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Golden Retriever Rescue of Atlanta

Monthly Good Goldens Question / Thunderphobia

This month's "Good Goldens" blog question comes from a GRRA supporter asking for helpful tips on how to assist an adopted Golden Retriever who has severe Thunderphobia issues.

With the uptick in spring storms lately, we could all use some guidance on how to bring some calm and relief to our furry Golden friends who have this fear.

We once again have called upon the professional expertise of Chris McLeod from The Canine Ranch in Canton, GA to lend her take on canine thunderphobia and what we as concerned dog owners can do about it at home --- before and during these types of storms.

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Thunderstorms are a hard topic to discuss for so many reasons. Not only are the dogs hearing the thunder and seeing the rain, but they’re also feeling the change in atmospheric pressure in ways that we probably can’t even begin to understand.

Remember --- we know that dogs can sense pregnancy at 6 weeks, predict heart attacks, cancer, death, low blood sugar, and so many other things about our bodies that we really don’t fully understand yet. For those dogs that are “tuned-in” so to speak, a loud thunderstorm can be a pretty traumatic event for them.

My suggestions for clients always begin with understanding your dog's home environment. First --- make sure your dog has a safe haven to go to. Even if you don’t crate your dog every day, continue to provide the opportunity to crate by leaving one available to them. Most dogs will continue to go to their crate and see it as their “bedroom” as long as you use it as a positive place.

This is a great security blanket during a time of stress (like during severe thunderstorms for example), and especially if your dog has to be away from home. Even if you board your dog --- most kennels will accommodate a crate in the room if your dog is thunderphobic since they know that it will help your dog in times of stress.

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Next, make sure you’re not increasing your dog’s stress by stroking or touching your dog during this fear period. Remember, touch is a reward. And although you want to stroke your dog’s worries away during that bad storm, what you’re actually doing is reinforcing that the dog had a right to be worried in the first place. Touch IS a reward --- and dogs repeat what is rewarded. If you stroke a dog that is fearful, you will simply be feeding the fear. Instead, let them learn to deal with the fear on their own in their safe haven (like their crate).

You can also try a device known as a ThunderShirt. It’s based on the premise that you put pressure on key points of the body to create calmness --- similar to swaddling an infant to keep them from being upset. Not all dogs see results with a ThunderShirt, but some do.

And finally, if your dog has Thunderphobia bad enough you should definitely seek the advice of a Veterinarian. Sadly, there comes a time for some dogs when anxiety turns to complete terror, and for me that’s when I feel it’s only fair to seek medical help.

There’s no sense forcing your dog to endure terror just to get through a storm when you can alleviate it with a very safe medicine --- similar to if you were terrified of flying or if you always got seasick when going on cruises. Medical relief is available for dogs and should be discussed with your Golden's Vet for options to make them feel calmer during terrible spring / summer storms.

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Thanks so much, Chris! GREAT information as always. Do you have a training / behavioral question that you would like to ask Chris McLeod from The Canine Ranch? Please post it here and we'll be happy to submit for our next GRRA blog topic. Have a Good Golden Day, everyone!

Monthly Good Goldens Question / Eating harmful objects

This month's "Good Goldens" blog question comes from a GRRA supporter curious about how to stop their adopted Golden from constantly chewing / ingesting harmful objects such as rocks, sticks, plastic items, cans, etc. that are potentially dangerous to a dog's health.

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Once again, we've called upon the professional expertise of our canine training and behavioral partner Chris McLeod of The Canine Ranch in Canton, GA to address this specific concern and give everyone some advice to successfully keep your Golden from hurting themselves by eating an unsafe object in or around your home.

First off, I would highly suggest checking with your Veterinarian since there may be an underlying medical condition that could be causing this condition. However, if the Golden gets a clean bill of health, my first suggestion is usually to change your protein source in your dog food.

Sometimes your dog may be having a small reaction to the protein source or the AMOUNT of protein they’re receiving in the food they ingest. I remember being surprised to learn that a dog food distributor once told us he wouldn’t even sell a particular version of one brand of dog food because the protein was SO high that it made dogs spin in circles (literally).

My second suggestion would be to change brands of foods as well. Sometimes we get lucky and it’s that simple --- you never know.

So, what if we’re not lucky? We may need to learn to modify their environment by keeping these items constantly out of reach --- by making sure that the dog doesn’t have access to them and that you have complete control over the dog’s choices.

If you have a great relationship with your dog, they’ll actually go against their nature to please you. My Border Collie dropped on command after breaking her leg when she was racing back to me from across the pasture (when every step was causing her more pain - it was awful). She was screeching in pain and trying to get back to me from an acre away and I screamed at her to "DOWN" and she instantly plopped into a down even though she wanted nothing more than to be at my side that instant. You can achieve a "LEAVE IT" with rocks, sticks, and other harmful objects if you work at it over time with your adopted Golden Retriever.

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Another option is to increase exercise for your Golden --- not just physically but mentally, too. I suggest that you consider for dogs the parallel for children --- Would you send your child to school for 8 hours of recess and 1 hour of education? No! So, let’s consider how we can mentally AND physically engage these wonderful creatures so that they are engaged with us and the world and not finding ways to engage themselves out of boredom or being idle.

If your world is already overcrowded with activities, another thing to maybe consider here is teaching at-home scent games with a Kong filled with different types of smells (starting with peanut butter and branching out from there). Make it easy to find the Kong in the beginning and then slowly make it harder to find. You’ll soon have a K-9 sniffing detective on your hands and perhaps a bit of relief from some of the bad eating habits they've picked up in the past.

Thanks so much, Chris! Wonderfully helpful information as always. Do you have a "Good Goldens" blog question you'd like to ask Chris McLeod from The Canine Ranch? Any training or behavioral issues you need some suggestions about regarding your adopted Golden? Please feel free to comment on this link and we'll be happy to pass along to her for you. We will post the answer in our next monthly blog. Have a Good Golden Day, everyone!

Monthly Good Goldens Question / Excessive Shyness

Thanks to everyone who submitted "Good Goldens" questions for Chris McLeod at our fabulous training partner --- The Canine Ranch in Canton, GA.

This month's "Good Goldens" question is regarding excessive shyness with a newly adopted Golden Retriever. Here are some great tips from Chris on what you can do to help out your adopted furry best friend.

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I recommend a three phase approach for shy dogs. First -- contrary to what a lot of dog trainers say online -- please don’t take cookies everywhere and ask a million people to touch your dog for a cookie. Instead, take your dog to a million places and let THEM learn that a million people will give them the space they need to learn to adapt to people at their own pace and time. Most dogs won’t eat when they’re stressed anyway, so simply go to as many places as possible and have a good time. Eventually, you both will!

Second, become more active with fun activities that engage the mind AND build confidence. Of course, at The Canine Ranch, we always recommend sports. Nose Work and Agility are our favorites for shy dogs because they seem to instill the most confidence quickly. But if you can’t go to a training center, just teach your shy dog tricks at home. The more they learn, the more confident they will become (just like kids).

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And third, remember not to touch them when they’re unsure or shying away from something. Touch is a reward, so you never want to reward an insecure dog. But our human nature wants us to go to that scared dog and stroke it to let them know that we’re a team and we’re “there for them”. The dog sees that body language differently than we do though, so it’s best instead to pick up the leash and go for a walk when the dog is in that low place and showing insecurity. Keep the mind moving forward and they’ll start to feel better about themselves in no time!

Thanks so much, Chris. Do you have any behavioral or training questions you'd like Chris McLeod at The Canine Ranch to answer for assistance with your adopted Golden Retriever? Please submit via GRRA Facebook comments on this post and we'll be happy to pass them along to her for you. Have a Good Golden Day, everyone!

How to stop a Good Golden from excessive barking

Does your Golden Retriever constantly bark at anything and everything? Have you tried in the past to try to stop the behavior on your own but just couldn't seem to find the right approach that worked?

In this GRRA "Good Goldens" post, we've called upon our training partner Chris McLeod from The Canine Ranch ( in Canton, GA to personally assist us with her canine behavioral expertise regarding excessive barking and what you can do to help your adopted Golden be a Good Golden.

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This type of barking is typically an alert bark, so let’s address this by taking an example of a doorway.

The doorbell rings and the dog starts barking non-stop at the door. Go to the door and stand in front of the door with your back to the door. Step towards the dog and ask them to step away from the door area (I usually shoo with my hands as well).

If you have a rug or boundary that you can ask them to move back towards, pick that area as your goal, and make them move back maybe 3 or 4 feet. Just move them away from the door. The goal is to be quiet, not to sit or down - that’s for another day.

Once they’ve moved back, say your words, “Quiet” or “Enough” or “No Speak”. Use the same words, and only those words. Once they’re quiet for just a moment, say “Thank You” or “Good Dog” or something that you’ll say continuously.

Don’t open the door until the dog is quiet. Now the dog barks at the window - do the same there. Step in front, move towards the dog, and get them to move back.

The reason this exercise works is that we’re mimicking the way a dog would posture over a bone. Dogs recognize the body language of standing in front of something that we own or control.

By standing in front of something that is “alerting”, you’re letting the dog know that you now own that problem. You now “own” the window and all the noises that come from behind it as well.

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You can apply this same theory to any scenario, but don’t expect results outside until you see results inside. Dogs have less control of their emotions when there are more stimulus around, so they have to learn to control themselves with more things going on.

It would be unrealistic to expect them to control themselves with cars and bicycles going by if they can’t control themselves with a vacuum cleaner or a doorbell. Work from smaller distractions to bigger and harder distractions, always making sure that you reward for success (but not with cookies!).

Just reward with praise and affection. You’ll see a different in no time!

Do you have any training or behavioral issues regarding your GRRA Golden Retriever that you'd like to ask Chris McLeod from The Canine Ranch? Tell us on our GRRA Facebook page and we'll be happy to pass along your question. We're always here to help our adopting families. All you have to do is ask!

Tips on raising a Good Golden

If you are new to Golden Retriever ownership and you have just adopted your very first one......Congrats! You might be wondering what to expect now as your new Golden best friend goes through the important stages of life.

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First, for those that do not know, the Golden Retriever breed is not ideal for those who want to pat their dogs on the head in the morning and then leave them alone most all of the day.

Goldens are "people dogs". It's in their DNA ---- meaning that they are very sociable and do not like to be left on their own for long periods of time. They have a great deal of enthusiasm and energy. That is why it is important for this breed in particular to get plenty of exercise and social interaction to be a good, well-behaved dog.

Many people have their own ideas on the age of a dog's maturation. In all honesty, there are differing levels of energy that your Golden Retriever will go through during its life. And from the age of about 10-weeks-old to 5-years-old, the energy level can remain quite high.

Here are the basic stages of a dog's life and what you can expect on average with your new Golden Retriever ---

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Stage 1: Newborn – At this stage, there isn’t a lot of energy as the puppy just wants to eat and sleep. And then eat and sleep again!

Stage 2: Toddler – This stage starts around 8-10 weeks old and goes until about 5-months-old. The energy level is quite high at this time as the Golden puppy is learning all it can about the world as well as go through many biological changes. It tests its environment with its mouth and as it gets towards the end of this stage, it begins to chew on everything it can to try and get relief from teething. This is when the puppy starts to lose its puppy teeth and the newer ---- and larger ---- adult teeth start breaking through.

Stage 3: Adolescent – This is a tough stage and starts around 5- months-old and go anywhere up to a year depending on the dog. Some would call it the "terrible twos" because all of a sudden your sweet Golden baby has forgotten everything you have taught it and has the manners now of any teenager around! Sure ---- they know not to go on the couch, but they will test you again and again making sure you meant it. This is when you need to reinforce all your training because if you let them get away with it now, it is much harder to break them of it later.

Stage 4: Maturing – Usually this starts around a year old and goes until the 5-year-old stage. The level of energy is still high and is equal to a young twenty-something adult. They don’t have a care in the world and have great amounts of energy, but have slowed down just a bit. They get more comfortable with their surroundings and take a little more time to enjoy life and the company of their owner and family. This is an incredibly enjoyable time with your family Golden.

Stage 5: Senior – Around 5-years-old and up, the little puppy you once knew with all the energy level of the Energizer Bunny is there in spirit, but the body is slowing down more. They still have a good amount of energy, but nothing compared to stages 2 and 3. Life is simply good, quiet, and comfortable. Just keep them as healthy and pain-free as possible during this stage.

Generally, each dog is different. But the true key here is to be able to learn how to cope throughout the different stages of your Golden's life and focus your time and attention to accommodate your new best friend's needs. And you will find that your Golden will be a happy, safe, and well-behaved dog.

Do you have any helpful tips you can share with us regarding raising a Golden Retriever that has worked in the past for you and your family? Please let us know at GRRA. We'd love to hear from you. Have a Good Golden day, everyone!

Golden Leash Training Do's and Don'ts

Walking your Golden Retriever on a leash around your neighborhood, dog park, or even your own front yard should be an enjoyable and positive bonding experience for both of you.

Knowing the do's and don'ts of leash training and etiquette is extremely important. Here are some tips that will hopefully assist with your Golden's mastering and comfort level of being on a leash.

Do start your walk with a calming energy. A dog that is excited before he leaves the house will only get more excited once you get outside. When you get to the door, calm your dog and have him sit before you go out. The leader always gets to go through the door first. If your dog bolts out first, bring him back in and try again.

Do walk at a brisk pace. This helps keep your dog’s attention on the walk and not on everything he smells. Dogs get distracted very easily by all of the smells "the great outdoors” have to offer. The slower you walk, the more smells they will be able to pick up along the way thus making them more distracted. Instead, walk your dog briskly ensuring that they are more engaged.

Do stop every time you feel tension on the leash. Your dog continues to pull because he continues to be rewarded for the experience. He pulls and he gets to the car. He pulls and he gets to greet that other dog in the neighborhood. He pulls and the lady across the street tells him how lovely he is. If you want your dog to stop pulling, don’t take another step as long as the leash is tight.

Do walk your dog at least 30 minutes twice a day if possible. It is the best way you can ensure you will have a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted dog. The walk is the foundation of your relationship. Walking your dog provides an outlet for his energy. A long walk can significantly calm a hyper or overactive dog.

Do praise your dog when he is walking politely. You will need to carry treats for rewards as you train. Make them special ones that your dog only gets while on walks. Whenever your dog is walking politely, say in a happy upbeat tone “Good Walk!” and give him a treat. Eventually, you will want to wean him off the treats once he is getting the idea, but you should always continue to let your dog know when he is behaving in a way that pleases you.

Don't expect your dog to walk nicely on a leash if he only gets walked every once in awhile. Dogs have lots of energy and they need an outlet for this energy. Many pet parents feel that yard time is sufficient enough outdoor time for a dog --- especially if they have a large yard. This is unfortunately not the case.

Don't let your dog choose the pace or the direction of the walk. A dog must not be allowed to sniff or eliminate anywhere he wishes other than where you allow him. Your dog should be concentrating on following his leader --- you --- and not worried about leading the way. You must lead your dog out of your house meaning he must walk behind you as you walk out the door. If he skips ahead of you before you exit, bring him back in and do it again.

Don't stop every time your dog wants to smell something. Remember, you are the pack leader. You decide where the dog is to sniff, go potty, and roll around while on the leash. Pick a few times during your 30 minute walk to allow for these activities. Try to choose a different place each time so they don’t form habits and expectations that are directly linked to these areas.

Don't verbally or physically correct your dog for pulling. Giving him angry verbal corrections will only increase his energy and will exasperate the problem. Physical corrections can lead to fear and anxiety issues and possibly inflict severe injury as well. The best course of action is to just stop, take a deep breath, and wait for your dog to calm down. Once he is in a calm and submissive state, you can continue your walk.

With a little patience, these methods will work well for your Golden Retriever and will also help you to form a close bond with your dog. However, some dogs are a little more difficult and may be a little harder to train. This does not mean you’ve got a bad dog. It just means you’ll need to work a little harder to get the desired response.

Your dog will quickly learn that walking alongside you at your pace gets him a lot of vocal praise. It may take a few days (or weeks), but if you are consistent in your training and reward him accordingly, your Golden Retriever will soon be responding eagerly to your cues, energy, and positive body language.

Any specific leash training tips that have worked well for you and your Golden in the past? Please share with us at GRRA. We'd love to hear from you. Have a Good Golden day, everyone!

Golden etiquette for meeting a stranger's dog

It's officially summer! No doubt you and your Golden Retriever are out enjoying fun adventures together in the wonderful warm weather.

When you see someone walking a friendly-looking dog, your first instinct may be to approach the dog to pet him. It's only natural. You’re the type of person who can’t walk past a dog in the park or at the beach without wanting to pet it.

But before you reach out to scratch behind those adorable but unfamiliar ears, remember the proper etiquette for meeting and greeting a stranger’s dog.

Avoiding the temptation to go running up to every dog you see this time of year is really hard. While some dogs may be socialized enough to respond in a friendly manner like a lot of our own beloved Goldens, unfortunately not all dogs will be okay with a stranger approaching and laying hands on them.

If you have good manners, you’ll ask the dog owner if it is okay first. Unfortunately, many people skip this important step assuming that a dog is friendly or that you can pet him without permission. This could prove to be dangerous. The simple truth is you don’t know the dog and he doesn’t know you.

Below you will find a list of the proper steps to take before petting a stranger’s dog that will help to protect both you and your family.

Ask Permission: The first thing you need to do is to ask the owner for permission to pet his dog. Do not assume that it will be okay just because the dog “looks” friendly. When a dog is frightened or feels threatened, he can become defensive or aggressive. This can happen in an instant and you might not have time to retreat. Rather than asking the owner if the dog is friendly, ask if it is okay if you introduce yourself to their dog.

Approach Slowly: If the owner gives you permission to say hello to his dog, approach slowly. Do not rush at the dog in any way. Also, do not show signs of fear as that may make the dog become more nervous. Keep an eye on the dog’s body language at all times and fall back if he appears frightened.

Let Him Sniff You: Before you touch the dog, give him a moment to sniff you and to acquaint himself with your smell. Hold your hand out flat to the dog and let him approach you to sniff your hand. After a few seconds, if the dog appears to be okay with it, you can pet him.

Be Gentle: When you go to pet the dog, always be gentle about it. Scratch him under the chin rather than on top of the head. Always stay in front of the dog where he can see you and do not make any sudden movements that might frighten him.

Keep it Brief: Even if the dog seems to be comfortable with you petting him, you should keep the encounter brief and do not push him past his limits. If the dog starts to get nervous, back off and move along.

Use non-direct eye contact: You’ve already learned that you shouldn’t approach the dog without permission and that when you do approach him do so slowly. Many people make the mistake of bending or squatting down to greet the dog. While this may be okay in some situations, making direct eye contact with a strange dog can sometimes be perceived as a threat to them.

Leave some space: Pet the dog calmly while talking to the owner and back off if the dog seems to get nervous. Do not put your face close to the dog and definitely do not try to hug or kiss him. Not all dogs understand this type of intense affection and a strange dog might perceive it as a threat.

Being around strangers and making new friends are important steps for the socialization of a dog, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Always be alert, understanding, and practice proper etiquette when it comes to greeting a stranger’s dog.

If you follow these simple steps, dog owners everywhere will thank you. Nothing is worse than trying to take your dog out for a walk just to have him be bombarded by people where appropriate etiquette is not adhered to. That's not fair to you or your dog.

All you and your family want is to be safe and have a happy time this summer --- and so does your beloved Golden friend.

Do you have any dog etiquette tips that have helped you in the past? Any positive stories about meeting other dog owners and/or appreciating their approach to wanting to meet your Golden Retriever? Please share them with us at GRRA. We'd love to hear from you. Have a Good Golden day, everyone!

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