Dog care – Exercise and behavior

Dog behavior

Exercising you dog

Exercise your dog

DAILY EXERCISE RECOMMENDED

Exercise is as important for your dog as it is for you.

Young dogs and healthy adults alike need lots of it,

and even senior pets need a regular daily workout to maintain their health.

The type of exercise you choose depends on the age and fitness of your dog and your own lifestyle. Dogs are adaptable and are happy to play Frisbee in the park or take long walks in the neighbourhood.

Exercise is one of the best ways to spend time with your pet. It’s especially important for large breed, working, and active breed types. Walking on a leash around the block is not appropriate exercise for a young Labrador, they need to run and a off leash activity is best!

Dogs are wonderful athletes and most adapt to even strenuous exercise, provided they have had adequate opportunity to “train” and the environmental conditions are not too extreme.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Daily exercise is recommended unless the weather is especially dangerous or a medical problem limits your dog’s activity.

  • If there is a medical problem, consult your veterinarian about exercise limitations. Keep in mind that obese dogs and those with heart and lung diseases may have a problem, and be sure to consult your vet before starting a new regime.

Be certain your dog has plenty of water available at all times, and provide a place to cool down out of the sun.

When the temperature drops below freezing, exercise should be limited, unless your dog is really used to this weather.

  • This will often vary with the breed and hair coat. If the wind picks up to more than 10 mph, be careful to prevent hypothermia or frostbite. If your dog is shivering, get him back indoors or in some form of warm shelter. If you live in an area that gets cold and icy, remember that road salt can burn your dog’s feet.

Don’t forget: even in cold weather, an exercising dog needs plenty of water.

Almost all dogs, especially those with heart and lung problems and those with thick hair coats, are likely to have trouble with hot and humid conditions.

It’s better to exercise in the early morning or evening when the heat is less than 80 degrees and the humidity is less then 30 percent (avoid hot and humid conditions).

Teaching your puppy manners – nipping and mouthing

Puppy behaviour

When puppies play with each other, they use their mouths a lot. When they play with you or when they are petted, they usually want to bite or “mouth,” too.

This behaviour is not frankly aggressive at this stage – though it may be pre-aggressive.

When pups are raised by their mothers, there comes a time when mom starts to set limits. Demanding youngsters often want to nurse whenever they feel like it, but a good mom starts to rebuff some of their efforts from the tender age of about 3 weeks.

Nipping is also addressed, not just by mom but by the pup’s littermates as well. Too hard a nip might result in a physical admonishment from mother, or the nipped littermate may cry out and stop playing.

These natural checks and balances help to develop a puppy’s good manners and eventual understanding of their impact of certain behaviours on others.

When a puppy is raised by a well-meaning human caregiver, however, proper limit setting is sometimes neglected. Some new puppy owners do not realize that nipping is not acceptable behaviour and that they should discourage it.

However, a certain amount of puppy mouthing is acceptable, even desirable, in the very early stage of a pup’s life.

If a pup doesn’t engage in any oral behaviours toward his minders, he can never be taught when enough is enough.

Instead, permit and even encourage mouthiness, even nipping – up to a point.

But when mouthing becomes annoying, or the pup’s needle teeth start to make an unforgettable impression, it’s time to curtail the behaviour.

The idea is to teach the pup that humans are soft and ouchy. Let’s suppose your puppy nips you for the first time when it is 4 months of age.

Having carefully planned out your course of action, you wait until the next time your pup lays his teeth on you, withdraw your hand rapidly, and loudly exclaim “OUCH.” Your interaction with the pup should then cease for a few minutes, just as would happen if the pup were with his littermates.

You are teaching “bite inhibition” – an essential early lesson for any family dog.

If things turn out as they should, your pup will adore you, respect you, and understand that, even in extreme situations, humans do not need to be punctured in order to send them an intense signal.

Your dog is barking to communicate

Dog communication - barking

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, some good, some not so good. Sometimes barking is a welcoming signal, other times not. Sometimes dogs bark briefly, and other times they just won’t quit. And therein lies a problem. By nature, some breeds tend to bark more than others. Beagles and Shetland sheepdogs, for instance, tend to be very vocal. Greyhounds and basenjis, by contrast, rarely bark.

Barking is a form of communication. When people or other dogs are around, barking can be a statement intended specifically for them.

Barking serves different purposes. Sometimes it is used to repel and sometimes to attract. Some barking tones indicate, “stay away,” whereas others (particularly in the appropriate context) can be interpreted to mean, “I’m over here, where the heck are you?”

Even the most inexperienced of dog watchers will notice that dogs have a variety of different types of barking ranging from the muted “woof” of appreciation or alarm to loud angry series of barks indicating aggression.

Barking often serves as an alarm call. Many owners appreciate such alarm barking and some domestic dog breeds have been selected for an enhanced warning system of this nature.

The key to dealing with barking is to be able to turn it off.

Separation anxiety barking

Separation anxiety - dog

Then there’s barking caused by separation anxiety, which often takes place as you prepare to leave or when you’re not around. There are two types of separation anxiety barking:

The acute, hysterical type of barking that occurs within minutes of the owner’s departure, representing panic – a cry for help. The more chronic variety of more monotonous barking expressed by dogs that have all but given up on their ability to do anything about their predicament. Too many owners fail to recognize their dog’s suffering when irate neighbours complain of being disturbed by the dog’s incessant barking.

Instead of viewing the problem as a problem for their dog, they only see it as a problem for them. Punishment of such behaviour is an all-too-frequent and misguided solution.

Some dogs bark just to get attention, demanding to be the star of the show at all times. This is often the result of unintentional conditioning by the owner.

Territorial barking

Territorial barking

One of a dog’s main duties around the home is to bark and warn off any strangers and alert fellow pack members that an intruder is approaching. This function is very much appreciated by many owners and has prevented many a burglary. Having a dog in the house is as good, if not better, than having an electronic surveillance system.

But problems arise when overly enthusiastic dogs continue to bark longer than is necessary to alert its owners of approaching persons.

The trick is to train the dog to stop barking once the warning has been acknowledged. For most dogs this is usually not too much of a problem.

A “good dog” or “thank you” is sometimes all that is needed to acknowledge the dog’s warning of a stranger’s approach. It’s good manners, too, to thank your dog for performing his duty.

If barking persists following your acknowledgement and thanks, however, a “cease” command, like “stop it!” or “enough!” should be used afterwards to call an end to it.

Training the dog to the “stop it!” command should be performed using positive reinforcement. The reinforcement is provided when the dog has stopped barking for at least 3 seconds.

You may have to wait for a while at first, but the dog will eventually get the message if the reward is sufficiently potent. Because you can’t have visitors standing outside the door for 30–minutes, waiting to be let in, you should orchestrate training sessions using a volunteer visitor who has the time and patience to see you through the session.

Reactive Barking

Reactive Barking

Some dogs don’t just bark at approaching strangers – they bark at anything that moves or alters their environment: a passing car, a falling leaf, an icicle breaking off, and so on. Such dogs are the antithesis of the lazy old coonhound that takes everything in his stride:

They are constantly on “red alert” for anything that might happen. This type of dog can be difficult to cohabit with, especially if you don’t need that degree of protection.

Highly reactive dogs take their self-defensive and family-guarding responsibilities way too far.

So, how do we persuade these dogs that their mission is pointless when each environmental disturbance eventually stops, thus reinforcing the behaviour?

The answer is that we can’t.

All you can do, with your veterinarian’s help, is to address any medical contributions to such hyper-reactivity, provide adequate exercise, ensure an appropriate diet, and attempt to exercise the best physical control possible.

How should I handle my aggressive dog?

aggressive dog

What causes aggression and how should an owner handle it in dogs?

There are many reasons why a dog will act aggressively toward strangers or even his owner.

Aggression in dogs is defined as a threatening or harmful behaviour directed toward another living creature. This includes snarling, growling, snapping, nipping, biting and lunging.

Dogs that show such behaviour are not abnormal; they are merely exhibiting normal species-typical behaviour that is incompatible with human lifestyle (and safety).

The first step, when attempting to find out why your dog is being aggressive, is to take him to your veterinarian.

If there’s no medical cause for the aggression, your veterinarian may refer you to a behaviourist, who will then obtain a full behavioural history and recommend therapy.

Even if treatment appears to be successful, you should always be on guard. The frequency and severity of aggression may be reduced but, in most cases, aggression cannot be eliminated completely.

You must weigh the risks of keeping an aggressive dog against the benefits. Remember, safety for yourself and people around you is the primary concern!

Home care with an aggressive, unpredicatable dog

dog behavior - aggressive

If your dog is unpredictable, consider using a comfortable basket-style muzzle until you can get professional help.

Until you receive professional help, avoid all interactions that trigger your dog’s aggression.

Do not attempt physical punishment. This can increase the intensity of your dog’s aggression and may result in serious injury. Avoiding problems may involve:

Keeping your dog confined in a separate room when visitors or children are present Housing or feeding your dogs separately if they are fighting with each other Removing objects like bones or rawhides that your dog may be guarding Do not allow children to have unsupervised access to your dog. Children should be taught to avoid interacting with dogs that are eating, chewing on a bone, or resting. They should not be allowed to tease or hurt dogs.

Keep your dog on a leash at all times. In the home, you may want to attach a thin nylon leash on a buckle collar, which your dog can drag comfortably. This will give you safer control over him. Indoor leashes can be attached to head collars for even greater control. If your dogs are fighting, do not get in the middle. Interrupt the aggression using water, a loud noise, blanket or spray.

When barking is a problem

dog barking

Most people get a little irritated when the family dog barks and gets whatever he wants. These dogs are pushy individuals who insist on getting their own way, demanding attention and the limelight. So what allows a dog to become like this? In a word, conditioning.

Although we sometimes don’t realize it, we are training our dogs all the time through our actions.

No dog will persist in a strategy that doesn’t work, whether that strategy is barking, whining, or crying.

Here are some suggestions on how to deal with an attention-seeking barker.

Attention withdrawal. Ignore the “bad” behavior and only respond with attention when the dog is quiet. To the attention-seeking dog, any attention is better than no attention – even if it’s in the form of scolding. Bridging stimulus. If the attention withdrawal becomes tedious, a bridging stimulus can be employed to hasten progress. A bridging stimulus is a neutral sound, such as a duck call, or even a click, that is made as soon as the dog begins a tirade. It signals that you’re about to withhold attention. This strategy can produce a speedier resolution of attention-seeking barking than simply ignoring the dog’s barking because it focuses the dog’s attention on the consequences of its actions. Punishment. Audible punishment can be a deterrent. This can be done by issuing a command, such as “No Bark!” and punishing the dog by shaking a “shake can”. The technique sometimes works, but audible punishments are only really effective for more sensitive types of dog. Counterconditioning. Counterconditioning involves training the dog to do something that is incompatible with his previously conditioned behavior, in this case barking.