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.