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What To Do If You Have an Aggressive Dog

French Bulldog

Before we discuss what to do if you have an aggressive dog, we must first determine what aggression is. Some people may confuse normal dog behavior with aggression and more often, people tend to confuse normal puppy behavior with aggression. Let’s start by discussing normal puppy behavior.

How to Distinguish Normal Puppy Behavior from Aggressive Behavior

Dogs, including puppies, can play rough. They bite. They bark. They growl. So, how do you tell the difference between rough play and aggressiveness? Normal puppy play will include biting, barking, and growling. However, there are cues to observe to ensure it is play and nothing more. One of the best indicators that the puppy is playing is the play bow. The play bow is the action of lowering the head and lifting the hind end. This is also called “downward dog” which I’m sure you have heard in the field of yoga. Another sign that dogs are playing and not fighting is tail wagging or wiggling of the behind in the case of dogs that do not have tails. So, what about the barking and growling? If the growling and/or barking is high pitched, it is play. However, if the growling is deep and long it could be aggressive. Puppies and even adult dogs do nip when they’re playing, and this is normal behavior. What you do not want to see is a stiffened body posture and/or lip curling or snarling. Finally, make sure that the dogs are taking turns playing. If one dog is dominating the play session, it could turn into an aggressive situation. If you have observed your dog and determined they are, in fact, demonstrating aggressive behaviors, what do you do then?

How to Address Aggressive Behavior

Let me start by saying that correcting aggressive behavior will not happen overnight. You must work at it and it is up to you as the pet parent to remain patient and consistent. There are many types of aggression and identifying the source of the aggression is the first step. Sometimes the aggression is redirected aggression. To learn more about redirected aggression, click here: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2021/06/09/redirected-aggression-in-dogs/

If you can determine the cause of aggression and eliminate what is causing the aggression, this will be your most productive approach. If you cannot eliminate the cause of the aggression and your dog becomes aggressive, it is crucial to remain calm. Many dog parents react to aggressive behavior by yelling and with quick movements. This is undoubtedly going to escalate the situation. You want to approach your dog slowly and speak in a soft calm tone. It is important to train your dog to know what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable behavior. This is where positive reinforcement comes in. If you are able to approach them slowly and walk them away from the situation calmly, it is very important to give them a lot of praise and treats if they are treat motivated. Do not punish the dog. This will only worsen the aggression. Behavioral modification methods are very practical in many situations. To learn more about behavioral modification, click here: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2020/08/01/behavioral-modification-using-operant-conditioning-training-your-frenchie/

If your dog becomes aggressive seemingly out of nowhere or if behavioral modification methods are not successful, be sure to have your dog examined by your veterinarian to rule out any health problems. If you have done all this and you still have issues, it is time to consult with a behavioral modification trainer.

Of course, the best method is preventing aggressive behavior to begin with. If you have a puppy or a new dog, be sure to provide them with plenty of socialization. Socialize them often with other people and other dogs. If you see them displaying dominant behaviors, attempt to stop them and be sure to present yourself as the alpha. Watch carefully for behaviors that could become aggressive and redirect. Most importantly provide them with a stable loving environment and show them plenty of love. Be sure to provide positive associations to situations you desire. For example, when people come over and your dog is acting how you would like them to act, give them plenty of love, praise, and treats. Remember, it is best to teach what is right instead of correcting what is wrong!

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Why Does My Dog Eat Poop? And What Can I Do About It?

French Bulldog

If you are reading this, I will go out on a limb and assume that your dog is eating poop, you think it is gross, and you want it to stop. There are several reasons your dog may be eating poop but let me start by saying it is a natural and instinctual behavior. So, rest assured your dog is not the only “gross” one around. You see, mama dogs instinctually eat their puppy’s poop to keep the area around the puppies clean. Eating the poop is the only way she has to get rid of it. Puppies learn from mama therefore some puppies may develop the learned behavior of eating poop. Additionally, puppies explore the world by tasting things around them and poop just may be one of those things. Other reasons dogs, both adults and puppies, eat poop could be nutrient deficiencies, parasites, certain diseases, and/or certain drugs. To determine if your dog is eating poop only out of instinct and not due to an underlying problem, it is always a good idea to consult a veterinarian. If there are no underlying conditions and you want this behavior to stop, you simply need to modify this behavior and let your dog know that it is an unacceptable behavior. For tips on modifying behavior, click here: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2020/08/01/behavioral-modification-using-operant-conditioning-training-your-frenchie/

How Do I Stop My Dog from Eating Poop?

What if you have consulted your veterinarian and there are no underlying conditions and you have attempted the behavioral modification route and your dog is still eating the poop? The first step would be to give your dog a good multivitamin to see if there is a nutrient deficiency. If your pup stops eating the poop after two weeks of giving the multivitamin, a nutrient deficiency was likely the cause of the behavior. Another thing to note is that your dog could be displaying this behavior to get attention. If this is the case, be sure you do not provide that attention they want immediately after the poop eating. If you do, you will reinforce the behavior. More importantly, make sure to give them extra special attention when they are not eating the poop in hopes this will curb the behavior. The techniques used during behavioral modification are a method of giving attention so if you couple the behavioral modification training with love and cuddles, this may do the trick. Here are a few great interactive toys:

Remember that an enriched and well exercised dog is a happy and well-behaved dog. One final note, and probably the most important, is to watch your dog closely and remove the poop immediately so they don’t have the chance to eat it to begin with. If you do not allow the behavior to occur, you can break the poop eating habit.

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How to Keep Your Dog Safe on the 4th of July

Dozer the French Bulldog with patriotic vest

The 4th of July is a day Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence is a document which was drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. It states that men are created equal and have “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” You might say that on the 4th of July every year, we express that right to pursue happiness through events such as barbeques, concerts, carnivals, and fireworks displays. While these events are fun for the family, there is one family member that it may not be as fun for. That is right, the family dog! So, how do you keep your dog safe while still enjoying the festivities?

Dog Safety Tips

If you are anything like me, you want to take your pups everywhere with you. However, on the 4th of July, you may want to consider leaving them at home. If you decide to leave them home, leave them in a safe room where they are secure and cannot get out. Leave the TV or radio on to drown out any noise they may hear from surrounding fireworks. If you decide to take them with you, I suggest having their leash tethered to a harness rather than a collar. This will make your hold more secure in the event they get spooked. Since there will likely be a lot going on, be sure to watch your dog closely. Food will be dropped so you want to be sure they do not eat anything potentially harmful to them. We all know the curious nature of dogs and this curious nature does not mix well with some foods. It also does not mix well with charcoal, sparklers, and similar objects that can hurt your pup so keep them away from these types of objects. Finally, keep alcohol away from your dog. Did you know that alcohol is toxic to your dog? That’s right! But this does not mean you need to freak if Fido takes a lick of your beer. Just like with humans, weight plays a role in alcohol toxicity in dogs. Whether or not you decide to bring them with you, be sure they are microchipped and have ID tags. Make sure the information on their microchips and ID tags is up to date. Another good tip is to make sure you have up to date photos of your pup just in case they do get spooked and somehow get out of the house or run away.

For tips on how to keep your pet cool during the festivities, read this post: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2021/05/15/summertime-with-your-frenchie/

One last but important tip is if you do not know if your dog is afraid of fireworks, you must take extra precautions to ensure your pup remains calm and does not dart off. I will talk about ways to keep them calm a little later. First, let’s talk about why dogs are afraid of fireworks.

Why are dogs afraid of fireworks?

Think about it. If you heard a loud banging noise coming from the sky and had no idea what it was, wouldn’t you be scared? That’s exactly what’s going on here. Dogs do not know what fireworks are and they have an acute sense of hearing making them more sensitive to the loud sounds that come from fireworks. Dogs see these sounds as a threat which elicits a fight or flight response. The fight or flight response has been advantageous to the survival of members of the animal kingdom therefore it has maintained an evolutionary advantage. Because of this, it is a strong response and one that may be over exaggerated in an anxious animal. This is the reason many dogs run away during fireworks displays. In fact, more dogs are lost from July 4th through July 6th than any other time of the year. So, what can you do to keep your dog calm and keep them from running off?

How to Calm Your Dog During Fireworks

The best way to ensure your dog does not run off during a fireworks display is to make sure they are not afraid of the fireworks in the first place. If you have a young dog, it is a good idea to start desensitizing them to loud noises such as fireworks. How do you do this? Why, by behavioral modification methods of course! You can start by playing a video of a fireworks display at a low sound level. If your dog does not react and remains calm, praise them and give them a treat. If they do react, lower the sound. While they are remaining calm, slowly increase the sound level and praise and reward each time they remain calm. You will want to repeat this process for several days to ensure your dog remains comfortable with the noises. So, what if your dog is already afraid of fireworks? How do you keep them calm? Well, every dog is different of course, but there are some things you can try such as thunder shirts like this Thundershirt Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket or calming treats such as these Zesty Paws Calming Bites for Dogs- with Chamomile, L Theanine, Thiamine & Magnesium – Dog Stress Relief Supplement – Helps to Calm Anxiety & Barking – Peanut Butter – 90 Soft Chews. Making them as comfortable as possible is the key. If they have a favorite blanket or toy, give it to them. Try to keep them as far away from the sound as possible. If you can go inside a building, do that. Remember that dogs are den animals meaning dens are their safe haven. If you can create a makeshift den, it could help them feel more secure. The most important thing you can do for them is remain calm yourself. Dogs read your energy well so if you are anxious, they will be even more anxious. Relax, take a deep breath, and talk to them in a calm soothing manner. Be their comfort in this time of fear and unknowingness!

For more tips on behavioral modification, read this post: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2020/08/01/behavioral-modification-using-operant-conditioning-training-your-frenchie/

If you need some help with behavioral modification or if you have other ideas to help other readers, please leave a reply below.

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The Human-Canine Bond

Frenchie Mama and French Bulldog

The bond between dogs and humans goes back thousands of years. In fact, there have been several instances of human and dog remains found buried together dated back to 8,000, 10,000 even 14,000 years ago! Maybe even more interesting is the fact that there have been scientific studies proving that dogs and humans shared common migration patterns from those early times. This shows further indication that the human-canine bond began incredibly early on. Humans and dogs have shared similar evolutionary pressures, and this had led to a deep understanding of one another. The human-canine bond is unique, it is special, and it is strong!

What does it mean to be bonded with your dog?

Being bonded with your dog basically means that you understand your dog and your dog understands you. You and your dog are in tune with each other’s emotional state. You recognize each other’s gestures and respond appropriately to them. You trust each other and you love each other. This bond stems from the thousands of years humans and dogs have been co-evolving together. This co-evolution has ultimately led to dogs and humans having many groups of genes that have also been co-evolving. Have you heard that interactions between dogs and humans increase the oxytocin levels in both species? This is the result of groups of neurological genes evolving in parallel patterns in dogs and humans.

How do I bond with my dog?

Due to the co-evolution of neurological genes, dogs bond with humans in much the same way humans bond to other humans. The more love and support you provide them, the closer the bond. Watching them and listening to them allows you to better understand them thereby strengthening the bond between you and them. Routine and consistency are key so another way to strengthen the bond is by creating a routine so they know what is expected of them making them feel more self-confident. Give them consistent attention. Spend time training them. Believe it or not, dogs love learning new tricks! Spend quality time with them. Just as you must learn what your significant other enjoys, you must learn what your dog enjoys. If they enjoy toys, buy them toys and play with them. If they love cuddling on the couch, cuddle on the couch! If they love to exercise, do that! Exercising together is not only a great bonding tool, but a well exercised dog is a well behaved dog! Neuroimaging has shown that dog brains function very similarly to ours (due to the co-evolution of the neurological genes) when processing emotions so it boils down to whatever makes you feel loved will likely make your dog feel loved.

How do you know if your dog is bonded with you?

Does your dog run around and jump up and down when you come home? Well, this probably means they are bonded to you. Dogs that are bonded to you often make eye contact. Dogs make eye contact with humans to connect with them. Bonded dogs will turn to check on you on walks. They will follow you around and seek you out if you are in another room. Another way your dog will show they are bonded to you is by leaning against you. They will want to be touching you in some way. If your dog loves toys, like my Dozer does, they will bring their favorite toy to you. This is just another sign of affection. Finally, if your dog sleeps with you, they are bonded to you. Dogs are very vulnerable when they sleep so if they are comfortable sleeping with you, you can bet they are bonded to you.

To learn more about canine body language, click here: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2021/02/14/dog-body-language-and-why-your-frenchie-may-not-get-along-with-other-breeds/

The human-canine bond is an amazing relationship that has spanned thousands of years. Let’s hope that it’s one that will continue for thousands more to come!

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Redirected Aggression in Dogs

Excited French Bulldogs

Have you ever been walking your dogs and suddenly one of your dogs turns to the other and seems to attack him or her? This very well may be redirected aggression. Redirected aggression is not a behavior limited to dogs. As a matter of fact, if you Google the term “redirected aggression” most of the articles you will see involve redirected aggression in cats. However, this is a dog blog so, you guessed it, we are going to discuss redirected aggression in dogs.

What is Redirected Aggression?

Redirected aggression is a behavior whose definition is written right into the title. It is aggression towards one thing but acted out upon another. For example, you are walking your two dogs on leash and you come upon a cat. The dogs are aroused by the cat but since they cannot reach the cat, this arousal turns into aggression towards whomever is closest, in this case the other dog. It may seem as if the dogs are fighting when in reality they are simply taking out their arousal and/or aggression caused by the cat on the other dog. Another common example of redirected aggression is a dog biting the hand of the person trying to break up a fight between them and another dog. The dog is “redirecting” their aggression from the dog they got into the fight with to the person attempting to break up the fight. Redirected aggression may be difficult to recognize at first since it could be mistaken for dog aggression, leash aggression, or even aggression towards people. The next time you observe one of your dogs turn on the other, take a closer look to see what may have aroused them to the point of the redirected aggression. Did someone ring the doorbell causing them to become overly excited? Did they see a person they wanted to play with but could not get to them? Both scenarios cause a heightened state of arousal which is the precursor for Redirected Aggression.

How to Stop Redirected Aggression in Dogs

Now that you know what Redirected Aggression is, you may be asking how to stop this behavior. Behavioral Modification plays a huge role here. The first step in behavioral modification is determining the cause of the behavior. Once you determine the cause of the behavior, you may then work on modifying the behavior. Dogs tend towards displaying behaviors that get them what they want. Therefore, if you want them to stop getting overly aroused in the presence of a cat, you must provide a positive reinforcement for NOT reacting to the cat. Remember that if you allow your dog to chase a cat once, he or she will want to continue chasing the cat. Therefore, start by reducing the urge to chase the cat in the first place. When you see a cat, redirect by calmly walking away from the cat and by offering high value treats such as Blue Buffalo Duck Wild Bits Trail Treats, 4 oz (8 Pack) or Tylee 100% salmon treats if your dog remains calm. Remember, if you give treats when they are reacting, you will reinforce the bad behavior instead of reinforcing the behavior you want. Unfortunately, cats tend to dart off when seeing a dog and this quick movement is enticing to our canine companions. This means that you need to be on the lookout for what will arouse your dog, in this case, the cat. If you see the cat first, you can turn around and slowly walk away. If they get a glimpse of the cat and do not react, give them a treat. I regularly carry treats in my pocket for potential learning opportunities such as this one. Another method for reducing the behavior of Redirected Aggression is teaching them to sit and stay when they are in a highly aroused state. You start this at home by playing with them and getting them overly excited then giving them the sit and stay commands. Once you have mastered getting them to sit and stay while in this highly aroused state, you can try it outside in the presence of the cat. And, of course, if they sit and stay and do not react, you give them their favorite treat. It is important to remember that modifying behavior takes time. You cannot expect to positively reinforce the wanted behavior only a couple of times to correct the “bad behavior.” It takes time, patience, and consistency.

For more information about Behavioral Modification, click here: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2020/08/01/behavioral-modification-using-operant-conditioning-training-your-frenchie/

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Successfully Adding a New Dog to Your Pack

Dozer and Molly meeting

Approximately forty percent of households with dogs in the United States house more than one dog. This statistic may lead you to believe that introducing a new dog into the household is a simple matter. However, it may not always be as simple as you think. You see, dogs, just like us, have their own distinct personalities and you do not always know how two dogs will get along. In addition to this, resident dogs may perceive the new dog as encroaching on their territory. Therefore, introductions should happen slowly, calmly, and cautiously.

How to Introduce the New Dog to the Pack

First and most importantly, if you have more than one resident dog, introducing them one at a time to the new dog is important. If you introduce the new dog to the entire pack at once, the new dog may become overwhelmed and fearful. An overwhelmed and fearful dog could become an aggressive dog. The very first interaction between dogs will set the tone for future interactions so it is important the initial interactions go well. You know your dogs better than anyone so choose to introduce the most relaxed dog to the new dog first. The best way to introduce them is by walking them separately outside the home. Grab your spouse, another family member, or a friend (preferably someone your dog knows well) and have them walk your resident dog on a lead while you walk the new dog on a lead. You should walk far enough away that the two dogs are not tempted to interact but are aware of the other’s presence. If they are relaxed and behaving in the manner you want them to behave (not trying to get to the other), be sure to reward them with treats and/or praise. Walk them like this for a good thirty minutes. If the walk goes well, you may let them sniff each other briefly. While they are sniffing each other, watch their body language for signs of relaxed verses agitated behaviors. To learn more about your dog’s body language, read this post: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2021/02/14/dog-body-language-and-why-your-frenchie-may-not-get-along-with-other-breeds/

It is important to put a stop to bad behaviors in the beginning. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to stop the unwanted behaviors.

Bringing the New Dog Inside the Home

Once you have completed all the introductions outside of the home and it is time to bring the new dog into the home, be sure you have prepped the house first. The most important aspect of prepping the house is making sure there are no toys, food, or bones laying around the house. If these items are left on the ground, it could lead to a resource guarding issue. To learn more about resource guarding (food aggression in particular), read this post: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2020/09/12/canine-food-aggression/

If possible, it is a good idea to bring the new dog’s scent into the house a few days before bringing him or her home. Grabbing a blanket and rubbing it on the new dog, then bringing it home for the resident dogs to sniff is a good way to do this. Once you have the house prepped, bring the new dog inside and introduce them again one dog at a time. Let them repeat brief sniffing sessions while on loose leads and reward for good behavior. If you notice any of the aggressive behaviors, immediately remove the dogs from the situation. It is especially important to praise and reward when the dogs are sniffing each other while remaining calm. If bringing home a puppy, remember that a puppy may not pick up on an adult dog’s body language, so it is up to you to control the situation. If an adult dog growls, that is okay as this is their way of telling the puppy they have had enough. If the puppy does not back off, it is up to you to remove the puppy.

Last, but certainly not least, give each dog plenty of attention, particularly the resident dogs. If your dogs are like mine, they are extremely attached to you and could easily get jealous. A jealous dog can be an aggressive dog, and this is what we are trying to prevent. Remember, the more positive the initial interactions, the more positive the interactions will be down the road.

Good luck with your introductions and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a reply.

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