Today was pretty laid back. I came in at 2:00 and went straight to Sonny’s kennel. We worked a little on dog reactivity. I mean he’s pretty good about it most of the time but I figured a little work on it couldn’t hurt. It was mostly a matter of distracting him and ‘snapping him out of it’ when the dogs started barking around him. Treats worked well. Also calling his name and just being soothing when he was getting anxious.
I wandered my way afterwards to Buddy and Sydney’s kennel (the two older dogs mentioned in an earlier post) and they seemed pretty calm, so I went inside. It was pretty amazing to see how different the two were from each other, yet how well they got along. Sydney was really laid back and immediately plopped down into my lap like Sonny had done and put his paw on my chest, nosing my hand so I’d pet him. What a cutie! And Buddy was the more excited dog who wanted to wrestle. I also worked with some anxiety with Buddy. While Sydney was totally chill, Buddy would sometimes get stressed out and cry and paw at the other side of the kennel. Just calling his name and distracting him with a toy worked wonders. I then helped a new volunteer walk the two of them. Sydney was a very calm walker and Buddy, well, he was pretty good too but he was a little more of a puller than his buddy.
Afterwards Veronica and Robert visited, and I gave them a short tour of the place.
When they left, I pushed myself to work with more difficult dogs. There were a couple of coon hounds I had my eye on since I saw them last week, but they always seemed too excited. Their names were Copper and Duke, and they were a gorgeous burgundy color. I went inside their kennels. Copper was pretty good but Duke was a jumped, but I managed to calm them both down. I gave them both treats and found that they were both pretty mouthy and would nip my hands on accident. I worked on teaching them how to take treats more gently, and being a little more gentlemanly (not jumping). The way to help a mouthy dog is to take a treat in a closed fist, and not give it to them until rather than biting your hand, they lick your palm to get the treat out. This teaches them to lick the treat out of your hand rather than chomp on it and perhaps get your skin.
So I’d like to teach you guys some things! I realize now that I haven’t written ANYTHING about calming signals, which is the biggest thing I’ve been learning here! Let me give you all the run down. Calming signals are a part of basic canine body language. They are signals which may clue you in on an anxious dog, or things you can do to help calm a dog down.
A big one is licking one’s lips or nose. A dog will lick it’s lips when anxious, or when trying to reassure another dog. This may clue you in that a dog is uncomfortable in a situation.
Another is yawning. This is sort of like licking, but…bigger? A dog might be stressed out, over-stimulated or even a little frightened. If a dog is frightened, yawning might help calm your dog down.
Tail-wagging doesn’t necessarily mean happy. It simply means energy. Excitement. A dog’s tail will even wag stiffly back and forth when angry or defensive. A relaxed wagging is best.
Eye contact is another important way to communicate. Staring is not good! If a dog is staring intensely at another dog, it could be seen as threatening! Avoiding eye contact means your dog is being respectful of your’s or another dog’s space.
The day ended with a basic manners class! There were some adorable puppies there, and one cool exercise they did was weave between food and toys to learn how to ‘leave it’ and walk nicely on a leash with their owners.