Practicing Mindfulness and Teaching Your Dog to Pay Attention

Would you believe that dogs don’t transfer behaviors from one place to another?  You’ve probably noticed that your dog is perfect inside listening to commands and giving you full attention and then once outside things change dramatically?  Is this unusual?

Think of it this way, when you are outside of the home or your children do they get distracted?  Do you have trouble getting them off the playground or out of Best Buy where they are fixated on the gaming systems?

With so many wonderful distractions even for us wit our cell phones,  we need to start somewhere.  The first step in getting attention from our dog is to put the phone away. I find this challenging at times but it is a must.  Next is to begin teaching attention.  For us it can be mindful meditation and learning to focus on one task instead of many. For our dogs it means getting their undivided attention.  I start with teaching the LOOK command in a quiet place indoors.  This is a process.  I bring a soft treat to my eyes and when I get eye contact from the dog I mark with YES and treat. I do this about 10 times and then add a distraction like simply putting the food to the side and then asking for eye contact. If the dog does not get it I start again from the beginning. Once this is mastered we begin moving outdoors and gradually increase the distractions. As it becomes more challenging it is necessary to make sure the dog is very hungry and the treats are of very high value like real chicken or steak.

When training outdoors it is essential that the dog be comfortable. There are some that have anxiety or fear issues which can interfere with attention.  Create a safe space when teaching these skills and work slowly toward your goals keeping distractions at a distance and working up to closer proximity.  If necessary contact your veterinarian and discuss options for the anxious dog. Another helpful tool when teaching attention is to use your body by moving and becoming a subject of interest.  Use your voice and sudden movements to get your dog to think you are the most interesting thing in the area.  Another way to get attention is to teach a behavior like TOUCH and reinforce it when in different settings.  I like teaching dogs tricks since they are fun and create attention.

What also helps with teaching attention is to build leadership skills by having your dog earn all of his rewards. This is not that hard when you consider they can earn meals, going through the door and getting on the couch.

Remember that just like with us our dogs can often become distracted but with patience and encouragement we can build a better bond and our dogs will learn that we are far more interesting than this distractions.

Happy training!

 

Dorice

 

 

Are We Stereotyping Seniors?

It snuck up on me ever so slightly. I had mentioned to someone that I enjoyed paddle boarding and wanted a faster board for racing.  I’ve been active in this sport for years.  They rolled their eyes and gave me that look.  “At your age, really?” I recoiled from their remark and then realized that there are still many pre-conceived notions as to what constitutes proper behavior for the over 50 crowd. Then I wondered, are we stereotyping our dogs too?

I think most owners will agree that once dogs reach a certain age we start to become hyper-focused on changes in their personality and health.  And we may without realizing begin to treat them differently. Often without realizing it we may let them slow down in mind and body. Some may even think “Haven’t they earned that?”  However, it may not be the best way to age gracefully.  With a veterinarian’s approval there are so many ways that we can enrich the lives of our seniors without simply retiring them to the couch.

Here are some ways that you and your dog can enjoy these precious years together:

  1. Keep up daily exercise together. I’ve known some people that never walk their dogs.  Overweight dogs live shorter lives and are prone to more health problems. Visit your vet and discuss options for better diet management and potential exercise solutions based upon your dog’s current health. Swimming can be wonderful for dogs and there are many that incorporate this with physical therapy.
  2. Keep that mind active. There are so many puzzle toys and interesting activities that you can introduce your senior dog to including scent work, rally and tricks that don’t require a lot of physical activity.
  3. Have fun and find the joy in every day with your senior dog.  They’ve spent many years getting to know you and will often reflect your moods. Include them wherever you can and let them know that even though they may need more naps, they are an important part of your life. They thrive on a regular schedule and humans do too.

There will be good days and challenges along the way with your senior dog, but there’s nothing as valuable in life as a devoted canine companion that is truly your best friend.

 

®2018 Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA All rights reserved

If it isn’t fun why do it?

DSC_0124I was on the outdoor store’s website when I saw it.  There was a SUP with your pup class and all that was required was to bring your well-behaved dog and their vaccinations. In an hour and a half they would have you on the water.

Now anyone who knows me knows that I am all about having a good time with my dogs.  But here is the big question-IS IT FUN FOR THE DOG OR IS IT SCARY?  This is a question that even we as the most enthusiastic owners need to ask before attempting any activity or it’s just not fair. Also if you REALLY WANT TO SUCCEED AND BUILD DRIVE so that your dog loves to do this with you, take your time.  Trying new activities with your dog can be a real thrill.  We just need to make sure they have the physical capability and mental attitude required to feel comfortable attempting this new activity.

If your dog has never been in the water it’s probably best to get them accustomed to a life jacket and then gradually expose them to swimming in a safe and force-free environment.  I like getting in the water with them and encouraging them with toys, treats and praise. Once they are comfortable if the task involves movement and balance I would introduce the kayak or SUP on dry land while on foam blocks and practice teaching the dog to enter and stay in place reinforcing with treats and praise.  This can take not just hours but days or even weeks. The next step is teaching the dog to ignore distractions such as birds and animals.

IT ISN’T FUN WHEN THEY GET TIRED and it’s often hard for owners to stop an activity.  Sometimes we get so excited to continue what we enjoy that we forget about how the dog may feel about it.  Even the most friendly of dogs may get tired of those therapy visits.  I recently read of a school system that was rotating therapy dogs all day long in their classrooms.  Dogs unlike school equipment need a break and sometimes have off days. They may not be up to it and this can lead to stress and all that comes with it.

GO WITH THE FLOW and enjoy those special moments with your dog but keep in mind that his way of telling you that it’s time for a break may be less obvious but important for his well being.

®DoriceStancher, Canines Can Do, llc 2018 All rights reserved.

 

 

 

I have a new puppy what do I do?

This question gets me really excited because it means that the owner is beginning a fresh new start.  Like any other new adventure it is combined with anticipation, expectations, a little fear and the desire to seek new information to have a positive outcome.

One of the most important things a new puppy owner can do is to prepare for the arrival. The first three big puppy challenges are housebreaking, mouthing and biting and creating a foundation of basic obedience.

Housebreaking is a challenge with a new puppy.  It is so tempting to get caught up in the cuteness and allow them everywhere including your bed when they cry.  This is not a good idea as they often will pee there.  Instead choose a crate that is appropriately sized so that your puppy can walk in, turn around and lie down. If it is bigger they may also relieve themselves there.  In the beginning use a small towel instead of a bed inside just in case they make a mess.  You will want to get your dog used to the crate by leaving the door open and keeping it where you are.  You can put treats and a soft toy in the crate and practice shutting the door. Make sure puppy gets enough exercise during the day or he will be up all night.

If you have an open floor plan think of where to place your gates so that the puppy does not have too much freedom. Make sure to make your home safe for puppy removing things that they can get into that might be harmful. If you cannot watch your puppy they should be confined otherwise they will poop and pee where you least expect it.  Take your puppy outside to go potty after they wake up, if they circle and sniff, after a play session, and after eating and drinking. That’s a lot of going outside but things will begin to settle into a pattern.  If your puppy is successful going outside add a word and praise/treat when they are successful. Your best opportunity is when they first wake up. The moment they are up and moving pick them up and take them out. If you let their feet touch the floor there is a good chance they will go to the bathroom so carry them out in the beginning.

Mouthing and Biting will happen within days of coming home. At first there is usually a lot of sleeping but once they are over the shock of leaving their litter mates they will look to you for that rambunctious fun and it is not pretty.  Those sharp teeth will get into everything so you will need to be prepared.  Every puppy should come with an appropriately sized Kong or similar toy that can contain an item like peanut butter.  I like to freeze them and have on hand when those teeth hurt and cause them to bite.  There are also soft toys that contain no stuffing that are great to use as substitutes when puppies become mouthy.  We offer as a substitute and praise when they take. There are also many biting deterrents like Bitter Apple that can be sprayed on hands and other surfaces like clothing to deter this behavior.

Puppies like to chew lots of soft things so please put those things of value away until puppy goes through this period of growth or keep the puppy in a safe place.

The umbilical method uses a leash to keep puppy at your side so that you can monitor and direct his behavior. This is often very useful for training as long as you remember that puppy may need time to go to the bathroom or crate time.

Basic Obedience should start the moment the puppy arrives.  I know this may seem unbelievable but puppies are so smart they learn every moment they are with you.  Start teaching your dog some basics like sit and down.  You can also start teaching self control behaviors like waiting for the food bowl and leave it.  For the food bowl I have my dog SIT and then put down the bowl as I say “okay”.  This teaches the puppy to learn to please you.  For the leave it I put the treat in my hand. I have another treat in my other hand. When I tell them to leave it I wait until they give up trying and treat from the other hand.  Then I switch to other items. Tricks are a fun way to teach obedience and get children involved.  I like having families choose their commands and then keeping their list in a place like the kitchen so they all use the same words.

Having a puppy can be a challenge but the time you spend training at this important time will really be worth it.DSC_0426

My dog won’t come when called…

One of the biggest problems pet owners face is getting their dogs to come to them when called.  What many people don’t realize is how quickly dogs become conditioned to ignoring us or turning an opportunity into a game.  For instance,  your dog grabs your shoes and you call them and they run away as you chase them.  The game is on!  You race to catch him, he’s faster and there’s teeth marks and dog spit on everything.  What is an owner to do?

Here are some ways to get things under control.  First, you want to condition your dog to associate returning to you with something of value and certainly NOT punishment. I mean would YOU approach someone who is going to scream at you?  I think not.  I like to play hide and go seek in the home with my dog. I use the simple word COME and reward with praise first and then a cookie.  I do this several times. To this I add the GOTCHA, which is a gentle grasp of the collar and a treat simultaneously. This way my dog will let me get closer and actually grasp them.  I do this slowly and gradually.  I also like adding a partner and playing the Rebound Recall where the dog is in the middle and takes turns coming to each family member when called.  We praise from the very moment they look at the person who called them. Don’t forget moving away from your dog and clapping your hands urges the prey drive and gets them excited to return to you.  Finally we practice this outside in a fenced yard or on a leash.  Every family member should be consistent. In some cases the word COME has been so overused and has lost meaning that we need to change the word to something else.  Another way to get your dog to return to you is to add a sound like a whistle.  When the dog pays attention encourage him to come then praise and treat.  Be careful not to lure the dog by showing the food otherwise if you don’t have food the dog will hesitate and often not come without it.  In general dogs respond better when they are put on a “learn to earn” program where all good things are only given when the dog does something the owner asks.  Finally, with a partner you can get a dog more excited about coming by having one hold him back while the other person races to the other side of the room and encourages him to come.  Remember to praise for racing toward you and do not ask the dog to sit. We are praising and rewarding for coming when called.

Copyright ®2018Dorice Stancher/Canines Can Do, llc All rights reserved.L1030280

 

Halloween Can Be a Great Time to Train

I know what you’re thinking?  Is she for real?  With all of those kids knocking ringing the doorbell with those scary costumes I’m just too busy to train my dog.  Let me offer a few suggestions on how you can use this opportunity to your advantage.

And don’t forget to train your family to keep candy up high and out of reach of your dog.  We all know that chocolate and artificial sweeteners are harmful to our dogs.

Who are you? Is your dog a “scaredy cat”, “escape artist”, “bold greeter”?

Once you identify the personality and stye of your dog you can choose from several options the most important being securing the environment.

For “scaredy cats”  why not choose a festive holiday bandana and spray a little Adaptil on it?  You can put on some nice quiet music to screen out the noise outside and if your dog likes their crate, this is a nice secure environment.  I often use treat release toys and always exercise before crating so that they are tired. You can also use an Adaptil plug-in for the room environment. Signs of fear include a tucked tail, showing the whites of the eyes, panting and yawning and can lead to aggression with stiff body posture, ears forward tail wagging in a stiff manner or carried over the back.  If you cannot crate your dog closing the door and putting a sign that the dog is in the room is another idea or you can use a gate.

For the “escape artist” there are the choices of using the crate or gates but another idea is to use the umbilical method where the dog is actually attached to you.  This often helps those dogs that cannot be left alone but at the same time pose an escape risk.  I arm myself with high value treats like chicken or steak in a treat pouch and use this opportunity to teach my dog to do a behavior when the doorbell rings.  I place a little platform in the room and when the doorbell rings I send my dog to the platform.  To make things easier I place a bowl outside of the door with a sign instructing them to take a treat.  This way I can see their costumes, greet them and let them catch a glimpse of my well-trained dog.

For the “bold greeter” I once again pack a treat pouch with high value treats and take a nice walk in my neighborhood. Look for signs of fear as described above. If you dog carries himself in a loose and wiggly manner and enjoys the walk with all the little ones running around you can practice some obedience basics with distractions at a distance. This is a great opportunity for socialization and distraction training.

Remember if children run toward you this can be frightening to your dog and it’s important to ask them to approach slowly and greet the dog by having him sniff their hands. If you do not want to greet it’s okay to simply walk away and return home. Your dog comes first.  You can also use a no-jump harness to get a better control on things but please no prongs or choke collars because often dogs make the incorrect assumption that the child approaching caused the correction.

Happy Halloween to everyone and happy training!

 

NEWS: HOW TO ADOPT A TSA RETIRED BOMB-SNIFFING DOG

By Dorice Stancher ©2016 Canines Can Do, llc http://www.caninescando.comhttps---blueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com-uploads-card-image-139981-tsadog2.jpgYou’ve seen them at airports and felt secure knowing they were doing their jobs to keep you safe.  And now it’s time for them to feel loved and safe in their own homes. 

What could be better than having an intelligent and mature dog that is comfortable around noise and crowds, has an honest work ethic and has plenty of love and drive to excel at any canine activity including competitive sports?  According to the TSA release the dogs ranging in age from 2 to 10 includes some impressive breeds known for their intelligence, beauty and work ethic including: German Short-Haired Pointers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. All of them are spayed or neutered and they are FREE.  And the adoptees also include those that were unable to complete the program. Here are some important things to know prior to considering adoption:

  • These dogs were raised in kennels so they will need time to adjust to living in your home.
  • The dogs are located in San Antonio, Texas so you will need to travel there to pick up your dog after completing the necessary paperwork and going through the formal application process which includes signing an indemnity letter.
  • Once you have submitted the necessary paperwork you will receive a photo of your dog. Counselors work with families to assist in finding the right home for each dog.

Want to learn more?  Contact the TSA now by emailing the adoption coordinator at: AdoptaTSAcanine@OLE.tsa.dhs.gov.