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.