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Humans have grown to rely on language to communicate. We are so good at communicating verbally with one another that we can even deceive each other through language while our body language tells a different story. Unfortunately, this focus on verbal communication makes it harder for us to communicate with our dogs. Our dogs use body language to communicate and are extremely good at reading the body language of others, including their human friends. Not only must we learn to read their body language in order to understand them, but we must also learn to use our own body language in order to get them to understand us. Although there are many different reasons a dog may be experiencing anxiety, noticing the signs listed below can help you to avoid situations when your pet is overwhelmed or ready to react. It is especially important to be mindful of your own body language in situations where your dog might be a bit anxious. In example, if you know that your dog lunges and barks at other dogs on a walk, tensing up when you see a dog down the street will signal to your dog that there is something to be concerned about and will add to if not trigger a response on their part. Instead, keep your body loose and your demeanor calm. Take the opportunity to distract your pup with treats and calm words as you walk past the other dog or calmly change directions if you know they cannot handle walking that close.

Anxious Dog Signals:
  • eyes wide or showing whites
  • mouth closed and puckered (commissure drawn in)
  • teeth showing
  • growling
  • tail between legs or stiff
  • walking slowly or freezing
  • tongue flicking
  • yawning
  • turning away or turning head
  • ears up or forward
  • hackles up
  • hunched or low body posture
  • eyes squinty or relaxed
  • ears relaxed and neutral
  • mouth slightly open or smiling (commissure back)
  • tongue lolling out or panting
  • licking others as friendly submission
  • tail neutral or wagging in an enthusiastic manner
  • stretching
  • relaxed posture with weight evenly distributed
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dog pulling

When it comes to walking your dog, how do you know what tools will work best? With all of the different options out there, it can be tricky figuring out how to keep you and your dog safe and happy on walks around town. Many dogs pull and lunge at the end of their leash whether it be towards a squirrel, another dog, or something that smells delicious in the grass. In most cases, aversive tools like choke collars and pinch collars will increase the fear of or aggression towards whatever your dog is pulling towards (or away from in some instances). This can also lead to increased anxiety towards you if after pulling, your dog feels pain or discomfort and then attributes it to you being at the other end of that leash! Even more important is the health concerns of using such collars. Both pinch and choke collars can cause damage to the trachea or neck. So how can you stop your dog from pulling and lunging? There are many positive tools to use in order to maintain a healthy and happy relationship with your dog while maintaining control. My personal favorite is the front clip harness. It puts no pressure on the neck and controls the momentum of your dog in a way that simply turns them back towards you when they pull forward. My favorite is the Sense-Ation by Softouch Concepts (, but there are other good options out there. Another tool that is still better than aversive techniques if is the Gentle Leader by PetSafe. I rarely recommend the use of these simply because they can easily be misused and can also cause neck damage if the dog continues to pull with it on, or if you pull them. In addition they take a lot of desensitization for most dogs who are not used to having something over their muzzle. The most important and effective tool for walk etiquette is training! Distract your dog with treats and try to stay as far away as necessary from the things that trigger your dog to pull or lunge. Start at whatever threshold they can handle and ask for a sit with a nice juicy treat in their face (and your body in between your dog and the distraction to block any reaction) until whatever distractions goes away (or until you walk away from it if necessary). Then slowly move closer and closer to distractions until your dog can handle them close up!

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For those of you adding new four legged members to the family this winter, remember how important socialization is at a young age! Introduce your puppy (or dog if adopted at an older age) to as many new friends as possible! Set goals for meeting as many new people, FRIENDLY dogs and other creatures as possible! Invite people and their pets over or visit the park or other controlled environments for positive experiences with your dog. Socialization does not mean throwing your dog into situations that are overwhelming or scary. Be weary of dog parks packed with dogs and avoid other pets that do not want to meet or be bothered by your dog. Seek out positive interactions only and leave or separate at the first signs of any negativity or fear (growling, sideways looks from any dog showing white in the eyes, tails straight up or curled under, incessant licking or showing teeth, etc.). Most importantly, always keep your demeanor stress free and positive because your dog is reading your body language better than you yourself are even aware of it!puppy socialization

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Its safe to say that this snowy weather tends to bring out the laziness in all of us.  If you prefer not to venture out in the cold, try coming up with new ways to tire out your dog.  Fetch or hide and seek works for some pups, but for those who aren’t interested in fetching or are too clumsy to let them run around inside, try working on new training techniques.  Mental stimulation tires dogs out more than you can imagine!  If you are having trouble with training, call us for a free consultation so that you can spend the holidays comfy and cozy inside without a crazy wound-up dog

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Using Positive Reinforcement and Leadership Exercises to Shape your Dog’s Behavior.

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Don’t forget that your dog still needs exercise in the winter. Dog parks are a great way to get that energy out. Make sure your dog gets along well with other dogs before bringing them into a dog park. It might be time for some socialization training.  Contact us now for a free consultation!

dog park

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