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  • 9 Things Humans Do That Stress Our Dogs Out

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    When we love our dogs like family, we sometimes forget that they don’t understand us quite like our human relatives. Sometimes we try to have full-on conversations with them or unknowingly send them body language signals that are interpreted differently in the animal kingdom. For these reasons, we’ve compiled a list of 9 common things that humans do that stress dogs out.

    If you’ve done any of these things, don’t worry–we all have! But by being more aware, we can try to communicate with our canines as clearly as possible. And lucky for us, there’s no limit to their forgiveness!

    1. Getting frustrated when your dog acts like…a dog!

    Dogs bark, dig, chew, sniff, and steal table scraps that are within snout’s reach. To them, it’s natural behavior! (Plus, they don’t understand the value of your favorite pair of shoes.) However, this doesn’t mean your dog should have free reign to do whatever he likes. Instead of punishing these behaviors, they need to be redirected–and this takes patience! Vet Street suggests alternatives such as giving chewers stuffed Kongs to gnaw on, or teaching barkers to learn to use their “inside voice”.

    2. Having inconsistent rules and boundaries

    Dogs thrive on consistency and routine, and take comfort in it. If your pup is allowed on the couch one week, then scolded for it the next, she will become stressed when she can’t anticipate your reaction to her behavior. She won’t understand if one night you decide to “let it slide” or you allow her to break the rules for a “special occasion.” When you create boundaries, stick to them!

    3. Expecting your dog to obey you just because he wants to make you happy

    While our dogs love seeing us happy, they’re still animals and opportunists (for instance, if they see an opportunity to snatch some leftover chicken off the counter, they will usually take it!). Some dogs do obey their owners simply to please them, but most of them perform for one simple reason: to receive their reward! Vet Street explains that inconsistent rewarding will most likely lead to inconsistent behavior. And you can’t be angry with your dog for not obeying if he can’t expect a treat in return.

    4. Using multiple verbal cues to indicate the same behavior

    This one can be a tough habit to break! Say your dog is barking at the mailman, so you say, “shh!” “stop!” and “quiet.” You’ve given her three different commands that are supposed mean the same thing: quit barking! Your dog gets confused so she continues to bark and eventually gets scolded–but she doesn’t know why! The best plan is to come up with specific words to apply to each trick or command, and to make sure everyone in your family is on the same page. If you use “down” for “lay down,” you may have to use something like “floor” to tell your pup to get off the bed! (Here is a great article on giving command cues.)

    5. Saying “it’s okay” when your dog thinks it’s not

    When our dogs are anxious, we want to comfort them. Often saying “it’s okay” in a soothing tone is our natural human response. But according to Healthy Pets (via Mercola), we’re training them to think the opposite. If we use the phrase in conjunction with doing something they don’t like–for instance, taking them to the vet or as we’re trying to clip their nails–they learn to associate the phrase with things that aren’t okay! If “it’s okay” means something bad is about to happen, that can really stress your dog out!

    6. Pointing or shaking a finger at her

    Healthy Pets explains that this gesture is a “universal stress inducer for dogs.” The article says that it is often accompanied with an angry gesture, a hovering stance, and a stern tone. Your pup may not remember when he did to deserve the “finger point,” but he will know that you’re upset with him, causing anxiety.

    7. Restraining or cornering a dog to give him affection

    There is debate whether dogs like hugs or not. The answer is simple: it depends on the dog. (And also the human–some dogs may only enjoy hugs from their trusted loved ones.) While humans know hugs to be a sign of affection, some dogs feel nervous or trapped when a human wraps their arms around them. Note that there is a difference between hugs and cuddling: a dog that doesn’t like hugs may still love to snuggle because he doesn’t feel restrained. The point is, we need to keep in mind that each dog has a different comfort threshold. They deserve to have their personal boundaries respected, too!

    8. Staring at a dog you don’t know

    First off, there is a difference between the loving gazes shared between a pup and her family members and a dog that’s being stared down by a stranger–we’re talking about the latter. If you meet a new dog, try to avoid eye contact and staring at him as he’s getting to know you. Some dogs will consider extended eye contact from a stranger to be a challenge, which will increase their stress response.

    9. Not giving him enough exercise

    Like humans, dogs get bored if they don’t have enough physical and mental stimulation in their lives. “Dogs that are unsatisfied and bored will often start destructive behaviors such as chewing and digging, which leads to unfair punishment and stress,” explains Katie Finlay for iHeartDogs. Remember, your dog can’t entertain himself by enjoying a Netflix binge or taking himself for a walk. He depends on you to stay fit, physically and mentally!

    Written by Karen Tietjen
    *Source courtesy of IHeartDogs.com

  • Preventing Aggression: 6 Tips For Socialized Puppies

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    With the new year approaching, there will be an abundance of cute new puppies. It is important to know the proper etiquette when it comes to socializing puppies. When thinking about aggressive dogs, one might first imagine a pit bull, rottweiler or german shepherd. But their bad reputations have come from a great deal of misinformation and hype being fed to the general public over the years.

    Many people might be surprised to learn that members of these particular breeds aren’t amongst the most aggressive. Smaller dogs can be just as mean or overbearing as larger ones, it depends on many factors, including training and socialization techniques.

    While any dog has the potential to be aggressive, according to their unique breed characteristics many canines can be unfriendly to unfamiliar dogs. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to socialize your pet, especially when they’re at their youngest.

    #1 – Start Young

    Just like human children, those formidable years from infancy through becoming a toddler, are crucial to their psychological and social development. For dogs, there are two stages thought to be the most important time to begin socialization techniques. The first comes at 3-5 weeks of age and the second at 6-12 weeks.

    Although the first time period is likely out of our control, it’s important for puppies to stay with their mother and other siblings during this important bonding and development stage. This is when these young dogs establish a “pecking order,” as the more dominant one steps up as a “leader of the pack” and the more submissive dogs will follow.

    #2 – Picking Your Puppy

    If you’re choosing a puppy and you’re able to see them with their litter-mates, you’ll likely be able to tell who is, in fact, the leader of the pack. If this will be your only dog, the strongest of the bunch be likely be more outgoing and playful. On the other hand, if you’re adding another dog to your family, you should look for one that is more on the submissive side. Conversely, many people prefer the runt of the litter and believe them to have the potential for the most personality.

    #3 – People Pleasing

    Puppies are naturally curious and are likely to warm up to just about anyone, but if they do shy away from a new person in your home, politely ask your guest to take a seat and ignore the animal completely. Trying to force an instant bond is not the route to take in this particular situation. Instead, give the dog some space and let them make the first move, on their own terms and time schedule … they’ll come around … literally.

    #4 – Other Dogs

    Your best bet for a good first encounter with another dog is with an older female, especially one who has given birth in the past. They’re much more likely to be accepting and affectionate with your youngster. When you do put another animal in the presence of your pup, begin by holding your dog and letting them view the newcomer from a distance at first.

    When they begin to interact, stay close, but only intervene if there’s trouble brewing. Dogs will naturally explore each other with plenty of sniffing and could begin to play. Again, only step in if there is aggressive growling or biting, but even a few little nips are safe.

    #5 – Other Animals

    If possible, try to introduce your puppy to many different breeds and types of other animals, especially cats. They’ll learn that other animals are their friends and not prey, which means they’ll be less likely to chase felines in the future. If you don’t have a cat, see if you can borrow one from a friend or family member who may have one that’s already dog-friendly.

    #6 – Children

    Start with older children who know how to behave around dogs and work your way down to the younger brood. If you have children of your own, teach them how to behave around animals and be sure they understand they shouldn’t assume puppies want to play 24/7. Children should also know to let sleeping dogs lie and don’t bother them while they’re eating.

    In closing, after the ice has been broken, so to speak, especially during this formative time, introduce your puppy to as many different kinds of people, sights and sounds as humanly possible. This will make them more confident and less fearful in the long run.

    *Written by Amber Kingsley