When I ask new behavioural clients about their dog’s socialization history, they often reply that they did lots of socialization by taking their puppy or dog to the dog park as often as possible. There’s so much more to socialization than dogs meeting dogs!  

If you have a dog who is fearful, reactive, or aggressive; or if you have a dog who is overly aroused and easily excited, understanding trigger stacking can help.

Trigger stacking is when a dog experiences multiple stressful or scary situations in a short time. All these experiences build adrenaline. Each stressful experience builds on the previous one, and normal responses begin to escalate.

What does it look like?

Just because your dog is friendly, it doesn’t mean they will joyfully welcome your new baby. I work with a lot of people who bring home a new baby and discover their dog is very unhappy with the new addition.

From the dog’s perspective, this is a big change in their routine. There’s often a change in exercise habits, less on-demand attention and usually an invasion of their space in a very different way. These changes may last the rest of the dog’s life and, as children mature, things continue to change over several years. That’s a very big adjustment for the family dog.

Does your dog love to dig? Puppies love to dig, and some grow into dogs who remain determined diggers, but the human end of the equation doesn’t always appreciate their digging “art.”

Providing enrichment for our companion animals is about giving them as many opportunities as we can to display natural behaviours. Dogs love to dig, so we should try and find appropriate outlets for that instinctive behaviour.

Learning to walk on a leash is a critical skill. Even if you live somewhere your dog can be free, there are times they need to be leashed.  

My criteria for good leash skills are a dog who can walk without pulling and stay on one side or the other without impeding my movement. Like any training, success depends on thorough and consistent practice and clear communication.

Dogs who already pull hard.
This is a great exercise for any dog who already has a strong (pun intended!) history of reward for pulling – getting where they want to go!

A single traumatic event can lead to a lifetime of fear, and many reactive dogs have experienced trauma in their lives. That single isolated incident – maybe an attack by another dog – can produce fear that generalizes very quickly. Soon all dogs are something to be feared and reactive behaviour becomes a way to keep fearful things at a distance. Constantly feeling fearful isn’t a great way to live.

When I ask people what goals they have with their puppy, most respond with a list of obedience behaviours. I tend to view puppy training as an opportunity to prevent future issues and to lay the foundation for our relationship and communication. Here are some of the things I train first when I have a new puppy.

It’s a social time of year! It’s a time to come together with friends and family and enjoy all the camaraderie and the things that make this time of year special to you. Dogs are social creatures too and, like us, seek each other out for companionship.

It’s a great benefit to have a dog park in your city like we do here in Fernie! We are lucky to have a variety of trails we can take our dogs to, but the fenced dog park is a bonus, especially for visitors who may not be familiar with or confident on our trails. 

How do you know if any dog park is right for you and your dog?

The City of Fernie adopted a new Animal Responsibility Bylaw at the most recent Regular Meeting of Council. The new bylaw is modeled after the BC SPCA’s Animal Responsibility Model Bylaws that promote best practices for a tiered approach to aggressive, vicious, and dangerous dogs as well as provisions for animal welfare, control, licensing, duties of animal owners, penalties, and enforcement.