Tail Wag Question

Posted by sitstaydogs

Jul 23, 2013 1:39:00 PM


Dear Sara, my dog has never really been around little kids. The other day we met a toddler when we were out walking. I said he could pet her because her tail was wagging, but then she snapped at him! Now I’m worried because she’s so unpredictable. What can I do? 
It’s a common misconception that a wagging tail means that a dog’s friendly, but that’s just not the case. Dogs wag their tails for a variety of reasons. It may be helpful to think of a wagging tail as a smile. When people smile, usually it’s because they’re friendly or happy. However, people can also smile for other reasons. Sometimes a person might smile because she’s nervous. Sometimes someone may smile at you for less-than-friendly reasons.

In the same way, dogs may wag their tails when they’re fearful, uncertain, or even aggressive. A wagging tail is a social signal, but it’s not necessarily a friendly one. When a dog wags his tail, he’s telling you that he plans to interact with you in some way, but not how he plans to interact with you. He may want to greet and lick you, or he may want to bite you so you go away!

Rather than just looking at your dog’s tail to determine his feelings about a stranger or situation, take a look at all of the body language cues he’s giving you. If he’s wiggly with soft crinkly eyes and a relaxed face, he’s probably okay. If he’s stiff, backing away, or has a tense face or hard round eyes, he’s telling you that he’s uncomfortable in that situation and needs more space. When introducing your dog to others, always let him approach them. If you have any concerns about fear or aggression, contact a Certified Professional Dog Trainer ASAP.

By Sara Reusche, CPDT-KA CVT
Paws Abilities Dog Training, LLC



Topics: Uncategorized

Taking Treats Gently

Posted by sitstaydogs

Jul 22, 2013 4:48:00 PM


By Joann Neve, Pack Leader Behavior & Training

One important thing that dogs must learn is how to take treats from people gently. When taking a treat, there should be very minimal or no sensation of teeth on the person’s hand, much less any type of pinch or bite. To combat this, I have heard many people give treats to their dog while saying “gently” and many times, the dog understands this command. However, will your dog always know to take treats gently when the 5 year old neighbor comes to give your dog a treat and doesn’t know to say gently first?

That’s why I maintain that a dogs soft mouth should never be under command, it should be a natural. In order to accomplish this, you must readjust your thinking to not say gentle when giving treats to your dog. You should always give them from your fingers (rather than open palm or throwing them on the floor). You also need to start to pay attention to any sensation of teeth on skin, even if it doesn’t hurt you.

The procedure is simple. If you feel teeth on skin, simply jerk the treat away from the dog and let out a high-pitched, loud “ouch”, almost of squeal quality. Your dog will likely look shocked or startled. Present the treat again, and 99% of the time he will come at it MUCH softer again. Repeat as often as necessary, but the hard biting will likely disappear quickly. This must be followed by everyone who gives treats to your dog until he has learned a solid soft mouth.


Topics: Treats, Uncategorized

A Case for Kongs

Posted by sitstaydogs

Jul 22, 2013 4:45:00 PM


If every dog in the world could be given one toy, I think the Kong would be the way to go. A Kong toy is shaped somewhat like a rounded rubber pyramid with a hollow center. Kongs have three chewing “levels” – red for beginners, black for tough chewers, and blue Kongs, which are the toughest level and are available only through veterinarians because they are radio opaque (which means they will show up on an x-ray if the dog swallows them). There are also special, softer Kongs made for puppies or senior dogs. These Kong toys have a marbled appearance, with white mixed into the pink, blue, or purple color.

Kong toys are extremely durable, which means they can go from the microwave to the freezer to the dishwasher and back again without breaking down. They stand up well to almost every dog, provided you choose the right size and hardness level for your dog’s tenacity of chewing. Kong toys bounce erratically when thrown and provide a great chew toy.

The thing that puts a Kong toy head & tails above the competition, though, is their hollow center. Kong toys can be stuffed with an amazing variety of food items. This is a great source for mental exercise! For dogs who are left home alone all day, consider throwing out your dog’s food bowl & feeding solely from Kong toys.

There are certainly other brands of toys that resemble Kongs available, but the Kong is the “original” toy and is the one that seems to work best for most dogs. There is one Kong knock-off on the market which may be of interest to some people though, and that is the “Squirrel Dude” toy manufactured by Premier/PetSafe. This tough purple toy (yes, it resembles a squirrel) improves on the Kong design by adding four small rubber prongs which line the inside of the toy’s hole. These prongs make it much harder to get food back out of a Squirrel Dude toy once you’ve stuffed it in. A Squirrel Dude toy is not for a beginner to puzzle stuffing, but can provide a nice challenge to dogs for whom a Kong toy no longer gives any challenge. The Squirrel Dude toys can be further customized by lopping off one or more of the rubber prongs with a sharp pair of scissors, so that you can adjust the toy’s level of difficulty.

To clean your dog’s Kongs out, use the cleaning brushes that can be used for baby bottles, or just scrub around inside the opening with your fingers. Kongs are dishwasher safe, but be warned that tightly lodged food can easily sneak through an entire dishwashing cycle. Make sure your dog’s Kongs are cleaned regularly to prevent food from spoiling.

In the next newsletter we’ll discuss Kong stuffing options, as well as other games to play with these toys.

Do you use Kong toys for your dog? Please share your favorite Kong stuffing recipes, games, or other tips and tricks on SitStay's Facebook page!


Topics: Mealtime, Playtime, Treats, Uncategorized

Praise to the Gentle Leader

Posted by sitstaydogs

Jul 22, 2013 10:39:00 AM


The Gentle Leader is a special collar that fits on a dog’s head, much like a halter on a horse.It’s one of my favorite training tools, and also one of the most misunderstood among both the general public and professional trainers.

I use the Gentle Leader for every foster dog who comes through my doors, and it’s rare for a dog not to be as comfortable wearing it as a regular flat collar within 2 days. The secret? I put the Gentle Leader on before pleasant things (mealtime, walks, playtime, Kong time, etc), and take it off when the pleasant activity is finished. I also ignore any pawing. I find that many owners unintentionally reward this pawing because they pay attention to it. My dogs are trained to stick their noses through the nose loop of the Gentle Leader as soon as I hold it out, and they do this happily because they know it means good things are going to happen.

So, why do I like the Gentle Leader? For me, this management tool makes the training process quicker and more effective. If I can control my dog’s head, I can control my dog’s focus. I’m able to redirect him if he becomes focused on a squirrel, another dog, or a biker outside. I’m able to teach him right from the start to walk on a loose leash, not to bark, and to sit politely for greetings. There’s a reason veterinary behavorists and well-known professional trainers use Gentle Leaders with their own and clients’ dogs. They work. They’re humane. They’re effective. They save owners time and prevent dogs from engaging in bad behavior until the dog is trained.

The Gentle Leader is a must-have for working with aggressive or reactive dogs, but I also use it in basic training with all puppies and adolescents, or with untrained or strong adults. There are so many uses! A Gentle Leader and drag-line in my house allows me to teach house manners quickly and easily.

My goal is always to train every dog to a point where he doesn’t need any equipment (including a collar or leash). I find that the Gentle Leader is a great place to start the training process, but I don’t stop there. I work with the dog and teach him to walk nicely on leash, ignore distractions, and greet people politely. Once he knows these skills, we fade the Gentle Leader and the dog instead wears a flat buckle collar on his neck. I could certainly teach these skills on that flat collar to start with, but I find that dogs just learn faster with the Gentle Leader, and it’s easy enough to fade.


Topics: Training, Uncategorized

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