Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanks Giving

DeAnne Wood's photo.
Woof! Arf! Yap, yap!

Your dog would like to give YOU thanks for being you. On behalf of Sophie and Charlie and Max and Fluffy, I'd like to thank you for being a GREAT dog person! You're reading a Dog Blog right now! See how great you are?

You give your dog the best quality food and the most motivating treats. You give her mental stimulation through food toys and games and obedience work. You take her on the kinds of walks she enjoys most, visiting new places if she likes them, avoiding your cell phone so you can focus on her. You take classes and try new doggie activities. You hire the most attentive dog walker. You have a pet-sitter move into your home when you have to go out of town because Sammy prefers staying home to living in a strange kennel.

Gunther gets to go on vacations with you sometimes! Twice a month he hikes a nearby trail. He goes to lunch with you at your local bistro. He has the best of everything: two dog beds, two dozen toys, a frozen marrow bone once a week, regular vet visits (with lots of accompanying treats!), and doggie friends he loves. He plays fetch with you, has a doggie seat belt in the back seat of the car, and has a blanket to crawl under on the sofa.

He's very grateful for all you do for him. It should be "a dog's life" we all want--especially because we don't have our furry friends forever no matter how much we 'd like to. They cherish every moment with you and know you never take them for granted either.

Thank you very much to the best dog family ever! You're the greatest!


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Social Butterflies

"How long do I socialize my pup?" "How do I know when I've socialized enough?" Ahh, questions that should perhaps be asked more often. Because socializing is so important.

Yes, young puppies need to have great experiences with different people, dogs, environments, noises, and surfaces (it's a long list that I can give you), but your job really isn't done ever. Of course your older puppy still needs to see a woman with a walker and to receive treats at the vet and meet new dogs. And your adult dog does, too. Socializing never really stops. It doesn't have to be as constant as with puppies under four months old, but if you don't keep the new experiences coming, your dog could become a wallflower.

There are adult dogs who have had bad experiences with new things or just not had enough socialization when pups, and those dogs may feel very uncomfortable being around children or skateboards or the ocean. It's not easy to get some dogs out and about. But a trainer can help. Not every fear needs to be faced, but we have to be careful not to cloister a dog because of difficulty with a certain issue. A little dog may have a problem relaxing around larger dogs, but he should still get to hang out at a cafe with you. Your poodle may really dislike kids, so she doesn't want to watch the soccer game in the field up the street--but she would enjoy taking a walk around the park.

Keep your dog active and provide the mental stimulation she needs. Agility class or obedience or nose work or just finding breakfast kibble around the living room! Keep life interesting for your so interesting doggie!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Puppy Plea

Is your puppy having positive socialization experiences? Here's a Plea!

Tasty treats and a light, upbeat tone should accompany vet visits and car rides and grooming and visits with children and tall men, etc.

Good puppy classes allow for professionally supervised off-leash playtime with other puppies: a trainer should keep a careful eye on body language so shy puppies aren't bullied by brazen pups and puppies should take brief breaks to avoid over-arousal.

Create the canine citizen you want later in life!

Monday, September 12, 2016

What I'm Treating This Week

"Do you carry treats with you wherever you go? For the rest of the dog's life?" Some people have an idea that positive training is just a way to build a fatter dog, that dogs only perform when you bribe them with treats. They're quite mistaken because rewards-based training (a favorite squeaky toy is also a reward, not just chicken) means using treats just to help a dog learn a new behavior; once the dog knows the cue, the treats are quickly weaned away. It's a solid way of learning.

But yes indeedy, I myself carry treats wherever I go with a dog and for the rest of the dog's life. Because:

1. You never know when something awesome will happen that you want to celebrate! (Like all three of my dogs calmly watching four skateboards suddenly plow by, though I jumped a foot. Yay, City Dogs!)

2. Scary dogs can appear out of nowhere and want to eat my dogs. (Throwing a few dozen treats straight at a strange dog just might convince him to change his menu preference at least temporarily.)

3. We are always training something.

Yes, there are always new things to learn, tweaks in behavior that can make things even better, and more training fun to be had. What am I treating this week? Tanner is working on "sidewalk." Like most dogs, he instinctively kicks the grass after he pees--but his kicks are fierce: dry LA dirt and grass and gravel fly everywhere. Mostly it lands on Dori--or me. Enough. I started by luring him to the sidewalk after every pee and giving a treat for that. Then we progressed to my giving the cue "sidewalk" and treating him for moving there on his own. We are finally at the point where he looks at me and moves to the sidewalk on his own. But the treats are still coming. It's not a solid behavior yet--and it's taken some time since I'm battling a natural instinct. He's happy making the same motion on the concrete, so we'll do another week of treats, I think, and then he will stop covering my white dog with grass. (The other two pups have light polite grass kicks.)

They're such sponges. Let's keep the learning going!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Less No, More Yes!

Be the Coolest Mama: point out the great finds on walks! Don't say no; say, "Yes! What's that? Let's go see!" Palm fronds are fascinating sources of pee-mail!

So many dogs are told no all the time, so when you can find something great to say yes to, you will be as popular as I was this morning.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

It Takes a Village

Well, I hope a whole village isn't really needed to raise your dog, but we sure find that when dogs have a whole team on their side, behavior can improve more quickly.

If all the family members aren't on board or are even just inconsistent with what they ask of Scamp, poor Scamp will take longer to speak Human. If you're working on Loose Leash Walking but your dog walker lets Cleo do whatever she likes, poor Cleo is then reinforced for the wrong behavior (pulling). If the housekeeper doesn't crate Nelson when she vacuums (his safe place), he returns to chasing and biting not only the vacuum but his new friend the housekeeper.

And sometimes an additional professional dog trainer can help a dog turn a corner. Coco has learned lots of new behaviors from his in-home trainer, but he can't truly make the leap to solid training until he tries those behaviors around other dogs and distractions in a class environment. Some humans need an additional trainer to hear things in a new way--or to reveal new information that just didn't come to light with the first trainer. A second trainer's opinion can even verify sending a dog to a new home away from a dog he truly wants to eat. We wish every problem could be fixed, but sometimes other solutions are required.

Sometimes good friends need to help socialize a nippy dog and can be convinced to take time to toss around treats. And often other dogs can be enlisted to give a shy dog some confidence: walking with an outgoing buddy can bring Ellie out of her shell. Having neighbors who cross the street rather than cause Sam to go into a barking frenzy helps his training stay on track.

A doggie magic wand would be so great, but until that is invented, I'll take the help of our village people anytime!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer Slump

I hope your summer is off to a great start--and that Taco gets to come with you on your trips around and out of town!

Some dogs just adore vacations--mine are crazy excited when they arrive in a new place. A vacation isn't a good vacation for me without them. But if you can't take your furry one with you, he may be happy to stay home with a great sitter. Do dogs like being boarded? Not usually. I think if they could speak up, they'd ask for a pet sitter in their own home whenever possible.

And then they'd remind you that they'd love to do some fun things with you this summer, too. Have you heard about the "summer slump" or "summer slide" children experience when they're not in school over the summer? They can back-pedal pretty quickly if they're not intellectually challenged during their time off.

At the very least, the behavior of dogs will stay the same over the summer if no effort is made. That can be a bad thing for many. How about a new class or activity for your dog this summer? So you miss one or two sessions because you're traveling? Any education is better than none. Taco doesn't want to wait another 10 weeks until you have consistent time (maybe) to do something special with him. He's bored or anxious or unchallenged right now. He'd like a new puzzle toy or a new hike or a trip to the lake or an agility workshop. Ask him: he'll tell you--or his behavior will.

Traditionally dog trainers have more availability for sessions in summer, so it's a great time to get started!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Keep Calm and Clear and Expect

"He always listens to you. Why doesn't he listen to me?" Something good trainers hear often. Flattering! And yes, we do hope furry clients learn well and listen when the professional is in the room. Dogs sure do seem to realize when the handler knows what she is doing and respond well.

But you can get better responses, too. Act like you know what you're doing--and you might be surprised that your dog is fooled. What do professional, positive trainers do that you may not be doing? Your dog knows "come"; you're sure of it. You've seen him come for the trainer. He just "refuses" to come for you or will only when he wants to. How clear are you? Are you mixing in the word "come" with a bunch of others? Simply give the cue cleanly and clearly once by itself and wait. See what happens. It's hard not to ask for the behavior repeatedly until you get it, but wait and see what happens. "Fluffy, come!" in an inviting tone--not "C'mere, Fluffy. C'mere. Come, Fluff. Get over here, Fluff" in a not-so-inviting tone. Use the simplest language possible and sound fun. Fluffy ain't coming if he thinks he is in trouble. (You would never call him for something like brushing or scolding, anyhow, right??)

Have you seen how calm trainers can be? The best handlers stand up straight, they don't wave their hands around in random (to dogs) gestures, and they breathe. Dogs are usually easily distracted. (Who isn't?) Trying to project a calm energy can take you far--we could learn a lot from dogs about reading the energy of another!

And let's expect what we want to happen. Dogs also often read your insecurity. I expect a dog who has truly learned the cue will come when I call her. If she doesn't, I can turn and walk away--how many then get moving and follow you to see wassup!--or I can go get her to remind her that she shouldn't blow off a human.

I'll bet you've heard the adage: don't teach your dog that she can come on the thirteenth time--or she will. Super handlers say less and get a lot more out of their pups. Need help?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Holiday Puppies

Spring is often called "puppy season," but I now find that more people bring home new puppies over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Rescues and trainers used to say that wasn't a good idea--but they were mostly worried about Puppies as Gifts, which indeed is a lousy idea. (Grandma doesn't really want a new pit bull puppy for Hanukkah, so that's a disaster waiting to happen.)

The GREAT thing about getting a dog over the holidays is that often people can spend LOTS of time with the new pup because they have more time off. Why get a puppy over a weekend when you have to go back to your 9-5 job on Monday morning? You need to take off time to get things off to a good start, and it's not fair to bring home a very young pup and then leave her alone all day soon after. You definitely need a week with the pup--and if you're really diligent, you may even have a fairly housebroken puppy by then! (That's another blog entry.)

So it's puppy season for trainers right now. Enough puppies for a great socialization class. Did you know that most trainers say the socialization window for puppies lasts until they are 12 weeks old?? I would stretch that to 16 weeks myself--but if you don't get your puppy meeting other dogs and children and seeing gardeners in big floppy hats, you will be calling me later in life to help you back pedal and fix bad behaviors. And yes, that's before your pup has all his shots, but there are ways to socialize safely.

I talked to someone at the dog park yesterday who introduced me to her 11-month-old pup--a lovely, happy pup who was doing really well at the park. While talking the woman told me twice that she just needed to "fit in dog school" sometime. She's late. Class is FUN, so why wait? It's so so so important to get in a good puppy kindergarten now.

Congratulation on that new puppy! I hope your New Year's Resolution is to go take a fun class--with a positive trainer, of course. Happy 2016!