The Many Faces of Ru

Maybe this isn’t the most popular thing to say, but having a reactive dog often feels like a burden. With behavioral issues that even I don’t fully grasp sometimes and often seem like they come out of nowhere, Rufus is complex to say the least. Despite all of this , I love him with my whole heart.

IMG_2740

I think that those of us who have fallen hard for reactive dogs are drawn to the “virtual platform” of sharing because it’s our way of showcasing our complex pups in all of their glory. We get to share those moments of pure bliss when our dogs are 100% themselves. Nothing is making them tense. Nothing is making them unsure. They are just dogs. Wonderful, uncomplicated canines.

And sure – progress happens and there are even times when he just plain surprises me with his intuitiveness in certain situations, but I’m just being real about the bigger picture. Rufus is a tough cookie and he makes me reexamine our training techniques over and over again. For years now, guys! Years! Ugh…

IMG_2739

But then there are the moments when it’s just the two (or three) of us. And I remember why I adore this guy so much and why I’m so happy he came into my life. Screwball behavior and all.

IMG_2738

My Cautious Canine #2 | Training on-the-go

IMG_1056

A lot of people with reactive dogs feel as though they have limited options when it comes to traveling with their furry friends.

-No busy cities or tourist spots

-No public stays such as hotels

-No way am I taking my dog on “vacation” when time away from home with them is anything but relaxing.

But the one thing I’ve been pretty diligent about is making sure I include Rufus in as many activities as possible, which has included his fair share of trips and vacations.

IMG_1032

Over the weekend, we took Rufus out of town with us. I knew this would be a great opportunity to work on his reactivity. And with the right tools, it was pretty stress-free.

We stayed in a very pet-friendly hotel. And because they were so accommodating, we actually had a personal entrance so that we wouldn’t have to walk through the main lobby. However, we did run into other dog owners and I’m proud to report this dude did pretty well with all of our encounters.

IMG_1051

My two tools:

  1. Lots of treats
  2. Head halter/gentle leader

That’s it. It has been years since I’ve used the head collar on him and wow! I can’t believe how wonderfully it worked this time around. Having control at that level made it so easy to get his attention and gently correct him when he was getting too excited. It was kind of like magic. Honestly, I feel silly that I waited so long to try this again. It’s a total game changer! He was calm, relaxed, and willing to work the entire weekend.

And at the end of every day, he was pooped. He wasn’t sweatin’ it.

IMG_1058

I know I’m lucky that Rufus is incredibly motivated by food. He will LITERALLY do anything for a nibble. It makes life and training so much easier.

And while we still have a long way to go, I have to say that I couldn’t have asked for more from this amazing dude. I love traveling with him and he made our trip so much more memorable. After all, he is my best friend.

Good boy, Rufus.

IMG_1069

 

The Cautious Canine | A Revisit #1

There are a lot of reasons why we as dog owners/parents/caretakers sometimes allow ourselves to slack on training.

Sometimes life gets hard or hectic.

Sometime we get lazy.

Sometimes we work with other dogs all day and we forget we have a project pup at home…:cough: 

Sometimes it’s easier to avoid our dog’s obstacles and triggers than it is to keep it up with hard work and consistency.

For whatever reason, sometimes we mess up. And while that’s completely fine in some behavioral cases, it really isn’t for Rufus.

IMG_0916

I know he looks smug and confident, but he’s really a total wuss.

This dude thrives on repetition and positive association.

So after a few incidents in which I found myself avoiding situations or completely shocked by Ru’s reaction to a trigger, I decided to dust off the old “dog behavior” book pile and strap on the treat pouch. Time to get back to work.

CC cover for pub

The Cautious Canine outlines the most straight-forward approach to correcting unwanted behaviors rooted in fear. And for the most part, Ru’s behavioral quirks (to put it nicely…) are all rooted in fear. It’s a subtle fear, but it’s definitely there…

Here are our baby steps:

  1. Keep him a safe distance from his triggers and reward him for being brave and calm in those situations. In this case, that means FEED HIM ALLLL THE TREATS!
  2. Be consistent.
  3. Slowly shorten the distance from said triggers while continuing to build up his confidence and reward him for his progress.
  4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

 

It doesn’t seem like much, but it works! I plan on making this a mini-series and keeping all of you out there up to date on Ru-man’s progress. I hope you like this kind of stuff as much as I do. Dog behavior nerds unite!

IMG_0825

Happy Healthy Dogs<3 

 

 

 

Play With Your Food! | A Chewy Treat Toy Review

For breakfast, Rufus gets a mix of Honest Kitchen dehydrated food and kibble. And for that reason, it would be impossible to put his meal in a treat toy…because it’s basically soup.

IMG_0061

However, every single dinner of his is stuffed into one of his many treat toy options (click here, here, and here to see a few of our favorites). I think it’s important to make him work for his food on a regular basis and it slows him down as well. It’s a win-win.

FullSizeRender (1)

Most of Ru’s toys are  of the “roll around, knock ’em down” variety. These seem to work really well for him, but I decided to test his brain a little bit.

IMG_0256IMG_0257

When Chewy offered to send us the Outward Hound Spinner Puzzle Toy, I was all about it! That being said, I was also kind of thinking it would take a few tries for him to get the idea…

[Click HERE to see Instagram video]

IMG_0258

Turns out this dude was born to prove me wrong. The joke’s on him – I love to be proven wrong.

My favorite thing about this toy is that it’s something different. As our dogs get older, I think it’s just as important to keep their minds active and to introduce them to new obstacles on a regular basis. Doing this in the form of treat toys and games makes it way more fun for everyone involved.

Do you use treat toys? If so, what are some of your favorites?

Thanks to Chewy for offering some excellent products in exchange for my (our) honest review!

 

A Good Dog | When a Fearful Dog Succeeds

IMG_7285

What makes a dog good?

I’ve written a lot about Ru’s behavioral quirks and obstacles and I’ve been really honest about how I try my hardest to work through and around them so that he can have as many enriching experiences as possible while also always being mindful of his boundaries.

We had a visitor this weekend. This person is someone that Rufus hasn’t been around in almost four years and even when he was around her back in Illinois, they met less than a handful of times. And even though I was super excited to spend time with her for a long weekend, I was a bit nervous about how Ru would take to a stranger (one that isn’t necessarily a “dog person”) staying in his house for several days. But! I didn’t let nerves deter me. I took the steps needed to make him comfortable and to set him up for success.

So what’d we do?

1.We met our guest outside. We took a mini walk in which no one interacted with each other. We just walked and talked and let Rufus sniff and get into his happy zone.

2.Then we walked inside and kept the mood neutral. She said “hello” to him but did not reach down to pet him. We put her stuff away, handed her some treats, and sat down to visit.

3.She fed Rufus treats as we praised him in our highest “dog mom” voices for being neutral. He licked her hand. Success!!

The rest of the visit was perfect. He would go up to her for a good neck scratch and then come back to me. He followed me around a lot more than usual, but he wasn’t fearful….just a little unsure.

Nothing happened. He didn’t “bond” with her but he also didn’t dislike her in the slightest. It went as perfectly as I could’ve hoped for.

A lot of people (especially those that aren’t completely nerdy over canines) expect a dog to WANT the attention. They expect to meet a dog that is incredibly friendly, excited to meet every single person ever, and that you can easily reach down to pet no matter who you are or where you are. That’s not Rufus. And honestly…that’s not a lot of dogs, now, is it?

Rufus will never be happy-go-lucky in the traditional sense, but I’m more than ok with that. I just want him to be comfortable and content when life hands him a curveball. Through tiny baby steps, he’s shown me that he is willing to do the work and I love that about him.

Rufus is a good dog because he’s mine. I take responsibility for him and I do my best to push him through those rough moments without forcing anything. Our bond is stronger because of these moments and I’m so happy to have him by my side.

My heart dog. 

IMG_7554

The Dogs You Never See | A Dog Blogger Rants

Disclaimer: This is a topic that’s been on my mind for awhile now. It’s a little scattered and a bit of a mind dump but I hope some of you out there can relate and share your thoughts with me. Ok. Rant before rant over.

IMG_7908

I live in a large community of townhouses. I’ve lived her for almost 4 years. Our pet restrictions are as follows: no more than 2 pets, dogs must be under 45 lbs and breed restrictions apply. 

Through fences, I have seen pitbulls, large labs, bulldogs, huskies, etc. And while I kind of love that these restrictions are obviously very flexible (my landlord often sees me walking large client pups in and out of our place and never seems to mind), I also know that most of these dogs hardly ever see the outside of their (very small) yards.

Of course it was a total bonus for me to move into a place with a fenced-in yard, but ours is strictly used for sunbathing, potty training foster pups, and quick nighttime potty breaks. Rufus does not “exercise” in his backyard and he barely hangs out there 99% of the year.

We walk. We travel to parks. We hike. We socialize with clients. We walk some more. We get out of our tiny bubble every single day.

And while I completely understand that not everyone has the luxury of taking their dog to work with them or even on vacations and day trips, I think that every single dog deserves to explore their own neighborhood at the very least. New scents and daily stimulation are so important for a dog’s well-being, don’t you think?

I don’t preach much on this little ole blog, but this happens to be a matter very close to my heart. I have a dog that can be a little bit of a handful in certain situations, but that would never keep me from exposing him to new things. We’d both be miserable if I did and that’s just not ok with me.

Oh, and I also socialize dogs for a living. Minor detail.

IMG_8572

Generally speaking, I know that a lot of people get their dogs out of some American habit – as gifts, because they think every home needs a dog, or whatever else reason pops into their mind. It doesn’t make them bad people – they just may not be educated in the same way that us crazy dog bloggers seem to be.

So what have I done to fix this? Well I lead by example…a lot! Everyone in my complex comments on how lucky Rufus is to be walked so much. Some people have even gone as far to say thing like, “I didn’t even recognize you without Rufus by your side!” Hilarious. True but hilarious.

But that’s all I’ve really done so far. Once I gave a neighbor tips on how to get her wild pup under control during walks and it really seemed to motivate her, but I only saw her out with her dog a handful of times before she seemed to have given up. :sigh:

So I’ll keep doing what I’m doing: commenting and educating when necessary and hope that things change through kind words and knowledge. That’s how I’ve always done thing.

Side note: Halfway through writing this post, I ran into a neighbor while walking Rufus and actually had a really long conversation on training her dog to walk safely on a leash so that this time together is more enjoyable for the both of them. It went really well and she and I are going to do a few mini training sessions this week. If that isn’t positive manifestation, I don’t know what is!

Do you come from a similar situation? Or is your neighborhood full of dogs crowding the streets regularly? I know that whenever I spend any time Portland, I see dogs EVERYWHERE and it makes me so happy. More of that please!

487705_3893823156279_437616540_n

City living.

*Of course I know there are always exceptions – fearful dogs that prefer the comfort of a routine and become inconsolable in new situations, etc. I’m just talking about the majority of dogs that deserve more and would benefit greatly from all of the things I stated above. We all deserve a little adventure! 

The Dog Goes | How to Travel with a Fearful Dog

unnamed-2

For anyone out there that knows about the anxiety that comes with loving a reactive or fearful dog, know that you are absolutely not alone. And your dog doesn’t have to be either…

I know that the easy solution can be to just leave your dog at home, but that may not be what’s best for you or your dog.

Rufus has some special needs when it comes to making him happy. While he is weary and often indifferent towards new people, he absolutely loves being with me and he loves exploring new places. Heavy foot traffic and city buzz doesn’t seem to affect him in the slightest. But a stranger bending down to give him attention? Well, that’s just not his cup of tea.

Taking him to new hiking spots is one thing. There is usually little to no human interaction and wide open spaces are a breeze. But sometimes we travel for longer periods, which means staying in hotels and exploring new cities and local parks full of people. Here’s what I’ve learned in the past several years about keeping Rufus comfortable:

  1. Keep him close. When navigating a new city, I keep Rufus close to my side. While I have a tendency to allow him to lead (without pulling) during our neighborhood walks at home, this just isn’t acceptable in new places. He seems to find comfort in letting me lead and I find comfort in knowing a person will have to approach me first before they reach for my dog.
  2. Keep him busy. If for whatever reason we need to stop somewhere and rest or eat, I make sure to keep Ru busy so that he’s not overwhelmed with obsessing over the people around him. I bring treats, keep him in long “sits” and “stays”, and interact with him constantly. It may make things a little less low-key for me but as long as he’s at ease, it’s worth it.
  3. Praise, Praise, Praise. No calm or obedient moment goes unnoticed! When he’s calm, I praise him. When he’s enjoying himself, I praise him. When he’s just being a normal dog and not focusing on a group of people approaching, I praise him. And when he meets someone successfully, I have a freaking celebration! I may sound like a lunatic, but who cares? I am not above making baby noises in public if it means my dog gets that being a happy, balanced dude is the best thing in the world. No shame here, people.

 

Of course there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach to handling a pup with behavioral issues, but this keeps us happy. Just by being cautious and alert, I have made sure Rufus has as many experiences as possible. He absolutely loves going to as many places as possible with me and these little tips make that possible. Of course he’s improved so much since we adopted him, but the truth is that he will always be a little “quirky” when it comes to socializing. And as long as everyone is safe and educated, I’ve learned that I can work with whatever quirky curveballs he decides to throw at me. And it turns out this guy really loves to keep me on my toes…

unnamed-1

Reunited with one of his favorites after four years!