When you have a dog with sound reactivity, apartment living can be tough. We’re sharing a few simple strategies that help make sure my reactive dog and my neighbours can live in peace and harmony.
Here, at Casa de Kolchak, we consider ourselves fairly dog savvy.
We dabble in all things dog and we can talk with confidence about food, behavior, training and other doggy topics. Even when we don’t feel comfortable enough to advise people, I’m always eager to be a part of a conversion and exchange ideas. I think I’m fairly well tuned to my own dogs and their needs, wants & fears. There are entire cultures that haven’t been studied with the detail that I’ve studied Kolchak & Felix.
This makes it all the more frustrating when we come up against an issue that I just can’t solve.
We’ve been battling a few behavioural issues on and off for a while now. One I’ve told you all about – we’ve been trying to train Kolchak to sleep in. I’m not going to lie you guys, it’s not going well. Using all the tricks we talked about in that post, we’ve managed to get Kolchak to sleep until 6 am, but no further. I feel like we’re standing in front of the beardy guy from Lord of the Rings while he shouts “You Shall Not Pass!”
The list of potential reasons was long:
- Medical reason (ie. diabetes or Cushings, leaving him starving after a long night)
- Incorrect balance of protein to fat in his raw food
- Not enough calories being eaten
- Internal clock, set to dawn o’clock
- Who knows what!?!?!
We’ve tried everything I can think of – varying his breakfast time, keeping it consistently at 7:30 (just before I leave for work), feeding him two meals or three meals or one big meal. We’ve tried adding pumpkin and green beans to add bulk and we’ve tried using fattier meats to help him feel more satisfied. We’ve tried EVERYTHING – and still? 6 am, like clockwork, he’s up and ready for breakfast.
The other problem annoys Felix more than it annoys anyone.You see, the problem is that after Felix has been to the groomers, Kolchak humps him like he owes him money. It’s awful and embarrassing.
We faced another long list of potential causes:
- Trying to exert his dominance
- Extreme stress over Felix being gone for 4 hours
- Hormone overdrive, since Kol is not neutered. (Here’s why)
- Attention seeking behavior
We’ve tried everything we can think of – redirecting him, keeping him and Fe on leashes, clicker training, begging, shaking cans of change at him – EVERYTHING. Nothing helped. As soon as Felix had a bath, Kol had his way with him. No exceptions.
In both cases, we sought the advice of a professional trainer.
We started working with Koly on learning new skills and building his confidence. We taught Fe to sit when Koly mounted him, ending the interaction. I slowly and painstakingly set my alarm 2 minutes later every week to try to creep him past the 6 am mark. We’ve worked hard to address these two issues, which the trainer, the Daddy and I were convinced were behavioural problems.
“When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras”
-Dr. Theodore Woodware
I feel like an idiot.
Recently we found the solutions for both issues and frankly, I’m feeling a tad sheepish. In looking at all the medical and psychological reasons we were having these issues, I over looked the ridiculously simple, right in front of me answers.
Kol wakes up at 6 because that’s when the paper is delivered. I assume he’s running to ask for his breakfast, he’s really trying to see if someone is breaking in.
I cancelled our paper subscription and put mailbox at the end of the walkway. It will take some work to break old habits, but I sure hope this is the last of this issue!
Felix smells too darn good when he comes home from Dog Gone Beautiful. In fact, he smells so good, I bought a bottle of their finishing spray to use at home after “freshen up” baths. He smells so good that after his bath, Koly goes nuts.
Our groomer Lynn (who is fabulous) remembered that I had mentioned this issue after Felix’s last groom and decided not to use the finishing spray this time, just as a test. JACKPOT. Kol’s not some kind of canine pervert, he just really likes to coconut finishing spray. If we don’t use it, he leaves Felix alone.
While I was off chasing dog training zebras, the answer was in front of me all along.
Have you ever had an issue that you over thought when the solution was breathtakingly simple?
Can you make me feel better by sharing it?? PLEASE?!
Once upon a time, the day before yesterday, right here at my house…
the Mama learned a valuable lesson. Be careful what you wish for.
When we last left our
heroine sleep deprived Mama, she was sleeping one of two ways:
Like this when it was just her and the Daddy + the Casa de Kolchak Pups:
Or like this when Cousin Lu was having a sleep over:
If you’ve read the original Bedtime Fairytale or the more recent Bedtime Fairytale sequel, then you’ll know that frankly, the Mama has never been too happy with the sleeping arrangements here at Casa de Kolchak. We don’t much care for her kvetching and whining. After all, it is CLEARLY a privilege to snuggle a puggle at night. With that in mind, we decided to teach her a lesson.
For those who don’t already know, that no good, rotten Mama of mine abandoned us this weekend.
When she came home did we ever have surprise for her. Bed time rolled around and she assumed the sleeping position.
She waited…and waited…and waited, but no dogs came to bed.
She tossed and turned, feeling cold and strangely free, like she could fall out of the bed, if she were so inclined.
She tossed and turned for what felt like forever. She waited and waited and waited, but nothing.
Where were all the dogs?!
Well, in a pique of temper, Koly had to go see his Nana. He spent the night blissfully cuddled on her bed, barely even sharing.
the Felix didn’t want anything to do with anyone. He hightailed it off to the couch.
And Mama? Well she was just left there all alone. Sad, bewildered and cold
Be careful what you wish for.
So, it’s no secret that the puggle is a bit of a food hound.
And by “a bit” I mean that once, a cookie fell behind the dresser and Kolchak caught a whiff of it in the middle of the night, then cried until we woke up, MOVED THE DRESSER and got it out. To this day, I see him snarfing ’round the edges of the dresser hoping for a treat score. Apparently puggles (and elephants) never forget.
That boy doesn’t fool around when it comes to food.
Knowing this, you would think that I would have developed some coping strategies for when I’m eating a really yummy meal, but no. I’m an idiot and sometimes, I think I probably set the puggle to fail. In my defense, it’s only when I’m really, really lazy. (That makes it cool, right? No?? NO?!?!?)
5 Totally Ineffective Strategies for Keeping the Puggle Off Your Dinner Plate
So, as you can probably guess, Kol and I shared a plate of stir fry last night.
I have no idea what I was thinking. I mean, that boy is driven when it comes to food and I wasn’t exactly at my best. Looking back, it was inevitable. What can I say? I was having a DUH moment.
Does that ever happen to you? Do you have any “what were you thinking” moments when it comes to your pets?
Welcome to yesterday morning at Casa de Kolchak.
|Is it time for breakfast yet?!|
Most people would be horrified, but to us? 6:15 is like a gift from the Heavens.
You see, just four short weeks ago, the Koly alarm clock went off around 4:45. In the morning. Did he wake us up by whining or barking? Oh woof no! That boy woke us up my turning into a full barrel of monkeys. Jumping on the bed. Bouncing on my stomach. Digging a hole to China by way of my spinal column.
No wonder I jumped at the chance to join in the Something Wagging Train Your Dog Month Challenge.
Training the Dog to Sleep In
We decided our focus this month would be teaching the dog to sleep in. While we’re not there yet (I really don’t want to get up at 6:15 forever), I think we’re well on our way. Considering how many pups said they had the exact same issue at home, I’m still a little surprised that some really knowledgeable trainer hasn’t written about this. Since they haven’t, you were forced to bumble along with me figuring it out as we went.
As promised, here’s rundown of what I think helped us teach our dogs to sleep in and what wasn’t so effective.
- Meal Splitting – We decided to break Kol’s daily meal into 3 meals, to help avoid early morning hunger. This would have made perfect sense except that it had literally no impact. It doesn’t matter if hes last meal was 10 minutes ago. The puggle is hungry. Feed. Him. More.
- Black Out Curtains – My new black out curtains are gorgeous and match the bedroom perfectly. They do absolutely nothing to address Kolchak’s problem, but if the Daddy asks, those curtains are single handedly responsible for all progress we’ve made this month. A matching floor rug just might solve the problem.
- Varying our routine – This one is hard. Ohhhh, it’s sooooo hard. You see, the routines that trigger his bad behavior are very closely associated to leaving for and returning home to work.Getting up even earlier defeats the purpose and getting up later sure displeases that Job fellow. We’ve had to work on varying routines in other ways, but I’d still say this was only semi-successful.
- Wait for the bell – That bell and I have a love/hate relationship. The first few time it went off at 4:30, I cursed it (and myself for using it). The bell does work though. Kol does whine a bit before the bell, but he doesn’t go into full “my dog is insane because it’s Suppertime” mode until he hears that bell.
- Resetting his biological clock – Bingo! This has been incredibly successful. It makes for a slow, tedious change, but it really is working. We’ve moved breakfast from 4:45 to 6:15, most days. We’re going to keep inching ourselves forward until I reach my weekend dream of sleeping in until 8 am.
- Teaching him a better way – Kol now snuggles on command. Basically, my dog has a snooze button. I try not to use it too often, since consistency is the key to this, but if at any time I want 15 more minutes in bed, I can tell Kolchak to snuggle and he’ll curl up with me. Not ordering him to snuggle me all the time has been a challenge.
Plus, we’ve been working on making him sit to “ask” for things.
Did you work on anything for Train Your Dog Month? How did it go? Will you be continuing the training beyond the month?
Now, I know I said New Years’s resolutions were for the Birds, but I might have been mistaken.
Don’t Get It Twisted! (the leash, I mean)
I’ll give you a hint, the Mama’s tripped approximately 86 thousand times.
Do you have any great tips for leash walking multiple dogs?
My Kolchak is a pretty good dog.
He walks nice on a leash, he plays really well with other dogs and he’s a pretty darn sweet boy, if I do say so myself. He knows some tricks, I can trust him off leash and he hasn’t chewed up anything made of antique wood or Italian leather in years.
He can also be a real challenge.
I can’t believe that almost a full year ago, I wrote about how he likes to wake me up by mauling me like a jaguar cub. I’m embarrassed to admit that nothing has changed. Kolchak still wakes me up early every weekend, rocking me like a hurricane and begging for his breakfast.
+R Training has totally failed me here.
I know the theory. Ignore the behaviors you don’t want. Reward the ones you do. The only problem? It is impossible to ignore a 24 lb puggle trying to dig a hole to China through your spine unless you want to spend the rest of your life with a spastic back. We’ve tried a lot of different things this year and while it’s improved a whole lot (he no longer jumps on my solar plexus. Jackpot!), nothing has really “worked”.
I accept and acknowledge the fact that I created my own monster here.
“Look how much Koly loves his new raw food! He’s so excited! It’s adorable!!” the Daddy actually compares Kol’s level as excitement to a kid on Christmas morning – if it was Christmas every. single. day. It was absolutely adorable…you know, until it wasn’t anymore.
I knew it was time to address this issue, once and for all. It was time to train my dog to sleep in.
Plus, Pamela at Something Wagging challenged us to strengthen our bond with our dogs and learn some new skills in her Train Your Dog Month challenge. We love the challenge and it always helps bring me and the dogs closer. I couldn’t wait to get started.
Here’s the game plan:
- Split his meals into breakfast, dinner and an evening snack. It is a really long break between dinner and breakfast. We’ll try to minimize that empty belly feeling by making sure he gets a snack to tide him over.
- Black out curtains. They make curtains from a special material to make sure your room stays dark, even when the sun comes up. We’re getting some. I don’t need the sun all up in our business when we’re trying to sleep in. Mr. Sun, you are NOT helping. (And no Daddy, this is NOT just an excuse for me to redecorate the bedroom. Unless you’re on board, in which case, let’s go shopping!)
- Vary our routine. The Daddy and I are creatures of habit. We do things the same things, the same way, at the same time and Kolchak has clearly noticed this. We’ll be wildly varying our schedule so Kol doesn’t have any “triggers” that it’s dinner/breakfast time, except the one we’ll intentionally create.
- Wait for the Bell. We’ve downloaded a special bell on our phones and we’ll be setting timers to go off on our schedule. The dogs only get fed when the bell goes off. No exceptions. We’ve got to be strong here. I’m looking at you, Nana.
- Resetting his biological clock. Aside from being a marker to signal when he is getting fed, we’ll also be using the bell to help reset his biological clock. His body is in the habit of waking at a specific time. Habits are hard to break, so we’ll slowly nudge him towards change. We’ll start by setting the alarm for 10 – 15 minutes BEFORE the time he usually wakes me up by trying to kill me. Every few days we’ll set the alarm a bit later, gradually working towards our desired wake up time. Hopefully, he’ll learn learn that the bell will wake him for breakfast and he’ll sleep until he hears it.
- Teach him a better way. He asks for his breakfast using torture tools because we taught him that it works. If we can teach him to act like a jerk, we can also teach him a better way. We’re going to work on putting a command to snuggling into bed. Armed with a night stand full of homemade chicken chip dog treats, we’ll be taking every opportunity we can to cuddle in the hopes that if he does wake up before the bell, we can lure him back to the bed with a command he know and the promise of chicken. A word to the wary: We do NOT want him to associate his wretched behavior with getting chicken treats though, so we’ll be mastering this command in the off hours and we won’t try it in the wee smas of the morning until it’s solid every other time of day.)
Woof! We have a lot of work ahead of us.
Have you ever had this problem at your house? Are you doing something special for the Train You Dog Month Challenge?
We’d love to hear about it!
He stuck his snout in the bowl, his mouth turned into a vacuum and he inhaled his food just as quickly as he possibly could. Food was just too darn delicious to slow down and chew. Woof that! Chewing? Who needs CHEWING?!
These days, he likes to savour his food.
Kol takes deep sniffs to enjoy the scent, letting the aroma make his mouth water.He carefully tastes it and lets the flavours dance across his tongue. He savours each and every mouthful. He’s like the Gordon Ramsey of the Canine Cuisine world.
In truth, we just taught him how to properly eat his meals.
Sometimes, I think we humans forget that dogs are born into a pack. Sure, the grow up, they get weaned and they get to come live with us, but there is some valuable learning to be done at their Mother’s paws that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. She can’t teach them everything in 6 – 8 weeks. So, their humans need to fill in the blanks. One thing I’ve noticed that a lot of puppies need help learning is how to eat their meals. I sure know that Lu needs help!
Little cousin Luda is a food gulper.
Food gulping is a real problem, as inhaling their food also meals they inhale air which can lead to a dangerous ailment called Gastric Dilation Volvulus. He needs to learn to slow the woof down. So, we’re going to teach him. Armed with all the things Kol taught me about food gulping, I am determined to help Lu slow down and enjoy his meals.
Kol’s Tip #1: Get a Food Toy
Food dispensing toys were our savings grace at Casa de Kolchak. They’re brilliant on so many levels. They’re thinking toys. Dogs have to use their brains and their bodies to get the food out. The brain work tires them out and keeps them occupied, plus all that work slows them down. That’s what I call a win/win. Kol’s favourites were his Steggin’ Egg by Dogzilla, his Nina Ottosan puzzles, his Busy Buddy toys, his Kong and even a simple treat ball!
Kol’s Tip #2: Get a Special Bowl
Kol was uber-food motivated, but Felix? Not so much. He loves his food and gobbles it down, but if he has to work for it? No dice. For Felix, a better choice was a Slow Feed Bowl. These specially designed bowl put obstacles in the way, so that your dog can’t gulp down all their food at once.
Kol’s Tip #3: Make it Sticky
Kol’s Tip #4: Simple Solutions
Slowing down your food gulper doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. The neat toys and custom designed bowls are fun, but not really necessary. Want to slow down your food gulper on the cheap? Try spreading kibbles out on a cookie sheet.
Another DIY option? Put a rock in it. Make your slow down bowl buy putting a river rock n the middle of your dog’s bowl. Be careful though! You’ve got to pick the right rock. Choose a rock that is too large and heavy for your dog to pick up or fit in their mouth, make sure it’s perfectly smooth, so that teeth can’t gt caught on it and choose an unvarnished rock (not the craft store kind). Make sure it’s properly cleaned and sterilized before you use it!
Kol’s Tip #5: A shout out to my raw fed peeps! Kolchak was absolutely a raw gulper. It was a real issue as I was so worried that he would swallow a ginormous chunk of bone, obstruct his bowel and need a bajillion dollar surgery to fix it. We had to teach him to chew his bones and not swallow them whole. Here’s what we do:
- Skip pre-ground mixes – or hand feed them one bite at a time.
- Choose bones that are bigger than those usually recommended and feed larger cuts of meat.
- Hold the bones in your hand while your pup chews, so you control how quickly they can chew their way through the bone.
- Chronic Pain – Any human out there with a back injury knows exactly what I am talking about. All it takes on one good *snap* correction on the leash to leave your dogs neck & spine out of alignment, creating chronic pain.
- Collapsed Trachea – That’s your windpipe. Did you know that pulling on your leash can actually crush your trachea, making it difficult to breathe and putting a ton of stress on your lungs and heart? This is a big problem, especially common in small dogs.
- Thyroid Issues – The collar puts pressure directly on the delicate thyroid gland. Over time, repeated pressure and damage to this gland could affect how well your thyroid works. Since the thyroid regulates heart speed, blood pressure, and body temperature, amongst other things, this could be a really big deal.
- Paw Licking & Chewing – Pressure on the sensitive nerves around the neck can give you a “pins & needles” feeling in your paws and forearms, leaving you gnawing away at your own arm like you’re Coyote Ugly. This can also be the reason some leash pullers develop a limp in their front legs.
- Loop the leash around your waist and clip it to the dog’s harness
- Go about your daily life – laundry, cleaning, yard work – whatever you gotta do. As you move about, your dog will need to watch your cues and body language to determine when to walk and when to wait.
- When you stop moving (ie. to wash dishes, load the washer, ect). Allow your dog to relax using a SIT or DOWN command. When you are ready to move again, tell them LET’S GO
- If your dog pulls, plant your feet and refuse to give way or speedily move in the exact opposite direction. **this is really important. NEVER give in to a pulling dog.**
Well, most of the time. I still get over excited sometimes, but for the most part, I am part of the no-pull posse. My paw chewing reduced dramatically, going from chewing the literally all the time to only chewing when I am having an allergic reaction. And while I miss my extensive and gorgeous collar collection, I don’t miss being a pain in the neck. Literally. As an added bonus, this was a great bonding experience for the Mama and me.
Our little buddy down the street has a brand new harness and he went to the canine chiropractor this week for a neck adjustment. We are happy to report that his paw chewing has practically disappeared. Him and his Mama have started a new training protocol and hopefully, soon he can declare himself a rehabilitated leash puller just like me.
For more info on the potential risks associated with collar pulling, check out one of our very favourite holistic vets, Dr. Peter Dobias and his post on the subject.
Does your dog pull on the leash? Got any great training tips?
the Mama and I are in no way professional dog trainers, but we see this issue fairly often when we are asked about our experience with allergies. We strongly recommend anyone with a pup who is an “allergic paw chewer” try out a new harness, see a canine chiropractor and see if this helps your dog. It sure helped mine.
I can’t be the only one who’s Human is afraid of fireworks.
It is a real problem in the human community. the Mama is a real mess on holidays. I don’t know what it is about fireworks that sends a human cowering in the corner, shouting their stupid heads off, but there it is, every holiday.You want to do this:
Here are some tips to help your human deal with the big bad fireworks this holiday weekend.
2. Lock Your Human in the Garage
Putting your human in the garage, another room or their crate is an excellent way to help them deal with the fireworks. Leave them alone and let them “self soothe”. Humans should only be allowed access to their Canines and the rest of the house when they are on their best behavior.
3. Never Ever Comfort a Scared Human
Many people will cuddle, coddle and talk to their Humans when they are having a fireworks related meltdown to try and soothe them. This is a mistake. Providing affection and love while your Human is misbehaving will only reinforce the bad behavior. Humans must learn that good things (petting, cuddling, and the canine touch) only happen when they are calm and well-behaved.
4. Don’t Feed a Reactive Human
Humans who react poorly to fireworks should have both food and water withheld for several hours prior to the evening’s celebration. Nervous humans have a tendency to go to the bathroom in the house. Avoid this problem (and save your carpets) by only feeding your people once the Fireworks are over.
5. No Special Treats
You should also avoid the temptation to give your human a special treat to distract them from the the fireworks. Special treats are for good behavior only. Do not reward your human’s fear.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to control your human this holiday weekend. If your Human still exhibits an excessive amount of fear even using the techniques above, consider boarding your human on holiday weekends, so that you can enjoy your holiday in peace. You can also ask your Human’s doctor to sedate them. Remember, a the Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so ensure your Human is well-behaved.
Wishing everyone a Happy Canada Day and a Happy Fourth of July!
WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA! WAIT A MINUTE!
the Mama here.
Am I the only one who thinks this all these tips make NO SENSE? They fly in the face of common sense, compassion and modern training techniques and yet these very same tips were circulated in our town this week as ways to help our dogs cope with the fireworks.
I’m lucky to have found a Twitter group that gathers on Mondays for a little #petchat. This week we had the pleasure to bark with Debbie Jacobs of fearfuldogs.com who shared some *actually useful and helpful* tips for helping your dog through the holiday celebration. She said several things that really struck a chord with me – 1. That the belief that you can reinforce the fear by comforting your dog is just a bad myth with a good publicist. And really, what does it say about our relationship, when we let someone struggle on their own when they are afraid?
It was like a lightbulb moment. What Debbie said just made good sense.
Check out her site Fearful Dogs for tips on how to help your dog this holiday and definitely check out this fabulous e-book (which Debbie contributed to) on ways to proactively help your dog overcome their Fireworks Fears. (Click on download guide, just above the video). It never occurred to me that I could help improve Koly & Fe’s reaction to fireworks before they even start. Check it out. It rocked my world.
Thank you so much to Debbie Jacobs and all the folks at #petchat for inspiring this post! You guys are a fabulous resource and I’m glad to have found you!