Saturday, February 2, 2019

Cure Cabin Fever!

Brrr! Need some inside activities during this cold, snowy, rainy winter? Pepper says, "YES, PLEASE!"

"Find It": Hide a particular toy and ask your dog to find it. Make the game easy at first! Leave it so he can see a little of it. Use the same toy each time at first so he learns there is a difference between "turtle" and "ball." "Find It" also works for dinner--measure and hide kibble under chairs and the sofa.

"Hide-and-Seek": Even if your dog doesn't have a good stay yet, have another member of your household hold her while you go hide and then call. Again, don't make it too hard at first!

"Stay": This is a good time to work on Pepper's sit-stay and down-stay, and even his stand-stay. Try for duration before building distance--then mix them up. It's easier to stay when your handler is close by, so don't rush the process. And don't say "Come" to release the stay--always return and release with a word like "dismissed" or even "OK."

"Search": Try Nose Work! You don't need a formal class to get started. Get six different empty boxes and put them out with a moist treat in one. Watch how quickly your dog's innate abilities kick in! Then put the treat in a different box. Then move the boxes around. Pepper may need to try this on leash at first, but let him do the work without your leading.

Puzzle Toys: Measure breakfast and stuff it in a Kong or multiple Kongs--even frozen! Try harder puzzle toys like those by Nina Otttosson.

"Heel": You can get a nicely focused dog if you try heeling in your hallway or around the house, back and forth. No leash required. Your dog may already do nice "loose leash walking," so now you can up her game: she is reinforced for her shoulder being right beside your leg and encouraged every time she looks at you.

"CGC": Many (not all) of the exercises that are part of the AKC Canine Good Citizen exam are quick and can be practiced indoors.

"Fetch": Whether you work with a ball or plush toy or an actual dumbbell, you can build your dog's drive to fetch. Guess what? Work closely and easily at first.

While you're at, guess who else likes most of these games? Cats! Well, probably not Heel.

Our dogs are limited only by our imagination and coaching abilities. Stuck inside can mean learning new tricks!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Resolve for Fun!

'Tis resolution season, of course. Lots of diets are happening; yoga classes are crowded. How many people resolve to add more fun into their lives? Good idea, right? And one of the easiest ways to make your life fun is by making your dog's life fun!

Resolve to take your dog somewhere new! Take a dog vacation rather than leaving him behind. Go somewhere new locally once a week so he has lots of stimulus! Teach him a new trick once a month. Try a new dog sport. There are so many fun things to try these days: fly ball, rally, nose work, agility, urban mushing, earth dog, dock diving, lure coursing, conformation, herding, freestyle dance, and that old standby, obedience.

Tanner is about to try a nose work class. Dogs sniff around boxes and find a particular scent. It's in their DNA, but it's going to take quite a bit of training on our part. Dogs take turns, so Tanner will be crated between takes--and being quiet in a crate isn't something we have worked on in a long while. He's perfect at crating in the car, so let's hope it transfers when there are exciting dogs around him in a training facility. He's a miniature pinscher mix, and barking is in his DNA. Also, his street dog background still shows itself sometimes in his desire to mark new objects--peeing on things like boxes with scents in them. See why this will be a good class for him?

We have other resolutions at our house, too. Specific obedience cues that we could work on. But also, we're resolving to learn a new trick a month. We should have more tricks in our repertoire.

If your dog has a problem behavior or two (or three), working on those may not sound like lots of fun, but indeed it should be. If you train correctly, your dog doesn't realize that learning to stop barking is anything but a game. He stops barking and gets a piece of hot dog: sounds fun to him! And your life will be more fun when you have a calmer pup with better manners.

More cuddles, more new toys, more food games: good resolutions for all of us! Happy, healthy new year!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Dogs on Paper

Nope, we're not talking today about dogs eliminating on paper.

Sometimes clients call with situations that on paper don't seem like the best scenarios. Adopting a territorial, resource-guarding dog from a shelter to live with a fifteen-year-old dog who doesn't like other dogs: sounds like a bad idea on paper until you meet the two dogs. The guarder isn't guarding now that she's out of her original home. The grouchy senior seems to find the new dog irrelevant. This might just work!

Choosing a terrier puppy to live with a senior basset hound: on paper the older dog wouldn't want to be bothered with the annoying kid jumping on his back. But the puppy has breathed new fun into the older dog's world--and they do well together as long as the pup remembers that jumping on backs is a no-no and the dogs have scheduled breaks from each other during the day.

A labradoodle puppy turned out to be eighty pounds as an adult (the breed does come in lots of sizes!)--and she lives with a petite woman of a certain age. The dog is bouncy and joyous and on paper way too much for her person to walk. But some really solid leash training and lots of fetch and games to tire out her brain make the girl a better candidate for walking. We are still using a dog walker and day care to tire her out, though; we need to keep the human from falling.

Although the internet is full of information (and misinformation) on dogs, we need to look past what is on paper--or on the screen--and see the individuals before us. How much experience does the handler have? What kind of experience? What is the individual dog really like? Many don't act like their breeds are "supposed to," after all.

Trainers need to listen and observe carefully. And we all need to be patient and give situations tweaks and lots of time. That new rescue dog could easily take eight months to show you who he really is. Truly.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Times Change

We're so lucky when dogs live long lives, and senior dogs can be the best dogs ever. It can be hard to remember how our senior was a dozen years ago. Dogs change--and dog training and dog products have changed in the past dozen years, too.

More than ever before, humans are discovering the benefits of Positive Training--for their dogs but also for their spouses and children! There are still people who haven't discovered yet that rewarding good is better training than punishing the bad, but eventually we hope everyone who has an animal in his/her home will realize that times have changed.

Food has completely changed in the past decade. We know that "by-products" can be scary and certainly not as healthy as the real deal. Lots of dogs (and cats) now find Raw Food beneficial, and treats are often just dehydrated versions of actual food. People are learning that shopping for dog food in the grocery store is not the way to find the best quality choices. A very good pet store has staff who can tell you where the food was farmed, where it was packaged, why one is better for your dog's issue than another.... Giving your dog the best food you can afford should lead to better health. Milk Bones are out. (Have you smelled them? Practically no scent at all, and you know that's what counts most for your dog.) "Treats" should just be food that is convenient to give in small form for training or a positive snack the dog receives when you leave the house.

I see far fewer dogs riding in the beds of pick-up trucks. I'd love to see no dogs doing that.... Dog guardians now realize that seat belts, carriers, booster seats, and many other contraptions keep their dogs safer in vehicles. If their dog has motion sickness or anxiety in a car, their faithful humans work on the problem and make their dog happier.

More humans realize their dog is actually a family member who wants to be indoors the majority of the time, not chained up outside. Dogs sleep in the bedrooms with their humans more and more--since they relax more with the "pack." Doesn't matter if they are on the bed or in their own dog beds as long as everyone is happy. Years ago, if we had a yard, the dog didn't get many walks. Now people realize that smelling and new environments and exercise are essential to a dog's well-being.

The pet world is constantly changing--and your fur balls thank you for staying current with the trends! I wonder where things will go in another decade....

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Think Little

A dog in my Intermediate class is teeny--about three pounds--and Adorable and Clever. He learns quickly and does all the exercises well, thanks to a mom who works a lot with him. The entire class gapes at his cuteness and obedience perfection and obvious love of the games.

He's not the first. Another lil one just graduated to the next level, and she is also attentive and intelligent and driven. She too has many fans.

They are lovely little dogs, but I think they get extra attention because people often are so surprised that of course little dogs can do what big dogs can do. We see a lot of larger breeds in formal obedience classes--without training, those dogs might take their handlers skating down the street or they might knock down their family members when the doorbell rings. People who have bigger dogs in their lives often take class after class so there is less chaos at home. But those little breeds can (and should, I would argue) be as trained as their larger cousins. Spending an hour in class weekly with dogs of every size keeps them social and keeps their neurons firing and bonds them with their people.

Let's see more of those miniature breeds move beyond the basics! They too can learn two hundred words! They should compete in obedience and agility trials and become Canine Good Citizens Extraordinaire. The tiny dogs in my classes should be the rule, not the exception--though they are exceptionally CUTE!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Be Nice!

Your dog is the nicest being in the world, isn't he? Unconditional love, cuddles for free, kisses upon request. Let's all try to be as nice to dogs as they are to us.

You don't need to use a spray bottle of water to get your pup to stop barking. That's just not nice. It's not the technique you'd use on your young child, I'm guessing, so why try it on Aubrey? Will spraying her hurt her? Not physically. But it erodes trust. I wouldn't trust someone who sprayed me for reasons I don't really understand.

A choke chain doesn't really "choke" your dog when you use it "correctly." It keeps your dog walking nicely beside you?  If you "correct" her often enough, you'll be able to see--because her fur will become worn away where the chain cuts. It's mean to yank on your dog because she doesn't listen. A prong collar is supposed to pinch your dog so she listens. She will listen better if she believes you're really on her side. Watch how carrying great treats can mean good walking--so much nicer.

We can all get frustrated, but if you yell at your dog, she is more likely to think you're unpredictable and to feel nervous around her "guardian." She just doesn't understand what you want--so calmly teach her what to do instead of what not to do. She's not being stubborn; she just hasn't learned fully yet.

If Sadie is shy, don't keep trying to introduce her to that neighbor dog she is afraid of. She doesn't want to be put in an unnerving situation. You don't like all people, and she will tell you which dogs she likes. Good enough.

Balancing biscuits on your dog's nose and saying "leave it" until he drools isn't nice. You wouldn't like it if I waved freshly baked chocolate chip cookies at you but said "leave it."

Bringing your dog to places that make her uncomfortable isn't nice either. She may not want to "deal with" a crowded outdoor festival or a busy dog park. What does she really enjoy instead?

My name is Robin and I'm a dog-aholic. Dogs are the best sunshine in this nutty world and better beings than most humans. Let's be nice to them. Put yourself in their paws before listening to the advice of your know-it-all friend....

I know you do. You're always your dog's advocate--and the best dog guardian ever. Dogs are simple if you use common sense--and I'm here to help.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Ouch! Puppies Bite!

They're so cute at this age, but they can be impossibly bitey! And the nips hurt, and they don't stop! Puppies can be a bit of an endurance test, and their biting is the worst. But this too shall pass. Their adult teeth arrive at between four and six months, depending on the breed--longest for smaller dogs, usually--and then life will be better.

In the meantime, those puppy needle teeth are teaching Tallulah bite inhibition so she doesn't bite down when playing as an adult. Your puppy is using you to learn some control while playing so she has a nice soft mouth when she's older. Ideally, she'd be using another puppy for that--in a great puppy socialization class with off-leash play ( Other pups have fur to protect from those needles, but they also yelp if another puppy bites.

So you need to be the other puppy! When Tallulah plays too rough and nips, you need to say, "OW!" with a high-pitched yelp sound. She should look startled for a second, so then you ask for "kiss" and give her a great treat if she does. That means you should work on "kiss" when she's in a calm phase, too, and not playing. Most puppies are lickaholics anyhow: when she licks you--hands or face or anywhere--say the word "kiss" so she learns what the cue means. If you need to practice it more, put a little peanut butter on your hand.

So: "OW!" then "kiss" then treat. Then give her an appropriate chew toy that isn't your arm. That means having treats at the ready--which is pretty essential for puppy training anyway, having a bag of treats in every room out of puppy reach. She will probably try again because she wants to play. Repeat: "OW!" then "kiss" then treat then trade for a toy. You will want to have lots of toys of different sizes and textures and good chews like Kongs with food inside. Repeat a third time if needed, but if she's still too annoying, she may need a timeout. She needs to learn that when her behavior is that bitey, the play stops. She goes in her pen or crate or gated kitchen--anywhere away from you. (Just don't use the ruin the word "come" to bring her to a timeout.) With some puppies you can just walk away and ignore them and they understand the play has stopped--and some will just go for your ankles.

More mental stimulation helps! Obedience cues, puzzle toys, new sights and sounds. More exercise helps! Lots of walks if she's had her shots and lots of fetch inside if she hasn't (most pups come with fetch preinstalled but it can be learned if not). Much more contact with other dogs helps! If you want a dog who doesn't bark at other dogs when older, now is the prime time to get some nice dogs to play with anyhow. Off-leash play in your yard or home with nice dogs you know are vaccinated.

If your pup just can't seem to stop biting, she may just be bored. Bring out a new toy and move it around and show how fun it is--and she may enjoy it more than flesh. Using "leave it" also helps when she's after your pant leg or long hair. (Ask me how to teach it if you don't have that in your toolbox yet.) You can also add some lemon juice to your hands if she's really bad. Again, treat for the appropriate behavior, which is licking.

If you're a having a particularly bad time, you can also measure out Tallulah's meals and feed her by hand. She literally learns not to bite the hand that feeds her. Teaching "touch" so she touches her nose to your flat palm can also serve you--it's fun for her and teaches better contact especially with small humans.

Tallulah is normal. Very few puppies have actual aggression to worry about, but if your pup seems to respond to human touch by going to bite or actually bites down or even seems to respond to your asking her for behaviors by biting, you will want to have a trainer look at her. But most puppies have this bitey behavior, and I promise it will pass! Hang in there! Good dog parent!