It’s Time to “Do More With Your Dog”!

Want to keep dogs in their forever homes? Trick training using positive reinforcement is the key to getting the entire family on board. It’s fun for both dog and human alike!

Trick Training Helps to Keep Dogs in their Forever Homes
by Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA, CTDI ©2015 Dorice Stancher, All rights reserved.

Dancing with your dog is another form of trick training and fun for the both of you!
Dancing with your dog is another form of trick training and fun for the both of you!

Want to get pet owners to train those new puppies right into adulthood? The answer may be simply introducing them to the “Do More With Your Dog” program created by famous Hollywood trainer and AKC Competitor, Kyra Sundance. This goal-oriented program creates a solid foundation of obedience in the format of simple “tricks” which owners track and apply to titles. Many of the behaviors recognized can actually be found in parallel tests such as the AKC STAR puppy program and the AKC Canine Good Citizen program. And there are also more complex behaviors that can possibly land a movie role.

Dr. Cindy Otto, Executive Director and Founder of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center credits the program with saving her relationship with her dog, a Bichon mix that had flunked obedience. She feels that this program is less stressful than obedience tasks, yet keeps dogs learning. “The component of failure is not there,” she said. “ Older dogs, young dogs are engaged and vibrant and the pedestal training helps with veterinary exams too,” said Otto. She is certified as a trick trainer with the program and recently held a workshop for pet owners. As the DMWYD program grows globally it is only a matter of time before we see more Wheaten Terriers listed on the website’s “wall of champions”.

There is no compulsion or aversive training here. The accent is on fun and positive reinforcement to create drive for both the human and canine partner. The behaviors are applicable to many AKC competitive venues including conformation, obedience, agility and more. But the best part is that owners can access learning videos and be a part of an online community of fellow tricksters for free.

The SPARK teams found on Facebook start the first of every month and guide participants through a list of behaviors to title at one of several levels. Each week new videos are posted and participants are encouraged to “strutt their stuff” and earn titles. By reducing the barriers to training, including accessibility and cost, and encouraging creativity and training in all settings, people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds worldwide have embraced the program. And it continues to grow and benefit all types of dogs. Senior dogs needing mental stimulation can work with modified skills and dogs with anxiety thrive and develop confidence as they build a relationship based on trust, praise and having a good time learning.
Most recently I have incorporated trick training into not only my classes and private training, but with training my very own Wheaten Terriers and have found it to be quite addictive. Once you see what the breed is capable of as mastery reveals amazing feats, it is enticing and a little addictive to venture on and experiment pushing things further. Here’s to having more fun and embracing the joys and adventures of training!

FMI on classes in Northern NJ please visit http://www.caninescando.com

For more information on the program visit: http://domorewithyourdog.com

My Dog Is Reactive-5 Simple Tips To Save Your Dog and Your Peace of Mind

©2015 Dorice Stancher, Canines Can Do, llc. All rights reserved. Yes all of them/

Is your dog reactive?  Does he bark and lunge and pull your arm out of the socket?  Have walks become a bit of a struggle?  Here are some simple and easy tips to turn things around and make walking fun again.

  1. Socialize your puppy…Yes I know the vet says you cannot take them out until they have had all their shots.  But does that mean that your puppy has to be like Rapunzel in the tower, locked away from human contact?  Notice I said human contact.  Pick up your little pooch and after he has gone to the bathroom at your “safe” place at home take him out with you to visit. You want to hold your little cutie and like any good parent bring some wipes so the humans have clean hands and in case there is a little “mistake”.  Bring some tasty treats that are soft for your puppy so they associate these experiences as being positive and fun.  Be sure to have proper identification and have fun!
  2. Add positive reward-based obedience to the picture…Nothing gets your dog’s attention quicker and builds confidence faster than getting those basics under control and then heading outside to make sure your dog understands the commands there as well.  My dogs work for EVERYTHING and so should yours.  And tricks training is really just another form of behaviors put in cue so don’t let anyone tell you that doing tricks isn’t “real” training.  We are looking to build attention, drive and bonding folks.
  3. Exercise is the anti-anxiety drug of choice for humans and their dogs.  But what to do if the outside world is just a bit scary?  Try some agility and tricks at home in your backyard before doing your public training and walks.  Taking the edge off is good for the both of you. Often owners of reactive dogs anticipate the worst and it makes them nervous which the dog will feed off of. It goes from your brain, down the leash and into their little noggins.  Instead breathe deeply, relax and remember that today is a new day.
  4. Have a plan and stick with it. Prepare ahead of time with your treat pouch. There is not time to fumble with plastic bags and you need your hands free to signal and reward your dog.  Be sure to visit the clips attached from Dr. Sophia Yin, one of the foremost experts of our time on dog reactivity.  You want to have some practice defensive moves in your tool kit. Circling, U-Turns and Back Up Recalls help your dog to focus on you and avoid trouble.
  5. Practice at a farther distance and gradually counter-condition so you do not overwhelm your dog or yourself.  Think about how far away you are before your dog reacts.  We want to keep this in mind as we gradually counter-condition our dogs.  A game I like to play is “Surprise Party” where I give my dog lots of attention and yummy treats as she works for me when the dog is present or when she sees another dog.  Then when there is no dog present it is ho-um boring.

When practicing in public if you have a dog that has the potential to bite I recommend a muzzle that is a cage type so you can feed your dog and he can breathe normally. And I love the Gentle Leader as it seems reassuring to both dogs and owners that we are guiding the dog from up front which gives greater control and eye contact.  Keep practicing and visit my Facebook page Canines Can Do Dog Training for more helpful tips.

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Link to great Reactive Strategy by Dr. Yin…DSC_0288

Training with our Canines Can Do Walking Club part of MEETUP…

Reactive Dog: Moving Past Distractions on a Walk

Dog Tricks are the Key to Getting Your Kids Involved in Training

Please note: this article applies to happy, friendly dogs that do not have problems with aggression or other serious behavior issues. For these types of problems it is suggested to call a certified CPDT-KA or contact your veterinarian.

Did you know that almost 80% of family dogs in this country are usually trained by moms? What starts off as a good idea–getting a dog for the family–often ends up being the responsibility of mom.  Want to get your kids back in the picture and have them involved in training?  The answer may be as simple as adding some trick training to the repertoire.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when starting any training program with your dog. All dogs respond better to training when they earn all of their rewards including food and treats, petting and play.  There are no freebies. When I work with families I usually suggest a plan of leadership with all family members school age and beyond repeating the same consistent behaviors with the family pet; all learning to speak “dog”.  Of course all interactions between children and dogs should be supervised. And even well-meaning friends can behave inappropriately with the family pet leading to safety issues.  By getting everyone on board early to understand how to stay safe and have fun, training becomes a part of everyday living.

One program that really gets kids excited about working with their dogs is Trick Training.  One of the foremost authors on the subject is Kyra Sundance has published more than 15 books on the topic.  Her books are richly illustrated and geared toward making your dog into a little circus performer.  But the best part is as the dog is taught the behaviors, they improve in their relationship with the family. They begin to understand and respond to commands.  And your children can earn national titles with their pets all in the comfort of their home with her “Do More With Your Dog Program”.

When introducing trick training adults should supervise the interaction between child and dog to offer encouragement and to make sure interaction is appropriate.  Training should be kept fun and positive, with praise and treats for good behavior.  It is far easier to start where there are little distractions such as indoors before attempting to train outdoors.  When working outdoors care should be taken to be in a “safe” area such as a fenced yard and it is often easier to gain the dog’s attention after they have had a some exercise and not after eating a big meal.  This usually makes them sleepy or unresponsive.

Trick training is “real” obedience because it teaches your dog to give attention when asked, to understand and perform a specific behavior, to enjoy working with their owners, and to adapt to new environments. Some favorite tricks of my students includes teaching their dogs to “say their prayers”, to jump through hoops and dance with them.  But my favorite part is having their children get excited when I arrive for a lesson to show me what they have trained their dog to do this week. In order to get the dog to understand that they must listen to their young trainers, parents should take an active role getting things started by modeling the behavior and then having their child follow accordingly.

And not surprisingly, many of the children that took an interest in their dogs early on are now active doing community service with their dogs as therapy teams and visit local hospitals and nursing homes. Some have even gone on to earn titles with their pets in obedience, rally and agility or had the thrill of entertaining their scouting friends and classmates as they work toward their badges.  It is a great lesson in patience, perseverance and success!

Want to get started?  Here are some links to find out more information about trick training.  And of course consulting a local  Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) that is certified for trick training is a great start too.

For more information on trick training here are some handy resources:

http://domorewithyourdog.com/pages/spark.html

http://www.caninescando.com

Written by award-winning writer and trainer Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA owner of Canines Can Do, llc. Her dogs are multiple titled in conformation, obedience/rally, trick training, and enjoy kayaking, surfing, skijoring and dog sledding.

Feeling Jumpy?

There are two types of jumping.  There is good jumping as in I want my dog to jump over an obstacle in an agility run or dock-diving event, or to jump and climb a tree for a trick as I did here with my dog, Duffy; and there is the jumping that interferes and is unacceptable in the home and in public.  Interestingly, one can help the other. Making sure your dog has enough daily exercise through walking and free play is a great way to tone down the overly energetic dog, but then comes the important second act–training to NOT jump. And this includes training the HUMANS that allow it to happen and even encourage it in the first place.

Here are three great ways to get the jumping to stop. Remember patience is the key along with repetition in multiple environments both in and out of your home. I do not recommend the “knee to the chest method” since it not only can hurt your dog, but also does not help your dog understand he cannot jump on others.

1. Examine your behavior and those of your family members.  Is the dog being acknowledged and petted when his feet are on you when your are standing or sitting?  If so, stand up and walk away ignoring until the exact moment…wait for it…when your dog has four feet on the floor.  I mark the behavior with an enthusiastic “yes” and bend over to pet my dog.  But if the feet are up I fold my arms and ignore my dog until the feet are on the floor again.

2. The Advance and Retreat method is best illustrated by these young ladies in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csuMGROvvVU  There are many variations on this method of training including when you are alone…tethering your dog and then having you approach in a similar manner. At no time should the dog be on a choke or prong collar. I like the use of a flat buckled collar, martingale or harness. Another method is to give the dog a 30 second time out on the tether and then reuniting with them to show that jumping loses attention and inclusion.

3. Teaching your dog an alternative behavior. I love teaching dogs to “go to their mat” when guests arrive at the home.  It takes persistence, especially when linking this behavior to the sound of the doorbell but totally worth it.  Another approach used by many trainers is stepping on the leash with two feet and having the dog self correct.  Even Ian Dunbar has advocated taking a break mid-walk and teaching the dog to “settle” which is a terrific idea.  First we jazz the dog up and then we quickly ask for a DOWN.  In public places remember to use something of high value as a reward such as chicken or steak pieces.  Initially we start with this high value food and gradually wean them off. http://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/jazz-settle-down-–-sirius-adult-dog-training

Usually it is a combination of methods that gets the job done.  When training your dog it is handy to bring a log to class and take notes, then once training at home keep a record of your progress.  Dogs learn every moment they are with us, so we need to be aware of what we are saying to them through our interactions with them.

©2015 Dorice Stancher; All rights reserved.

Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA has certified thousands of dogs for the AKC Canine Good Citizen and pet therapy wit the Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs.  She is an award-winning trainer and journalist, and a regular contributor to AKC Family Dog, AKC Gazette, and WebVet. 

Heeling Exercises for the Weather Challenged…

Are you having trouble teaching your dog to walk nicely especially with the cold weather? Here I highlight some of the easy and fun ways to get back on track and have fun walking together.

Canines Can Do® llc

Ah NJ winters…a mix of slush, rain and general damp nastiness is in the forecast for today and tomorrow. And the dog is bouncing off the walls.  Maybe you are too.  Put some fun in your step and burn some calories doing indoor exercises that will tire your dog mentally and physically and help you to get things under control with your outdoor heeling.

Step one…after you have warmed up your dog with some simple sit-down-sit combinations and some attention work set up two cones or even dining room chairs and start with a nice figure eight around the dining room chairs.  Throw in a sit occasionally to keep your dog guessing, or circle one cone twice just because you feel like it.  Remember to communicate with your dog using your command, praising the good position with a YES and varying your pace.  You will remember one side will be…

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Rats! Getting Started in Barn Hunt by Dorice Stancher (c)2014

Want to get started in Barn Hunt? First you will need a “Nosey” dog that likes to track scent.

In Barn Hunt dogs must tunnel, climb and locate the rat, telling its handler where it is hiding. This takes teamwork and resolve as all dogs indicate quite differently. Some are silent and change their body posture, while others are more vocal and active.

The Barn Hunt Association, LLC (BHA) has created a sanctioned sport honoring the traditional role of dogs driving rats from their homes and properties. All dogs that can fit through an 18″ wide by 22″ high tunnel are eligible to participate and there are multiple levels of competition, from the simple Instinct Test to see if the dog has interest, to the challenging Master and Championship levels.  And as of April 1, 2013, the American Kennel Club (AKC) began recognizing the Barn Hunt Association titles.

Dogs that are “in season” may compete under special guidelines and aggressive dogs are not permitted. There are classifications based on height and difficulty.

The Instinct Test is usually the first place where owners start and we had our first experience participating at the Garden State All Terrier Club event. The area of the test is typically fenced and measures  about 300 to 400 square feet. Hay bales are arranged in a tunnel and stacked high and three PVC containers are laid in plain sight on the ground. One tube is empty while the others contain rat bedding and the actual live rat. Entering the ring, the leash is handed off to an assistant outside the ring. Dogs run “naked” without a collar or harness and the test begins with the owner and dog starting in a 4 ‘ by 4’ square and then indicating to the judge that they are ready, as the clock starts giving them only a minute to find and identify the location of the rat. The dogs are encouraged to tunnel and climb the bales but the handler cannot climb or step on or touch the bales. As the dog approaches the three canisters it is essential to keep a keen eye on the dog to see when the dog finds the live rat, and all this must happen within one minute as the handler calls “rat!” and stops the clock. Great care is taken to treat the rats humanely and once the owner has indicated to the judge where the rat is they are expected to call their dog off, re-attach the leash and leave the ring.

At first glance the Novice Class may appear to be easy, but it takes time and patience to develop skills necessary to progress and title in the sport. Dogs should know how to tunnel and climb and the basics-sit, wait and come-as these commands are also used in this sport. I would also suggest getting the dog acquainted with the smell and texture of the hay. Handlers are allowed to communicate and encourage their dogs as they hunt and it takes keen observations skills to identify the dog’s signal that indeed a real rat is present.

From a very young age I taught my Krista to find and identify odor taking her to tracking workshops with our local club and playing scenting games with her. One of our favorites is taking plastic containers and putting holes in the top to allow scent to come through. Then one is chosen and marked with an “S” for scent and used exclusively as a scent article to avoid cross-contamination. I then set up a series of arrangements having her look high and low for the hidden containers. We start indoors and then move outdoors and it is both fun and mentally stimulating for she and I. But hunting rats can offer greater challenges. Not every dog likes the smell of the hay which can also poke and scratch their faces and contain a host of other strange odors. Agility experience helps with the tunneling and climbing aspect but again transferring this skill to hay bales takes time and practice.

Often even on the same day dogs and handlers will opt to enter the Novice Barn Hunt which allows two minutes to find and identify the rat, but comes with additional challenges. The start box now faces a straight tunnel that is no shorter than the width of two bales and no longer than the width of three bales. In places the bales are stacked at least two high. And the dog is required to not only tunnel on this course but climb as well, and in two minutes or less, identify the location of the rat which is hidden under straw or within a bale making the challenge more difficult than the instinct test. For this test there are again three canisters; one is empty, another contains bedding and the third has the rat.

As owners move up in class the challenges increase with more tubes being hidden, more rats to identify, higher hay bales and more difficult tunnels with twists and turns. It is a real thing of beauty to watch these dogs do what they were naturally bred to do. And the classes of Senior, Master and Champion continue to challenge and test the dogs and handlers, with more challenge for them both physically and mentally, taxing their endurance and revealing the bond of communication forged from years of training.

Barn Hunting has been a hit among dog fanciers and are a great spectator sport too. For more information on how to get started and for events in your local area visit http://www.barnhunt.com

Real Estate and “The Dog Test”

Let your dog take the lead when choosing a new home!

You may want to take a walk with your dog before signing those mortgage papers…
One of the most important things for me as a dog trainer and animal-lover when buying a home is finding a neighborhood with good walking routes and dog-friendly neighbors. You would be surprised how much the “dog people” can tell you about a neighborhood. And it makes sense since most of us are up super-early if housebreaking a puppy, and to fit in our daily walks before work. For that moment we stop, look and listen seeing the world through our dog’s eyes and slow down just long enough to take in our environment.

After a recent visit to an Open House I returned to walk the neighborhood. I not only met my prospective new neighbors and their dogs but also learned about great walking routes, where to not walk (a grumpy neighbor that disliked dogs), the history of the home, and even purchased Girl Scout cookies. And in the process I came to realize that this location would be perfect.

When sizing up a real estate purchase I also like to check to see there is fencing and that the neighbor does not have a dog that stalks and becomes aggressive at the fence. If this is the case it is necessary to add-in the cost of landscaping to prevent this behavior and keep the peace. Invisible fencing although popular is not my preferred choice as animals can come in and bother your dog and in some cases the shock of the collar from launching at the perimeter can build up aggressive tendencies in some dogs. I recently had a customer whose dog was trapped between two electric fields and was shocked repeatedly until the owner noted what was happening. Using these fences takes proper installation and caution.

Another consideration is open use of park and school grounds as some towns (Wyckoff) do not allow dogs in their parks but have larger backyards while Glen Rock and Ridgewood have compact downtown areas to stroll and great parks to walk. No matter what your preference, keeping your dog in mind may be one of the best decisions you will make for your lifestyle. When comparing homes that meet your needs, finding great neighbors and a lifestyle that suits you and your dog’s activities can be priceless!

Let’s Get Social…

Part of the fun of having a dog is getting out and having fun!
Part of the fun of having a dog is getting out and having fun!

In the next few articles we will provide tips on how to get your dog to be your best outdoor buddy. Often after a long winter dogs have trouble making the adjustment from couch potato to social butterfly. And leash walking can be a real pain for the owner’s shoulders with pulling, lunging and sometimes even downright frightening reactivity to sights and sounds. What is an owner to do? We will discuss equipment, training suggestions and ways to get your dog to be a pleasure to be around in public.

Today’s topic is walking and the types of collars and harnesses we recommend and use. Our go-to item for teaching nice walking is the Easy Walk harness and the Gentle Leader. These both require the proper fit so when sizing it helps to have your dog present. There is also a video on fit and use by the manufacturer on the Internet. The reason we like this equipment is that it makes it easier for the owner to communicate to their dogs by this gentle pressure method which will not harm the dog’s trachea. Besides these two owners of rescues and greyhounds have found the Martingale to be helpful as it prevents dogs from pulling their heads out of the collar and running free. Some chain models often serve as a warning that the collar is closing, but these are not meant to choke the dog. Other collars including the slip or choke and prong are not recommended by this trainer for pet owners as they should only be used with expert guidance and supervision because of their potential for harm.

Equally as important is working on getting your dog’s attention and teaching them to walk properly. We will discuss this in our next article. Don’t forget-JB Pet in Hawthorne, NJ, The Madison Dog Resort in Waldwick, NJ and Canines Can Do will help you and your dog get off to the right start with proper equipment and lessons. FMI visit http://www.caninescando.com for more information.

Is Your Dog Ready for Therapy Work?

The simple connection of petting a dog reduces stress and promotes healing
The simple connection of petting a dog reduces stress and promotes healing

If your dog is a social butterfly and likes making new friends you may want to consider having him certified for therapy work. Therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and while not every dog is cut out for this type of work, most friendly dogs have a very good chance at being certified. What else is required? Good canine manners are required in order to pass the therapy test. given by the various organizations. The AKC Star Puppy program and later the Canine Good Citizen® or CGC are great places to start especially since the latter is a foundation for many of the evaluating tests of the different approved organizations. What makes therapy work testing different is the observation of both dog and handler, working as a team and interacting with others. When testing, evaluators look to see not only if the dog is sociable, but also to see if the owner handles their dog in a way that minimizes risk, if they are able to “control” the visit, and interact appropriately with those they visit.

When introducing dogs to the various pieces of medical equipment in a training setting, care should be taken to keep things positive. Trainers will often lure dogs to approach the strange item, whether it be a wheelchair, walker, four-footed cane, or crutches, then click and treat. The goal is to build confidence around these items so that the dog is relaxed and can do the job it was meant to do. Also a firm grasp of the “leave it” command can be a lifesaver since pills and other foreign objects may appear on a hospital or nursing home floor.

While it takes time to train and certify a dog for this work, it is well worth the effort to see the smiles on the faces of those you meet. There is nothing quite like it.

How sheepherding can help the urban dog…

How sheepherding can help the urban dog...

Dorice Stancher (c)2014

They may seem cuddly and counting them may be great for sleeping, but make no mistake herding sheep is challenging and some of them are downright ornery!

I live in a condo without a fenced backyard so I look for out-of-the-box, left of center ways to train my dogs to be obedient good little canine citizens.  I recently took a lesson with Carolyn Wilki, owner of the Raspberry Ridge Sheep Farm in Bangor, PA, who has been herding since 1987 and studied at both Cornell and Bryn Mawr. If you are a fan of NY Times writer John Katz, you may recall that his highly successful “Dogs of Bedlam Farm” series mentions his experiences training with Carolyn and how he found not only a way to reach his dogs on another level but to also find a sense of inner peace http://www.bedlamfarm.com/?s=carolyn+wilki

And so here are a few of the things both my dogs and I learned.  It is not a crime to slow down and appreciate the world around you.  The bleating of the lambs is almost hypnotic. and for a North Jersey caffeinated girl this was a welcome respite after a tough week. As our emotions influence our dogs, it was better for them too.  “Control is an illusion,” remarked Carolyn as I attempted to call my alpha female Wheaten Terrier off of the three prancing sheep she was chasing.  Obviously I was not as fun as they were.  It was suggested I move my feet and catch her as she turned and remarkably when I asked her to “Lay Down” she hit the dirt, and then when I called her she came trotting back to me.  As a professional dog trainer I always advise my students when training in public to make themselves more interesting than the object of attraction.  While teaching a “Leave It” command is a nice idea, when something so fantastically tempting catches a dog’s eye, a backup plan and execution is even better.

There were so many temptations in the pen: sheep poop, sheep hair, sheep, smells of other animals in the distance like ducks and goats.  And little by little they were of secondary importance as Krista and I learned the dance of two, and becoming united in our purpose to drive those three ornery sheep in our chosen direction following Carolyn’s instructions. She is one of only two sheepherding instructors in the entire country that uses positive reinforcement I learned, and in attendance in my little class were people from California, Brooklyn and Long Island.

I don’t think our condo association allows sheep although my dogs do have a resemblance so I think our next attempt at herding will be with the Canadian Geese that frequent our local park, remembering the goal is to night frighten them into flight, but to keep them together, to have them march toward a pre-determined direction, respecting their personal space.  In my head is the perfect vision of our teacher and her Border Collie  driving the sheep effortlessly and zen-like across the field and into their pens with a “That’l Do” as the final note-a peaceful ending to a great day.