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Monday, 08 February 2016 00:00

Megan's Musings: urbanK9's: Helping our Dogs Cope in the City

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Dogs have become family members and it is easy to forget that they are not small humans with fur. Our human world is full of things that can scare or confuse our canine companions. Many standard items or regular situations for us can create stress and anxiety in our dogs. There are a wide range of noises, machinery, people, items and environments that do not make sense to themI highly recommend you read Empathy 101 for a brilliant take on what the human world is like for our dogs. The fear and/or stress your dog may experience could cause behaviour problems to develop. To prevent this, we must spend the time socializing and training them properly. We must also ensure we respond appropriately to our dog’s reactions to these items. Our dog’s success in the urban environment depends entirely on our influence and ensuring that we set our dogs up for success. At dogma, our goal is to create ideal urbanK9s; dogs that are well-mannered, confident and who you can take anywhere without concerns. In this month's post, I am going to share my ideas on how best to accomplish this to ensure your dog can handle the city life and grow into an urbanK9 you can trust.



This is critical to the success of every dog regardless of where the dog lives. Proper socialization involves taking your dog out and exposing to them new items, animals, people, surfaces, noises and environments and pairing this with positives. Your goal is to gradually expose your dog, ensure they are comfortable and to teach them that new things mean good things for them. This develops confidence and teaches your dog the world is safe. Active socialization is a key factor in preventing fear concerns from developing. Socialization should happen throughout your dog’s life, not just when they are a puppy. This ensures all of the activities, noises and items that a dog will encounter within a city are a regular occurrence for your dog.



Walk them in new places
Too often, we keep our dogs going out on the same daily walks. This does not provide them with the necessary stimulation and too long of always being in the same area can cause fear concerns to develop. This is because they are not being exposed to new places, so they may be stressed when you do finally take them somewhere new. Vary their walks at least a couple of times a week. Take them to urban centers, new neighbourhoods, parks and even other towns.  



Include them in your activities
Take your dog out with you and include them in any activities dogs are welcome at. This includes outdoor festivals, going over to friends or families’ homes and getting out to new areas. This is only recommended for dogs who are not showing any fear concerns. It is also important that you monitor your dog to ensure they are comfortable. When taking your dog out, give them time to acclimatize and get used to the area. Do not rush them and spend time pairing the new place with positives while keeping sessions short. Too much involvement in the human world can be hard on your dog, so be sure to spend the required time ensuring they are comfortable and that the experience will be a positive for them.


Train in new places
In our urbanK9 program, our higher levels and specialty classes focus on getting the dogs out to train in specific places. For example, the skate park, city transportation, dog friendly businesses, and urban centers. While we are in these areas we work on our foundation skills and spend the time teaching the dogs what is expected of them. Set them up for success and reward them for all good behaviour! If they are too excited or struggling, give them space and time to acclimate to their surroundings. Most importantly, be patient.



If your dog shows any signs of fear or stress, contact your trainer. Do not get angry, frustrated or push your dog into a situation if your dog does react to something. Doing any of thesethings will make it worse. Be sure to get in and work with a certified trainer (DCBC, CPDT-KA or KPT-CTP). Taking your dog out into the urban environment can be a challenge at first, but do not give up! If your dog struggles, go at quieter times. Be persistent and patient. As your dog gets out into new areas more often, she will begin to settle faster. People tend to give up on their dogs too quickly. They will not make progress if we do not work through the challenging times. Remember that you are both learning together. Keep sessions short and positive. It is a privilege to have a dog as a part of the family and their time with us is short. By focusing on the proper integration and training into our human world, you will develop the ideal urbanK9, which in turn allows you to spend more time together; a win-win for both you and your dog!


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Megan’s Musings are by Megan Armstrong, Owner/Operator of dogma

Megan became one of Calgary's only Certified Pet Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA) in 2005. The CPDT designation means her programs are based on humane training practices and the latest scientific knowledge about dog training. In other words, Megan's dog training expertise is grounded in a thorough, extensive education and examination process. 

View Megan's bio