Breaking Up Fights During Dog Socialization

One of the most often asked questions The Dog Gurus get is “What tools should a pet care center have at its disposal to break up a fight?” It seems there is an ever growing list of things you can use to stop a dogfight and safely protect yourself from getting bitten. So naturally, concerned pet care facility owners want to do proper dog socialization to keep the dogs and staff safe.

But I’ll be upfront about one thing…the more you are worried about the proper tools you need to break up a fight, the more I get worried that you are focused on the wrong issue. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely think it’s vital to keep the staff and dogs safe in the event of a fight, and when working with dog socialization fights are always a real possibility. But fights should be so rare that just a handful of tools should suffice to keep folks safe.

The biggest two tools you should have in your toolbox to prevent dog fights during dog socialization in your pet care center are a formal dog evaluation process and an excellent staff training program. If you have those two things in place then you have the best tools available for minimizing and preventing fights. So start there.

Now, if you really want some other tools, here are the other ones I would include to help break up a fight:

  • Kennel lead– Each staff member should be trained to carry a kennel lead with them at all times. It should be a part of their uniform. That way, if they need to leash a dog quickly, they aren’t wasting valuable time looking for a leash.
  • Radio/Whistle– When a fight breaks out, it’s important to let others know so that they can assist in breaking up the fight. If you have a small center, the noise of the fight may be the only communication you need. However, if you have an outdoor area, or a very soundproof building, then you’re going to need some way of quickly communicating the fact that a fight is going on.
  • Object to startle and distract dog(s)– One of the main goals in stopping a fight is to startle the dogs so that they release their hold on one another. You can use this by making a loud noise (hitting metal bowls together or making a loud sound with a marine air horn), by dumping water on the dogs (if you have an accessible water hose or large bucket of water), or by disorienting the dog (by tossing a blanket or bedding over the dog). Decide the best way to distract them and have those tools handy.
  • Object to move between dogs– If you haven’t startled them, then it might be necessary to try to separate them by pushing something in between the dogs.
  • Good tools for this include a small piece of playground equipment that you can push toward the dog, or even a chair that you can push in between the dogs.
  • Spray Shield– If nothing else has worked, then try using this citronella based deterrent to get the dogs to separate.

 

With proper evaluations and staff training, these dog socialization tools should provide you with the back up you need to intervene in the rare instance that you do have a fight. To learn more check out Fights and Bites in Daycare webinar on February 6, 2019.

Robin Bennett is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, author, speaker, and expert on dogs. She founded one of the largest dog training companies in Virginia and has been using her expertise in “reading dogs” to teach families how to train their pets as well as helping others in the pet care industry keep dogs safe for over 20 years. Robin’s first book, All About Dog Daycare is the number one reference on opening a dog daycare. She is also Co-author of Off-Leash Dog Play… A Complete Guide to Safety and Fun, and an extensive staff training program called, Knowing Dogs, which are the leading staff training resources for dog daycare and boarding facilities. Robin is currently co-founder of The Dog Gurus, the nation’s premier resource for dog care professionals. Through The Dog Gurus she is now helping pet care professionals get their lives back by showing them how to create sustainable businesses with teams that truly know dogs.

For more information on this course, go to Fights & Bites in Dog Daycare. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

For Professional Dog Trainers: Instinct & Drive

Professional Dog Trainers food for thought: As I take my foster dog Lumen out the door for an afternoon walk, we suddenly come upon a rabbit nibbling clover on the lawn. I look down at this little 25 pound dog and it is as if something has taken her over. Her muscles are coordinating in a ballet as old as canids. Her legs are bent, her body tensed, her head lowered and ears forward, as she soundlessly stalks the unsuspecting prey.

Most people, including many professional dog trainers, when seeing this behavior think of how wild and wolf-like it is. They tend to think of untrained behaviors, especially those reminiscent of wild ancestors’ as innate, triggered by an instinctual drive inherited directly from the wolf. But when I see these behaviors I notice how different they are from the wolf. Yes Lumen, a little grey frazzled dog from the streets of Texas is displaying pieces of the ancestral hunting behavior, and there’s no need for training a rescue dog to display these behaviors! But beyond that her behavior is quite different. We call these pieces of behaviors motor patterns, they are snapshots of a behavior. The wolf hunting behavior is made of “orient,” when the wolf focuses its eyes, ears, and nose on its potential prey with its head up above its shoulder, ears forward and attention rapt. Next are “eye” and “stalk,” two motor patterns that happen at the same time. “Eye” refers to the position of the head, which is now at or below the level of the shoulders. The ears are either forward or out to the side and eyes and nose are still trained on the potential prey. “Stalk” refers to the position of the body which is tense, but the legs are bent and the wolf is either frozen still or creeping forward slowing. Next is “chase,” which is exactly what it sounds like, then “grab-bite,” which is the initial bite to the prey. For wolves hunting large prey, this is a bite to whatever is handy – often the flanks. And finally “kill-bite,” which in the wolf is a bleeding bite often to the jugular. In wolves hunting large prey, this behavior is also performed with other members of their family, all coordinating together to hunt the same prey.

While dog behaviors are all made up of motor patterns that exist in the wolf repertoire, they are shown in different sequences, different contexts and at different thresholds, resulting in entirely different behaviors. Furthermore, while the motor patterns themselves appear perfectly the first time they are displayed, the behaviors that they make up like Lumen’s stalking of the rabbit, have to be developed. And while genes are important in producing behaviors, there are no genes for behavior, instead there are complex interactions between genes and environment. During my upcoming “Instinct & Drive” webinar, I will be breaking down what we know about behaviors that are often thought of as intrinsic and explaining the current knowledge of how genes and environment play into their development.

Kathryn Lord received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, where she studied the evolution and development of dog and wolf behavior, with Dr. Raymond Coppinger.

Leashes, Collars, and More – Oh My! Tips for professional dog trainers and owners alike.

By Katenna Jones

There was once a time not so long ago when the average home with a dog had one collar and one leash. A quick trip to most pet supply stores will quickly make it clear that this is no longer the case. Simply choosing color can be overwhelming, much less which style. This is especially pronounced when looking for a tool to address a particular training need. You may have tried this collar only to find that it doesn’t work. A neighbor recommends another harness, so you tried that only to find that doesn’t work. Perhaps you read about yet another option, got one and found that it worked at first only to stop shortly thereafter. As a result, many pet lovers and professional dog trainers end up with a basket full of equipment, losing faith in all of them. So what are you to do?

As so often is the case in dog training, it depends! It depends on what you want to get done, your dog, your training skill, and many other factors. Those involved in professional dog training understand that, as with any profession, the right tools can make all the difference.

Tip #1: Choose the right tool
Think of choosing dog equipment like choosing shoes. If you’re going on a hike, ballet slippers are probably not a great choice. They may be the best out there, but they are not going to get the job done. The same holds true for dog equipment – different pieces are designed for various reasons. Some tools are best for dogs with larger lips, some are better for larger dogs, others for smaller dogs. Research and ask around. Talk to people with experience with issues like yours and dogs like yours. Don’t ask the owner of a confident Labrador what they use, when you have a fearful chihuahua. If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.

Tip #2: Choose the right size and fit.
If you are a size 8 shoe and you go on a hike in size 6 or size 12 boots, you will be in for a world of hurt either way. Size matters with dog gear too. Too tight can restrict breathing or movement, put pressure on sensitive areas, cause chafing, and discomfort. Too large can result in accidentally coming off and your dog escaping, instability in movement, sliding around, or hitting sensitive points. There are lots of online videos and resources to tell you how to choose the right size for your dog. They usually give a range of dimensions so, if you don’t already know, there are resources that demonstrate how to properly measure your pet.

Now let’s assume you got the right size boot, but you didn’t tie the laces. It’s not the boot’s fault if your foot falls out during the hike. Likewise, properly fitting the tool is critical to its function. Most tools that are not obviously easy to fit come with instructions – read them! If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.

Tip #3: Introduce it slowly and carefully
For some, throwing on your first pair of 5” heels for the day is no biggie. For others, some time is needed to adjust. Dogs are no exception. Some equipment you can just put on a dog without issue. Typically, that is because the style is somewhat familiar or the dog is confident. However, in many cases, dogs aren’t so confident with new things or a particular style of equipment is so novel it’s terrifying. A great example is a head collar. Go slowly, and don’t force it. Allow the pet to get used to the idea, then slowly introduce the equipment. Start out with a loose fit, patiently teach the pet that moving around in this is a great thing that results in hot dogs! Gradually adjust the fit, encourage the pet to move more. Never force or scold, and always proceed slowly at the dog’s pace. If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.

Tip #4: If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.
If you’re a runner and you’re having pain, you might try different recommended brands. You might research to ensure you’ve fitted the shoe properly. You might even wear your shoes around the house to get used to them a bit more. But there comes a point when you’ve tried several things and the pain just isn’t going away. That’s when it’s time to talk to a running professional or a medical professional. Alternatively, if you’re not sure right off the bat, save yourself the time and hassle and go to skilled professional immediately. Of course, as I write this, I am restricted to the couch after ankle surgery resulting from bad advice from a doctor. Advice is only as good as the one giving it, so make sure your professional is skilled and qualified.

For additional information, check out my upcoming webinar through Raising Canine: Gearing Up: Selecting, Fitting, and Using Dog Equipment.

Online Dog Trainer Course: Bonding with Your Client

New webinar on Raising Canine: “How to Bond With Your Client”. Wendy (the presenter) is a great people person – unlike a lot of us dog trainers. Don’t miss this dog trainer course, online, if you’re looking for more rapport, longer relationships, and more client referrals, click below:

Bonding with your clients: Improving Client Relations for Better Outcomes

Changing Bad Dog Habits in 4 Simple Steps

Leash chewing, paw licking, and poop eating are just a few examples of behaviors that may develop due to a very specific set of circumstance and then linger long after the underlying reason for the behavior is gone. What advice do you provide your dog training clients?

  • Resolve the underlying reason for the behavior. Puppies chewing on leashes can be teething. Paw licking can be related to allergies, and poop eating a nest-cleaning instinct gone awry. Whatever the underlying cause of the behavior, if you don’t remove it then it will return.
  • Train an alternate, incompatible behavior. A few examples include teaching a dog to hold their toy or tug in the mouth while walking for the leash chewer, and chewing a bully stick or bone for the paw licker.
  • In moments where training fails, be ready to disrupt, distract, and redirect. Whether through management or training, it is very important that the dog not be in a position to practice the undesirable behavior. So be ready with management when you’re not actively training an alternative behavior. Providing great chews and interactive toys is one option, increasing exercise and mental stimulation will generally also help.
  • Repeat for 2 to 4 weeks. Compare this to the amount of time you might expect a human to take to alter a specific undesirable habit like nail-biting.

The most difficult component of this is selling owners on a very high level of diligence for the 2-4 week period. Explain that by front-loading the owner’s efforts, they will resolve the problem behavior much more quickly. Allowing the dog to practice a particular undesirable behavior only lets the dog get cleverer about the behavior and makes it more difficult to extinguish later. Professional dog trainers frequently have to sell their clients on certain aspects of training. This is a very important skill to develop, because the long-term success and maintenance of the training is in the hands of the person who is spending time with the dog – and that is your client.

Separation Anxiety, Too Big a Bite or Specialization Opportunity?

Professional dog trainers should think long and hard before accepting behavior modification cases if it is not the focus of their business and they haven’t received specialized training. One of the most important concepts that you can learn as a pro is to set both yourself and your clients up for success from the outset. Pre-screening clients then matching them with your appropriate service or referring them out to another trainer is one of the first steps in setting you and your client up for success. 

Unsure whether behavioral work is for you? Check out Become a Professional Dog Trainer courses, and keep your knowledge base fresh with topic specific continuing education. By educating yourself you’re providing the best possible chance for your client’s success whether through your own services or a well thought out referral to another resource.

Read Linda Michael’s blog entry on “Separation Anxiety” for a few helpful tips. But also be aware that separation anxiety can be one of the more difficult behaviors to modify. So consider your skills and education, then decide if you’re the best fit for your clients’ success. By educating yourself, you can decide whether to make behavior modification one of the focuses of your professional dog training business or to knowledgeably direct your clients to the best available resource for this specialized training.

Dog Training Facility…Or Not: Products Offered Affect Your Location Options

One of the questions all professional dog trainers must answer is where will I provide my services? The answer may be defined by the products you’re offering your clients. Or you may find yourself limiting your services based upon available training locations. Here are a few items to consider:

1.  If you plan to teach group puppy classes, then you must be able to sterilize your environment. Outdoor classes are out. As are any other areas that cannot be sanitized. Two other examples are facilities where you cannot control access once fully sanitized or facilities with flooring that cannot be properly sanitized.

2. Private coaching can be offered in a client’s home, a training facility, or a public location.

3. Day training can be offered in the client’s home, the dog trainer’s home, a training facility, or public space. If your day training option includes day care or pick-up/delivery, then the last 3 options work nicely. Otherwise, the most practical solution will be training in or around the client’s home.

4. Specialty classes often have special location requirements. Nose Work class requires crating space or weather that cooperates with car crating. Reactive dog class means visual blocks will be needed, segregated safe areas and larger spaces. Agility requires a larger space and specialized flooring or footing.

Consider your product offerings. Consider your targeted dog training niche and what the classes filling this niche will require. Consider the location options available to you. Each of these factors will weigh against each other, so be ready to prioritize and be familiar with all of your options.

Dog Training Facility…Or Not: Non-Facility Options

A dog training facility just isn’t for you. Too much overhead, not enough flexibility, or one of a number of other considerations has convinced you that you’d rather pursue other options. What are those options?

1. Work as a dog training employee. Whether for a big box store, a local training facility, or a standalone trainer, consider working as an employee. This is a great way to get started in professional dog training. Frequently, as an employee you’ll work under your employer’s curriculum and direction.  You may even have an opportunity to apprentice.

2. Independent contractors are much more commonly found in dog training, which means that you’re likely responsible for your own insurance and paying your own taxes. You also have more flexibility, limited only by the employment contract you negotiate.

3. Be your own boss, but focus your efforts on in-home training and/or the use of public space. Sole proprietorship, a limited liability company, or another business entity type – you choose.

Be aware that laws governing your status as an employee or independent contractor, as well as laws regulating different business entity types vary by jurisdiction. That means that you should be familiar enough with local laws to know when you need to seek professional help to guide you.

Dog Training Facility…Or Not: Logistical Considerations

So you’ve decided on training in a dog training facility – now what? There are a number of options available to professional dog trainers. The greatest limiting factors will be cost and canine access to the space.

Cost
Issue –
Renting a space large enough to fulfill your training needs can be cost-prohibitive. Dog training is limited to the hours in which your clients are available. That means that group classes are typically held evenings and weekends, day training is typically daytime weekdays, and daycare high demand is Monday-Friday during the day. Be aware that you may have to provide services beyond training if you rent a facility – i.e., daycare and boarding.
Solutions –
1. Diversify your professional dog training services to fully encompass both your clients’ needs and your facility’s available hours of operation. A good example is day care during the day and classes in the evening. But get creative and find a solution that works for your clients and your product offerings.
2. Pair up with complementary businesses and share your space. The business or businesses you pair with may be dog-oriented or just dog-friendly.
3. Rather than renting or purchasing a space, investigate creative options for sharing or leasing from an existing business.

Canine Access
Issue –
In pursuing creative options, you may encounter some difficulty finding a match with other businesses or locations that will be receptive to the presence of dogs and all they entail: hair, slobber, dirt,, elimination, etc.
Solutions –
1. Yoga may not be your best bet for shared space since the participants spend much of their time on the floor and might prefer a more pristine environment – not to mention the fact that their clients have the same time needs as yours! However, there is a rising trend in doga, yoga for dogs, so perhaps just the right yoga instructor would be interested!
2. Give special consideration to businesses that have complimentary business hours. Retail locations are one example.
3. Consider pairing up with another dog-friendly business. Many doggie daycares, boarding facilities, and groomers don’t offer in-house dog training, and they most certainly are prepared for canine clients on the premises.
4. Investigate local community centers. Some have rules regarding dogs, but some do not.
Issue –
Some lease spaces have restrictions specific to dogs.
Solution –
1. You don’t know if you don’t ask. If you’re seeking your own lease space, have your agent make inquiries on properties that are otherwise a good fit.
2. Sometimes properties can be flexible and you can negotiate canine access. Perhaps boarding is not an option, but daycare is. Or perhaps certain hours can be negotiated; business parks may have interest in providing evening access for higher volume dog traffic. You don’t want to limit yourself unnecessarily, but it’s wise to know all of your options.

Training Equipment for Loose Leash Walking

Many professional dog training instructors choose to use management tools in training loose leash walking. A loose leash walking training plan begins by managing the undesirable, leash pulling behavior. Below are a series of steps involved in using a management tool.

1. Choose the best tool for your client, the client dog, and the loose leash walking method that you and your client agree upon. There are a number of options including restrictive harnesses like the Freedom Harness or Easy Walk Harness, head halters like the Gentle Leader, or even something as simple as a long line.

2. Fit the tool properly on the dog. Ensure that the client understands how the equipment should be properly fitted so that they can check fit periodically.

3. Explain the proper use of the equipment to the client. Management doesn’t replace training, so this is a conversation that will include a discussion of your loose leash walking training plan. The tool allows the client to walk without having the dog practice the undesirable behavior (tension in leash, unbalanced body weight), but most dogs can learn to pull in any tool making the tool ineffective. Management should happen in conjunction with training so that the tool doesn’t lose its effectiveness and training goals can be met.

4. Discuss with the client how they can misuse the equipment. No pointing of fingers needed here! This is simply to point out the hazards of unintentional errors. One example of this is for the client to use the equipment without pursuing any training. The equipment doesn’t train the dog, so using it without training can eventually lead to the equipment becoming ineffective. Basically, the dog can learn to compensate for the training equipment and continue to pull.

The bulk of your discussion with your client will focus on the training plan you and your client develop together. The equipment you choose and its proper use are just 2 small pieces of that plan, but they’re important ones not to skip.