I just got a great email from a client about her dog. Bleau went through my 2 week board and train program recently. I sent an email asking how he’s been doing. Here is her reply:

“Oh my goodness he is doing AWESOME! We took him for a walk the other day when it was nice and he was very excited at first however within two houses you barely had to hold the leash. He is so much calmer, has gotten used to his “place” and is coming in without much of an issue. I forgot to mention- I took Bleau to visit my grandmother at her nursing home in West Bridgewater and he was great! He was calm despite all the wheelchairs rolling towards him and the residents wanting to pat him. While in my grandmother’s room, he sniffed her, licked her hand, then laid down by her wheelchair while we talked!
Thank you so much!

It’s so rewarding connecting owners with their dog’s potential. You don’t have to settle for your dog’s current behavior. Training your dog changes their state of mind and helps them to become calm and well adjusted. Don’t delay, train today!

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Assessing Your Dog’s Health

I recently had to say goodbye to my beautiful German Shepherd, Cortez. We knew this day was coming and he was living on borrowed time. Three months prior, he was diagnosed with a mass on his spleen. We removed his spleen but the vet told us that he may have cancer elsewhere in his body. We were told that he could possibly live another 3-4 months. It was a waiting game. I watched him daily for signs that the disease was taking over again. Would you know what signs or symptoms indicate that your dog is no longer healthy?

First, observe your dog right now, in his healthy state. Get a baseline as to what he should look like. Start with his general demeanor. Is he normally playful, feisty, calm, quiet, hyper, lazy? Any change in his normal personality could be an indication that he is not feeling well. Another indicator is appetite. A dog that won’t eat probably is not feeling well. You dog’s elimination habits should be normal as well. Frequent urination, diarrhea, constipation are all abnormal and should be addressed.

A simple physical exam can be done at home. The first thing I do is check my dog’s gum color. Normal gums should be pink or pink with black spots. Gums that are grey or white indicate that the dog is not well. It can be an indication of shock or that his blood flow is compromised. You should check capillary refill time. To do this you should press your thumb on the pink gums, when you remove your thumb you will see a white spot that will quickly fill back in pink. With an unhealthy dog, the thumbprint will remain visible. Gums should also be warm and moist. Cold, sticky gums indicate poor health as well. The next thing to do is take your dog’s temperature. A normal temp for a dog is 102 degrees. Yes, you will have to take a rectal temperature. It’s not difficult, just remember to keep one thermometer designated for rectal temps only.

Taking quick action can mean the difference between life and death. Know your dog and recognize what is normal and abnormal for him.

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Making a Difference

It’s so rewarding knowing that you made a difference in a family’s relationship with their dog. Below is a recent testimonial written by one of my clients. This dog went from being aggressive and intimidating to calm and trustworthy. Don’t just put up with your dog’s behavior. You can make a change, starting now….

I am writing this as a testimonial to the training my dog received from
Melissa at Northeast School for Dogs. I have a large Doberman who was
having behavioral issues with his aggression. I had been a bachelor
with my dog “Frank” for years and his behavior was never of great
concern to me as I was somewhat of a hermit. The whole reason I had
ended up with Frank is because his previous owner wasn’t able to
handle him. When I met and married my wife the issues with Frank
became much more evident. Frank would become aggressive towards anyone
who would come to our home. Once we had child Franks aggression became
unacceptable and a serious concern.

Melissa met with us and took Frank for two weeks. I was skeptical that
an older dog could be trained but we were willing to try anything.
When he was returned Frank was a completely different dog. Melissa not
only trained Frank but taught My wife and I how to handle our dog.
Frank is now a much more mellow dog. We are able to have company
without fear that our dog will be a problem. I honestly cant believe
the transformation my dog went through and I can’t speak highly
enough about the job Melissa did.

Dennis Fitzgibbons

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Tips For a Calmer Dog

The first thing you need to do is evaluate your dog’s state of mind. Is your dog calm, excited, stressed, nervous, hyper, fearful, happy go lucky, aggressive, etc. Next we want to look for reasons for this state of mind. Do you act excited toward your dog when you walk in? Do you acknowledge and pet your dog when he is in that state? Do you try tell him, “it’s okaaaayyy” when he is fearful? Chances are you are reinforcing many of the unwanted energy states.

Remember, “you get what you pet” Petting an excited dog, gets more excited behavior. Petting a pushy dog gets rude behavior. For them, the behavior paid off so they will repeat it. Ignoring, blocking and redirecting those behaviors shows him that you disagree with his behavior and he won’t get what he wants. Keep it simple. Reward the good, disagree with the unwanted.

Here’s an easy example…. When you come home, your dog runs up to you and jumps up in a frenzy. Do not make eye contact, do not pet or speak to him. Walk in, take your coat off, use the bathroom, get a drink, or speak with members of your family FIRST. Show him that excited dog does not get attention. If necessary, you can block by using your foot or leg to prevent him from jumping. Claim your space by imagining an invisible bubble around your body. Do not allow him in the bubble until all four feet remain on the floor.

After about 2-5 minutes your dog should be calmer. At this point you can calmly call him to you. I recommend bending at the waist and guiding your dog in front of you so his torso is across your shins. Essentially, he will be leaning against your legs so you can pet him across his shoulder and rib cage.

Pet calmly. It should be a slow massage or a long stroke along his body. Fast , rough petting with high pitched talking will only create excitement. The idea is to be gentle and soothing. Imagine when you get a massage, the therapist rubs slowly with very soft or no conversation. You wouldn’t be very relaxed if she gave vigorous karate chops and excitedly talked non-stop, would you? Help you dog to be calmer by giving off the energy you want him mimic.

Give what you want to receive. Life is simple, don’t make it complicated.

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Safe Treats

On a recent visit to my vet a couple brought in a dog for emergency surgery. The dog had eaten a portion of a knuckle bone. The bone fragment had caused an obstruction and the technician informed me that the dog would probably not survive. The dog had broken off and swallowed a large chunk of the bone when they were not watching.

Often, a client will pack a bag full of treats for their dog when they drop him off. As I examine the contents of the bag I will hand back the beef bones, pigs ears, rawhide, and bully sticks, explaining that I can’t leave these treats in their cages because they could possibly choke on them. I am not willing to take that chance with my own dogs and I certainly won’t take it with someone else’s.

Acceptable treats in my kennel are treats that can be eaten immediately. Biscuits, meaty treats, and carrots fall into that category. I used to say chicken jerky strips were acceptable too, but now there’s been a recall because so many dogs died after eating treats made in China. I don’t even take a chance now and just send them back in the overnight bags.

If you want to give your dog a treat that will keep him busy for a while a stuffed Kong is usually a safe bet. Cram some biscuits or dog food into a Kong with some peanut butter and stick it in the freezer. It will take a while for the peanut butter to defrost so the dog can get at the treats inside.

Stick with the safe stuff. You may think your dog needs beef bones, pigs ears and rawhide but he doesn’t. He wont know the difference and will be just as happy with biscuits or Kong treats. It will save you a huge vet bill or possibly losing your dog

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Board and Train Program

I’m often asked, “Why is the board and train program better than me training my dog myself ?”  Having your dog trained while he is boarded is the fastest way to see dramatic changes in your dog’s behavior.  While your dog is here with me he will receive constant consistent handling throughout the day.  This teaches the dog that he must adhere to certain rules and boundaries if he wants to get what he wants.  Because this is my full time job, I am able to take the time to be consistent, every time.  For example, I expect the dog to sit at the door before going outside.  If he doesn’t sit, he doesn’t go out.  The average person is in a rush to get their dog out so they can get ready for work.  I’m at work already, so I have all the time it takes to reinforce the training.

I have been a professional trainer for fifteen years.  I’ve pretty much, seen it all.  You may think your dog is incredibly hyper or naughty or frustrating but I understand that dog behavior is based on energy.  Your energy directly affects your dog’s energy.  I understand where your dog’s behavior is coming from.  I am able to calm and assertive and not let myself get flustered, frustrated or angry.  This teaches the dog that I am the calm leader and he is the follower.

This is why, in a relatively short period of time (2 weeks) you will see such a dramatic change in your dog’s behavior.  If you were to attend lessons for once a week it would take your upwards of eight weeks to complete a basic course.   Of course, you are involved in his training.  It’s important to understand that once he comes home from training you still need to attend lessons and reinforce the training.  He won’t just blindly follow you.  It’s my job to also teach you how to become that calm, assertive leader.    Once your dog understands that you know what’s expected of him, you will enjoy many happy years with him.

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Fleas love the Fall

Every autumn we see an increase in flea infestations.  Fleas love the weather conditions in the fall.  Your best line of defense against fleas is to check your dog often.  Purchase a simple 99 cent flea comb.  Start at their neck and run the comb down the dog’s back four or five times.  Examine the hair stuck in the comb.  Look for either a live flea or small black flecks that look like grains of pepper.  This is flea “dirt” or flea excrement.  You will probably see the flea dirt before you find a live flea unless your dog is really infested.  If you find either take action immediately.  A house can get infested very quickly.

The most aggressive, but costly,  approach is to leave it to the professionals.  Contact a groomer and tell them your dog has fleas.  You must tell them out of courtesy and so they will use the right product.  Ship them off for the day while you have a professional exterminator come in and spray your house.  You will have to leave for a few hours because this is a poison.  The pros will treat the house properly and come back a second and third time to make sure the life cycle of the flea has been broken.  All rooms must be treated even if the dog doesn’t go in that room.  Fleas will travel to the untreated room to avoid the poison.

If using a professional is not in your budget you need to be extremely thorough.  Buy a flea fogger for each room of your house.  You will need to repeat the treatment 2 weeks later and possibly in another 2 weeks.  You can use a product like Capstar on your dog to kill all the living fleas.  This will not treat the eggs though.  Follow all directions on any insecticide.  You will need to use a monthly flea treatment like Advantix, Advantage or Frontline.

I also recommend an all natural approach afterward for maintenance.  Sprays like Evolve have cedar oil, peppermint oil, and clove which repel fleas.  They are pet and human safe.   Check  your pet often to stay on top of fleas.  The more aggressively you treat the first sign of fleas, the faster you will get rid of them.  If you are incomplete in your treatment you can be plagued with infestation for months.  It only takes missing one flea to start the costly process all over again.

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911 and Your Dog

I like to review certain scenarios with my kids so they know exactly what to do in an emergency. I told them this morning that if they ever have to call 911 from our home they should lock all of our dogs in a room before the police or EMTs arrive. This allows the responders the ability to enter the home and do their jobs without any distractions. It also protects your dog from the possibility of being shot. Just google “police shoot dog” and you will see far too many stories of officers shooting innocent dogs because they thought the dog seemed aggressive when entering the property. Police aren’t trained (nor do they have the time) to assess whether or not a dog is truly aggressive. Even if you know that your dog would NEVER bite someone, the officer doesn’t. Avoid heartbreak and contain your dog when 911 is called.

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Read this article about dog developmental stages


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Before You Go Buy a Puppy…

It’s a shame, but people usually do more research buying a car than when buying a puppy.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “I wish I had known that before I got my dog. ”  Many people pick a dog based on what he looks like.  They want the cute Jack Russell or the handsome golden retriever.  Choosing a dog for your family should really be based more on energy level and temperament.

Consider how active your family is.  Are you hikers, walkers, homebodies, travelers, or couch potatoes?  You need to be able to match the dog to your energy level.  If you are avid mountain bikers then go for a dog that wants to run alongside.  If you just prefer a leisurely stroll then stick with a breed that needs minimal exercise.

Activity is not the only thing to consider.  Some breeds require an owner with a stronger personality or they will try to take control.  Some of the more powerful breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers,  and Bull Mastiffs need an owner who will provide clear leadership or these breeds may try to take control themselves.

Do you have kids?  Are their friends over all the time?  Some breeds are better around kids than others.  Labs, Goldens, Beagles, German Shepherds are usually a good match around kids if they are taught early on to respect them.  Of course there are many other breeds that do great with kids too.

Don’t forget the good ol’ mutt too.  Now we call them “designer dogs” but they’re really just mixes.  Once you breed the same breeds to each other over and over they develop into their own breed.  Cross a poodle and a lab and you get a Labradoodle.  Usually a very high energy dog that can be a fun dog for kids.  My favorite cross is a German Shepherd and a Lab.  It usually results in a very nice dog.  It’s funny but I don’t see that “designer dog” advertised.  But you can usually find them at your local shelter.  It’s a great place to find a really nice dog for your family.

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