I formulated this recipe by combining some of my other favorite treat recipes and substituting healthier ingredients such as garbanzo flour (which makes these biscuits grain-free), coconut oil, peanut powder and fresh chicken livers. You may think "eww, chicken liver!" but let me tell you, it draws attention from many of the dogs (I've even had discerning dogs who are selective about their baked treats gobble up my LiverSnaps!). Cooking the chicken livers may not smell so great to some of us, but the sweet smell of the other ingredients when baking makes up for it in my opinion. And since you can usually buy a 16oz container of chicken livers from your grocery store for less than $2.00, it can be inexpensive to make these biscuits that your dog will love!
The first step is in understanding what is driving your dog's nipping in particular situations. Dogs take a lot of their emotional energy out through their mouths, so whenever your pup is feeling out of balance emotionally, this is often the driving factor behind biting behavior. Now, with that said, there could be different emotions at play in different incidences... she could be trying to communicate her frustration, her confusion, that she is excited/trying to be playful, trying to solicit attention, that she is overstimulated/highly aroused, or that she is overtired and needs a break/downtime. If we can take the following steps to make sure we are communicating with the dog effectively and to keep her emotionally balanced, you should see a big decrease in the biting behavior:
You see him lying there on the café floor, taking a nap under the table. A family with two small children walks by – one child points to the dog as he passes. The dog lifts his head up to gaze at them - then, without a sound, gently rests it back on the floor. The café barista “pings” the service bell and calls out your name – your order is ready. You see the dog’s ear twitches at the sound of the bell but it doesn’t change his demeanor. He doesn’t even leave his position under the table. That’s when you notice the dog’s harness.
Five minutes later, you watch as the dog’s person calls the dog out of his slumber to come to her side. The woman leans on the big dog to get out of her chair – that’s when you notice the woman shaking as she struggles to stand. She rises with the dog as her brace, then together, slowly, you watch them walk out of the café. A man holds the door open for the woman and her dog – he even comments on how handsome her dog is. The dog catches the man’s gaze with a little wag of his tail and then it’s right back to business – he must help his woman walk out to the bus stop safely. After all, he is a service dog – and he has a very important job to do…
The Making of a Superhero
A service dog’s job is not an easy job to fill. Many dogs do not have the level of confidence, self-control, patience, problem-solving skills, or healthy level of independence required to handle the day-to-day human operations of office buildings, travel systems, public forums, restaurants and malls – no matter how much we try to make them have these skills. Teaching a dog a specific task associated with a disability is often the easiest part; it’s building the lifestyle skills that lead to superb behavior in public venues that takes much longer.
Service dogs, emotional support animals, therapy dogs… there’s a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about their differences, what purpose these dogs serve, their rights to access public spaces, and what kind of training they must complete to become capable of performing their jobs. Many people have disabilities that can be aided by a use of a service dog but they don’t know where to start in terms of their training. Alternately, there are many people who take advantage of the loopholes in the current system just so they can take their pet dogs into stores or on airplanes with them.
What Does a Service Dog Do?
Service dogs are task-trained to assist a person with a mental or physical disability to perform certain tasks they cannot do on their own, such as guide a blind person around obstacles, serve as a brace or open drawers for a person with mobility issues, or interrupt a panic attack for a person with debilitating anxiety or PTSD. While they do also provide companionship, this is not their primary job.
1. Have dogs meet for the first time outside of the home, on neutral territory, so as to avoid any territoriality or spatial “comfort bubble” issues. If you can’t meet in a truly neutral space, like a park, going for a walk up and down your street together can still do the trick.
Begin with some distance and let the dogs see and smell each other without getting right up in each other’s space. This may look a bit messy at first, as they may be pulling to try to get to one another, but if you just keep walking they will soon settle in. Praise your dog highly if he moves forward or checks in with you rather than trying to pull to or lunge at the other dog. And as they continue to walk and do well, you can gradually decrease distance. See my article Introducing Fido to Rufus: Dog-to-Dog Greetings, Pressure Free! for more tips on executing this.
Multiple dog caveat: it’s more difficult and intimidating for a single dog to integrate into a multiple dog situation, since dogs that typically live together can develop a “pack” and are already comfortable with one another and the hierarchy they have set. Bringing a new dog into this situation can stir things up. So when introducing one dog to a multiple of dogs, it is best to do the introductions each individually at first (starting with the most laid-back dog in the multiple-dog group and working your way up to the most “intense” dog of the group). This will give each dog the chance to get to know one another a bit without the “strength in numbers” tactics. If each of the individual greetings goes OK, you can start adding one more dog at a time to the situation as all dogs are comfortable.** (see body language signals to watch for below)
I have had the privilege of meeting Randy Pierce, who speaks in the below article about the legitimacy of service dogs, and hundreds of other people with disabilities who need their service dog partners to help them navigate through life 😊. Please, if you are an animal-lover like me, and you have respect for those who have disabilities (and want to see them succeed), please do not pretend your dog is a service dog if he is not (or condone others who take advantage of the flaws in the system). We're only going to become a more dog-friendly society if we make the RIGHT choices to show we are responsible pet parents - not by faking a service dog.
Read STOP FAKING SERVICE DOGS - Loving your pet too much is putting people with real disabilities at risk
Maria Huntoon, CBCC-KA