Is Your Dog a Bully?

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Is Your Dog a Bully?

It’s all fun until someone gets hurt. Remember when your Mom would say that to you. Well it’s not that different with pushy dogs. Take a hard look at your pet’s behavior with you. Does he paw you to initiate play? Barks for attention? Gets the best of everything including sleeping with you, the couch, food and cuddles simply for being so darn adorable? Sigh. It’s time for a little “tough love” of your own.

Start by some simple everyday obedience and limit setting. From today forward your dog must so the equivalent of “please” before getting all those wonderful things you lavish him with. And “please” means earning that reward by doing something. You can ask for a basic sit, down or touch, or kick it up a notch with a trick. Time for dinner? Make him wait until you put that bowl down and then release with “okay”. Time for a walk? How about a nice sit and wait before venturing out. By doing these behaviors we are “demoting” his rank in the family. It is also advisable to work on attention control. I like playing the Name Game and the Rebound Recall. If you have been following my posts you know what this is. But if you need me to explain I can re-post.

Part two of getting control is taking that attention that you have worked so hard to build at home outside. How about doing some obedience exercise outside the dog run at a distance for control before going inside? And I never let my dogs in the dog run unless I have trained for a Recall and a Gotcha that is, getting my dog to leave the distraction and return and letting me grasp his collar. Ian Dunbar has some nice training information on this at Dog Star Daily. Remember before things get out of hand it’s time to go home. After all, there should always be consequences for actions-even your dog’s.

If you live in NJ I am available for training consultations on this topics and others. If you live elsewhere please consult your local trainer and make certain they are a nationally certified CPDT-KA and positive reinforcement professional.

How to find the perfect dog trainer

It seems almost anyone can become a dog trainer…Being a dog trainer is a “hot” profession right now. Celebrity trainers have made the profession sexy and appealing, and  there is no required schooling, although there are plenty of correspondence schools of questionable integrity.  Licensing is unheard of, and this service business is also not taxable unless involving the sale of material goods.

In a flailing economy where jobs are scarce and pet ownership on the rise, it makes sense that dog training would be a natural draw for the jobless and those seeking a career change. A love of dogs is not necessarily the primary motivator.

Dog owners need to remember that despite claims, there are no quick fixes to training. Training takes time, consistency and patience. The major question all owners should ask themselves is “What will this trainer do to my dog to get the desired behavior?”

Owners should familiarize themselves with positive and humane training and understand what it is and is not.  This method of training relies on the principles of earning all rewards which may consist of food, praise, play or freedom to enjoy an activity or item.

Positive reinforcement training is preferred by veterinarians and scientifically proven.  It developed in the 1950’s and has been used successfully to train many species of mammals, starting with marine life and more recently with dogs.  The dog works for all rewards including praise, play and treats, as owners learn to communicate and establish a relationship with their dogs based on trust, respect and patience.

The newest buzzword is “balanced” training which basically means even though a trainer may use positive methods sometimes, they may also use heavy-handed approaches as well.

Beware “balanced” trainers that often advocate showing the dog who is boss through positive punishment and lots of correction.  These trainers promise fast results but often leave behind timid, submissive nervous dogs that are often more prone to aggression or in “shut down” robot mode.  The dog may be corrected or punished for a behavior it has not been taught, or did not understand.  Instead of focusing on training the dog for the behavior, and training the human to give the correct cue, the dog is punished for attempting the behavior even if it doesn’t understand.

What do corrections do?  For people it gives them the thrill of having power. They jerk the neck and the behavior stops. But what is it doing to the poor dog?  In a few months owners may wonder why their dog seems so sad and listless. 

How can you be sure that your trainer is perfect for you and your dog?  If you are comparing local trainers ask to see their group classes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how they feel about the methods of training described here.   Does the trainer have you perform the activity with your dog so that you can practice on your own? Is everyone in your family involved with the training?

In general, if a trainer claims to have experience in an area, I like to see that they have either earned a title or have competed. For instance, if they are teaching obedience how advanced are their own dogs?  What activities do they do for fun?  Do they participate as volunteers on therapy visits or merely teach therapy classes in order to make money? I will only train others in areas that I myself have excelled and have experience in. For fun I do tracking, sheep herding, skijoring, paddle boarding, kayaking and hiking with my dogs. And they go everywhere with me in public. They have ridden subways and elevators and have dined out with me on many an occasion.

What kind of fun do you imagine having with your dog?  Why shouldn’t your times together including training, be stress-free and fun? And why can’t old dogs learn new tricks.  We learn every day don’t we?  For me, training take place every moment I am with my dog.  Their lives are short, and their innocent, kind natures beg for patient and intelligent training based on humane scientific methods.

Does your dog have the winter blues?

February is one of the busiest times for dog trainers because this is when dogs having been cooped up from cold winter days are bouncing off the walls, jumping on countertops and chewing on hands among other things.  “But I walk him,” many owners will say.  But sometimes our estimation of the amount of exercise or frequency can get a little like my Weight Watcher’s log ins…a bit fudged.  Or the walk may consist of multi-tasking and not much interaction.  And with sometimes long days spent in the crate things can get a little ho-hum and the urge to be naughty to gain attention becomes so tempting. What is an owner to do?  Mental exercise can actually tire a dog more than physical exercise and can help to get destructive behavior under control by re-channeling and creating a canine Einstein.  There are many fun mental activities and games that the whole family can participate in.  Dog pulling on the leash?  How about setting up soccer cones inside or out and doing weaves, figure eights and circles.  You can add rugs for pause spots and place a broomstick across two chairs and voila’ instant indoor agility course! Want to train your dog to use his head and his nose.  Hide his treats and put him in a WAIT and then release with OKAy asking him to GO FIND. After assisting him the first one or two he will catch on very quickly. Or if you love music and dancing pick a favorite tune and choreograph a routine including spins and steeping forward and backward keeping your dog guessing as you sashay across the floor. Your dog will thank you with better behavior and you will feel better too!

Adult Dog Training 101-Teaching Your Dog Not To Jump!

With adult dogs it is challenging to undo existing behaviors but it can be done with patience, persistence and re-training for the human and canine members of the family.  If training more than one dog tackle this challenge with one dog at a time for initial training.  Have your materials for training near the front door or where most of the greetings take place.  Here is what you’ll need-a jar of soft treats (I use a plastic air-tight container), a leash and either a clicker or your marker word. I use “YES”.  You will also need a willing accomplice.  When dealing with small dogs it is an easier matter to ignore and praise the not jumping, but with a lab this is another story!  Have your willing “guest” practice approaching the dog without coming in the door initially.  The handler should praise for four feet on the floor, click and treat.  If the dog comes up as approached the guest should fold their arms and retreat.  It is important to not severely correct at this point.  We are teaching self-control and the jerk and correction often excites the dog even more and results in more of an urge to lunge. Repeatedly have your friend approach and if the dog stands or sits MARK with the clicker or YES and work up to success.  (Remember in order for the CLICKER or YES to have meaning we need to introduce this to the dog firsthand. I usually say my dog’s name and then YES or CLICK when they look me in the eye).  ANother way to practice no jumping when alone is to secure your dog to an immovable object and then practice approaching in the same manner, praising for a sit or stand as approaching and turning away with not attention, arms folded if jumping occurs.  Try it!  This really works!

It’s National Train Your Dog Month!

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It's National Train Your Dog Month!

This may just look like a pretty pose but it took training to get that stand “just right”. Krista likes all eyes on her as a show dog but she also likes to learn new things like all dogs do. I have taught her to swim, pull me while cross country skiing, dance, swim and paddleboard and do about 50 tricks. Dogs really “can do” and so can yours!

Dog Trainer’s Secret to Weight Loss, Staying Young and Feeling Great!

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Feeling sluggish from too much holiday excess? Clothes a little pinchy? Feeling ho- hum and a bit pale? Try these five secret tips we dog trainers use for looking and feeling great! After all you never know when someone will need a new show on Animal Planet!  It all starts simply with taking a walk!

1. When you WALK your dog use your five senses to really take in your environment. Turn off that cell phone and give yourself at least 30 minutes of bliss listening to the birds, taking in those luscious aromas coming from the bakery that is driving your dog mad, watch for cute doggies to say hello to and guess their names before you meet them. By engaging your mind in this way you will relax and reduce those worry lines. And by walking on a regular basis you will shed yucky pounds and feel great. Check with your doctor and vet before starting your regimen and you are off! Make n appointment with yourself to walk so that no one steals valuable “me” time. You are not selfish. You are taking care of your health. No guilt here please.

2. Before venturing out use a good MOISTURIZER with sunscreen. many dog trainers have found the Jergen’s brand of self-tanning daily moisturizer imparts just a hint of healthy non-flakey color. Others swear by Clinique and my personal choice is Luminesce with vitamin C from CVS plus sunscreen. Whatever you choose remember to protect the kin you are in.

3. Learn to SMILE even when you are feeling pfffffft. Yes what your mom said is lines using the muscles for smiling can trick you into feeling better. Practice in front of a mirror if you need help deciding between natural not creepy. Smiling makes you attractive and feel confident. A nice combo to add to the increase in endorphins while walking.

4. Practice GRATITUDE and give thanks for your dog. He or she has loved you through thick and thin, the ups and downs and all the way around. Look at your walk as an opportunity to connect with your adorable living creature, fur child, who is utterly and shamelessly in love with you even if you feel fat and blue. Say thank you with some uninterrupted bliss together. And then say “thank you” for your life, your health and the ability to get outside and enjoy life. Think about paying it forward by helping someone.You will feel calmer, happier and more connect5. Expect great things and dare to DREAM. Some say that you age and are old when you forget to dream. Don’t let anyone destroy your ability

to imagine great things for you and your dog. Yes there are realistic goals. But we are talking about big stuff here. You can get all practical and lay the foundation at home. We are talking the big Hollywood picture here starring you and your dog. Think about travel plans for the two of you, fabulous fun like planning a party or dressing up and dining at a local bistro.

Wishing you big, juicy, healthy, fat-free and mind blowing fun with your clever canine.

Dorice Stancher, CPDT-KA

http://www.caninescando.com