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One of my hardest challenges as a dog owner is trimming the nails. I'm always nervous that I'll get the quick and that nervousness makes the dogs antsier. Not to mention how hard it is for me to exert enough pressure to clip a Great Dane's nails.
Zoinks breeder has been showing off how easy it is to dremel dog nails so I finally broke down and got the right bit and have been conditioning Zoinks to let me dremel her nails. This started slowly, first with the dremel off and then gradually increasing the speed (and noise) before ever touching the nails. I've now done a few sessions with her and it's gone amazingly well so we are now conditioning the others to it.
To make a positive association with the dremel we use a lick mat smeared with peanut butter (make sure it doesn't have xylitol in it). Just use a small amount, smeared on the mat, and then chilled it goes a long way. You could also use plain yogurt, cheese, liver wurst or even canned dog food.
What’s in a name? Everything. It is a cue that says “I’m talking to YOU, please pay attention to what I have to say.” Unfortunately when we use our dog’s name we often “dilute” it. Diluting a cue happens when it’s used to often, in too m any ways, and the meaning becomes too vague for the dog to understand.
This happens often if we repeat it too many times or use one word for different uses. An easy example is the cue “down”. It may be used to ask the dog to lay down or it may be used to get the dog down from jumping or on furniture. The dog starts to ignore the cue because he isn’t sure what it means.
A dog’s name often gets diluted. We may mean “stop that” when they are doing something they shouldn’t, “leave it” when they are trying to get something they shouldn’t have, “come” when wanting them to come to you. The dog knows you are talking to him but he doesn’t know what you want him to do. So he starts to ignore it unless he has a second cue, such as plastic wrap crinkling or food hitting the dish, which tells him that something good may happen.
When you use a person’s name you engage with them. It means “I would like your attention, please”. Dogs should have that same meaning attached to their name. We start almost all new clients with this exercise. It sets the foundation for all future communication with your dog. It teaches your dog that when you say his name he should pay attention because you have something to tell him.
Start in a quiet room with few distractions by saying your dog’s name. Then wait 15 seconds for him to turn toward you. He doesn’t have to make eye contact, just acknowledge that he heard you. When he does say “yes” and offer him a small, soft treat. If he hasn’t responded after 15 seconds repeat his name but adjust your pitch to help get his interest. You want that 15 second delay before repeating the name so that it doesn’t blend together in the dog’s brain.
Repeat this several times until he’s staring at you and waiting for the next treat. Once that happens follow the name with a cue he knows, such as “Fido, sit”. Or take this moment where you have his attention and teach him a new behavior.
Gradually increase the distractions and change the environment, such as outside in the yard. Randomly say Fido’s name and ask for a behavior, offer a toy or say “lets play” and engage in a game of tug. Make sure you don’t use his name only to end his fun or he will start to ignore it. You want to engage him once you’ve said his name. Engaging with your dog will keep him focused on you when you need him to be.
One of the most frequent requests I receive is about training your own service dog. The ADA covers Service Dogs but NOT Service Dogs In Training (SDiT). SDiTs are regulated by most states. Some states, such as California, mimics federal SD law with either a trainer or disabled handler. Others states may have much tighter laws on who can train and what, if any, access rights the dogs have.
Make a new toy out of an old toy and get rid of one of those old t-shirts stuffed in the back of your drawer at the same time.
Dogs wear muzzles for many different reasons, not just aggression.
Why is it a good practice to teach a dog to wear a muzzle? Putting a dog into a situation where they are already uncomfortable and then adding the never-before-worn muzzle adds even more stress to the situation. This means their next experience with training, at the vet or groomers will be even more stressful.
My dogs are all muzzle trained. Over the past couple of years our Desi has had a lot of vet visits due to skin issues. As the vets and vet techs are climbing over this 150 pound Great Dane to examine and obtain scrapings and biopsies they need to feel safe in order to give him the best care. I am not offended and actually offer to muzzle him. I want to make sure he's getting the best care but I don't want him stressed out, either, since that can make his issues worse.
We start muzzle training early. We show them the muzzle, let them sniff and check it out, giving them treats. Then we put treats in the muzzle so they can put their faces in to get the treats. Once they are consistently putting their snouts in by their own choice we add the strap. Then we secure it, very briefly, with a high value squirt of spray cheese added. Gradually they wear it for longer and longer periods of time, adding activities such as going outside or for walks, always keeping it fun with high value treats.
With all the holiday foods, treats, gifts, guests and socializing dogs can be exposed to things that are harmful. Even the best trained dog may be offered something they shouldn't eat or find something that isn't good for them. If you suspect your dog has ingested something they shouldn't have, getting proper treatment as quickly as possible is essential.
In our area emergency vets are quite a bit of travel time as well as being very expensive. One year our curious puppy ate something she shouldn't have (and that we shouldn't have left out). Of course it was a Sunday and knowing the emergency vet was over an hour away we contacted the ASPCAs Poison Control number (888) 426-4435. For a fee (a fraction of the cost of an emergency vet visit) they were able to advise us what to do and we avoided that long, scary and expensive trip. I highly recommend keeping their information close at hand.
You can also find a list of harmful plants, foods and other products on their website, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control, in addition to their mobile app.
The holiday season is almost upon us. Wait, Leave It and Place can keep your dog from getting into trouble. Spending time now teaching, proofing or fine tuning these behaviors can help keep your dog safe as well as a welcome part of the celebrations.
Wait. Wait tells the dog to wait a moment, be patient and something else is going to happen. Wait while you hook their leash up, wait while your food is prepared, wait before going out the door, wait before getting in or out of the car. This gives you time to do something safely and without mishap from a dog jumping, darting, even knocking things out of your hands.
Leave It. This cue prevents a dog from snatching or eating something they shouldn’t have. With all the food , breakable decorations and even extra medications due to seasonal illnesses that are around knowing your dog has a rock solid leave it can save their life.
Drop It. Teaching a dog to drop an item that they’ve already picked up, such as the random sock, wrapped gift, shoe, will end those unwanted games of chase. With a solid Drop It cue the dog will drop the item instead.
Place. A dog who knows to go to their safe spot while you answer the door, carry packages thru the room, clean up a mess, can alleviate a lot of tension. This is a great way to prevent them from darting out the door when holiday visitors or deliveries arrive.
If your dog already knows these cues start practicing now. Just a few minutes per day, adding them in here and there, will help the dog be ready to deliver the requested behavior when you ask for it. If your dog doesn’t know these cues or they aren’t working like they should, then reach out for help. It can eliminate some of the stress of the season.
Remember that cute little puppy you brought home a few months ago? Where did he go?
The dog between 6 and 18 months of age is not quite an adult but no longer a young puppy. Just because they are ‘full size’ doesn’t mean their brain is fully developed. It may even seem all the work that you have put into his training has gone up in smoke. No worry, tho, your sweet puppy is still in there, he is just growing up and going thru that ‘awkward phase’ that many trainers refer to as the Brat Zone, the adolescent. Here are a few tips to get thru this time.
I promise this is temporary. Talk to a trainer who is experienced and uses reward based training to help if you need to get a handle on wayward behaviors before they become a real problem.
Operant Conditioning is learning thru consequence (both rewards and punishments). We learn that if we do one thing, something else will follow. Science has repeatedly shown us that long term, rewards are more successful. Study after study shows us this. A Review of Dog Training Methods: Welfare, Learning ability, and Current Standards, authored by IJ Makowska, M.Sc., Ph.D. for the BCSPCA, she demonstrates thru multiple studies and research just how important making the right choices in training are to a dog’s welfare.
I am going to use a simple example, flipping on a light switch and being rewarded with the light. If we want that light to turn on then every time we must flip that switch to make it happen. This is what we are teaching a dog with positive reinforcement. We do not have to use aversives such as shock collars (or electric, static, whatever you want to call it), prong collars or even high pitched whistles.
How would this work, say, if I wanted you to turn on the light but you didn’t know that was what I wanted? Imagine that I put you in a room and wait for you to turn the light on. Then, every time you did something, but that something wasn’t turning on the light, you were punished. You stand up “zap”. You sit down “zap”. You ask what I want “zap”. This is positive punishment. At what point would you become reactive to everything because nothing is working or simply shut down and give up? How did you learn to flip the switch? You saw someone, probably a parent, do it and then did it yourself and were rewarded with the light turning on or off. This is positive reinforcement.
How simple is this to do? When a dog is jumping they don’t KNOW this is the wrong behavior. They just know it will get your attention. So we choose the behavior we want them to do and then remove our attention from the jump and teach them that sitting gets them your attention. The dog darts out the door getting freedom and a game of chase. Wait, that’s not what you WANT them to do? Again, we determine the wanted behavior, not darting out the door. So first, we prevent the dart with a baby gate and/or leash and teach them that waiting while the door opens gets a reward. Then we teach them that going thru the door on cue gets a reward. Now the dog is waiting at the door instead of darting. We can even teach them to turn on that light switch by stacking behaviors.
Yes, this will take some time, especially if your dog has spent time learning the wrong behaviors. In the end, tho, your dog will be happier and less likely to develop behavior issues. Using science and reward based training methods; this is how we should be teaching our dogs. Teach Rover that he must do certain things in order to get that reward. If he doesn’t do the behaviors that are required then he won’t get the reward. With dogs we cannot explain this to them but we can teach them by demonstrating that every time they make the right choice something good happens. When they make the wrong choice they get nothing. No attention, no yummy treats, no games to play, no snuggle time.
Initially, we work on small, simple behaviors such as focus and sit to get rewards. Then we make things a little harder. Sitting and waiting in one place. Add in coming when called. Learning to choose the cooperative behavior in order to participate in the rewards of yummy treats, snuggle time, games of tug of war, going for fun walks.