Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Puppy Socializing-Other Dogs

There is a vital stage in a puppy's life, usually starting at 8 weeks and ending anywhere from 16 weeks to a year, depending on who you talk to, called the socialization period. This is the time where you introduce a variety of new situations to your puppy so he grows into a well balanced dog who is used to most scenarios and open to new experiences. But one of the most important steps to proper socialization is often missed, that is the step of making sure your puppy feels safe and comfortable in every new situation you introduce him to. This holds especially true for socializing your puppy with other dogs.
The key to socializing is making sure every situation is as controlled as possible. Learn to read your dogs behavior, and be able to control the situation so as not to over stimulate your puppy and cause him to become fearful or aggressive. To name a few, this means no dog parks until your dog is, in my opinion, a year and a half to two years old, no introductions to dogs you do not know, or dogs that may react poorly, and no overcrowded places where people or children may crowd your puppy past it's comfort.
So how do you socialize your puppy with other dogs if you cannot introduce him to dogs on your walks or go to the dog park? If a puppy is taken away from the litter no earlier than 8 weeks, then he has already been through the critical dog socialization period with his mother and litter mates. From the time he comes home with you to the time he is about a year old, he will be just fine being socialized only with his pack. Meaning other dogs you may have in your household, and dogs of your friends and family whom you know will react properly around your puppy. Puppies do not need to be introduced to an abundance of new dogs in order to become comfortable and well socialized around members of its own kind later in life. It is more a matter of making sure your puppy does not go through a bad experience where he learns to fear other dogs. For example, you meet a dog on a trail and this dog starts to attack, playful or not, your puppy. This dog does not lay off your puppy, thus your puppy learns that submission does not work and becomes fearful and aggressive towards other dogs he meets. He wants to attack them before they can attack him. This behavior then carries on to his adulthood, and you are faced with an aggressive dog from that one bad experience.
Now this does not mean that a bad experience cannot happen to your dog ever. It just means that during a certain period of your dogs growth, the socialization period, all experiences should be safe and enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Horse Training...What?

What, you may ask, does horse training have to do with dog training? As I am learning, quite a bit actually. After working with a horse trainer, and learning a thing or two myself, I wanted to stray a bit off of dog training for a bit, and look at a few parallels between horse training and dog training.
While the techniques of horse training differ greatly from that of dogs, the main idea is very similar. Of course there is timing and consistency, which are extremely important, whatever you are training, whether it be human or platypus. Motivation is also a parallel between the two, you must give proper motivation, preferably positive but not always, in order to persuade an animal much bigger than you to do something it might not necessarily want to do.
While there are many similarities, there is also a huge difference between the two animals, and therefore many important differences in their training. I find this to be very crucial information, since I cannot approach a horse with the mentality of training a dog, and it would be completely unfair to a dog if I tried training it like a horse.
For example, say I have a dog, and a horse, displaying very similar behaviors that I would like to change. That behavior is that they both refuse to walk over or on new surfaces. For a horse this may be going over obstacles, or walking on a tarp. For a dog this may be walking on hard wood floors. To someone who knows nothing about the two animals, these behaviors may seem nearly identical. But to me, they are completely different. For one, the cause of this behavior is probably not the same. The dog is scared of hard wood floors and doesn't like how it feels on his paws, while the horse just plain doesn't want to do what's asked of it, for whatever horsy reason it has (not a horse expert). Since the causes are very different, and the animals take in the world very differently, you need to have a different approach to training each.
For the dog, the approach I would try is putting rugs or towels on the floor, and tempting the dog with very very yummy treats to walk across, and over time and training sessions start to take the towels off until you can tempt your dog across the floor with less and less treats.   
For a horse, you want the behavior you want to be easy, and the refusal of doing that behavior very hard. Work the horse by making it go in circles and turn a lot, and have it's resting spot be only by the tarp. Every time the horse thinks about crossing, let him rest, the moment he starts to refuse work him hard again.
Again, very different approaches, but timing and consistency and confidence is key to both.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Indoor Games

With the rainy and snowy season upon us, we sometimes want to take a day to relax and not have to go outside to exercise our dogs. But this doesn't mean our dogs still don't need exercise. Here are a few ways to mentally and physically exercise your dog indoors so he doesn't drive you crazy when you take it easy.
Food search: As the name implies, this is where you make your dog go in a down stay while you hide pieces of dog food around the house. Make it as hard or as easy as you like, and once you're done release your dog to sniff out the food. This is great mental stimulation an can occupy your dog for awhile, depending on how well you hid the treats and how food motivated he is.
Tug is a great game to play indoors, but make sure you control the game and your dog drops the toy when you tell him to. Add some more to this game and throw the toy every now again to get your dog moving more.
Food dispensing toys are a good way to mentally stimulate your dog and keep him occupied.
Go on an outing, such as to a store that allows pets, vets office, or just a drive to get him out of the house and into new environments.
Training new behaviors or practicing old can often be just as stimulating and even more tiring than a walk is. Training makes your dog really think, and strengthens the bond between the two of you. This is a great way to exercise your dog indoors.
Have another dog come over so the two can tire each other out.
Hide and seek: this is a game where you hide in a room of the house and have your dog find you. A way to add on to this game is to have two people hiding in two different rooms, both with treats, taking turns calling the dog to them. This is a great way to enforce the recall command and get your dog moving.
Treadmills are a good way to get some of your dogs excess energy out, although some training is usually necessary to get your dog used to a treadmill.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


What dog doesn't like to chew? Chewing is a natural and occupying activity that most dogs partake in. Problems start though when your dog starts to chew on something he is not supposed to. That is why, if your dog is a chewer, you should get a variety of safe and fun chew toys for your dog to choose from. Here is a guide of many chews that we use, our success some and not others.

Chewing No's
I personally would not give my dogs any bones or treats with any harsh preservatives or that is treated with chemicals, I wouldn't ingest these, and nor should my dog. 
Raw hides can be swallowed whole and choked on, and in my experience cause dogs to have upset stomachs and aren't worth the trouble. But they do work for some dogs, and can be beneficial if carefully supervised. 
Cooked bones, chicken bones, or any thin bones or flat bones likely to shard.
Any object, organic or not, that breaks off in sharp pieces that can be choked on.  

Okay Chews
Chews that I have had great success with are:
Kongs, especially if they are filled with peanut butter or some other treat and frozen, kongs can keep a dog busy for hours. 
Safe plastic chews that can be bought at any pet store.
Bully sticks.
Real, raw bones from butcher. Though some precautions should be made before giving your dog raw bones, like freezing the bone for a certain period of time.
And by far the most popular chew for our dogs are deer antlers, buffalo horns and any other antler/horn we can get our hands on. They can be very expensive, but if you happen across one while hiking, or hunt, they are fantastic chews for dogs. Deer antlers rarely break in sharp pieces, and one good antler can keep all three of our dogs busy for months.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Indoor Marking

Marking, not to be confused with urination, is used by dogs for territorial reasons. It is a perfectly normal behavior, but not appropriate indoors. A dog that marks indoors can be doing so for a few different reasons. It could be because the dog has never been taught that it is not acceptable, out of insecurity, if a new dog is introduced into the household or if the dog is introduced into a new household etc. 
If your dog has taken to marking indoors, you will need to take a few steps of prevention and correction to stop the behavior. 
If you have not already done so, spaying and neutering your dog may greatly reduce the behavior. 
To start, you will need to act as if you are dealing with an 8 week old puppy. Keep your dog in sight at all times, go for frequent potty breaks, and make sure you can quickly intercept your dog if you catch him/her marking. Tell him no and take him outside to eliminate where he is supposed to. I would also advise getting a deodorizing cleaner to clean all the places your dog has marked before. This will reduce the temptation for your dog to remark these places. 
I would also enforce a NILIF lifestyle until you have established common ground and communication with your dog. Your dog, just like a puppy, gets very limited freedom that slowly increases as he learns what he can and can't do, and as you begin to trust that he won't mark the minute you turn your back. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

yo-yo dog

Most dogs can get the point of loose leash walking pretty easily, but I see very few who can walk in a strict heel position for any period of time. Often times, when teaching your dog to heal, they start to 'yo-yo', where they will walk with you for a few steps, pull forward, fall back and walk with you, pull forward etc. All of my dogs still do this occasionally, and one of them is particularly bad at it. This video, made by a dog trainer whom I really enjoy watching and who I think has great techniques, shows you how you can actively stop your dog from this annoying walking behavior. This video is worth more than a thousand words. As usual with dog training it is way more helpful to watch what must be done rather than read it.
One thing I would add to the video is that if you are using a prong (which you shouldn't need to with correct techniques) or a regular collar, you can quickly and lightly correct your dog with a firm yet quick tug on the leash the moment you dog begins to rush forward. If you are being very interactive with you dog, like in the video, you shouldn't need to do this, but if you are out for an everyday walk and your dog starts to 'yo-yo' don't hesitate to give a quick correcting, and then start using the techniques in the video if he continues to pull ahead.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Broken Toenails

Broken toenails can be a very painful injury for dog, especially if the quick has been exposed or broken, since this part of their toe is full of blood vessels and nerve endings. Recently I had two dogs break a toenail within a few days of each other, one of them didn't notice, but the other was severely limping until his injury was taken care of. Breaking of the toenail can be easily prevented by regularly cutting your dog's toenails, but even then it can still happen at any time.
If the outer shell of the nail has been broken back to reveal the quick, there is usually not much you can do other than clean the wound of loose nail fragments and dirt, and bandage the foot if needed. An effective way to bandage the foot is to attach a clean sock at the ankle with gauze, this prevents any dirt from getting in the wound.
Example of broken nail that needs to be cut off
If the nail is broken in half and dangling it will have to be cut off. Unless your dog is very non-reactive to pain and his paws being messed with, I would highly suggest taking him to the vet. We tried cutting our dog's toenail ourselves and it was an impossible task, it ended up taking three vet techs and a muzzle to get the job done.
Broken toenails usually happen because the toenail is too long or brittle. Trimming your dog's nails regularly keeps the quick small and helps prevent this kind of injury from happening. If your dog is outdoors and exposed to rocks and other rugged surfaces a lot, dog booties will also prevent these injuries, along with many other foot and toe injuries.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Agility is an absolutely fantastic sport for dogs, and for so many reasons. It's great physical and mental exercise, fun for you and your dog, and most of all it strengthens the bond between owner and dog. In order to be able to do agility, your dog has to learn how to pay attention to you and read the slightest of cues and respond to those cues in an instant. When competing, your dog is going through a new obstacle course and must look to you to know where to go and what to do. It takes hours and hours of training to get your dog used to all the different obstacles, but the process is extremely fun and completely worth it. I took a few agility courses with one of my dogs, he loved it and I noticed a great improvement in our everyday training afterwards.
There are a few things your dog must be good at before you even start the basics of agility. Having reliable recall and off leash behavior is a must, since agility is an off leash sport. Your dog must be able to be around other dogs and distractions and still listen to you.
You begin with the very basics in agility, usually just getting your dog used to the obstacles and using lots of treats and praise. But once your dog is familiar with what is required of him, you begin working on the most important part of agility, reading and responding to your ques. The finished product will be you running a little ahead of your dog and pointing to which obstacles you want him to do, while also saying their name. To get to this point you have to get your dog used to following your hands and knowing what each obstacle is called. For example, with the tunnel to you run with your dog and lead him into the tunnel with your hand at the same time that you say 'tunnel'. After a few times you run and wave him into the tunnel while you are a foot or two away, eventually you will be able to say tunnel and point from a long distance away and your dog will know what to do. This skill of looking to you for guidance and following your lead is something that will greatly improve all aspects of dog training, and help strengthen the bond between you and your dog. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


With a trip to Santa Cruz in the near future, I ran across this video....I still can't tell if the dogs actually enjoy this, or if they just put up with it. I can't imagine how these people got their dogs trained to surf, I plan on looking into the technicality of it in the future. My guess would be that you need to start your dog young, and slowly get them used to being on the board, being on a moving board, and being out in the ocean water.... Which, for most dogs, probably takes way more time and dedication than I have. It would also take the right type of dog. My yellow lab, for example, would not be a good dog to train to surf, simply because he is an extremely sensitive dog who is scared of his own shadow at times. My black lab, on the other hand, has a very calm and cool temperament, he is much more open minded to new things, so he would be a perfect dog to train for this difficult of a task!
Here is a simple and brief breakdown of how I would go about this training:
Get the dog used to being on the board at home by having him sit and do tricks on it, always giving him the treat while he is on the board.
Have your dog stay on the board for long periods of time.
Slowly introduce distractions so your dog stays on the board even around seagulls, seals, whales, oh my!
Having your dog stand on the board while you move it, either dragging it (if it's an old, unused board) or carrying it.
Having your dog float on the board in calm water,such as a lake.
And finally, applying all of this in the ocean.
It seems this would take many months of slow, progressive training to accomplish.. I'm excited to see if any of my dogs will be willing to surf next week.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When to Call the Vet

Recently my family in Idaho had to say goodbye to their beloved dog, a nine year old Pomeranian who would likely still be alive if the vet had been called sooner. By the description of it, she had been showing signs of illness for days before she passed. Often times it's hard to know when something is serious enough to bring to the vet, or if your dog will get over it on his/her own. Here are some signs that more than likely say your dog should see a vet.
  • If your dog has been through any traumatic experience such as hit by car, attacked by other animal, broken limbs etc..
  • You suspect your dog has eaten anything toxic.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • If your dog is not eating, drinking or is lethargic for more than 24 hours. (Lethargy may be hard to notice in some dogs, or may not seem like an emergency, but this was the main symptom our Pomeranian showed in her last days.)
  • Diarrhea for more than a day or two, or diarrhea with blood. 
  • Fur falling out/excessive itching or chewing.
  • Any signs of bloat. This is a big risk for big chested dogs, and I may dedicate a blog to bloat in the future. 
  •   Discharge from eyes and nose.
  • An unusual cough, which could be a sign of a collapsed trachea, especially in small, short nosed breeds.
The list could go on and on, but this is a basic, simple list that covers a lot of the major problems that could be life threatening to your dog. Obviously you want to use your better judgment, you know what's normal and not for your dog. But if you are questioning whether or no to take your dog to the vet, it would be wisest to pay a visit or at least call. It could save your dogs life.

R.I.P Tootsie

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Importance of Timing

 I feel that I cannot stress the importance of timing with dog training enough. You could be getting everything else wrong and still have good outcomes. In almost every post I've made I have tried to emphasize that the timing must be exact. As I was reading through one of my favorite dog training sights I came across this, which is a very good example of two very important aspects of dog training, rewarding only for good behavior and timing:

Believe it or not ...

You should NEVER reward your dog for unwanted behavior.   Instead, reward only good behavior.  Sounds simple, right?  You'd think it would be.  But most other dog training programs confuse this very straight-forward concept...
For example:
Let's say you're practicing the "Down-Stay" with your dog, around distractions.  Most other dog training programs suggest that when your dog breaks the command (when he gets up before the exercise is finished) that you go back to the dog and put him back into the down position... and then praise him?
Fact: What you're really doing is confusing your dog.  You're praising him for getting up before you've completed the exercise.  You've told him, "You've made a mistake... good boy!"  
Does that make sense to your dog?  Absolutely not.  
So, you end up having to do endless repetitions until either you quit or your dog somehow magically understands.  He might learn the exercise, but it will take 100 times longer than if you were communicating clearly with your dog.  And that's not intelligent dog training.

If you have all of your other techniques down to an art, but your timing is off, you will find that your dog is not learning to his full potential, if at all. One example I came across yesterday was when I was walking past my neighbors dog who always goes nuts when he sees our dogs. The owner was outside, preparing himself to 'correct' his dog, who was in turn getting ready to start barking.

What he did: The dog raced towards the fence and started to bark, like usual. His owner waited until that moment to rush up and give his dog a correction. The owner literally had to wrap his arms around the dog and force him to sit and clamp his mouth shut in order to stop the dog barking, once the dog was (forcibly) quiet, yet still totally focused on us, the owner praised his dog.

What he should have done: The owner should have raced forward before the dog started to bark, and distract his dog from us with toys or treats or lots of very accurately timed corrections. He should have quickly corrected his dog the moment he thought about barking, not afterwards. He should have rewarded and praised his dog only once he had his dogs full attention.

I have watched this owner and his dog struggle with the same problems for almost a year now, with no success...why? Because he has the timing all wrong.
The keys to dog training, Timing, Consistency, and Patience.