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Handle a Dog's Nightmares

Anyone who has ever had a dog has probably witnessed their dog having a nightmare--or wondered if it actually was a nightmare. Yes, dogs dream and therefore likely have nightmares--just like people. Well, not exactly like people. They're probably not trying to frantically dial a telephone or showing up at the dogpark in their underwear--but a nightmare nonetheless. Here are some ways to handle your dog's nightmares.


If you notice your dog dreaming and possibly having a nightmare, for instance twitching eyelids, paws flailing, yelping or whimpering, it's probably best to let him continue to sleep--since deep rest is important--plus, waking him may cause confusion.

Try calling out your dog's name if you're worried that it's a seizure or your dog seems too distressed. It's best not to touch a sleeping dog since they may snap or bite as a reflex. If it's a seizure, you will probably be able to tell anyway. And if not, you'll know when you try to wake your dog. You'll be able to wake her if it's a dream, but not if it's a seizure.

If your dog's sleeping behavior seems unusual and continues that way, keep track of information such as what time it happened, what your dog ate and how long before going to sleep, and what noises, if any, were going on in the house. This information may be valuable to a vet in determining the cause.

As long as Rover doesn't sleepwalk and use your shoe as a potty--or take the car out for a joyride--it's normally best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Tips & Warnings

There are mild tranquilizers and anti-anxiety remedies such as the homeopathic Rescue Remedy that may be helpful for nightmares, but always check with a vet first.

Never administer any type of medication to a dog that hasn't been first examined by a vet

Dog Body Language Australia

It is obvious that your dog can’t talk to you to tell you when something is wrong, needed or wanted. It is important to learn dog body language so that you can easily tell what your dog is trying to say to you without words. This way you can meet all of your dog’s needs and make sure they are well taken care of.

When your dog lifts up its rear end, bows its head to the ground, and wags his tail vigorously, it means that he wants to play with you, right now. This can also be done at times when the dog wants to play with another dog or animal. It is not threatening in any way, and should be responded to immediately if at all possible.

Rolling Over
Dogs roll over on the ground because they know who is in charge, and they are trying to display that knowledge. They may roll on the ground when they have done something wrong you may not know about yet, or they might roll around on the ground because they don’t want to follow a command. However, it can also be as simple as meaning that the dog wants his or her belly scratched.

Tail Wagging
Tail wagging is to dogs as smiles are to humans. Most often it means happiness, but it can mean other things as well. It could signify nervousness or irritation at a situation. A wagging tail that is low almost certainly signifies this. You can usually tell why the dog is wagging their tail by what is going on around them, such as master coming home.

When a dog mounts another dog they are showing their dominance over that dog be it male or female and this is a possible trait that you may come across.

An extension of mounting, this sexual behaviour can be exhibited by male or female dogs... even neutered females. It can happen as a show of dominance, a desire for sexual gratification, a show of happiness or nervousness. You can stop this unwanted behaviour by making a loud noise or some other distraction for the pet.

Yawning in dogs usually means the same thing it means in humans. The dog is either tired or stressed out. In the case of stress, the yawn may come on before an incident or just after it has been defused.

Tongue Flicking
Dogs generally flick their tongues when they are feeling uneasy or apprehensive. This may be combined with yawning. It means that the dog is nor comfortable in some way, or is in anticipation of something great like a long walk.

Tail Tucked and Ears Back
When a dog is feeling really uncertain he will tuck his tail behind him and push his ears back, as well as take a few steps backward. Consider what or who has entered the room since the dog acted this way, and slowly introduce that person or thing to the dog. Overnight visits from strangers to the dog may not be a good idea if they are uncertain about that person.

Nose Nudging

Nose nudging is your dog’s way of getting your attention. It could mean the dog wants to be walked, fed, or played with. Whichever the case may be, it needs your attention. Use deductive reasoning to figure out what type of attention he or she needs at the moment.

Paw Lifting
This often means the same thing as nose nudging. This is also an attention seeking behaviour, but one that should be awarded with attention if the opportunity presents itself. 

Bio Sensor Exercises

Surprising as it may seem, it isn't capacity that explains the differences that exist between individuals because most seem to have far more capacity than they will ever use. The differences that exist between individuals seem to be related to something else. The ones who achieve and out perform others seem to have within themselves the ability to use hidden resources. In other words, it's what they are able to do with what they have that makes the difference.

In many animal-breeding programs the entire process of selection and management is founded on the belief that performance is inherited. Attempts to analyze the genetics of performance in a systematic way have involved some distinguished names such as Charles Darwin and Francis Galton. But it has only been in recent decades that good estimates of heritability of performance have been based on adequate data. Cunningham (1991) in his study of horses found that only by using Timeform data, and measuring groups of half brothers and half sisters could good estimates of performance be determined. His data shows that performance for speed is about 35% heritable. In other words only about 35% of all the variation that is observed in track performance is controlled by heritable factors, the remaining 65% are attributable to other influences, such as training, management and nutrition. Cunningham's work while limited to horses provides a good basis for understanding how much breeders can attribute to the genetics and the pedigrees. Researchers have studied this phenomena and have looked for new ways to stimulate individuals in order to improve their natural abilities. Some of the methods discovered have produced life long lasting effects. Today, many of the differences between individuals can now be explained by the use of early stimulation methods.

Man for centuries has tried various methods to improve performance. Some of the methods have stood the test of time, others have not. Those who first conducted research on this topic believed that the period of early age was a most important time for stimulation because of its rapid growth and development. Today, we know that early life is a time when the physical immaturity of an organism is susceptible and responsive to a restricted but important class of stimuli. Because of its importance many studies have focused their efforts on the first few months of life.

Newborn pups are uniquely different than adults in several respects. When born their eyes are closed and their digestive system has a limited capacity requiring periodic stimulation by their dam who routinely licks them in order to promote digestion. At this age they are only able to smell, suck, and crawl. Body temperature is maintained by snuggling close to their mother or by crawling into piles with other littermates. During these first few weeks of immobility researchers noted that these immature and under-developed canines are sensitive to a restricted class of stimuli which includes thermal, and tactile stimulation, motion and locomotion.

Other mammals such as mice and rats are also born with limitations and they also have been found to demonstrate a similar sensitivity to the effects of early stimulation. Studies show that removing them from their nest for three minutes each day during the first five to ten days of life causes body temperatures to fall below normal. This mild form of stress is sufficient to stimulate hormonal, adrenal and pituitary systems. When tested later as adults, these same animals were better able to withstand stress than littermates who were not exposed to the same early stress exercises. As adults, they responded to stress in "a graded" fashion, while their non-stressed littermates responded in an "all or nothing way."

Data involving laboratory mice and rats also shows that stress in small amounts can produce adults who respond maximally. On the other hand, the results gathered from non-stressed littermate show that they become easily exhausted and would near death if exposed to intense prolonged stress. When tied down so they were unable to move for twenty-four hours, rats developed severe stomach ulcers, but litter mates exposed to early stress handling were found to be more resistant to stress tests and did not show evidence of ulcers. A secondary affect was also noticed.

Sexual maturity was attained sooner in the littermates given early stress exercises. When tested for differences in health and disease, the stressed animals were found to be more resistant to certain forms of cancer and infectious diseases and could withstand terminal starvation and exposure to cold for longer periods than their non-stressed littermates. Other studies involving early stimulation exercises have been successfully performed on both cats and dogs. In these studies, the Electrical Encephalogram (EEG) was found to be ideal for measuring the electrical activity in the brain because of its extreme sensitivity to changes in excitement, emotional stress, muscle tension, changes in oxygen and breathing. EEG measures show that pups and kittens when given early stimulation exercises mature at faster rates and perform better in certain problem solving tests than non-stimulated mates. In the higher level animals the effect of early stimulation exercises have also been studied. The use of surrogate mothers and familiar objects were tested by both of the Kelloggs' and Dr. Yearkes using young chimpanzees. Their pioneer research shows that the more primates were deprived of stimulation and interaction during early development, the less able they were to cope, adjust and later adapt to situations as adults.

While experiments have not yet produced specific information about the optimal amounts of stress needed to make young animals psychologically or physiologically superior, researches agree that stress has value. What also is known is that a certain amount of stress for one may be too intense for another, and that too much stress can retard development. The results show that early stimulation exercises can have positive results but must be used with caution. In other words, too much stress can cause pathological adversities rather than physical or psychological superiority.

Methods of Stimulation 
The U.S. Military in their canine program developed a method that still serves as a guide to what works. In an effort to improve the performance of dogs used for military purposes, a program called "Bio Sensor" was developed. Later, it became known to the public as the "Super Dog" Program. Based on years of research, the military learned that early neurological stimulation exercises could have important and lasting effects. Their studies confirmed that there are specific time periods early in life when neurological stimulation has optimum results. The first period involves a window of time that begins at the third day of life and lasts until the sixteenth day. It is believed that because this interval of time is a period of rapid neurological growth and development, and therefore is of great importance to the individual.

The "Bio Sensor" program was also concerned with early neurological stimulation in order to give the dog a superior advantage. Its development utilized six exercises which were designed to stimulate the neurological system. Each workout involved handling puppies once each day. The workouts required handling them one at a time while performing a series of five exercises. Listed in order of preference the handler starts with one pup and stimulates it using each of the five exercises. The handler completes the series from beginning to end before starting with the next pup. The handling of each pup once per day involves the following exercises:
1. Tactical stimulation (between toes)
2. Head held erect
3. Head pointed down
4. Supine position
5. Thermal stimulation

1. Tactile stimulation
Holding the pup in one hand, the handler gently stimulates (tickles) the pup between the toes on any one foot using a Q-tip. It is not necessary to see that the pup is feeling the tickle. Time of stimulation 3 - 5 seconds.
(Figure 1) 

Figure 1

Figure 2 

2. Head held erect
Using both hands, the pup is held perpendicular to the ground, (straight up), so that its head is directly above its tail. This is an upwards position. Time of stimulation 3 - 5 seconds (Figure 2).

3. Head pointed down
Holding the pup firmly with both hands the head is reversed and is pointed downward so that it is pointing towards the ground. Time of stimulation 3 - 5 seconds (Figure 3). 

Figure 3

Figure 4 

4. Supine position
Hold the pup so that its back is resting in the palm of both hands with its muzzle facing the ceiling. The pup while on its back is allowed to sleep struggle. Time of stimulation 3-5 seconds. (Figure 4)

5. Thermal stimulation
Use a damp towel that has been cooled in a refrigerator for at least five minutes. Place the pup on the towel, feet down. Do not restrain it from moving. Time of stimulation 3-5 seconds. (Figure 5) 

Figure 5

These five exercises will produce neurological stimulations, none of which naturally occur during this early period of life. Experience shows that sometimes pups will resist these exercises, others will appear unconcerned. In either case a caution is offered to those who plan to use them. Do not repeat them more than once per day and do not extend the time beyond that recommended for each exercise. Over stimulation of the neurological system can have adverse and detrimental results. These exercises impact the neurological system by kicking it into action earlier than would be normally expected. The result being an increased capacity that later will help to make the difference in its performance. Those who play with their pups and routinely handle them should continue to do so because the neurological exercises are not substitutions for routine handling, play socialization or bonding.

Benefits of Stimulation
Five benefits have been observed in canines that were exposed to the Bio Sensor stimulation exercises. The benefits noted were:

Improved cardio vascular performance (heart rate)

Stronger heart beats

Stronger adrenal glands

More tolerance to stress and

Greater resistance to disease.

In tests of learning, stimulated pups were found to be more active and were more exploratory than their non- stimulated littermates over which they were dominant in competitive situations. Secondary effects were also noted regarding test performance. In simple problem solving tests using detours in a maze, the non-stimulated pups became extremely aroused, wined a great deal, and made many errors. Their stimulated littermates were less disturbed or upset by test conditions and when comparisons were made, the stimulated littermates were more calm in the test environment, made fewer errors and gave only an occasional distress when stressed.

As each animal grows and develops three kinds of stimulation have been identified that impact and influence how it will develop and be shaped as an individual. The first stage is called early neurological stimulation, and the second stage is called socialization. The first two (early neurological stimulation and socialization) have in common a window of limited time. When Lorenz, (1935) first wrote about the importance of the stimulation process he wrote about imprinting during early life and its influence on the later development of the individual. He states that it was different from conditioning in that it occurred early in life and took place very rapidly producing results which seemed to be permanent. One of the first and perhaps the most noted research efforts involving the larger animals was achieved by Kellogg & Kellogg (1933). As a student of Dr. Kellogg's I found him and his wife to have an uncanny interest in children and young animals and the changes and the differences that occurred during early development. Their history-making study involved raising their own newborn child with a newborn primate. Both infants were raised together as if they were twins. This study, like others that followed attempted to demonstrate that among the mammals, there are great differences in their speed of physical and mental development. Some are born relatively mature and quickly capable of motion and locomotion, while others are very immature, immobile and slow to develop. For example, the Rhesus monkey shows rapid and precocious development at birth, while the chimpanzee and the other "great apes" take much longer. Last and slowest is the human infant.

Socialization studies confirm that the critical periods for humans (infant) to be stimulated are generally between three weeks and twelve months of age. For canines the period is shorter, between the fourth and sixteenth week of age. During these critical time periods two things can go wrong. First, insufficient social contact can interfere with proper emotional development which can adversely affected the development of the human bond. The lack of adequate social stimulation, such as handling, mothering and contact with others, adversely affects social and psychological development.

Second, over mothering can prevent sufficient exposure to other individuals, and situations that have an important influence on growth and development. The literature shows that humans and animals respond in similar ways when denied minimal amounts of stimulation. In humans, the absence of love and cuddling increases the risk of an aloof, distant, asocial or sociopathic individual. Over mothering can also have its detrimental effects. It occurs when a patient insulates the child from outside contacts, or keeps the apron strings tight, thus limiting opportunities to explore and interact. In the end, over mothering generally produces a dependent, socially maladjusted and sometimes emotionally disturbed individual.

The absence of outside social interactions for both children and pups usually results in a lack of adequate learning and social adjustment. Protected youngsters who grow up in an insulated environment often times become sickly, despondent, lacking in flexibility and unable to make simple social adjustments. Generally, they are unable to function productively or to interact successfully then they become adults. Owners who have busy life styles with long and tiring work and social schedules often times cause pets to be neglected. Left to themselves with only an occasional trip out of the house or off of the property they seldom see other canines or strangers and generally suffer from poor stimulation and socialization. For many, the side effects of loneliness and boredom set-in. The resulting behavior manifests itself in the form of chewing, digging, and hard to control behavior (Battaglia).

It seems clear that small amounts of stress followed by early socialization can produce beneficial results. The danger seems to be in not knowing where the thresholds are for over and under stimulation. Many improperly socialized youngsters develop into older individuals unprepared for adult life, unable to cope with its challenges, and interactions. Attempts to re-socialize them when adults have only produced small gains. These failures confirm the notion that the window of time open for early neurological and social stimulation only comes once. After it passes, little or nothing can be done to overcome the negative effects of too much or too little stimulation.

The third and final stage in the process of growth and development is called enrichment. Unlike the first two stages it has no time limit and by comparison covers a very long period of time. Enrichment is a term which has come to mean the positive sum of experiences, which have a cumulative effect upon the individual. Enrichment experiences typically involve exposure to a wide variety of interesting, novel, and exciting experiences with regular opportunities to freely investigate, manipulate, and interact with them. When measured in later life, the results show that those reared in an enriched environment tend to be more inquisitive and are more able to perform difficult tasks. The educational TV program called Sesame Street is perhaps the best known example of a children's enrichment program. The results show that when tested, children who regularly watched this program performed better than playmates who did not. Follow up studies show that those who regularly watched Sesame tend to seek a college education and when enrolled, performed better than playmates who were not regular watchers of the Sesame Street Program.

There are numerous children studies that show the benefits of enrichment techniques and programs. Most focus on improving self-esteem and self-talk. Follow up studies show that the enriched Sesame Street students when later tested were brighter and scored above average and most often were found to be the products of environments that contributed to their superior test scores. On the other hand, those whose test scores were generally below average, (labeled as dull) and the products of underprivileged or non- enriched environments often times had little or only small amounts of stimulation during early childhood and only minimal amounts of enrichment during their developmental and formative years. Many were characterized as children who grew up with little interaction with others, poor parenting, few toys, no books and a steady diet of TV soap operas.

A similar analogy can be found among canines. All the time they are growing they are learning because their nervous systems are developing and storing information that may be of inestimable use at a later date. Studies by Scott and Fuller confirm that non-enriched pups when given free choice preferred to stay in their kennels. Other litter mates who were given only small amounts of outside stimulation between five and eight weeks of age were found to be very inquisitive and very active. When kennel doors were left open, the enriched pups would come bounding out while littermates who were not exposed to enrichment would remain behind. The non-stimulated pups would typically be fearful of unfamiliar objects and generally preferred to withdraw rather than investigate. Even well bred pups of superior pedigrees would not explore or leave their kennels and many were found difficult to train as adults. These pups in many respects were similar to the deprived children. They acted as if they had become institutionalized, preferring the routine and safe environment of their kennel to the stimulating world outside their immediate place of residence.

Regular trips to the park, shopping centers and obedience and agility classes serve as good examples of enrichment activities. Chasing and retrieving a ball on the surface seems to be enriching because it provides exercise and includes rewards. While repeated attempts to retrieve a ball provide much physical activity, it should not be confused with enrichment exercises. Such playful activities should be used for exercise and play or as a reward after returning from a trip or training session. Road work and chasing balls are not substitutes for trips to the shopping mall, outings or obedience classes most of which provide many opportunities for interaction and investigation.

Finally it seems clear that stress early in life can produce beneficial results. The danger seems to be in not knowing where the thresholds are for over and under stimulation. However, the absence or the lack of adequate amounts of stimulation generally will produce negative and undesirable results. Based on the above it is fair to say that the performance of most individuals can be improved including the techniques described above. Each contributes in a cumulative way and supports the next stage of development.

Breeders can now take advantage of the information available to improve and enhance performance. Generally, genetics account of about 35% of the performance but the remaining 65% (management, training, nutrition) can make the difference. In the management category it has been shown that breeders should be guided by the rule that it is generally considered prudent to guard against under and over stimulation. Short of ignoring pups during their first two months of life, a conservative approach would be to expose them to children, people, toys and other animals on a regular basis. Handling and touching all parts of their anatomy is also necessary to learn as early as the third day of life. Pups that are handled early and on a regular basis, generally do not become hand shy as adults. Because of the risks involved in under stimulation a conservative approach to using the benefits of the three stages has been suggested based primarily on the works of Arskeusky, Kellogg, Yearkes and the "Bio Sensor" program (later known as the "Super Dog Program").

Both experience and research have dominated the beneficial effects that can be achieved via early neurological stimulation, socialization and enrichment experiences. Each has been used to improve performance and to explain the differences that occur between individuals, their trainability, health and potential. The cumulative effects of the three stages have been well documented. They best serve the interests of owners who seek high levels of performance when properly used. Each has a cumulative effect and contributes to the development and the potential for individual performance.

Dogs : Don't Buy

I first wrote this article nearly 10 years ago. Since then it has become a classic of Bouvier literature, reprinted many times. Since then I have spent nearly 5 years in Bouvier Rescue, personally rescuing, rehabilitating, and placing 3 or 4 per year and assisting in the placement of others. Very little has needed revision in this new addition.....I give my permission freely to all who wish to reprint and distribute it in hopes of saving innocent Bouviers (Ed. note: we read CBR's here!) from neglect and abandonment by those who should never have acquired them in the first place.

Interested in buying a Chesapeake Bay Retriever? You must be or you wouldn't be reading this. You've already heard how marvelous CBRs are. Well, I think you should also hear, before it's too late, that


As a breed they have a few features that some people find charming, but that some people find mildly unpleasant and some people find downright intolerable.

There are different breeds for different needs. There are over 200 purebred breeds of dogs in the world. Maybe you'd be better off with some other breed. Maybe you'd be better off with a cat. Maybe you'd be better off with goldfish, a parakeet, a hamster, or some house plants.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you are attracted to the breed chiefly by its appearance. From a distance, the appearance of the CBRs you have seen may indicate that they are a chocolate, wavy-haired version of a Labrador Retriever. They are the largest of the retriever breeds and are not from the same lineage as a Labrador - the breedings are entirely different.

Chesapeake Bay retrievers are not related to Goldens or Labradors - and because of this very basic genetic difference, you cannot compare Chessies to these breeds. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are the result of crosses with Newfoundlands, hounds, setters, water spaniels and other dogs and were first recognized as a distinct breed in America in the middle of the 19th century. They were ducking dogs used by market hunters for retrieving waterfowl and protecting the day’s catch. These early objectives in breeding and selecting for outstanding ducking dogs has endured in today’s Chessies - they are still remarkably tough working dogs and loyal, protective companions. Chessies are not "happy-go lucky" retrievers - they will not "love" everyone they meet. They are indifferent to other people and dogs - very different from Goldens and Labradors. Chesapeakes are unique, intensely loyal, protective, sensitive, and serious dogs - traits that require thoughtful consideration before adopting a dog.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you don't intend to educate (train) your dog. Basic obedience and household rules training is not optional for the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. As an absolute minimum, you must teach him to reliably respond to commands to come, to lie down, to stay, and to walk at your side, on or off leash and regardless of temptations. You must also teach him to respect your household rules: e.g., is he allowed to get on the furniture? Is he allowed to beg at the table? What you allow or forbid is unimportant; but it is critical that you, not the dog, make these choices and that you enforce your rules consistently. You must commit yourself to attending an 8 to 10 week series of weekly lessons at a local obedience club or professional trainer and to doing one or two short (5 to 20 minutes) homework sessions per day. As commands are learned, they must be integrated into your daily life by being used whenever appropriate and enforced consistently.

Young CBR puppies are relatively easy to train: they are eager to please, intelligent, and calm-natured, with a relatively good attention span. Once a CBR has learned something, he tends to retain it well. Your cute, sweet little Chessie puppy will grow up to be a large, powerful dog with a highly self-assertive personality and the determination to finish whatever he starts. If he has grown up respecting you and your rules, then all his physical and mental strength will work for you. But if he has grown up without rules and guidance from you, surely he will make his own rules, and his physical and mental powers will often act in opposition to your needs and desires. For example: he may tow you down the street as if competing in a sled-dog race; he may grab food off the table; he may forbid your guests entry to his home. This training cannot be delegated to someone else, e.g., by sending the dog away to "boarding school," because the relationship of respect and obedience is personal between the dog and the individual who does the training. This is true of all dogs to a greater or lesser degree, but definitely to a very great degree in CBRs. While you definitely may want the help of an experienced trainer to teach you how to train your dog, you yourself must actually train your Chessie. As each lesson is well learned, then the rest of the household (except young children) must also work with the dog, insisting he obey them as well.

Many of the Chesapeakes that are rescued from pounds and shelters show clearly that they have received little or no basic training, neither in obedience nor in household deportment; yet these same dogs respond well to such training by the rescuer or the adopter. It seems likely that a failure to train the dog is a significant cause of CBR abandonment. If you don't intend to educate your dog, preferably during puppyhood, you would be better off with a breed that is both small and socially submissive, e.g., a Shetland Sheepdog. Such a dog does require training, but a little bit goes further than with a Chessie. Chessies can, with adequate training, excel at such working competitions as field trials and hunt tests, obedience, agility, and tracking.

DON'T BUY A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you lack leadership (self-assertive) personality. Dogs do not believe in social equality. They live in a social hierarchy led by a pack-leader (Alpha). The alpha dog is generally benevolent, affectionate, and non-bullying towards his subordinates; but there is never any doubt in his mind or in theirs that the alpha is the boss and makes the rules. Whatever the breed, if you do not assume the leadership, the dog will do so sooner or later, and with more or less unpleasant consequences for the abdicating owner. Like the untrained dog, the pack leader dog makes his own rules and enforces them against other members of the household by means of a dominant physical posture and a hard-eyed stare, followed by a snarl, then a knockdown blow or a bite. Breeds differ in tendencies towards social dominance; and individuals within a breed differ considerably.

Chesapeakes as a breed tend to be of a socially dominant personality. You really cannot afford to let a Chesapeake become your boss. You do not have to have the personality or mannerisms of a Marine boot camp Sergeant, but you do have to have the calm, quiet self-assurance and self assertion of the successful parent ("Because I'm your mother, that's why.") or successful grade-school teacher. If you think you might have difficulty asserting yourself calmly and confidently to exercise leadership, then choose a breed known for its socially subordinate disposition, such as a Golden Retriever or a Shetland Sheepdog, and be sure to ask the breeder to select one of the more submissive pups in the litter for you. If the whole idea of "being the boss" frightens or repels you, don't get a dog at all. Cats don't expect leadership. A caged bird or hamster, or fish doesn't need leadership or household rules. Leadership and training are inextricably intertwined: leadership personality enables you to train your dog, and being trained by you reinforces your dog's perception of you as the alpha.

DON'T BUY A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you want a totally unaggressive and unprotective dog. Most Chessies have an assertive and confident personality. When confronted with a threat, a proper Chesapeake Bay Retriever will be somewhat more ready to fight than to flee. Thus he may respond aggressively in situations where many other breeds back down. Most CBRs have some inclination to act aggressively to repel intruders on their territory (i.e.,your home) and to counteract assaults upon their packmates (you and your family). Without training and leadership from you to guide him, the dog cannot judge correctly whom to repel and whom to tolerate. Without training and leadership, sooner or later he may injure an innocent person who will successfully sue you for more than you own. With good training and leadership from you, he can be profoundly valuable as a defender of your home and family. (See also remarks on stability and socialization below.)

If you feel no need of an assertive dog, if you are embarrassed by a barking dog at your door, or if you have the slightest doubts of your ability and willingness to supply the essential socialization, training and leadership, then please choose one of the many breeds noted for thoroughly unaggressive temperament, such as a Sheltie or a Golden Retriever.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you are unwilling to share your house and your life with your dog. Chessies were bred to share in the work of the family and to spend most of their waking hours working with the family. They thrive on companionship and they want to be wherever you are. They are happiest living with you in your house and going with you when you go out. While they usually tolerate being left at home by themselves, they should not be relegated to the backyard or kennel. A puppy exiled from the house is likely to grow up to be unsociable (fearful and/or unprovokedly aggressive), unruly, and unhappy. He may well develop pastimes, such as digging or barking, that will displease you and/or your neighbors. An adult so exiled will be miserable too. If you don't strongly prefer to have your dog's companionship as much as possible, enjoying having him sleep in your bedroom at night and sharing many of your activities by day, you should choose a breed less oriented to human companionship. Likewise, if your job or other obligations prevent you from spending much time with your dog. No dog is really happy without companionship, but the pack hounds are more tolerant of being kenneled or yarded so long as it is in groups of 2 or more. A better choice would be a cat, as they are solitary by nature.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you don't value laid-back companionship and calm affection. A Chessie becomes deeply attached and devoted to his own family, but he doesn't "wear his heart on his sleeve." Some are noticeably reserved, others are more outgoing, but few adults are usually exuberantly demonstrative of their affection. They make remarkable eye contact with their favorite people. They like to be near you, usually in the same room, preferably on a comfortable pad or cushion in a corner or under a table, just "keeping you company." They enjoy conversation, petting and cuddling when you offer it, but they are moderate and not overbearing in coming to you to demand much attention. They are emotionally sensitive to their favorite people: when you are joyful, proud, angry, or grief-stricken, your CBR will immediately perceive it and will believe himself to be the cause. The relationship can be one of great mellowness, depth and subtlety; it is a relation on an adult-to-adult level, although certainly not one devoid of playfulness - Chessies are famous for their vocalization with their people (the "roo-roo-roos" and the snorts). As puppies, of course, they will be more dependent, more playful, and more demonstrative. In summary, Chesapeakes tend to be sober and thoughtful, rather than giddy clowns or synchophants. A number of breeds retain into adulthood a more puppyish and playful disposition, e.g., Australian Shepherds, Malamutes, and others. Quite a few are far more dramatically demonstrative and/or more clingingly dependent, e.g., the Golden Retriever.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you are fastidious about the neatness of your home. The CBR’s unique, water-repellent coat and his love of playing in water combine to make him a highly efficient transporter of dirt into your home, depositing same on your floors and rugs and possibly also on your furniture and clothes. You must realize that you should be prepared to get wet when you and your Chessie are near water. Although it is technically true that CBRs do not shed long coats and do not require professional grooming, they do "blow coat" at least twice a year and your house will be full of brown "dust bunnies" tumbleweeding their way about your house. I don't mean to imply that you must be a slob or slattern to live happily with a Chessie, but you do have to have the attitude that your dog's company means more to you than does neatness and you do have to be comfortable with a less than immaculate house. All dogs, like all children, create a greater or lesser degree of household mess. The Basenji is perhaps the cleanest, due to its cat-like habits; but cats are cleaner yet, and goldfish hardly ever mess up the house.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you dislike daily physical exercise. Chessies need exercise to maintain the health of heart and lungs and to maintain muscle tone. An adult CBR should have a morning outing of a mile or more, as you walk briskly, jog, or bicycle beside him, and a similar evening outing. For puppies, shorter and slower walks, several times a day are preferred for exercise and housebreaking. But, more than just walks, you need to "work" your Chessie. Chesapeakes were bred to work hard and the modern dogs still thrive on work. Anyone who owns one should be able to devote at least 20 minutes a day either working, training, retrieving or playing with them. Chesapeakes that are not worked - both physically and mentally - are prone to mischief and will not "think." Because of their love of water, 20 minutes of water retrieves is usually much more intense work than an hour walking around the neighborhood nicely on the leash. These active, intelligent dogs need jobs and responsibilities - it is best if you designate what these jobs are - you might not agree with what your Chessie decides is important!

All dogs need daily exercise of greater or lesser length and vigor. If providing this exercise and work is beyond you, physically or temperamentally, then choose one of the many small and energetic breeds that can exercise itself within your fenced yard. Most of the Toys and Terriers fit this description, but don't be surprised if a Terrier is inclined to dig in the earth since digging out critters is the job that they were bred to do. Cats can be exercised indoors with mouse-on-a-string toys. Hamsters will exercise themselves on a wire wheel. House plants don't need exercise.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you believe that dogs should run "free." Whether you live in town or country, no dog can safely be left to run "free" outside your fenced property and without your direct supervision and control. The price of such "freedom" is inevitably injury or death: from dogfights, from automobiles, from the Pound or from justifiably irate neighbors. Even though Chessies are home-loving and less inclined to roam than most breeds, an unfenced CBR is destined for disaster. The unfenced city CBR is likely to exercise his inherited retrieving instinct on joggers, bicyclists, and automobiles. A thoroughly obedience-trained Chesapeake Bay Retriever can enjoy the limited and supervised freedom of off-leash walks with you in appropriately chosen environments. If you don't want the responsibility of confining and supervising your pet, then no breed of dog is suitable for you. A neutered cat will survive such irresponsibly given "freedom" somewhat longer than a dog, but will eventually come to grief. A better answer for those who crave a "free" pet is to set out feeding stations for some of the indigenous wildlife, such as raccoons, which will visit for handouts and which may eventually tolerate your close observation.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you can't afford to buy, feed, and provide health care for one. Chesapeakes are not a cheap breed to buy, as running a careful breeding program with due regard for temperament, trainability, and physical soundness (hips & eyes especially) cannot be done cheaply. The time the breeder should put into each puppy's "pre-school" and socialization is also costly. The "bargain" puppy from a "back-yard breeder" who unselectively mates any two CBRs who happen to be of opposite sex may well prove to be extremely costly in terms of bad temperament, bad health, and lack of essential socialization. In contrast, the occasional adult or older pup is available at modest price from a disenchanted owner or from a breeder, shelter, or rescuer to whom the dog was abandoned; most of these "used" Chessies are capable of becoming a marvelous dog for you if you can provide training,leadership, and understanding. Whatever the initial cost of your Chessie, the upkeep will not be cheap.

Being large dogs, CBRs eat relatively large meals. (Need I add that what goes in one end must eventually come out the other?) Large dogs tend to have larger veterinary bills, as the amount of anesthesia and of most medications is proportional to body weight. Spaying or neutering, which costs more for larger dogs, is an essential expense for virtually all pet CBRs, as it "takes the worry out of being close", prevents serious health problems in later life, and makes the dog a more pleasant companion. Chessies are subject to hip dysplasia which can be costly to treat. (Your best insurance against dysplasia is to buy only from a litter bred from OFA-certified parents and (if possible), grandparents. Yes, this generally means paying more. Finally, the modest fee for participation in a series of basic obedience training classes is an essential investment in harmonious living with your dog; such fees are the same for all breeds, although conceivably you will need to travel a bit further from home to find a training class teacher who is competent with the more formidable breeds, such as the Chesapeake. The modest annual outlays for immunizations and for local licensing are generally the same for all breeds, although some counties have a lower license fee for spayed/neutered dogs. All dogs, of whatever breed and however cheaply acquired, require significant upkeep costs, and all are subject to highly expensive veterinary emergencies. Likewise all cats.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you want the "latest, greatest ferocious killer attack dog". Although the Chesapeake has been bred to be protective of his owner’s home, and he may be described as the "Rottweiler of the retrievers," the CBR is less capable in these respects than half a dozen other protection breeds. CBRs must have great respect for the leadership of his handler and must be solidly trained in basic obedience to that handler. Equally essential, he must have a rock-solidly stable temperament and he must also have been "socialized" out in the world enough to know that most people are friendly and harmless, so that he can later learn to distinguish the bad guys from the good guys. Please don't buy any dog for protection training unless you are absolutely committed to the extreme amount of work that will be required of you personally. Also talk to your lawyer and your insurance agent first. In contrast to the protection-trained dog, trained to bite on direct command or in reaction to direct physical assault on his master, the "deterrent dog" dissuades the vast majority of aspiring burglars, rapists, and assailants by his presence, his appearance, and his demeanor. Seeing such a dog, the potential wrong-doer simply decides to look for a safer victim elsewhere. For this job, all that is needed is a dog that is large and that appears to be well-trained and unafraid. CBR’s are suited to this type of protection, since they usually bark at people who approach the property or the home. On a leash, however, most people equate the CBR with the Labrador, a notoriously friendly dog.

Other breeds of dog which are suitable for protection or for deterrence include the Doberman, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Briard, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, and Belgian Malinois. Of these the first 3 are recognized by the general public as "police dogs" and are probably far more feared by most potential criminals would be by a Chesapeake. The Malamute, though not suitable for protection, is quite effective for deterrence due to his highly wolf-like appearance.

DON'T GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER if you are not willing to commit yourself for the dog's entire lifetime. No dog deserves to be cast out because his owners want to move to a no-pet apartment or because he is no longer a cute puppy or didn't grow up to be a beauty contest winner or because his owners through lack of leadership and training have allowed him to become an unruly juvenile delinquent with a repertoire of undesirable behaviors. The prospects of a responsible and affectionate second home for a "used" dog are never very bright, but they are especially dim for a large, poorly mannered dog. A Chesapeake dumped into a Pound or Shelter has almost no chance of survival unless he has the great good fortune to be spotted by someone dedicated to Chesapeake Bay Retriever Rescue. The prospects for adoption for a youngish, well-trained, CBR whose owner seeks the assistance of the nearest CBR Club or Rescue group are fairly good; but an older Chessie has diminishing prospects. Be sure to contact your local American Chesapeake breeder or Rescue group if you are diagnosed as terminally ill or have other equally valid reason for seeking an adoptive home. Be sure to contact your local Chessie breeder or rescuer if you are beginning to have difficulties in training your Chessie, so these can be resolved. Be sure to make arrangements in your will or with your family to ensure continued care or adoptive home for your Chessie if you should pre-decease him.

The life span of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever is from 10 to 15 years. If that seems too long a time for you to give an unequivocal loyalty to your Chessie, then please do not get one! Indeed, as most dogs have a life expectancy that is as long or longer, please do not get any dog!

If all the preceding "bad news" about Chessies hasn't turned you away from the breed, then by all means DO GET A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER! They are every bit as wonderful as you have heard!

If buying a puppy, be sure to shop carefully for a responsible and knowledgeable breeder who places high priority on breeding for sound temperament and trainability and good health in all matings. Such a breeder will interrogate and educate potential buyers carefully. Such a breeder will continue to be available for advice and consultation for the rest of the puppy's life and will insist on receiving the dog back if ever you are unable to keep it.

However as an alternative to buying a Chessie puppy, you may want to give some serious consideration to adopting a rescued CBR. Despite the irresponsibility of their previous owner, rescued CBRs have proven to be rehabilitated so as to become superb family companions for responsible and affectionate adopters. Many rescuers are skilled trainers who evaluate temperament and provide remedial training before offering dogs for placement, and who offer continued advisory support afterwards. Contact the Chesapeake Bay Retriever Rescue & Relief home page ( or a local breeder to learn who is doing Rescue work.

Dogs : Dominance

Before buying a Chesapeake puppy, please read this article as Chesapeakes aren't for everyone.

Just like people, dogs have individual personalities and traits. Certain breeds tend to produce dominant personality types. Within each litter of puppies there is also a variety of personality types-from dominant to submissive. If you are adopting a dog that exhibits a dominant, assertive personality, the following information will be helpful in establishing your new relationship.

Traits of a dominant, assertive dog: 
1} Dominant, assertive dogs think of themselves as the leader in your family or "pack". This is natural for the dog but sometimes it is difficult for the human to understand. These dogs are often ready to challenge for the right to lead. Once allowed to become the leader, the dog may be willing to fight to retain the position.

2} Dominant dogs do not, as a rule, do well around children. They will not tolerate the quick movements and unpredictable handling typical of children. Unless you are there to carefully supervise, do not allow these dogs to be around children.

3} Dominant dogs may be small or large. A small dog with an assertive personality can be just as possessive, protective and pushy as any large dog of the same temperament. Do not tolerate aggressive behavior from either of them. Small or large, a growl or snap is likely to lead to a bite. Small or large dogs that bite are dangerous.

4} Dominant dogs may be subtle in their manipulation of you. When you stop stroking the dog, he may nudge you to continue. If you resume the stoking in response to the nudging, he has successfully trained you to treat him as the leader. Assertive dogs take compliance to mean they have the right to make you obey them. They nudge, you stroke, they growl, you resume stroking. It is one small step to growling at you when you try to make them get off the couch, followed by snapping when you insist they obey.

Living with a dominant assertive dog doesn’t mean you can't let your dog sleep on the couch or have him in your lap when you stroke him. It just means you need to be very aware of how the dog is interpreting your actions. You need to learn the dog's language. You also need to learn about leadership, so that you can be in charge instead of a dog calling the shots, if you are in charge, you have the right to allow the dog on the couch and also to make him get off the couch when you want. If you are not willing to be an assertive leader, do not adopt a dog with this personality type. Both you and the dog will be happier if you select a more submissive dog. Two things help make a positive relationship with a dominant dog. The first is obedience training and the second is to establish you as the pack leader. Establishing oneself as the pack leader and to be followed.

Dominance and Principles Behind It 
For obedience training to proceed smoothly, your dog must consider you its alpha leader. This means that it considers YOU the boss. There are a number of exercises you can do to establish and maintain dominance over your dog. Individual dogs vary in submissiveness. If your dog is very submissive, you don't need to worry about establishing dominance (in fact, you may need to tone down your own dominating behavior to help bolster its confidence). Most dogs are happy to be submissive: just be sure to show approval at the occasional signs of submission, and assert dominance if it tries to test you (most dogs will, in adolescence). A very few dogs may be dominant and continually challenge you for dominance, in which case you will actively need to assert and establish your position. More often, people will misinterpret adolescent high energy or bratty behavior as ploys for dominance when they are not. Think of a two-year-old human child testing her parents. She's finding out what the limits are rather than actually "challenging" her parents for leadership. Puppies and young dogs do exactly the same thing. Correct them firmly, but don't go into an all out "dominance battle" when not appropriate. Returning to the toddler analogy, the most you might do is a sharp “No-Sit”, or a cuff up under the chin then a No-sit. You would not pick her up; hold her against the wall and scream at her. Remember that most dogs are still "young". Only apply additional pressure or corrections as they grow or are older and do it along with supervision. If you are not sure how to correct a dominant dog contact your breeder for additional help.

Never mistake being alpha with punishment 
An alpha leader is fair. An alpha leader deserves its position. An alpha leader does not use fear, punishment or brute force to achieve and maintain its position. An alpha leader, instead, makes it crystal clear what behaviors it approves of and which it do not. An alpha leader expects its subordinates to follow its lead; it does not force them to. If you get mad at your dog, or angry or furious, you've lost the alpha position. Dogs do not understand fury. You have to be calm and focused. You must teach them the command and show them what you want, and then expect that from them. Always show approval at signs of submission. Praise your dog when it drops its eyes first. Praise it when it licks you under the chin. Give it an enthusiastic tummy rub when it rolls over on its back. Be consistent and fair in your corrections. You must demonstrate to your dog that it can trust your orders. 

Do not ever correct the dog after the fact 
Such corrections appear to be arbitrary and unfair to the dog, because it has no associative memory the way people do. If your dog is still a puppy, socializing it is a good way to gain its trust. If you decide that some action requires correction, *always* give a correction when you see that action. For example, if you decide that your dog is not allowed on the sofa, then *always* correct it when you see it on the sofa. Consistency can be a big challenge with a family. Every family member must agree on the basic ground rules with the dog; when and for what it should be corrected, what commands to use and so on. Families must cooperate extensively to avoid confusing the dog. It is best if only one person “actively” trains the dog but all must participate; thereafter if the commands are given the same way, everyone in the family can use them. Finally, always use the minimum correction necessary. If a sharp AH-AH will do, use that rather than an alpha roll. If a pop under the chin will do, use that rather than a scruff shake.

Correct the dog's challenges
Especially during adolescence, your dog may test and/or challenge your position. Do not neglect to correct this behavior. You don't need to come down like a ton of bricks; just making it clear you don't tolerate the behavior is sufficient. BE FIRM! For example, don't let your dog crowd you through the door, don't let him jump out of the car until you've given him permission, don't let him jump for food in your hand. Don't let him ignore commands that he knows.

Learn how to display alpha behavior
You may not need to use all of these, but you should be familiar with them. They are listed in "escalating" order. Do not use any of these if you are angry or upset. The point is never to hurt the dog, but to show it who is alpha. They work best if you are calm, firm, and matter of fact. Again, always use the minimum correction necessary. More important than knowing how to perform an alpha roll is learning to play the alpha role. That means having the attitude of "I-am-always-right-and-I-will-never-let-my-dog-willfully-disobey-me" without ever becoming angry or giving up. Picture a small two-year old toddler. You're not in a struggle over who's "Mom" but over what the child is allowed to do, and there's a crucial difference in the two.

Using an alpha roll on a dog that is already submissive but disobeys because it doesn't know what is expected of is destructive to the relationship between you and the dog. Likewise, using an alpha role on a dominant dog but not using any other positive reinforcements can alienate it. Most dogs never need to be alpha rolled in their lives. Furthermore, alpha rolls are one of the strongest weapons in dominance arsenal. Save it for the gravest of infractions. Being dominant is no substitute for learning to read and understand your dog. Proper obedience (which should be a part of any dog's life, even when "only" a pet) is a two way street and requires you to be as responsible to your dog as your dog is responsive to you.

There are a number of ways in demonstrating dominance:
Timeouts: put the dog on a down stay or if not yet trained to do so, lay the dog on its back and hold it there for a while once the dog stops struggling you can then let it up. This is often surprisingly effective, since dogs are such social creatures.

Eye contact: alphas "stare down" subordinates. If your dog does not back down in a stare contest, start a verbal correction. As soon as it backs down, praise it.

Taps under the chin: alpha dogs nip subordinates under the chin as corrections. You can use this by tapping your dog under the chin with your fingers. Don't tap on top of the muzzle, not only can you risk injuring your dog's sense of smell, you may make him hand-shy.

Grabbing under the ears: alpha dogs will chomp under subordinate dogs' ears and shake. You can mimic this by holding the skin under your dog's ears firmly and shaking. Again, do not use excessive force. Do this just enough to get the point across. DO NOT grab the top of the neck and shake. You may injure your dog this way.

Insist on decorous behavior
Feed your dog after your own dinner. Make him lay down while you are eating rather than beg at your lap. Don't let it crowd through a doorway ahead of you. Don't let it hop out of the car until you say OK. There are a variety of small things you can do that assert your dominance in a non-traumatic way. If you're clever about it, you can use them to get a well-behaved dog (one that doesn't shoot out of the front door or scramble out of the car or beg at the table). In particular, putting a behavior that the dog wants to do on hold until you say OK is a very good way to be the alpha and keep the dog well behaved.

Make sure your dog obeys everyone in your family
This is a fairly important point. If your dog seems to have trouble obeying a particular family member, you must make sure it does so, by always backing up the family member when he or she tells the dog to do something. If the family member seems to be afraid of the dog, or is very young, then you should supervise all interaction until the problem is resolved.

For adults to use in advanced socializing and training only!

Aggression with other Dogs
Dogs can be aggressive with other dogs, especially if they have not been properly socialized with other dogs in puppy-hood. Sometimes a dog that is naturally dominant has trouble with other dogs especially in puberty. Sometimes a dog has a specific experience (e.g. a dogfight with another aggressive dog) that causes it to become aggressive toward other dogs in general as well. Whatever the reason, it is well worth your time working on your dog's aggression toward other dogs. You will probably get the best results, especially with a problem dog -- extreme aggression, for example -- if you contact a local trainer (preferably one that specializes in problem dogs) for individual help. However, there are some common-sense things you can do.

First, a bit of basic dog psychology: friendly behaviors include moving side by side, sniffing butts, tails wagging at body level (not up high or over the back). Not-friendly behaviors include meeting face-to-face when approaching, ears forward and tail over back.

Force them into friendly behaviors as follows: walk the dogs in parallel on leash. They should be close enough to see each other but not close enough to snap at or touch each other. Be careful when you two turn that the dogs don't tangle. Make sure one doesn't get ahead of the other: keep them parallel. Keep this up until they relax. Slowly start walking closer together as behavior permits.

Hold one dog on leash in a sit. Have food treats and a water bottle handy. Walk the other dog toward it, to about six feet, and then turn away (increase the distance if the sitting dog snarls). The idea is to turn away *before* the sitting dog shows any aggression. If the dog shows no aggression, reward it with a food tidbit or verbal praise. Do NOT touch the dog (stand on the leash or tie it down). If it does growl, spray it with water. Switch the dogs so that each experiences sitting or walking toward. They are learning that good things happen without defensive behavior. As they improve, start walking a bit closer before turning. If the sitting dog snarls, do NOT turn the other dog away: the person with the sitting dog should correct it and when the dog subsides, THEN the moving dog should turn away.

Finally, holding the head of one dog, but allowing it to stand, have the other dog investigate its rear briefly. This is really the extreme extension of the above. These exercises have several purposes. One is to force the dogs to consider themselves friendly by engaging in the behavior of friendly dogs. The other is to teach both dogs that an approaching dog is not necessarily grounds for aggression.

This will take a lot of work, probably over a couple of months, but they will work, and what's more, should reduce tensions with other dogs as well (i.e., not only between the two specific dogs in the exercises). If you still have issues with an aggressive dog, contact your breeder for additional help.

Dogs Attention seeking

Attention-seeking behaviour in dogs are often shown in puppyhood initially, when care soliciting from a parent and the need to play and interact with littermates is quite normal of course.

But once they are grown up more and have established more adult relationships with their owners, as well as other dogs, jumping up, pawing, barking or dropping a toy into a lap uninvited and other demands for interaction are not always seen as being cute or fun all the time. However, such demands are often nonetheless inevitably rewarded with the owner’s full attention - a cuddle, a game, and verbal chat in that voice we reserve for babies and puppies and so these behaviours are reinforced, learned and maintained perhaps long after they should have naturally been lost or used more sparingly in social encounters by dogs when older!

Dogs value human attention throughout their lives - especially from their owners, on whom they dote, but clearly also need to learn to become more functionally independent and less constantly dependent on us. There’s nothing wrong with giving attention to our dogs, of course. After all, what’s the point of having a dog if you’re going to spend the entire time ignoring your best friend?! But if you reward behaviour in a puppy continuously and don’t help him to learn to be less dependent on direct contact when he is in your company and to develop his own independent interests, all that attention demanding can become a real nuisance when he’s fully grown, and does nothing to help him develop into a more restrained and contented adult.

For example, if an eight-week-old Newfoundland pup jumps up at you for attention or when you feed him, it’s all pretty harmless. But if that same dog as a three-year-old heavy hairy monster jumps up, he could easily dangerously floor a child or elderly person, or even a strong adult. Equally in a smaller dog, nudging or pawing for your attention as a pup can start off as being very cute but if your adult dog does it over and over again, whenever you are busy and unable to give him attention, it can become very annoying indeed.

In all cases, giving the demanding dog the attention he’s seeking will stop the behaviour only briefly. The moment you turn your focus to something else, it will be repeated again… and again. Pushing your dog away or giving any other negative response, even telling him off, will be equally unsuccessful, as it all still involves giving him some attention. From a dog’s viewpoint, anything is better than nothing, so even such negative attention is valued.

The key, then, is to ignore the attention-seeking, and to reward good manners instead. So if he nudges you for a pat or uses another attention-seeking behaviour, ignore him. Don’t look at him, speak to him or touch him. Completely ignore him and get up calmly and walk away if he persists (as he often will, initially). Instead, when he is quietly undemanding - perhaps busy with a chew toy, or watching the world go by in his bed, call him to you and give him a fuss. This establishes that lots of attention is available but mainly at your behest, not his.

Safety must come first, of course. If your dog’s attention-seeking involves stealing something forbidden and running off with it, assess any dangers. Dogs learn what will quickly get us leaping from our seats, eager to chase them for their prize. Generally, the more prized or dangerous the object, the more intense our reaction - and the dog will soon learn seek out such objects again in the future! If your dog has run off with something that could harm him, you have to remove the item from him. But make sure it doesn’t happen again by keeping all scissors, remote controls, shoes and other ‘stealable’ items out of reach if your dog seeks attention through theft! That way, you won’t reinforce the behaviour by ‘playing’ chase!

Do be aware that nuisance attention-seeking will generally get worse before it gets better when you try to treat it. If you ignore your dog when previously you’ve given him your attention for a particular behaviour, your dog will become frustrated as to why he is no longer able to elicit what he thought was a predictable response from you. So he’ll do what he knows more intensively and nudge harder, or bark louder, or jump higher to get your attention. Be strong and ignore all his attempts, or walk away as required or you’ll soon be back to square one!

If the nuisance attention seeking continues despite your best efforts, do seek professional help from a behaviourist via a veterinary referral. It could be that there is an underlying reason for the behaviour, such as intense insecurity, which will need delicate handling and a broader approach to your dog’s social husbandry.

The information contained in this article is not a substitute for individual veterinary or behavioural advice and is for information purposes only. You should always consult a veterinary surgeon if you have any concerns about your pet’s health. He or she will be able to take a complete medical history and physically examine your pet, to then recommend appropriate individual advice or treatment options. For detailed behavioural advice tailored specifically for your pet, we recommend that you contact a qualified pet behaviourist. For further details of local canine and feline behaviourists practising in your area and how they offer help for with problem pets, please contact The Coape Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers at Do bear in mind that while dog trainers can take you on as a client directly, pet behaviourists will always require a referral from your veterinary surgeon.

Signs That Your Dog May Not Be Treating

Are you guilty of doing or allowing any of the following? (Definite no, nos, especially if you have a dog that tends to be aggressive.) These things may seem harmless or insignificant to you, but they mean lots to a dog.

1. Does he growl, snarl or snap at you if you try to move him? 

2. Did you give him lots of treats, love, hugs, talking in nice tones even though he was doing nothing but lying there looking cute? 

3. Does he sit on the sofa? Perhaps you let him have a nice comfy spot on your bed! 

4. Does he lay in walkways blocking your way? Maybe instead of making him move, did you step over him? 

5. Have there been times you have called him to come, or told him to sit, and he ignored you, and you did nothing about it? 

6. Did you ever play tug of war, and let him win and play with the toy afterward? 

7. Are all members of your family in agreement and consistent with the same method of training?

8. Do you allow him to circle you or excessively lick you?

9. Do you let him have some scraps from the table?

10. Do you let your dog enter the door, gate, car, before you?

11. Do you open the door for your dog when he scratches to be let in?

12. Do you automatically pet your dog when he paws at you or nudges you with his nose?

13. Do you comfort him and pet him and say “It’s Okay” when he barks at company?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, the dog is misbehaving or even shows aggression because he mistakenly thinks he is the Alpha dog in your house, or he is in conflict because you are sending him mixed messages. What may be clear to you can be completely confusing to your dog. You may unknowingly be sending conflicting messages to your dog, whereby he will then make up his own mind.

Answers to Survey:

1. A dog should never be allowed to show even the slightest hint of aggression. If your dog displays that type of behavior, he should receive the highest form of discipline. If you are unable to do this with confidence, perhaps a muzzle is for you. All you have to do is win a couple of disputes and it won’t be an issue any more. If you are in doubt about how to administer a proper correction, seek the advice of a professional. 

2. You can give him all the love you want, just make him earn it. Make him earn everything before you give him any affection or food (for example, make him sit before you pet him, or before you give him his food, or let him in the house.) He must rely on you for everything.

3. As a general rule, your dog should never sit on the sofa or bed. Occasionally there are exceptions to the rule with the more docile dogs. However, in the dog world, the dog that is lying equal to your level or higher up is the Alpha dog. You always want to be at least a head above your dog.

4. Make your dog moves if he is in your way. Do not step over him or go around him.

5. Never give a command you know you can’t or won’t enforce. Enforce every command. Make him obey on the first command. Do not repeat, or make your command sound like a request or a question. If you give him an option, he will ignore you. It takes getting away with something just once for him to challenge your authority.

6. Never play tug-of-war with an aggressive dog. It kicks in their instinct to compete and challenge. If you allow your dog to win a tug-of-war and take the toy off to a corner, as far as he is concerned, that is his prize, his kill, and he may challenge you if you try to take it from him. If you do play tug-of-war, you must always win in the end.

7. All members of the family should be consistent with training. All humans are above your dog. He must respect all members of your family. He must like who you like.

8. Circling and excessive licking are signs of dominance, however passive it may seem to you. An occasional kiss is acceptable but you must stop excessive licking. If he is circling you or your guests, cut him off. To the dog, that is like “herding his flock”. 

9. Never feed him scrapes from the table. Try to feed yourself before you feed your dogs. If that is not practical, he can only eat when you give him permission to eat.

10. Doors and gates are very significant to dogs. To them it means, “whoever goes through the door first is leader”. You always go through doors first, or give them permission to go ahead of you.

11. Do not open the door for your dog when he scratches to be let in. He is giving you orders when he does that. When you open the door for him, it re-enforces bad behavior. Either ignore him until he stops, then let him in, or, make it your idea. Go to the door, make him sit and then invite him in. Do not let him come in as soon as the door is opened. He must wait to be invited.

12. If your dog wants to be pet by nudging you with his nose or pawing at you, ignore him, or at the very least, make him do something to earn that attention, otherwise you will have a pest on your hands.

13. When you try to calm a dog down while he is growling or barking by petting him and saying “It’s okay”, you are reinforcing that bad behavior. In his mind, you are encouraging him to continue. Never pet a dog that is growling or barking. 


Dogs show love by showing respect, and you can do things to gain your dogs respect, and thereby his trust.

MOST IMPORTANT— Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. About 50% of his interaction with you should be some form of working off excess energy. A minimum of ½ hr. walk, chasing the ball, training, playing—whatever it takes to tire him out. It also puts you in the leadership role and builds a bond between you and your dog. Exercise also releases endorphins to relax him so he is not so uptight. When walking, swing your arms naturally. If your dog is not in a heel position then he should be walking freely behind you or beside you. That is a sign of respect. 

Next, you give boundaries and limitations. Show what is acceptable in your world and what is not and enforce them always. Never let anything slide, or your dog will constantly test you.

If you remain calm and assertive, your dog will be calm and submissive. Dogs do not follow emotional or affectionate leaders. They follow calm, confident leaders. 
After you have exercised, done some sort of leadership activities--then you can share affection. Always in this order: exercise, discipline, affection.

You are doing your dog a favor by taking away the responsibility for him to make decisions. You must make all decisions for your dog. Your dog should always look to you for guidance.

You decide when playtime starts and when it is over. 

Remember: You cannot impose human feelings and thoughts on your dog. They do not reason like humans. They rely on their instincts, smell, body language and energy. 

Timing is crucial when correcting your dog. You must catch him in the act, or you must deter his bad behavior BEFORE it escalates. You must break his concentration and redirect. This can be done by touch, sound, body language, a pop on the collar, a strong “watch” command—whatever works. When you give a correction, do not get mad or emotional. You correct, the dog submits, then let it go. You walk away. Do not let the dog walk away from you. If he wants to go hide and cool off, that’s fine, but you must be the one to dismiss.

If Your Dog is Aggressive:

Take him to the vet to rule out the possibility of a health problem. 

Neutering will usually help calm an aggressive dog, especially the males. Get him neutered before he establishes bad behaviors and they become a habit.

With an aggressive dog, look for a lower protein diet. High protein may give your dog too much energy. There are low protein dog foods that are healthy. Do not feed chicken or lamb. Some dogs are sensitive and may have a negative reaction.

If your dog is nervous or aggressive, perhaps you might want to try a natural herb called Rescue Remedy. Rescue Remedy is most often used for emergencies or stressful situations. Helps replace panic with control. Restores focus and clean head when dazed. Helps clam and restore sense of peace, neutralizes the effects of trauma. The good thing is there are no side effects, it does not drug your dog, it does not change his personality, it does not interfere with other medications. You can buy it at health food stores. It works on some dogs, and some it does not. If you give it to him on a treat, it usually takes effect within 15 minutes. 

Stop dog from nudging all the time

He is a one year old golden retriever. When I stop patting him, he nudges me really hard and continuously with his big bet nose until I pat him again. It's really annoying! How I get him to stop? Thanks! =}

I also have a couple of nudgers here. I find the best thing to do is just fold your arms across your chest and turn away from the dog. Don't give him any eye contact whatsoever. Your body language will soon tell him that he's fighting a losing battle with you and he will eventually just walk away and go and lie down.

He is doing it purely for attention. The more you give in and keep patting him the worse he'll get.

I will allow this behaviour for a while but when it starts to get irritating then I put the above plan into action and it works every time.

You pet the dog on your terms not his. Once this nudging gets out of hand the dog becomes a nuisance and ceases to be a pleasure so start now and let him see that his behaviour is unacceptable. You will gain his respect a lot more quickly rather than allow it to go on and on and then get annoyed with him. 

Once he is lying down quietly then you can give him one of his toys or a bone to chew to keep him occupied.
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