Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00

"One of my favourite books and I love this excerpt from it. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. We have it available for purchase in the store and to borrow from our library. I have been thinking about this whole concept a lot lately, and just how much better life would be for dogs if humans took the time to understand them and look at things from their perspective as well"

Imagine you live on a planet where the dominant species is far more intellectually sophisticated than human beings but often keeps humans as companion animals. They are called the Gorns. They communicate with each other via a complex combination of telepathy, eye movements and high-pitched squeaks, all completely unintelligible and unlearnable by humans, whose brains are prepared for verbal language acquisition only. What humans sometimes learn is the meaning of individual sounds by repeated association with things of relevance to them. The Gorns and humans bond strongly but there are many Gorn rules which humans must try to assimilate with limited information and usually high stakes.

You are one of the lucky humans who lives with the Gorns in their dwelling. Many other humans are chained to small cabanas in the yard. They have become so socially starved that they cannot control their emotions when a Gorn goes near them. Because of this behaviour, the Gorns agree that they could never be House-Humans. They are too excitable.

The dwelling you share with your Gorn family is filled with numerous water-filled porcelain bowls, complete with flushers. Everytime you try to urinate in one, though, any nearby Gorn attacks you. You learn to only use the toilet when there are no Gorns present. Sometimes they come home and stuff your head down the toilet for no apparent reason. You hate this and start sucking up to the Gorns when they come home to try to stave this off, but they view this as increasing evidence of your guilt of some unknown act.

You are also punished for watching videos, reading certain books, talking to other human beings, eating pizza or cheesecake, writing letters. These are all considered behavior problems by the Gorns. To avoid going crazy, once again you wait until they are not around to try doing anything you wish to do. While they are around, you sit quietly, staring straight ahead. Because they witness this good behaviour you are so obviously capable of, they attribute to "spite" they video watching and other transgressions which occur when you are along. Obviously you resent being left alone, they figure. You are walked several times a day and left crossword puzzle book to do (you have never used them because you hate crosswords; the Gorns think you're ignoring them out of revenge).

Worst of all, you like them. They are, after all, often nice to you. But when you smile at them, they punish you, likewise for shaking hands. If you apologize, they punish you again. You have not seen another human since you were a small child. When you see one on the street you are curious, excited and sometimes afraid. You really don't know how to act. So, the Gorn you live with keeps you away from other humans. Your social skills never develop.

Finally, you are brought to "training" school. A large part of the training consists of having your air briefly cut off by a metal chain around your neck. They are sure you understand every squeak and telepathic communication they make because sometimes you seem to get it right. You are guessing and hate the training. You feel pretty stressed out a lot of the time. One day, you see a Gorn approaching with the training collar in hand. You have PMS, a sore neck, and you just don't feel up to the baffling coercion about to ensue. You tell them in your sternest voice to please leave you alone and go away. The Gorns are shocked by this unprovoked aggressive behaviour. They thought you had a good temperament.

They put you in one of their vehicles and take you for a drive. You watch the attractive planetary landscape going by and wonder where you are going. The vehicle stops, you are led into a building filled with the smell of human sweat and excrement. Humans are everywhere in small cages. Some are nervous, some depressed, most watch the goings on from their prisons. Your Gorns, with whom you have lived your entire life, hand you over to strangers who drag you to a small room. You are terrified and yell to your Gorn family to help you. They turn and walk out the door of the building. You are held down and given a lethal injection. It is, after all, the humane way to do it.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00

We should brush our dog's teeth regularly and it can be a bit frustrating for both us and our dogs to start. You will want to ensure that you take the time to positively introduce this so that it can be stress free for both of you. I recommend that you first start by having your dog comfortable while you handle their mouth (you should do this for overall handling, not just their mouths). To do this, follow the below steps:

  1. Stroke the dog and give them a treat for being calm.
  2. If they become excited and start mouthing, use a treat as a distraction to start.
  3. Start on their back, move down their tail and under the belly. Touch their legs and move down to their paws.
  4. Touch the top of their head and their ears, moving to touch around their mouths.
  5. Do each body part multiple times ensuring your dog is calm and accepting the touch.
  6. Then start picking up paws, looking in ears and opening their mouth while rewarding.
  7. Add more pressure and prolong each touch while rewarding.
  8. If at any time your dog becomes fussy, go back to where you last as success and slowly build up.
  9. Keep the sessions short and positive. Quit when your dog has complied, for even just a few moments, and slowly increase the length of your sessions. Reward the dog immensely for all cooperation.

Once your dog is comfortable with having their mouths handled, you can begin to introduce brushing their teeth. Use a toothpaste that is specific for dogs – you should never use a human product. The toothpaste is flavoured, so that dogs actually enjoy it. Before putting the toothbrush to your dog’s mouth, let them investigate the brush for a minute, allowing them to lick the toothpaste. At this point all you are trying to do is introduce the toothbrush, the toothpaste and the experience itself to your dog.

At first, start to lightly brush a few front teeth and even a couple back teeth. Do this in short sessions, every day to get the dog comfortable with having the toothbrush in their mouth. Stay calm and praise your dog throughout each session. Ensure you do not push the dog to get fussy or irritated – keep each session as short as your dog needs. It is also beneficial for the dog to understand a sit or down to help keep them settled during the session. Once your dog is comfortable with the toothbrush, follow the below steps to brush their teeth:

  1. Have your dog in a sit or a down at your side, ensuring they are comfortable and settled.
  2. To ensure you can see clearly, lift the dog’s lip up. Start at the back of the mouth at the top back teeth, and brush your dog’s teeth just as you would your own. Ensure you are gentle and calm, and make sure to go right from the gum line down to the bottom of the tooth, in a circular motion.
  3. Continuing with the top teeth, move along by brushing the rest of the back side teeth, then the front teeth, and then the other side. You do not need to worry about the inside of the dog’s teeth.
  4. Once the top teeth are done, repeat the process on the dog’s bottom teeth. Don’t brush too hard because you can damage the dog’s gums and cause bleeding if you do.
  5. While you are brushing your dog’s teeth, look at them to check for any visible tartar buildup, damaged or chipped teeth, inflamed gums, dark spots or other issues you may have to bring to your vet’s attention.

Good dental care and healthy teeth go a long way in keeping your dog happy and healthy!


Friday, 18 September 2015 00:00

Walks should be a time to connect


Don't we all dream of nice leisurely walks with our dogs? We wish for a special bonding time where they get to sniff and take in the world. And long for time when we get to reflect and enjoy the outdoors. This should be a time that lets us forget about our worries, but too often, a walk with our dog means stress and frustration. With some small effort on our part we can begin to enjoy our walks together and enhance the bond with our dogs; all by taking a simple walk with them.


I have been putting more time in observing people walking with their dogs over the past month. I like to see how or if they are interacting with each other, what tools are being used, if they are happy, rushed, or frustrated and if they seem to be bonded to each other. Too often, I see a person walking while on their cell phone, seeming frustrated or embarrassed by their dog's behaviour, or they are stressed and are spending all of their time correcting and punishing the dog. It makes me sad to see this as I truly believe that walks with our dogs should be one of the most enjoyable activities for both of us.


Duke, The Unlikely Pitbull, shared this training tip last month. Him and I had been observing a lot of stressed out people and dogs each time we were out. On the dog's side, they are often being punished for walking the only way they know how as they have not been properly trained. Or they are yanked and prevented from being able to smell and observe the world around them. On the human's side, they are often tired and frustrated with their dog's poor behaviour, or just in a rush and completely disconnected from their dog. Let's talk about what is preventing us from enjoying this valuable time with our dogs and what we can do to make this the best part of our day.


If you are struggling with your dog, work with a trainer to get the foundation attention skills required for loose leash walking. I also recommend enrolling in our Walk On clinic to gain the skills to effectively train loose leash walking. Do not delay any longer or expect your dog to just finally get it. This is a small investment in cost and time to train this essential skill, and you can have fun while doing so! I will share some other tips to get you started today, but you must practice this skill with your dog to help them understand what to do. Being on leash is not normal for them, let alone us expecting them to ignore all of the amazing sights, smells and sounds that are all around them!


Use a Training Tool
There are a wide range of training tools that are designed to prevent pulling in dogs. However, many are ineffective or use pain to stop your dog from pulling. There is never the need to use a choke, prong or shock collar, so if you are, throw those out today! We do not want to use anything that will increase their arousal or make them fearful of the training. No training tool actually teaches a dog to loose leash walk, we have to do that, but there are some great options that prevent the pulling and provide us with more initial success to train the skill. We recommend an anti-pull harness such as an Easy Walk, Sense-ible or Freedom harness to see some immediate success with your dog. We have the Sense-ible Harness available for purchase in our store, so bring your dog into one of our locations today to get sized.


Enjoy Open Space
If your dog struggles with attention out in the real world, take them to less busy places with more space. For the beginning stages, large parking lots work great. You can work at the quiet back part, experience distractions at a distance and not have to deal with as many scent distractions in grass or the higher traffic areas. For dogs that are not as distracted, or have a good foundation, enjoy your time together in large parks where you can avoid all the busyness and focus more on each other.


Explore New Areas
Do not subject your dog to the same walk or neighbourhood every day. Get them out to new parks, hikes, neighbourhoods and dog friendly businesses. In the beginning, they may be more excited and it may be challenging. However, this was one of the most valuable exercises I did with my dogs. Taking them to new places helped to familiarize them to this and their excitement decreased as they gained more exposure. As they settled, so did I, and we really clicked and were able to better enjoy our time together. I began to spend less time training and more time appreciating their excitement and enthusiasm for going new places. What a better world it would be if we shared our dogs outlook and joy for new things!


Don't Walk on a Schedule
If you are in too much of a rush, you will behave like a drill sergeant on the walk and always expect your dog to keep up a fast pace. This added pressure causes us to be more impatient. I know that this can be unavoidable, but if you are pressed for time, focus more on the quality of walk versus the distance for your dog. Take a deep breath, relax and adjust the walk for both you and your dog's needs. Do your best to enjoy at least a few walks a week where you are not on a schedule. This will help you to appreciate your time together more.


Turn Off Your Cell Phone
It is always a good idea to keep a cell phone on you, but keep it turned off or in your pocket when you are out with your dog. Too often I see people immersed in their cell phone and not paying any attention to their dogs. This not only prevents you from enjoying the experience of a walk with your dog, but can be putting your dog at risk. I have seen people oblivious to their dog walking out onto the road, approaching a strange dog or ingesting items on the ground. If you want your dog to have good focus on you, you must also have good focus on them. By disconnecting with your phone, you will be more involved with your dog and better appreciate your time together. You will begin to associate these walks as your time to step away from the mobile world which is an excellent stress management tool in itself.


Have Fun
If you are feeling frustrated and stressed, it is far worse for your dog. They do not understand your frustration and we tend to be harder on them when we feel frustrated. When you experience frustration, try to take a deep breath, give your dog a brain break by letting them go sniff and readdress the situation. Are you in an environment that is too busy and is sure to set your dog up for failure? Did you have a bad day and are not feeling well or tired and are responding to that? Or do you need to spend more time actually teaching your dog what is expected of them and how to walk on a loose leash? Or have you been applying punishment in your training? Not only is this harmful to your dog, but it is going to be a more stressful walk as you are more focused on what your dog is doing wrong, not on how to train them on what is right. They are just doing what they have learned or what works. It is not their fault and it is never appropriate to physically punish or yell at them when they pull. They do not know what to do instead, so you must teach them. If you are not having fun training it, what fun will you have if you ever actually get success with loose leash walking? Don't damage the bond you have by not doing training or by doing out of date, punitive methods. Training can, and should be, fun!


Take Time to Smell the Roses Together
And last but not least, listen to Duke's advice. Your dogs adore you and love being out with you. Enjoy it with them. Their time here with us is short. Don't force them to walk the whole time at your side. Let them experience the world. You can teach them not to pull, but that doesn't mean they have to be at your side and focused on you the whole time. And why would we want that for another creature? They spend all of their time waiting for us to do something with them. So, get out and enjoy that time together. Don't view it as a chore. What a privilege it is for us to share this time with our dogs. Learn from them to appreciate the world around us and experience joy with so many new experiences. Get out and smell the roses together and let your dog show you how to better appreciate your surroundings. Not only will it increase your bond with your dog, but you will experience the benefits from lowered stress and exercise. That's a real win-win if you ask me!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 00:00

We had recently lost our dog Nicki, who had been a family member for 14 years. I was heart-broken and not having a dog in our lives was making me miserable and apparently, according to family around me, very cranky. It was time to get another dog. During a blizzard I convinced everyone (somehow) we should drive to Petsmart in Beacon Hill to look at the puppies. As it turned out Oops-A-Daisy had not gotten there due to the storm. For some reason I decided we should drive to the Petsmart on MacLeod Trail.

We walked in and there must have been about 10 puppies there. They were all sitting at the front of the cage wagging their tails and jumping – enjoying all the attention they were getting. Then I spotted one little puppy at the back of the cage – all alone – the saddest little puppy I had ever seen. And I know without a doubt that Abby had 'found us and a home'.

Abby was one of ARF's -31 degree litter and was an insecure, and fearful little puppy. We brought her home and I was determined to help her in any way that we could and I started phoning around for information on classes, playtimes, advice from any place I could get it. . .Fortunately for Abby I called dogma and spoke to Megan. We talked about confidence building, fearfulness, the ways that puppies learn, training options , and playclasses. She was so knowledgeable, and understanding I knew that's where we needed to go. She recommended we start with Puppy Playtime.

Our first playtime – yikes – I recall having to carry Abby in and out because she wouldn't even walk in the door and for the first few minutes I'm sure she wanted to dig a hole in the wall to hide. That didn't last long though – I guess both of us felt the atmosphere was so warm and welcoming – that she blossomed. Everyone was so friendly and kind. As I met other dog owners I soon realized that most of them are 'dogma regulars' and as far as I was concerned, that was for good reason. We then and there became regulars at Puppy Playtime and registered for some classes. As we moved through the levels (Puppy Class, Puppy Spirit and a Fear and Reactivity class – which gave us useful tools for understanding) Abby's confidence and mine increased in heaps and bounds. The classes were all so positive, and Megan, Drae and the rest of the staff reiterated time and time again to always set these puppies up for success. That to me was the bottom line. I couldn't even venture a guess as to how many questions I asked the staff – everyone was always so patient and would offer suggestions – 'try this' or you could 'try this'. Abby and I could tell immediately that these were all people who genuinely love dogs – and really what more do you need to know !! We became so confident we even got involved in an Elvis' Hound Dog routine (this was a huge thing for Abby – crowds, strange people) which was a great bonding experience for us and we had a blast. She learned how to weave in that routine – and she proudly displays it every chance she gets! (sometimes when you aren't even expecting it !)...

Abby is a sweet gentle little dog – gaining confidence all the time – we still have some issues that we need to deal with but intend on working through these in upcoming classes and to continue on with our successes. As far as playtime is concerned she now has a 'BFF"- Khali, and will even encourage shy dogs to 'come out of the corner'..'sometimes trying to drag them out by the scruff of the neck'.. (Drae always laughs at that).. I guess we are now dogma Regulars ourselves.

Note from Megan: Watching Sharon and Abby grow together has been such a rewarding experience. To think of scared little Abby when I first met her, to the brave, happy girl you see now is unbelievable. Sharon is a testament to the outcome when you commit and put the time into training and working with your dog – and that this can be incredibly fun for both! All of us at dogma adore her and Abby and are always thrilled when they take part in another class or event. She has taken the time to understand Abby's fears, how to work her through them and all while being so amazingly patient and compassionate. This success story means a great deal to our entire team and we are all so proud of them both! We love having them be an integral part of the 'dogma regulars'! Keep up the good work and we look forward to continued playtimes and dancing in the future :)!!

Tuesday, 02 September 2014 00:00

Having your dog accustomed to being behind a gate (or door, ex-pen, etc.) can be helpful in many situations. It allows the dog a quiet place away from potentially stressful activity and gives you time to remove them when you cannot be fully supervising them. Preparing your dog to feel comfortable when being left alone will prove to be a useful skill throughout their lives. The steps to accustom them to a gate are:

1. Put the gate up somewhere in your house and always have it there to start, so that bringing out the gate does not become a trigger to them that they are going behind it.

2. Occasionally toss treats onto the other side of the gate for your dog to find on their own.

3. Feed the dog's meals on the other side of the gate.

4. After a few days, begin introducing a cue. Say your cue (ex: 'Behind gate'), toss treat. Praise as dog eats treat and then cue him out with another cue of your choice (do not reward the dog for coming out from gate).

5. Repeat step 5 numerous times until your dog enjoys going behind the gate for the treat, without actually closing the gate.

6. Start to cue the dog and encourage them to go in on their own. Once they are in, reward with a treat. Ensure you cue them to come out.

7. If they are hesitant to go in on their own, wait it out. Do not repeat the cue! Stay upbeat and positive and do not force them behind.

8. If the dog still will not go on their own, end the session – stay calm and do not appear frustrated. It was just too much for your dog. Try again at a later time. If the dog does go in, jackpot reward them!

9. After dog will go into gate on cue, begin to shut it when they go in. Treat repeatedly while they are in the closed gate to start. Only do small increments of time to start and then increase.

10. Start to get up and walk around, around room, towards the gate.

11. Take one step over the gate, then two, etc.

12. Start to walk around on other side of gate, while remaining in sight. Ensure you are returning to dog and rewarding.

13. Begin increasing duration by keeping yourself busy while dog is behind the gate. Go back and reward as needed when dog is being quiet. Ignore any crying or whining. Never let the dog out of the gate if they are crying. They need to learn they only come out when they are quiet.

14. Next start going out of sight for short periods. Build this up the same as the above steps. Do not continually make the time longer – vary this. Keep your sessions short!

15. As your dog begins to use the gate more, ensure you are not only using it when you leave the dog home alone. They may begin to pair the gate with isolation and create a negative association.

16. Always teach your dog that the gate is a positive, safe place for them!