Executive Director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue (www.motleyzoo.org)- AMA about pet adoption, animal behavior, dog training and more!

jme Thomas
Jun 4, 2018

As a foster family for more than 1,000 animals, and from my experience as Executive Director, I can speak to many topics regarding animals.

For this session, the focus is on animal adoption and behavior.

Perhaps what you need to know before adopting a pet; what to ask an animal welfare agency about adoption, or how to find the right pet for you. There are many things to consider when looking for a new family member- you want it to be right, so the match will last! I can help you determine some things to consider when you're going through the process, so you can feel more confident that you will find your love match in the end!

As well, if you're having trouble housetraining your dog, or your dog is exhibiting unusual behavior- I can help you address some of those issues too. By better understanding your animals' behavior, you will be more successful at moving forward to resolve issues and find solutions!

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Can animals/pets adopt the personality of the owners? For example, a high energy person who has a cat. Can that cat become more energetic?
Jun 11, 3:50PM EDT0

Hm, well I know pets for certain pick up on anxiety and nerves- and that a very anxious person will likely make their pet anxious too...but this I am not sure of. I would say that they will probably need to adapt and meet in the middle- that a truly lazy cat will never be energetic per se, but may indeed engage a bit more when the person tries to (even if they wouldn't on their own). 

What doesn't usually work is a relatively inactive person adopting a high energy dog per se and expecting to rise to the occasion. That is usually the recipe for incompatibility because ultimately it's about what the person wants most- more than what the animals need. People can only go so far out of their comfort zones and lifestyle choices- so we always recommend getting a dog that matches your current lifestyle- not the buff, fit runner you want to be. 

I do believe that animals and people become more like each other, especially over time...sometimes they even really look like each other! But when it comes to choosing, choose based on who you are now and you will get a pet that best suits!

Jun 12, 12:06PM EDT0
When you get a puppy, what are some of the first steps you take to train him?
Jun 11, 12:47PM EDT0

Crate training is one of the best ways to start training your puppy. This provides them safety, comfort and boundaries which help them learn when it’s appropriate to potty and when not. The crate is like their school or work and they are indeed being productive when they are in there- even if it’s while sleeping. Puppies need to learn how to self-soothe, know when it’s time for play and sleep- the crate helps with all of this. And it is their bedroom. Everyone needs their own space- dogs too. Do not think of the crate as punishment or prison at all- it’s just like your sanctuary where you go to relax, whether that’s the den, the hammock on the porch or your tub. Crates are traveling bedrooms for your pup and will help when you need friends and family to watch them too! Not everyone wants to sleep with your dog- and if you’ve practiced crating, boarding will be much easier.

 

We believe in leash training early. It’s like teaching a child to read- what a shame to not try. It is not often an option for dogs not to walk well on leashes in our world, so it’s important you prepare them for this. Not doing so is doing your dog a huge disservice and is frankly, selfish in my mind. Think about what your dog needs, not what you might want! Keeping your dog safe and imparting manners is of critical importance for all dogs. Besides, dogs are eternal 3 year olds- and since when would you walk down a busy street and not hold your 3 year old’s hand? If you wouldn’t let a toddler do something like that, neither should you let your dog- and just like you buckle them in in the car, so is the leash like their seat belt.

 

Take a training class, which will train you as much as your dog! Sometimes you need to figure out how to communicate with your dog because yelling louder or saying No repeatedly will not help. It’s as if someone were yelling at you in a foreign language- you’d both get frustrated over the event before the message was apparent. Training is not just for bad dogs or ignorant owners- it’s for everyone and it’s a great way to bond with your dog. Think of it like a “date night” for you and your dog- just a way to pencil in a specific time you share, because life is busy and sometimes that’s what you need! Training is also not just to solve problems- rather, it’s better to prevent them in the first place. So take a training class for the fun of it and you will have a much deeper relationship and likely a more enjoyable time with your dog in general.

 

Socialization is probably one of the most important thing people don’t think of or realize. It is critical that if they are in your care that young, you help your dog meet 500 new people, places and things before they are 17 weeks. This is a critical period of personality forming- too little exposure can make the difference between a dog who is fearful (even fear aggressive) and one who is not. All dogs need continued socialization no matter their age- but especially up to 3 years, when their personalities are fully developed.

 

It is important you do not think the dog park is the only socialization for your dog either. Dog daycare is likely a safer bet either way, as would be having your dog socialize with known dogs in your life whose temperament and behavior you can better predict, as well as are more likely to be vetted properly. The dog park can really be like a free for all bar brawl and is not at all a recommendation we make for socialization. Take your dog lots of places and help them get over their fears- do not reinforce them. Petting them when they are scared or reactive is NOT comfort, it’s reinforcement! Be sure you are not sending them the wrong messages inadvertently or their problems will compound and escalate, possibly to aggression if not worked on immediately.

Get started on the right foot with training and socialization and you will be off to a great start!

Jun 12, 12:44PM EDT0
What is the pet adoption process usually like?
Jun 11, 2:16AM EDT0

The pet adoption process is different depending on if you’re adopting from an animal shelter or a foster based rescue. Because of their fundamentally different structures, they must operate differently when it comes to how they serve pets and people.

Check out our webpage which describes in greater detail some of the differences and how they may impact you.

Typically adopting from a shelter is quicker and less “personal” (they don’t ask for as much information), however this is really how it is too with their animals as well. Shelters have limited information on the animals in their care, therefore compatibility is truly assessed when you get home.

With a rescue the process is less about speed and more about compatibility. You will provide more detailed information about yourself, so that as they have gotten to know the animals, so can the rescue get to know you- to make that best match. As rescues are often entirely volunteer-run and working virtually (rather than directly in front of you at a shelter), this might take a few days as well- but when people do really want the right pet, not just the first one, they know that a few days is necessary to make that happen.

Either may work for you but it’s up to you to determine what you prefer- and to be sure not to get frustrated when a shelter can’t do what a rescue can or vice versa. This is the most common problem we see in adopting- people get angry sometimes which makes it hard for both sides. But just as libraries and bookstores both have books but operate very differently, so do shelters and rescues. Know this going in and you will have a much better adoption process!

Last edited @ Jun 12, 5:14PM EDT.
Jun 12, 12:59PM EDT0
Do pets in the workplace help increase camaraderie and better relationships among employees?
Jun 9, 6:48AM EDT0

I agree that it can indeed- but I have also seen it polarize people too. Unfortunately, not everyone loves dogs- and when you must interact with them and you don't, it can make things stressful.

We all know the benefits of animals- lowering our blood pressure and helping us calm down...this can be a great benefit for the workplace- at least if the dogs are also calm, well mannered and so on! They can become a distraction too, or frustration if they are misbehaving or barking...so it can really go both ways!

What's important is to respect both sides and try to find compromises. Many people who have their own offices put up a baby gate or keep their doors shut and can have dogs in their own space without exposing everyone to them. 

If someone really suffers from allergies and can't breathe, then perhaps you have to take that into consideration. Or maybe there are just too many dogs at work on any given day- and taking turns is how it must be done. 

Just remember that you may want what you do, but you'd never want to be put in a work environment that felt hostile or harmed you either, so be kind and respectful no matter which side you're on.

If you can't bring your dog, make the most of your life outside of work by including them as much as possible!

Jun 12, 1:06PM EDT0
Do you have any experience with service dogs? How long does it take to train them and what are some of the techniques of doing so?
Jun 9, 3:03AM EDT0

Here's an article I wrote about that, which covers some of this...as there are a lot of misconceptions. It also matters whether you are talking emotional support dog or service dog, like those for the blind. The latter requires far more specific personality qualities and training.

It usually takes 18 months to 2 years to train service dogs, but this is not because that's how long it takes them to learn- it's because that's how long it takes to see the dog's personality develop enough to know whether they are intrinsically suited to the job. A dog that is not the right natural personality and temperament should not be a service dog; it would be cruel to make a dog do a job they didn't truly enjoy and weren't inclined to do. Many dogs go through the same process of training but 50% do not move on to become dogs with jobs because they just don't have it in them. 

I am not sure of specific techniques per se, but consistency and structure are number one for service dogs as they have specific requirements they must fulfill. They must be disciplined and know when they are working vs playing and they must want to work over any desire to play or act out. Dogs spend nearly 2 years with their foster families and they can help provide this structure.

Foster dogs for rescues stay much less time.

Emotional support animals are those that provide a comfort to people, rather than a service. This requires a dog to be well mannered and trained, but not to the same degree as a service dog with a job. ESAs have a job incidentally, while service dogs are dogs meant to fulfill a specific purpose or need.

Jun 12, 1:17PM EDT0
What are some of the best pet adoption sites that you'd recommend?
Jun 8, 2:19PM EDT0

Petfinder.com is the biggest one, but another great site is Adoptapet.com- and Petango.com is another.

There are other smaller ones as well- perhaps 100 different ones- which is great when it comes to finding animals homes.

You find pets by selecting the species, breed, age and your zip code, so the system can pull up the animals closest to you, working to further away as you look through the resulting pages.

The key to remember is those sites are a place for individual rescues and shelters to post their animals- they are not animal adoption organizations themselves. 

In looking at a page of animals you've searched for, they may be from 10 different organizations. To see what is available at one shelter or rescue in particular, click the link in the animal's profile or search by distance for organizations, rather than specific species and breeds.

You can find anything in rescue, you just have to look and be a little patient...but you will find your best friend in time!

Jun 12, 5:19PM EDT0
Which animal behavior or psychology fascinates you the most and why ?
Jun 8, 2:07AM EDT0

I would say separation anxiety because it is still such a mystery as to why some dogs will suffer from it and others not.

There are theories that the 3rd time an animal is abandoned they will have a likelihood towards it, but others have been with the same family since birth and still exhibit this. I personally believe the latter is the result of lack of socialization- a codependence- but there are other dogs who are mostly with their family and don't seem to care much if they are moved to someone else's house either.

It is one of the hardest things to deal with as well because each dog behaves differently and manifests it differently too. What works for some dogs, doesn't work for others. It's especially bad when the dogs start hurting themselves in an effort to escape- or destroying things which they can also choke on, etc.

If your dog has separation anxiety, it is critical that you seek vet care and likely some clinical meds or at the very least herbs, oils or other calming agents. Your dog cannot be happy being that stressed, so cutting some of that off the top is essential- then you can get down to the root of the matter and start trying out different solutions.

Jun 12, 5:25PM EDT0
Can you find other animal species on shelters besides cats and dogs?
Jun 6, 1:53PM EDT0

Yes, certinaly! Each organization is different however in which animals they care for- and how they care for them.

There are many pet seeking websites like petfinder.com, adoptapet.com, petango.com and such, to find which species of animals are being cared for as well as their proximity to you (by zip code).

Take a look at the organizations near you and be sure to note whether they are a shelter or rescue. They will have different options right from the start as to when and how you can visit animals and how their adoption process works.

Please consider adoption first- adoption saves lives!

Jun 6, 1:59PM EDT0
Which do you see happen when it comes to raising awareness about animal cruelty?
Jun 5, 3:17PM EDT0

Animal cruelty is a tough one because there are so many varying degrees of it, sometimes people don't recognize it at its lowest levels. This can be neglected to groom their dog- which is a medical requirement for some breeds- to having too many animals, giving none of them enough time or attention.

There is also the belief that every dog who cowers was beaten, but really lack of socialization mimics abuse and chances are your dog was simply not adequately socialized over actually being hurt. While it can happen of course, true abuse is rarer than lack of socialization.

It is often because of this belief that all rescue animals were abused that can inaccurately steer people away from adopting them, which is tragic. Many of the animals in shelters and rescues were someone’s beloved pet the day before- financial issues and moving are major reasons people give up their pets, which has nothing to do with the animals themselves.

One thing people don’t seem to realize is how important their pet licenses are when it comes to the role they play in preventing and prosecuting animal cruelty cases. The fees from pet license are what pays for the animal control officers who keep your streets and animals safe- and they fund the capacity to prosecute offenders. If you don’t have a pet license, get one and think of it as your responsibility to ensure that the next dog fighting ring is closed down, in part because of your support!

Jun 12, 5:31PM EDT0
Have you had any experience with service dogs? How does dealing wih them differ from dealing with regular dogs?
Jun 5, 2:17PM EDT0

Service dogs have certain restrictions in terms of how they should be handled and it is far less about how you'd want to interact with a dog normally and more about what they are required to do.

For example, you cannot walk up to a service dog and pet them because this can be distracting to them or work them up so they can't do their job. It's important that they be able to tune people out so they can concentrate on their work, especially when it's walking someone across the street or sensing a seizure.

I don't believe service dogs go to daycare either, so they are not really allowed to "be dogs" in the traditional sense. While this may be sad on some level, the dogs that do those jobs really take pride in and enjoy the work and it makes them feel fulfilled to do it. Their purpose is service over fun.

Jun 12, 1:21PM EDT0
Would you recommend adopting a dog for someone who works long hours or would that not be fair to the dog ?
Jun 5, 3:12AM EDT0

There is something to be said for working long hours and thinking you shouldn’t have a dog, though if you want a dog you should certainly go for it- you just need to take some things into consideration. When you think of all the animals dying in shelters, what we tell our fosters is this: that dog would rather have a mere 10 minutes a day with you, then any spent in a scary shelter.

What kind of dog and the age will be significant factors in this decision. Getting an energetic dog when you’re not going to be able to exercise it, or a puppy when you can’t let them out or socialize them enough will indeed be a disaster- spare yourself and the dog in that case…but if you get a pretty easy going adult dog, chances are you can find a dog that will suit your busy life.

How you may need to adapt your schedule and what lengths your willing to go to do this is up to you. As long as you are considering their basic needs- and making the most of your time at home with them- that’s all they really ask for. Most dogs don’t get lonely actually, that’s really more of an anthropomorphic concept we put on them- so they typically don’t really care you’re gone as much as people like to think they do! People want to imagine their dogs pining for them all day, but really, they usually just sleep!! They also live in the moment- so while to you it’s been 8 hours, to them it’s been a nap’s time you’ve been gone and suddenly “it’s time to party!” because you’re home again!

When you have a dog, your life should not stop but you do need to plan around them for potty breaks. You will need to arrange something if you will have a day longer than 8 hours- that is the max a dog should be alone without the option for a potty break.

If you can’t go home during the day to let the dog out, hiring a dog walker or bringing your dog to daycare might be options that alleviate that concern. Dog daycare has additional benefits as well, including socialization, helping your dog get tired out so he or she is more “manageable” for you when you get home…but not every dog can do daycare either, in which case a dog walker may be your only option. Both, of course, are things you must budget into your plans as well because not letting your dog out is not an option!

Beyond the logistics of letting your dog out, it really does go back to the fact that if you asked most dogs, they are probably plenty happy with their lazy, “lonely” days and party nights/weekends with busy, working people. They’d certainly rather be with you than in a shelter- and the grass being greener with someone else is often not the case. Most people don’t spend every waking minute with their dogs which is totally fine. Chances are what you think is not enough is probably ample for them!

Fostering a dog could be a great way to see how this new life might look like as well- and instead of saving one dog, you could save a series of them. This can also be a great way to date some dogs and find the one you want to settle down with; the one you know fits relatively seamlessly into your life!

Jun 12, 6:10PM EDT0
What are some misconceptions people have about abandoned pets?
Jun 5, 1:06AM EDT0

There are any misconceptions about abandoned pets- namely that most abandoned because they have problems or the animals have all been abused.

Often, while no animal is perfect, many that fill your local shelters are there for no fault of their own. They have done nothing wrong, they are good animals- they have unfortunately been let down by people. This is also not necessarily their fault and for many, surrendering their animals is the last thing they want to do- while yes, for others, their pets are just disposable and the first thing to go when they prove to be inconvenient. But neither of those are about the animal- they are people problems that dramatically affect the animals.

Animals can cower and act as though they have been abused even when they haven’t. We have seen dogs grow up in “good, normal” families, but they still are so fearful and cower, because they were simply not socialized enough.

When people adopt or buy animals they often underestimate socialization and what it takes to really socialize an animal properly. Rather than researching this and training, they spend more time fussing over what breed to get- which is heartbreaking because shopping by breed is more like buying art (you like the way it looks) than you are choosing the animal that’s right for you, or whether you know how to manage them in the end.

Abandoned animals are the product of people letting the animals down in one way or another. It could be because the animals were not provided proper training and manners, or they didn’t learn housebreaking properly- but those are all skill, not personality traits. Dogs will learn skills if you teach them- they will learn anything you teach them and fill in the blanks where you don’t teach enough.

Don’t see abandoned animals as problem animals, they are baggage left behind when people have problems…and it really is true, one man’s trash is another’s treasure! Most times we say, “How could anyone have given up this animal”, far more often than we think we know exactly why.

Jun 12, 5:42PM EDT0

What an inspiration you are to have fostered over 1,000 animals! Please don't ever stop!

I have a 6 month old puppy who was rescued after being traumatised as a pup - she was hit by a motorcycle which shattered her front leg. Physically she has healed fine however since adopting her she can not cope with being left alone - leaving the house for even a few minutes results in her tearing anything within sight to shreds. She has destroyed hats, books, house decorations, beauty products - anything that she can get her paws on (even climbing on to tables to reach things.) I've been told that she has separation anxiety, and is it true that she never touches anything while I am in the house!

What steps would you recommend to try and train this out?

Jun 5, 12:18AM EDT0

Thank you- and unfortunately, this is sounds like separation anxiety at its finest. It can be such a difficult thing to deal with.

If you can enroll her in dog daycare, that'd probably be the best thing. She will get to socialize without you- which is important for dogs who have separation anxiety. She needs to find out the world is ok when you're not there. She will also become better socialized with new people and other dogs- a definite bonus.

It is likely she may need meds as well- just so you can go to the grocery store or go out for the night- especially if you can't bring her to daycare every day. Prozac is the med we usually try as a part of a plan to help overcome this, though you could try other things like CBD oil or herbs, first too. Sometimes those will do the trick, sometimes nothing at all.This is a clinical problem and if the “milder” things are not working, you shouldn't feel bad about giving her something stronger to help her feel more normal. It is helpful, not hurtful- and it will not change her personality, it will just make her more “her” and edgy. She deserves to feel better more than you should worry about “drugging” her. Some dogs really cannot be ok without meds and that’s nothing to be ashamed or guilty about- you just have to figure out where she may fall on this spectrum.

My other concern is that she will ingest and choke on something or get a blockage when doing such damage. This is where meds and crating can be helpful, but you must go slow. It is often said not to crate a dog with separation anxiety, but this is not a solution it's just a statement...it won't help you when she's destroying things and endangering herself!

It could be true that perhaps the freedom is causing the anxiety as well, more than your absence...so you might have to try a few things.

If you do start with crating (after she's been showing results on meds or herbs) start with to door open when you're there, working up eventually to closing the door overnight and then when you're gone. Feed her in there too so it's an even better place to be. You may be able to wean off the meds once she is happy in her crate because she will have learned how to self-soothe.

This is one you must be patient for and you should try and avoid situations where she has access to your things for her own safety most of all. So whether daycare, or meds and crating plan or all of the above, she needs a little help!

Last edited @ Jun 12, 7:47PM EDT.
Jun 12, 7:45PM EDT0
What costs are associated when adopting or rescuing a dog? What financial previsions should be taken?
Jun 4, 11:12PM EDT0

I lost my 15 year old dog last August.  I don't know if I will ever really get over him and will ever be ready for another pet.  How do you really know if you are ready to take the plunge for a new pet?

Jun 4, 9:49PM EDT0

Ah, this is tough and I am so sorry. It is never easy to lose our beloved furry friends, especially when they have been such a part of our lives. 

Here is what I have told others: your dog would probably be pretty sad to see you sad- as he would want what's best for you. He would also likely be very proud of you if you got back on the horse and adopted another dog eventually when you feel ready. I believe you have his blessing- and hope- that you will find love again with another pup.

How long it may take is up to each person, but we have found is that after the initial grieving period, people like the idea of fostering dogs. They can help them, but they don't have to commit their hearts for life yet, because it's still too hard. This way, however, you have a dog that needs and loves you- and you have that companionship that is so dearly missed. The foster is not a replacement for your beloved, he or she is there to help you heal, as you help them do the same! There is something really encouraging about that- and it is very rewarding.

You will know more when it is time. Maybe you fall in love with one of your fosters and that will be that- or maybe you just start looking online and a certain one catches your eye...but I believe sometimes when your heart hurts the most is when you should challenge yourself to give love out...sometimes it is exactly what can help you stitch up that wound.

You will always have a dog-shaped hole in your heart, just his size- but eventually, you will find love again. Just don't rush yourself- but try not to hold yourself back either. Your dog would really want you to be happy, so hopefully you can find a way to do that- even if it means with some other dog foster friends in the meantime.

I am so sorry for your loss. He is watching from over the Rainbow Bridge, waiting for you! 

Jun 4, 10:36PM EDT0
What are you most proud of regarding your work with animals?
Jun 4, 8:43PM EDT0

I am extremely proud of the people I have met that have committed to doing this work with me.

While I may lead the organization, it is seeing their spark ignited that makes me happy...because even if I- or another- inspires them, they must stoke that fire themselves...and seeing them grow through the process is very rewarding.

I have been a part of saving so many animals, I feel that my life has had exceptional meaning and purpose- which is what some search their whole lives for...and many never find.

I stumbled into this work, but it has changed my life and I know that I have changed many people and animals' too. I know that I made an impact in the world- even if in the scheme of everything, it's just a mere drop of water in a very large ocean. 

I remind myself of this on the very hard days- of which there are many! But I find the most satisfaction in giving to others- and when those loving, doe eyes of my foster look back at me, they tell me without saying a word: I made the right choice!

Jun 4, 10:48PM EDT0
How can one individually support animal shelters?
Jun 4, 5:07PM EDT0

Donating is the first way, and one of the most important because shelters and rescues spend most of their effort on vet care. For rescues like ours, we spend $15,000 a month on animals with specialized care- care no one else can do. This care costs 2-5 times what we could ever recoup in the form of an adoption donation- and the difference must be made up by lots of people giving even just a little bit.

Consider signing up to be a monthly donor of a nominal amount that you know you won't miss. That might be $5 or $10. Maybe you specifically give up your latte for a day and donate that each month. Every bit matters- and it's extremely valuable for the organization to be able to rely on that each month.

Donating supplies can be helpful too. Many orgs have Amazon Wishlists and or have specific needs. It is good to ask first so that you can get what they really need most- as opposed to just something that may or may not help. You want what you buy to be really meaningful, so put the effort in to find out what that will be!

Volunteering time is always critical. Most rescues have no paid staff and shelters may have some paid staff but often the majority of the actual animal work is done by volunteers. The dogs may not get walked that day if there are not enough volunteers! Try to give volunteering at least a 3month window of time before moving on, because it takes a lot of time and resources for animal orgs to train people- and it's really taxing when people don't stay at least that long. That's really the minimum time you will need to get the most from the experience anyway! 

Fostering is another way- taking an animal into your home. This is easier to do than most people think. It takes far less time than specifically committing a certain shift, because you do the majority of it at home. You may need to go to the vet and adoption events too though, so get the information and try it once before saying you can't. I think every foster we have ever had- including myself at one point- said the same thing!

Remember that "liking" an org's posts doesn't help as much as sharing- and neither help as much as acting and donating. Try to balance your passive support with active support too!

The animals literally need YOU. We can't do it without your support!

For more about supporting Motley Zoo see www.motleyzoo.org!

Last edited @ Jun 4, 5:49PM EDT.
Jun 4, 5:33PM EDT0
What are some tips to gain the trust of a fearful pet?
Jun 4, 4:51PM EDT0

Put a leash on the dog first and foremost. This way you do not have to chase or grab the dog for anything- and they can't hide or be cornered, because you can easily grab the leash and lead them away/ outside/ to safety. 

Let the leash drag at all times. Do not take it off even in the house. If you do, you will end up with a fight or flight situation and likely an unnecessary bite. Don't feel this is a bad thing to do for them- think of it as a seatbelt you're buckling for them on their journey to balance. It's safer for them and for you- there's no downside to that.

Tethering can be a way to have a dog who resists interaction. If you clip the leash to your belt and the dog goes with you everywhere through the house, very quickly they learn to trust you. Do not try to touch them on your terms, let them come to you and then go slow and be gentle and calm. No sudden movements.

If the dog is resistant to someone, they should be the one the dog is required to interact with more- that person feeds, walks and so on. The dog will have a hard time getting over the fear if they rely on the person they already trust. We're trying to expand their horizons of trust, not cater to their closed doors.

Medication may be a tool you utilize (see the response below), depending on how fearful.

The key is to think about interactions with dogs like this: if they want to do x too much, we must help them curb that. If they don't want to do y enough, we must encourage that. Don't let the dog hide and encourage them to interact (safely).

Help them find balance by doing the opposite of what they are inclined to do. Ten minutes of fear (getting over something) is far better than a lifetime of it..

Although there is a fine line between not encouraging enough and pushing too hard if you think about do be proactive while remaining safe and not taking unnecessary risks, you won't push too hard.

Them learning and growing shouldn't hurt or be seen as mean- but in contrast, you certainly can stunt their capacity for development by not trying at all or catering to the fear. Help them get over it- not live this way forever.

Jun 4, 5:23PM EDT0
How can owners of reactive and fearful dogs stay motivated with their training throughout difficult times?
Jun 4, 1:09AM EDT0

This is a good question because many dogs can be fearful.

One important thing to remember is not to encourage the behavior by comforting and petting the dog when they are being fearful. While this is very natural for people, what you are telling a dog is "good dog for being scared"...eventually if this goes on, dogs can become fear aggressive. Then they are petting their dogs saying "good dog for lunging, barking and biting people". So often people make the problem worse.

It is important to make sure to get help from a trainer for both fearfulness and reactivity because shyness can escalate quickly and you want to be ahead of the game and prevent bad behavior- don't wait to get help until you have (accidentally) helped instill it or the dog bites someone to consider. Training is as much preventative as it is problem-solving- only you might never have problems to solve if you get help first!

Medication such as prozac may need to be explored as a part of this training process. A dog who is extremely fearful may have so much anxiety and "white noise" the training isn't even "reaching them". The medication can help turn off that extra stuff so they can feel calmer and concentrate more on what you're doing with them. This is not a bad thing- and in some cases, is the nice thing to do for your dog. If you had to be afraid all the time, life would be really uncomfortable stressful and miserable- yet many people immediate discount medication that could help their dog actually enjoy life. It is not a magic bullet but it can be a tool used in conjunction with training.

Dog owners need to also realize that they need to do this- and they can do this- if they are facing this. There often is no one else- people have to rescue their own dogs. Believe you can and that everything depends on it- because very likely it really does. Don't give up! 

Especially if you stick with it you WILL see results- and that will be all the encouragement you need to keep going without frustration or hopelessness!

Jun 4, 5:12PM EDT0
What are your recommendations for owners that want to strengthen the bond with their hounds? What activities or exercises are specially good?
Jun 3, 11:50PM EDT0

Taking a training class is a great idea- whether or not your dog "needs" it. Take a class that is a bit more interaction if that's the case, like agility or nosework- but any time you spend some time actively working on learning and communicating with your dog, you are going to be developing a deeper bond.

Asking your dog to do a short training routine can be really fun too. While cooking dinner we turn to the dogs and get everyone to sit, lay down- one could roll over... they loved this. It didn't take extra time, just turn away from the waiting for the water to boil to do it.

Playing the "shell" game with treats and food can be good too- instead of using a bowl get them to find the food under one of a few cups. 

"Hide the thing" is a good one- take their favorite toy, hide it somewhere and have them go find it. This is a little more advanced, but dogs love it- it's like fetch but more brain games than physical.

Lastly, tiring your dog's mind will tire them faster than even hours of exercise. Thinking is much harder for them, so if you have a dog who has a lot of energy, games like this and inserting training ops into your routine will really make a difference!

Jun 4, 5:38PM EDT0
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