Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Daily Training Schedule

This post goes hand in hand with a previous post on NILIF. It is surprising how simple, yet effective, dog training can be at times. This is my typical schedule that I keep my dogs on to keep them physically and mentally exercised and obedient. Making your dog do a little work for everyday things, and taking a few minutes each day to practice simple obedience skills can make a huge difference in your dog's behavior.
6:00 AM - Dogs have to do a down-stay for two minutes before they get to eat.
7:00 AM - We go for a half-hour walk. The dogs must do a sit-stay while I prepare leashes. They also must let me exit the door/gate first and wait for the release command to follow me.
8:00-4:00 - The dogs are locked to one room of the house with access to the yard during week days. During weekends I use this time for any formal training or more exercise.
4:00 - Fetch. During this time I practice recall, stay, heeling and a few other random tricks to keep my dogs fresh on the important commands. Fetch is a great reward for dogs with a high drive for the game.
4:30 -Hour walk, again the dogs must sit-stay while leashes are prepared.
5:00 - Another two minute sit-stay is performed before the dogs can eat.

As you can see, this schedule is extremely simple, and besides the walks (which should be provided for your dog, training or no training) it takes very little time and effort. But this, along with a strict NILIF program, keeps my dogs in check and obedient.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dog Parks

A dog park is a fun and easy way to get your dog exercised and socialized, but there are many dangers that go with dog parks. Having so many unknown dogs in the same area can sometimes lead to problems, and you wouldn’t want your dog caught in the middle of a fight. Here are a few pointers for having a safe and fun experience at the dog park.
Whenever I first arrive at a dog park, no matter how many times I’ve been to it, I will watch how the dogs interact with one other before entering. If there seems to be more than a few dogs that are too rough or picking on other dogs, I will go for a walk and come back later when the problem dogs are gone. Once I have decided the environment is friendly and safe, I make sure my dogs do a sit-stay before they get to run free.
The most important thing to remember when at a dog park is to keep a very close eye on your dog. Attacks can happen in seconds and often times without much warning. If you feel your dog is at risk or putting others at risk, leave.
Make sure your dog does not bully other dogs. My black lab tends to be a little rough when playing and I often have to stop him mid-play and calm him down when he starts to become too much for the other dog. Play has to be two sided, both dogs have to be having fun; it is not play if one of the dogs is running out of fear while the other has a blast chasing it.
Your dog can also be harassed by other dogs, if your dog is not having fun, or if any of the other dogs are too much for him, it is best to leave and come again another time. There will always be a few dogs out there that your dog does not get along with.
It may also be helpful to bring treats with you to the dog park. Dog parks are a great way to increase your dog’s obedience skills. Having them sit, stay, come etc. around all those distractions will be a great challenge for your dog if he is already reliable without the distractions. Use the treats to call your dog to you every now and again, not just when you are leaving. This way you can get your dog away from undesirable situations by just calling his name.
One last thing I would suggest is to not bring a young puppy to dog parks (or very small dogs for that matter). They are just too vulnerable and puppies are much more prone to develop behavior problems from traumatic experiences when they are young. If a puppy has just one bad experience at the dog park she may have a fear of dogs for a very long time. 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014



NILIF, which stands for Nothing In Life Is Free, is a training program and technique that is the foundation to having a good relationship with your dog. If done right, your dog will not only respect you, he will listen to you and every aspect of his training will improve.
So what is NILIF? The idea is very simple, actually sticking to the program is the hard part. The idea is that your dog has to work for EVERYTHING he wants. Whether it’s a simple sit, or something more complex and engaging, your dog has to do something in order to make an everyday outcome happen. For example, your dog has to do something in order to get pet, go for a walk, get food, play fetch, go outside, or have/do anything that your dog needs/enjoys.  You can make your dog do a sit stay before he is fed, or have him go lay in his crate before he gets to greet a stranger.
Some dogs may be resistant at first if they are not used to listening to you, but the great thing about NILIF is that soon your dog will look forward to doing as you say because he gets something good in the end.  
Depending on your dog and your household, you may need to be on a very strict NILIF, meaning your dog gets absolutely NOTHING unless he does something. In my household, where my dogs listen fairly well to me, we have a much looser NILIF where our dogs only have to sit-stay before eating and wait for us to go out the door before barging through.
Almost all behavioral problems stem from the dog not having a respectful relationship with its owner, with NILIF that respect can begin to grow and you can accomplish so much more with your dog.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Excessive Barking

For me personally, there is nothing more annoying than having a neighbor whose dog barks non-stop. Luckily for me, I have two of those neighbors, each with two dogs, YAY! Every time I pass by with one of my dogs, the neighbor dogs go ballistic. There is not much I can do about my situation besides let my neighbor know their dogs barking is an issue. But there is something I can do to prevent my dogs from becoming a nuisance in the neighborhood, most people who live near us are surprised to hear that we have three dogs because they never hear them bark, here's how...

No matter why your dog is barking, if he has excess amounts of energy that barking is going to be much worse. On the contrary, if your dog is tired he may not bark at all. The importance of exercise in all aspects of training is HUGE. A tired dog is a good dog, so, depending on your dog, you should provide at lest an hour of exercise every day.
Finding the source
The method of training used from this point forward will depend on the cause of your dogs barking. Is it separation  anxiety? Boredom? Reaction to another dog? Since boredom barking can be solved with adequate exercise and entertainment, and separation anxiety is a more complex issue, I will focus on the most common reason for dog barking; outside stimuli.

There are multiple methods that can be used to stop your dog from barking at stimuli such as other dogs, people and many other everyday things. Some use corrections to discourage your dog from barking, like bark collars. Bark collars are great for quick results, but I would warn against using them for the long run because in almost all scenarios, your dog will need the bark collar on all his life. This is because the dog learns that he gets a zap from barking only when the bark collar is actually on, so if your dog does not have his bark collar on 24/7 (Which I do not recommend) he is likely to bark still.
Another common method is to use some other form of discouragement, like a spray bottle, to correct your dog with when he barks. This would work great if you could catch your dog every time he barked. The problem with this method is that it is near impossible to catch your dog every time he barks. If you only correct your dog sometimes, your dog learns that sometimes it’s okay to bark, and sometimes it gets me in trouble, but he can’t differentiate between the two, so he continues barking.
And finally to my favorite method. I actually teach my dogs how to bark in order to get them to stop barking. Totally counterintuitive, but it has worked with me. I started slow by teaching my dogs to bark on command, or just waiting for them to bark at some stimuli, then I take a tasty treat and show it to the dog. As soon as his attention is away from barking I say the command ‘quiet’ and give him the treat. Over time I delayed the treat showing until I could say ‘quiet’ and my dogs would immediately stop barking and look to me for a treat. Now whenever my dogs start barking at something I can give the quiet command and they will excitedly come back inside looking for a treat (I don’t give them treats very often because I don’t want them to anticipate a treat as they bark and associate barking with a good thing.)
It also really helps to have a good relationship with your dog and your dog listens to you when you say No.  This way you can say No the moment before your dog starts barking, and the problem is avoided before it could escalate. I feel that this is the best way to train your dog not to bark, but not all dogs will stop what they are doing under all circumstances when you say No. 
Patience, persistence and dried liver can work magic with any dog