Head Tilting- Why Does My Australian Labradoodle Do That?

We’ve all seen the adorable head tilt that Australian Labradoodle do when we talk to them. The way they cock their head to the side makes it seem almost as though they are trying to understand the meaning of the words we’re speaking to them. It’s cute and endearing, but is it even more than that? Prior speculation has suggested that dogs tilt their head to the side so that they can hear us more clearly, or perhaps as a social signal. My friend and colleague, author and professor of psychology Stanley Coren, came with an interesting hypothesis for this curious dog behavior, and put it to the test.

Coren’s hypothesis was that the head tilt had nothing to do with a dog’s hearing or social cues, but rather it was about vision. We know that dogs are incredibly adept at reading our visual cues and body language, and that they are constantly scanning our face for information. Could it be that a dog’s muzzle gets in the way of this interpretation, and that they simply cock their head to the side to get a better view of our face?

He then proceeded to conduct a survey among several hundred dog owners and asked them what breed or breed mix they owned, the shape of their dog’s face, and how often their dog tilted its head when spoken to. 71% of owners of dogs with longer noses (greyhounds, retrievers, etc) reported that their dog tilted its head often, while only 52% of brachycephalic heads (flatter noses like pugs, bulldogs, etc) reported frequent head tilting. While this is a significant difference in percentage, Coren believes that since even the brachycephalic dogs have a relatively high percentage of head tilting, even flatter muzzles may still obstruct vision to some extent.

Coren’s research points to the possibility that a dog’s muzzle might actually get in the way of reading our facial expressions, particularly the lower part of our face. He suggests that this might be one of several factors that causing the head tilt, and that hearing and social cues may play a role, too.

This is only the early stages of research on this topic, but it’s fascinating to see just how much we’re learning about our dogs and the ways they find to cope with living in our domestic world.

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Why Walking Your Noble Vestal Australian Labradoodle Should Be A Daily Habit

2014Fall MarTris Odin001Growing up I always viewed walking the dog as a chore. It wasn’t something I enjoyed and only did it because my parents made me do it.  With that being said, our dog didn’t get walked nearly as much as he should’ve. Ironically as I got a little older I became the neighborhood dog walker. But I was only doing that so I could save up money for things that I wanted.  So why should walking your Noble Vestal Australian Labradoodle become a daily habit? Well, there are a couple reasons.

One huge reason is socialization. Keeping your Australian Labradoodle well socialized will make your life a whole lot easier. The goal with socialization is to get your Labradoodle well versed with anything and everything that it will come across in life. The idea is that you want to pair those things that he comes across with something good like a tasty treat. I know unfortunately one thing that happens is that a dog acts a little on the wild side, the human doesn’t want to deal with it, or physically can’t control it anymore and the walks stop. When the walks stop then it is way worse the next random time a walk happens. The more frequently the dog gets walked the less of a big deal it is and the less crazy he will act.

Also, all the smells and sights are a big part of the walk. They fall into the socialization category but also into the mental stimulation category. Mental stimulation is something that also makes the human’s life much easier. It is said that 10 minutes of mental exercise/stimulation is equivalent to about 30 minutes of physical exercise. This happens on the walk because the dog is taking in all this new information in the form of sights and smells.

Walking your Australian Labradoodle also falls into the physical exercise category. While just a leisure walk may not be sufficient for most dogs, it certainly helps the cause. But as I mentioned above it has built in mental stimulation/exercise.  By combining mental and physical exercise it will tire your Labradoodle out quicker. This is just another reason why making walking a daily habit will help.

Finally, you should make walking your Noble Vestal Australian Labradoodle a daily habit because it’s good for your health. A decently paced walk is good for the heart. It is also good for all the muscles involved in making the walk happen.

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11 Things That Humans Do That Dogs Hate

There are many ways you can drive a Australian Labradoodles nuts — and you probably aren’t even aware of them. So if you want to be your dog’s best friend, find out how you can fix your annoying habits.

Using words more than body language
We’re a vocal species. We love to chatter away, even at our pets, who can’t understand the vast majority of what we’re saying. Labradoodles might be able to deduce what a few key words mean — walk, treat, toy, off — and maybe even learn hundreds of words as some Australian Labradoodles have done. But they can’t understand human language. What they rely on to figure out what we mean is our body language. Australian Labradoodles have evolved to be expert readers of the human body and can figure out what you’re thinking and feeling before you even realize you’re thinking and feeling it. But we can easily send mixed signals if we are only paying attention to what our mouths are saying and not what our bodies are saying. If you go to any beginning dog training class, you’ll see plenty of people saying one thing, doing another, and a confused dog trying to figure out what in the world is wanted of them. For instance, telling a dog to “stay” while leaning forward toward the dog and holding out a hand like a traffic cop is, in body language, actually inviting the dog to come toward you. But when the dog does, she gets reprimanded for breaking her stay command. It’s all so confusing!
A great experiment (and something that will probably have your dog sighing with relief) is to try to spend a whole day not saying a word to your dog, but communicating only with your body. You’ll realize just how much you “talk” with your body without realizing it, how to use your movements and body position to get the response you need from your dog during training, and how involved a conversation can be without emitting a single sound.
Hugging your dog
While you might love wrapping your arms around a furry canine friend, most dogs hate hugs. We as primates think hugs are awesome and express support, love, joy and other emotions through hugs. It’s totally normal to us to wrap our arms around something and squeeze, and it only means good things. But dogs did not evolve this way. Canids don’t have arms and they don’t hug. Rather than camaraderie, if a dog places a foreleg or paw on the back of another dog, this is considered an act of dominance. No matter your intentions with hugging, a dog is hardwired to view the act of hugging as you exerting your dominance. Many dogs will tolerate it with grace — the smiling face of the family golden retriever with a child’s arms wrapped around it comes to mind. But some dogs will feel threatened, fearful, or just flat out loathe the feeling — and in fact, a child grabbing a dog for a hug is why many dog bites occur. Also, the same dog that accepts one person’s hug might react entirely differently with another family member trying the same thing. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that actually enjoys or seeks out hugs.  If you’re wondering if your dog hates your hugs, just pay attention to her body language when you go in for a cuddle. Does she tense up? Lean her head away from you? Avoid even a hint of eye contact? Lick her lips? Keep her mouth closed? Pull her ears back against her head? All of these are signs that a dog is uncomfortable. Yes, even the dog licking her lips while someone snuggles her is not showing that she is overcome with love, it is showing submissive, even nervous behavior. So next time you want to go in for a hug, pay very close attention to whether or not the dog is okay with it. After all, you’re putting your face right next to a set of sharp teeth.
Petting a dog’s face or patting her head
Do you like to be patted on the head? My guess is no. Having someone reach out and tap us on the head, no matter how lovingly, is not something most of us enjoy. It’s annoying at best and painful at worst. And we really don’t want the hands of strangers reaching toward our face. If someone were to reach their hand toward your face, I’m guessing your reaction would be to pull your head back and lean away, and get a little tense about the invasion of personal space. Yet most humans think that dogs like being patted on the head. The reality is that while many dogs will put up with this if it’s someone they know and trust, most dogs don’t enjoy it. You may notice that even the loving family dog will lean away slightly when you reach for her face to pet her. She’ll let you because you’re the boss, but she doesn’t like it. It’s a personal space issue for dogs just as much as it is for us. This is why responsible parents teach their children to gently pet a dog’s back or rear, but don’t pat, and definitely don’t go for the dog’s face. If you really want to reward your dog for being awesome, don’t bang on their head, but give them a rub on their rear end right by the tail. They’ll thank you for it!
Walking up to a strange dog while looking her in the eye
We all know how powerful eye contact is. While we view steady eye contact as important, as a sign of trustworthiness or focus, we have to also be aware that eye contact can feel unnerving, uncomfortable and domineering. It’s creepy when a stranger looks us in the eye without breaking contact, especially as they’re approaching. It’s clear their attention is zeroed in, but what is their intention? We have to read the rest of their face for the cues. Eye contact is part of establishing dominance for many species, and in humans, we can use the tiniest of details about the rest of the face — the softness or hardness of the muscles around the eyes and mouth — to determine if the stare is friendly or not. And even then, it’s still creepy to have a stranger stare at us! It feels the same way for dogs. When you look a strange dog right in the eye, unblinking, you might be smiling and trying to warm up to them but the dog is probably reading it as an act of dominance or even aggression. They might display a submissive response — looking away, doing a little wiggle for pets, rolling over onto their backs — or they might start backing up and barking. Either way, for most dogs, a stranger looking it right in the eye while approaching is not a comfortable situation.
If you want to say hello to a new dog in a way that is comfortable for both of you, approach with your body angled slightly (not with your shoulders squared toward the dog), your eyes slightly averted, and speak quietly with a gentle voice. All these body language cues of friendship will help a dog understand you mean no harm. The dog might still want nothing to do with you, but at least you didn’t approach in a scary way that could cause a defensive or aggressive reaction.
Not providing structure and rules
Australian Labradoodles want, need, and love having rules. You might think having strict rules makes life boring or unhappy for your dog. But dogs really want to know what’s what according to their leader. And really, it’s not so hard to relate as humans. Children thrive when they have a consistent set of rules to follow, and they do less well in environments that provide them a free-for-all. Think about polite, well-balanced kids you know, and the spoiled kids who lack social skills or throw temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Which set of kids are the ones with consistently enforced rules and boundaries? And which set tends to be most consistently happy? With dogs, it’s pretty much the same thing. Rules make life a lot more predictable, a lot less confusing and a lot less stressful. 
And speaking of confusing, dogs don’t understand exceptions to rules. They don’t understand that they’re allowed to jump on you when you have leisure clothes on but not when you have work clothes on. They don’t understand that they’re allowed on the couch after a bath but not after coming in from a romp in the mud. Additionally, saying “No” for breaking a rule but not actually doing something to help the dog stop the behavior and learn the rule doesn’t count as enforcement. Dogs thrive when they know where the boundaries are, and when you spend time enforcing consistent boundaries with positive rewards, you also are building up their trust in you as a leader. You’re setting up conditions for a very happy dog!
Forcing your dog to interact with dogs or people she clearly doesn’t like
Just like so many other social species, dogs have their favorite friends and their enemies. It is easy to see what other dogs — and people, for that matter — that a dog wants to hang out with and those with whom she’d rather not associate. Yet, there are a lot of dog owners who go into denial about this or simply fail to read the cues their dog is giving them. It is common for overly enthusiastic owners to push their dog (sometimes literally) into social situations at dog parks when their dog would rather just go home. Or they allow strangers to pet their dog even when she is showing clear signs of wanting to be left alone.
It is important to note that there is a difference between positive encouragement with shy, fearful, or reactive dogs. Taking small steps to encourage them out of their comfort zone and giving them rewards for any amount of calm, happy social behavior is important to helping them live a balanced life. But knowing the difference between gentle, rewards-based boundary pushing and forcing an interaction is vital to your dog’s safety and sanity. When dogs are pushed too far in social situations, they’re more likely to lash out with a bite or a fight. They’ve given cue after cue — ignoring, avoiding, maybe even growling — and finally they’ve had enough and give the clearest message of all with their teeth. What is possibly even worse, is that their trust in you as a protective leader is eroded, and they have an even more negative association with a park, a certain dog or person, or a general social setting. So do your dog a favor: read the body language she gives you when she doesn’t want to be around certain other individuals and don’t force it.
Going for walks without opportunity to explore and smell
There are walks, and there are walks. It’s definitely important to have a dog that knows how to walk obediently on a leash. However, it’s also important to allow a dog to have some time to explore her surroundings while walking obediently on a leash. Dogs see with their noses, and they place as much importance on their sense of smell as we humans place on our sense of vision for interpreting the world around us. It’s probably safe to say that dogs appreciate the smell of a tree trunk the way we appreciate a beautiful sunset. Dogs loathe not being able to take in their world for at least a few minutes a day, and too often we humans are focused on going on walks for the sole purpose of exercise or potty breaks. We trudge along the same old route, often without any variety or sense of leisure, and in too much of a hurry to get back home again.  The sense of smell is how a dog takes in the world, and sometimes they’re simply desperate for a chance to take a good sniff.
Do your Australian Labradoodle a favor and dedicate one of your daily walks to having a “smell walk” — going slow and letting your dog take in the world with her nose. Go somewhere entirely new, explore a different neighborhood or trail, let your dog sniff at a spot until she gets her fill, even if it’s for minutes at a time before moving forward. For helping your dog know the difference between a walk where she should be obedient and stay beside you, and a walk where she is free to explore, you can have a special backpack or harness that you use only for smell walks. Just make sure it is something very different from your usual collar and leash set-up so the different purpose for the walk is obvious to your dog. These walks are a wonderful opportunity for your dog to get some of the mental and sensory stimulation that keeps life interesting for her.
Keeping a tight leash, literally
Just as dogs are amazing at reading our body language, they’re amazing at reading our tension levels even through the leash. By keeping a tight leash on a dog, you’re raising the level of stress, frustration, and excitement for your dog, and conversely, for you. I know what you might be thinking: “I don’t want to hold a tight leash, but I have to. My dog is the one pulling, not me!” But this is why it is so important to teach a dog how to walk on a slack leash.
An amazing amount of energy is transferred between you and your dog through that little strip of canvas or leather. By keeping a loose leash, you’re letting your dog know that everything is fine and dandy, that there’s no reason to be worried or tense. With a slack leash you’re saying to your dog that you are calm and have everything under control so your dog is free to be calm as well. On the other hand, by keeping a tight leash you’re sending a message to your dog that you’re tense, nervous, on alert, ready to fight or fly, and your dog responds in kind. Just as you don’t like your dog pulling you around, it doesn’t feel good to your dog to constantly be pulled and thus cued to be on alert. They’re also well-aware that they can’t get away from you even if they think they need to. A dog that walks on a tight leash is more apt to bark or be reactive in even the most mild of social situations. But a dog that can walk on a slack leash is more likely to be calm. This is a difficult thing to master, and something the majority of dog owners can commiserate about, but it is so important to having pleasant walks with a relaxed dog.
Being tense
Tension on the leash isn’t the only way a dog can pick up how you’re feeling. You can tell when a person you’re around is feeling tense, even if you don’t realize it. Dogs have the same ability. The more stressed and wound-up you are, the more stressed and wound-up your dog is. And dogs, just like us, don’t like that feeling. You might roll your eyes, but the next time your dog is acting frustrated and tense, check in with yourself — have you been feeling that way for the last few minutes, for the last few hours, or the last few days? Your dog might just be acting as your mirror. If you need a reason to meditate, helping your dog calm down is a great one.
Being boring
You know that feeling of being stuck hanging around someone who is totally boring? Think back: remember having to be with your parents while they ran grown-up errands? None of which revolved around a toy store or park, of course. Remember that feeling of barely being able to contain yourself, of wanting to squirm and groan and complain. You couldn’t take part in the adult conversation, which was boring anyway, and you were told to sit still and hush. But oh boy did you ever want to just moooove! Just run around the block or something to break the monotony. That’s how your dog feels when you’re busy being that boring grown-up. Dogs abhor it when we’re boring. And it’s hard not to be! We get home from work and we want to unwind, to get a few chores done, to make dinner and sack out on the couch and relax. But that’s about the most annoying thing we could do to our dogs who have been waiting around all day for us to finally play with them.
If your dog is making trouble — getting into boxes or closets, eating shoes or chewing on table legs — she’s basically showing you just how incredibly bored she is. Luckily, there is a quick and easy solution to this: training games. Teaching your dog a new trick, working on old tricks, playing a game of “find it” with a favorite toy, or going out and using a walk as a chance to work on urban agility, are all ways to stimulate both your dog’s mind and body. An hour of training is worth a couple hours playing a repetitive game of fetch in terms of wearing a dog out. While of course exercise and walks are important, adding in some brain work will make your dog happy-tired. Even just 15-30 minutes of trick training a day will make a big difference.
This should be obvious, and we won’t spend too much time on it. But it’s worth pointing out because too many people still think it’s funny. Don’t bark at a dog as you pass it on the street. Don’t wave or talk to a dog that is barking at you from behind a window or door. Don’t pull on a dog’s tail. The list can go on and on, but in short, don’t do something you know makes a dog mad just because you think it’s funny. It’s not funny to the dog and can lead to some serious behavioral problems — and, perhaps deservedly, you getting to sport some new dog-shaped teeth marks.


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Three things To Remember When You Bring An Australian Labradoodle Home

#1: Have Patience! It can take a minute for a puppy to settle in and learn the house rules and family dynamics.  Even longer for an older dog.  The older the dog the longer it may take.  It may take a good year for a dog to truly settle into a new home. Don’t panic if there are some bumpy spots during the transition; some benevolent training and patience usually smooths things out.  Just because a dog isn’t a puppy anymore, doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a lot to learn about you and your family.

#2: Just because a dog is house trained in one house doesn’t mean he is in yours. Treat all dogs, no matter how old, like puppies for the first couple of days. Take them out to potty often and give them instant reinforcement for doing so in the appropriate place. You’ll also need to keep a careful eye on your new dog for quite awhile—just because they didn’t chew on someone else’s couch doesn’t mean they won’t chew on yours!

#3: Three really is a magic number! Repeating “three days, three weeks, three months!” is a wonderful way to remind yourself that most dogs are in shock the first three days in a new home, need three weeks to begin to show you their true personalities, and three months to begin to understand the family rules.

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“Look! A Doodle!” The ABCs of Saying Hello to an Australian Labradoodle

You love Australian Labradoodles. Your child loves Labradoodles. In fact, when you see a complete stranger with an Australian Labradoodle, you can hardly wait to pet his or her pooch. “Look! A doodle!” you say to your child, who is probably already pulling you by the hand toward the dog.

 If you are like most well-meaning dog lovers, however, what you do next is not a loving gesture to potential new canine buddies. If you have taught your child the wrong way to approach a dog, you may well be passing on outmoded advice that isn’t helpful for the child or the dog. Quiz yourself to be sure. Which of these is correct?

The right way for a child (or anyone) to meet a dog is to:

A) Ask for permission to pet the dog, then stand and wait for the dog to approach. Pet under the chin or on the chest.
B) Ask for permission to pet the dog, then extend the back of your hand for the dog to sniff it. Pet on the head or back.
C) Ask for permission to pet the dog, then squat down and offer an open palm to the dog.

Only one of these answers takes the dog’s perspective and feelings into account. Only one models for the child how to ask the dog whether he or she wants to be touched. Think about it this way: if you were on a crowded elevator, would you want a friendly stranger to say hello to you by smiling and then feeling the fabric of your pants or touching your hair? Most of us prefer to choose who touches us. Dogs are no different. “Just because you feel like it” is not a good reason to touch someone who is telling you they are not interested. What valuable lessons to impart to your child: it is okay to say “no” to being touched, and it is important not to touch others who say “no.” Even if we really want to.

These days most people have gotten in the habit of asking the dog’s person whether it is okay to pet his or her dog. This habit is a terrific trend, because if the dog is feeling uncomfortable, the human in charge can say, “Thank you for asking, but today Buddy is not feeling well, so please don’t pet him.” However, even if they say yes, your next step is always to ask the dog whether he or she feels like being touched by you. Simply stand still, and make sure your child stands still. If the dog would like to interact, he or she will move closer. If not, please respect the dog’s feelings and do not touch. If the dog says “no” by not coming closer to you, you and your child can still enjoy being near the dog. Ask the dog’s person how old the dog is, what he or she likes to do for fun, or if the dog knows any tricks. Your child may count the dog’s feet or spots, or admire his or her collar. Then say thank you and be on your way.

If the dog approaches you, it is a great sign that the dog would like you to touch him or her. Ask the dog’s person how his or her dog prefers to be petted. However, be aware that many people do not know the answer to this question about their own dog. The most universally inviting type of touch is to stroke the dog under the chin, on the front of the chest or on the side of the face. Give it a try, and then stop and put your hands at your sides to assess whether the dog likes it. The dog will let you know whether or not he or she wants you to continue touching by standing still, moving closer to you, or turning away. If the dog stays put or comes in for more, keep petting under the chin and reassessing periodically, giving the dog a chance to break off the interaction. If the dog turns away, stop touching him or her.

Someone in ancient times, before we knew how powerful dogs’ sense of smell was, decided that if the dog could get a whiff of the back of our hand the dog would feel at ease. As we now know, dogs can sniff out cancerous cells, they can track a weeks-old trail in the woods, and they can detect a single drop of urine in a gallon of water. If you are close enough to ask the person if it’s okay to pet his or her dog, the dog has already smelled you and assessed you more intensely than you can imagine. Not only that, but if you have enough space between you to extend your hand, by definition the dog has not come right up to you, which means you have not waited for the dog to approach. You are thereby encroaching on the dog’s space. The dog may be able to overcome such an intimidating gesture on your part, but instead of imposing what you want on the dog, gain the dog’s trust by using your hands in a non-threatening manner. Pet under the dog’s chin or on his chest only after the dog says “yes” by voluntarily approaching you.

As you may have guessed, the correct answer to the quiz above is A. Ask for permission to pet the dog, even if the dog looks friendly or cute, and even if you already know the dog. (If there is no one around to ask because the dog is tied up, please don’t touch the dog.) Next, be a tree; always ask the dog by standing and waiting for the dog to approach. After all, it is respectful to ask before touching others. (If the dog’s owner prevents the dog from approaching you by making the dog hold a position like a sit stay, or by holding the dog in their arms, don’t touch the dog. To teach dogs to greet people calmly.) Finally, if the dog comes close to you, the chin or chest is where you should pet. Your child can “give a kiss” by kissing the palm of his or her hand and then petting the dog on the chest. If the pooch doesn’t come closer, don’t touch.

Be a real dog lover by taking dogs’ feelings into account. Teach your children to use the ABCs of saying hello, and make it easier for a dog to love them right back.

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Expert Tips for Walking Your Australian Labradoodle

No. Headphones. Ever. A walker’s attention should always be on the dog and the surroundings.

No talking on cell phones except in an emergency.

Practice makes perfect. Ask for (and reinforce) your Australian Labradoodle for loose-leash walking, and polite sits at street corners and when you stop to talk to someone.

Use good equipment that is appropriate for your Labradoodle (for example, if not well trained, giant dogs probably need more than a flat collar – and retractable leashes are not considered safe, ever). Inspect the fit and condition of all your equipment frequently. Ensure that your dog wears a tag with current information.

Pay attention to your Australian Labradoodle’s body language. Chances are she will alert you about anything amiss on the street or trail long before you become aware of it. Whether that’s another dog walker approaching, a mountain biker flying down the trail toward you, or a mountain lion trailing you, an early warning can help you manage the situation – but if only you are paying attention.

Carry really good treats. Professionally trained walkers know that good training is built with top-shelf reinforcements.

Make sure your dog is healthy before starting any exercise program.

Do not let your Labradoodle run off-leash unless he has a reliable recall. (The only exception would be in a fenced dog park, during off-peak hours, so you could work on your dog’s recall!)

Manage your Labradoodle’s behavior! Don’t assume that it is okay for your dog to interact with every dog and every human you come across. Not only is it rude, but it can also trigger unexpected, and maybe unwanted, reactions.

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Top 5 Holiday Pet Emergencies

We associate some specific things with this time of year: holly and carols and candy canes. But do some pet health issues pop up more than others around the holidays? Curious, I asked my colleagues at Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) to research claims that initiated on Christmas Day. Do the holiday warnings issued for pet parents truly address the risks associated with the season?

As the chief veterinary officer here at VPI, the results didn’t surprise me: The information from our more than half a million policyholders shows that on Christmas Day, veterinary visits are driven by a sense of urgency, if not flat-out emergency.

See Also: 5 Ways to Keep Pets Happy Over Holidays

Surprised? I bet if you think about it, you won’t be. After all, you’re not going to take your pet in for a veterinary visit on a major holiday unless it’s a serious situation. And even if you truly do have nothing better to do with your time on Christmas Day, you won’t be able to schedule an ordinary veterinary appointment because your veterinarian’s office is likely closed.

You know what else I found from those top five Christmas Day claims? Chances are that for many of those pets, the problem was preventable, just as all those cautionary news reports suggest.

Holiday Emergencies

The list of the top VPI claims for Christmas Day is a good place to start a discussion on how to avoid an emergency veterinary visit. In order, here are our top five emergencies:

1. Gastritis/Enteritis: Gastritis/enteritis is veterinary-speak for severely upset stomach/intestines, with symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes this happens because a pet helps himself to holiday goodies, such as the Jack Russell Terrier who inspired our annual VPI Hambone Award by climbing into a refrigerator and eating the holiday ham while waiting to be rescued. Other times it’s because a pet is given something that’s outside her or his normal diet: too much, too rich, too little like what a pet should eat.

Prevention: Ask visitors not to give food to your pets without permission, and block pets from helping themselves by keeping food out of reach or even crating pets until after the holiday meal. (You don’t have to be the Grinch: A small amount of skinless turkey breast is fine, as is having pet-safe treats at hand for sharing in moderation.)

RELATED: 4 Tips for Dealing With Holiday Diarrhea


2. Lacerations or Bite Wounds: You think you don’t get along with your brother-in-law? Is your aunt a little hard to listen to after a spiked eggnog? There are families that fight like cats and dogs, after all, so is it any surprise that forcing pets to hang out together can also be a contentious experience?

Prevention: While it can be hard to say no to someone who asks to bring a pet to your home for Christmas, you should think about doing so if it will upset your own dog or cat. Separation is another option: Closed doors or crates can keep territorial pet disputes from ending up in the ER.


3. Soft Tissue Trauma: This is a pretty broad category, and within it can be found all degrees of pet calamity. It can be a dog hit by a car after a guest leaves the front door open, or a cat fallen on while purring underfoot, or even a dog with “weekend warrior” syndrome after bored grandkids engage him in an exhausting all-day game of fetch.
Prevention: Keep an eye on your pets and your guests to prevent unsafe interactions. Again, closed doors and crates can be a good thing. (Remember it goes both ways: If your cat trips your grandmother, you’re just as likely to be running to the human ER as the pet one.)


4. Foreign Body Ingestion: You name it, and there’s a pet who will eat it. That’s true of holiday gifts, decor and even things you might usually put out of reach but a guest might leave where a pet can get it – like underwear. And while eating things that shouldn’t be consumed seems like a dog thing, consider that light strings and tinsel can trigger a playful pounce by a cat who might then swallow what’s caught.

Prevention: Preventive measures will depend on you, your pet and your holiday plans. Tinsel is probably not the best choice for a Christmas tree in a home with cats, for example, and keeping things picked up in general will keep dogs from swallowing items that will need to be surgically removed. Remind guests that underwear and socks are especially appealing to dogs and that keeping dirty clothes in hampers or closed suitcases is a good idea.

See Also: 5 Smartest Dog Breeds


5. Chocolate Poisoning: Chocolate is definitely on the list of foods that should never be given to a pet, but sometimes people overreact when they realize a dog has eaten some (cats usually won’t touch the stuff). Remember that chocolate toxicity increases the darker the chocolate gets and the smaller the dog involved. In other words, a small dog who consumes a bag of dark chocolate candy really does need a trip to the emergency veterinarian, but a large dog who eats a couple of milk chocolate candies is probably going to be just fine. (Here’s a handy chart, and remember it never hurts to call the ER vet and ask.)

Prevention: Keep all candy – not just chocolate but also sugar-free candies and gum sweetened with Xylitol – out of reach of pets, and remind guests to do the same.

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How to Put an End to Counter-Surfing

Editor’s note: The holiday season often brings delicious edibles to the dining room, the kitchen counter, and the coffee table. If your dog tends to help herself to your festive goodies, read on. This classic article from the clickertraining.com archives might just help make your holidays a little merrier and brighter this year!

A new trick

Many dog owners complain that their dogs steal food from kitchen counters or even the dinner table. A new term was even coined to describe this behavior: counter-surfing. If you’re tired of losing your dinner to a sneaky pooch every time you turn your back, here’s what you can do about it.

red meat

“Stop” strategies

Counter-surfing is unwanted behavior. In operant conditioning, there are three basic approaches to stopping unwanted behavior:

  1. Punishment through a consequence that diminishes the unwanted behavior
  2. Extinction (allowing the behavior to fade away on its own) through removal of the reinforcer that is maintaining the unwanted behavior
  3. Training an alternative or incompatible behavior

The first approach, punishment, has its disadvantages. It is usually (but not always) unpleasant, and therefore not much fun for dog or owner. Judging an effective level of punishment can be tricky. Too much punishment can be damaging, and too little can be ineffective. Other behaviors may end up being punished unintentionally, sometimes causing the dog to simply learn to avoid an entire situation altogether.

If you punish your dog for counter-surfing, for example, your dog may decide that the kitchen was the source of the problem, and opt to avoid the kitchen altogether—which could cause a host of other issues. But by far the most common problem that occurs when punishing counter-surfing is that the dog only learns not to steal food when the owner is around. As soon as the owner leaves the room, watch out!

This leaves us with the remaining two options: extinction and training an alternative or incompatible behavior. If you are new to clicker training, find an index card, write down the following, and stick it to your fridge:

  • What is reinforcing this unwanted behavior and how do I remove the reinforcer?
  • What would I like my dog to do instead of this unwanted behavior?

Food left unattended on kitchen counters is simply too tempting and too reinforcing for the thieving dog.

Remove temptation

The answer to the first question in this case is easy: FOOD. Recall the adage “opportunity creates the thief.” Food left unattended on kitchen counters is simply too tempting and too reinforcing for the thieving dog. Each time your dog manages to find food on the kitchen counter, counter-surfing has been reinforced. Extinction of counter-surfing requires clean kitchen counters. Use storage containers, high shelves, and cupboards so that food is never left unattended within reach of your dog. Clean up countertop spills and tidbits immediately, as even a crumb can be enough to reinforce some dogs.

If food must be left unattended, put your dog in another room and shut the door. There is no sense in providing opportunities for reinforcement when avoiding it is as simple as closing a door.

Try instead

So what would we like our dogs to do instead of counter-surfing? We could choose a specific behavior, such as lying on a mat in the kitchen, and in severe cases we could train and proof this single behavior to be reliable even when we’re not in the room—and even when there is juicy steak lying all over the counters!We could train and proof this single behavior to be reliable even when we’re not in the room—and even when there is juicy steak lying all over the counters!

If the mat is your dog’s normal bed, then he can be taught “go to mat” fairly quickly by capturing this behavior. Simply wait until your dog lies down on the mat on his own, then click and treat. If you toss the treat a short distance away from the mat, you will set up the next trial. When your dog is reliably going back to the mat to lie down, put it on cue.

(If the mat is new to your dog, then you can shape this specific behavior using the instructions found in the free online Book of Training Levels by Sue Ailsby.)

Increase duration

Once you have the “go to mat” behavior on cue, start adding duration. Rather than clicking as soon as your dog goes to the mat, hold off a second before you click and treat. Gradually increase the time before you click, second by second.

Keep the mat in the kitchen or, if space is tight, just outside the door but still in view. When you have 30 seconds of duration on the mat, try asking your dog to “go to mat” the next time you prepare food in the kitchen. Click and treat (toss the treat to your dog on the mat) every 5 seconds at first, then start to build duration up again.

Why lower the criteria to 5 seconds when you know the dog can stay for 30 seconds on the mat? This is a new training picture, and we’ve introduced distractions (food being prepared), so we have to lower our criteria to a point where the dog can—and will—succeed.

When your dog is staying on the mat while you prepare food for 30 seconds, try leaving the room. Only leave briefly at first, return, and if your dog is still on the mat, click and treat. Again, build duration slowly, at a rate where your dog will succeed.

Eventually, they’ll know better

All that most dogs need to know is that there are plenty of opportunities for reinforcement for a range of behaviors that don’t include stealing from the kitchen counters. When preparing food, make sure you reinforce nice behaviors such as sitting patiently, or lying down on the floor or a mat. Be sure to leave the room briefly, just to return and reinforce these nice behaviors that are offered even when you’re out of the room. At first, be sure to tidy food from the counters so that any counter-surfing is not reinforced.All that most dogs need to know is that there are plenty of opportunities for reinforcement for a range of behaviors that don’t include stealing from the kitchen counters.

By combining extinction with regular reinforcement of alternative behaviors, your dog will learn that the most reliable way to get food is to sit patiently, or lie down out of the way. Attempts at counter-surfing will not be reinforced and will eventually go away. If your dog has been reinforced for counter-surfing many times, or intermittently, then the extinction process will take longer—but it will happen.

Remember the two important questions raised above—what is reinforcing this behavior, and what would I like my dog to do instead? These can be applied to virtually any unwanted behavior: raiding the garbage can, barking at the door, jumping on visitors, even pulling on the leash. You hold the power to solve any one of these problems if you can answer those two simple questions and consistently apply the solutions.


By Aidan Bindoff on 12/01/2008

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Smart breeding – increasing your Australian Labradoodle’s chances to a good life

052513IMG_9231Behavior issues are the primary reason why owners give up their pets. We’re all talking about the latest behavior modification technique, and often blame poor handling or inexperience, but at the core of many behavior problems lies a basic genetic predisposition of the dog to react in certain ways. With less emphasis on physical traits, and more focus on eradicating certain behavioral traits, breeders make a real difference in the welfare of our canine companions in both good and bad ways.

Today’s modern urban lifestyle forces dogs to put up with many stressful situations. The demand to be highly social and friendly has increased and our acceptance for some of their natural drives has diminished. Dogs are required to be more tolerant towards one another as well as towards people. A dog’s genetic predisposition for adaptability, confidence and friendliness, are big advantages. Those traits will increase his chances of staying in his initial family of adoption and living a good life.

A dogs’ behavior is determined by both his genetics and his interactions with the environment. In other words the dog’s genetics will define, or predispose him to reacting in certain ways to different situations. Most trainers are familiar with the basic drives of today’s breeds and some breeds will present behaviors that will be difficult to live with. Breeds such as Border collies  and Australian shepherds are known to be compulsive herders that may present real challenges when brought into a family lifestyle. Beagles may create problems to those with a low tolerance to barking. A Weimaraner’s need for activity will often wear out their owner, and so forth…

While bred for health or confirmation (AKC or ALAA standards), certain breeds have also developed behavioral traits that may compromise their relationship with unsuspecting owners. We mostly expect aggression issues in breeds such as pit bulls or Chows, but they’re also quite common in other breeds such as English Springer Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Toy Poodles, Lhasa Apsos and terriers. Even within the same breed, not all dogs are born equal when it comes to trainability, aggression thresholds, reactivity to environmental stimuli, etc… It only took 5 generations to obtain lines of dogs that are more nervous than typical. Those dogs were timid, less active, less curious and sometimes catatonic when people approached them (Murphree et al. 1974). This study also pointed to the limits of how much we can affect those behaviors through behavioral and pharmaceutical therapy, leaving owners with limited options. Environment will affect our dogs’ behavior but, even if we strive to provide the best of conditions and training, we’re still limited to increasing or decreasing the behaviors that are already part of the dogs’ genetic predisposition. Many will tend to automatically attribute mishandling as the cause of a shy dog’s behavior, when even in the most gentle of hands, genetics coupled with lack of socialization could be the cause.

According to (Houpt (2007), we’re only steps away from finding the genes responsible for canine aggression, but in the meantime, no matter how beautiful dogs can be, if they have shown any signs of aggression, or other problematic behaviors, they should not be bred. With today’s advances on dog’s behavior, training and cognition, we have better tools to deal with some of the common issues, but at the basis of many of them lie genetic influences that could have been avoided through more intentional breeding. Breeders are at the forefront of our dog’s welfare and reproduction practices should focus on developing dogs that have the best chances of making good pets.

There are plenty of responsible breeders who care about their dogs’ health as well as their chances to a great life as a pet. As consumers, we’ll encourage and validate those we choose to give our money to. So, just like we’re ready to buy the cheapest items from stores that promote products from China or poor animal husbandry, as long as we’re ready to pay for poorly selected dogs, we’re encouraging practices that lead to the suffering of our companions. As dog lovers, we have the power to make a real difference in how dogs are bred, for our own benefit, that of the dogs, and maybe even to society with fewer animals ending up at the pound.

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Visitors Welcome

or not so welcome-

Every well regarded book about adopting puppies or picking a breeder tells you that you must visit the breeder and the parents to assess for yourself the quality of your future puppy.

I am here to tell you why this is terrible advice and why it won’t happen if you call or email me with a request to visit.

I have always enjoyed sharing my love for the Australian Labradoodle with prospective clients and onlookers.  I stand proudly while you ohhh and ahhhh over the puppies, I must admit that it will never get old to hear the delightful complements.  Except what you don’t understand is the momma dog is not as thrilled to see you.  She is trying to decide how much danger you pose to her babies.  Like a momma lion protecting her young, she is not at all happy with you in her nest.  She is one of the sweetest dogs you will ever meet when she does not have babies.  When a female becomes a mom their brain switches in to momma lion mode.  You are a stranger, you equal danger to her babies.  The mom starts to become stressed and produces an excess of cortisol (the stress hormone) which poisons her milk.  Puppies nurse off mom and receive high doses of cortisol.  Puppies who are on the receiving end of this cortisol laced milk start to show signs of stress, they become colicky and anxious.  This has a long lasting effect on puppies.. they start to crave the stress hormone and exhibit unwanted behaviors like barking, aggression, anxiety and fear (just to name a few) all the time.  We have just created a crack baby.

Moms need a stable, stress-free environment while their puppies are young.  Visitors knocking on the door, strange voices, unknown fast moving children and their laughter is not well received.  The momma dog now feels very threatened.  Your visit was not good for her or her puppies.

The health and welfare of our mommas and her puppies come before your need to look at our puppies and our adult dogs.  Our visitation policy is clearly stated on our Contact Us page, if you attempt to contact me and ask “is it OK to come over and see our dogs” or “visit our facility” the answer is No.  Below is what happened when someone ignored my instructions during a visit.  Mom became startled, jumped up quickly to see who was in our home causing puppies to scatter, she accidentally stepped on this baby and her toenail caused a laceration that required immediate emergency veterinary treatment.  Other breeders have lost puppies because a mom accidentally landed on them.

Baby Girl in portable incubatorVet Attending to PuppyWoundWound PrepAntibioticWaiting for wound to dryThe Vet inspeciting site a little closer   Making sure the wound is closed up

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