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Whether you have a dog that chases cars, jumps up to greet people, or chews on inappropriate objects, pet training consultant Mikkel Becker has dog training videos to help.

Choose from over 20 dog training videos to address your pet’s concerns on Mikkel Becker’s YouTube channel.

According to Dr. Donald Miele, a Norfolk veterinarian, dogs feel more secure when they know their boundaries and what is expected of them (just like children!) Working breed and sporting breed dogs, especially, build confidence through mastering tasks and skills, but any dog can be trained. A confident dog is a happy dog. Help your pet fit in with the family through basic dog training techniques. 

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In Part II of “Why do dogs bite?” we discussed the importance of empathy when dealing with fear response in a dog. Since dogs tend to bite due to fear, the pet owner must become aware of the pet’s triggers and work with that information to promote confidence and trust, in order to lessen the likelihood of a biting incident.

Why do dogs bite? Part III
Look for signals that your dog is afraid. Speak to your pet in a calm, lowered voice. If possible, remove him from the area where the fear object is located. In some instances, especially at the veterinary office, this may not be possible. A certified professional dog trainer can work with you on techniques designed to prepare your pet for car trips, grooming appointments, and doctor visits.

What does a dog look like when it is afraid and anxious?
The signs may start out as subtle actions, which can be considered normal behaviors in another context. The subtle behaviors include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Panting

If the source of fear or anxiety is not removed, the pet may progress to more noticeable signs of fear. These include:

  • Tail tucking
  • Flattening ears against the head
  • Salivating
  • Pacing
  • Staring
  • Eyes wide
  • Stiff posture
  • Fur standing up
  • Lunging
  • Barking
  • Growling

How can you prevent dog bites?
*At mealtime: do not approach a dog, or attempt to take away its food. Feed dogs in separate rooms or at separate times, if they do not get along.

*If a pet “steals” items (socks, toys, etc.), it may try to protect the item. Behaviorists recommend trading a treat for the stolen item.

*A pet that growls aggressively from beside its owner is often thought to be protecting the owner; behaviorists see the pet responding to a fear object and hoping the owner will protect it. Respect the dog’s fear and avoid sensitizing it further.

*Don’t believe the tail. A dog may wag its tail right up until the moment it bites you. Behaviorists recommend worrying more about the biting end than the wagging end of the dog.

Behaviorists’ tricks of the trade
In conjunction with training techniques, a behaviorist or trainer may recommend the use of synthetic pheromones or aromatherapy sprays to help calm an anxious pet. Other options include:

*Supplements designed to enhance a pet’s learning ability during training

*Positive reinforcements to reward desired behavior

*Clicker training

Training aids should be used as part of an overall training program designed to enhance a pet’s confidence and ability to respond to commands. Commands can be used to provide a distraction, pulling a pet’s attention away from the fear object in order to relax the pet and prevent a biting incident.

In the case of a fearful pet, training may be best accomplished in a private setting, rather than in a group. The trainer can tailor a program to meet the needs of the dog and its owner.

Est. 1973

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Some information for this article was gleaned from “Clue in on canine anxiety cues” by Dr. Valarie Tynes, DACVB and Heather Mohan-Gibbons, RVT, CPDT, ACAAB. Firstline magazine, February 2011.

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Few dogs are always perfect, but aggressiveness or destructive activity, especially on a regular basis, should be addressed with a professional trainer or animal behaviorist.

     A leading cause of pet abandonment is poor behavior. 

  • Negative behavior may be due to medical causes such as pain or organic dysfunction. 
  • Or the cause may be a traumatic event the pet has suffered, such as abuse, house burglary, dog fight, etc. 
  • Some dogs are not properly socialized during early puppyhood; this, combined with a lack of proper obedience training, can cause it to act aggressively in adulthood. 
  • A dog’s breed should also be considered, as many working-breed dogs require a job or some sort of activity to keep them occupied (see next bullet point.) 
  • All dogs require human companionship, to feel they are a part of the “pack.”  Left to its own devices, a dog that is bored or ignored can become destructive.

Medical causes of poor behavior should be ruled out first.  The pet owner may wish to then contact a professional trainer or implement an at-home behavior modification program.  Some veterinary companies have introduced medications that are meant to be used as training aids for dogs that suffer separation anxiety.  Two of the most commonly used drugs are Clomicalm and Reconcile.  Both drugs come with training instructions which should be followed on a consistent basis by each member of the family.  Neither drug is meant to control aggression in dogs.

     Owners who are considering euthanizing an aggressive or destructive pet may first try placing the pet in a boarding kennel or other temporary home for two to four weeks.*  The owner should then gauge his feelings during the pet’s absence.  Does the owner feel relieved the pet is gone?  Does he or she long for the pet’s return?  Does the dog’s absence inspire the owner to continue searching for a solution?  Or is the household better off without the pet?  The answers to these questions can help determine whether the pet should be returned to its household or placed with a new family. 

     *The act of kenneling the dog is not meant to modify its behavior.  Rather, the purpose of kenneling is to allow the owner to experience and examine his or her feelings about living without the pet.

     In the case of aggressive dogs, care should always be taken so that no one in the former home or foster home is injured.  Owners are urged to contact a professional trainer who has a record of success and humane methods of working with aggressive pets.   

     Finally, how does your pet compare to the following list of behavior standards?  Is there room for improvement?

  1. Friendly toward people, including well-behaved children.
  2. Friendly toward other friendly dogs.
  3. Does not become anxious if left alone for a reasonable period.
  4. Eliminates appropriately.
  5. Readily gives up control of food, toys, and other objects to owner.
  6. Relaxed during normal handling and touching.
  7. Calms down quickly after being startled or getting excited.
  8. Not overly fearful of normal events.
  9. Barks when appropriate, but not excessively.
  10. Plays well with people, without becoming too rough.
  11. Plays well with other dogs.
  12. Plays with its own toys and doesn’t damage owner’s possessions often.
  13. Affectionate without being needy.
  14. Adapts to change with minimal problems.
  15. Usually responds to owner’s requests and commands, such as sit, stay, come.

(From JAVMA 2004; 255(4): 506-513 and Veterinary Forum, June 2008, P. 28)

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     For over 50 years, Eggleston Services has been providing work opportunities for disabled adults in our area, through businesses like the Tanners Creek Garden Center, Document Conversion and Shredding, and E-stitch Custom Embroidery Services.  Now, Eggleston has added Let’s Go! Pet Care to its line-up. 

     Sharing space with the Garden Center on LaValette Avenue in Norfolk, Let’s Go! Pet Care provides grooming, training, dog walking and taxi services to residents in the Riverview area and beyond.  Although the pet taxi has serviced clients all over Hampton Roads, Let’s Go! Pet Care’s taxi plans to focus on Norfolk pet owners as the busy season approaches.

     Let’s Go! Pet Care is home to Norfolk’s only self-service dog washing station, so you can bathe your pet without making a mess at home – or you can relax and let the staff do it for only $10 more.  Don’t forget to check out their retail selection featuring all-natural dog toys and grooming products, as well as collars, leashes, and pet food.

     I like the taxi service that Let’s Go! offers, because that has proven to be a recurring need for pet owners in this area.  But no matter which service you choose, Erin, who manages Let’s Go! Pet Care, says you’ll appreciate the more personalized service you and your pet will receive from their trained, professional staff.  To learn more about their services and fees, visit their website or call (757) 440-3565.  ~~  Jen

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