Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Three Downs a Day

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Does your dog ever rush out the door when opened? What about go for their food before you have time to move out of the way? Or even chase after any moving object on walks or elsewhere? These, along with many, are problems concerning your dogs impulse control. In short, impulse control is the ability for your dog, or any animal for that matter,  to be able to have an impulse such as running out the door when opened, but not act upon that impulse. Impulse control does not come naturally to any animal, and must be taught through morals, parenting, or in your dogs case, you. A few simple training exercises added to your daily routine can greatly improve your dogs impulse control. Here are a few ways you can integrate training into the everyday activities you share with your dog.
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Meal times: for most, there are two times a day when your dog seems most frantic. Where your dog is consumed by the desire to somehow eat all of their food in two or three impossible gulps. You may have some structure around meal time, or it may be a free for all. This is a perfect opportunity to practice impulse control with your dog. As with all things, start slow. Have your dog sit before he gets his meal, then make him stay as you prepare for him. After he gets the hang if things, increase the amount of time he has to stay before he can eat. You will eventually get to a point where you can have your dog in a down stay with a bowl of food in front of him for fifteen to twenty minutes while you do the dishes or make dinner. It may seem like torture at first, but your dog will quickly learn that waiting just a little longer will provide the same high reward. Having your dog randomly hold a down stay for a little bit throughout the day is a great way to enforce a lot of aspects in training.
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Getting your dog ready for a walk: When you are putting your dogs leash on, your shoes on, and whatever else you may do before an excursion out of the house, make your dog sit and wait wile you get ready. Also, if your dog is in the habit of dashing out the door you can also make him sit and wait while you open the door and leave, and correct him every time he gets up. But make sure to always give lots of praise for doing the right thing.
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Another thing I like to practice with my dog that is very ball oriented (loves playing fetch), is to make him sit and wait while I throw a toy. He can go fetch the ball when and only when I give him the release word. This helps teach him not to chase things on an impulse, and rewires his brain to wait for my cue to start chasing something.
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These are just a few ways that you can help teach your dog to pause a moment and think the equivalent of 'what am I expected to do in this scenario?' instead of just reacting.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Puppy Play Biting

During my time walking dogs at the local shelter I have come across numerous dogs, no longer puppies, who mouth non-stop the moment you enter their cage. Mouthing/play biting is something that puppies naturally do to play and ease the pain of teething, but if done on the wrong items (i.e. your hand or wallet) it can be very painful and destructive. Puppies who are allowed to mouthed, or even encouraged to play this way will never grow out of it, and you are left with a dog who gets excited and starts biting your hand or clothing. I've seen this with many pit bulls. I assume that their owners encouraged them to mouth when playing, or did not correct it, and the dog has grown to be an extremely intimidating dog who bites your hand when being leashed, jumps on you and grabs onto any item of clothing or skin it can get a hold of, and does not let go. This can be very scary for anyone, no matter what their experience level is. 
The key to preventing this behavior is catching it while the puppy is young. Here is a very good video that shows a technique you can use (if you don't mind sounding a little weird to people who don't know what you are doing). 

As stated in the video, this method is only useful when a puppy is still very young. So how do you stop mouthing with an older dog? Ignore, redirect, or discourage. 
When a dog starts to mouth you, you have three options, and you can use either one depending on the situation. If the dog is trying to play with you or get your attention the best thing to do is ignore your dog. Turn away from him and wait patiently until he has stopped and is ideally sitting quietly, then give him what he wants. This is also a good technique for if your dog mouths while being leashed. But be warned, this can take a lot of time and patience to achieve. 
If you are already playing with your dog, or happen to have a toy at hand, you can use that to redirect your dog to an appropriate thing to mouth, and praise him when he puts his teeth on it instead of your ski
Last would be use discouragement to get your dog to stop mouthing. If your dog is being dangerous, like biting and not letting go, I would use this before anything else. But other than the most extreme cases this should be a last resort, You can use citrus spray, compressed air, a loud noise, spray bottle etc. to correct and discourage your dog from biting. 
Other things to keep in mind is to not rough house with your dog, as this encourages using the mouth to play. Having your dog on a leash can also help you correct him every time he goes to bite you. No matter which method you choose, make sure you do not unintentionally turn it into a game, for example pulling on the leash to get it out of your dogs mouth turns the struggle into an encouraging game of tug-of-war for your dog.

And here is a dog salsa dancing...why not?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How to be a Great Dog Trainer

Image result for how to be the best dog trainerWhile taking my three dogs for their daily walks I often get comments on how well behaved they are, how calm they are, 'what amazing dogs they are', and usually jokingly throw on if I could help train their dog to be that good. The most popular comments seem to be "My dog usually is the one walking me!" "You're lucky to have such well mannered dogs." and "Wow, your hands are full."
This got me thinking... People seem to just assume that some dogs are born well behaved, and I happen to be lucky enough to have acquired three of them. But the truth is I've put a lot of time into the training of my dogs. I started from scratch, not knowing a thing, but dog training has always come pretty easily to me. So why are so many people surprised when they see three big dogs walking nicely, obviously not being forced or motivated by any tools (prong collars, muzzles etc.) by someone not physically able to use physical force for the dogs to behave? And why don't these people seem to be able to train their dogs the same way? I mean, it seems so easy and straight forward to some.
But it's not,
Image result for child training dogThere are three keys to being a good dog trainer, and luckily, all of them can, to an extent, be improved if one wills them to be. So what are these three keys? Technical skills, psychological knowledge and personality are the three major factors in the separation of the good, mediocre and great dog trainer.
The obvious one is the technicalities of dog training, such as techniques, timing, consistency etc. This is the easiest type of dog training knowledge to get, as there are countless books and articles on the subject, so long as you are choosing a successful, up-to-date technique.
The second, subtler quality to a good dog trainer is knowing how a dog thinks. You can know everything in the world about dog training and know nothing about what makes a dog function, and find that your training has come to a quick halt. This aspect is also one that some people tend to have an edge over other people. If you have grown up with dogs all your life, you probably have a bit of a sixth sense as to what your dog is thinking and what goes on in a dogs mind. While we are still just scraping the surface of dog cognition, we do know some vital things about them that can help immensely with their training.
The next, and very important aspect to dog training is your personality. This may be the hardest to change, and by change I do not mean changing who you are or your whole personality. Instead, little alterations in someone's personality can greatly influence how good of a dog trainer they are, and these alterations are usually for the better. For example, a very uptight and nervous person will have trouble training a very uptight, nervous dog. Your dog feeds off of your energy, and can often read you better than you can read yourself. So take a deep breath, relax, and continue forward with a loose leash and calm mind. Another example is someone who gets frustrated easily. Frustration is a big no-no in dog training, as it usually counteracts any training you are doing, or have done, and can make the dog confused and frustrated itself. So take another deep breath and distract yourself, and come back to training once you are calmed down.
Some people are born naturals at dog training, they have the right demeanor, have grown up around dogs and have acquired a vast knowledge on dog training and cognition. Others, not so much. Which is perfectly fine, it just means they'll have to work twice as hard, but will reap twice the reward for their hard earned work when they start getting people asking them to train their dogs.
It may be more work than expected, but the reward of having a well mannered friend to follow you rain or shine, good days and bad, is so worth it.
 Image result for child training dog

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


What dog doesn't like to chew? Chewing is a natural and healthy tendency for almost every dog, but finding the right thing for your dog to chew on can be tricky. Rawhides are a very popular and cheap product that dogs seem to love, but there is some controversy as to whether or not they are really safe. Here I'll tell you about the dangers of rawhide, and let you choose for yourself whether or not it's worth the risk.
What are rawhides in the first place? Rawhides are exactly how they sound, the inner hide of a animal, usually cow. They could also come from pigs, sheep, buffalo or horse. The rawhide is soaked in a solution to remove the fur and fat. In the U.S. rawhides are usually cleaned with water or hydrogen peroxide or bleached. Outside the U.S. the rawhide is bathed in an array of chemicals for preservation. Arsenic and Formaldehyde are even used in some places. Then some are bathed in yet more chemicals for flavor.. and finally.. into your beloved pooches mouth!
With that in mind, what are the dangers of rawhides? The cheep rawhides you find at the dollar store/grocery store or wherever else have obvious dangers like chemical content and durability, as the cheep rawhides are usually either very hard or very brittle. If the hide is hard enough your dog can chip a tooth on it, or break a took completely off. If the rawhide is too brittle it can come off in sharp pieces, dangerous if ingested. But even well manufactured rawhides have their dangers. Have you ever watched a dog gulp down a treat in a few bites? This is exactly what tends to happen with some dogs when it comes to rawhides, they chew until the hide is soft and malleable, and swallow the entire thing whole. Just because your dog was able to swallow the piece of hide doesn't mean it will get through the digestive tract without getting stuck or doing some damage. It isn't uncommon for dogs to be rushed into a vet and getting emergency surgery to remove a rawhide blockage in the small intestines. Another scary possibility is for your dog to choke on the rawhide. I personally have had this happen before, and have had to put my entire hand down my dogs throat in order to get the rawhide out.
Rawhides also tend to give more sensitive dogs diarrhea or cause them to vomit. If you notice a pattern of loose stools after giving your dog rawhide, you probably have found the cause.
If, despite the risks, you decide to give your dog rawhides, make sure you invest in good ones made in the U.S. and unflavored. Rawhides do have their benefits, such as cleaning teeth and affordability. But for many dogs, the risks outweigh the benefits. Most importantly, if you do decide to give your dog rawhide, never let him chew it unsupervised. That's when accidents happen.