Wednesday, October 30, 2013



With all the stimulation of the outside world, walks are often the hardest to 'perfect' with your dog. Lots of the time it seems like your dog is walking you, but with a few little tricks, some yummy treats, and lots of patience, walking your dog can become more enjoyable and a lot easier.
First, you need to have a goal in mind. Do you want your dog to loose leash walk? Stay by your side in a strict heal? Be able to walk off leash? Or just not pull your arm off every time you step outside?
Then you need to find a training technique that works with you, and stick with it till the end. I am going to write about loose leash walking since it is one of the most popular ways to walk your dog.

Loose leash walking


Loose leash walking is when, as the name implies, the leash is loose at all times. The dog can be ahead or behind, as long as they are not pulling. Loose leash walking can be achieved in many ways, such as: clicker and treats, a spoon with peanut butter on it, a prong collar, switch backs, attention getters and so much more. Creativity is important, try a few techniques out and do what works for you, you may even combine a few techniques or make up your own. I'll explain a few that I have used, and how they have worked for me.

With the clicker and treats, you have to be more interesting than all the smells and sights going on around you. As always, start off in a low distraction environment like your back yard. Walk with your dog a few steps, luring him to stay by your side with a treat. Click and treat every few steps. After a few sessions of this, stop luring and hold the treat out of reach and increase the time in between rewards every session. After a few sessions of this. keep the treat out of sight and wait to reward until your dog looks at you.
 If at any time your gets ahead of you you can do one of many things; make an attention getting noise, stop in your tracks and wait, or turn in the opposite direction. Whichever you choose, click and treat as soon as your dog looks at you.
Over time slowly increase the distractions around you, and the time between rewards.

The switch back is when you turn around and go in the opposite direction you were going in before every time your dog rushes ahead of you or pulls. This works with some dogs, but not with others. It basically teaches your dog that pulling will get him the opposite of what he wants, which is to go forward. Sometimes it may feel like you are making more progress backward than you are forward, but with persistence and maybe a few other techniques used in assistance, this technique can work.

One other technique that I will mention is the attention getter. This is simply doing something, anything, to gain your dogs attention when they rush ahead, and rewarding them when they focus on you. You can use noises, treats, toys, or anything else you can think of. Just make sure you are rewarding your dog for rushing ahead of you, only reward him when he is focusing on you and doing what you want him to be doing.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

How to cope with the loss of a pet

This may not be all that relevant to dog training, but I thought now was a good time to write about this, as I have now lost two of my beloved dogs in the last four days.

Whether it was from old age, sickness, an accident or some other reason, its never easy coping with a pets death. I got the dreadful news a few days ago, my dog, the one I have written about many times on this blog, had escaped from our yard and was hit and killed on the highway. Then today, my 16 year old dog from my childhood, was put down from old age. These past few days have been rough and slow, but I have learned a thing or two along the way.

First thing I learned was that not everyone understands that losing a pet can be just as hard as losing a human family member. Some people have never had a bond with their pets, maybe have never even had pets before, and can't empathize with how you and I may be feeling. It's okay to mourn over a dog like you would a human. Studies have shown that petting a dog, especially in women, releases the same endorphins as holding your own child. That's powerful.

One of the most important things not to do after a death is blame yourself, or others for that matter. Most of the time it was nobodies fault, because nobody intentionally killed your pet (and if they did then I couldn't help but blame them.) Blame gets you nowhere, and it definitely doesn't bring your dog back. Anger, too, is usually a waste of energy. I understand that sometimes these feelings are natural and part of the morning process, but too much will hurt more than help.

Grief comes in waves, some are small, and some knock you off your feet, but with time things start getting easier. Sometimes I feel guilty that I don't feel as sad as I think I should be feeling over the loss of a pet, but then I remind myself that there is nothing to be guilty about. You aren't forgetting your pet by not feeling sad, or some other feeling. You aren't replacing your pet by getting another pet to help comfort you. You didn't let your pet down by not making a bulletproof, tank-proof fence in the first place. Excepting these things brings a peace of mind that you can't get without.

The most important thing I learned is to enjoy the time you have with the pets, and people you care about while you can, because you never know when they might be taken away from you.
Think about the happy memories when a pet passes away, because those memories help to comfort with the knowledge that that dog was a very lucky dog to have you as its loving owner. accept that they are gone, and that you'll never forget them, and then you'll find peace.

Peanut and Annie
Until we meet again at the Rainbow-Bridge.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Importance of Training

The importance of training your dog

Structure and rules are very important to a dog, they thrive on it. A dog with a strong leader and solid rules is a happy, well balanced dog who knows his place. If a dog is not given limitations to follow, he will make them himself. A dog without a leader will become leader, and as many people know first hand, a family who is lead by its dog is not a happy family, nor is the dog happy either.  When a dog does not have a clear leader to follow, he will take that position himself, this puts a lot of stress on any dog, no matter how dominant it may be. I don't care what people say, but every dog naturally wants to be a follower. It is the healthiest, easiest way to go for them.

If you establish a balanced relationship with your dog, where you are the calm and confident leader, you can then establish communication, and through communication you establish rules and structure.

One of the best ways to help you establish leadership is the NILIF program, which stands for nothing in life is free. It means your dog doesn't get anything he wants unless he does something first. For example, your dog has to sit before he gets affection, or lay down and stay before he eats. This lets your dog know that in order to get something he wants, he has to listen to you and follow your lead, then he will get rewarded.

another important aspect to a healthy, balanced dog is keeping your dogs mind and body active. A dog with pent up energy will be 100 times harder to train than a tired dog. I would highly suggest taking your dog for a long run before trying to teach him anything.
 When a dog doesn't have an outlet for it's energy, it will be a very hard dog to handle. A good example of this are working, hunting, and herding dogs who are unable to do the jobs they were bred for. They become frustrated and may start to take out that frustration in inappropriate ways, like herding people or fast moving things, chasing animals and digging, and many other (often) bread specific problems. These dogs need outlets and a job. Something as simple as making your dog fetch the newspaper every morning, or carry something on walks everyday, can help with these problems.
Overall, structure and rules are the basis for a mentally stable dog who is well behaved and happy. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Basic Commands

Recently get a new canine addition to your family and wondering where to start with training?
Once your dog has a sense of when he is doing something write verses wrong (yes vs. no), you can start working with him on actual commands. Starting with easier commands for you and your dog is usually the way to go.

Here are a few of the basic commands that should be first on your list of things to teach your pooch.


As always in training, start with a yummy treat and a good, patient attitude. Have your dog stand in front of you. and put the treat to his nose, just so he can smell it, not eat it yet.
Slowly, lure his head back with your hand over his head, until he is leaning back to keep the treat in sight. Once he is doing this, or very close to doing this, say YES! (or use a clicker) and give him the treat. Repeat this, but have him leaning back farther and farther each time, until his butt hits the ground. It is important to praise him with a yes or click the moment his butt hits the ground, then treat, repeat and have a break. I find that it is best to keep training sessions only five to ten minutes long, with plenty of fun, play-filled breaks in between.


With your dog in the sitting position, take a treat and slowly begin to lower your hand away from your dog and towards the ground. The moment your dog so much as lowers his head, praise and treat. Continue, waiting to treat your dog until he gets lower and lower each time until he is in the down position.
This command usually takes me a few more training sessions to master than the sit command, so be patient. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a break from training, its better to end a training session abruptly rather than take out any of your frustration on your dog.
Once your dog gives you the desired action, make a huge deal out of it, giving him lots and lots of praise and more treats than usual, so that he knows that he made you happy.


This command takes many training sessions over a long period of time, and can never be truly and 100% mastered. But it is one of the most important commands for your dog to know, and can potentially save his life. Some dogs take a lot longer to get the idea of coming back to you when called, even when there are lots of exciting distractions around. I know this first hand, one of my dogs still has trouble coming back when he sees a furry, fast moving creature.
I will probably go into more depth on recall in a later post, since it is so vital to know and get right, but here are the basics.
Start with your dog inside your house with very low distractions. Take a handful of the yummiest treats thinkable, like steak or hotdog, and stand a few feet from your dog. Next, make your recall noise, such as COME!! or a whistle/trill, anything exciting, high pitched command works. Make your dog super excited to come to you, and throw a party with your yummy treats once he does come to you. Do this only a few times a day, don't overdue it though, and slowly start to increase distance from dog and distractions. Move to your back yard, then your front, then the sidewalk. Then on a long leash at an empty park. Work on it everyday and slowly you will start to see an improvement.

That's all for today!