Fearful Dogs “Fear and Trauma in Dogs: Causes, Signs, and Treatment”

Fearful Dogs “Fear and Trauma in Dogs: Causes, Signs, and Treatment”

When your beloved dog is scared or acting fearful, it tugs at your heartstrings. Whether it’s suddenly cowering when you pull out the leash or bolting/running away in a panic state for safety, fear and anxiety prevents fearful dogs from fully enjoying life. While some apprehension is normal, excessive or irrational fearfulness points to trauma. The good news is that with patience and the right approach, you can help your frightened pup leave the past behind.

Lets explore the causes, the importance of reading and understanding the signs early on and the the different ways we can help fearful dog overcome it!

What Are Traumatic Experiences For Fearful Dogs?

Trauma happens when dogs experience frightening or dangerous events causing intense mental stress. Even a single distressing incident can have lasting effects, especially if it happens during crucial developmental stages. Like humans, dogs can suffer from trauma. Without proper treatment, the fear, the anxiety, memories, and bad associations can persist for months or even years. 

It’s crucial to understand there are two different kinds of trauma: Soft trauma and Hard trauma.

What’s the difference between Soft Trauma and Hard Trauma in Fearful Dogs?

In simple terms soft trauma can be overcome much faster than hard trauma. I’ll give you a case study examples later. But let’s dive in.

The difference between soft trauma and hard trauma is based on three different factors: 

1.The intensity of the immediate emotional response exhibited by your dog. This factor is crucial, as each dog may react differently to traumatic events. How your dog perceives and responds to the traumatic incident will determine the intensity of the emotional reaction, rather than the event itself. For instance, if a baby gate falls and produces a loud noise, two different dogs may react in vastly different ways. Dog A, named Zoey, might startle for a moment and then quickly recover, whereas Dog B, Smokey, might flee and seek refuge in a state of panic. Although the event itself may not pose an existential threat to either dog, the emotional responses of each pup vary significantly.

2. The immediate aftermath of the trauma. Following a traumatic event, two outcomes are possible: Fear reinforcement or fear addressing. Fear reinforcement can occur in two ways: 1 through punishment or 2 excessive sympathy. Punishing fear can exacerbate the dog’s distress, while showering it with pity may inadvertently reinforce the fear. Addressing fear involves confronting the same event in a safe environment, akin to encouraging a fallen rider to get back on a horse.

3, The repetition of the traumatic event. If a traumatic event recurs frequently, what initially may have been classified as a soft trauma can escalate into hard trauma over time.

Soft Trauma.

Soft Trauma incidents typically occur infrequently, provoke low-intensity emotional responses, and result in avoidance behaviors.

Soft trauma can be misleading, as it often manifests with dramatic and intense emotional responses in dogs. However, an expert observer can discern the subtleties.

Here are some examples of Soft Trauma: 

– Accidents such as your dog falling down the stairs one or two times. 

– Getting stuck in a crate while attempting to enter or exit.

– Fear of “ghost thresholds”. Such as doorways, apartment building lobbies, specific sections of a sidewalk. The term “ghost” is used because often there’s no discernible reason for the fear.

Hard Trauma.

Hard Trauma on the other hand, involves a more intense emotional response that can become deeply ingrained in the dog’s psyche, requiring more time to overcome.

Common sources of trauma in dogs include:

  • Physical abuse like being kicked, punched, yelled at, struck with objects, etc. This type occurs in animals from puppy mills or abusive homes.

  • Accidents such as getting hit by cars, falls, work/hunting injuries, bites from wildlife or unfamiliar dogs. city dwellers face more vehicle trauma while rural pups encounter wildlife.
  • Medical trauma from painful examinations/procedures, injuries needing emergency vet care, blood draws, hospitalization. These can leave mental wounds even after physical recovery.
  • Natural disasters like fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes. Getting left behind or displaced from owners during catastrophic events is extremely disturbing.

The younger the dog when the trauma happens, the deeper and longer-lasting the impact will be since their brains are still developing resiliency. However, frightened behaviors can emerge at any age after scary incidents.

What Signs Will Your Fearful Dog Exhibit?

While occasional, minor fears are perfectly normal, deeply traumatized dogs exhibit more severe, chronic signs of anxiety including:

  • Cowering, trembling, hiding. This demonstrates general feelings of fear about surroundings even without obvious triggers.
  • Escaping or destructive behaviors when left alone. They panic without their person nearby for safety and comfort.
  • Nightmares like crying, running, or biting in their sleep. This suggests terrifying flashbacks.
  • Excessive barking or whining. Traumatic overexcitement of their nervous system puts them on high alert.
  • Compulsive behaviors like tail chasing, shadow staring, floor licking. These repetitive actions self-soothe their anxiety.

The severity ranges from situational fearfulness up to completely shutting down and refusing walks, play, or human interaction. The longer bad associations go unchecked, the more ingrained they become. But no matter how long it’s been, healing is always possible!

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Afraid? Causes of Environmental Fears

Dogs normally react to loud noises, novel sights and sounds, or unfamiliar experiences with mild caution that abates once they see there’s no real danger. But when those initial startle reactions turn into longer-term phobias and seemingly irrational avoidance behaviors, trauma may be at play.

Common environmental triggers for sustained fear responses are:

Noises. Dogs have sensitive hearing, so very loud noises like fireworks, thunderstorms, construction sounds, or even applause can be physically painful and create associations between those auditory cues and danger signals sent to their amygdala about potential threats in the environment even if there are none.

Places.If something bad happened to your dog at the vet clinic, a kennel/shelter, or the grooming salon even just once, they may come to view entering those sites the same way a human would view returning to the scene of an attack – with heart-racing anxiety.

Objects. Things that shift suddenly, make unpredictable noises or block their vision like umbrellas, balloons, plastic bags rustling in the wind, bicycles, or skateboards. Even home decor like large displays or statues can be disturbing if noticed unexpectedly.

Surface Changes. Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell for feeling safe. So new carpeting, floors, furniture with different textures or appearances can stress them out until it becomes familiar.

Riding In Cars. The motions and sounds of vehicle travel can cause nausea, disorientation, even vertigo-like sensations leading to associating the car with those uncomfortable feelings.

New People. Dogs sometimes can distrust unfamiliar people. Evolutionary pressure from their wolf ancestors can trigger protective, self defense and self-preservation adaptation creating anxiety and fear against new people. Without proper socialization, those instincts can kick into overdrive around strangers, folks wearing hats, the elderly, men with deep voices, crying babies – leading to defensive aggressive reactions.

Other Animals. Even cats and smaller pets create conflict for some dogs. Territorialness, jealousy over resources, or predatory drive can amplify fearful reactivity to other animals.

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Afraid Of Me Or My Family?

While people represent safety and comfort to most pups when raised with proper bonding, some still develop debilitating fears of humans for a variety of reasons:

Poor Socialization. Like mistrust of strangers, lacking positive exposures to people during puppyhood can manifest later around kids, seniors, bearded or physically impaired humans.

Previous Abuse. Dogs abused by former owners or shelter/rescue staff may transfer expectations of cruelty onto even beloved family members later – flinching from normal reaching or hovering behaviors misconstrued as violence.

Traumatic Handling. Well-meaning restraint like nail trims, giving medication or vet examinations can instill human-directed bites and other defensive actions in the future. Force should always be an absolute last resort for any animal handling.

Dog PTSD. As with noises or objects, any upsetting event that transpires while humans are present shapes assocations between those people and panic responses so that seeing individuals who merely resemble the original person can induce cowering, hiding, freezing or furious self-protection.

Genetics & Early Life. Highly sensitive dogs bred for watchdog jobs tend towards more inherent suspicion and hyperreactivity due to artificial breed manipulation selected for those traits. And as mentioned early, disturbing exposures during the first 16 weeks when their cognition and coping mechanisms are forming can have permanent impacts.

How To Heal Your Dog’s Trauma Response

The key to overcoming trauma is rebuilding confifdence and resiliency through Behavior Modification. Rushing the process or flooding dogs past tolerable levels often backfires. The key is break it down into smalls steps where you rehearse susscesfull exposures while your dog keeps making progress. 

Two Tailoring Solutions for two Different Responses

There are two different approaches to help with fear depending if your dog shuts down and freezes or if your dog goes into flight mode and runs for safety. 

1-Freezing and Shutting down 

When your dog shuts down and freezes you need to get her excited and encourage her to keep moving to overcome her anxiety and fear. Movement and excitement will buildi momentum and will change the state of mind of your fearful dog. This will allowed your dog to experience the previous traumatic event in a different emotional state and will change the association. 

2- Panicking and Running away. 

Dogs panic and run away because they want to bolt back home for safety . They go into flight mode. Here we need to calm them down and remove the excitement/anxiety. The goal is to slow the brain down so they learns to walk back home calmly and without stressin. Home is a place to relax not a place to hide.

Both approaches lead to the same goal: putting your dog in a calm and controlled state of mind where they are neither shutting down or running away. 

Long-term success requires:

Patience Over Punishment. Needless to say that corrections, yelling or tools like prong collars or e collars are not going to help. Instead remain calm, gently guide them to safer distances without coddling and keep trying in incremental steps successfully.

Resiliency Training. Building up resiliency by doing exercises where you expose triggers at low intensity where your dog can easily overcome fear. For example if your dog is afraid of the stairs, start with just one step and build up from there.

Confidence Building Through excitement. If your dog is shutting down, boost courage through excitement and stimulating the brain to engage in activity before presenting the trigger and before your dog shuts down. As inner resilience grows, external areas will seem less intimidating.

Confidence Building Through Calmness. If your dog goes into  “flight”, meaning running for safety, you need to slow your dog’s brain down into calmness.

Counterconditioning Triggers. Using food like peanut butter, spray cheese, hot dogs or other enticing treats to shift associations from scary to happy will help with certain mild cases of dogs and only after resiliency training and confidence building. Treats are good reinforces but they will not build resiliency or confidence on your dog.

Example of a Fearful Dog Case Study:

In the following example Lassie (I´ve changed the dog´s name for privacy) developed fear of stairs because he fell. This is an example of a Soft Trauma event that if it was left untreated would’ve easily morphed into Hard Trauma. 

In this case we were dealing with a dog freezing and shutting down. Prior to this incident we already worked on Resiliency Training and Confidence Building which are an integrated part the Pawmos Dog Training Method 

Question: (Lassie´s Mom)

¨We recently put up child gates at our stairs. This past Wednesday, after the gates had been up for about a week, Lassie ran right into the gate and then partially fell down the stairs. I wasn’t home, but my husband was and he said that Lassie then tried again to run through the gate and he feel down the stairs again. He did not have any physical injuries, but now he is terrified of the stairs. He will run downstairs, but he will not come up unless I literally carry him. He’ll be shaking as he reaches the top. I feel so awful! Things that usually trigger him to dash upstairs aren’t working (treats, his dinner. the doorbell ringing).

Do you have any advice for what we can do??¨

Answer:

¨There is a couple of things you can do. The first thing to do is to know if he is afraid of the stairs or of the gate. This is very important. 

If it´s the gate: Remove the gate and walk Lassie upstairs on the leash. Do it a couple of times. If you are in the middle of the stairs and he is still a little bit unsure go down and try it again. Kind of like baby steps. Once he is comfortable doing that, do the same but with the gate. Once he can do it with the gate several times try to do it without the leash.

If it´s the stairs, make sure you put a rug or something that ´s not slippery on the stairs. Put him at  the end two steps of the stairs (carry him) and block the way down with a gate. So the only way is up. Do baby steps until he is comfortable doing it alone the whole stairs.

Use the leash communication we went over when I first saw you. Do not drag him, but don´t let him fly away. Be very calm and confident yourself. Think this way while you are helping him: you know he can do it, because this is something new. You just need to remove the fear. 

Let me know how it goes. I´m confident you can figure it out! – Have a great day!¨

Lassie´s Mom – :

“IT WORKED! The minute we did the stairs with the leash, he was then able to do them on his own. Thank you so much!”

The reason why it worked so fast is because Lassie´s Mom already knew the VML method, know how to communicate with the leash and with her body language and energy. What’s funny is that she first tried with external tools like treats, dinner or even the door bell and didn’t think about what she already learnt with us.

This is just one example of the importance of mastering the VML Method ,leash communication and the walk. Your body language and energy is much more powerful than what you think when you know what you are doing.

Overcoming a dog’s fears and anxieties requires knowledge, persistence, and a tailored action plan. Understanding whether your dog is experiencing soft or hard trauma will guide the best techniques. Building resilience through gradual, strategic exposures and maintaining a calm demeanor are key.

With a thorough grasp of the root causes, early recognition of warning signs, and implementation of the right solutions, you can transform your dog’s life. Proper behavior modification training will help overcome even deep-seated trauma. A happier, more relaxed dog awaits when trauma is addressed through an empathetic, knowledgeable approach that enriches their quality of life.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved Feb 2024

(2024 update) What is Dog Reactivity? 6 Deadly Mistakes When Training Your Reactive Dog

(2024 update) What is Dog Reactivity? 6 Deadly Mistakes When Training Your Reactive Dog

What Is Dog Reactivity?

 

Dog reactivity is a common behavioral problem that many dog parents have to deal with. It can be a challenging experience because it’s a behavior that is not well understood by many dog trainers. 

In this article I’ll explain what exactly dog reactivity is, what are 7 common mistakes you don’t want to make, what to do do when your dog shows reactive behaviors and how to overcome it. I’ll explore the nuances of dog reactivity, providing insights into its causes, signs, and effective training methods. With the right understanding and training, you can help your pup overcome reactive behavior.

Understanding the basics of dog reactivity is the first step towards addressing this issue. Dog reactivity refers to an exaggerated response to certain stimuli, often leading to aggressive behavior. An example of a stimuli could be an encounter with other dogs, people, or  specific objects like bikes, scooters etc. Reactive behavior may include barking, lunging, growling, or other signs of distress.

 

Dog Reactivity vs Dog Aggression

Understanding the nuances between reactivity and aggression in dogs is crucial for effective training and appropriate management. While these two words are often used interchangeably, they represent distinct behavioral responses with different underlying motivations.

While reactive behavior involves an exaggerated response to a stimuli or trigger, aggression is a deliberate attempt to cause harm. 

Reactive Behavior:

Reactivity in dogs refers to an exaggerated response to specific stimuli, such as other dogs, strangers, or loud noises. Reactive behavior is often rooted in overstimulation, fear or anxiety. It is a defensive reaction with the purpose of creating distance from the perceived threat. Common signs of reactive behavior include barking, lunging, growling, or other signs of distress.

Characteristics of Reactive Behavior:

  • Triggered Response: Reactive behavior is a response to a specific trigger, and the intensity of the reaction varies based on the dog’s perception of the threat. This triggers can be other dogs, strangers, loud noises, moving objects or stationary objects.

  • Intent to Avoid or Remove the Trigger: The primary goal of reactive dogs is to create distance from the trigger rather than causing harm. The behavior is driven by a desire to escape or remove the perceived threat or stimuli.

  • Emotional Response: Reactive behavior is often driven by an automatic emotional response to a perceived threat, and it may not involve a deliberate attempt to harm.

Reactive dogs are only activated by specific triggers in specific situations. Very commonly in urban areas is caused by a restrainer not by the stimuli. An example of this is leash Rectivity. Which caused by the lack of leash communication skills on the human.

Another example of a restrainer is a window or a fence: two dogs barking and lunging at each other on different sides of the fence. When you remove the fence they are perfectly fine with each other. The combination of the fence with a stimuli, in this case the other dog, triggers the reactivity. What happens here is that the fence is physically restraining the interaction. One of the dogs starts getting frustrated to the point where it gets over threshold or red zone and triggers the reactivity. 

I want to point out that a reactive dog that gets over threshold or into red zone can become aggressive and create harm and bite. But the intention was never to create harm. The reason why it becomes aggressive is because they get out of control and over threshold. 

Aggressive Behavior:

Aggression, on the other hand, involves a deliberate attempt to cause harm, whether to a person, another animal, or an object. Aggressive behavior is not always linked to a specific trigger, and it may occur without apparent provocation. Understanding the motivations behind aggression is essential for developing an appropriate training and management plan.

Characteristics of Aggressive Behavior:

  • Intent to Cause Harm: Aggressive behavior is characterized by a deliberate attempt to harm, either defensively or territorially.
  • No Specific Trigger: Aggression may occur without a specific trigger, and the behavior is not necessarily linked to a specific stimulus.
  • Different Body Language: Aggressive body language may include stiff posture, raised hackles, exposed teeth, and a direct stare. The dog may display a more offensive response compared to reactive behavior.

Aggressive behavior may require more extensive behavior modification training and professional guidance.I t’s important to note that a dog may exhibit both reactive and aggressive behaviors depending on the context and the specific trigger. Seeking the guidance of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can help accurately assess your dog’s behavior and develop a tailored training plan to address any underlying issues.

Figuring Out Your Dog’s Reactivity Triggers

When dealing with reactivity Identifying the specific triggers that set off your dog’s reactive behavior is crucial for effective training. Observing your dog in different situations and environments can help pinpoint these triggers. Common triggers include:

  • Other Dogs: Many dogs display reactivity towards other dogs, whether on walks, at the dog park, or through windows at home.
  • Strangers: Some dogs may react aggressively to unfamiliar people, particularly if they approach too quickly or make direct eye contact.
  • Loud Noises: Thunderstorms, fireworks, loud bikes or other loud noises can trigger reactive behavior in some dogs.
  • Specific Objects: Dogs might react to certain objects, such as bicycles, skateboards, hats or even specific colors.

6 Deadly Mistakes When Training Your Reactive Dog

Training a reactive dog requires a savy and nuanced strategy. Avoiding common mistakes is crucial for successful training. Here are six deadly mistakes to steer clear of:

#1 Thinking It Will Go Away By Itself

One of the biggest mistakes is thinking that your dog’s reactivity will naturally go away. Reactive behavior tends to get worse because it’s self reinforced. Proactive and consistent successful training is necessary.

#2 Not Having a Game Plan

Failing to plan ahead can put you and your dog on situations where you can’t scape. Sometimes this can be dangerous and the very least your dog will get worse since he keep rehearsing those reactive behaviors.Planning ahead involves identifying potential triggers in different environments and having a strategy in place to navigate these situations. 

#3 Not Regulating Trigger Intensity

Exposing your dog to triggers at an intensity that exceeds their threshold will worsen reactivity. Gradual exposure, a controlled sate of mind, and calm reinforcement are crucial components of effective training. Pushing your dog too far too quickly may result in setbacks and increased stress levels.

#4 Not Being Consistent in Your Training

Consistency and success is the cornerstone of dog training, especially when dealing with reactivity. Inconsistencies in your approach and skills can confuse your dog and will delay progress.  You will also loose your dogs trust.

#5 Being Stationary or Making Your Dog Sit Down

Reactive dogs close to their threshold rarely find comfort in being stationary or sitting down while staring directly at their trigger. Forcing your dog into a stationary position can increase anxiety and exacerbate reactive behavior. Instead, focus on creating distance, de-escalating techniques, and desensitization to encourage calm behavior.

#6 Punishing Reactivity

Punishing reactive behavior is a common mistake that can have detrimental effects on your dog’s well-being and exacerbate the issue. Punishing is based on fear of consequence, so even you manage to suppress it you are not solving the underlying issue. Behavior Training is based on teaching your dog to cope and and self regulate their emotional responses to triggers which actually solves the underlying issue short term and long term.

Remember that patience, understanding, and a deep bond between you and your dog are key components of a successful training journey.

Counterconditioning and Desensitization

Counterconditioning and desensitization are powerful training techniques to modify your dog’s reactive behavior. These methods focus on changing your dog’s emotional response to the triggers by associating positive experiences with them.

Desensitization:

Desensitization involves gradually exposing your dog to the trigger at a level that doesn’t provoke a reactive response. Start at a distance where your dog remains calm and gradually decrease the distance over time. This helps your dog become desensitized to the trigger.

Counterconditioning:

Counterconditioning involves pairing the presence of the trigger with something positive. For example, if your dog is reactive to other dogs, you can reward calm behavior in the presence of another dog with treats, gradually creating a positive association. Many times this can be counterproductive since the treats can create more stimulus and you can break your dogs calm behavior. Sometimes less is more. 

Combining these techniques in a controlled and systematic manner is essential for success. Consistency, progress and Timing are key!

What To Do When Your Dog Shows Reactive Behavior

When your dog exhibits reactive behavior, it’s essential to respond appropriately to manage the situation and prevent escalation. Here are some tips for handling reactive episodes:

1. Stay Calm:

Dogs can pick up on their owner’s emotions. Stay calm and composed to help prevent your dog from becoming more agitated.

2. Use De-escalation Techniques:

Redirect your dog’s attention and eye contact away from the trigger.  This helps break the focus on the trigger and will start calming your dog down de-escalting the situation.

3. Create Distance:

Increase the distance between your dog and the trigger to a level where your dog calms down. This can help avoid a full-blown reactive episode.

5. Remove the Trigger:

If possible, remove your dog from the situation causing reactivity. This may involve changing your walking route, crossing the street, or creating a physical barrier.

Remember that punishment is not an effective solution for reactive behavior. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and training techniques to address the underlying causes.

How to Reduce Reactive Behavior

Reducing reactive behavior in dogs requires a multifaceted approach. Here are some effective strategies:

1. Early Intervention:

Addressing reactive behavior as early as possible increases the likelihood of successful intervention. Puppies, in particular, can benefit from early socialization and behavior training.

2. Behavior Training:

Implementing Behavior Training is key. Reactivity is not something you want to correct, is some thing you don’t want to occur in first place. You need to help your dog before the behavior happens not after. Self control training techniques will help mold your dog’s behavior. Reinforcing controlled emotional responses and self control by providing good guidance will create a stronger bond between you and your dog.

3. Consistent Training Routine:

Dogs thrive on routine, and consistency is key when training a reactive dog. Establish a daily training routine that includes successful focused sessions to maintain well mannered behavior consistently. Success is not how much you can push it until you get a reaction. Success is how much you can push it without getting any reaction. 

4. Identifying and Managing Triggers:

Understanding and managing your dog’s triggers is essential. This gives a chance to to proactive training instead of reactive training Avoidance of triggers and gradual exposure under threshold is key.

5. Professional Training Help:

Seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist with field experience can speed the process considerably. They can assess your dog’s behavior, identify triggers, and create a custom  training plan.

6. Use of Desensitization and Counterconditioning:

Desensitization involves gradually exposing your dog to their triggers in a controlled state of mind. Once your archived that you can use counterconditioning to focuses on changing your dog’s emotional response to those triggers. Combining these methods can be highly effective in reducing reactivity.

7. Provide Structured Mental Activities :

Provide structured activities and exercise where your dog does some mental self control work. Mental structured activities usually involve slower pace and more thinking, where your dog can learn coping skills and social skills. This is not to be confused with more mental stimulation (since stimlus is the problem) or obedience training. You can read here more about what is the difference between Behavior Training and Obedience Training.

Can Dog Reactivity Get Better?

Dog reactivity is very often something that can be overcome at a high success rate. The outcome for improving dog reactivity largely depends on two factors, the dog’s intensity of the behavior and the consistency of successful training. In some rare cases a complete fade out of reactive behavior may not always be achievable, but even in those cases significant improvement is possible with dedicated training and management strategies.

      As we’ve discussed, a more informed approach to understanding and addressing dog reactivity can yield faster, more effective, and meaningful results, all while strengthening the bond with your dog. By distinguishing between dog reactivity and aggression, learning about common mistakes to avoid, understanding what to do when your dog exhibits reactive behaviors, and discovering ways to overcome it, you are now equipped with better tools to tackle this challenge.

Success is measured by achieving controlled emotional responses and self-control, emphasizing a proactive approach to behavior training.

         © Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved Feb 2024

What does a dog howling mean? Should I Be Worried About My Dog’s Howling?

What does a dog howling mean? Should I Be Worried About My Dog’s Howling?

Why Do Dogs Howl? Should I Be Concerned?

The mysterious and haunting sound of a dog howling has captivated humans for centuries. Many dog parents have found themselves wondering about this behavior and in some cases asking if they should be worried about their dog howling. This intriguing behavior always leads to questions like: Why do dogs howl? Should I be worried about my dog howling? Is your dog trying to tell you something through their howl? Are there different kinds of howling? What can I do if my dog is howling too much?

Let’s unpack all these question one by one by starting from the first origins. 

Why Do Wolves Howl?

To understand why dogs howl, we need to go back to their roots, tracing their ancestry to wolves. Wolves, the ancestors of domestic dogs, rely on howling as a form of communication. This instinctual way of vocal communication serves various purposes in the wild, including marking territory, recalling the pack, and signaling danger or the location of prey. Wolves howl to maintain social bonds within the pack and convey crucial information across long distances.

Why Do Dogs Howl?

Some domestic dogs, having evolved from wolves, have inherit this howling behavior with some modifications. While domestic family dogs don’t need or depend on howling as wolves do in the  wilderness, dogs can howl for various reasons. It’s a form of communication manifested in different ways that can send different messages depending on the context. We’ll talk later in this article how dogs use howling as a form of social interaction and what different types of howls might mean.

Reasons Dogs Howl

Before we drive into potential concerns and solutions related to dog howling, let’s talk about the various reasons why dogs howl. This will lay the groundwork for understanding their vocal behavior and provide insights into their communication methods.

-Dogs Howl to Get Attention

One common reason for a dog’s howling is a desire for attention. Whether they’re seeking interaction, playtime, or simply want to be acknowledged, howling is simply a way to get your valued attention. 

-Dogs Howl to Communicate with People or Other Dogs

Dogs are social animals, and howling is one way they communicate with both humans and fellow dogs. We’ll talk later in this article how dogs use howling as a form of social interaction and what different types of howls might mean.

-Dogs Howl to Let Others Know They’re There

In the wild, wolves use howling to establish their presence and maintain contact with other pack members. Human family dogs, may howl to tell their location or their presence to other dogs in your neighborhood. This is why sometimes this behavior can become a block doggy howling concert!

-Dogs Howl to Express Emotions

Sometime dogs howl to express their emotions. This could be joy, loneliness, anxiety – each emotion can have its unique nuanced sound. 

-Dogs Howl to Convey Pain or Discomfort

Howling can also express physical distress. I’ll explain later how to differentiate between attention-seeking howls and those that signal pain or discomfort.

-Dogs Howl to Respond to Triggering Noises

Certain sounds can trigger a dog’s howling instinct. Whether it’s a siren, musical instruments, or other dogs howling, sometimes its just a conditional response to external stimuli.

-Do Dogs Howl as signaling Death?

The notion that dogs howl as an omen of death has persisted for centuries. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction, but it would be interesting to explore the cultural and historical context of this belief. Let me know on the comments if you’d like to know more about that! 

Should I Be Worried About My Dog’s Howling?

While occasional howling is normal, persistent or sudden changes in behavior may be concerning. Excessive howling could 

indicate underlying issues, and understanding when to be worried is crucial for your dog’s well-being.

Excessive howling may be a sign of distress, boredom, loneliness, or even a medical problem. Dogs are highly expressive creatures, and changes in behavior are often their way of communicating that something is up.

If your dog has suddenly started howling more than usual, consider factors such as recent changes in their environment, routine, or any potential stressors. Environmental factors, like loud noises or the presence of unfamiliar people or animals, can trigger increased vocalization.

What’s the difference between attention-seeking howls and pain or discomfort howls?

Distinguishing between attention-seeking howls and those that indicate pain or discomfort in your dog requires careful observation and understanding of your dog’s behavior. Here are some tips to help you differentiate:

Context and Timing:

Pay attention to when the howling occurs. If your dog howls when you’re not giving attention or during specific situations, it may be attention-seeking. On the other hand, if it happens consistently during certain activities or when touched in a specific area, it could be a sign of pain.

Body Language:

Observe your dog’s overall body language. Signs of pain may include a tense body, hunched back, or avoidance of certain movements. Attention-seeking howls may be accompanied by playful behavior or a wagging tail. Don’t underestimate your intuition. Intuition tends to flow in when you are a good observer just by paying attention. 

Location of Howling:

Consider where your dog is howling. If it happens when you leave the room or when they want your attention, it’s likely attention-seeking. If the howling is associated with a specific area or while performing certain actions, it may indicate discomfort or pain.

Vocalization Nuances:

The tone and pitch of the howl can provide clues. Continuous and high-pitched howls may indicate distress or pain, while short, sporadic howls may be attention-seeking.

Physical Examination:

Gently examine your dog for any signs of injury or discomfort. Check for limping, swelling, or sensitivity in certain areas. If you suspect pain, consult with a veterinarian for a thorough examination.

Changes in Behavior:

Pay attention for any changes in your dog’s behavior. If you feel their not acting as themselves. If they suddenly become more aggressive, reluctant to engage in activities they usually enjoy, or  they seem less energetic it could be a sign of pain.

Consulting a Veterinarian:

If you’re uncertain about the cause of your dog’s howling, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian. They can perform a physical examination, conduct tests if necessary, and provide professional advice on your dog’s well-being.

What Do I Do If My Dog Is Howling Too Much?

As I already covered Identifying the root cause of your dog’s increased howling is the first step in addressing the issue. Here are some practical tips to help you manage and reduce excessive howling:

1. Environmental Calmness

Ensure your dog has a relaxed environment and that feels safe at your home. Providing a home where your dog is not stress can have a great impact on their demeanor and good mental heath.

2. Regular Structured Exercise

A tired dog is less likely to engage in excessive howling. Make sure your dog gets regular structured exercise through walks, playtime, behavior training and other physical activities that involves mental self control. 

3. Vet Check-Up

If your dog’s howling is sudden or seems unrelated to environmental factors, a visit to the veterinarian is essential. Physical discomfort, pain, or underlying health issues could be triggering the increased vocalization.

4. Calm Reinforcement

Use calm reinforcement techniques for quiet behavior. When your dog refrains from howling in situations where they usually would, praise with calmness or engage your dog in a structured game that involves mental control. Be very careful with treats or activities that can overstimulate your dog, since this can trigger excitement which will trigger howling. Sometimes less is more!! For more on that read this other blog: How to calm your dog down

5. Training and Desensitization

If your dog’s howling is triggered by specific noises, consider behavior training and desensitization techniques. Gradually expose them to the triggering sounds under threshold and at low intensity. Asking for professional help from an experienced behavior trainer like Pawmos Dog Training can help if you’re not sure how to do it yourself. You can also read this bog for more insight : How to deal with a traumatic experience: Lassie is terrified of stairs

6. Seek Professional Help

If the problem persists or if you’re unsure about the underlying cause, consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist like Pawmos Dog Training. They can assess your dog’s behavior, provide tailored advice, and assist in developing a behavior modification plan.

Remember, patience and consistency are key when addressing excessive howling. Each dog is unique, and finding the right approach may take time.

The Musicality of Dog’s Howls

Now that we’ve addressed concerns related to excessive howling, let’s explore the musicality of doggy howls. As a former professional musician, as an artist and as behaviorist I just need to dive into this!! 

Each dog has a unique voice, and their howls can vary in pitch, tone, and duration. Now we are going to get into the different musical qualities of dog’s howls and what they might reveal about your dog’s personality.

The Art of Interpretation: Decoding Your Dog’s Howls

Have you ever wondered what your dog is trying to say through their howls? This is my favorite part! You’d be amazed of how much you can bond with your dog if you just listen. Because bonding is not just about doing things all the time, it’s also about being present and learning about your dog in silence. By listening with curiosity you can feed your own understanding and intuition directly from your dog. 

 I can’t wait to get into this. Ok, so whether it’s a mournful howl, an excited yodel, or a series of short barks, let’s decode the furry secrets within their melodic performances!

Dogs’ howls can vary in musical qualities, and while it’s not a precise science, that’s why I call it the Art of Dog Training, certain characteristics may provide insights into your dog’s personality. Keep in mind that like any art form, individual differences and contexts play a significant role, and these interpretations are simply guidelines:

Pitch:

  • High-Pitched: Excitement, playfulness, or seeking attention.
  • Low-Pitched: Confidence, assertiveness, or a response to a perceived threa

Duration:

  • Short and Sporadic: Attention-seeking, wanting to play, or expressing happiness.
  • Long and Continuous: Could indicate loneliness, anxiety, or a response to a perceived danger.

Volume:

  • Loud: Confidence, excitement, or an attempt to communicate over a distance.
  • Soft: Submission, fear, or a less urgent form of communication.

Consistency:

  • Consistent Howling: May indicate a more stable and content personality.
  • Inconsistent or Sudden Changes: Could suggest stress, discomfort, or a reaction to a change in environment.

Harmonics:

  • ls with Vibrato or Changes in Pitch: Could indicate a more expressive and emotionally responsive personality.

Rhythm:

  • Regular Rhythm: Potential confidence and comfort.
  • Irregular Rhythm: Nervousness, fear, or uncertainty.

Context:

  • Howling in Response to Certain Sounds: May suggest alertness or a more sensitive nature.
  • Howling during Play: Playful and social personality.
  • Howling at Strangers: Protective or territorial nature.

Solo or Group Howling:

  • Solo Howling: Independence or a desire for attention.
  • Group Howling: Social and pack-oriented nature.

Frequency:

  • Frequent Howling: Could indicate a more vocal and expressive personality.
  • Rare Howling: Reserved or less vocal personality.

Reactivity:

  • Quick Response to Environmental Stimuli: Alertness and awareness.
  • Delayed or Lack of Response: Could suggest a more laid-back or indifferent personality.

 

To sum up the howl remains one of the most enigmatic aspects of dog’s behavior. Rooted in their ancestral ties to wolves, dogs’ howling serves various functions in their communication repertoire. Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s howling can deepen the bond between you and your furry friend. So, the next time you hear that haunting melody, remember – it’s your dog’s unique way of expressing themselves in the language of howls.

         © Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved Jan 2024

Why Do Dogs Bury Bones? You’d Be Surprised

Why Do Dogs Bury Bones? You’d Be Surprised

Dogs never cease to amaze us with their fascinating behaviors. Among these actions, the act of burying bones has captivated dog parents for generations. Have you ever found yourself wondering why your pup diligently digs a hole in the backyard or carefully stashes their prized possessions in the garden? Let’s go over the secrets behind this instinctive dog behavior, tracing its roots back to the wild ancestors of our beloved pups.

1. Why They Do It: Instincts from the Wild

Understanding this behavior takes us into little evolutionary journey. Domestic dogs share a common ancestry with wolves, and the practice of burying bones can be traced back to their wild instincts. In the wild, wolves buried surplus food to shield it from scavengers and create reserves for leaner times. This survival instinct has been passed down through generations, with specific breeds, such as Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Terriers, displaying a heightened inclination to bury toys and food due to their historical roles in digging for underground prey.

Moreover, dogs exhibit a hoarding mentality, a reflection of their pack instincts. Burying bones becomes a way for them to secure resources within their family “pack,” even if that pack comprises their human companions. Scent marking, another layer of this behavior, allows dogs to leave their mark on buried treasures, creating a connection through their acute sense of smell. In essence, your dog may be engaging in a complex dance of survival instincts and pack behavior when burying bones.

Additionally, dogs might resort to burying bones as a stress-relief mechanism during times of change, excitement, or anxiety. Just as humans save leftovers for later, dogs may bury bones for a future, more suitable time to enjoy their tasty treats.

2. When You Should Be Concerned

Now that we’ve uncover the mystery behind why dogs bury bones, let’s get into effective strategies to manage this behavior, especially when it seems like your garden is transforming into a doggy excavation site. The concept of resource abundance plays a crucial role here. Mimicking the natural ebb and flow of resources in the wild can help curb excessive burying tendencies.

Instead of giving more toys to keep them busy, limit the number of toys or bones available to your dog at any given time, providing just one or two and rotating them weekly. This not only prevents an overflow of resources but also stimulates your dog’s curiosity, preventing boredom. Timing is also crucial; avoid giving your dog a bone immediately after a meal when their stomach is full, as they are more likely to bury bones when resources are in surplus. Engaging in interactive play fosters a stronger bond and reinforces the idea that resources are shared, discouraging hoarding behavior.

Consider the breed-specific tendencies related to digging. Breeds originally bred for digging may display more confidence in burying behavior. Understanding these breed nuances can further aid in managing your dog’s natural instincts.

3. What to Do About It: Should You Worry?

While burying things is a natural and instinctive behavior, considering potential concerns and taking proactive measures is essential for a harmonious household.

Potential Concerns:

a. Paw and Nail Injuries: Digging in areas with a rigid substrate can lead to abrasions and discomfort for your furry friend.

b. Indoor Damages: Burying behavior may extend indoors, resulting in damage to items like pet beds and couch cushions.

c. Stress for Both: Constant worry about belongings and disapproval can create stress for both pet parents and their dogs.

What to Do:

a. Do NOT Create a Designated Digging Area: Do NOT redirect your dog’s instincts by providing a designated digging spot in your backyard filled with loose soil or sand if you don’t want to encourage that behavior or if your dog starts obsessing about it. 

b. Understanding Breed-Specific Behavior: Recognize that certain breeds are more inclined to bury items and tailor your approach accordingly. 

c. Work the breed out: If your dog’s breed encourages this behavior and you have a family dog, work on behavior training to start working the obsessive side of the breed out of your dog.. Certain breeds are prone to obsessions. Have in mind that breed was created by humans not by nature

d. Implement Behavior Training: Help your dog regulate compulsive behaviors by teaching self control and self management.

e. Supervision and Management: Keep an eye on your dog, intervening when needed and reinforcing boundaries. 

In conclusion the mystery behind why dogs bury bones lies in their deep-rooted instincts inherited from their wild ancestors.

While this behavior is natural and instinctive, it’s crucial for pet parents to be aware of potential concerns and take proactive measures for a harmonious household. Paw and nail injuries, indoor damages, and stress for both the pet and owner are important factors to take into considerations. Managing this behavior involves a thoughtful approach, considering breed-specific tendencies, resource abundance, interactive play and behavior training if needed.

Effective strategies, such as limiting the number of toys, understanding breed nuances, and engaging in behavior training, can help strike a good balance.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved Dec 2023

Potty Training Mastery: No More Accidents!

Potty Training Mastery: No More Accidents!

Potty training your puppy is not just a task; it’s a commitment that can last several weeks or months depending on your puppy. While the process may seem straightforward, its success relies on your dedication to understand and follow follow these two  things: 1.The Two stages of Puppy training  2.The Three Pillars of Puppy Training . Let’s dive into the two stage process and the nuances of each fundamental pillar, ensuring that you and your pup build a strong foundation for a clean and happy home.

1.The Two Stages of Potty Training Mastery

Stage one: Puppies can’t hold the bladder too long

– Frequent Outdoor Trips

During the initial stage, when puppies are still learning to control their bladders, take them outside frequently, especially after meals, naps, extended confinements, trips, or play sessions. By staying observant, you can predict their elimination needs.

– Creating a Safe Space

Prevent mistakes by confining your pup to a specific area in the house using baby gates or a crate with engaging toys. Puppies are less likely to eliminate in spaces where they spend a significant amount of time. Most puppies don not eliminate where they sleep. Have in mind that puppies need to sleep 15 – 18 hours a day.

– Consistent Schedule

Follow a consistent feeding schedule (usually three times a day) and take your puppy outside regularly. If they don’t eliminate, bring them back to the crate and try again later, maintaining persistence until success.

– Positive Reinforcement

Refrain from reacting if your puppy makes a mistake initially. Instead, use positive reinforcement when they eliminate in the right spot, creating a positive association with the designated area.

– Avoid Punishment

Avoid punishment or yelling, as this may lead to negative associations and hiding behavior. Stay calm, patient, and focus on teaching rather than punishing.

– Establish a Cue

Use a cue like “go pee” or “go potty” consistently, associating it with the desired behavior. Reward with praise or treats to reinforce the cue.

Stage Two: Teaching your puppy to hold the bladder

– Crate Training

To teach your puppy to hold it, utilize a crate or a confined area where they won’t eliminate. Puppies generally avoid going to the bathroom where they sleep, eat, or spend a significant amount of time. You can start teaching your puppy to hold the bladder by extending crate time 

– Positive and Calm Crate Association

Associate the crate with relaxation, comfort, and security by using it as the designated sleeping area during the day. However, avoid crating for more than three hours at a time unless your puppy keeps sleeping. Do not wake him or her up if they are sleeping. 

– Alternative Confinement

If you don’t have a crate, a puppy-proofed kitchen with baby gates can serve as an alternative confined area. Establish a schedule for outdoor bathroom breaks during specific time windows.

In the second stage, focus on gradually extending the time between bathroom breaks, reinforcing the idea of holding it for longer periods.

2. The Three Pillars of Successful Potty Training 

1. Timing: A Crucial Element

The cornerstone of effective housetraining lies in your ability to anticipate when your puppy needs to eliminate. By understanding your pup’s schedule, you can guide them to an appropriate toilet area and reward them for their good behavior. This pivotal understanding forms the backbone of a successful training schedule.

2. Supervision: A Watchful Eye

When it comes to supervision is very simple. Your puppy puppy needs to be in one of these 3 places:

  1. In a crate or confined area, 
  2. Outdoors where they can release.
  3. Under supervision indoors   

In any case observation is key. If you start teaching your puppy that the bathroom is only outside or only in a designated area In just a matter of weeks, your little furry ball will grasp the art of bladder control and settle into a predictable routine. The vigilant eye you keep during this phase sets the stage for success.

3. Scheduling.

Set up a simple schedule following the above 3 places where you puppy should be: 1 crate, outdoors, free supervised time. Organizing your puppies time will reduce your stress and will also reduce accidents to ZERO! If you want to get a free sample schedule from a professional breeder click here: Sample Professional Potty Training Schedule 

By understanding and implementing these strategies, you’re not just potty training your puppy; you’re building a lifelong foundation of good behavior and a structured schedule. Stay patient, consistent, and positive, and you’ll find yourself celebrating your puppy’s successful transition to a well-trained family member.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved January 2024

New Baby, Old Paws: Tips for a Successful Introduction”

New Baby, Old Paws: Tips for a Successful Introduction”

Question:

How can we assist Ralph, our beloved Beagle, in becoming more at ease with other people entering our apartment, particularly our dog walker? Despite being generally wonderful with our baby—leaving her in peace and occasionally giving her a gentle face lick upon our return—he tends to go into a frenzy, barking, jumping, and even snapping when someone else enters our home.

Answer:

This is a question that frequently comes my way, and it’s essential to approach it from a perspective aimed at achieving positive results. Instead of focusing solely on techniques, let’s explore this situation in more detail and uncover comprehensive strategies to ensure a harmonious household for both Ralph and your baby.

Understanding Ralph’s Behavior

To address Ralph’s  behavior, we need to start by understanding why he reacts the way he does. His response might be rooted in fear, insecurity, excessive excitement, anxiety, a sense of responsibility for the household, the role of a parent, or being the decision maker. In Ralph”s case, I have firsthand knowledge, and he’s exhibiting protective behavior towards the household, its occupants, and, most importantly, the baby.

The key question to ask is: Who holds the responsibility for the household’s well-being? Who assumes the role of a parent, deciding who’s welcome and who’s not? Is it you, or has Ralph taken on this role as the decision maker? If your answer leans towards Ralph, that’s the root of the problem. He’s merely fulfilling what he perceives as his duty, which can be problematic. The solution is to assert your role as the one responsible for making these decisions. Once you establish this, Ralph will naturally ease his protective stance.

Building a Strong Foundation

This question explores the dynamics of your relationship with Ralph. You need to position yourself as the one responsible for the household’s well-being, the parent in the household. Gaining Ralph”s trust and respect is the first step to guide his behavior effectively.

Effective Techniques for Behavioral Training

While understanding the foundation is vital, implementing practical techniques for behavioral training is equally crucial. The first step is teaching your dog to maintain distance from the door and remain calm when a guest arrives. You can do this through methods such as redirection and desensitization. These techniques will help your dog to learn appropriate behavior and reduce his anxiety.

Ongoing Support and Guidance

You may be wondering, “How do I establish this foundation and implement these techniques effectively?” 

By addressing the root causes of Ralph”s behavior and employing effective behavioral training techniques, you can ensure a safe and harmonious household for both your baby and your furry friend. Establishing yourself as the responsible party for the household’s well-being will lead to a happier and more comfortable environment for everyone involved.”

Stay tuned, as I’ll explore this topic further in future posts, providing ongoing support and guidance on building a strong, harmonious bond with your beloved Ralph.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved Nov 2023