Saturday, June 26, 2010

Serious Warning Signs from a Dog

Watch this video that shows some serious warning signs from a dog. Note the "freeze and stare" and the "half-moon eye". This video is from our online course Basic Dog Body Language. See a previous blog post for more information and a demo. Click here to enroll.

This is a six month old puppy who is having his first attempt at guarding something. It is very important to address this type of behavior right away and not to let it escalate. The more the dog gets to rehearse this behavior the worse it will become. A dog who feels that his possessions are threatened is likely to bite. If he bites once he is likely to bite again and the situation will get worse and worse and the dog more and more dangerous. Never punish a dog for showing his feelings by growling. The punishment may cause him to suppress the growl, but he won't feel any better about the situation. In fact he may become even more defensive and likely to bite the next time. He may go straight to a bite without a warning growl the next time, especially if the ruling adult is not around to threaten him into "behaving". It is so much better and safer to have a dog that welcomes people (including children) approaching him when he is eating or chewing on something.

Read our previous blog post that explains how to prevent guarding in a puppy.

Read our previous blog post about how to stop guarding in a puppy once it has started.

If you have a puppy or adult dog that exhibits guarding behavior and you have young children in your home, you may want to consider finding another home for the dog. If the children are too young to follow instructions or do not obey the rules with respect to the dog, then a guarding puppy is a serious threat, and will become even more dangerous as he gets older. If the dog is in the habit of stealing the children's toys and then guarding them, this is a very difficult situation to manage. You will find it difficult to follow our instructions for curing guarding with small children in the house since they may still take things from the dog, making the dog more suspicious of them. It is much better for the children and the dog to find him another home without small children before he bites and ends up being put down or sent to the shelter. We recommend that you hire a professional to help you with this decision. If you are able to cure the guarding behavior, you can't assume that it will not resurface. You must continue with the prevention exercises for the life of the dog and ensure that the children never try to take anything from the dog. Put your dog away when other people's children come to visit so that there is no danger to them and so that they do not undo the training that you have done.

Here is another video that was being passed around the internet a few years ago. People thought it was funny, but it is actually desperately sad. This poor dog is so conflicted about the person with the camera coming near his bone that he actually attacks himself. A situation like this with an adult dog is much too serious for a dog owner to handle on their own. If you have an adult dog that exhibits threatening behavior to protect his possessions, resting place or anything else, then you need to hire an animal behavior consultant right away before someone gets hurt. It is not fair to allow a dog to continue to go on in such a state of high anxiety and it is very dangerous for anyone who might accidentally (or intentionally) set off the guarding behavior.

Click here to find help if you have a guarding dog.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What is the Curse of the Good Dog?

Watch this Fox5 video with great advice for parents from dog/child relationship expert Madeline Gabriel:


In the interview Madeline mentions what she calls "the curse of the good dog". Click here to read more about this important concept and how you can protect your good dog from this curse.

Online Course - Basic Dog Body Language

Our online course: Basic Dog Body Language is now available at a new course host with a reduced price ($25 instead of $30) until the end of June.

This course contains essential information for parents, dog owners and anyone who works with dogs or encounters dogs on the job or elsewhere. Here is the course introduction that tells you what you will learn (click on the green arrow at the top right to move through the screens).

Download a PDF demo

This course qualifies for CE credits from:

IAABC 2.5 credits
IACP 2.5 credits
OAVT 2.5 credits
SAVT 3 credits
CACVT 2.5 credits
CPDT 2.5 credits
SVMA 2.0 credits (non-scientific)
"The Basic Body Language course is wonderful. I wish all the new Meter Readers at EWEB were required to take it." - Julie Bivens, meter reader

"I did the course and it was so well put together...I was so impressed !!! Thank you !!!!" - Ricko Rask, Behavior Coordinator for the Kauai Humane Society.

"The Body Language Course is excellent.  Good pictures, thorough explanations, easy to navigate the site. I appreciate the thought and work that has gone into it." - Gypsy Perry, retired RN

Click here to enroll

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Rabies Day 2010

Doggone Safe is proud to be a World Rabies Day partner. We have updated our postcards and posters for World Rabies Day 2010 and these are a available for free download here.

If you would like to plan an event for World Rabies Day there is information, logos and a press release that you can customize available from the World Rabies Day site.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Preventable Dog Bites to Children in Canada Will Continue


Preventable Dog Bites to Children in Canada Will Continue 

Campbellville ON, June 9, 2010 – The recent fatal dog attack to an infant in Quebec and near-fatal attack to a child in Alberta last month were completely preventable according to experts. Coroners’ inquest recommendations into previous child deaths from dog attacks have pointed to public education as an important element in preventing future tragedy. Doggone Safe urges the media, educators, veterinarians and health-care providers to play an active role in educating parents, dog owners and children about how to be safe around dogs.

According to Health Canada statistics, dog bites are the fifth to sixth leading cause of injuries requiring emergency room treatment in children of various age ranges. It is estimated that more than 400,000 people are bitten by dogs in Canada each year. Health Canada reports that most of the victims are children and that the most common bite site is the face. Most bites are caused by the family dog or another dog known to the child and occur at a family home. These statistics are consistent with the view of dog behaviour experts that the vast majority (if not all) dog bites to children are completely preventable.

The coroner’s jury inquest into the 1998 fatal attack on 8-year old Courtney Trempe of Stouffville ON made several recommendations for public education to help prevent dog bites to children. Similar recommendations have been made by coroners in subsequent fatal maulings in Canada.

Kerry Vinson, dog behaviour specialist and Ontario government expert witness in dog aggression cases, had this to say:
 “In addition to many serious injuries, in the last decade there have been 4 fatalities due to dog attacks just in the province of Ontario alone. These fatalities were totally preventable, as are almost all dog bites. Education for the public in general, and dog owners in particular, should be a focus for the government as well as the media. However, the majority of the recommendations from [the Trempe] Inquest aimed at preventing future serious dog attacks have not been implemented. As a result, it would appear to be only a matter of time before further fatal and non-fatal attacks will occur. As the majority of victims involved in these incidents are children, it would seem that the responsible approach to reducing these occurrences is to publicize ways to prevent them, instead of reporting about them after they've already happened.”
In keeping with these recommendations non-profit Doggone Safe urges the media, educators, veterinary professionals and health-care providers to play an active role in educating parents, dog owners and children about how to be safe around dogs:

  • Media: Include a tip for parents and/or dog owners from a dog behaviour expert about how to prevent future occurrences when reporting on dog bite stories. Provide information about bite prevention in lifestyle and health reports.
  • Educators: Incorporate the study of basic dog body language into the pet-related part of the existing curriculum. Incorporate the “Be a Tree” message into the injury-prevention part of the curriculum.
  • Veterinary Professionals: Provide counseling for new and expectant parents on the importance of never leaving a baby or toddler alone with any dog ever. Recommend obedience training and provide educational materials for all puppy owners. Provide dog safety messages to clients in the form of posters in waiting areas, handouts and individual counseling with respect to supervision and the importance of standing still if a dog is threatening or is too frisky. Point out canine stress signals observed during examinations so that dog owners can watch for these in relation to children interacting with the dog.
  • Health Care Professionals: Provide counseling for new and expectant parents on the importance of never leaving a baby or toddler alone with any dog ever. Provide dog safety messages to patients in the form of posters in waiting areas, handouts and individual counseling with respect to supervision and the importance of standing still if a dog is threatening or is too frisky.
Doggone Safe offers free information and resources for download at its website and offers products for sale in its store to help parents, children and dog owners learn more about dog body language and safety around dogs.

Doggone Safe has experts in dog training, dog behavior and dog bite prevention education available for interview.

The not-for-profit Doggone Safe mandate is based on jurors recommendations following an inquest into the mauling death of 8 year old Courtney Trempe in Ontario, Canada. Along with their many educational programs, Doggone Safe also provides victim support and administers the Courtney Trempe Memorial fund, in honor of her memory, to help provide trauma counseling (not provided by insurance) for child dog bite victims and their families.

Visit for more information and for information about the Be a Tree program.


Joan Orr, President

2295 Mohawk Trail

Campbellville ON L0P 1B0


Friday, June 4, 2010

Excellent New Benefits for Doggone Safe Members!

We are pleased to announce some fabulous new benefits for Doggone Safe members that are being offered by some other organizations that support our mission to promote education and safety around dogs:

$10 off the Dogs & Storks DVD by Family Paws

10% off all books and DVDs from the Latham Foundation

10% off the Certified Humane Education Specialist courses from the Humane Society of the US

10% off everything in the store from the ASPCA

We extend our sincerest thanks to these organizations for their support!

Doggone Safe members can assess discount codes and other information about how to receive the discounts by visiting the members section of the Doggone Safe website.

Click here for more information about the benefits of Doggone Safe membership or to join.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Critically Important Thing to Teach Your Dog

The saying goes that if there are three dog trainers in a room, the one thing any two of them will agree on is that the third is doing something wrong. As in any field of endeavor there will be differences in the approaches that people take, and dog training is no different. However, despite the many different opinions on many different aspects of dog training, there is one thing that every trainer, behaviorist and veterinarian will agree on. And what is this one thing that is so important, so critical and yet so infrequently implemented by dog owners? This extremely important thing that you must teach your dog is to accept handling by humans. Actually, not just to accept handling, but to enjoy and welcome it. This makes the dog's life less stressful since he must be handled for veterinary care and grooming and he most likely will be touched by people in many different contexts. It also makes the dog less likely to bite if he is touched by surprise or if he is ill or injured and someone touches him. Conditioning your dog to enjoy being touched and handled may save his life and may prevent the pain and heartache that follows a biting incident.

It is best to start conditioning your dog to enjoy handling when he is a puppy, but it is never too late. Many people believe that once they have done some work to condition the dog for handling, they can stop and the dog will be fine with being handled for the rest of his life. THIS IS NOT TRUE! You must continue with pairing handling with treats and other good outcomes forever throughout the life of the dog. You don't need to work on it as frequently as you do at first, but you must not stop and just assume that the dog will never develop a dislike for handling.

There are various different ways to condition the dog for handling. Any of them are fine as long as the dog is enjoying the sessions. The goal is not just to cause the dog to tolerate handling. We want the dog to like and enjoy the handling. Toleration is not adequate since the dog may not tolerate handling from others or in stressful situations. This tolerance may wear out at some point or in some situations.

Here is an example of teaching tolerance. Let's say the your puppy does not like having his feet touched. So you hold him on your lap and touch his feet anyway. You keep doing this until he finally gives up and puts up with you touching his feet. He now tolerates you touching his feet, but he does not like it and he may still feel a lot of stress at having his feet touched. Many people believe that this an adequate approach, but it is not sufficient just to touch the dog until he gives up and accepts it.

A better way is to teach the puppy to enjoy and not just tolerate having his feet touched. You could let your puppy lick and and chew on a tasty bone while you touch his feet, very slightly at first and then with more force and for longer periods. The good feelings that are associated with licking the bone will become associated with having his feet touched.

An even better way would be to teach your puppy to offer his paw into your hand voluntarily and to give him treats for doing this. Sometimes this is the only way if he has reached a point at which he cannot be touched at all and even the tasty bone or the offer of treats will not convince him to let you touch him. With this approach, handling becomes a predictor of good things for the dog and he will become to like handling over time.

Read an article by Joan Orr about how to prepare your dog for veterinary care and grooming.

Watch these two videos that show some examples of ways to condition your dog for handling. The first one shows general handing exercises. These should be done every day with a puppy or when just starting out and then every week for the life of the dog. Do these even if your puppy or dog shows no sign of objecting to being handled. The second video shows a solution to a specific (and all too common) handling problem - nail trimming.

Handling Exercises 

Nail Trimming with a Reluctant Dog