Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Place and Stay


Teaching the place command can be used for many purposes, but is great to use when you have guest come over to your house. If your dog tends to greet guests with too much enthusiasm, I would recommend teaching and enforcing the place command. 
The place command is having a specific place for your dog (bed, mat, rug) to go lay down in and stay until he is released. It is important for this place to be the same throughout your dogs training, and for it to be easily recognizable for your dog. 
To start off, stand with your dog next to the designated place and hover your hand above the place until your dog steps onto it. Click and drop the treat onto the mat/bed/etc. for your dog to get. Repeat this until your dog knows to get onto his spot with just a soft hand movement. 
Next, tell your dog to lie down when he steps onto his mat, and don't treat until he does so. After a few training sessions like this, your dog will begin to lie down without you asking.
Now you can start taking small steps back and repeating the above steps until you are sending your dog multiple feet away from you to go lie on his place. Go slowly and set your dog up for success.
Once your dog gets the hang of what you are asking of him, you can begin to say the command long distance, such as in another room or from across the room. Part of the place command is for your dog to stay on his mat until released, teach this the same way you would teach stay but without an initial command. Treat your dog for staying on the mat, correct for getting up, and slowly increase the three D's (Distance, Distraction, Duration) until your dog goes to his mat and stays even when strangers are walking through your door. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Nail Clipping

If your dogs are anything like mine, they absolutely hate it when their paws are messed with and, heaven forbid, clipped. I have a lab that is particularly bad with nail trimming, and will resort to aggressive behavior if we don't do it right. But there are ways to get your dog used to nail trimming.
Here is a good article that describes in detail how you can work with difficult dogs when it comes to nail trimming:

Summarized, it is important to have the right holding technique with your dog so that your dog is secure and cannot get up or struggle, but he doesn't feel smothered or overwhelmed. It helps to have two people available when you first start clipping your dogs nails, especially if it is a big dog. You must be firm when correcting your dog, and you must correct every time he puts up a struggle or tries to bite. Consistency and timing is key, as always, with dog training.
Have some extra tasty treats with you to distract your dog from the ordeal, and soon he may even start enjoying himself. I have found that frozen peanut butter on a spoon will keep a dog busy enough not to need restraining, but it all depends on the dog.
Don't give into your dog if he starts to bite or make a scene. A muzzle may be necessary in severe cases, but you must show your dog that he will not get his way from biting. Correct him when he is not cooperating, and reward him for holding still or every time you clip a nail. Make it a fun and positive experience for your dog, not one he will dread.   

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Choosing the Right Dog Food

The importance of good nutrition for your dog is often times overlooked, but spending an extra bill for quality dog food will usually save you a big vet bill in the future, and increase your dogs life. The hard question to answer: what is the best food for my dog? unfortunately there is no one answer to this because it all depends on you and your dog. If your dog has health problems or allergies he will need a more specific diet.
But, there are some general things to look for in dog foods, and many dog foods to stay away from. One of the most common issues with dog food is that most low quality, cheaper chows are corn-based. This means your dog is getting enough calories, but is undernourished. A good quality pet food will be meat based, and will not have corn listed as a first ingredient, if at all.
A few other ingredients to stay away from are artificial colorings and flavorings, meat byproducts, any corn product or corn byproduct, gluten, grain-based and countless others.
Here is an example of a good dog food and a bad dog food. The dog food on the right (Purina) is a great example of a type of dog food you want to stay away from.


And another example of a bad dog food:

As you can see, the first ingredient in both of these foods are corn, which is very hard to digest for your dog and low in nutrition. These foods are basically full of fillers, with all sorts of added chemicals like colors, and things your dog does not need in its diet, like sugar.
I usually like to get dog foods with at least the first three ingredients a meat source. But some dogs can have allergies to meats, so other protein sources may work better for your dog. It all depends.

Here is a link that is extremely helpful with comparing different brands of dog foods. It shows you ingredients, and highlights the good and bad things about the food in a clear, understandable format.

Another option that I won't go into much detail is a raw diet. This is when you buy your meats and supplements and make your dogs food yourself. This method is very expensive and time consuming, and is definitely not for everyone, but is generally a healthier alternative to dry dog food.

 If you know your dog's specific needs, and learn how to read and decipher dog food labels, you can make an educated decision on which food is best for your dog.