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Itza Rion Kennels
Canine Philosophy 101
Thinking Like a Dog

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Gideon over the broad jump and retrieving over the high jump.


Thinking Like a Dog

by Brenda "Rion" Sewell
Itza Rion Kennels

How many times have I been asked .. how do I get my dog to sit, down, stay, come to me, not to bark, not to pull me down when walking on a leash, or not to jump on people?  The number is one that I cannot even begin to fathom.

I have been training dogs since the early 1970's.  I learned first from books, by talking to other trainers, by apprenticing under another trainer, and by attending dog shows.  By asking questions of other trainers was the best way I found for learning.  Asking a question of a dog trainer will usually get you a detailed answer.  You may not agree with every method that trainer uses, but if you learn one thing from that trainer then you have accomplished a goal.

Not all methods of training work with all dogs.  As with people, dogs come in a variety of personalities from the shy and frightened to the outgoing and robust to the aggressive bully.  A good dog trainer pays attention to details.  If she doesn't, she could get bit or the dog could be hurt by another dog.  Neither scenario is wanted.

The following pages will hopefully help you become a better partner with your dog.  Dogs are not possessions, but partners in life.  You may think now, this is going to take hours to teach, but realize you will have this dog for an average of ten to twelve years.
 

Dog training takes time, but if done early in a puppy's life will provide you with years of pleasure.

I hope the instructions and hints on dog behavior and learning help you.  If one dog is saved from having to be euthanized for destructive behavior, my effort will be rewarded.



Contents:

Alpha Dog Behavior
Tempering the Bite of the Chewing Puppy
Socialization
Crate Training and Housebreaking
Aggressive Pets
Collars, Leads, and Training Tools
Discipline
Discipline and Treats
Diet
Begging for Food
Safety Tips
Liver Bread Dog Biscuits
Tips for the Novice Handler
Emergency Dog Links



Thinking Like a Dog


Alpha Dog Behavior:

Training a dog can be easy as long as you think like a dog, pay attention to the dog's body language, and use a firm, no-nonsense voice.  This voice does not have to be loud.  In fact, a soft guttural voice is what is needed in correcting a dog.  The “growling” tones of the word, “Enough!” is a good correction to use on a dog that is misbehaving.  The word itself sounds like a growl.  Couple that sound with a hand held over and encircling the dog's muzzle is usually all that is needed to stop a barking dog.

Dog trainers have sat for hours watching the behavior of litters of puppies and how their dam deals with misbehavior.  As the puppies grow and begin to explore, the mother dog begins to use a little more discipline.  Her puppies have teeth now and are using them to chew up everything, including their mom.

When puppies are two to three weeks old, the mother dog is perfectly willing to lie down so that her puppies can suckle.  At four to five weeks old, the mother dog is beginning to dry up and there is not as much milk available.  When the puppies begin to suckle, they realize that the milk isn't coming quite as quickly as it had been.  They begin to tug on their mother's teats .. tugging into her delicate skin with needle sharp puppy teeth.

The mother dog immediately stands up and takes the dinner away.  The next time the puppy suckles he will be a bit more careful about pulling the teat as he knows that if he bites, dinner leaves.  Sometimes a  puppy is determined to get more dinner.  He will follow the mother dog while she is walking and jump to catch her teat .. again with his needle sharp teeth.  This is usually a bit more than the mother dog can stand.  Turning quickly, she grabs the puppy by the muzzle and growls.  The puppy immediately goes belly up, “sorry mom .. sorry, mom .. wont do it again.”

This belly-up behavior is a sign of submission by the puppy while in the presence of a more alpha dog, or leader.  This belly-up behavior is something else you should do with your puppy.  When you are handling and playing with your puppy, roll him over on his back and hold him there.  He will struggle at first, but do NOT let him win.  As soon as he stops struggling, reassure him with the words "Tickle Tummy" and stroke his belly.

This stroking and the words will soon register as a good thing to the puppy.  My vet is always amazed when my hundred pounds of German Shepherd jumps up on the exam table and at the words, "Down" and "Tickle Tummy", the dog goes belly up.  This position makes it much easier to examine the dogs underbelly without struggling with the dog.

So, what does this behavior have to do with dog training?  By mimicking pack behavior, by emulating the actions of a mother dog, we as humans can become effective, better trainers.  When you have a biting dog, or a puppy that bites, if you copy a mother dog's action, you can cure the bad habit of biting before the dog needs to be euthanized for biting a child.

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Tempering the Bite of the Chewing Puppy:

A puppy bites because that is how he plays .. with his mouth.  When we as humans take a puppy out of a litter at the age of six to eight weeks, we take him out of the best environment there is in teaching that puppy how to temper his bite .. to teach him not to bite hard.  Puppies that play together will bite as they play and when they do, someone yelps and refuses to play anymore.  So the biter, who wants to play, tackles his litter mate again.  This time when he bites, he doesn't bite as hard as he wants his buddy to stay and play and not to go away.

When we bring a puppy home at eight weeks of age, the puppy is a biting demon.  Anything that comes within his range of sight is fair game to become a chew toy.  When we play with this set of teeth with legs, we usually end up with a bite that is hard enough to bring a bit of blood.  So, how do we teach this pup not to bite?  We play mother dog.

While playing with the puppy, let the puppy take your hand into his mouth.  The puppy in playing with you tries to hold onto you with his teeth.  As the puppy nibbles and plays, the FIRST time you feel the least bit of pain from him .. yelp .. say OW!  Yelp, OW!, pull your hand away from the puppy, turn around and leave him.  Nothing more .. no more punishment .. no more words .. nothing, just ignore him completely.

After about two minutes, go back to playing with the puppy and offer your hand as a toy again.  The puppy remembering your yelp will test your hand, not biting as hard as he did the last time.  He will nibble, nibble, nibble, BITE!  When he bites, just repeat the scenario above .. yelp, OW!, pull away and ignore him.  If you punish him by slapping him, he will continue to bite as he will think that you are just playing a rough game of "bite the toy".

Each time you play this biting game, say OW! each time the puppy puts any pressure on your skin.  After several episodes of this, the puppy will think, “Hey .. if I bite, my hand-toy gets taken away.  I don't want my toy taken away .. I want to play with it.  Hmm, I must be stronger than I thought.”  So the puppy begins to bite softer and softer, until there are no more “ows” thrown at him.  He will bite softer and softer until all you can feel is his teeth brushing against your skin.

At this point, you have trained the puppy to temper his bite, and have gained a dog that will be less likely to bite the hand that feeds him.  The dog that has respect for his owner and has a tempered bite is the dog that does not require a trip to the animal shelter because he has a bad biting habit.

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Socialization:

One of the most important things you can do for a dog while he is a puppy, is to take him out.  Take him to pet stores, take him to ball parks to childrens' soccer games, take him anywhere there is a chance someone can pet him.

Obedience training begins from day one.  Handle the puppy's feet, his ears, and his teeth as these are what the veterinarian will be examining.  If the puppy is used to having his extremities handled, your first trip to the vet with your new puppy will be much less traumatic for everyone.  Socialization will help a puppy not only in trips to the veterinarian or to the groomer, but will also allow him to learn that other people are not going to hurt him, that strange objects can be examined without fear and aggression.

Most aggressive or biting dogs are fear-biters.  These are dogs that, when confronted with a strange person, an object or another animal, will bite first and ask questions later.  They bite first to avoid getting bit or hurt, they want to get in the first punch so to speak, never realizing there is nothing to be gained by fighting.  They react out of fear alone.  Early socialization of puppies alleviates the fear biting syndrome.

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Crate Training and Housebreaking:

If you have a crate .. use it .. if not, get one. Crates are not cruel. In fact, your dog will adjust easily to one if you acclimate him to it slowly. Dogs are not only pack animals, but den animals as well. Soon your dog will think of his "box" as his den.. his own little house. You can get small crates fairly cheap, brand new at stores such as WalMart (cheaper than the pet stores) or you can buy a used one at a thrift store (just make sure you disinfect it first with bleach). Buy a crate not much bigger than your dog. He should have just enough room to turn around in and to sleep comfortably on his side. If you buy a crate too big for the dog, he will sleep in one end and urinate in the other end.

Feed him in his crate leaving the door open the first few times, letting him come and go on his own. He will begin to associate the crate with food and as being a good thing. Once he is used to the crate, (this usually only takes a couple of days), begin putting his food down in the crate, telling him "get in your box", and then shut the door. The first few times the door should stay shut after he is finished for only a few minutes. What you want to do is work up to 30 minutes of "box time" or quiet time after the dog has eaten.

Do not be surprised if your dog begins to whine and cry and bark while in his crate. If the dog has already pottied outside, then ignore him. Do not yell at him to shut up. All this does is encourage him to bark more. Why? Because even negative attention is better than no attention. The dog has been successful in making you react to him.

Instead, there are a couple of methods to quiet him in the crate. In the first one, the dog must be reliable in sitting on command. When the dog begins to bark, ignore him for a few minutes. Then AS SOON as he stops barking, walk over to his crate, tell him to sit and then treat him with a biscuit or just "good boy!". If he begins to whine and cry when you approach the crate, walk away. Soon he will realize the only time you will approach the crate is when he is quiet. Never let the dog out of the crate when he is spinning around inside like a top. Wait patiently for him to quiet down and sit. Let him out on YOUR terms.

The second method is a bit more drastic. But if you are living in an apartment and the landlord has threatend eviction because of a barking dog, use this method. Get a metal pan .. as soon as the dog starts barking .. slam the pan on his crate. You don't need to say anything, just BAM! Soon, he will realize every time he barks the pan comes slamming down. Most dogs do not like the loud noise and will soon stop barking. I make my own "noise maker" by using two disposable pie pans. I place several pennies in between the pans and then staple and tape the edges. It makes a great noise maker, is cheap, and you don't dent your good pans.

Now, why do all this? By confining your dog to the crate after he eats, you can control when he needs to go outside to do his business. A puppy may only be able to wait for ten to fifteen minutes after eating, but older dogs can hold it longer. As soon as you take him out of his box, take him to the door (if he is excitable and is prone to piddling on the floor when he is excited, then carry him to the door). Ask him, "Need to go out?" in an excited voice. Getting him excited to go out to potty is the ONLY time you want him getting excited at the door. This will come in handy later. As the dog gets older, he will train himself to get excited at the door, thus getting your attention and letting him out.

Thirty minutes is more than enough time for him to complete the task. If he still has not gone "potty", bring him back in the house and place him back in his crate. Wait another fifteen minutes to a half hour, then take him out again. Soon he will realize, as soon as he finishes eating, he will wait a bit, then will be taken outside. And .. if he doesn't do his duty, he will be placed back in the crate. Usually a dog will not mess in his bed, so if the crate is the correct size, this method works 99% of the time. There is always that one dog who doesn't care he is lying in his own waste.

By using a crate, you are controlling the dog's bathroom routine. This allows you to keep him from messing up your carpets and helps to facilitate house training. For the dog that continues to defecate in the house, make sure you are not leaving his food down all day long. Put his food down for ten minutes. If he has not eaten it in ten minutes, then take it up.

At his next meal, put his food down for ten minutes, if he still won't eat in the time allowed, pick up his food again. A dog will not starve himself, he will eat eventually. Even the stubborn dog that waits 3 days before eating. For this dog, feed him a very small meal as his stomach will be completely empty. If you feed a large meal after fasting for 3 days, the dog is prone to bloat. By putting his food down for a certain amount of time, you are once again controlling his routine. You will KNOW when he needs to defecate as you will KNOW when he has eaten last. A dog that is allowed to munch on his food all day long will not get into a routine and will defecate at all odd hours of the day. This makes house breaking almost impossible.

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Aggressive Pets:

If a dog or cat tends to bite when touched, eliminate any physical problem before disciplining.  Some animals will bite if touched on the head if they have an ear infection or impacted teeth.  If petting a dog's flank illicites a bite, suspect hip dysplasia or arthritis if accompanied by lameness; a kidney ailment can be the culprit in cats or older dogs.  Animals will bite as a reaction to pain. Have the animal checked thoroughly by a veterinarian for possible illness or disease before starting a disciplinary training technique.

Some dogs will react to corrections with aggressive mouthing of your hand, growling, or biting.  This behavior must be stopped immediately!  The most effective cure is to close your hand around the dog's muzzle and make a guttural, almost growling noise ... "aihnt".  Another correction is to "scruff" your dog by grabbing a handful of hair on the back of his neck, or on both sides of his neck and giving him a light shake while saying "aihnt".  If you have ever watched a mother dog correct a rambunctious puppy by grabbing and holding the puppy with her mouth, this is the type of correction you are trying to imitate.  Aggressive behavior towards people, no matter how slight, is not to be condoned.

When several dogs get together, an altercation may take place.  It may be as simple as a warning growl and raised hackles, or as dangerous as a full blown fight.  Aggressive behavior is NEVER allowed.  Watch your dog's eyes; if he makes eye contact and tries to stare down another dog, this is aggressive behavior and is not allowed.

There are several ways to stop a dog fight.  Pop and release his training collar and turn him so he cannot see the other dog.  This will stop the fight before it begins.  Sometimes just covering his eyes with your hand will avert a dangerous situation.

Another preferred way of averting a fight, is to teach attention work, or to “Watch Me!”.  The dog who is paying attention to the handler is the dog that will not see an oncoming dog and in paying close attention will hear a command more clearly.

If your dog does get involved in a fight, pull him away with the leash.  Do not try to pick up your dog and NEVER put your hands or body in between two fighting dogs.  You WILL get bit.

(TIP: No aggressive behavior allowed.)
(TIP: No eye contact allowed.)

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Collars, Leads, and Training Tools:

There is a wrong and right way to put a chain slip collar on your dog.

Make your dog sit, facing you.  After slipping the chain through one of the rings, hold the collar out so that it forms the letter "P".   Place the collar over your dog's head ... perfect!  If the collar is held in the shape of a nine , the collar will not slide properly and corrections will be hard to control.

(TIP:  Remember "P" is for Proper and Perfect Placement on the Puppy.)
(TIP: "Nein" is the German word for No!)

Remember the chain collar is a training collar and should be used only when training.  NEVER leave a chain collar on a dog when he is not training, or under your direct supervision.  Many a dog has choked or injured his neck and trachea when the chain collar has caught on a bush or a fence.  Since your dog must wear tags, buy a flat leather or nylon buckle collar for your dog to wear everyday.

Leashes:

You will need a six foot leash to begin your Basic training.  A leash of cotton or nylon web is acceptable, with leather being the preferred material.  A lead of 16 feet minimum, 26 feet preferable, will be of great help when you progress to Novice work.  Do not use a large snap leash on a small dog or a small snap leash on a large unruly puppy.

(TIP: Fit the leash to your dog.)

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Discipline:

Corrections are a necessity in training and whether you use negative or positive reinforcement, the correction must fit the crime.  Many a dog has been ruined by harsh corrections.  Moderation is important.

Some trainers believe in no discipline, just positive reinforcement.  I myself use this method in training, but it does have its drawbacks.  There is always that one obstinate, bully of a dog that refuses to obey.  Sometimes a wake up call is needed and a little negative correction is used. 

Some advocates of the positive training say negative correction is cruel.  I say to them .. if a child was going out into traffic and you had a choice of offering him a treat to not proceed or a quick snatch out of danger .. which choice would you make and trust more in saving the child.

One training method is to use the pop-release method of discipline, the training collar is popped and released quickly to correct a dog that has veered too far out in front of you, is not paying attention, or is making eye contact with another dog.  This method is not painful to the dog if performed correctly.

As the dog forges ahead of you, just as he gets to the end of the leash, TURN quickly in the opposite direction.  Do not say a thing to the dog, no correction words, nothing.  Ignore him.  Pop and release quickly, do not drag the dog around. 

If you drag the dog, he will resist and just develop stronger neck muscles to drag you around!  Quick, quick, quick is the key to pop and release.  After several of these forging and turning exercises, the dog will begin to walk closer and closer to you and will watch you carefully.

By now he is of the opinion that if he does NOT watch you, his neck will be jerked because you are a crazy person who doesn't know which direction to go.  He is teaching himself where HEEL position is and is not having to be placed by you in HEEL position.  The dog that is placed in heel position will continue to forge or lag behind.  Why, because he knows that you will place him where he belongs, so why should he learn?

(TIP: Never correct your dog in anger  If you have had a bad day at the office, please do not attempt a training session.  Instead, go play with your dog as it will benefit the both of you.)

Treats:

Some favorite baits used by trainers are small pieces of hot dog, puppy biscuits, liver bread (click here for recipe), carrots, frozen grapes .. whatever turns him on, should be what you offer.  And remember, use only small pieces of food, it's a treat, not dinner. 

If your dog is not a chow hound and prefers balls or squeaky toys, use a toy as a treat.  The idea being to reward the dog if he performs the task.  So what ever makes him happy, use it.  You don't work without a paycheck.  Why should you expect your dog to work without one?

(TIP: If you use food, please buy the low sodium food items.)

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Diet:

You say your pet won't eat dry food?  Yes, it will; no animal will starve itself to death.  Put the kibble down for fifteen minutes, then take it up.  Repeat the same routine every meal.  Offer nothing else to the pet.  Some animals will hold out for two days, don't worry about it. 

Animals in the wild sometimes go for four days without a meal because of bad hunting.  Your pet will eat the kibble when it realizes it's finicky eating routine doesn't cut the mustard with you anymore ... and looking at the overweight pets of today, a couple days of fasting won't harm them.  (Get your vet's advice on feeding diabetic or other special needs pets.)

Hard kibble is better for both cats and dogs.  It is better for their teeth (less tartar), cats will have less problems with facial acne (from eating canned foods), and both will benefit if fed a well balanced dry food with an occasional “treat” of meat broth. If your dog tends to “inhale” its food, put the kibble in a large flat baking pan.  The dog eats slower by having to chase the kibble around the pan.

Food should be fed in two or three smaller meals rather than one large meal.  Some of  the larger breed dogs are prone to bloat.  This can an extremely deadly situation for a dog.  Gas from digesting food swells the stomach, causing the intestinal tract to twist on itself.  If medical help is not given within hours the dog may die.  So eliminate the possibility of losing a friend by feeding two meals in small amounts rather than one large meal.

Fresh water should be down for your animals at all times.  If you own a breed of dog that is prone to bloat (deep chested dogs such as German Shepherds, Greyhounds, Dobermans are prone to bloat), it is advisable to moisten a portion of the kibble so it will swell outside of the dog rather than inside.  By not moistening the whole bowl full of kibble, the dog will still have the advantage of the tartar removing hard chunks of kibble.


Begging for Food:

Not so much a problem in cats as in dogs, begging at the table for handouts can be annoying.  Never feed dogs scraps from the table, instead dinner time should become the dog's quiet time.  Make him lie down and stay there until you are finished.  The dog is always fed last! 

Feeding the dog before you eat your own dinner puts the dog in an “Alpha” position.  YOU are the leader (alpha dog) of the family “pack”.  If you feed the dog first or let the dog go out of the door first, you have put yourself second in line to the throne, so expect problems with discipline.

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Safety Tips:

Never leave a slip (choke chain) collar on an animal when it is not under your direct supervision.
Accidental choking, hanging, or suffocation is real threat.

Keep your face and hands out of the reach of a strange dog.  Never lean down to nuzzle the dog.
This action has initiated more dog bites than any other action.

Never leave your animal locked in a vehicle with closed windows.
Even with the windows down, your pet may suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Have a cat that climbs on the kitchen counter?  Do you have also have a gas stove?

This combination can torch a cat and your house within minutes.  “Tabby” smells fish in the pan on the back burner of the stove and jumps on the stove to investigate.  In doing so, he inadvertently turns on the gas burner.  Hearing the pop and hiss of the flame, Tabby turns to investigate. 

The cat's whiskers and fur catch fire and in a panic, Tabby runs through the house, effectively torching the house.  Solution?  Childproof safety knobs for the stove can be attained in most hardware stores or children's wear stores.

Chasing a ball can be good fun, until the “used, not fuzzy, but slick” tennis or racquet ball becomes lodged in the pet's throat.  Make sure the ball is larger than the circumference of the pet's throat to solve any potential choking hazards.  It is extremely hard to pull a slick ball from your pet's throat; he may suffocate before you can get it out.

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Liver Bread Dog Biscuits

1 pound Beef or Chicken liver, thawed
3/4 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon garlic powder
 (not garlic salt!)

 *Puree liver in food processor or blender until mushy.
 *Add all ingredients in large bowl.  Beat until mixture is smooth.
 *Pour into 9” x 12” cake pan or use 2 cupcake pans. Spray pans with Baker's Joy, or grease
   and flour.  (For thinner biscuits, use two pans. I like the tiny muffin pans, myself!)
 *Bake at 350° for 35 - 40 minutes.   Turn off oven, leave pans in oven for
   one hour.  This will help to dry out the biscuits.
 *Cut into 2 inch strips.  Cut strips into smaller strips.  Muffins can be left whole.
 *Store by placing three or four pieces in snack size baggies.
 *Freeze liver biscuits in the baggies.  On training night, grab a baggie and go!
 *There is no preservative or salt in these biscuits, if not frozen, they will grow mold.

This is a basic recipe.
If your dog likes peanut butter, you can add 1/4 cup peanut butter to recipe.

Please note:
This is a treat!  Feed sparingly.
Only use 1 or 2 pieces per training session.
Too much liver may cause some dogs to have diarrhea.

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SAFETY TIPS FOR NOVICE HANDLERS

A Collection by Brenda “Rion” Sewell
Owner and Trainer of the Itza Rion Kennel

“My dog never bites.”  If I've heard that once, I've heard it a hundred times.  Any dog can bite if he is scared enough, in a stressful situation he cannot control, or in strange surroundings that have his nerves stretched to the limit!

Following are a few helpful tips for the novice dog handler.  I have used these tips to my advantage in the thirty years I have been training dogs.  Hopefully these tips will help to keep you from becoming another dog-bite statistic.

Q: I am a pet sitter for a Doberman Pinscher.  One of my jobs is to let the dog out of his crate.  When I arrive at the house, the dog goes berserk when I try to open the crate door ... barking and snarling at me.  What do I do?

A: When you arrive at the house, try to be as calm in your demeanor as possible.  Don't rush around swinging your arms, or making other large body motions.  Frantic, kinetic energy from you will only irritate the dog even further.  Instead, enter the house, softly calling the dog's name.  If he continues to bark and growl ... ignore him.  Do Not Let Him Out.  Walk past his crate, avoiding eye contact and talking softly.

Tell him what you're doing ... “Hey, Cruiser, how's your day been?  I'm just going to put your dinner in your bowl and then I'm going to get you some clean water.”  By doing this before you let him out accomplishes two things.  One, most dogs will calm down if the situation returns to the normal routine of daily life as quickly as possible (people doing the customary and routine motions he sees every day).  Two, with his food on the floor, his attention swings from eating you to eating dinner.

Q: One of my customers wants me to walk her Labrador of eighty pounds.  He is so strong he pulls me all over the place.   Help!

A: Walk him on a slip collar.  The slip collar can be made of chain, leather, or fabric and is commonly called a training collar.  If used properly it can be a great aid in handling an unruly dog.

Perfect fit is important; a collar that is too long benefits no one.  The training collar should be of a chain design two inches longer than the circumference of the dog's neck. If the collar is too large, you are defeating the purpose for which the collar was designed.

TIP:  Remember "P" is for Proper and Perfect Placement.  There is a wrong and right way to put the collar on your dog.  Make the dog sit, facing you.  After slipping the chain through one of the rings, hold the collar out so that it forms the letter "P".   Place the collar over your dog's head ... perfect!

TIP: "Nein" is the German word for No!   If the collar is held in the shape of the number nine, the collar will not slide properly and corrections will be hard to control.

Remember the chain collar is a training collar and should be used only when training.  NEVER leave a slip collar on a dog when he is not training, or under direct supervision.  Many a dog has choked, injured his neck, or damaged the trachea when the slip collar has caught on a bush or a fence.  Since the dog must wear tags (it's the law), have the owner buy a flat leather or nylon buckle collar for the dog to wear every day.

Q:   What is the proper way to approach a strange dog?

A: Never stare into a strange dog's eyes; try to keep your face as neutral as possible.  Let him approach you, do not encroach on his territory.  Let him come to you to smell the back of your fist.  Outstretched fingers make a tasty snack!  If you are right handed, let him smell your left hand.  This allows you to keep your dominant hand ready to catch him if he decides to lunge at you.

Q: What if he bites me?

A: If he does bite you, don't pull your hand away ... instead shove it down his throat to block his airway, grabbing under his throat with your dominant hand to control his head.  Remember, if he is aggressively fighting and biting ... all's fair in love and war.  Do what you must to get away, even if it means poking him in the eyes to make him let you loose.

Q: That's sounds horrible!  Isn't there something I can do to avoid the violence?

A: Yes ... be prepared.  If you know you are going to be caring for an aggressive dog, don't go empty handed.  A glass of ice water dashed into his face will surprise the dog and give you a few seconds of time to save yourself.  If the dog is REALLY BAD, carry a squirt bottle filled with a solution of ammonia and water or cayenne pepper sauce and water.  An open box, or shaker, of black pepper makes an excellent bad-dog repellent.  Just shake it in his face.

Q: I care for two terriers that start fighting each time I let them out of their pen.  Is there anything I can do to make them stop fighting?

A: Yes ... don't let them both out at the same time!   Use common sense, feed one dog in the pen and the other outside the pen.

Q: Duh!  I've tried that, but I can't get one out without the other one getting out of the gate.

A: Again ... timing is everything.  When you go to open the gate, tell them to get back.  If they don't step back, open the gate while simultaneously throwing ice water in their faces.  Show them that rushing through the gate will result in an icy shower. If they do get into a scuffle, pour a bowl of ice cubes and water over their heads.  Remember be prepared ... have the ice water handy.  If you have to go and get the bowl, it's too late.

Q: I feed a dog that growls at anyone who approaches his food bowl.  Heaven help the person that tries to take food away from him, he bites.

A: Change his bowl or the place where he eats.  Most of the time, a dog is possessive not of the food, but of the bowl. Place his kibble in a LARGE cake pan; he'll be so busy chasing the kibble all around the pan, he'll won't even think of growling. Feeding a dog in large rectangle cake pan will also help to slow down the fast-eating dog that seems to inhale his food.  If he has to chase the kibble around a little, he will have to eat slower.

Q: I care for a German Shepherd that had to have surgery for Bloat.  Now I'm afraid he'll get it again while he's in my care.

A: He's a lucky dog to have survived.  You can enhance his chances of a long life by feeding him smaller amounts of food more often ... three small meals, instead of one or two large meals a day.  He should be on a vet prescribed diet.  If he is not, soaking his food before feeding him will help to eliminate some of the gas that is formed when the kibble gets wet in the dog's stomach.  Also, keeping him quiet for a half hour to an hour after eating will help the situation.  Make sure he's fed a kibble that is low in corn or grain content.  Grains give off a gas when wet that causes the stomach to expand and the intestines to twist ... thus bloat, a condition that can be deadly if left untreated..

Q: My neighbor's poodle was bumped by a car and no one was sure how to transport the dog to the vet.  Luckily he survived with nothing but a few bruises and a cracked rib.  What is the best way to transport an injured dog?

A: Caution should be used when handling an injured dog.  The first thing to do is tie a muzzle on the dog with rolled gauze, a bandanna, a man's tie, or a woman's scarf.  This will keep the scared and hurting dog from biting his rescuers.  If the dog is small, a large cookie sheet makes an excellent stretcher. An ironing board or the leaf from a dining table can be used as a stretcher for a larger dog.

Cover the dog with a sheet or a towel and secure the covering with a leash or a piece of rope, so the dog cannot move.  A man's tie is a good alternative for an emergency restraint; they are soft, knot easily, and can be tied together to make a longer restraint.

Q: Are tennis balls good dog toys?  What about Frisbee’s?

A: Yes ... if the balls are good and fuzzy.  Slick tennis balls, racquet balls, or handballs should never be given to a dog.  If the ball slides down the dog's throat, you cannot get a grip on the ball to extract it from the dog's throat.  He will suffocate.  Fuzzy, rough, or textured balls that are larger than your dog's windpipe are fine.

Chasing and catching a Frisbee is great exercise for your dog.  Just remember ... too much of a good thing can be bad.  Playing catch can be harmful.  Heat exhaustion is a possibility if the dog is not well hydrated.  Cracked teeth from catching too hard of a disk, or a sprained muscle from the twisting turns needed to catch the illusive disk are also possible.

I guess the main thing I want to convey to the novice handler  is this:
Be Prepared ... Be Careful ... Have Fun!

Working and training dogs can be a rewarding experience or a disaster looking for a place to happen.  Use your common sense and always remember ... they are dogs, not little people.  They react to stimuli, good or bad, with their mouth.  They can lick you, or bite you; so if you never let your guard down, the chances of an accident happening will diminish and you will not become another dog bite statistic.

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