Best dog trimmers for thick hair – Things to be concerned!

 thick hair dog trimmerIf you are a pet parent of a dog that has a furry hair and you find it challenging whenever grooming, a trimmer which is full of function and convenience will enable you and your dog to have a better process.

To help you find the best dog trimmer for thick hair after this are recommendations that are worthy of being considered.

5 Cordless dog Trimmers

Wahl Motion Lithium-Ion

With the technology of adjustable 5 in 1 blade mode, lithium-ion battery which allows you to have impressive grooming combined between the long term of use and cordless device in the lightweight.

The charging time is 60 minutes while it lasts for up to 90 minutes brings groomers a cool running, quite a process, and smooth vibration.

Constant speed control is a plus for this trimmer designing to provide more power in a tight area of fur.

Pros:

  • Automatically motor
  • Battery life (Lithium-Ion)
  • Variety of color
  • Constant speed

Cons:

  • Single-speed

Wahl Motion Lithium-Ion

Its flexibility shows in 5-in-1 adjustable blade technology to sizes #9, #10, #15, #30, and #40.

Wahl Motion Lithium provides professional power with 5,500 strokes per minute

LED Battery Level Capacity Display helps you know the battery remaining and the charging status

Pros:

  • Lithium-ion battery
  • Constant speed control
  • Lightweight
  • 90 minutes runtime
  • Quiet and low vibration

Cons:

  • Single-speed
  • Cord Trimmers

Andis Excel 5-Speed Clippers

Professional high 5-speed clipper delivers 4,500 strokes per minute.

Easy to adjust the mode by one-touch with a variety of status, allowing you to choose the most suitable vibration for your dog.

Replacing and cleaning will be a simple step with detachable blades.

The Andis Excel 5-Speed is available with all UltraEdge, CeramicEdge, and ShowEdge blades, such a multi-selection for professional groomers.

Pros:

  • Powerful clipper
  • 5-speed control
  • Excellent for the most robust coats
  • Lightest heavy-use trimmer

Cons:

  • Awkward location of buttons
  • Blade gets hot after continuous use

Andis UltraEdge Super 2-Speed

Andis UltraEdge Super 2-Speed brings the pet owner the use of a quiet and precise and powerful motor. It is available for all coats and breeds, not only the thick hair.

Variety detachable blades allow for versatility. Additionally, it will help you install and clean easily. The clipper delivers 3,400-4,400 strokes per minute. Overall, it operates coolly and remains a long term of continuous use.

This device is recommended by a lot of pros that the Andis UltraEdge range is the best heavy-duty dog clipper with functions available. It should be an intelligent choice if you want to use it for years to save both time and money.

Pros:

  • Smooth vibration
  • Available for all coats and breeds
  • Heavy-duty
  • Super two-speed rotary motor
  • Shatter-proof

Cons:

  • Limited in speed

Wahl U-Clip Pro Home Pet Grooming Kit

The most remarkable point is its low price compared to the capacity that brings. The 16-piece kit includes all of the needs for grooming jobs.

Super powerful motor that offers 7,200 strokes per minute, so it generally runs cool with all coats and suitable for the starters helping to clip, trim and groom easily; however, making noise and causing the device gets hot.

Pros:

  • Reasonable price
  • Heavy-duty
  • Kit included
  • Easy-use

Cons:

  • Poor adjustable steel blades
  • Noisy and heavy

 

NOTICEABLE POINTS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT WHEN SELECTING TRIMMER FOR THICK HAIR

 

Type of speeds

Single-Speed Trimmers

It would be a good option for those who are getting started to grooming for dogs and not be very familiar with multiple uses. Single-speed devices are not heating up fast compared to the variable-speed trimmer.

Variable-Speed Trimmers

The pros and specialists tend to use the variable-speed clippers thanks to its versatility, and it enables you to have your dog’s a good appearance.

Longevity

If you are usually grooming your dog or the number of dogs you have, you should choose a clipper that has long-life durability. You also consider the blades having a mode of self-sharpening to remain the term of use. To customize the styles of hair, adjustable blades are a must.

Durability

Shatter-proof is an ideal choice to save time and money, and it remains your clipper to extend the longevity; it also brings the comfort when using, you do not have to be irritated to have an unstable trimmer. Many options of the model designed with a hard case for storage and protection on the market.

Noise, vibration, and heat

The more powerful the motor is, the more noise it makes. The motor rotates to help to move the blades stay smooth if the device has durable power that may cause a loud noise, a heating blade, and dramatic vibration. It is not a comfortable experience for your dog that is sensitive to noise.

Thickness of dog hair

The dog will have areas with thick hair, and some will have thinner hair that requires a flexible device with speeds adjusted to increase in lush areas and decrease to thinner ones. However, if you can handle to power to cut and skills, a single-speed trimmer is not a difficult problem.

Versatility

A trimmer with variety and adjustable blades options will help to customize hairstyles and cut according to your plan easily. You should also choose modes with guide combs included being more flexible.

 

 

Steps to being prepared to groom a dog with thick hair

Preparations for enough tools

Before starting to trim your dog, all of the grooming tools must be already. Your dog is not expected to be quite to wait for you. It will waste your time looking for a single thing or have to look for your dog.

Of course, the clipper is a first one, pay attention to full charge if you use the cordless trimmer. If you use a corded clipper, be careful to choose a comfortable space to make sure that there is no struggle with the cord.

Additionally, you need to prepare scissors if your dog has long hair, shampoo, clean towels, and a hairdryer is also required items for a perfect job.

Clear and remove mats and tangles

To help your dog start with grooming, propitiating your dog by brushing them to find matted and tangled areas; by doing this before shampooing, it will smooth the process without hurting your dog.

Pre-bath trimming

After clearing and removing mats and tangles, you could start to trim and clip, especially around the chest, hocks, belly, and pads of the feet than other dogs towards thick and long fur. You can also use a hairpin to keep long hair for natural grooming. Because of the sensitivity of the dog’s skin, be careful to the sharpness of the blade and make sure that you do not startle your pet. You are expected to treat and implement grooming jobs handy and slowly to help your dog feel comfortable and cooperate with you.

Brushing/ combing

Before a bath, you need to give your dog a brush to keep the hair smooth and no tangle. For thick and long hair, of course, we will have to make this step more often and longer than other breeds.

Bathing

Don’t use the faucet instead of a shower. Choose the suitable shampoo for your dog and ensure that it fixes with the dog’s age, and your dog is not allergy with any ingredients of the shampoo. After that, apply the shampoo on your dog, slowly move from the head to the leg and message. Try not to contact to the eyes as much as possible.

Thoroughly rinse with water and make sure that no soap remains.

Drying

Use towels for the first dry and then use a hairdryer, you should keep an eye on the heat setting.

 

Frequently Questions and Answers

Q: How can I maintain my dog trimmer?

A: To maintain and help your trimmer stay stable, do not forget to sharpen, clean usually, and oil the blades.

Q: Should I choose a corded trimmer or a cordless one?

A: If a dog with matted, long and thick hair, the corded clipper will bring you the saving of time and power to have smoothness. However, you can consider if your spaces are limited, you can also choose a cordless clipper to be convenient.

Q: Is it possible if I only trim a severely matted coat instead of brushing?

A: It is not a good idea if you just trim and clip without brushing the dog, if you have not experienced with cutting a severely matted coat, we recommend you should look for a professional because you can hurt your dog.

You can use a comb or brush to clean and remove matted before clipping.

 

Final words:

All in all, you should consider your dog’s breed and how the thickness of hair your dog is to find the most suitable choice. The key factors are dependable, efficient, and safe. You are better to pay for a device with quite vibration and flexibility in blades that make you and your dog as comfortable as possible. You should also notice the steps to brush, trim, and clip for your dog.

Best Pet Grooming Thinning Shears – Reviews

Best Pet Grooming Thinning Shears

Making your pet look beautiful all the time requires grooming. Taking your pet to vet shop and saloon might not be the best option always.

But, you can consider buying grooming thinning shears, scissors, comb, and more products. It can help you remove extra hair and make your pet look good. Having a routine of removing extra hairs and using a thinning shearer can help.

There are plenty of brands which re offering pet grooming and thinning shearer for such an affordable price. You can buy kits and make your dog or cat keep looking great. Not taking care of your pet’s fur can cause several problems.

Not removing extra hairs can be troublesome as it can cause fungal related issues, dermatitis and more. To get rid of such problems, you can use a high-quality grooming thinking shearer. Grabbing the best product is important to avoid getting into any issue.

It might be hard to finalize the best product that’s why we made a list of top 4 best pet grooming thinning shears. All of them are highly reliable, easy to use and offer a wide range of advantages.

Top 4 Best Pet Grooming Thinning Shears

To conclude a great product or to bring this arrangement, we went through several factors. The primary factor is material used in the manufacturing, design, easy to hold the handle, lightweight design, effective grooming advantages and a couple of additional factors. Let’s get started by exploring the list.

1. Gimars Titanium Coated 3CR Stainless Steel Dog Grooming Kit

Gimars Titanium Coated 3CR Stainless Steel Dog Grooming offers the perfect blend of quality and affordability in one place. It is a high-quality 3CR stainless steel dog grooming kit, and it is coated with Titanium coated so that you get a nice finish.

There is one shearer, two different sized scissors and one comb included so that you can use the same for the dog as well as the cat. It has the most Ergonomic design so that you don’t have to worry about any problem related to the usability.

The size of the scissor and shearer is adequate enough to get a better grip and keep on removing hairs of your pet without any problem. You can cut and clean without pulling hair which ensures safer use.

Things We Liked:

  • Offers value for money deal.
  • Platinum layer on stainless-steel.
  • It included four different units and a kit.
  • Ergonomic design for effective usability.

Things We Didn’t Like:

  • The blade is not perfect

2. Chibuy Professional Pet Grooming Scissor with Round Tip

With a huge number of positive reviews, you can find that the purchase of Chibuy Professional Pet Grooming Scissor with Round Tip is a perfect choice. There are plenty of versions available in the same.

It has a sharp and durable edge so that you can shear extra hairs and help with thinning, which can help in several manners. The material used in manufacturing is stainless-steel which can provide comfortable use.

To avoid rusting, it is coated, and there is also less friction when shearing so that your pet doesn’t have to panic about it. On the other hand, the arc prevents any kind of damage to your pet; that’s why it is a reliable unit.

Things We Liked:

  • Easy to hold and provide great comfort.
  • It has sharp and durable blades during the use.
  • Positive reviews from the buyers.
  • Round tip to prevent any kind of damage to your pet.

Things We Didn’t Like:

  • Slightly expensive deal.

3. Elfirly Dog Grooming Scissors Set with Safety Round Tip

For a comfortable hair shearing experience, the purchase of Elfirly Dog Grooming Scissors Set is a better choice. Safety round tip at the arc part so that you don’t end up hurting your pet by mistake. It also ensures a safer use when a close call.

It has the safest design as well as a highly durable design also. The credit goes to its stainless steel body. Eventually, you can find that it is also coming with a scissor and a comb. So, you can expect value for money deal here.

You can easily adjust and mute the shearer by using the screw, loose or tight the screw for perfect use. You won’t have to worry about causing any damage to your pet’s hair; that’s why you can rely on this deal.

Things We Liked:

  • It has a sharp and durable blade for effective shearing.
  • Easy to use and cut hairs of your pet.
  • It comes with a scissor and a comb included in the pack.
  • Design is highly reliable and safe to use.
  • Round trip at the corner for safer use.

Things We Didn’t Like:

  • Slightly fussy when shearing long hairs.

4. TIJERAS 7Inch Dog Grooming Scissor Curved Chunker Shears

In case you want the most premium design then you can consider going with the purchase of TIJERAS 7Inch Dog Grooming Scissor Curved Chunker Shears. It is available for a premium price point, but it includes all the basic features.

Four unique packs are offered in the same deal, and it has the most ergonomic design which can make you expect premium usability. You can adjust the screw to lose or tight the shearer as per the length of the hairs.

One key thing is, it has an excellent design, and it can be used for multiple purposes which ensure the best usability from the same unit. It is also coming with a lifetime warranty which can ensure the highest durability. The design is also good enough to opt for.

Things We Liked:

  • Excellently engineered design for effective usability.
  • Provides the perfect finish while shearing hairs.
  • Slightly round arc to prevent hurting your pet by mistake.
  • Ergonomic design so that you can use it comfortably.
  • Comes with a lifetime warranty to ensure the perfect durability.

Things We Didn’t Like:

  • Buying a single shearer for such an expensive price point might be a hard choice for many.

People Also Ask [FAQs]

1. Should You Buy a Shearer or Combo grooming kit?

It would be better to get a combo to get the affordable grooming shear for the best price and you get other necessary grooming related tools.

2. Which Grooming Shearer is best for an affordable price point?

If you want a combo, then you can look after Chibuy Professional Pet Grooming Scissor with Round Tip but if you want a single unit then Gimars Titanium Coated 3CR Stainless Steel Dog Grooming Kit is a reliable option/

3. Do Titanium coating on stainless steel help enhancing the durability of shearer?

With titanium coating, you can expect less friction and better durability. It will reduce the chances of corrosion and help you expect better usability from the same product that’s why you should consider the same.

Conclusion

Here we compiled the top 4 best grooming shearer for your pet that are highly reliable and preferred by a huge number of people. Make sure that you stay selective to grab the best product for your specific needs.

Going through the design, material, and safety factors will help you avoid the purchase of the wrong product. We hope that this guide will come in handy to get you the right grooming shear for your pet and taking care of them.

Lessons from a senior dog

As many of you know, I adopted my current dog, Earl, as a senior from Muttville Senior Dog Resuce. He came into my life three years ago and has amazed me with his resiliency and journey from a fearful dog into loving, feisty, spirited companion. The lessons learned from Earl are endless, but one lesson in particular that’s come to the forefront is the importance of continued exercise, learning and enrichment throughout a dog’s lifespan.

About six months ago, I found myself in the downward spiral of, “We’re losing him.” I didn’t have concrete evidence he was dying. I focused on what I thought was evidence of cognitive decline (read: confusion, heightened anxiety in the evening) and physical decline (read: occasional muscle cramps and limping, in addition to stiffness in his back legs).

I am beyond fortunate that our veterinarian, Dr. Ilana Strubel at A Well Adjusted Pet, specializes in rehabilitation for senior and injured dogs. She did not find any evidence of a serious underlying medical condition. For Earl, his symptoms were a sign that I needed to focus on building his physical and mental resilience.

Just because I train dogs for a living doesn’t mean I avoid training ruts. I deeply empathize with my clients because I often struggle with the same questions they ask me: 1) What does my dog need? 2) What can I do better? and 3) What am I missing? When it’s one’s own dog, and one’s own busy life, it’s harder to think clearly and objectively. When I took a step back from my increasingly hectic work life, I found the answers to those questions and began a process that has influenced how I view life with senior dogs and how I approach behavior questions with other clients.

In Earl’s case, the answers to the aforementioned questions were:

  1. What does my dog need? Earl needed me to increase the time I spent providing him with mental and physical stimulation. Instead of merely upping the amount of exercise he received, I needed to change up his daily routine strategically. Through the guidance of Dr. Strubel, Earl and I began a cross training program that incorporates strength, flexibility, balance, body awareness and endurance through training games on FitPaws equipment. By strengthening his problem areas, he’s in less pain and is less prone to future injuries. Plus, the training program doubles as excellent mental enrichment, and often tires him out more, and is more enjoyable, than a long walk on leash.
  2. What can I do better?  I needed to be more proactive and less reactive. I touch on this more in my post on training mindfully. In short, I needed to figure out how to maintain and increase his cognitive abilities through training and puzzle games, and strengthen his limbs and joints instead of waiting for the inevitable trip to the vet for pain meds.
  3. What am I missing? Earl was, and is, growing older. Anytime a client notices something worrying in their dog, behaviorally or physically, a trip to the vet is warranted to rule out underlying medical conditions. I wasn’t missing the symptoms, but I was jumping to conclusions about the best way to help Earl. Sheltering him in a blanket and mourning his decline was what I felt like doing, but was not the most helpful thing for Earl. Although senior dogs are more fragile, may have more aches and pains, and may need a bit more patience when it comes to behavior, they still need to use their brains and bodies. They need enrichment via puzzle toys, games with their guardians and learning tricks. They need exercise that’s suitable for their physical condition. They need proactive care, just like puppies, adolescents and young adult dogs.

Currently, Earl is thriving. To say he loves his cross training is an understatement, and through the guidance of our vet, he’s experiencing less anxiety and markedly less stiffness and pain. We joke that he’s the Benjamin Button of dogs because he appears younger today than he did a year ago.

Negative Punishment: Make sure you’re using it effectively

In the world of force-free training, we have two options when installing new behaviors or modifying existing ones: We can reward desired behaviors and we can punish undesired ones. Punishment involves removing the “good stuff” when the dog does a behavior we want to decrease (known as negative punishment in operant conditioning terminology). The dog learns through repetition each time he does a certain behavior, the good stuff goes away, therefore reducing the dog’s motivation to maintain that particular behavior. (Good stuff refers to anything the dog desires when doing the unwanted behavior: social proximity; access to food, toys, or other resources; attention; environmental rewards like walks and playtime with other dogs.) During training consults, I often compare negative punishment to giving a dog a “time out” from the good stuff.

Negative punishment is a valuable tool in a dog owners’ repertoire, provided it is executed correctly. Unfortunately, poor execution often leads to inconsistent behavior and poor follow through on the part of the owners. The following is a guide to improve your technique.

Timing

Dogs live in the moment. Attempting to punish or reward a behavior minutes, even seconds, after it has occurred lessens the chances your dog will understand why a particular consequence occurred. A classic example of poor timing is an owner who punishes a dog for a housetraining accident hours after it occurred. The dog will not understand he is being punished for urinating on the carpet. Instead, the dog will associate the punishment with whatever behavior immediately preceded it.

Being an effective dog trainer means having impeccable timing. It also means you need to be prepared to execute a time out the instant an undesired behavior occurs. Impeccable timing is difficult in real life. Time outs take time to execute, and many things can happen between the behavior in question occurring and the time out actually taking place. To improve accuracy, I instruct clients to use a word to mark the instant the undesired behavior occurs (I say “too bad!”). This “no-reward marker” bridges the gap between the dog’s behavior and the time out, making it clear to your dog which behavior lead to the punishment.

With repetition, the dog learns the following contingency:

Behavior A –> “Too Bad!” –> Time Out
If Behavior A always results in removal of the good stuff, dogs will realize Behavior A is not profitable (and dogs are always seeking to do what’s most profitable).

Is it a time out?

Sometimes, owners think they are executing a time out, when in actuality the dog is not receiving negative punishment. To repeat: Time outs equal the removal of the good stuff. If your dog is not experiencing removal of the good stuff, he is not receiving negative punishment.

Consider a gregarious puppy who consistently jumps on his owners. The owners, in an effort to decrease the behavior, always push the dog away and say “No! No! Off!” The puppy’s behavior continues because he is still receiving the good stuff: Social proximity and attention. To many puppies, verbal feedback, even the words “No” and “Bad dog,” and eye contact are reward enough to continue performing the behavior.

A better strategy for these owners would be to mark each time the dog jumps up with a “too bad,” and proceed to turn their backs or leave the room for 30 seconds, avoiding all further eye contact and verbal feedback. This protocol gives the dog clear feedback on what behavior results in the punishment, and also prevents the dog from receiving the social proximity and attention he desires when doing the behavior.

Remember: If your dog is still receiving the good stuff during a time out, it’s not effective. Make sure your time outs are boring, void of whatever your dog desires when he does the unwanted behavior. This means no eye contact, no verbal feedback, no attention, no access to desired resources, and no playtime.

Follow Through

Often, owners claim negative punishment is not effective, when in actuality they give up too soon. Dogs learn through repetition. Erasing bad habits is hard work, and even harder if the dog receives mixed feedback by sometimes being allowed to do a certain behavior and sometimes receiving punishment.

Follow through with a time out each instance the behavior occurs. Occasionally timing out a behavior, and occasionally letting the dog get away with it, will only serve to make the behavior stronger – the dog learns the behavior is profitable often enough to make it worthwhile. If you aren’t able to execute a time out, make sure you manage the dog’s environment to prevent rehearsal of the unwanted behavior. This will preserve your training and ensure more efficient results. (For example, if your dog consistently jumps up on guests, keep him on leash or behind a barrier during dinner parties to preserve your training.) Most importantly: Don’t give up!

Don’t Time Out Fear

Use protocols based on whether your dog is upset or not upset. If your dog is doing a behavior because he is afraid, a time out will not solve the problem. Learn to recognize when your dog is behaving out of fear.

Optimizing Success

Negative punishment is most effective when paired with positive reinforcement. When punishing a particular behavior, make sure to teach the dog an alternate, more desired behavior to do in its place. If your dog jumps on guests, teach him to sit for greetings. If your dog gets mouthy when playing with you, teach him to play without using his teeth on your skin. If your dog barks for his dinner, teach him to sit quietly to wait for his food.

Training mindfully: First, be aware

Awhile ago, I introduced the concept of training mindfully, of being acutely aware of what is happening with the dog and environment in the present moment and suspending all judgment and preconceived notions about what the dog should be doing or what we think the dog is thinking.

By paying attention on purpose, we tap into the fundamentals of good training: Timing, mechanics and learning theory.

When it comes to animal behavior modification, trainer and teacher extraordinaire Bob Bailey is well-known for saying “Think. Plan. Do.”

The “think” portion of this quote hints at the inner, quieter aspects of training. Typically, when discussing mechanics and technique, we think about the physical: Timing of rewards, position of reward delivery, maintaining a quiet body so as not to overshadow or block a dog’s learning.

Mechanics are critical to successful training, but not limited to the physical. Before timing of rewards and application of either operant or classical conditioning comes the awareness inside the trainer. In a word, mindfulness.

Sound too new-agey? Bear with me.

“Even scaffolding needs a foundation upon which to rest. It is not very wise to erect it on shifting sands, or on dirt or clay that could easily turn into mud,” writes Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the pioneers of bringing mindfulness into the Western world an integrating it with Western medicine, in Coming to Our Senses. “The foundation for mindfulness practice, for all meditative inquiry, lies in ethics and morality, and above all, the motivation of non-harming.”

Myths and incomplete understanding about how dogs learn, a dog’s underlying motivations, and the desire to forcibly control a dog’s behavior place a trainer’s scaffolding on shifting sands.

A foundation of non-harming is critical to force-free training. After all, a trainer can have impeccable timing and mechanics, but use those skills to cause pain, shock, intimidation or injury to a dog. A trainer’s ethical code sets the stage for all training protocols. The science of animal learning and the principle of “do no harm” create a solid foundation for the nuts and bolts of training behaviors.

Through mindfulness, trainers can continually be aware of and reassess how their actions are influencing the behavior of the dogs they train.

The brilliant thing about mindfulness is that if we find ourselves slipping into various myths about dogs, or wandering in the wrong direction during a training protocol,  we can catch it sooner because we’re paying attention on purpose. We’re aware of the antecedents, behaviors and consequences that form the feedback loop between dog behavior, the trainer and the environment.

Mindfulness also fosters a force-free community that applies the “do no harm” mantra to humans as well as dogs. It gives people who have used aversive techniques in the past a way forward.

“This willingness to embrace what is and then work with it takes great courage, and presence of mind,” writes Zin. “So, in any moment, whatever is happening, we can always check and see for ourselves.”

In this context, “first, do no harm” really translates to “first, be aware.”

Cognitive decline and caring for your senior mutt

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic webinar hosted by Jean Donaldson for the Academy for Dog Trainers on senior dog wellness and canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. With special thanks to Jean for bringing attention to the topic, the following is a guide on how to care for your senior mutt, and what to do if you notice signs of cognitive declines.

CDS: What is it?

CDS, or cognitive dysfunction syndrome, is progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects senior dogs (ages 7 and up). Researchers have found that the disorder, marked by Aβ protein deposits in the brain, is similar to the degeneration found in human brains affected by Alzheimer’s. Because of this, a significant amount of research is available.

According to Landsberg (2005), while CDS can affect dogs as young as 7 years of age, the disorder typically goes undetected until 11 years. He attributes this discrepancy to the fact that most owners do not suspect anything is amiss because they rely on more severe symptoms, such as house-soiling and disorientation, as opposed to tests of memory and learning.

A 2010 study published in The Veterinary Journal found that CDS affects 28 percent of 11-12 year-old dogs and 68 percent of 15-16 year-olds (Salvin, McGreevy, Sachdev, and Valenzuela). However, this same study also found that many dogs go undiagnosed. As with many progressive conditions, CDS prognosis is best if detected early.

The Symptoms

CDS has a specific clinical presentation, or criteria that must be met for a diagnosis. It is important to note that the disorder’s symptoms are not simply attributable to “old age” (again, this parallels cognitive decline diagnoses in humans), but are specifically linked to the disorder. The four main categories attributed to CDS are:

  • Disorientation: Dogs with this symptom get lost in familiar locations and often get “stuck” in narrow places of the house or yard. Their eyes may appear fixed on the horizon, and they may do things like go to the wrong side of the door or wander without an apparent purpose.
  • Disruption of sleep/wake cycles: Dogs with CDS often pace, walk or bark at night, and experience changes in sleeping time. They may show an altered daytime activity level due to nighttime restlessness.
  • Social interaction: The dog may have less frequent interactions with family members, or fail to recognize a family member. Greeting behavior decreases, as does responsiveness to stimuli (i.e., activity in the house, sounds, food).
  • Learning and house training: With the absence of an underlying medical condition, previously house trained dogs begin having accidents in the house. They may also appear unable to remember common obedience behaviors or tricks, referred to as learning and memory deficits.

Diane Frank, veterinary behaviorist at the University of Montreal, also lists the following symptoms that may occur in addition to the big four listed above: irritability, intolerance to exercise, increased vocalization, house destruction, increased attachment to owners, and the appearance of new fears or anxieties. 

As with any medical condition, it is important to thoroughly discuss your dog’s symptoms with a veterinarian before concluding that your dog has CDS. Senior dogs are susceptible to a variety of medical conditions that may show similar symptoms, therefore it is important to rule out any other causes of cognitive decline.

Your dog has CDS. What do you do?

If you research CDS on the web, you’ll discover a plethora of studies on the subject and an even wider swath of potential treatments. It can be overwhelming to say the least, especially when dealing with the emotional toll of caring for an aging dog. Before going overboard on supplements, new diets and homeopathic remedies, make sure you address three key health management areas. (I should add that these areas are beneficial to senior dogs regardless of a CDS diagnosis).

  • Maintain a healthy weight: How many times have you placed your dog on the vet’s scale and secretly hoped nobody would notice that your dog is leaning on the wall? I admit, I’m very guilty of this one! The fact is, being overweight puts immense stress on a dog, particular one of advancing age. The following is a chart taken from Jean’s webinar presentation that illustrates what a “healthy weight” looks like on a dog. For a bit of context, consider this fact: six pounds on a 45-pound dog is comparable to 20 pounds on a 150-pound dog. Just imagine the impact those six pounds have on a dog’s joints!
  • Keep those teeth clean: Brush your dog’s teeth daily. One of my colleagues at the Academy recently said that this is the number one routine that can maintain your dog’s health. If your dog is averse to having his mouth handled, check in with a trainer to receive advice on how to desensitize your dog to the process. Here are a few tips to get you started:
    • Go slowly, starting with introducing your dog to the tooth brush, working up toward touching your dog’s mouth and teeth with it.
    • Make sure to lavish lots of treats and praise every step of the way!
    • Once your dog is comfortable having his mouth handled and touched by the brush, gradually build up duration as well as comfort with light brushing motions.
    • If your dog shows any signs of discomfort, back up to the previous step. Never go quicker than your dog is comfortable.
  • Address orthopedic concerns: Make sure to talk to your vet about any pain your dog may be experiencing, as well as any assistance your dog might need navigating stairs or getting into the car.

Once you’ve covered these three areas, it’s time to make your home accessible for your dog’s aging body:

  • Place a mat over slippery surfaces to avoid injury from falls.
  • If your dog has difficulty with stairs, make sure to install ramps.
  • Provide your dog with ample bedding that will support aching joints – hard floors are not a senior dog’s friend!
  • Blocking off any narrow pathways in the house if your dog is getting “stuck” or disoriented.
  • A quiet space where your senior dog can retreat. This is especially important if you have children or younger dogs in the house.
  • Raise food and water bowls if your dog has difficulty bending over.
  • If your dog pulls on leash, make sure to fit him with a harness to protect the neck and trachea.
  • If your dog becomes disoriented easily, be careful when letting him off leash. Keep a watchful eye on him, or have him wear a 15-foot training lead in case he wanders.

Although their activity level is lower, senior dogs still need lots of attention and stimulation. Here are a few ways to keep your dog’s brain active:

  • Puzzle toys are a great way to stave off boredom and keep your dog’s mind active (like Sudoku for humans).
  • Don’t hesitate to do some basic training or teach your dog a few new tricks- training is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog and provides a fun activity for you both.
  • Spending time with them and exposing them to interesting stimuli, even if it’s just sitting outside in the yard. (If your dog has trouble walking and is small enough, you can put him in a stroller to take him for walks.)

Finally, it’s important to assess and treat any new fears or anxieties your dog may be developing. A trainer can help you develop procedures to ease these fears using classical conditioning techniques. In the meantime, provide structure, stimulation and comfort to your dog’s days to keep him feeling comfortable and secure, and be sensitive to any changes in behavior or anxieties.

Dogs: The different species in your living room

When owning a dog, it almost goes without saying that he or she becomes part of the family unit. Dogs sleep in our beds, join us at the dining table (whether they’re supposed to or not), and accompany us on all variety of errands and outings. Sometimes this assimilation into our lives becomes so seamless that we forget we are sharing our home with an entirely different species from our own.

So much of dog training gets misconstrued as a battle of control. Phrases like the dog “should do this” and “should know this” permeate the language, as does hypothesizing about what a dog is thinking without any scientific basis. The fact is, dogs don’t know what we’re thinking and they certainly don’t inherently know all the rules and regulations that come with living in our homes. What we perceive as the meaning of dog behavior, and what dogs are really communicating to us, are two very different things.

Richard Yahner, a professor of wildlife conservation at Penn State, explains this concept in this book Wildlife and Conservation  writing, “As humans, we consistently judge the behavior of animals (e.g., that pet is cute) or fellow humans (e.g., that new neighbor is friendly, etc.) based on their appearance and how they act from our perspective. In other words, we seldom look at the ecology of a pet or human or, for that matter, of an animal in the wild” (1).

He goes on to list four questions that are integral to those studying wildlife behavior, writing, “…1) what are the mechanisms that cause a certain behavior? (e.g., hormonal, genetic, learning, etc.), 2) how does a given behavior develop? (e.g. ontogeny, cultural transmission, etc.) 3) what is the survival value of a given behavior? and 4) how does a given behavior evolve?” (4).

Although Yahner was discussing wildlife, his statements are incredibly relevant to dog training. If we ask these four questions when it comes to communicating with our own dogs, we will be well on the path to actually understanding them – not just understanding what we think their behavior means from our human perspective.

In this post, I will explore the first of the four questions: What mechanisms cause a certain behavior?

Each behavior your dog performs, whether it be an obedience command, snarling at another dog, or dissecting a stuffed toy, has an immediate causation, or trigger, and an adaptive significance. Animals make changes to their behavior on a real-time basis through learning. They also live, as James O’Heare writes in Aggressive Behavior in Dogs, “within the context and constraints of their biology” (67). In other words, evolutionary history and learning influence dog behavior. And, due to dogs’ extensive history of selective breeding, they differ as to what behaviors they retain from their evolutionary history and when they perform these behaviors.

Take, for example, a dog who rolls over for a treat. He does so because he learned this behavior, likely through operant conditioning techniques. He didn’t come into this world as a puppy knowing that rolling over leads to treats and praise from other humans. He learned through repetition that this behavior is hugely rewarding.

Contrast this with a dog who vigorously shakes and dissects a stuffed toy given to her by her owner, mimicking dissection behavior. Stuffed toy dissection, otherwise known as a fixed action pattern, requires no learning on the part of the dog. FAPs vary across each individual dog. For example, some dogs will retain the dissection FAP. Some won’t. Some will only perform the behavior on a particular stuffed toy, leaving the others intact.

At this point, you may be asking why evolutionary history and FAPs are relevant. The fact is, FAPs are at the root many “problem” behaviors in our dogs. Resource guarding, stalking, urination marking, watchdog barking, chasing and biting moving objects, fear of novel objects or people, and mounting are all examples. Does this mean these behaviors are unchangeable? Not at all, but we need to understand where the behaviors come from in order to effectively change them. FAPs provide a context through which these behaviors occur. (Note that this context is not one of dominance or subversion, but one of nature and evolution. What a relief to know that dogs aren’t plotting and scheming our demise from their beds, as some trainers would have us believe!)

As humans, we are responsible for bringing dogs into our homes with the knowledge that they are a different species from ourselves. It is our responsibility to teach our dogs how to live in our world harmoniously, through means our dogs understand. Even though it can be frustrating when our dogs behave contrary to how we think they should behave, we need to step back and view the situation through a compassionate lens. After all, dogs aren’t furry humans. They’re dogs. And I, for one, wouldn’t want it any other way.

The power of simplicity when training fearful dogs

“Why worry about basic obedience when my dog is so scared?” It’s a common and understandable question I get from new clients. When faced with a dog who is scared of people, new stimuli, and unable to settle in and out of doors, it’s natural to think of training goals in terms of big chunks. Clients may say, “I want my dog to enjoy her walks,” or “I want to be able to invite my relatives over to my house without them getting snarled at,” or, “I want my dog to stop being afraid of city noises.” When faced with these serious and overwhelming problems, basic behaviors like hand targeting, sit, “leave it,” and down might seem trivial. After all, the goal is to fix the fear, not teach the dog to do tricks, right?

Not quite. While the overarching goal in every fearful dogs’ training plan is to ease fear, there are, in my opinion, three critical “micro-goals” that must be conquered first.

1) The dog learns her behavior can make good things – really good things – happen in her environment.

Dogs are always gauging whether an environment or stimulus is safe or dangerous. They learn through consequences and associations. Since fear is so easy to install and so difficult to erode, they remember the events and antecedents that precede scary things happening to them. Fearful dogs think many things in their world are dangerous. They don’t necessarily trust that a person walking down the street is safe or that the noise of wind blowing through the trees won’t lead to danger. Because their brains are so occupied by this constant “safe or dangerous” calculation, we need to think in terms of patience and simplicity. Starting a training program with basic obedience behaviors teaches dogs that hand prompts, verbal cues and ultimately, their behavior, leads to safe and rewarding consequences.

In the following video, I teach fearful dog Omie to do a “down” during our first session. Because she had little prior experience with obedience, and was also nervous in her environment and with my presence, I needed to start with a behavior that would be simple enough for her to do. I needed to break that behavior down into small enough increments so she received rewards at a high rate. So, I adjusted my criteria so she was first rewarded simply for moving her head downward, and, though repetition, eventually a full down. In between repetitions, I also added in some easy behaviors that she already knew, like “find it” and hand targeting, to set her up for success and build her confidence.

With fearful dogs, it’s not about how fast you can get them to do a behavior. It’s about setting criteria easy enough so they build confidence and feel safer in a scary world.

2) The dog learns coping skills to help her deal with a potentially stressful or fear-inducing situation.

Often, fearful dogs are slow to recover from startling situations. They lack the coping skills that could help them when stress comes their way. What do I mean by coping skills? Anything that lowers a dog’s anxiety and keeps her under threshold. For some dogs, a coping skill could be making eye contact with their owner. For other dogs, it could be a hand target.

The key to teaching coping skills is to give the dogs a history of doing these behaviors in non-stressful environments and giving them impactful, high-value rewards for doing them. When gradually brought into a stressful context, this history of behavior and reinforcement lowers anxiety. Bit by bit, we can turn down the level of a dog’s fear. Fearful dogs don’t do these behaviors on their own to lower their anxiety. Either they haven’t learned them, or they are too upset to concentrate on anything besides their fear. If a dog learns a solid “watch” or a “touch” in a safe space, and realizes that this behavior has a strong reinforcement history, the behavior produces a positive emotional response in the dog. (Think Pavlov.)

By starting with the simplest of behaviors, we can gradually ask dogs to do them in more stressful environments, so that eventually, they are able to focus on a behavior, and receive the positive emotional side-effects, increasing their ability to cope with their world.

3) The dog sets the pace.

In a previous post, I discussed the importance of trust in a fearful dogs’ training plan. One of the most efficient ways to build trust with a fearful dogs is to teach them simple training games and behaviors, and to let them set the pace. Each time a dog gets the behavior right she gets praise and a reward. And because we’re keeping the behaviors simple, she will receive praise and rewards at a very high rate. From a dogs’ point of view, she is learning that you are the purveyor of good things. She also learns that your presence results in safe, positive consequences, not dangerous ones. She learns you will not push her past her comfort zone.

In the same session with Omie, I taught her to target her harness with her nose. She does not yet trust me enough to touch her or place her harness over her head. If I were to push her too fast, I would break our trust. I would not be as safe to her. By keeping things simple she set the pace and let me know when she was ready for a new challenge.

If you have a fearful dog, start small and simple. Don’t discredit the power of basic behaviors and games. Even though a hand target may seem simple to you, it’s a monumental accomplishment for a dog who finds her world a dangerous, unpredictable place.

A dog trainer’s guide to navigating the training wars

sun flare emerges within the dog training community. It’s bright, it attracts attention, causes some explosive interactions and, eventually, burns out. Flares are not necessarily bad. After all, had no flare-ups occurred in the past couple of decades, a majority of trainers might be continuing to use outdated methods. But flare-ups can also be rife with logical traps. The dangers are two-fold:

  • They interfere with our critical thinking skills
  • They have the potential to confuse and mislead dog guardians

While it’s good to question the status quo, many discussions easily dissolve into logical fallacies and poor science. Whether you’re a behavior change professional, a behavior geek, or someone who wants to provide the best life possible for your dog, here are a few pointers on how to solve (and resolve) flares when you see them occur within the dog training community:

Where’s the evidence? 

We owe our dogs real science. Real science is peer-reviewed and backed by evidence. Real science is not based on conjecture, opinion, or personal stories. Nullius in verba. Demand evidence.

Beware logical fallacies

We’re all susceptible to logical fallacies, whether making one of our own or believing someone else’s. If you’re aware of potential missteps ahead of time, you’ll be more likely to catch them in your own patterns of thinking or in someone else’s.

Begging the question: This is an argument that requires the reader to accept the conclusion without providing real evidence. In these cases, the argument’s premise states the same thing as the conclusion, or the argument fails to address critical gaps.

Example: Socializing puppies is the humane, ethical thing to do. Therefore, it’s humane and ethical to socialize puppies.

False dichotomy: An argument that incorrectly paints a situation as having only two choices. The argument then eliminates one of the choices, seemingly leaving the reader with only one remaining option.

Example: Puppy parents have the option to socialize their puppies or avoid socialization altogether. Since puppy socialization can be done incorrectly, puppy parents must avoid socializing their puppies altogether.

Appeal to ignorance: Claiming that due to inconclusive evidence, readers should accept an argument’s conclusion on an issue.

Example: Because the research on puppy socialization is inconclusive and divided, people should accept my conclusion.

Slippery slope: The arguer claims that a chain reaction will take place, often leading to a bad ending, despite a lack of evidence supporting this claim.

Example: If we allow all puppies to continue being socialized, dog owners will continue to socialize their puppies improperly. We will end up with generation upon generation of dogs with behavior problems. To prevent this from happening, we must avoid all puppy socialization.

Beware cherry-picking and single-case studies

Articles that cite studies that support the author’s argument can be misleading. After all, the author’s statements are backed up by citations, so those statements must be correct, right? Wrong. It’s important to consider several factors when reading articles that cite other sources in support of an argument:

  • Are the citations valid?
  • Does the author take a comprehensive look at the literature available, or does the author only focus on citations that support his or her argument?
  • Is the author accurately interpreting the research?

It’s also important to look at single-case studies with a critical eye. While they can be helpful in understanding the context of behavior, beware articles that base arguments solely on personal experience, or one or two ad hoc experiences with dogs.

Remember: While important, personal experience is vastly different from research that has been vetted via the scientific process.

Avoid sweeping generalizations

It’s important to stay informed of the latest research on dog behavior, but it’s equally important to avoid training “trends.” Trends are typically based on popular opinion at the time, and aren’t based on true, hard science. Training trends gain popularity because they “sound good,” are a quick fix, or appeal to a person’s own biases. Trends also put the dog behavior community at risk of making sweeping generalizations about a particular topic.

Whenever you notice a trend emerging in the training community, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where’s the evidence?
  • Is the evidence valid?
  • How are my own biases affecting my interpretation of this trend?

Final note: As trainers, it’s important to realize that how we communicate the latest trends within the behavior community has a vast impact on dogs and their guardians, particularly if others see us as experts in the field. This doesn’t mean we can’t have biases – that’s not reasonable. But it does mean we need to be particularly careful when communicating information about behavior and training. And it also means empowering our own clients with critical thinking skills.

Rolling with resistance

As trainers, we often ask our clients to change their behavior in multiple ways. We tell them to carry a bait bag with them at all times. We ask them to attend to their dog’s body language and respond with precise timing to mark good behavior. We ask them to drop bad habits such as yelling at their dog and yanking on the leash. These are by no means easy tasks, particularly when combined with the stress and emotions that come with owning a dog with a behavior problem.

I am troubled when I hear stories of people who say they entered the dog business because they were tired of working with people. Much of what dog trainers do involves asking people to change their behavior and motivating them to train their dogs. One common theme I hear from training clients after the initial consultation is relief. Relief at not feeling judged, relief at not being criticized for owning a dog with a behavior problem, and relief at not being blamed for their dog’s behavior.

Coming from a counseling background, my heart breaks when I hear clients tell stories of feeling judged and being afraid to contact a trainer. The fact is, confrontation and judgment yields less successful training outcomes and poorer prognoses for dogs with common behavior problems. The good news is, thanks to research in counseling psychology, trainers have a pool of evidence-based techniques they can use to get the most out of consultations with their clients, as well as to facilitate the behavior change necessary for a client to meet her training goals.

Reflection: 

An effective way of helping a client express her feelings and let her know she is being understood is to use reflective responses. It is also a good way to ensure you are understanding the client correctly. To use this technique, reflect back to the client what you believe she has said, ask for verification, and encourage the client to elaborate on the topic.

Example:

Client:  We take Fido to the dog park, but everyone stares at us when he starts to bark and jump on other people. We get incredibly frustrated and sometimes yell at him when he continues to misbehave. 

Trainer: You encounter a lot of stress at the dog park, and it’s overwhelming.

Client: Yes, we really want some relief and we know Fido needs exercise. 

Trainer: You want to be able to take Fido to the dog park and have it be enjoyable for him and for you. 

Note in this example that the trainer didn’t latch on to the client’s statement that she yells at her dog when he gets overexcited. Doing so would have put the client on the defensive, and would have missed the overall theme: The client is incredibly overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do about her dog. Reflecting this sentiment back to the client helped her elaborate more, and feel understood in the process.

Open-Ended Questions: 

Questions form the basis of a trainer’s initial consultation with  a client. They allow the trainer to understand the dog’s behavior and determine the client’s training goals. There are two different types of questions: closed and open. Closed questions are ones that clients can easily answer with “yes,” “no,” or other short responses. They typically do not move the interview along, and do not encourage a client to elaborate or give specific examples. Open-ended questions do the opposite – they require examples, keep the consultation process moving forward, and help the trainer identify a client’s needs and goals. Typical starter phrases for open ended questions include: “How,” “Tell me about…”  and “What does it look like when…”

Closed-question example:

Trainer: Does your dog urinate in the house?

Client: Yes. 

Trainer: How often?

Client: Two or three times a day. 

Trainer: Do you see him have accidents?

Client: Sometimes. 

Open-ended question example:

Trainer: You said over the phone that Fido has housetraining problems. Could you explain to me what those problems look like?

Client: Well, he urinates in the house several times per day, mostly when we’re not watching him. He will go outside when we take him for walks, so it’s not that he never gets it right. But we can take him inside after a long walk and within 30 minutes, he’ll have had an accident. 

By asking one open-ended question, the trainer gets a much clearer picture of the dog’s behavior, and also has more angles to pursue. The trainer could then ask about whether the dog is being amply rewarded for his successful trips outside, as well as how much the client monitors the dog once he’s back in the house.

Pointing out discrepancies: 

Confrontation is uncomfortable. Often, direct confrontation does not yield an effective response from clients. It shuts down communication, puts up barriers, and puts people on the defensive. A much better approach is to point out discrepancies between what the client is saying and doing, and the client’s goals. Trainers cannot make clients change their behavior. By helping a client understand the gap between where they are and where they want to be, the trainer motivates the client and facilitates behavior change.

Example:

Client: I’m so frustrated with Fido. He chews everything in the house, and I know he’s doing it to get back at me for being at work all day. I don’t have time or want to exercise him, and I feel he’s going to wreck my house one day at a time. 

Trainer: I hear how frustrated you are with Fido’s chewing – coming back to a chewed up house must be so frustrating. But I also hear that you’re not exercising him very much. As we talked about last week, exercise and enrichment are going to be critical to managing Fido’s chewing. 

Client: That’s true, I guess I’m just so overwhelmed I don’t know where to start. 

Trainer: Let’s figure out a way to get Fido the exercise he needs. 

The trainer could have criticized the client for failing to follow through on the exercise homework. If the client is already overwhelmed, this likely would have exacerbated the problem. By pointing out discrepancies, the trainer opened up a pathway for more communication, and avoided the discomfort of directly criticizing the client.

Roll with resistance: 

Resistance is a normal, understandable behavior when people are faced with behavior change. Much of what dog trainers do is ask people to change their behavior and their schedule in order to train their dogs. Just as in dogs, human behavior change is not easy. Clients are likely going to protest, make excuses, and resist what we’re asking them to do. If we accept it, identify it, and change our approach, we have a chance of helping these clients come up with their own solutions and invite them to explore different ways of behaving in a non-confrontational manner. Lecturing, imposing rules, and telling clients what they “should” do creates resistance. Acknolwedging, emphasizing personal choice and letting the client feel in control will minimize it. If you encounter resistance, try a different approach. No amount of huffing and puffing with force a person to change.

Examples of how to roll with resistance:

How do you want to proceed?
Where should we go from here?
It’s OK if you don’t feel ready to commit to the training at this time. 

Empathy: 

When a client feels understood, she is more likely to be open to suggestions, change her behavior, and communicate more openly. Trainers must see situations from the eyes of their clients, and let their clients know they understand. Alternatively, judgment will only increase resistance and decrease motivation.