15 Expert Tips for Owning a Dog (Episode 50)

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Welcome to Episode 50 of The Dog Show – I can’t believe we made it this far! 

In this landmark episode, I thought I’d do something a bit different by taking a look back at some of the best tips from the first 50 episodes. 

We’ve had some amazing dog experts on the show from dog training YouTube stars, to CEOs of pet food brands, trained vets, dog artists, and even a doggie psychic. 

Here are the best tips so far.

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Will: Welcome to Episode 50 of The Dog Show. I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. In this landmark episode, I thought I’d do something a little bit different, by taking a look back at some of the best tips from the first 50 episodes. We’ve had some amazing dog experts on the show, from dog training YouTube stars to CEOs of pet food brands, trained vets, dog artists, and even a doggy psychic. Here are the best tips, so far. In Episode 35, I spoke with Dog Trainer Ian Stone about how to socialize a puppy. Here’s a clip from that episode.

What does good socialization look like? What would you do if you got a new puppy, at that age, to do it, and what would your process be?

Ian: Sure. Well, like I said, you wanna think in terms of people, dogs, and situations. And, like I said, my big emphasis is on people and situations because that’s what they’ll run into more than anything else. Dog-to-dog socialization is great and dog-to-dog socialization will actually help with your bite inhibition, like we talked about in the last episode, that’ll move that along a lot faster. But, you know, your dog is gonna experience people and places more than anything else. So, the process really has to do with you have to compete with your vaccination schedule too. So, here, in the U.S., puppies typically get their first shot at 6 weeks from the breeder, and then they get their next shot at 12 weeks, and then they get their final shot at around 16 weeks. That’s the ideal schedule. Now, previously, you know, in years past, vets were saying, “Well, don’t take your dog out of the house until they get the third shot.” In the last 10 years, the veterinary community has really been saying, “Well, we understand that there’s that 16-week window for socialization,” like you have to start your socialization before your vaccines are completely done.

So, how do you reconcile those things? Well, you do protected contact and really socialization is about exposing them to novel stimuli and then making good experience. And you don’t have to have direct contact to do that. So, for example, a construction down your street. Take your dog in the car, just go hang out, and go, “Hey, look, there’s a jackhammer,” treat, treat, treat, “there’s a guy in a hard hat,” treat, treat, treat, “there’s a dump truck,” treat, treat, treat. “Okay, let’s go home.” You know, and the dog is like, “Yeah, that really wasn’t that bad.”

You can put your dog in a cart and, you know, roll around a store that’s dog-friendly. You can go through drive-throughs. You can get take out at a restaurant. You can, you know, take them on picnics, as long as you’re carrying them and keeping them, you know, on blankets or in little soft crates or pens or things like that. I mean there’s a lot of ways that you can do good protected contact and still expose them to the world at large. And really, honestly, as creative as you wanna get, that’s really what you gotta do. I mean people with hats, backpacks, umbrellas, people of color, tall people, short people, people that speak loud, people that speak with their hands, cars backfiring, food cooking at a cookout, children playing at a playground, bark, gravel, wood, cement, you know, metal. Every kind of surface they could walk on. Grass, mud, dirt. Any of those things that you can expose them to and make it a good experience really builds a strong strong foundation and that confidence and stability that we want from a dog later in life.

Will: It’s funny, all these things you’re mentioning, I’m like, “I just take those for granted, day to day.” But I guess that’s the point, right? We’re trying to find all of those little bits of stimuli we’re exposed to each day, which a dog has never seen before, and understand which ones could, you know, spark some sort of reaction or anxiety or, I guess, unsureness. Right?

Ian: Right, exactly. I mean every dog…of course, there’s a genetic component. You know, some dogs just come from really strong genes. And then, you know, the environment tends to switch genes on and off. And, so, some dogs come in and they’re really resilient to begin with, they need very little exposure to stimuli, they’re kind of neutral to begin with. And if you’re like, “Hey, this is fun,” and they’re like, “okay,” and then there’s dogs that come in, puppies that come in, and they need a lot of proactive work. You know, they’re just…kind of everything is spooky and startles them and kinda makes them jump and side eye. And those are the dogs that specifically you go like, “Every single day, we’re having an outing.” Absolutely.

Will: Yeah. So, what are the kind of downsides of not giving them that stimuli in the puppy socialization period? Is it really anxiety, is that the main thing that’s coming from that, or are there other things as well?

Ian: Generally, that’s it. You know, it’s kind of fear, anxiety, reactivity. I mean, so, you know, in nature, humans are like this too. Stressful stimuli triggers one of the four F’s, fight, flight, freeze, or flirt. So, you’re either going to confront something and try to make it go away or you’re going to run away from something or you’re going to completely freeze up and hope that you get out of it without too much damage. Or you’re gonna flirt, you’re gonna try to diffuse the situation. So, you tend to see fight, flight, and freeze more than anything in a stressful situation. And more things become stressful. Right? You might have a well-socialized dog that, you know, maybe just doesn’t like having their teeth examined at the vet. But they’re pretty neutral, they’re just, you know, moving their head, they never get growly or bitey about it, they’re just, “Don’t do that, don’t do that.” Or you can have a dog that, when you go out in public, just gator rolls in the leash and barks at everything and lunges and snaps, or tries to run away or shivers and trembles. And, you know, it’s like the world is one great big giant haunted house for those dogs and, you know, around every corner is some ghoul ready to scoop them up and gobble them up.

Will: Episode 23 featured Dog Trainer Michele Lennon. And we spoke all about what to do when you first get a new puppy. Here’s a snippet from that episode.

What are the most important skills and behaviors that a new puppy owner should be focusing on? Like, as soon as they get through the door kind of when they’ve just brought the puppy home, what are those first, you know, couple of weeks looking like?

Michele: Yeah. I mean you already said, potty training, right? That’s definitely [inaudible 00:06:57] at least start the process.

Will: Just because you don’t wanna be cleaning it up all the time as well.

Michele: Right, right. “How, another accident? Oh, another accident?” Yeah, no, we gotta get the potty training down. Honestly, relationship-building, like so the puppy can trust their owner, and, eventually, so that their owner can trust their puppy. So, you know, we do quite a lot of, what I like to call, training games, to help build the relationship. And those games include things like working on impulse control. Teaching a puppy to think before they react. Leash skills. You know, as soon as you put a leash and collar on a brand new puppy, they tend to, like, extra scratch and pull and bite on the leash. And, you know, then it makes picking them out to go potty really hard. So, working on leash skills, working on getting them to just tune in. You know, the puppy gets so overwhelmed with all the stimuli outside, and then most puppy owners will go, “Oh, my puppy is so stubborn. All they wanna do is eat the grass. They don’t wanna pay attention to me. They just lay down and become a,” what I like to call, “a pancake and just pancake.” And I always try to say, “It’s like a brand new world out there for them. There’s so much stimuli, so many things. Birds and squirrels and cars and sounds and smells they’ve never experienced before. And it all is very overwhelming for them.” And for most puppies, when they get that overwhelmed, they can’t focus on any verbal cues that they may not know yet because you haven’t taught them. They might not even be able to focus on their owner, on their human because they’re just so overwhelmed. And then when you bring them back inside and you start, you know, working on things with them, they can become more focused.

You know, we talk about this training dial. It’s this imaginary dial, but it goes from 0 to 100. And if we crank the training dial-up too quickly, our puppies, they’re not gonna be able to handle and grasp everything. And so, through the training process, you know, whatever games we’re teaching, whether it’s our basic obedience, like sit down, stay and come, or leave it, it’s like, you know, more like the impulse control or our meet and greets, that stuff has to be done slowly and gradually.

So, I think that, you know, as far as what new skills to teach a puppy owner, I mean, we outlined it. We kinda came up with this, “All right, these are the things you should be working on first.” And most of them focused on getting the puppy to focus on their human name game. We play a couple of “bump it” games to get our puppies used to putting a collar and a leash on. We work on, of course, potty training. We work on bell training, too, teaching our puppies to signal when they need to go potty outside. And, so, there’s a little lesson inside that new puppy starter kit, I mentioned a moment ago, that will actually teach people how to do that. So, there’s a little lesson on there.

I think one thing that might be a new concept for new puppy owners is, what we like to call, the mechanics of training. The training mechanics. So, they think, you know, they’re gonna just ask the puppy to sit and then they’ll give them a treat for sitting. And what we try to say is, “Well, your body posture and your timing and where you place the treat and when you deliver the treat, all these little things play like this big part in the training process.” And we can actually accidentally teach our puppy the wrong thing by mismarking or mistiming or [inaudible 00:10:22], delivering in the wrong place. So, there’s a lot of little things that we wanna make sure that our new puppy owners get right right out of the gate so that they don’t accidentally teach the wrong things.

Will: It sounds like, really, you’re training the owner more than you’re training the puppy.

Michele: Yeah, absolutely. I always joke that, if I put on my website that I’m a human trainer, nobody would contact me. But when I put “Dog Trainer,” everybody’s like, “Oh, she’s all right. She can help me train my dog.”

Will: So, when you’re doing most of this, like…whether it’s the bell training or the impulse training and that kind of stuff, are you using food? Are you using treats to encourage the puppies to do things?

Michele: Yeah, we definitely use food reinforcements. That’s obviously, most of the time, the best option. But we also focus on, you know, petting as a form of a reward. Access to something a puppy wants could also be used as a form of a reward. So, you know, a puppy wants to go say hi to somebody. So teaching them, you know, to have some control over their excitement, maybe a sit, will then get them, either the person to come over or, potentially, the puppy to get to go over to that other person and say hi, as long as there’s no excessive pulling going on. So, yeah, we use a couple of different things but the most common one is definitely food.

To me, there’s some different values of food as well. It’s, kinda, like, dollar bills. You know, our low-level food is kind of like kibble or something like that. Like dried, biscuity type food, maybe that’s $1. Low value, right? It’s not really high in the money. Zuke’s Training Treats tend to be like a medium value, or something with a little bit more moisture content. So maybe that’s like $5. And then our food rolls and boiled chicken, those tend to be, you know, the creme de la creme, the super-super high value. So, maybe those are like $100 bills. And if the task is super-duper tough, say, like, we’re working on recall outside, high-level distractions, we’re definitely gonna break out with the $100 bill food. And then if it’s a easy, simple task, we’re working on inside with low-level distractions, we might go back to working on kibble. So it depends.

You know. I mean, a good example, we had a student the other day who was working on teaching their puppy to come around to their side. We call it “getting into go zone.” And the way she was doing it, the puppy was just jumping up all over, super excited, they couldn’t focus. And I asked her what she was using, and it was a really high-value treat. And she was like, “I don’t know what to do. My hands…I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing.” And I said, “Well, first we have to lower the value. Decrease the value of the treat, this is gonna like, you know, decrease your puppy’s excitement level, keeping your hand a little bit lower, and going a little bit slower.” And she reported back on Friday, actually, that she was so shocked at how fast it changed her puppy’s behavior. Just adjusting things a little bit. And to me, that’s the training mechanics we talk about. Like, sometimes you just have to dial that in and figure out what motivates puppy and make sure we’re giving it at the right time and make sure we’re delivering in the right location. Those kinds of things. They’re huge. They play big parts in communicating to your puppy, which, you know, as you know, that it’s one of those things that…both puppy and humans speak a different language. So, having them get on the same page and both speak some common ground is so important. And trying to get it done fast is…you know what I mean? Like, teaching something to a puppy sooner rather than later is important. Otherwise, you can go a couple of weeks, a couple of months, and miss such an important training opportunity.

Will: It sounds like it’s a real gradual process that, you know, you’ve gotta be very patient with. But also, like, what I’m hearing with the currency of the treats and also like focusing on, you know, the behaviors in a safe environment, like inside or using the crate, those kinds of things, before you try and do stuff outside, these things are like…it’s like, you know, you’re almost slowly progressing them up to a level where you want them to be, right?

Michele: Yeah. I think that, you know, people wanna rush through. They just wanna rush through, “I wanna get my puppy coming when called off-leash.” That’s like the big one, right? Everybody wants to get their dog off-leash and coming when called. In high-level distractions. And, honestly, there is so much foundation work that needs to be done and the relationship needs to be built. And you know what? It sounds funny when I say, “You need to build a relationship with your puppy,” but it’s the truth. Your puppy has to learn to focus more on you than those other distractions, otherwise, when you start to practice that stuff…you know, we start, obviously, inside with recall games or come command, and then we slowly add distractions inside before we would ever take it outside. And we typically take it to pavement before we even take it to grass. And, so, there is this slow progression of working on skills and commands and things like that. And we definitely don’t go from inside, straight outside without any foundation skills or without having started to work on the relationship building.

Will: Dog trainer Ian Stone has made it to the list once again. In Episode 20, we spoke all about puppy biting and chewing. And here’s a segment from that episode.

But what a common problem that new owners face and the question that I regularly get asked is, you know, “My puppy’s biting or chewing a lot. What do I do about that or why are they doing that kind of thing?” So, why do you think that’s such a common, I guess, curve ball for new owners to face?

Ian: It really is. And, you know, it’s very astute that you’ve pointed that out in the…I was gonna say in the industry, I’m not sure that’s the right word, but just the kind of global getting a puppy thing is everybody is just so taken aback by that. I mean, I feel like the fact that puppies use their mouths so voraciously is common knowledge, but, I mean, I guess it’s just one of those things that like, people are like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I heard that.” And then they get in it and they’re like, “Oh my God, I had no idea it was this much.” You know? There’s just a lack of perspective or realistic expectations. And that’s, I think I’ve discovered is one of my missions or one of the things I really wanna direct my work towards is just educating people that like, “This is a thing you need to be ready for. Good trainers will help you with the tools to deal with that, but understand this is what you’re getting into.” And I think many people don’t. You know, they get a puppy and they’re like, “Oh my God, it’s is so cute.” And then the realities of raising a puppy are just…it’s a hard pill for a lot of people to swallow.

Will: Yeah, absolutely. I think, even if you go into it knowing or thinking, “Okay, I’m in for something here,” there’s still a lot of stuff you’re not ready for.

Ian: Right. Right.

Will: Yeah. What are main the reasons that puppies are biting or chewing when they’re young? Because I know that there’s…I mean, there’s obviously natural and good things, reasons that they should be chewing and then there’s the bad stuff as well.

Ian: Right. So, I think one thing that’s important, or at least I really try to make a distinction between biting and chewing. And that’s a really common conversation that I have with new puppy owners and dog owners is that those two things are very often kind of conflated together, biting and chewing. But they’re technically separate behaviors that serve different needs for the dog in question.

So, take chewing for example. So chewing is a passive behavior. It’s a downtempo kind of downshifted, soothing, emotionally gratifying things. So, that’s when the dog grabs a toy or, you know, a stuffed animal or something like that and they settle down with it and they start chewing on it. This is very often why you see dogs or puppies that, you know, go after the chords or the wood or the drywall or something like that because the tactile sensation is interesting to them and they get to engage in that soothing behavior.

Now, biting is at different things. So puppy biting is active, it’s up here, it is full on interactivity, right? Chewing is a solitary behavior. Biting is a fully interactive behavior. But part of that is exploratory. So, puppies bite in order to receive feedback about the world, and that’s one of the ways that they learn how to function in the world. Right? So, the reason they do that in the early stages is they’re simulating all sorts of behaviors that may or may not be appropriate when they’re older, in order to get feedback. They bite so that they can get feedback on the force that they’re applying during their bite. And then they learn to install kind of some of that subconscious limiting on those things. Like, “Okay, so, I have to watch my force when I use my mouth. I have to watch how often I use my mouth to solve problems or get what I want. I have to be careful about lunging and going after faces and things like that.” You know, they do that thing so that they can get feedback on it and, hopefully, learn.

And so, you know, between those two behaviors, the biting and the chewing, you deal with those with different methodologies. You know, now, with puppy chewing, there’s definitely a stage they go through where the chewing kind of gets kicked into overdrive because they’re teething and the chewing soothes the teething. But, in my mind, for whatever my money’s worth, a well-trained dog continues chewing, clear it, for the rest of their life because that’s just a good recreational activity for a dog to do that keeps them out of trouble, you know. So, I think it’s important to kinda keep those separate and understand that there’s different strategies and methodologies for dealing with those things.

Will: So, I guess, from that definition, which makes a lot of sense in my mind now, the chewing perspective, you’re trying to channel their chewing into things they’re allowed to chew. So, bones, you know, chew toys, that kind of stuff.

Ian: Correct.

Will: And away from furniture and etc.

Ian: Correct.

Will: With the biting though, is there a level of biting which is okay, or are you trying to eliminate that out of their behavior completely, and how do you do that?

Ian: Well, eventually, yes, you wanna eliminate that completely out. But in the interim, you have to work on the progression in the right order. And, so, the correct order is force first, frequency second. And very often folks work on the frequency, they focus completely on the frequency part of it. The problem with that is that force has a timer on it. So, usually between 18 weeks and 6 months, the brain chemistry starts to change, and whatever force they’re using with their mouth becomes kind of hardwired in. Like, once a dog goes through adolescence into adulthood, there are currently no behavioral methods to alter the force of a bite. So, if you’re working on frequency, which does not have a timer, you can work on frequency at any point in the dog’s life because that’s a manners and obedience problem. So, if you focus on frequency only, you never get force training. And those are dogs that are potentially dangerous later in life.

So, the two variables in a dog’s brain are force is usually measured by, what we call, acquired bite inhibition. Frequency is generally measured by threshold, like what is the amount of stress a dog has to undergo before they use their mouth to solve the problem. Well, like I said earlier, puppies do a bunch of knucklehead things because they’re simulating stuff. So, they bite even though they’re not necessarily under stress. This is how they simulate those situations and then they get feedback on it, so later in life, when they’re in stressful situations and they feel like using their mouth, there’s that unconscious limiting this. So it’s like, “Eh, pump the brakes a little bit on that mouth.” And that’s an important skill for a dog to have as they navigate through human society, right?

So, we do that with pain feedback is the main method that we use for doing that. Pain feedback and limiting their interactivity, and here’s what I mean by that. Right? So, puppy’s playing with us, interacting with us, we’re like, “Oh, a little puppy, little puppy, little puppy,” starts chomping, they’re sharky. Right? So, if I jerk away, I’m triggering that chase drive, I’m just ramping them up. I don’t wanna do that. So, I start doing it the same way an adult dog wood, right? So, if that puppy’s hanging off an adult dog’s face, at some point, that adult dog is like…and the puppy is like, “Whoa, whoa. Sorry, sorry.” And then the puppy comes in a little softer and the adult’s like, “Okay, we’re back on track. Thanks. No harm, no foul.” And that’s really important, dogs don’t hold a grudge.

So, the puppy’s doing that, we give them a pain response. We’re like, “Ouch, hey, don’t do that.” If the puppy bucks their head back, we go, “Hey, great, good job. You and I can continue to interact.” If the puppy comes in again, you know, we give another like, “Ouch, you little worm. Stop it.” If they bucked their head back, like, “Fantastic, we’ll continue.” If they do not, then here’s the important part. You eject. You completely dip out. Interactivity stops.

And, so, it’s very important, and we talk about this a lot with puppies in general, you know, that they have a limited environment. So, that means, when you’re interacting with a puppy, you’re either in a space that you can escape from or the puppy is tethered to the furniture so that you can escape out of range. It doesn’t work if you take the puppy and put them somewhere because that’s not how they learn. It’s not fast enough. You need the puppy to understand, “Your behavior has a direct effect on the outcomes that you’re experiencing.” right?

That doesn’t work the first time, it doesn’t work the second time, it doesn’t even work the 10th time. But by the 25th or 30th time, when I say, “Ouch,” the puppy’s like, “that means you are about to leave. I need to start reeling it back,” because they don’t want you to leave. Now, you can dip out, if they get too intense, 60 to 90 seconds. You come back and like, “Can we try it again?”

You know, and it’s just, I think where people really struggle with that is, you know, they do that, they hear this advice, then they say, “Well, I said ‘ouch’ and it jazzed him up.” Okay, well, it’s new to him. You need to do it more. Eject. Or like, “Well, I did this for a couple of days and he’s still doing it.” And I’m like, “Do it more.” Like, it takes weeks and sometimes months to get through this, but you have to teach them so that, later in life, they have that unconscious limiting. Right?

So, here’s a scenario. Say, a dog’s asleep in their living room, you got a 3-year-old dog’s asleep in the living room. Toddler runs through, as toddlers do, steps on the dog. Now, a dog that gets startled out of sleep is going to come out swinging. A dog with great bite inhibition won’t even make contact because he’s got that great unconscious limiting. A dog with very poor bite inhibition might otherwise be a great dog in other aspects but, because he doesn’t have that limiter, might potentially really hurt that kid. Right? Because he’s startled.

And, so, it’s very important I think, in my mind, to really just work through the problem, as unpleasant as it is, wear gardening gloves, if you have to, for crying out loud, but work through the problem because the payout, later in life, you’re dropping pennies in a savings account that’s gonna pay out tremendously later in life. And, so, it’s important to do that work.

Will: Have you ever wondered what questions you should ask before adopting a dog? Well, in Episode 24, I spoke with Dr. Carley Faughn from the Best Friends Animal Society. And we cover that exact question in this next segment.

For, potentially, a new dog owner or, you know, someone who’s adopting a dog from Best Friends or another shelter, what kind of questions should they be asking the shelter? And I guess, from your perspective as the sanctuary or another shelter, how much are you actually assessing the owner as well?

Dr. Faughn: Yeah, it’s a really good question. You know, we really embrace open adoptions and we don’t want to judge anyone based on appearance or anything like that. We want our dogs to go home. So, you know, your first question of, “What should people be asking, the shelters or sanctuaries, when they’re adopting?” is asking about their medical and behavioral profiles. What do they know about them? Sometimes we don’t know anything when the dog comes in, but we learn about that individual while hearing from them. So, we can give them some kind of information, even if they came in with no information. So, asking them about their medical history, asking about their behavior history, how are they meeting new people, do they get along with other dogs, or are they kind of dog-selective? Again, thinking about your lifestyle. If you’re gonna wanna go over to a friend’s house for a barbecue and they have dogs and you wanna bring your dog, you need to keep that in mind. So, those are some of the kinda basic common questions I think that I would start with and asking shelters and rescues about.

Will: And on the flip side, like you mentioned, you don’t like to judge anyone, which is great, but are you asking certain questions of owners to make sure that the dog is going to a place where it’s going to be, you know, looked after properly?

Dr. Faughn: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s very much an open conversation. And, not to sound repetitive, but again, asking them about their lifestyle and what’s their day to day and what are they looking for in a companion? You know, “Do you want someone that’s gonna stangle up on the couch or bed with you to sleep?” Maybe, some people do, some people don’t. They want a dog that’s just gonna kinda be there and maybe be their running friend and things like that. So, it’s really just getting to know the person or the people or the family or whoever it might be that’s looking to adopt so that we’re going in our own minds and through our database and thinking, “Okay, these are the dogs we’re gonna introduce you to and see how that goes.”

Will: It does sound like it’s kinda like a matchmaking thing. And really understanding the lifestyle and then understanding what the dog’s like, the behavior of the dog, and making sure that that’s gonna be a good fit. Like what else makes for a successful adoption?

Dr. Faughn: So, I mentioned relationship-based training earlier on, and that’s something that I personally am a strong advocate of. And, so, as Best Friends, we have a lot of resources on our website about relationship-based training. And it’s primarily, you know, positive reinforcement. So, when they’re doing something, a desirable behavior or behavior you want them to do, you reward them, whether that be with a treat, game of tug, or petting, or like a happy vocalization to them. So, you know, I think learning about how to build that relationship with your dog through positive experiences is absolutely important. You want that trust and you wanna build that trust and it needs to be mutual.

And so, you know, again, dogs come from all kinds of situations and, you know, we have a lot of fearful dogs or sensitive dogs. So, again, understanding that body language and learning how to incorporate some really simple relationship-based training would be critical, as well as some enrichment for them.

Will: Do you have like a feedback loop with adopters after they adopt the dog? You know, what does that first couple of weeks, couple of months look like when they’ve adopted a dog?

Dr. Faughn: Yeah. So, we typically do like a 2-day, 2-week, 2-month or 3-day, 3-week, 3-month follow-up. And myself and our trainer, like if there’s any behavior challenges that come up, then they’ll introduce them to us and we’ll do some virtual consults and talk through any behavior challenges they might be having. We’ll even write up training plans for them and go through them with them, talk about specific enrichment, gear them towards even webinars and, you know, other virtual learnings specific to the challenges that they’re having. So, I’d say we have a pretty close relationship with most of our adopters. And it’s really nice because they send us great updates with pictures, and it’s so reinforcing for everyone, for all of our staff, because we know that, not only did we get that dog into a home, but because we got that dog into a home, we’re able to turn around and save another.

Will: Is your dog due to have surgery? Or is that something you might encounter in the future? Well, in Episode 44, I spoke with Dr. John Morgan about the questions you should ask before having dog surgery.

What questions could I ask to get confidence in that I’m with the right vet, someone that I can trust to do surgery?

Dr. Morgan: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s a really tricky one. Because often, you know, vets don’t know their own limitations or aren’t being transparent about their limitations. I think the biggest question you could ask is, “How many of these have you done before?” Or even getting a recommendation from another vet.

Unfortunately, you know, obviously, we do get a little bit overconfident in certain cases, and, so, questions from owners should be asked. And also, if your funding is available to it, then the option of going to a specialist should be considered in real complicated procedures, or offered if the vet’s don’t feel comfortable in that space. So, really, really asking those questions and making sure you get a sense for what they’re like is really important. Of course, personal recommendations from people that have used the vet before, it’s always a good option.

Will: Yeah, I think that’s when you feel the most comfortable. If you’ve spoken to another couple of owners, maybe similar breeds that have gone through the process at that vet, it’s gonna give you confidence.

Dr. Morgan: Exactly right. Yeah. Because I mean, there are certain procedures that I won’t go near. And I think that either even if it’s internal referrals or meeting another vet within practice, or, potentially, going elsewhere, it should be considered for nonemergency procedures. And often, just about sort of getting that clarity from your vet. We do find that most issues that we have actually come from a lack of communication. So, having the time and asking those important questions is really vital on both sides.

Will: All the way back in Episode 3, I spoke with Robert Cabral. It’s been one of the most successful episodes we’ve recorded. And he shares the principles of training your dog. Check it out here.

Will: So, back to training for a second. Do you have a set of principles you follow when trying to train a dog something? Do you want to take the time to do that?

Robert: Yeah. My saying is everything I do with a dog starts with a toy and a treat and where it goes from there is up to the dog. So, everything, in my philosophy of training a dog, must start with, one, a relationship and, two, a desire of the dog to want to please me. So, I want the dog to, first of all, look to me as somebody he wants to be with, he wants to do something for. And then, two, I wanna give him a reason to do that. That means there’s a reward. That can be a treat. It can be a toy, it can be a pat on the head, it can be, “Attaboy,” or anything like that. But that’s where everything must, must start with the dog.

You know, we can take a dog that maybe has, you know, an aggression or reactivity issue, if it’s dominance-based, and use more of a compulsion or a correction on the dog to get it to not do it. But what we really wanna do to train a dog is to form a relationship and form habits, form behaviors on the dog, and then use those and put them on cue.

Will: Okay. So, would you say how important is like repetition and everything like that when you’re trying to teach a dog something?

Robert: Huge. You know, I think the biggest failure of people is that they end up giving up too soon. I’ve had dogs where it took me an entire 40-minute session to get them to lie down, using a treat, to get a proper down. And, I mean, I could’ve done it with a prong collar on an electric collar or yanked them down or done that, but I didn’t really think it was necessary. Now, that’s not saying I’m against prong collars, e-collars, or anything like that. I think every tool has a place for a dog. But I think most tools are just…you know, it’s a generic tool. It’s like I get a remote call [inaudible 00:34:46] and they start pushing buttons, pushing buttons. That doesn’t solve the problem. Right? It’s not a remote-control dog. It’s actually a living, breathing, thinking, a being that has feelings and emotions like us.

To train them, we need to connect with them. And I think that’s kind of void in a lot of training methods, whether it’s the all positive or the all compulsion. I think these trainers are overlooking the cognitive, the mental aspect, the emotional aspect of the dog and just thinking, “I said, ‘Sit.’ You got to sit. And if it’s not working with a treat, I need to get a different treat.” No, there might be a reason the dog’s not sitting. Right? The dog might not be clear on what you want him to do. The dog might have an ache or a pain or the dog might be uncomfortable or fearful or dominant. Those are things we need to look at when we examine the whole dog. And that’s what any good dog trainer is a master at doing this, figuring that out. It’s communication.

Will: Does a dog forget something? Because I guess, if they’re not doing it regularly…or is it if you teach a dog, you know, to lie down or to sit or whatever it is, they seem to kind of remember that for a long, long time.

Robert: True. Well, I mean too people forget things. You know, it’s the exact same thing. And when you look at any mammal…

Will: It’s like riding a bike thing I guess?

Robert: Yeah, it’s the same thing. You know, we forget things, but, if we’re reminded, then we remember it more quickly than if we’re first taught it. Exact same situation with a dog. You know, really you gotta look at the dog, and I think this is one of my main things I try to preach in my lectures is please understand that the dog is an emotional creature. He might be having a good day, he might be having a bad day. He might be happy, he might be sad. He might be stubborn, he might be easy. But those are all things you’ve gotta look at and understand when you work with a dog.

Will: For more tips on training your dog I had Marc Goldberg on the show in Episode 27. We dive deep onto training a dog using an e-collar, and here’s a snippet from that episode.

What does your methodology look like? And how do you teach a dog to do something using an e-collar?

Marc: Yeah, no worries. So, well, first, what we do…I’ve told you that The Monks and I, in our professional programs, are teaching all the way up obedience and, you know, good behavior, manners, problem-solving, from soup to nuts, in roughly 3 weeks. In the book, we decided to slow it down a little bit, because we’re professionals, like we just do this all day, every day, so, we know what we’re looking at. In the book, what we did was we came out with a daily planner, it tells you what to do every day for 6 weeks. At the end of 6 weeks, you’ll have a fully trained dog. And by “fully trained,” I mean a dog you can go hiking with off-leash someplace where it’s reasonably safe. You know, I wouldn’t do it down the middle of a divided highway, right? But you could go into off-leash safe areas, play with your dog, and know, if he scares up a rabbit, you’ll get them back readily. A dog who go to bed, lay down when asked and so forth.

So, we start out by introducing the training collar and we merely teach the dog that, this little tap on the shoulder, this little funny feeling that’s unimportant, it’s so low, what we’re shooting for, we call it “the educational level,” by the way, is a sensation delivered to the dog that he will feel as though somebody tapped you on the shoulder. And just as we do that, what we do is we turn around and walk the other direction. In fact, we start training indoors. We start training in the house because there are fewer distractions in the home, number one, and also a lot of people struggle with bad behavior in the house. So, it’s a really good way of starting low-key gentle, easy training. And all we do is we walk them from one end of the house and just, as the dog is gonna pull ahead of us, we tap the button and turn around. There’s pictures of this to make it clear, what to do. Actually, there’s a couple hundred collar pictures in that book.

But the essence of the thing that we start with is the button has one very simple significance. Tap on the shoulder means, “Hey, buddy, we’re turning the other way.” And ultimately, then, we can teach the dog, “Now, it has other contexts.” We can pair the tap with the command that the dog probably already knew, for sit, but we use the help mold the dog. We’re never yanking or cranking on the dog at all. We’re never cranking up the collar and saying, “Do it or I’ll make you sorry,” never. It’s a question of helping the dog achieve it and understanding the tap from the e-collar means, listen to the word, now that we’ve put a word to a command, and do the word. And there’s a food treat.

And, in fact…well, let me show you my little Murphy here. Here’s Murphy, right? So, we put a food treat right to his face and help him to sit. So, the food treat is a cue that we want the dog to sit. The word is a cue. The lifting of the treat is the cue, all to help the dog sit. But so is the tap of the button. The value of it is is that we can use it, eventually, from a distance. So, if we want a dog to sit 30 or 40 feet away from us, you know, we can just tap and tell him and he’ll do it. And, eventually, we can eliminate the tap because the e-collar is a tool to be used and then, eventually, fade it back, way back.

Will: Yeah. So, I think that language you use is very helpful in the sense that, rather than saying things like “shock,” you say, you know, “light sensation.” I think that helps me understand kind of what the process looks like. As well as talking about the tap on the shoulder, rather than what people might associate with the old e-collars.

Marc: Well, you see your dog…if I may, just let me put this out there. If you push a button and you see your dog jump or exhibit any sign of discomfort, you’re doing it wrong. And we can help you with that. That’s not what we’re after.

Will: Dog Trainer Ian Stone is back on the list again. And this time it’s Episode 47. We talk about what you can replace food-based rewards with when training your dog. Check it out here.

What I’m hearing you say is you need to find kind of other rewards outside of food-based rewards that you can balance out the training with. And you might start with more food, like 80% initially, but you’re trying to get that down over time, as you get those reps out. What are some of those other rewards? You kind of hinted, you said “giving them a toy,” I guess “giving them praise.” What are some other examples of rewards?

Ian: So, like I said, I always put those all at the same time. So, I think people get stuck in using, “Well, I’m using food to train,” and then their entire training system is just pivoting on that piece of food. And it shouldn’t. The food is just a training aid.

So, for example, one of the big parts of my training system is I always have dogs move. And, so, even if I’m using food, they’re moving to access the food, I treat the food like a toy. They chase the food into my hand, or I toss it, or they move into my bubble, or something like that. That makes acquiring the food much more interesting and enjoyable for them.

I’m also using a lot of authentic praise and feedback the whole time. I use a lot of, what I call, touch tactics, which are strategic petting in places that I know that I have established that particular dog likes it. On the shoulders, base of the tail, chin and the chest, the inguinal area inside the thigh. So, you know, a reward event might last 2 seconds, it might last 15, 20, 30 seconds. But, you know, just a piece of food, “Oh, my gosh, that was fantastic. Great job, great job, we’re moving around.” You might even pop another piece of food in there so you’re getting this kind of sequential payout. But, you know, the intensity and the duration of the reward event is unpredictable. And, so, the dog, you know, is like, “I don’t know man. Sometimes I get a dollar, sometimes I get $100. Sometimes I get $5 that all come out over the space of, you know, 15 seconds.” Like, “This is the greatest fun I’ve ever had. This was fantastic.”

And, essentially, I’m describing the psychology that works behind a slot machine. That’s why people spend all day in front of a slide machine pulling the crank. All I’m doing is teaching the dog just pull the crank, it’s just a different kind of crank.

Will: Yeah, that was where my head was going. I was thinking of, you know, the roulette wheels where it’s like a lucky win. And you spin it around and one of them will be like, you know, a free ticket and the next one will be, you know, 100 bucks or whatever it is…so, that’s basically what you’re doing.

Ian: See, and then food just becomes one modular component and you’ve de-emphasized it as part of the whole game right away. And, so, when you start rolling it back, you know, there’s other things in place. You know, the dog’s like, “I still feel like a million bucks when I do this stuff with you. That’s great.

Will: Back in episode 2, we had the founder of Pet Plate on Renaldo Webb. And he discussed the differences between kibble and fresh food and which one is better.

You’ve mentioned kibble a few times. What are the main differences, I guess, from an owner’s perspective, like, kibble versus fresh food and why is that a big deal?

Renaldo: Yeah. And I would actually break it up into three categories in that aspect. You know, kibble and then a fresh pet food, you can have, you know, typical fresh pet food or you can have human-grade pet food. So, you know, I think the major difference with kibble is, you know, they’re using what you call the four D’s, so, dead, dying, disease, and disabled meat, and it’s not good for human consumption. The food is cooked at very, very high temperatures, and much of the protein isn’t coming from, you know, the, you know, chicken that may be on the label etc., it’s coming from chicken meal, pea protein powder, and those types of things. So, it’s much less digestible and the metabolizable energy just really isn’t there. It’s almost as if, you know, you’re eating junk food versus a whole food diet. What do you feel better on? So, [inaudible 00:44:17] a lot, and I don’t wanna compare all kibble to junk food, but, you know, [inaudible 00:44:23] really does kind of stand. In general, whole foods are just more digestible and bio-available than their counterparts that are passively used in the process to make kibble.

Then, when you look at just a typical fresh food diet, it may or may not be human-grade. And that’s a question to ask the producers of that food. For example, Pet Plate is made at a USDA facility. There are other fresh pet foods that are not and wouldn’t qualify as human-grade, and they still use pretty poor-quality ingredients. But, overall, those ingredients are easier to digest, etc. And, you know, as you move across that spectrum and you get closer to a company like Pet Plate or some of our competitors, you’ll see that the quality of the ingredients is really the focus. We work very closely with veterinary nutritionists to ensure that they are balanced in the right ratios that are appropriate for dogs. And we try to have a couple of different options. And, you know, it’s easier to have, you know, ingredient and meal variety in that sense than it is with kibble because unfortunately, kibble has a very small subset of ingredients and types of ingredients they need to use. You have more flexibility when you’re just cooking real food and mixing it together appropriately for dogs.

Will: Yeah. Is there anything that comes down to the way it’s prepared as well or…?

Renaldo: Yeah. With fresh food, typically, it’s, you know, prepared in very similar ways, but you can look at is it always fresh food or is it a flash frozen food and shipped to you frozen? And then you have to think about how you’re getting the food. You’re going to a grocery store and picking it up. You know, it being refrigerated is probably okay. If it’s being shipped to you, then you have to worry, “Okay. Was the cold chain kept the entire time?” etc. So, there are some delivery aspects you need to look at in terms of fresh food, but it takes…you know, we’re a smaller subset of companies and everyone is really doing, I think, a good job in terms of communicating with customers about what their food can do and the delivery process. And a lot of people have experience with that now as well from the human food side. It’s been pretty funny when you look at human food trends versus pet food trends. Pet food is probably about 5 to 10 years behind, depending on the actual trend. And, so, it’s exciting to kind of see the analogs and how they kind of relate to each other.

Will: In the very first episode of The Dog Show, I spoke with a popular vet Dr. Alex Hynes. In this clip, she talks about toxic foods for dogs.

Okay. So, what are some of those main foods? Obviously, you can’t give me a list of every toxic food but what are some of the main foods that maybe a typical owner wouldn’t know about that could be toxic for their dog?

Alex: Yeah. So, by far, the biggest toxicity we see is chocolate. And most people are aware that chocolate is toxic for dogs. The thing about chocolate is it’s in most households, it’s very tasty and dogs think that too. And, quite often, it will be left in places where it could be accessed. You know, you’re sitting watching TV and it’s there as a snack or it’s in your handbag. Handbags are a big place where people just don’t realize it, yet, a dog will go straight into your handbag and take something from there without thinking twice. So, chocolate would be a big one.

And the other thing is it’s hard for people when…because chocolate is dose-dependent. So, you could have a large dog eat a small amount of chocolate and not have any problems, but you could have a small dog eat that same amount of chocolate and be in a lot of trouble, in life-threatening trouble. So, chocolate would be the first one.

Another one we see a lot of is the grapes. Sultanas, raisins, all, kind of, of the same family. And that’s a tricky toxicity because nobody quite knows what the mechanism of by which it causes the poisoning. So, I’ll quite often hear people say, “Well, I give my dog a grape,” you know, “every so often and he’s never had a problem.” And that’s the difficult thing is, for one dog, it may be completely fine, for another dog, it could be highly toxic and cause kidney problems. And you don’t know which one but you certainly don’t wanna take that risk. Those would be the two top ones that we see.

Certainly, the other big toxicity…and we don’t see it so much in Australia because, fortunately, we use different types of artificial sweeteners in a lot of our baked products. But certainly, in countries like the U.S., Xylitol, which is, you know, an artificial sweetener that’s used in baking cakes and brownies and all that sort of stuff, very, very…like deadly for dogs. They only got to eat a small amount and it can be a very serious situation. And, so, particularly around Easter time, we’re always trying to warn people, “Be careful what’s in the ingredients. Your dog might eat half your cake, and you’re just a bit annoyed about them eating the cake, but, if it’s got Xylitol in it, this could really be serious.” So, yeah. So, those would be some of the big things we see.

And then you got things like macadamia nuts, onions and garlic. Those would be probably the top ones that I would see people run into trouble with, with their dogs.

Will: In Episode 21, I had Betty Stearns and Scott Lyle from Whistle. Here’s what they had to say about tracking your dog’s activity.

What are some of the benefits of, you know, just tracking your dog’s activity and being more, I guess, aware of a lot of these things that we’ve touched on? I’m not sure, Scott, do you wanna jump in and talk about this one first or Betty? I don’t mind.

Scott: Well, Betty, why don’t you jump in there?

Betty: Oh, yeah. Scott, correct me if I’m wrong on any of this.

Scott: No worries.

Betty: Because Scott works with our veterinarians a lot more, so, I don’t know if you wanna jump in. But I guess, if I say anything wrong, just jump in. But, essentially, I think it’s super important on so many notes. I think it’s a fun piece, as a pet owner, to be able to set an activity goal for your dog and to keep your dog accountable. In all honesty, at least in the U.S., a lot of dogs just aren’t walked. You know, they don’t get to go out every day and it’s really harming, we believe, their quality of life and the longevity of their health.

We just think it’s so important for your dog to get out there for a walk, to get this amount of, like, actual activity, not just pacing around the backyard, but really intentional activity. And there’s been, you know, studies here and there to prove that that actually really prolongs the life of dogs. I think Scott and your team, a really early research they did was around spay and neuter surgeries. And this is kind of one of the aha moments that I love. Scott, I don’t know if you wanna share it because I think you’d tell this so much better than I ever could.

Scott: Sure, and see, Will, what you have here is a lot of mutual respect between myself and Betty. I mean, we do the data science but Betty actually makes it usable and understandable by people, so, you know, there’s this kind of yin and yang thing going on. But, yeah, so, it’s really great. When we first started looking at some of the data, Alicia Carson, who’s the vet on our team, was going through it and she started to see that we could see activity levels coming up to the surgical event and we could start tracking a dog’s recovery of activity after.

Now, you know, conventional wisdom holds that, you know, 7 to 10 days recovery, you should rest your animal and so forth. But we’re actually saying it’s 2 to 3 weeks before that animal is recovering. And, so, what’s really important about really making all of this science usable is that we’re able to inform the pet owner that, “Indeed,” you know, “your pet is not ready to be run.” You know, because what we’re trying to do is give pets a voice saying, you know, “I’m not feeling well.” And it may not be anything more than that but it’s a way to empower the pet owner to make really good decisions about the pet they love so much.

Will: Okay, so the activity tracking, from that perspective, is, for the healthy dog, to, as you mentioned, Betty, set goals and kind of stay on top of their health but also from the perspective of maybe a recovering dog or, like, a dog that may already have health issues. So, you can monitor that more closely and make sure they are covered properly. Is that what you’re saying?

Scott: Yes, that’s right. And there’s a lot of benefits across the board. And a lot of this were early discovery, exploration and discovery. Some of these things are really interesting because we’re actually starting to see activity minutes by breed in order to ensure…daily activity minutes, that is, to ensure that your dog doesn’t become obese. And obesity is a big problem with dogs, of course, these days. So, there’s many aspects where we can help the pet owner calibrate the prevention and the wellness that they’re providing for their pet.

Will: Yeah, I love that. And something which I’ve spoken about a few times with other guests is the benefits…and this is not scientific, it’s just kind of like our feel for what it’s like, but I’m sure there may be scientific backing behind this at some point, the benefits of activity, from like a mental-health perspective, for the dogs as well. You know, that stimulation that they get each day helps them just be content with their life at home as well and not get anxiety and these things as well. I’m not saying that as a fact, but that’s just my observation of my dog, I guess, and other people I’ve spoken to. But I’m sure there might be more scientific backing behind that as well.

Betty: Oh, totally. That’s actually probably a big reason I use it for my dog. You know, I set my goal at 60 minutes and I know, if we hit it that day, she’s gonna be, you know, just chill and mellow on the couch. If not, when we got her, she’s pretty destructive. And, so, you know, to keep her from, you know, getting bored and destroying furniture, we just had to make sure we hit that goal. And, so, we set it like, “Hey,” and then we send reminders, you know, like, “Hey, you’re almost to your goal, make sure to,” you know, “get yourself there.” I think it’s so true. I have so many of my friends who are getting puppies right now and they’re watching all these training videos. And all the training videos are like, “Exercise your puppy, a tired puppy is a happy puppy.” And it’s just like “Exercise, exercise, exercise.” And it’s so important across the board, for so many different reasons.

Will: Dr. John Morgan also featured in Episode 38. And here’s a clip from that episode talking about orthopedic conditions and arthritis in dogs.

Let’s have a look at the common orthopedic conditions you spoke about, cruciate ligament and hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia. What’s a typical treatment for a dog that has that?

Dr. Morgan: Yeah. So, fortunately, we are catching up a little bit in some of the preventative steps for these procedures. So, starting with hip dysplasia, we do have some early surgical procedures that we can talk about later. As per cruciate ligament disease, early surgical intervention can be useful. In terms of more medical management, it often does rely on, potentially, some injections called pentosan polysulfate, which is basically a nutraceutical drug that helps reduce the inflammation within the joints and improve blood flow. But a lot of these dogs, unfortunately, do require anti-inflammatory drugs more long-term, which is something to reduce inflammation within those joints and to improve quality of life, and to reduce pain associated with arthritis.

Will: Okay. So, I guess, the main thing is more so increasing quality of life. That’s the main treatment, is it?

Dr. Morgan: That’s the main one, especially, you know, once we get past a certain age and arthritis does become more of a problem. Certainly, my focus is on improving quality of life and making sure that they are able to do what they need to do to, not only survive but enjoy their lives as well.

Will: So, should owners be walking dogs less or giving them less activity if they do have these? You know, it is a catch-22 because then they put weight on…

Dr. Morgan: Yeah. Yeah. So, definitely, I mean, I’m more of keep them active where I can. There are certain conditions where, you know, obviously, really strenuous exercise like ball chasing or short and fast sort of running around, so, dog parks, that kind of thing, they can definitely make things a lot worse. So, obviously, that’s something you probably wanna talk about with your vet in certain situations. But, yeah, I’m more for as long as you can sort of low-intensity exercise, always on leash, just to make sure that they are using their joints. And that can actually help reduce inflammation in the long term.

Will: Okay. So, I guess the walking is good but the sprinting isn’t so good.

Dr. Morgan: In a lot of cases, yes. That said, obviously, the targets of modern veterinary medicine and surgery these days is actually to get dogs back to that level of activity. So, consult with your vet, obviously. If you’ve got a really active dog, sometimes surgical or medical treatment could get them back to that point. But each case is a little bit different.

Will: Do you notice…I mean, it’s probably hard, there’s probably not a lot of data on this. But, say, for example, a labrador owner that does those things prior to having the conditions or [inaudible 00:56:34] avoids the excessive exercise, is that gonna help not get the conditions or…?

Dr. Morgan: Well, yeah. So, again, another catch-22 on that one. So, I do find, probably, your classic presentation of the cruciate ligament disease is a, you know, maybe a 5 or 6-year-old quite overweight labrador who hasn’t…unfortunately, their owners haven’t quite had the time to get them out and exercise enough. And what happens is, when you don’t use those joints, a lot of the features start to atrophy or shrink or become a lot weaker. And, so, these dogs will go to the beach, or have a rip-roaring weekend at the dog park, and that’s when we find those ligaments potentially popping. So, they haven’t had that lead-up exercise, similar to us, they haven’t had that sort of training. They haven’t had that regular exercise that reduces the risk of these injuries.

Will: It’s like someone who hasn’t exercised for like 10 years, they go for a run and they pop their calf.

Dr. Morgan: Pop their calf, yeah, their knee’s gone.

Will: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dr. Morgan: So, very much the same. Obviously, a lot of what we do is transposed from human physiotherapy and human medicine. But that’s the big one. It’s definitely the under-exercise and then a day at the dog park and they’ve just done too much.

Will: But, for example, if a puppy came in or a young dog came in and you did notice early signs of hip dysplasia or these other conditions, would you recommend a lot of activity scheduled for that dog or would…?

Dr. Morgan: Yeah. It’s a bit of a balance. So, first of all, my suggestion is always getting diagnosis. But, yeah, beyond that, if we see signs of early hip dysplasia, we will talk about reducing what they’re doing and always keeping the weight down. So, weight is definitely one of the leading contributors to hip dysplasia. Basically, that means, even if they have hip dysplasia, if you keep them lean and you keep them relatively well-exercised, you can reduce the risk. But there are a lot of cases where confining them and leading to more weight loss makes things worse. So, it’s about finding that balance on each dog.

Will: Have you ever thought about the ingredients that go into the products that you use for your dog? In Episode 4, I had a chat with Amelia Hooper. And she shares a list of harmful ingredients you can watch out for.

About the ingredients in dog products that you think is so important to owners?

Amelia: I think it’s something that we’re just not aware of, and I think that there are so many things that we should be…I don’t know if you know this, but the skin is actually the largest organ on a dog. So, when you take into consideration that it’s also quite absorbent and it’s the way that…it’s, you know, all their hair follicles and everything, obviously, linked to their skin, and that’s got a cycle and it’s fine, just like our own hair and skin and the products that we use. Dogs are the same. So, understanding what’s important to go on their skin and what’s absorbing into their skin will actually save you a lot of money on vet bills.

And like I said, I just don’t think that it’s a regulated industry, I don’t feel that we’re getting enough education on it and it’s something I’m really big about starting Hooper Ruff is actually just educating people on that, not trying to flog a product. So, to really break it down so everyone can understand, I feel that it can get so technical, and to just really keep it basic and simple when you’re shopping, there’s some really great things that you should look out for.

If you can’t pronounce a name, just don’t buy it. It’s that simple. So, I find that, when I don’t know what things are, I’m like, “Maybe it will be okay.” And then I look at how pretty the packaging is and how much it is and then I sort of weigh my options. It’s very much the same with dog products. So, yeah, if you can’t pronounce it, just don’t buy it. Like look for natural ingredients, look for things that you know what they are.

One thing that is really important is actually using a wash that’s pH balanced for dogs. So, dogs are at about 6.5 or 7.5 and humans are around 5.5. So, there is a difference. So, that’s why…

Will: Sorry, kind of lost you there. I’m not a scientist but pH is…

Amelia: pH is important.

Will: pH is important. And if I can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.

Amelia: Yes, yes.

Will: It’s funny because, if I’m looking at any product, dog product, human product, I have this probably false trust in the fact that there would be regulations because the product looks nice and it looks like it’s a sophisticated company, then it’s going to be healthy. Right? But that’s not the case.

Amelia: Yeah, I have found like…I don’t know if you had a look at…there was a case, a few years ago, with Johnson & Johnson. They were putting something in that was not very good, in their products, and it was actually something that was a cancer-causing agent. And, you know, they had a huge recall and it was actually quite large. So, these are brands that you and I use and people use on, you know, their babies. And we have this like huge brand trust. I’m not saying that this was something that happened in the dog world, but I’m saying that, in such a regulated industry like for humans, that this stuff still happens.

And then, in the dog world, yeah, there’s just no real regulations. And a lot of these elements or chemicals are slipping into these products, and they’re allowed to and it’s okay. No one’s really kicking up a stink. And I really do think that, as pet owners integrate their dog more into their lifestyle, it becomes more of a family member that we’re really going to start caring what goes on them. And we’re also gonna wanna just be bringing down those vet bills as well.

Will: My chat with Agnes Jarzabek in Episode 15 was one of my favorite episodes. We spoke about the benefits of traveling with your dog. Listen to a snippet here.

So, what would you say are the benefits of traveling with your dog? Like, for people out there that maybe haven’t done it before or are thinking about doing it, yeah, what are the main benefits?

Agnes: My favorite thing is that dogs make an excellent icebreaker. So, you either run into people that have pets and wanna talk to you because they can relate to you, or they have their dog back at home, someone looking after them. They just really help that conversation go, and help you feel more comfortable along your fellow neighbors. They also bring a certain level of security. So, if you’re camping at night and you’re in an area that you’re not quite sure of, I mean, if they hear a noise, you’re gonna know it.

Will: Yeah, that’s true.

Agnes: We had one campsite where you would’ve thought that something terrible was happening, but there was just a sheep outside, but Sarge was just off his rocker seeing it just outside of the caravan. Same thing happened when we had some wild horses one night at a campsite. Like, I had no idea what was going on, but I thought the world was ending because of the way that he was barking scared.

The other thing is that they offer great companionship. We met a lot of gray nomads out there who may have lost their significant other. And whether it’s just that they’re traveling alone and they have that pet, or, even as a couple of us traveling, sometimes Brad wouldn’t be around, so I’d still have Sarge. So that’s just a nice comfort knowing that you’ve got someone there.

They also keep you active. So, it’s so easy to get to a campground and just wanna be lazy, sit down and have some food and just, like, do nothing. But having a dog forces you to get up, go for a walk, which I find to be the best benefit. Because sometimes you end up seeing something around you that you otherwise would’ve missed. Sometimes it’s, like, an animal that you might stumble across. Or I’ve even seen, on Instagram, some people sharing how their dog wanted them to go out and they ended up seeing, like, the aurora borealis. Like, obviously, this was in North America. But still, like, just those moments, those things that you wouldn’t expect or you probably would’ve been like, “Nah, I’m too tired.” Like, you just never know what you’re gonna see when you’re out with your dogs.

And then I would say the final thing, in terms of benefits, is the fact that, if you are traveling and you don’t know what to do with your dog, it could save you some money, essentially, because you don’t have to worry about finding someone to look after them or paying for kennel fees and that kind of stuff. So, it can save you a little bit of money.

Will: Yeah. That’s a great point, actually. Like, just taking it with you can save you the hassle of trying to find a sitter or something for an extended period of time, and not make you worry while you’re away the whole time about them.

Agnes: Yeah. Because, depending on the kind of sitter that you get, like, if you don’t have family or friends to help pitch in, those costs can add up pretty quickly.

Will: The exploration one, as well, resonates, because I think, even in the area where I live, every now and then, when I take my dog for a walk, I’ll discover somewhere which I didn’t know existed. And it’s like, if you’re out traveling and camping, you know, in remote areas and you just happen to go for more walks, you’re gonna find, like, so many cool little nooks and crannies which you probably didn’t know were there.

One benefit you didn’t mention, which I thought of when we were about to do the call, was the benefit for the dog as well. I mean, like, day to day, they’re just craving for that walk, or run, or whatever they’re getting, and they’re just so much more content and happy afterwards. And I know our dog gets more anxiety and just needs, like, without the exercise, needs stimulation. And taking them on a beautiful trip like that and getting them outdoors is just gonna give them so much enjoyment.

Agnes: Definitely. I always say that a tired dog is a happy dog.

Will: That’s very true. It’s a happy owner as well because they’re kind of, you know, content and sleepy when you’re at home. Yeah, yeah.

To round out this list, I’m taking you back to Episode 19 with Dog Trainer Bethany Wilson. This is our most popular episode, so far, and we talk all about dealing with dog anxiety. Here’s a clip from that episode.

How do you treat anxiety and how do you break those bad habits and kind of help a dog overcome those anxious tendencies?

Bethany: Well, there’s lots of different types of anxiety too. There’s anxiety that’s more fear-based. And, I mean, like real fear. Like dogs that are trying to avoid, avoid, avoid even flight, you know, trying to get away. And they’ll only be aggressive if they’re pushed and they’re highly anxious. Those dogs, when they come into my doors, they don’t like me, first of all, they wanna get away from me. They won’t try to attack me unless I put pressure on them, but they’re looking at me like, “Please don’t touch me, please, please, please.”

And, so, those types of dogs, I’ll try to build some confidence in them first, lots of guidance. I won’t try to set them up to really get them in trouble right away. I’m trying to build some confidence and context, get them taking food from my hand. That’s how they’ll eat, you know, that’s how I build that up. And then, when they start to get comfortable, they’ll start pushing the line and pushing heel and not listening and getting more intense about things when they get comfortable. And then I’ll correct that. It’s really boundaries. So, it’s setting boundaries for dogs from day one.

So, if I have a dog…well, I’ll just put it to you this way. If I have a dog that is not just looking at me warily but actually tries to bolt away from me, I stop that day one. “You don’t bolt away from me.” “If I have your leash, I’ll build trust. I won’t touch you until you’re ready. I won’t bother you. I won’t face you directly. I’ll do all the things that is proper doggy body language, but you’re not gonna bolt away from me.” That’s stopped right away.

So, it’s the same thing if I get an anxious, aggressive dog that looks at me and immediately is so uncomfortable or insecure, goes after me right away. I stop that right away. I mean, there is no, “Oh, guide him out of it.” It’s like, “No, you don’t go after me. This is not our relationship.” So, I stop that right away. And then I’ll build them up, you know, as needed, as far as following my direction, once I’m not getting “me attitude,” you know, [inaudible 00:25:40]. It’s like you just have to feed off of whatever type of anxiety it is.

So, basically, what we’ve found is, when we stop fight or flight, when we stop that, enough is enough, then we get all this emotional middle mess. I mean just a complete mess of the messy middle. That’s what we’re working with. That’s what we’re constantly guiding, and teaching, and helping, and sometimes correcting. It just depends. But it’s all about balancing and adjusting to whatever the dog is giving me. So, if I get a dog that’s really anxious about going for a walk, we have a dog right now that’s terrified of traffic and he hates walks. They’re miserable for him, unfortunately. And so, it’s very sad, especially where we live. And, so, as soon as I open that front door, he’s not passive about it. So, his ears are forward and he’s on edge right away. I correct that. Like, “Cut it out. Chill out. I got this. You need to just hang with me.” And so, I correct certain states of mind to create this boundary of, “Stop worrying about that.” But that’s not enough.

Then I also have to build a lot of context and a lot of confidence and do a lot of just basic confidence-building drills to build a relationship that, “Humans can help you work through this. You can look to humans to represent you working through emotions. But you got to get through the fight or flight first.” Once that’s taken care of, then you’re working on this whole messy middle. And if it’s severe fear, you’re doing tons of food work. If it’s a lot of concern that’s drive-oriented, push, push, push, you have to correct that and create boundaries for them.

Because they have too many options. It’s like going to the grocery store and there’s 30 different kinds of milk and soy milk, and it’s just like, “Can I just have milk, please?” It’s kind of like [inaudible 00:27:30]. It’s just I’m taking away all of their options. I’m making them solely rely on humans for a while. We’re really tough because we get tough dogs, so, it’s like they don’t go potty without permission. They don’t do anything without permission for a while.

And then when they go home, we ask that they do the same thing for 3 to 6 months. The dog has to look to them for everything, permission for everything, taking away all their choices. And then, as the dog starts to build that better relationship with their owner, because they have to rebuild it because they’ve got a bad previous association, even if they didn’t mean to, even if they did everything they could, they’re still…I don’t know. They’re still kind of guilty by association because that’s how dogs operate. It’s all habits and who’s associated with what response. And, so, they have to work extra hard to rebuild this foundation of, “You can look to me for guidance, and when you’re with me, you’re not gonna chase that car. It’s not gonna happen anymore, but I’m also gonna guide you through that…” because that causes them to suppress their emotions, right? If I say, “No, you can no longer chase that car,” I’m suppressing their emotions. So, then I have to help them work through that in order to get to a better headspace. If that makes sense. And that’s usually through obedience, and drills, and guidance. And that’s your confidence building.

Will: And, so, are you using the collar throughout a lot of this training?

Bethany: Yeah, yeah. I sure am. And then the relationship between them changes. They become more leader than companion for awhile. The dog starts to trust them more, look to them more. No, they don’t get belly rubs every day but their life starts to get better. Quality of life, quality of walks. They get to do more with their dogs. They can trust them more. Then they can bleed back in some freedom, some attention, and figure out that balance that’s going to work for them, their energy, their dog, their dog’s issues.

But yeah, to be super specific, the dog goes for a walk, and let’s say they’re fully e-collar-trained at this point. So, I’ve spent a couple of weeks, they’re fully e-collar-trained. Decides to get really aroused over another dog, and they’re about to react to a car or something like that. By that point, we have a good idea of what valuable level on an e-collar, that has a hundred levels or more, to stop them in their tracks. And then they’re kind of stifled and they’re like, “Oh, yeah,” and they go into avoidance. That’s so important. So, then the next car they see they just avoid right away. They’re like, “I’m not supposed to look at the cars because I can’t handle it. I can’t handle it.”

And then we scroll down on e-collar, and when I see that, “Oh my God, I can’t look at that. I’m not supposed to,” they’re making better choices. Scroll down on e-collar where it’s like a tap on the shoulder. Then I do a turn, you know, like, “Dog, come,” and they’re, like, still a little worried. Tap on the shoulder with e-collar. They’re like, “Oh yeah. Okay.” And then, “Stop and sit.” Pause for 3 long seconds, 5 long seconds. Okay. Let’s go. “Turn. Stop and sit.” Long pause. We call them transitions. So, you’re trying to work a dog through anxiety. If you go, “Sit. Good. Let’s go,” you just made their brain go right back [inaudible 00:30:52]. And, so, between every command is, like, 3 long breaths, which is like 5 to 10 seconds. It’s like, “Sit,” pause, pause, pause, pause, “heel,” and then pause, pause, pause, pause, “change direction.” Long pause. “Stop and sit down,” long pause, “heel.” You know, so, it’s just all these things, these transitions from one movement command to a stationary. Stationary to a movement is very slow. We’re guiding with the leash, low e-collar. Then they get kicked up again by something. Correct it. See how they do the next one. Ten work them through the emotion. That’s what it is, over, and over, and over again.

And we don’t just do it outside. We do it inside. Because I can’t tell you how many dogs come to me that have already been through other programs. And they worked outside because that’s where the issues are usually, dog reactivity, you know, things like that. And it’s really their indoor work, their relationship work inside that needed the most work. So, we do those obedience routines inside and outside to just create a full package for the dog, full context for the dog. Because, if you let your dog do whatever inside because they’re generally a good dog, why would they listen to you when you go outside when there’s tons of stuff around that’s bothering them? So, you practice inside. And then you try to do what you’re practicing inside outside.

Will: Well, there you have it, my top 15 tips from the first 50 episodes of The Dog Show. If you’ve enjoyed this show today, you can check out all the full-length episodes on YouTube or any of the podcasting channels. Have a good one.

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15 Expert Tips for Owning a Dog (Episode 50)