) classes I am taking.

Trainers Need Training Too!

I have been assisting with our Reactive Rover classes for several years, but recently I had the opportunity to join the class as a student with my own dog, Ferrous. I love being a student. Not only do I get to spend time with my dogs, which can be in short supply as a trainer, but it gives me a chance to fine tune my techniques and get feedback from my peers.

Say What? Bunting

Bunting, head-butting or face-rubbing, is something anyone who has been around cats will recognize. Cats will rub against inanimate objects, as well as people or other animals that they feel comfortable with. The term “allorubbing” is also used when bunting is done in a social context.

When can I stop using the…

Today I thought I’d address a question that we occasionally get asked by clients…

“At what point can I stop using (the clicker/treats) with my dog for the behavior I am working on improving?”

This is actually a really interesting question to answer since it brings to light several aspects of dog learning and helps everyone understand better why dogs are motivated to do certain behaviors. In the example below (jumping up on the person when exiting the crate) here’s how I answered…

Front-Clip Harnesses

There are many training tools that help people get better control with their pulling dogs. One that we have recommended to hundreds of our clients is the front-clip harness. Their feedback has predominantly been good.

Why does my pet do that?

Have you ever wondered how your dog or cat figures out how to do what? It is because of two types of learning that they are especially good at: associative learning, and learning by consequence.

When working with companion animals, regardless of whether you are teaching obedience cues, working on tricks, or addressing complex behavior problems, understanding the way they learn will make the process easier and more successful.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head

At my house, neither of my dogs are big fans of the rain, but it has never really been that big of an issue. That is, until the last major rain storm. For whatever reason, Ferrous took one look at the downpour and refused to leave the shelter of our tiny patio.

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