When the Levee Breaks

Now, cryin’ won’t help you
Prayin’ won’t do you no good
When the levee breaks
Mama, you got to move
- Led Zepplin, When The Levee Breaks

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Orion peed on the floor last week.


I’m not going to say it’s my fault, because I let him out, I saw him go, and I let him back in.  Besides, I’m not a big fan of blame.  I’m surely not going to blame Orion.  He’s a dog. What happened was this:

I took Sparta for a walk.

I know what you’re thinking.  How on earth could taking Sparta for a walk result in a mess on the floor from Orion.  Was Orion trying to get back at me?  Answer: No.  Dogs don’t work that way.  Here’s the blow-by-blow.

1) I know Orion is a super-hyper dog with a lot of energy.  If I don’t help him get rid of that energy in productive ways, it turns into nervous energy.

monkeyboy-oklahoma-oThat’s a bad thing. Orion had a lot of energy that morning.  I’ve been pretty busy, and haven’t been giving him quite enough outlets during the day.  Yes, we still hiked, but he’s a dog who needs a LOT of physical activity to be at his best. And while each day he had enough exercise to skim the energy off the top, I didn’t empty his cup, if you will.  Unfortunately, that builds up over time.

2) Orion has a nervous temperament as well.  He’s like a skittish racehorse. And when he has some shock to his system (like my taking Sparta for a walk before him, which is our usual MO), he literally can’t hold it anymore  Like a 4 year old on Christmas morning.  Yes, the child has been potty trained, but if you add too much excitement, nothing is stopping the flood.

Or as I refer to it, The Fountain of Youth

Or as I refer to it, The Fountain of Youth

3) I forgot who my dog was.  Orion has a bit of separation anxiety, especially with Sparta.  I know Orion initially self-soothed by, uh, eliminating in a high stress situation.  Yes, we worked on that, and he’s been amazing these past few years.  But this is a behavior you manage, rather than cure.  Orion hasn’t eliminated in the house in a very, very long time. I just happened to create the perfect storm for him.

So what should I have done?

1) Paid more attention to his need for activity.  Yes, I was busy, but that’s a reason, not an excuse. If I blow the engine on my car because I was too busy to change the oil, I don’t get a pass from the mechanic who has to replace my engine.  I’m the one who got the car/dog.  It’s my responsibility to change the oil/exercise the car/dog.  No excuses. Figure something out, or, in my case, clean something up.

2) Control the situation. So the amount of activity in our house has been down, meaning I was already setting Orion up for failure.  So I added on top of it.  I know he’s used to going for the walk first, and was ready to go!  Except, I reneged on him.  And rocked his little world.  That merely added to the stress he already had from lack of activity.

giphy (12)

 

3) Know your dog. This is Orion, not Sparta, who hasn’t gone in the house since, like, ever!  I know his triggers, and as I work with him, they trigger him less and less, but still, he has them.

So this week I’ve been proactive.  His amount of activity per day has been increased.  I’ve gotten him accustomed to being along in the house first, while I take Sparta for very brief walks, (like out the front door, down the driveway and then back) so he gets used to the idea and isn’t traumatized by it.

So now when I’m presented with two dogs who are each waiting for their (separate) walks, each with a lot of energy, I’m able to manage the situation better.  I hold up a leash and let them know I’m ready for my first solo dog walk of the day with one of them.  And rather than this reaction from each of them:

giphy (13)I get this.

giphy (14)Orion knows now that just because he isn’t first doesn’t mean he isn’t skipping his walk.  And I know now that good enough is only good enough for so long.  Now I’m very careful to make sure I get rid of all of Orion’s energy.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

 

676

 

It’s a beautiful day; don’t let it get away.
-U2

Orion and Sparta.  Brittany Graham Photography

Orion and Sparta. Brittany Graham Photography

This time of year can kinda suck if you have asthma.  Which I do.  I’ve got an upper respiratory infection on top of it.  I’m miserable. I feel like death warmed over.  In the history of sickness, I don’t think anyone has ever been as sick as I am right now.

giphy

Then I realized that I was being stupid.  The temperature is 53 degrees – warm for Cleveland (or the Arctic Tundra, but I repeat myself).  The sun is shining.  It’s an okay day for hiking, or at least going for a short walk with my best friend.  And here I was squandering it feeling sorry for myself, which is what I’ve been doing or the past 2 days.  Yes I’m legitimately sick.  But that doesn’t negate my dogs’ need for activity.  I’ve been cutting corners, using the treadmill for Orion, and a backpack plus some minor agility for Sparta, as outlined here and here, but nothing really beats a good walk.  Sunshine only adds to the benefit.  It was time for me to suck it up and go outside.  But I still don’t want to.

The lights...it hurts

The lights…it hurts

Then I saw an update in the mail from my dog’s vet, reminding me that Sparta was due for her rabies shot.  I looked through her medical records to verify, and stumbled across something that I’d forgotten: Sparta is  7 years old.

Now, that’s not such a big deal.  She’s not old (yet), but it did make me stop and reflect.  Most dogs live to be roughly 13 years old.  That equals only 676 weekends.   So far she’s almost exactly halfway through that allotment.  Technically speaking, she only has 338 weekends left with me.  That means, at the very most, we are down to 169 weekends to drive that hour down to Bow Wow Beach, so I can watch her swim.  We only have so many hikes left together.  Only so many more times she can jump into the backseat of my car without help.  And there I was, squandering this time because I have a cold.

Sometimes we think of dogs in human terms, including how much time we’re given together.  At 39 years my young(ish) age, I still have a lot of time left.  We tend to include our dogs in that time because we assume that they’ll always be there.   But there is a set amount of time with them.  Perhaps 676 seems like a lot of weekends to romp with with your dogs.  Enough time to do do anything  you want.  But I’ve already used up half of those with Sparta.

It made me think.  It made me, well…

Damn, I hate when that happens

So I took my dogs for a walk.  Not far.  Just far enough to change my perspective. Which was far enough to make me want to hike even farther.  I’m not going to waste today anymore.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Things Your Dog Wishes You Knew

“Some people care too much.  I think it’s called love.”
- Winnie the Pooh

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

We all try our best.  I know I do.  We try to give our dogs a good life, make them happy, and help them feel safe and secure. We work through behavioral issues as best we can.  We read books.  We watch videos and tv shows about dog trainers and behaviorists, each vilifying the others, everyone contradicting each other.  So who’s right?

Your dog.

Orion and Sparta.  Brittany Graham Photography

Orion and Sparta. Brittany Graham Photography

Your dog is constantly communicating with you. You need only to be sensitive enough to notice what they are trying to tell you, and suddenly it becomes crystal clear.  Take away the background noise, turn off the tv, put down the book, and pay attention to who has the best information on what your dog needs:  your dog.  

Things Your Dog Wishes You Knew

1) We are simple.  We don’t apologize for being simple, just as we don’t apologize for being dogs.  We will never understand your human need to over-complicate the most simplest issues.  We are not stupid, but we do prefer being in the moment.  We don’t worry about what may happen tomorrow.  We are your best friend.  We mean you best friend…you know, the kind that will tell your that the outfit your wearing does indeed make your butt look big.  We don’t worry about giving offense because we never take offense.  We love you enough to never be anything but sincere. Now please go change your outfit.

OrionS

2)  We are always trying our hardest.   I know I sometimes get anxious and nervous when I see another predator dog while we’re out on a walk.  I don’t mean to be a jerk, I’m really just afraid that vicious creauture puppy might try to kill you.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that you’ll protect both of us.  I’m not trying to be bad, I’m actually trying my hardest to be the best body guard friend I can be.

Brittany Graham Photography

3) I ask a lot of questions.  Please answer them.  You may think they’re stupid, but they mean the world to me.  So seriously, now, is the mailman trying to kill us?  If you’d just answer the question, I could stop barking.

10308283_832990790064261_2457400682443452031_n

4) We don’t understand punishment.  We understand “yes” and “no”.  When I understand that the answer to my question about chewing on your shoes was “no”, please let it go.  We don’t understand punishment or discipline.  If it makes you feel better to punish me, though, then I love you enough to let you.  But it confuses and frightens me. I’d feel much better if you’d just answer my questions and move on.

My Sparta

5) Give me what I need, and I’ll do anything you want.  All I need from you is the basics for life, and some Piloting, Activity and Work.  Don’t pick and choose when giving me what I need.  Give me all those things I need,and I’ll do anything you want, like, stop chewing on your shoes, for instance. If nobody Pilots me, then I guess I have to do the job myself.  I really don’t want to be a leader and Pilot everyone, though. Please don’t make me.

Brittany Graham Photography

6)  Keep me forever.  I’ve only got a short time to live compared to you, please let me live it with you.  I can’t help that I shed, or that the new apartment you want won’t let me in.   It frightens me not to have a home, and it takes a toll on me each time I’m bounced from home to home.  I would give me life for you. I ask only that you never turn me away, and keep me always by you.

IMG_55297) And then let me go.  I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.  I tried not to get old, but it’s hard for me to walk well, and it’s too much for me to come bounding up to greet you like I used to when I was younger.  I know you tried your hardest as well.  You took me to the vet’s office regularly, and made sure I had a good diet and exercise, but now it’s time for me to go.  Who thought we’d have this long together? I’ll be okay. I promise you.

DARWINDOGS_0091

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

New Year’s Resolutions for You and Your Dog

 

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals. – Melody Beattie

As the new year starts, we all take some time to reflect on items we want to work on throughout the next 365 days. It’s a blank book really. We can take on big or small challenges to improve ourselves. So why not take on a resolution or two for you and your dog? It doesn’t have to be anything big. Something small, so you can see progress in your relationship with your dog as well as your dog’s behavior and happiness.

Here are three New Year’s Resolutions that you can take up that correlate to the PAW Method.

Erdman_0082-1

Your Piloting New Year’s Resolution:

Work on a behavior once a week that you may sometimes avoid. So, if your dog has an issue with the squirrels outside the front window, instead of closing the shades, take some time to work with that behavior. Cut out 15 minutes of your day to specifically work on the issue using the 3 steps to piloting: Control yourself, Control the Situation and Answer the Yes or No question.

If your dog is dog reactive, why not choose a day that your dog seems to be behaving well and take your dog on a walk. Instead of turning around or avoiding that trouble dog in your neighborhood, take some time to work on the reaction your dog may have.

This doesn’t have to be an every day type thing. Just consciously make a decision to work on your dog’s little behavior hiccups that you’ve been avoiding once a week. You’ll see the improvement, slower than if you worked on it every day, but it’s important to know your limitations and set yourself up for success.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Your Activity New Year’s Resolution:

You’re going to hate me when I say this, but here it is: More walking.

If you are an overachieving owner and take your dog for a walk every day already, try adding 10 more minutes to your walk a few days a week. This doesn’t seem like much, but is a good stepping stone to getting even more activity in!

If you’re an owner like me (I will admit to my weaknesses) and don’t get out every day for a walk, increase it by one day a week. So, if you normally go 4 times a week, try 5. Once that seems normal, maybe try adding another additional day. This will not only help your dog, but it might even help you with any other resolutions you’ve made this year. Walking is healthy for both of you!

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Your Work New Year’s Resolution:

You don’t need to train your dog to seek out rare flowers or mushrooms. How about a new trick each month? Spend a few days each day working on a new trick. If you work on one trick a month you’ll make sure your dog has it down and is successful with it. New tricks work your dog’s brain (as well as get some extra Piloting in) and helps you bond with your dog as well. And by the end of the year your dog will know 12 new tricks!

Get creative with it! These are just some suggestions. But take some time to think about how you can improve your relationship with your dog and how you can create a happy and balanced life for your pup.

Here’s to a great 2016!

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

Support Systems

 

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

We come in many different shapes and sizes, and we need to support each other and our differences. Our beautiy is in our differences – Carre Otis

We learn early on that it’s important to surround ourselves with people that offer support and positive energy to our lives. Of course, we learn that, but aren’t always good at picking out those individuals that may actually make us question ourselves and how valuable we are. It’s a tough balance throughout our whole life. Some of us get very good at picking out those individuals that need to be kept in our lives and some of us still have some trouble figuring that out.

It’s a life lesson that comes into play even when you have a dog. For those of you who have a reactive dog, a difficult dog, a dog that doesn’t act like Lassie, it can get frustrating. There’s a lot of work involved with creating a dog that is balanced and happy. There are days when you feel like you haven’t made any progress and there are days where you’re pretty sure you have the best dog in the entire world. However, through it all you need a support system to keep you going.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

The problem is, those of us with dog reactive dogs are sensitive. We take our dog’s behavior on personally. We look at it as a relfection of ourselves as owners. Which means, if you have individuals around you that are quick to point out your dog’s flaws, their regressions, their lack of improvement we feel as though they’re saying that about us as owners.

These negative comments ultimately affects how we work with our dogs if we take it too personally. It’s important to feel as though you are making progress and acknolwedge the work that you’re putting into your dog in helping them lead a balanced life. Sometimes, we can’t always cut out every negative person in our life. Which means we as dog owners, need to learn how to ignore the negative and embrace the individuals that support our work.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Tall Guy is Porter and my’s biggest supporter. Yes, he has helped with Porter as well, but when there’s a bad day he’s always quick to point out the progress we have made so far. These comments are the ones I take to heart. The support system is so important. We all have our rough days where we feel like we’re moving backwards with our dogs instead of forward. But, I promise you, if you have been doing the work there’s someone in your life who is willing to point out the progress and acknowledge the effort that you’ve put in so far. Look for those individuals and keep them around.

The stars of Dogs in the CLE  courtesy of Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

The stars of Dogs in the CLE courtesy of Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

So, it’s time to look at who the negative is in you and your dog’s life. You can’t always just cut them out, but you can remember to let the comments roll off of you. It’s not worth it. They’re not the ones helping you move forward with your dog so they have no say in what progress has been made. Listen to the individual’s who offer you and your dog the support you need. Those individuals will keep you grounded and working hard. And that’s the most important part when working with a dog.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

Porter’s Holiday

 

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

The key to a self-fulfilled life lies in consistent selfless deeds – Edmond Mbiaka

Well, it’s that time of year again. The holidays are here, which means lots of family visiting, lots of visits to stores and for some, lots of traveling. I’m one of those people that travels for the holidays. I travel home to New England and then from there tour all of New England to see the family.

There’s lots of air travel and car travel involved. It’s a hectic time with not lots of structure or knowing when I’ll be able to be home next. Which means, Porter doesn’t come with me. This isn’t because I don’t want him there. Trust me, as I’m writing this post, I am dreading dropping him off at sleep away camp. Not because I think he’ll have a bad time, or misbehave, or not get enough exercise. No, I’m dreading it because I’m selfish and will miss him terribly. But again, this is one of those times where I need to let go of my own selfish feelings and do what’s best for him.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Why is sleep away camp better for him than coming with me during the holidays? Well, here are a few reasons:

Schedule? What schedule?

Although Porter is great at going with the flow, when there’s no routine or structure away from where he (or any dog) is comfortable it can be stressful. Also, sometimes my own schedule when I’m home stresses me out. And guess who is going to pick up on that immediately? At sleep away camp he has a normal routine. He’s comfortable there and has his toys and blankets that smell like home. He’ll know what to expect day to day which will make him relax and cut down on any unnecessary anxiety.

No Travel

Porter’s a little too big to travel under my seat on a plane. Yes, I’ve totally looked into it. And quite honestly, a 9 hour car ride is tough on him and me. It’s not worth it. He gets bored and with only him and I it’s tough when it comes to taking breaks. It’s a long drive and not fun for either of us. He’ll do it if I ask him to. But, I try not to put him in that position too often. By him staying here, he doesn’t have to be cooped up in a small space for a long time.

A picture that was sent to me from Porter's sleep away camp! He loves it there!

A picture that was sent to me from Porter’s sleep away camp! He loves it there!

Activity Levels

While on holiday, I can’t guarantee how much activity I’ll be able to give him. My schedule will be all over the place and I can’t guarantee where we will be when. Which means, his normal activity levels will suffer. This can create more anxiety and the feeling of just being pent up. Now, I know at sleep away camp he gets out several times a day and gets to run around until he tires himself out. Which is what he would prefer any other day of the week. So, why not this week?

Less Stressful Situations

If he came home with me, he’d have to travel from house to house with so many new people, locations and situations he’s not used to. This can be very stressful. I don’t want to add more unnecessary stress in his life if I don’t have to. And keep in mind, in those stressful situations I have to make sure I’m Piloting 100% of the time. And I can’t guarantee that. So, it’s not fair to put him in those situations if there’s another great option available.

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Yes, I’ll feel guilty and wish he was coming with me. But guess what? Those are my selfish feelings. So, I’ll drop him off without drama (because seriously, this is the best option so why get dramatic about the drop off and create more anxiety), give him a quick pat, and know that this is the best decision for both of us. And I’ll know it’s the right decision the minute I get the first picture of him running around with 7 of his new best friends.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

Apartment Dogs

 

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united – Wilhelm von Humboldt

Having a dog and living in an apartment can be challenging. Notice I didn’t say impossible. I’ve never understood rescues that won’t adopt out to individuals who don’t live in a house with a fenced in yard. There are so many individuals who can provide a dog everything they need without those two requirements.

Porter has only lived in an apartment. There are challenges that come with it and different ways to do things, however, I do not feel as though he’s missing anything. Today, I’m going to share some tips on how to make living in an apartment with your dog successful when it comes to providing them activity.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

1. Walks

I know, you’re not surprised. But this is so important. Walks are the key to holding everything together. This is a mental exercise as well as a physical exercise. You don’t always have the ability to let your dog out the backyard and run himself tired. So you need to get out there and give them some great physical activity by going on walks. Do what you can. If you only have time for a 15 minute walk, throw that backpack on your dog and get out there! The past few weeks, I’ve been trying to re-frame my outlook. If I’m about to turn on the television, do I have time to take Porter for another 15-20 minute walk? It’s healthier for him and for me. And will get your dog even more activity which is so key to having a balanced dog.

2. Dog Parks

Utilize the dog park as much as you can. If you are worried about it being crowded go early in the morning or on days where the weather isn’t so great. That will thin out the crowd a little. This is a great way to let your dog run lose, play with other dogs and get some pent up energy out. Nothing tires out a dog like another dog. Make it fun and try different dog parks around you so you’re not always going to the same one.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

3. Phone a Friend

Dog people attract dog people. So, I’m sure you have a friend or a coworker or a neighbor who has a dog as well. Plan a walk together! That way someone else is relying on you and your dog gets to practice walking with another dog. A perfect way to working on your Piloting skills while still having fun and staying motivated.

4. Doggy Daycare

There are days where you can see that your dog just needs to run. They’re antsy and even on the walks they’re struggling to stay with you and pay attention to your corrections. You can tell in their body language they just need to get out! So, take them to doggy day care for a day! It can even be on a day that you’re normally around the house. It doesn’t only have to be when you’re away for the night or the day. Drop them off for the day, let them run around like crazy while you run errands, clean the house, take a day trip and then pick them up! You won’t feel guilty about leaving the house and your pup will be so excited that he got to run around and play with dogs all day. It’s a win win for everyone!

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

5. Use What You Have

Even though you may be residing in a smaller space, you still probably have, well, space. So use it! Play fetch with your dog, work on commands, play the find it game. Use the space you have to keep them stimulated. Get creative with it!

Living in an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t give your dog what they need. It merely means you have to use different tools in your belt. They’ll still have as much fun and love you all the same. Have fun and get out there! Your dog will be just as happy as the next dog.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

 

Game Time

 

Boots & Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Boots & Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail – Kinky Friedman

Looking for a fun game with your dog?

How about “Find it”? Let’s get started.

What you’ll need:

1. Your dog in a calm state (take them for a walk before if there’s any concern)

2. A toy that your dog likes

Yup, that’s it.

 

Boots & Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Boots & Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

 

Put your dog in a sit. While your dog is sitting show him the toy and let him sniff it a little.

Keep your dog in the sit and put the toy about 3 to 5 feet away in plain view.

Walk back to your dog and give them their release command (Porter’s is “okay”) and then repeat the phrase “Find it” over and over until your dog makes contact with the toy you had just placed 3-5 feet in front of him. When contact is made give them tons of praise. Lots of “good dog” and pets to go with it.

Practice this a few more times with the same distance. Each time your dog should see you put the toy down. As your dog becomes consistent in finding the toy, go ahead and make the distance longer.

Let your dog watch where you’re putting the toy, but make the distance more substantial. Again, praise each time your dog finds the toy.

Boots & Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Boots & Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Once you feel like your dog has a handle over what you’ve been doing so far, make it a little harder. Hide the toy behind something. Let your dog see where you’re walking, but then hide the toy behind the couch or a chair, somewhere they can’t see it from where they’re sitting. Repeat the “Find it” phrase until your dog reaches the toy and then praise again.

So now, you get to make it even more challenging! Don’t let your dog see where you hide it. Go in a different room or around a corner.  When you release them repeat the phrase “Find it” until they come across the toy and then praise, praise, praise!

Boots & Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Boots & Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

You can always help your dog find the toy by leading them over to the area if you find that they’re having trouble. But give them some time to figure it out! They can do it!

This is a great game to play when the weather is not so great outside or if you think your dog needs some more mental work than you’ve been able to give them recently. Make sure to have fun with it! It will be hard not to. Trust me!

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

5 Suggestions to Make Boarding Easy

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

The scariest thing about distance is that you don’t know whether they’ll miss you or forget you - Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

 

For some owners, leaving your dog’s care in someone else’s hands can be nerve racking. I mean you spend most of your day caring for your pup and now you’re expecting someone else to do just as good of a job. But hey! We all need to go on vacations. It doesn’t make you a bad owner! Here are a few steps to making your dog’s boarding experience a little bit easier for the both of you.

1. Vaccines!

To avoid any extra stress, make sure your dog is up to date on all of his vaccines and fecal samples. Wherever you are leaving your dog SHOULD have guidelines on what vaccines are needed and how recent they should have had a fecal sample tested. If you’re planning on boarding your dog in the future, most places require a Bordatella shot. Have all this taken care of ahead of time so there’s no surprises the day of.

2. Pack the Necessities

Talk to your boarding place and see what items you can bring for your dog. Now, remember you don’t need to bring the whole house in order for him to feel comfortable. If you’re allowed, bring 1 or 2 of his favorite toys and a blanket or towel that smells like him or you. The smell will make him feel more comfortable immediately and the toys will make him feel like he’s at home as well. Keep it simple. You don’t need to bring anything. And make sure you’re not giving Fido you’re $200 blanket from your bed. Any cheap blanket that smells like your household will be just fine.

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

 3. Get some Exercise

Before leaving for “sleep away camp”, take your dog for a walk. Make it a little bit longer than it usually is if you can. When your dog gets to his new home for the week, he will be a little excited and anxious as it is a new place. Any extra energy you can get out of him before hand is helpful. Even when you get to your destination if you feel like Fido is a little too wound up, take him for a walk. Never underestimate the power of getting out any excess energy.

 4. Don’t Make it a Production

When you’re leaving your dog, don’t make it this dramatic affair. The more normal you act, the more normal your dog will act. If you make a huge scene, your dog is going to feed off of that energy and become very anxious. We don’t want that. We want this to be a seamless transition. To just a quick pat goodbye and you’re out the door. Your dog knows you love him. It’s going to be okay.

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

 5. Don’t Make it a Production

Nope, not a typo. I just mean don’t make it a production when you come back for your dog either. When you pick your dog up, if you act like you just got back from climbing Everest or your dog just survived months of hiking the Appalachian Trail, your dog is going to start to become anxious, hyper and worried again. We want the boarding place to be a place where your dog has fun and enjoys going. So don’t make it a huge deal. It’s not. Your dog had fun, you had fun just in separate places.

Make sure you do your research on boarding places. Ask for suggestions from friends, other dog owners or your vet. Read reviews and even take some time to visit the place before you send your dog. But trust me, most of these places keep your dog so busy they won’t even notice you’re gone. And when you’re dog comes back, he’ll be so exhausted he’ll sleep for days straight.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

 

 

Surviving a “Teenage” Dog

“Whatever.”

- Me, at 14 years old

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I got Orion when he was 6 months, which, if you read my blog posts, you already know is the worst age for a dog.  For dogs, it’s the equivalent of a 14 year old girl.  Lots of eye-rolling.  Even more stomping of feet.  You know the drill.  Dogs go through adolescence as well.  And just like with humans, it’s the time where they start to figure out where they belong in society/pack, and to do that, they test boundaries.

The drama

The drama

So I inherited Orion, this little ball of energy, at the worst possible age.  I skipped right over the adorable, fluffy stage, and went straight into-the-mouth-of-hell stage.  And oh, wow did he show it. Orion was never a bad dog.  The thought of a dog as bad is ridiculous.  Orion was a perfectly normal, adolescent dog.  His problem was that he sucked at being a human. Even for a teenager.

On top of Orion hitting puberty was the fact that he was a nervous bundle of energy.  No, his previous owner hadn’t abused him (quite the opposite, actually).  It is just Orion’s nature to be skittish and hyper.  He is a dog who would be ripe for anxiety-driven destructiveness and maybe even biting if not properly Piloted. His teenage “years” were still very trying, but we had our coping mechanisms in place.

1)  Exorcise Exercise Those Demons.  

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Most dogs will have problems behaving without adequate exercise, but adolescent dogs in particular need extra activity.  And no, going for a walk around the block doesn’t cut it.  If you’re not tired, your dog isn’t tired.  Even when you are tired, your dog is most likely still ready to go for more exercise.  A walk is mandatory, just so our dog don’t remain insulated, but there are easy ways to get them the exercise they need beyond running yourself into the ground.  Read here for some tips.

2) Take Your G.I. Joes and Go Home.  In other words, know when, and how, to end a stand-off.  Don’t get sucked into a never-ending vortex of behavior.  With Orion, it had to do with the cat.  He was obsessed with “torturing” my cat Echo.  Yes, every time he would do it, I would answer his question (“Can I chase the cat?”  No.)  but wow…at that age they will “ask” over and over and over (and over).  So, how many times to I have to answer him?  One more time.

And then “take your G.I. Joe’s and go home.”

What this means is that I answer his question about the cat once more.  He accepts it (even though I know it will only be for a moment), and then during that moment, I engage him in something else.  That way I don’t have to answer the question anymore because he isn’t asking it.  If he “asks” a question, I must answer it (no bribing him away from the question with treats or whatnot).  However, once he accepts the answer, it is perfectly okay to remove his ability to ask the question anymore.  You can put him in his crate for a bit (usually so you don’t go insane). Give him a little “snack” of exercise, such as a quick round of agility.  Or give him something to occupy himself, such as a kong or even an ice cube.  Anything to keep him from asking the question again.

3)  Work Like A Dog.  Remember, adolescence is a time of learning and exploring.  Is your dog getting enough mental exercise?  Most of the tricks and commands Orion learned was during his adolescent period, and he learned fast.  And always wanted more.  So he uses enrichment feeders exclusively for food.  He learned stupid tricks that still make me laugh (such as using Sparta for an agility course), he learned the  basics (heeling off leash, long distance stay, etc.).  All of these things were taught when his mind was most willing to learn: adolescence.

4) Enforce Calm.  You’ve set them up for success with the exercise and the mental work.  Now you can get what you want – calm.  To get the calm you desire, make sure you are giving them positive reinforcement (petting, affection, treats., etc.) at the appropriate times.  So for instance, if your dog is acting hyper, jumping on you, or “slapping” you with their paw, that is not a good time to give them affection.  Don’t encourage behaviors you don’t actually want.  ”Answer” their question using negative body language.  If when they are calm, you can then reward them.

5) Potty Problems.  For a lot of dogs, puberty can start up problems you thought you had already handled: housebreaking.  No, your dog isn’t suddenly “unhousebroken”.  What happens is your dog is making a bid to become Pilot. How do they do that?  By marking.

Aim high.

Aim high.

Piloting your dog, and using the techniques outlined above, will help with the marking.  Spaying and neutering your dog will help, ahem,…eliminate the odds that they will take up this unsavory behavior.  Basically, if you are Pilot, you have the right to mark things as yours.  The more you Pilot your dog, and answer their questions, the less likely they are to try to claim things. For more information about how to handle this problem, read this article.

6) Keep A Sense of Humor.   Perhaps this should have been first, because it’s the most important.  Your dog isn’t out to get you.  Your dog isn’t “getting back at you”. Your dog is too busy being, well, a dog to concern themselves about how to get even.  Laugh when you can.  Answer your dog’s questions about what is acceptable and what isn’t, but don’t hold a grudge.  As Shakespeare said, “This, too, shall pass”.

Remember, this is just a phase with your dog, but just like human teenagers, how you react to your dog’s adolescence can have a bearing on who they are as an adult.  Enforce your rules with a kind, benevolent (but firm) leadership, and you will have a wonderful adult dog.  But most of all, enjoy the ride, because in the scheme of things, our dogs, though so precious to us, are with us for all too short a time.  Don’t waste any of that precious time wishing to skip to the next age, because every adolescent dog will eventually become a wizened, old dog with a muzzle full of gray sooner than you wish.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio