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?