Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Dogs Are Like Children, They Need Leadership & Guidance

Gemma | March 22nd, 2006
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Dogs having a natural instinct towards being “pack” animals. Just like their ancestors in which they came from, the wolf, dogs think in terms of partnerships and teamwork when it comes to certain activities. Similar to the way a sports team will work together in order to accomplish the combined goal of winning, your dog looks towards you and the rest of the family as his “team” and counts on you all to help him survive, learn the rules of the house, and condition his behavior.

And like a winning team, there are certain characteristics that must be adhered to and provided by all members of the family, including your dog. Such examples of winning characteristics are disciplined structure, operation among everyone in your dog, and most important, respect between your dog’s “pack”. Without these items, there would be chaos and very little way in which your dog can recognize who is in charge and leading his team.

Dogs and puppies need this understanding of leadership and who is to play that role in order to be happy and feel a sense of belonging. Regardless of who is considered the leader in your family, it doesn’t matter to your dog, so long as there is one then your pet will be happy and feel a sense of security.

For those family households that have more than one member living inside the home, your dog will recognize a specific hierarchy that develops in time. For example, in my home I have my wife and my daughter that all coexist with the family pet. My dog recognizes his role as the bottom of the leadership chain, and he is quite happy with that. He understands that all of us play a more dominant role in the “pack” than he does. Because there is structure and he is trained to know who is in charge, even though there are multiple members of the family, his sense of security and well-being is guaranteed.

Most dog behavior problems stem from lack of rules and discipline in the house

At this point you have learned that all dogs need to have rules and boundaries firmly set in the household in order for them to be happy. It is the same way with children. Without mommy or daddy to set the rules and enforce those rules, kids typically end up with with an enormous amount of personal behavior problems.

If your dog does not recognize the family as a team and has no sense of who is in charge, his behavior problems can be a nightmare. It is your job to start creating a social order in your house immediately. You must learn to communicate with your dog by reading his body language and picking up on his sense of who’s in charge.

And the job will be a lot easier if you can get all members of your family on the same playing field. They must all agree with how your dog should be treated. This will help tremendously so that your time is not wasted as you work hard to create a pack within the family, which will help your dog become a happy, well-trained family pet.

How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 5

Gemma | March 18th, 2006
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Who hasn’t heard the plaintive barks and howls of dogs left home alone? Nuisance barking is one of the most frequent complaints phoned in to urban and suburban quality-of-life hotlines.

What are these dogs trying to say? Several things, actually. Dogs bark to sound an alarm that they’ve spied a stranger. The bark may ratchet up from alarm bark to defensive bark if they feel challenged by the intruder. An energized dog barks or bays in excitement when it is on a scent while hunting, or as an invitation to play. An isolated dog also may bark or howl as a call to reunite its pack.

To avoid noise pollution citations and war with your neighbors, be mindful of our puppy’s vocalizing while it’s in the yard. Track what events set your pup off by staying home one day and monitoring it. Or videotape the events if you can’t stay home.

Take steps to minimize exposure to whatever sets your dog off. If there are certain times of the day when your pup appears to bark non-stop perhaps when the school next door lets out for the day keep it inside at those times.

Barking to alert you to the presence of a deliver person or other stranger on your property is the dog’s job. Unfortunately, some dogs don’t know when to stop. After a half-dozen woofs, thank the dog for its warning and request silence. If your dog is still barking, ask it for a down-stay. Few dogs will continue to bark when their chests are resting on the ground.

If your dog is still in a barking frenzy and cannot process an obedience cue, you may need to use some sort of sensory interrupter, such as a spritz of canned citronella spray, water from a water pistol or the blast of a whistle. When you’re not home to guide the dog’s behavior, keep the dog in the house so as not to inconvenience your neighbors with your dog’s vocal warnings.

A dog that gets plenty of opportunity to practice misbehaviors will only get better at them so don’t put your pup in the yard unless you’re there to supervise. Erect a solid fence or wall if normal neighborhood activities repeatedly send your dog into a barking frenzy. Teach it to limit its warning barks to a half dozen woofs, then say enough and redirect its attention to another behavior, such as go to bed or lie down.

Reward with a high-value, tasty treat when the pup complies. Dog’s don’t continue to bark when lying down; it’s just not comfortable! Plus, it’s hard to bark and eat a treat at the same time.

Just remember, the backyard can be a special place for your dog to romp off-leash, to nap in a sunny patch of grass, and to enjoy time with family and friends. With supervision, some training and an adept eye toward puppy-proofing, your backyard can be a peaceful haven for the entire family.

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How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 4

Gemma | March 16th, 2006
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Your neighbor’s 10-year-old boy appears at your back gate, ready to enter your yard to retrieve a baseball that inadvertently flew over your fence. Before the boy can make a move, your pup flies toward him with hackles up, furiously barking. The child flees, figuring nobody needs a ball badly enough to take on Cujo!

The dog’s behavior has just been rewarded by the child’s hasty retreat. Without training intervention, this nasty response will become an ingrained habit one sure to make your home insurance carrier quite unhappy one day.

In the beginning, young puppies either boldly approach strangers in a friendly, investigative manner or timidly shrink back, taking a wait-and-see attitude. As they get older, their repertoire may expand to include alarm barking, charging and possibly even aggression.

For some, it’s their genetic birthright and their property. German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Akitas, Belgian Sheepdogs and Doberman Pinchers are a few of the breeds created to have heightened guarding instincts. Between 8 and 18 months of age, these protective instincts begin to emerge.

For other dogs, these behaviors aren’t protectiveness, they’re manifestations of fear. By observing canine body language, it’s easy to tell the fearful from the bold. The fearful dog carries its ears back and its tail low. This pup is uncomfortable with direct eye contact and carries its weight over its rear legs. In contrast, the confident protector dog’s tail is held high and the ears are tilted forward. Its weight is more heavily distributed over its front feet.

Either of these types of dogs can bite. The fearful dog is most likely to bite if cornered and not allowed to escape the situation. The bold, protective dog can bite when it feels its property is being encroached upon.

Whether your puppy was obtained with family security in mind or not, it’s imperative to socialize it to people of all ages, colors and sizes – beginning at an early age. Bring your pup out to greet the gas company’s meter reader, mailman and pool caretaker with dog treats in hand.

Invite neighborhood children to come toss a toy for your new puppy, whether you have kids of your own or not. A puppy has to learn that the herky-jerky movements and high-pitched shrieks of toddlers and kids are normal behaviors and nothing to fear.

Widen open your pup’s horizons by going on expeditions to shopping malls so it can observe humanity at its most diverse always rewarding friendly, appropriate encounters with food treats, play, touch and praise.

By exposing your canine youngster to a wide range of normal human behaviors, while at the same time making it fun and rewarding, you create a stable dog, one that will keep you out of the trouble of dealing with angry neighbors or possible injury to children hopping over your fence, not to mention the legal troubles that come along with it.

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How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 3

Gemma | March 14th, 2006
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Does your dog try to make the great escape from your backyard every chance it gets, working to tunnel his way out beneath the fence? Ask yourself why it feels the need to leave the premises.

An unneutered male will seek out females in heat, so sterilization may put an end to this desire to roam. Social pups, such as Siberian Huskies and Irish Setters, dig out to seek company.

Either refrain from putting this type of dog out in the yard unless you can join it, or consider getting a second dog for company especially if you’re frequently gone long hours. These breeds are terrific candidates for doggie daycare, because they’re unusually dog-friendly and have energy to burn.

If you don’t have a doggie daycare available in your area, consider leaving your dog with a relative or neighbor who works from home, or hiring a dog-walker to come in midday to give your dog a romp.

Is your scenthound (such as a Beagle, Bassett Hound or coonhound) digging out to chase prey or track down smelly goodies from the street buffet? A genetic predisposition makes this behavior difficult to combat.

First, only let these breeds out in the yard with supervision. Second, prepare a distracting food-dispensing toy ahead of time and hide it in the yard. Now the dog will see its yard as a rewarding place and have less desire to seek food elsewhere.

Third, reinforce the bottom of your fence line. This may entail pouring a 6 to 12 inch cement trough beneath the fence line or burying additional wire fencing in an L-formation 6 to 12 inches underground, and extending 2 to 3 feet into the yard. Railroad ties, concrete blocks or large boulders laid against the base of the fence may also inhibit digging to escape.

Not every puppy bent on escape chooses to tunnel out; some climb or jump out. You can prevent climbing by choosing fencing that doesn’t offer footholds, like chain-link does. Prevent over-the-top escapes by choosing a fence that is taller than your dog is able to jump. Or try landscaping the fence line so the area is difficult to clear. Attach brackets to the fence top that angle in toward the yard from which to hang taut wire or loose wire mesh netting as a further deterrent to jumping.

Teach your pup to respect barriers to prevent it from scaling your fence in an attempt to escape. Start training in the house by blocking a doorway with a pet or baby gate. Visit with the puppy while standing on the other side of the gate. If the puppy sits or stands quietly, reward the good behavior with touch, treats, praise or play. As your pup is about to put its feet on the gate, issue a verbal warning, such as Uh-Uh! or Get Off!

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How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 2

Gemma | March 11th, 2006
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Does your yard resemble the moon’s surface, riddled with craters everywhere? When resolving a digging problem, it helps to know why your dog digs. Reasons for digging are many: to relieve boredom, to hunt vermin, to create cooling pits, to escape under fences and to underneath buried treasures, the list goes on…

A dog left in the yard to exercise alone may choose digging as an entertaining way to burn up excess energy. If the soil has been recently tilled to ready it for planting, it’s softer and more enjoyable to dig in than dry, hard-packed soil.

Prevent dogs from digging in newly tilled or freshly planted sections by fencing off your garden patches, laying chicken wire on top of plant beds, or accompanying your puppy on its outings and directing its play toward more wholesome pursuits, such as fetch or hide-and-seek.

Terriers and Dachshunds were bred to hunt vermin, a task that includes dashing down holes to dispatch them. If your lawn is beset by moles, voles, groundhogs or other small mammals, your Parson and Jack Russell, Cairn, Westie or other earth-dog breed will embark on an extermination mission.

The genetic urge to catch and kill these pesky critters is so strong in these breeds that walking them on-leash while they’re in the yard may be the only way to control the digging until you can clear your yard of these interlopers.

During hot summer months, some dogs, particularly the heavily coated northern spitz-type dogs (such as Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds and Alaskan Malamutes, to name a few) frequently cool themselves by digging pits in shady areas to unearth moister ground. Plastic wading pools filled with a few inches of cold water can serve the same purpose while saving your sod. Keeping your pup inside the air-conditioned home during the hottest parts of the day is also wise.

Is Your Pup Digging For Sport?

If so, then you had better choose an out-of-the-way spot in the yard in which to establish a doggie digging pit, because this sporting habit is not likely to change. It doesn’t have to be huge a square 1 to 2 times your dog’s body length should do it. Put some sort of visual boundary around it flat, light-colored stones would be just fine.

Till or aerate the soil, and add a little sand so it’s more pleasant to dig in the pit than elsewhere in the yard. To make it even more appealing, toss in a few biscuits or chewies and call your dog over to dig them out.

When you catch your puppy digging in another part of the yard, interrupt it and direct it to the digging pit. When you catch your pup digging in the pit, reward the behavior. Now you’re well on your way to a pothole-free yard!

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How To Get Your Dog To Respect The Yard – Part 1

Gemma | March 8th, 2006
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Many people believe that you shouldn’t even consider owning a dog unless you have a fenced-in yard. While this opinion may be extreme, it’s no argument that a backyard makes dog ownership simpler: housetraining can begin outdoors from the start and pace is readily accessible for exercise and exploration – even before leash manners are taught.

In fact, the backyard is so handy, some dog owners even use it in place of training (not a very wise move). Got company coming over? No problem toss Sparky out into the yard to prevent exuberant greetings and bring him back when all the visitors have settled in or wait until they’ve all gone home. Hey, how about installing a pet door so you don’t even need to get up to let the dog in or out?

Convenient? Yes, Smart? Not At All

Unfortunately, this relinquishment of supervision and control can lead to backyard mayhem and the creation of an independent thinker a dog that has little desire to please its human caretaker!

Dogs are social creations, and given their druthers, most would choose to keep company with their human family and canine friends. When shipped out to the backyard alone, they become bored and lonely. They entertain themselves by digging holes, tearing out plants and shrubbery, and escaping under or over the fence in search of companionship. Some bark their butts off in an attempt to call their clan together or exchange vocalizations with other yard-bound dogs.

Social isolation isn’t the only reason dogs dig, bark and destroy the backyard, but it plays a major role. After all, if a supervised dog is about to do the wrong thing, its owner is on the spot to give it a warning and redirect its attention to someone preferable, such as fetching a toy or performing an obedience command.

When the dog does the right thing, its owner is able to immediately reward the good behavior with play, praise or a tasty treat; and as we know from psychologists, rewarded behavior increases in frequency.

Think of your backyard as the dog’s home gym. It’s a great place for exercise and stress reduction, but not meant to be the dog’s exclusive home 24/7. A dog isolated in the backyard cannot learn house manners, protect the residents and contents of the home, or build respectful relationships with its people.

If your adolescent dog is too rambunctious to leave home all day then either hire a dog walker, drop it off at a doggie daycare, or install a dog door in the utility room so your dog has access to the yard and one or two well dog-proofed areas of the home. Do one or several of these things until it’s well-behaved enough to earn full run of the house.

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Clicker Training For Fun & Games – Part 3

Gemma | February 24th, 2006
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To The Mat

Wouldn’t it be nice if your puppy would go to its mat and lie down nicely on cue? It can happen, and once you’ve taught this behavior you can use it in many ways. For instance, you can place the mat wherever you need the puppy to go in the car, in a crate or simply away from people who don’t want a puppy jumping on them.

The last clicker training class I went to taught me just how to do this lesson. The trick is to teach puppies that hanging out on the mat is a good thing. Here’s how:

1. First, place the mat on the floor in front of the puppy. You have to be ready to click right away because most puppies will investigate anything new. When the puppy comes to sniff at the mat, click and treat. It’s best if you let your puppy come back to you for the treat, so it can have practice going to the mat again and again.

2. Next, don’t just click for a sniff or the mat. Wait the puppy should try to figure out what comes next. If the puppy comes to you, ignore it. When the puppy tries something else, such as actually touching the mat with its nose or putting a foot on the mat, click and treat again. Click anything that gets the dog engaged in the game that this particular item on the floor has importance.

3. Gradually click each new step, clicking as the puppy gets closer to the mat, ignoring the puppy as it gets further away. If the puppy isn’t touching the mat, height can help. A dog bed works better than, for example, a flat towel.

You can also lure the puppy toward the mat with a treat, then click when the pup steps on th mat. You want the puppy to understand that you want its feet on the mat. For many puppies, this only takes a few minutes, but some may take several sessions.

4. Once the puppy is standing on the mat, the next step is to ask for a sit. When the dog sits, either on your cue or on its own, click and treat.

5. Finally, attach a cue. Make sure that what the dog is doing is firmly in the dog’s mind before attaching a verbal cue like mat or bed. Practice until the puppy goes to the mat and sits on cue.

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Clicker Training For Fun & Games – Part 2

Gemma | February 19th, 2006
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You can teach your puppy some useful and desirable behaviors (not just obedience commands) by using the clicker. Clicker training is probably the simplest and fasted way to teach your puppy neat tricks, fun commands and polite manners.

Of course you need to first familiarize your puppy with the clicker. You do this by loading, or charging, the clicker. This quickly associates the clicker with a treat in the puppy’s mind. Clicker trainers know that this doesn’t take very long. Some puppies get it in just a few clicks.

It can take a puppy a little longer to figure out that its behavior can make the click, but the focus comes right away. Those trainers that have been working with a clicker for some time can take a new puppy that’s never seen the trainer before, and keep it focused for 10 minutes straight.

Peaceful Greetings

Here is one of my personal favorites from clicker trainers around the world. It makes no-jumping a fun and rewarding lesson. I call it Peaceful Greetings:

Oh those jumping, joyful puppies! They see you, rush to your side, and hop all over you how adorable – but what a shame to squelch that happy enthusiasm in a puppy that just wants to say hello! Instead, we suggest that you teach your puppy to avoid jumping on visitors by rewarding the puppy for saying hello peacefully. This exercise is easiest to teach with a partner, or in a group:

1. Put the leash on the puppy. Have one person hold the leash and the clicker while you stand back from the puppy, holding treats.

2. Approach the puppy. If it jumps up, do not make eye contact or say anything. Just back away again and wait a few seconds. Try again. Keep approaching the puppy and backing up if it jumps.

3. Eventually, the puppy will realize that it will have to try something different if it wants you to move toward it. When you step forward and the puppy keeps all four paws on the floor, the person holding the leash clicks, then the person approaching immediately gives a treat and praise.

4. Practice this until the puppy consistently keeps from jumping. Then, try it off the leash.

5. It’s best to do this in groups with children. Each person calls the puppy to him or her, but then ignores the puppy if it jumps, clicking and giving a treat when it stands or sits in expectation of a reward. Puppies usually learn the difference in just one or two training sessions.

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Clicker Training For Fun & Games – Part 1

Gemma | February 16th, 2006
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People often think of clicker training as a fast and easy way to teach basic obedience commands, such as sit or come, but it can also quickly shape puppy behavior in ways that establish a productive and happy relationship, right from the start.

Puppies understand very well and quickly that a click means something good, and that something the puppy did made that click happen, says Kevin Alexander, a leading clicker training specialist from Kansas City, Kansas.

Kevin once taught an entire litter of 3-week-old Golden Retriever puppies to lift their paws on cue in just a few minutes. When the puppies figure out that they’re getting clicked for a randomly lifted paw, you see the light bulb go on, as if they’re thinking, ‘Wait a minute, if I do this, that huge creature gives me food. That’s a good thing!’

Clicker Training can be used for much more than marking any single behavior. Mr. Alexander teaches pet owners how to use the clicker to teach incremental moves that can be shaped into desirable behaviors, such as going to a mat, standing nicely for grooming, or any number of fun tricks.

Lifting a paw, for example, can be transformed into a high-five trick, shaped into teaching the puppy to ring a bell when it needs to go outside, or even as an offering of the paw for nail trimming. As tricky as these behaviors may sound, the clicker makes them easy.

When puppies understand what you want, they start doing things on purpose, making eye contact, and suddenly, these tiny puppies wake up and smell the coffee, and think about the universe in relation to themselves, Kevin says. It’s just a wonderful thing for puppies to learn.

Clicker training is particularly useful for dogs that aren’t traditionally known for their skill at basic obedience. Perfect examples are Hounds, terriers and other traditional non-obedience breeds. These breeds do especially well with the clicker because it gives them a clear reason why they should do something they might not see the reason for otherwise.

Dogs that tend to have a Why should I do this? type of attitude really buy into clicker training (although it does work with all breeds). In fact, the best age to bring a clicker into your dog’s life is early, as young as two to three weeks of age.

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Clicker Training 101: Creating Positive Associations

Gemma | February 11th, 2006
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Another wonderful thing about using a clicker to train your dog is that it can be used as an occasion setter.

Here’s What I Mean:

You know how excited your dog gets whenever she hears the bag of treats rustling? Or when you pick up the leash?

She has made associations with these activities and learned that something good is about to happen. The rustling of the treat bag signals a meal occasion and the leash is associated with going for a walk.

As a result, she really focuses on you in anticipation of what’s about to happen. She will often offer behaviors like sitting or lying down or spinning in circles as if to say, What do you want me to do? Sit? Beg? Jump? Get you a beer?

In other words, your dog is really excited to do what you’re about to ask because you have something she really, really… really wants!

With this in mind, whenever you show your dog a clicker, you flip that same switch in her head that says something good is about to happen. So your dog really looks forward to the occasion of training sessions and becomes intent on paying attention.

Using The Clicker As A Connection

The other nice thing about using a clicker is that it allows you time to get the treat to your dog. As I mentioned earlier, good training is all about the speed of rewarding. The quicker you get the treat to your dog, the more effective your training.

So let’s say you’ve asked your dog to lie down from twenty feet away. As soon as she does, you can immediately click, signaling she did a good job, but then you have several seconds to actually get the food treat to her.

The clicker acts as a connection, signaling the food is coming, but because you marked the behavior with the click, it’s as if you gave the food the instant her behind hit the floor.

Moving On To Life Rewards

Clickers are used to teach your dog a new behavior. When she knows what to do and does it when asked, the clicker is no longer necessary. You can maintain the behavior by using affection like petting and praising your dog. But you can also keep the behavior sharp by using life rewards.

A life reward is anything your dog wants that isn’t food related. For example, if you ask your dog to lie down, the reward is going for a walk. If you ask your dog to sit, the reward is chasing a ball.

Clicker training is all about positive reinforcement, so it’s a terrific way to train your dog and have fun at the same time!