K9 Nose Work:  One Sport Your Dog May Want to Sniff Out!

k9 nose work trainingWhat is K9 Nose Work?

In K9 Nose Work, dogs learn how to search for a specific odor or odors and find the source. It is a growing sport that is based on your dog’s natural instinct to hunt and sniff out prey. This fun activity will benefit your dog by building its confidence and exercise its mind and body.  You will enjoy watching your dog work and it will deepen the bond between you, even if you do not do it competitively.

K9 Nose Work was founded and developed by Ron Gaunt, Amy Herot, and Jill Marie O’Brien, all certified experts and highly accomplished in training K9 detection and tracking dogs for law enforcement.  Using their extensive experience in professional canine detection, these three K9 experts developed K9 Nose Work to give people and their pet dogs a fun and easy way to learn and apply scent detection skills.

How Do You Get Started in Nose Work?

K9 Nose Work is fun for any dog and the owner who wants to try it. Neither of you need any obedience or other training. This sport is a game that builds on your dog’s natural abilities. It is so easy to learn because your dog will love playing games that use its scenting instincts to find its favorite treat or toy.

Get started in this fun activity by locating a K9 Nose Work class or workshop taught by a certified Nose Work instructor.  Find the right trainer for you, your dog, and your goals. In Nose Work classes specifically, you should start by taking the Intro class to learn the foundational skills. The subsequent Nose Work class will introduce odor targeting.

When you begin Nose Work training, your dog will start the game by simply finding a treat or toy on its own, with no owner interruption. The dog will continue training that way for three months to one year, depending on the dog’s own pace of learning. During that period, the dog will develop confidence in its ability to achieve success in hunting and scenting. It also builds the dog’s mental and physical fitness, which is vital for your dog’s good health.  All the while your dog is learning new hunting skills in different environments, unimpeded by the owner.

As the dog progresses in its abilities, the search games become progressively more difficult.  They will include odor targeting, introducing multiple containers in the search and the concepts of exterior, interior, and vehicle searches, all of which are part of Nose Work competition events.

Nose Work Competition

If you are interested in Nose Work as a competitive sport, you should take regular classes to make sure you both have the skills needed to be competitive at that level. Once you and your dog become sufficiently advanced, you can participate in mock competitions to test both of your skills. Some owners use an experienced handler to handle their dogs in competition. You can get a lot of detailed information about the competitions time and location from the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW™), the official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of K9 Nose Work.  You should go observe them to see what is involved. These competitions are quite demanding. Observing a few of them will help you understand the etiquette and prepare for the challenges you and your dog will face.

Before you are eligible to compete in a NACSW™ competition, your dog must be able to identify the location of the target odor and the handler able to correctly call an ‘alert’ within a three-minute time period. This is called an Odor Recognition Test (ORT). To enter an ORT you must be a member of the NACSW™, and your dog must be registered with the NACSW™.  At an ORT at the first level of competition, you and your dog will have to search 12 identical boxes with one of the boxes containing birch odor.  You must be able to correctly identify when your dog has found the odor box.

After passing an ORT, you and your dog are eligible to compete at the Nose Work 1 (NW1) level. Please note that an NW1 trial is much more complex than an ORT.  At an NW1 trial, your dog must cope with distractions, environmental stressors, larger search areas, and the four elements of competition (container, interior, exterior, and vehicle). Also, your dog should be prepared to go from crate to work several times during the course of the competition.

The next level up is NW2. At that level, you and your dog should expect to find multiple hides in one environment, work through more challenging, less accessible “hides”, overcome food and toy distractions and alert only to odor, and manage a longer, larger search.

The highest level is NW3. This is a professional level of nose work. You and your dog will have to demonstrate that the dog can find an unknown number of hides in a search environment, you or the handler will recognize the search behavior in a dog when no odor is present (if there is a blank room), the dog and handler team can work through even more challenging, less accessible hides with varying heights and containment, the dog can overcome food and toy distractions in any environment and alert only to odor, the dog can manage much longer, larger searches, with the interior searches potentially being 12-15 minutes.

Whether you decide to compete with your dog or not, Nose Work training will enhance the relationship you have with your dog and your dog will become a more confident and happy inquisitive canine.

How to Be the Pawfect Guest — Getting Your Dog Invited Back

imgresWhether your inquisitive canine and you have been invited for a happy hour event at your neighbor’s condo, a weekend at your friend’s home, or a month-long stay at your cousin’s lake house, you want to ensure you get invited back. In the past, we’ve discussed how to help your inquisitive canine be the pawfect host so we thought we’d hit the other end of the spectrum and address ways to set your precious pooch up to be a poster dog for being the pawfect dog guest.

With holiday weekends around the bend and summertime on the horizon, we here at IC HQ’s wanted to share some of what we think are helpful tips to ensure that your canine is a gracious dog guest.

Tips For Getting Yourself — and Your Dog — Invited Back

Make sure everyone is on board with hosting a bow-wow! While the person you’re visiting may give you the thumbs up to bring your furry baby, consider others who may be in the mix during your visit. While Uncle Bob might be totally comfortable around dogs, little Sally may be afraid of them. Additionally, consider leaving your inquisitive canine at home if she or he doesn’t play nicely with other animals (or vice versa, with the pets that belong to the people whom you’re visiting).

Keep it clean and tidy. No matter how gracious your hosts are, creating extra work for them shouldn’t be part of your visit. Cleaning up after yourself is key, and similarly, tidying up after Fido is essential, too. Remember to follow the fur trail, and wipe down, sweep, use a lint roller, or vacuum as you go. This goes for dirt and other outdoor debris, and food and treat remnants as well. You’ll also want to make sure toys are picked up and beds/crates/dog mats are kept in a discrete location and are not tripping hazards. Lastly, ask your hosts how they would like you to leave the place before you leave. Check and double check to make sure you’ve picked and packed up everything, and restored order to any chaos you and/or your canine may have created.

Be like a stealthy Ninja! Are you up at the crack of dawn to take your dog out for a walk or to play in the backyard? How about moonlit walks before bed? Your host might have a different schedule, so keep this in mind when you and your inquisitive canine are roaming about.

BYOS (Bring Your Own Supplies). Pack what you need, without relying on your host to provide anything for your dog — including towels! Dogs are, for the most part, simple creatures, but through domestication, it seems their “essentials” list has grown. Depending on the type of visit, you’ll want to remember to pack what you need, including a leash, harness, collar, bowls, food puzzles, toys, food and treats, medications, grooming aids, waste bags, a bed or crate, and towels.

Reinforce your host’s behavior. Ya gotta love folks who welcome guest dogs into their homes. Show your gratitude from the get-go by giving them, and perhaps even their pet, a little gift. You can also express your appreciation by taking them out for a meal or to some place they enjoy. Lastly, follow up with a handwritten note. (These never go out of style, no matter how hi-tech our society gets). You might even include a photo of your dog at their place as a remembrance, letting them know your inquisitive canine appreciates them, too.

Skills fit for cotillion! Now’s the time for your dog to be at the top of his or her manners game. Being well-versed at sitting, lying down, going to his or her bed on cue, being quiet around distractions, leaving things alone when asked, and politely greeting people (and other animals) should be rock solid. This is no time for teaching new behaviors; this is, however, the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how wonderful your dog is. I would add in leash walking and coming when called too, as these behaviors are always needed, no matter where you go.

Know the boundaries. Make sure your dog and you understand where his or her “bathroom” is, as well as sleeping quarters and lounging locations. Will your dog be allowed on furniture? Even if he or she is, designating a special blanket or towel for your inquisitive canine to use will protect the environment while also subtly conveying to your hosts that you respect their home. When it comes to house training, take your dog to the requested outdoor spot to do his or her business, and then positively reinforce the appropriate behavior — so that he or she knows where to go. You’ll also want to keep a close eye on your dog to help prevent unfortunate incidents.

Help your pup be the perfect dog guest. Visits should be fun and festive for everyone — including the host. A well-mannered inquisitive canine and self-aware guest set themselves up to be invited back every time!


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

How Dog Moms Can Celebrate Mother’s Day With Their Canine Kids

Dog Moms Deserve a Special Day with Their Furry Companions

Whether you’re a mom to human children or a parent to a beloved pet, it’s all about the relationship. Mothers share a special love and bond with their babies that’s unlike any other; the care and nurturing they provide deserves to be celebrated every day, and of course, especially on Mother’s Day.

I remember all the celebrations I shared with my own mother. She protested that she never wanted to be fussed over, but I always found Mother’s Day to be the perfect opportunity to do just that. Breakfast in bed, helping out more around the house, going places she enjoyed, and baking a special chocolate chip layer cookie pie especially for her. These are among my favorite memories, as I knew that at least once a year my mom enjoyed being doted on.

Let’s face it, when it comes to the relationship with our canine companions, it’s often maternal-like. Being that I’m a new dog mom again, Ringo and I have been discussing ways we can celebrate this special holiday together. He wanted me to share these ideas with your inquisitive canines to help them plan a fun day for you, too.

Take a pleasant walk in your favorite place. This one is simple, budget friendly, and without time constraints. Plus you won’t need a reservation. To make it even more fun, bring along a couple of treats — for the both of you. You can reinforce your dog for those behaviors you like, and treat yourself because you deserve it! Also, bring your phone along so you can snap some selfies to commemorate your special day together.

Take on a arts and crafts project together. Contact your local art studios to find out if you and your inquisitive canine can schedule a date to create. Whether it is the paint-your-own-pottery or sketching a picture of your dog, there are fun and unique classes to be found around town. The original inquisitive canine, Poncho, and I used to frequent Firefly Ceramics. We created a pretty set of soup bowls and serving platter that we decorated with his paw prints. That’s a gift that keeps on giving – whenever I use the platter and bowls, I always think of my precious Poncho.

Have a traditional Mother’s Day lunch, brunch, tea, or cocktails. Going out to eat on Mother’s Day is a big deal all across the country. You can go out for brunch in the morning, then tea or happy hour in the evening. Call ahead to make sure the establishments you choose are fido-friendly. You might even be able to share a meal, provided the foods you choose are on your dog’s diet, and not those you should avoid.

Do a mother-mutt photo shoot. Nowadays it’s easier than ever to capture each step of your day with photos and videos. But what do you do with all the great content? How about creating a photo album, scrapbook, or framing that that special Mother’s Day selfie?

Make a gift to your favorite canine charity. If you’re not the shopping type, you might want to help your favorite animal advocacy group. Make a donation of your dog’s toys, beds, or blankets that he or she doesn’t use any longer; a monetary donation is helpful, too.

Picnic in the park, on your deck, or in your backyard. An alternative to making reservations is to get a table for two (or more) at a local park, beach, or lake. You can even set up your picnic blanket in the backyard, front porch, deck, or in an indoor fort. The purpose is spending time together. You can also include some hand-feeding, capitalizing on training and reinforcing those behaviors you like.

Take a day trip. Hop in the car to explore a nearby place that you’ve never been before – you might find fido-friendly areas you didn’t know existed! The Bring Fido website allows you to search specific areas for places that are more dog-friendly. You never know, you might discover a brand new favorite destination!

Make this Mother’s Day special by including your four-legged baby in the festivities. Dogs are the embodiment of unconditional love, and we know that your inquisitive canine would love to pamper you with more than just sloppy kisses and snuggles… although that’s a great place to start!

From all of us at IC HQ’s, we wish all the dog moms out there a pawsitively wonderful Mother’s Day!!


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Who’s Rescuing Whom? What to Think About When Adopting a Dog

Thinking about bringing home a new canine companion? Things to consider when adopting a dog.

What to think about when adopting a dogIn honor of Adopt a Shelter Pet Day (April 30th), I thought it would be an ideal time to discuss ways to approach this life-changing decision. After all, it’s not just your own life that is impacted; it is the inquisitive canine’s life as well.

Here are several things to consider when thinking about adopting a dog of any age, from puppy to older.

First of all, ask yourself, WHY?

Literally, make a list that answers the question, “Why am I adopting a dog?”

And then do some follow-up thinking.

For example, consider what you’ll want your new dog to do as a member of your family. Cuddle on the couch? Take daily walks? Accompany you to work? Be a companion to your children, partner, or another pet?

Once you understand why you you’re adopting a dog, then it’s important to ask how that will work within the confines of your current lifestyle. This may mean a change in your home life is necessary; it may even be what’s behind your why. Maybe becoming more active by walking is something you’ve wanted to do, and a new dog will motivate you to get you out of the house.

Timing is everything when adopting a dog.

If you’ve started a new job, or have plans every weekend for the next few months, you might want to consider waiting until you have the time to help your new family member acclimate to his or her new home and living conditions. Like all animals, dogs are adaptable, but having that extra time to be more involved will be key in helping the transition go more smoothly. Also consider whether or not your immediate future holds any major life changes. Adopting a new dog when you’re about to get married or move across the country could be too stressful and be worth waiting on until you are settled in.

Love is free, but pets are not.

Many shelters and rescue groups make it easy for dogs to be adopted out, with relatively modest adoption fees that range from free to about $200, according to Petfinder. From there, you have to take into account the necessities (basic gear like collars and leashes, food) and consider the luxury items, too. According to Petfinder, average annual costs the first year of owning a dog start at around $766 to adopt and get your household set up for your new pet. Petfinder estimates subsequent years start at an annual average cost of $526 and go up from there, depending on what’s going on in your dog’s life, and how much outside services you pay for (i.e. dog walkers and sitters, vet care, training, etc.) For the most part, dogs are certainly simple, loving creatures who don’t ask for much, but expenses can add up. Make sure you have the financial ability to take on caring for a pet for his or her entire life.

Identify the type of dog you want.

You may have in your mind a certain type of dog that you want – small or large, puppy or older, a specific breed – but keep in mind that selecting the right dog for you and your family is like choosing any other friend or mate. The choice should not be made on superficial attributes, but should really take into consideration things like behavior, temperament, common interests, etc. Truly consider how your new pet will fit in and enhance your life, and vice versa.

To help articulate those aspects of your dog-to-be, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where will your dog spend his or her days? At home alone, at doggy daycare, with a friend or family member, at work with you?
  • Where will he or she spend nights? In a crate, on a dog bed, in your bed?
  • Will you have time to groom your dog yourself or will you need to find a groomer?
  • Do you entertain a lot, requiring your dog to be around a lot of strangers, meeting and greeting?
  • Are you active, and do you want a canine running partner? Or is your life more sedentary? (Keep in mind a dogs’ size doesn’t necessarily match his or her energy level).

Breed is in the eye of the beholder.

Once you’re clear on the type of dog you want, then you may want to consider a certain breed. In my opinion, however, dog breed descriptions are subjective labels.

For instance, can you determine which breed I’m referring to with these attributes: powerful, fearless, watchful, energetic, friendly, and sturdily built?

What about: calm, affectionate, and friendly?

And then there’s: calm, tranquil, aloof and attentive, yet loyal, and alert.

The three breeds I’ve just described, based on information I obtained off of the American Kennel Club’s website, are Swedish Vallhund, Whippet, and Xoloitzcuintli, respectively.

I randomly chose these particular breeds to show that descriptive words used can overlap between all the groups. My point is that you should consider choosing your dog based not only on physical preferences, such as small or large, short coat vs longer coat but on his or her individual traits — especially personality traits; objective behaviors specifically. Realize that other variables, such as DNA mutations, environmental situations, prior learning history, and current conditions may make it such that your dog acts much differently than his or her breed description would otherwise imply. It also makes it imperative to find out as much as you can about the true nature of the pet you’re considering adopting. Be inquisitive!

April 30th may be the special day we recognize and promote the adoption of shelter dogs, but no matter the when, where, why, and how, it’s important to ask the right questions of not only the organization from which you’re adopting a dog but also of yourself and anyone else involved in the process, such as family members or roommates. After all, you want to do your best to ensure your new inquisitive canine will have a happy life with his or her new humans, and that she or he will return the favor in kind.

 


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Veterinary Nutritionist Dr. Cailin Heinze’s Recipe for Dog Feeding & Treating Success

Ringo-Chewy-2

A Recipe for Successful Dog Feeding & Treating

Having a conversation about the best choices for dog food and treats is an invitation to open up Paw-ndora’s Box. So before I begin, let me first make it clear that I am not a vet, vet nutritionist or dog nutrition expert. However, I am a certified dog trainer and dog-mom who happens to be passionate about what she feeds her dog and what she uses for training.

Dog Feeding and Treating Done Right

For our new dog, Ringo, hubby and I wanted to start out on the right paw with his dietary needs. Poncho, the original inquisitive canine, had many dietary issues during the last few years of his life. Because of this, we admittedly had some emotional baggage when it came to choosing Ringo’s new diet. But instead of making decisions based on our own learning experience, friends’ opinions and what Professor Google says, we went to the experts.

First we checked with our local veterinarian, whom we adore and respect. She provided us with her recommendations and rationale behind her choices. Because she knew our history with Poncho, she was fully supportive when I asked for a referral to a board-certified veterinary nutritionist with whom we’d worked in the past, Dr. Cailin Heinze. Dr. Heinze is a specialist who teaches at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

In addition to our formal consultation, I approached Dr. Heinze about being interviewed about dog feeding and treating for this post. The following are highlights from our conversation and include some fantastic tips to help you make informed food and treat choices for your inquisitive canine.

Inquisitive Canine (IC): Mealtime is a convenient time to train, but what about other times during the day when someone wants to work with his or her dog? How important is it for healthy dogs to be on a specific feeding schedule?

Dr. Cailin Heinze (CH): Once a dog is house-trained, then it doesn’t matter all that much when meals are given. The biggest exception would be for dogs with a medical condition, such as diabetes, and for those pets that require medication that must be given either with food or on an empty stomach. While a routine can be nice for the household, most dogs will adjust just fine to variable meal times/training. If a dog’s regular food is used for training, I would suggest measuring it out every morning to avoid over or under feeding if the training schedule changes. Anything left at the end of the day can then be fed as a meal.

IC: When it comes to food labels, there seems to be a lot of confusing verbiage out there — everything from valid statements to marketing garbage. What should dog parents be aware of when they read a label on a can of food or on the side of a bag of treats?

CH: There is actually very little information on labels that tell you about the quality or usefulness of the food. We have a lot of stuff on the Tufts Vet Nutrition website about labels and terms. “Natural” is an absolutely useless term that is commonly used for marketing purposes only. It has a legal definition – not synthetic – but that doesn’t mean anything because there are lots of very dangerous natural things, including arsenic, lead, yew and mycotoxins, to name a few. There are also plenty of safe synthetic ones, including some vitamins and amino acid supplements.

IC: When choosing foods or treats for training, is it best to just use the dog’s own food as the first choice? What if that doesn’t motivate him or her? What other options work without having too much of a negative impact on the dog’s overall nutrition?

CH: If a dog will work for his regular food, that’s great. For otherwise healthy dogs, lean meats normally work well because they are lower in calories and of course dogs usually love the taste. There are also perfectly fine options for “tiny” training treats that are only a calorie or two.

Human foods, such as egg, meat, cheese or peanut butter, may also be good options. Just be careful about the salt, fat and total calories! Human baby food can also work, but keep an eye if there is any onion or garlic in the food or too much fat or too many calories.

IC: Are there ways to enhance or “dress up” a dog’s usual foods? Can you add or change anything or will this throw off the quality of nutrition?

CH: If you keep within a treat allowance of about 10% of the dog’s daily caloric intake, then you should be fine. For a healthy pet, you can add meats, fat and definitely fruits and vegetables to the main diet without much risk of causing big issues. This is assuming you are feeding an appropriate amount and type of regular food that is within the range of the feeding orders for your dog’s ideal body weight.

IC: You mention adding “fat” to the diet. Are you talking about fish oils or nut butters?

CHPretty much anything, as long as your dog does well with fat (some dogs can get upset stomachs or even pancreatitis if they eat too much fat) – chicken fat, lard, olive oil, flaxseed oil, tallow and even coconut oil. Keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way – about 135 kcal per tablespoon. There really aren’t healthy vs. unhealthy fats in dogs because they don’t get heart disease related to saturated fat like people do. As for fish oils, I generally give specific amounts.

IC: If a person needs to change up the treats in order to keep their dog motivated, what is the best approach? Keep within the same protein? Or is it better to stick with the 10% rule and watching for signs of tummy upset?

CH: The latter is fine. It’s probably good to use something for as long as it works before switching, just to avoid exposure to too many protein sources. That could be an issue later if any allergies develop. There is no real evidence that rotating or not rotating food choices makes a difference health or nutrition-wise.

IC: Are there any treat recipes that you would recommend? Or is it best to just go with simple commercial items that are easily accessible?

CH: Most treat recipes that avoid things like onions, garlic, raisins and undercooked animal products are probably fine, so long as you keep within the treat allowance.

IC: What top tips do you want owners to know when it comes to treats/foods for their dogs?

CH: Don’t overdo it. Outside of training, treats are often more important to the owner than the pet. Smaller is better! As an example, the first few bites of that cheesecake you eat usually tastes the best. If you stopped there you’d be thinner and healthier.

***

Well, inquisitive pet parents, as we’ve discovered, dog feeding, treating and training can create a recipe for success, not a disaster. And thanks to Dr. Heinze’s sage advice, we’ve also learned that less is more, keep treats to 10% of the daily caloric intake, and use your dog’s meals to your advantage. And finally, it’s okay to ration out portions and use them throughout the day for training.

When choosing the types of foods, it’s important to read between the lines of the labels and consult with your vet. If you feel like you need additional guidance, connecting with a vet nutritionist like Dr. Heinze is a great option to consider. For additional information, check out their website and Petfoodology blog where you can find a lot of information and resources for making informed decisions about your dog’s dietary needs.

Here’s a question for you, my inquisitive dog friends. How do you use your dog’s food for training? Do you turn dog feeding into training time? Take it on the road with you? We invite you to join the conversation below.


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

A Tail Waggin’ Resource for All Your Canine Communication Needs

Canine CommunicationCheck Out This Resource for Better Canine Communication

We recently wrote about understanding dog body language, but what about other forms of canine communication? Care to brush up on your Doggish-to-English language skills? Discover reasons for raised hackles, growling, and paw raises? How about learning the differences between your dog’s variety of barks?

Well, have we got a special treat for you! Our fellow certified trainer friends and colleagues have officially launched their iSpeakDog website, dedicated to canine communication, and we’re beyond thrilled. (You can tell just by our body language – smiling, jumping for joy, and whoo-hooing around the office!)

The folks who are heading – and tailing – up this breakthrough event are sharing all-things-dog-communication. This FREE informational platform includes everything interactive from Q&A to how-to videos. You’ll find an abundant collection of resources to help decipher what your inquisitive canine may (or may not) be saying.

Starting on March 27, 2017, their kickoff launch has a calendar week filled with free webinars. There are also handy downloadable handouts, including this one: three questions to help you speak dog. You can even join in on the campaign and iSpeakDog-ify your own images – just remember to add the #iSpeakDog tag!

Sydney J. Harris once said, “The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”

Thanks to the iSpeakDog crew and their array of resources, information is within reach and readily available for you to become an expert at canine communication.

#iSpeakDog

Don’t Speak Woof? Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language

Understanding dog body languageTips to Help You Better Understand Dog Body Language

Have you ever wished that you and your dog spoke the same language?

While we don’t share the same vocal language, when you really think about it, we can very effectively and successfully read each other and mutually communicate our needs nonverbally, using body language.

In fact, most of what your dog has to “say” is communicated through dog body language – her facial expressions, body poses and postures. Some of the key areas of your dog to watch are her head, eyes, mouth/tongue, legs, and tail.

For the most part, dog body language is predictive, universal throughout the species, honest and reliable. Sometimes the expressions can be more subtle, but even with an untrained eye, it won’t take you long to learn what your dog is saying.

Observing Dog Body Language

You probably spend a fair amount of time watching and observing your dog already, like when she’s playing and frolicking about, having a grand old time. This is a wonderful thing to do. This gives you insight into what she looks like when she’s relaxed. You might notice things like her ears are in a neutral position, her mouth is open and tongue may be hanging out, her tail is down in a loose position (not rigid or tucked), and her gaze is easy.

How about other times? What about your dog meets someone new? Goes to a new place? When she sees something she’s never seen before? Or hears something she’s never heard before?

It’s important we observe our dogs during these times as well; dog body language will tell you what they’re thinking. For example, if your dog is on alert but not necessarily behaving in a manner us humans would interpret as fearful or aggressive, you’ll notice numerous signs that she’s assessing the situation. In this case, her ears might be pointing forward, as if trying to pick up a sound, her mouth might be closed, her tail up but not necessarily bristled and maybe even moving side to side, and she may also be leaning forward – all of the things people do when we are trying to make a judgment call about the safety of our surroundings.

And there are several telltale (telltail?!) signs that can help clue you in when your dog is alert or aroused, scared or defensive; these may include hackles raised, tail either straight up in the air like a flag (more alert) or tucked under her legs (more concerned), lips curled and perhaps showing teeth, ears either forward or flattened back, and body shifted forward slightly or lowered. Some of these signs indicate defense, whereas others are more friendly. Raised hackles doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is being “aggressive.” On the flip side, a wagging tail doesn’t always mean “happy.” Remember, each dog is unique and different, so the more you get to know your own inquisitive canine, the better you’ll become at reading his or her emotional state – and the message your pet is trying to communicate.

Learning how to sharpen your canine-human communication is easy when you know what to look for.

THE BIG PICTURE:

  • Take a mental snapshot of what your dog looks like (how she acts) when relaxed. This is a great way to establish a baseline of your dog’s friendly behavior.
  • When observing your dog at any given time, look at the entire picture, not just a piece.
  • Be aware of your dog’s surroundings and the possible effects it may have on her behavior. Anything new? Different? Something she might be afraid of?
  • If and when your dog shows any change from that baseline-relaxed appearance, try to determine what the trigger might be, then take note. You may want or need to do some pleasant association training to help your dog relax. The more familiar you are with how she expresses herself, the better able you’ll be able to help her alleviate fear and anxiety and remove her from situations that make her stressed and/or aggressive.

To help you keep track of the various body language your dog displays, and to go further into the world of canine communication, check out the iSpeakDog.org website where you’ll find an assortment of resources to help your communication skills.

What does your dog’s body language tell you? Is there something specific he or she does that you know means something special? Let us know what your inquisitive canine is saying!


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

No Dog Left Behind: Making the Case for Canine Education

Why Society Should Value Canine Education

Education is important — so much so that it’s written into our law… for humans.

In the United States, there are compulsory education laws, which mandate that children attend school (public, private or home) by a certain age, and state they are not allowed to drop out (should they decide to) until a specific age. These laws were developed to help literacy rates, protect against child labor, and to better the population as a whole. Unfortunately, there’s no such law to promote canine education.

Why You Should Value canine educationIf we, as a society, promote the importance of education for people, then I propose that it’s high time we advocate for a similar system for inquisitive canines. Dogs (and other non-human animals) are becoming more a part of our everyday culture. I submit that we will only benefit if we establish similar requirements for our canine companions in order for them to not only adapt, but also to contribute in positive ways and gain wider acceptance.

Why Canine Education Matters

According to this recent Harris Poll, 95% of Americans consider their pet as part of the family – I know I certainly do! So if this is the case, then why not go above and beyond the birthday present, special homemade treats and spa sessions by giving our dogs a canine education that not only enhances their home life but also allows them to become an upstanding member of society?

One reason I became a certified dog trainer was because I wanted to be able to bring my own dog to as many places as possible. My rationale was that if all dogs were well-mannered, then they would be welcomed by more people and into more places, and eventually would help change our “no dogs allowed” culture to “courteous canines welcomed.”

How great would that be? (Bark once if you agree, twice if you enthusiastically concur!)

I know there are some naysayers out there gasping as they read this, and I realize that some places might not be appropriate for dogs (i.e. commercial kitchens, operating rooms for humans, etc.), similar to certain places not being appropriate for young children. However, I believe with the right kind of training, many places that are currently considered off-limits for dogs could be perfectly fine, and even preferable with their presence.

But was does “well-mannered” look like? And what education would be necessary to achieve it?

In my opinion, the same guidelines used for therapy dogs would be a great starting point. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs must hold an actual certification. This is not to say that service dogs don’t perform specific tasks – most do. However, owners aren’t required to show proof. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, go through detailed training with their handler and then have to complete a certain number of supervised visits where they are observed and given feedback. (Yes, this is a test!) Once these steps have been completed, they provide references and more to complete their application. And, therapy dog handlers are required to carry their membership card whenever he or she is “on the job.”

Organizations That Support Canine Education

There are several organizations devoted to supporting canine education and humans in the therapy dog certification process including, Love on a Leash, Therapy Dog International, and the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen. Each of these programs requires dogs to be proficient in specific skills in order to perform duties to help make people feel happy, relaxed, and safe. These include:

  • Being able to sit, stay, lie down, and come when called around a variety of distractions, and without the use of treats to reinforce them
  • Allowing strangers to pet and handle them, including tugging on ears and tails
  • Being approached by strangers, including those behaving erratically
  • Being tolerant and accepting of loud and/or unfamiliar noises
  • Show no signs of being fearful or aggressive

Wow! Imagine a world where dogs were better behaved than us humans! It seems to me that if these skills are good enough for therapy work, they would be more than sufficient for general public interaction.

And just as children respond best to education with the support of their parents or other loving adults, dogs also thrive when we humans work on canine education with them– and in the process, we become better trained ourselves.

So here’s my question to you inquisitive pet lover: What do you think about mandated canine education – and if we get people and their pups to participate, should society as a whole, welcome dogs into places they weren’t previously allowed? I say, no dog left behind!


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Trust Your Instincts: How to Know When The Time is Right to Adopt a New Dog

when is the right time to adopt a new dogWhen is the Right Time to Adopt a New Dog

How do you find love again after your heart has been broken? Not only is this an eternal human question, but it extends to canines as well. Choosing to adopt a new dog after loss isn’t an easy decision, but it’s one many pet owners make.

And it’s a question I’ve been grappling with since the original Inquisitive Canine, Poncho, departed the earth in July 2015. Not only was he my husband’s and my BFF (Best Furry Friend), but he was also the inspiration for and greatest helper in our family business. (If you never met Poncho, you can read about him here.) Losing Poncho to the great beyond was devastating for me, as it is for all other pet-parents out there who have gone through the horrible ordeal of the death of a beloved animal.

I remember so clearly when my husband and I were struggling with Poncho’s condition, and wondering how we’d ever know when the right time would be to let him go.

Many friends reassured me by saying, “You’ll just know.”

And, lo and behold, they were right.

How to know it’s the right time to adopt a new dog?

In a very similar way, I often wondered when we’d be ready to take the plunge and adopt a new dog. Even though I knew in my heart someday we would want to be adopted by another inquisitive canine, neither my husband nor I could imagine how and when that would happen.

As time went on, though, despite the fact I’m surrounded by inquisitive canines all of the time, I began to realize how much I missed being a dog-mom. Getting to participate in classes as a student with my BFF at my side, attending working workshops where I could not only have fun with my dog but also get continuing education credits to keep my certification current, and of course family outings and vacations — because it’s always about our dog. It was rough on both my husband and me not being able to do our favorite activities including Nose Work, agility, Flyball, and Therapy Dog classes. In our family, our dog isn’t just our “baby”; he’s also a motivator, guiding light, and joy to have not just in our home, but also in our community at large.

Still, even as recently as five months ago I was still at the point that I never thought I’d be able to love another dog like I did Poncho. Not the right time to adopt a new dog just yet.

As before, friends told me not to rush, that we’d know when it was time.

This past October we finally reached a point where we both agreed we were ready to begin our search at local shelters and rescue groups and adopt a new dog. We talked with a few organizations and went to several “meet and greets,” but unfortunately, as cute as so many of the dogs were, we didn’t feel that special spark.

By day 108, I was ready to take a break from looking at all of those forlorn eyes. But knowing there were so many inquisitive canines needing homes, I took a breath and continued on.

Believing in the whole “gut instinct” premise, I knew our special someone was out there and sure enough, as soon as I’d just about given up, an alert from Adopt-a-Pet and the Ken-Mar Rescue team showed up in my inbox: “young, male, small, and active.”

Yes, he was all of that, but it was his big, beautiful eyes of the Papillon/Chi-X that captured my attention – even though initially my husband and I were focused more on a scrappy terrier type. Turned out the stunning boy was found on the streets and was taken to one of the LA county shelters. After being on a hold for 21 days and no one claiming him (yes, he was chipped), Ken-Mar Rescue stepped in, scooped him up, placed him with one of their fabulous foster parents, and immediately posted his information on the Adopt-a-Pet website.

Within two hours of receiving the alert, my husband and I were on a mission. After a flurry of emails, phone calls, videos, photos, and FaceTime calls with the foster mom, we knew we’d found our new inquisitive canine to complete our family.

And sure enough, from the time we contacted Ken-Mar to when they made the home check, we knew we’d found our new BFF. Aside from his good looks, his personality won us over — all eight and a half pounds of him.

Today I’m thrilled, overjoyed, and beyond excited about our newfound love and happy to announce that Ringo Starr Hunter Mayer has officially adopted us. I am also happy to announce that he is a brilliant new addition to the Inquisitive Canine and TransPaw Gear staff as well.

As we embark on our new journey, creating a stronger bond every day, I still think about and miss Poncho. He will always be the original inquisitive canine. But, I’ve come to learn that with similar challenging situations, time does help.

A dear friend also reminded me that we, as humans, are capable of so much love to give — this is so true! My mother loved both my brother and me equally (except perhaps when I was 13… but that’s a story for another day). I don’t spend time comparing Ringo to Poncho, which is good.

This to me is proof positive that I was ready to move on and share my love with another inquisitive canine.

When I think about all of the joy and new adventures Poncho brought to my life, I can only imagine what little Ringo will bring. I can already see how many fun times are on the horizon. And for now, the cuddles, playtime, and local outings are already bringing more happiness to my husband and me than we could have imagined.

While you can never be ready for the loss of a beloved pet, when you are ready to open your heart to a new animal, I can assure you that you will absolutely know.

Allow us to be inquisitive. How did you know your dog (or cat, or horse, or bird, or bunny, or…) was the one for you?


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Say NO To Weapons of Mutt Destruction – Choose The Best Dog Walking Gear

Here’s How to Avoid Dangerous Dog Walking Gear and Spot the Best Pet Gear for Your Pet

There is significant controversy over the use of aversive dog walking gear such as choke, prong,
electric, and Citronella collars. Although research confirms that there are many negative side effects created by using this kind of punishment-based gear, the use of inhumane training equipment is unfortunately pretty common. Even large pet stores that claim to be animal advocates continue to sell aversive walking and training equipment.

As an inquisitive dog mom, animal advocate, and certified dog trainer, I often wonder how and why dog walking gear that causes, as the ASPCA puts it, “physical discomfort and undue anxiety,” is considered acceptable. Haven’t we figured out that animals (which include us humans!) learn better in an environment that is friendly, trusting, and filled with love — not one that is ruled by anger, frustration, and pain?

Some may ask, “What’s the big deal? Haven’t those kinds of collars worked for decades now? Does it really matter how you get your dog to walk easily by your side, without pulling?”

Side Effects of the Wrong Dog Walking Gear

Well, similar to outdated, ineffective medical treatments, there are high-risk side effects of using aversive dog walking gear, which are absolutely not worth it. According to well-respected industry groups including The Humane Society of the United States, the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior, and popular high-profile dog trainers like author and on-air personality Victoria Stilwell and Karen Pryor, world renowned animal trainer and author of Don’t Shoot the Dog, the use of aversives for training purposes must be avoided at all costs.

The implications of using such dog walking gear are enormous: from physical damage and unwanted behavioral problems including aggression to shutting down, learned helplessness and destruction of the human-animal bond, the negative consequences are both likely and also very serious. There is no reason to continue to use aversive gear for dog walking and training, especially now that we know better — because we have better information and better tools to use.

Now, I’m not saying that getting to the desired goal of getting your dog to behave nicely and appropriately while on leash is easy for everyone. It’s clear to see where challenges arise.

First off, dogs weren’t born knowing how to walk while leashed up. Secondly, humans weren’t born knowing how to operate a leash. Thirdly, add up point one and point two, and you often end up with a scene from a Three Stooges episode — but not as funny. With all the frustration coming from both ends of the leash, even I can understand why some of these aversive tools came about and why people continue to turn to them for help.

But wait! Just because I say I get it on some levels, doesn’t mean I think using punishment-based gear is a remotely good idea.

Refining walking on leash is a relatively simple and easily trainable activity that doesn’t require an iron fist. When you get a cold, do you treat it with rest, fluids, and over the counter medicine that takes a little time and patience to work – or do you turn to bloodletting to cut to the chase and get it over as quickly (and brutally) as possible?

We first need to remember that any walking equipment should be considered management tools, not training tools. Empower yourself and your dog to walk together nicely using the bond you share, communication, and a clear message — as opposed to the equipment.

InquisitiveCanine_NellieTeaching your dog to walk on leash is a simple, straightforward process. Our Leash Walking 101 post outlines some helpful tips to get you started.

As for useful dog and human-friendly equipment, I’m a proponent of the harness-leash system. For dogs that tend to pull unnecessarily on a regular walk (so I’m not talking about more complex activities like sports, Search and Rescue or Nose Work), harnesses where the leash attaches to the front is my first choice, as they tend to help reduce pulling. For dogs that don’t pull, or for specific sports and activities, a harness where the leash attaches to the back is ideal. Our TransPaw Gear™ dog harness, which will be introduced in the coming months, has both – and I have designed it such that regardless of your canine’s situation, you will always have your harness bases covered.

In terms of leashes, I prefer regular four to six-foot leads — cotton, leather, nylon or whatever you prefer. Your dog and you should be walking together, so longer leashes should be necessary. Where leashes that are more than six feet long come in handy are for specific training exercises. Even retractable leashes can do the trick, but I’d only recommend them for very specific purposes and places, such as an open field with nothing the leash would get tangled on — including people, other animals, trees, bushes, etc.

As for collars, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: collars are like wallets — they’re meant to carry I.D. and complement your outfit. That’s about it.

I’m not here to chastise and point fingers. I will admit firsthand that when I adopted Poncho, I was taught to use a variety of training approaches, including collar-corrections. I never felt comfortable doing this — ever. And this was a primary reason I ended up becoming a trainer. To learn better and ultimately, do better. Instead of ignoring this dilemma, I trusted my gut instinct, questioned it, investigated, and turned to using better options that were actually easier to implement AND more effective. Talk about a win-win — for everyone, especially our beloved BFF Poncho. (That’s Best Fur Friend), but also for all of the inquisitive canines that I’ve had the pleasure of working with since then.

A recent L.A. Times article reported that the cancer rate has dropped by 25% compared to that of a quarter of a century ago, due to better diagnostics and treatment. This is a prime example of humans recognizing the treatment was as bad as the problem itself (maybe worse!), doing the research, checking old assumptions, and ultimately rejecting the status quo in order to make better choices and pursue more humane and effective treatments.

So my question to you, inquisitive animal lover, why do we continue to use and promote equipment we know can cause harm — these weapons of mutt destruction — when there are much better options out there for achieving the same goal?

A good friend mentioned there’s an update with one of the Golden Rules. It goes beyond treating others as you would want to be treated yourself. Instead, it now says we should treat others the way they want to be treated. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that dogs would prefer to be treated with a kind, loving hand over any other kind of handling.

In other words, you don’t have to be “ruff” to get the best out of your dog – humane and kind trumps ruthless and aversive any doggone day. Choose the best dog walking gear for your dog, and you’ll get the best results.
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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!