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Dog Training 411

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Mary Green

Q Is there any way I can stop my dog from barking at everyone and ev­erything that goes down my street? I like to leave my solid door open and the storm door closed, but Lacey spends the day barking. She doesn’t charge the door, thank goodness, but the barking needs to stop.

A It’s hard to completely extinguish barking, and perhaps that’s not what we want to do. One benefit of hav­ing dogs, even small ones, is that they can sound the alarm to warn you of a threat. It is possible, though, to teach a dog to stop barking when you tell her and maybe help her discriminate be­tween what is and isn’t bark-worthy.

You might start by covering the storm door with a decorative window film available at home improvement stores. There are lots of patterns avail­able, and you could select one that is opaque enough that she can’t see out, but the light comes through. Of course, you may only need to apply it to the lower portion of the door.

The most effective training option may be to teach Lacey the meaning of “that’s enough” or a similar signal. To do this, sit with her at the door, and when she barks, tell her, “That’s enough,” and give her a treat. It may feel like you’re rewarding her for barking—that’s OK, because at least for the second she is eating the treat, she isn’t barking. You can continue to give her treats until the person (distraction) is out of her sight. Pretty soon, she is barking one time and coming to you for her treat!

Teaching an alternate behavior is an­other option. When Lacey starts to bark at the door, call her to you and give her a toy, preferably something that squeaks and have her hold or carry it. When Parker, my Boxer, was a little guy, he would be so excited that he would grab whatever was handy, which often was a sock. We could say, “Parker, put a sock in it!” and he would grab a toy, bone or sock. To this day, nine years later, Parker still greets everyone with something in his mouth. At least the barking was muffled!

You might teach Lacey to go away from the door. At K9 Manners & More, we teach a “go to mat” skill that comes in very handy for this type of problem. By having Lacey go and lie down on her mat or dog bed, she is removing herself from the excitement of the door and us­ing self-control.

Q Are little dogs harder to train than regular size dogs?

A I’m not sure what you consider “regular size dogs” to be, since dogs come in all sizes! From toy and small dogs, such as Yorkshire Terriers or Chihuahuas to giant breeds like the Newfoundland and the Irish Wolfhound, the size of the dog’s brain will change, but the manner in which they learn is the same. There are perhaps notable differences in trainability.

In 1994, Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, wrote a book on dog intelligence, “The Intelligence of Dogs.” The book explains Coren’s theories about the differences in intel­ligence between different breeds of dogs. Coren published a second edition in 2006. He defines three aspects of dog intelligence in the book. Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, retrieving, guard­ing or supplying companionship. Adap­tive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems on his own. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans.

There are reasons why one might think little dogs are harder to train. Training little dogs may be physically hard on a person because of the need to bend over more than with a me­dium or large dog. A small dog’s tum­my fills up quickly on treats, making a training session very brief. Small dogs often are afraid of being stepped on or picked up, so they may stay out of arms’ reach. They also have a compara­tively small bladder, and housetraining may be more challenging than with a larger dog.

One thing is for certain in dogs… One size does not fit all!

Dog Training 411

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Mary Green

Q My mother, who is 80 years old, wants a companion dog. She re­cently lost her elderly little dog and is really lonely without him. I am con­cerned about her being able to house train a new dog, and I worry about a dog knocking her down or scratching her skin. I’m not really excited about the prospect, but I want my mom to be happy. Suggestions?  — Karen

ASeniors and pets have so much to offer each other; I hope you are open to supporting your mother in bringing a new pet into her household. Besides the companionship a pet can provide for your mother, being respon­sible for feeding and watering the dog and toileting him can really give her a reason to get up and going in the morn­ings. Dogs always seem to wake up hap­py and ready to get on about the daily business. Their happy attitude works wonders toward getting their humans motivated, too! Petting and stroking an animal has been proven to lower blood pressure—so there are even health ben­efits to pet ownership.

My recommendation would be to bring in an older dog rather than a puppy. I would also recommend a dog not over about 15 lbs. Some groups only adopt senior dogs to senior citi­zens. Dogs that are 7 or 8 years old are often overlooked at a shelter, but have a lot of living yet to do! As you meet prospective pets for your mom, look for a dog that is friendly and wants to be petted, or wants to sit in your lap, but is not “clingy.” A dog that can settle down with a toy or chew bone, or is crate trained, will give your mother suf­ficient space and time to do what she needs to do without having him underfoot.

I understand your concerns about an octo­genarian being responsible for house training a new dog. A small dog can learn to eliminate on the wee wee pads or in a litter box. You also might consider installing a doggie door if that is possible. If you fashion a small yard (maybe an exercise pen) just out­side of the doggie door, the dog can’t go through the doggie door and get to the remotest point in the yard! If a dog is in a foster situation, you might know if you are adopting a house-trained dog.

Could a family member volunteer to take mother’s dog to a training class? She could be included in doing the homework, and she might enjoy the class outings without having to manage the dog at the same time. Someone else could teach the dog how to greet properly without jumping up and how not to be underfoot. At K9 Manners & More, we have a Day Training program where the professional trainers work with the dogs, and then teach the own­ers what to do.

Don’t just rush out and get your mother a dog. Do your homework to find the right fit for her. The shelters are full of previously owned and loved family pets looking for a new family. Sometimes people lose their jobs and/ or homes, and move where they cannot take their pets. Not all dogs at the shel­ter are from hoarding situations, puppy mills or from the rough streets.

Lastly, have a plan in place for caring for your mother’s dog’s needs: veteri­nary transportation and care, purchas­ing food and supplies, and see to his or her grooming needs. And have a plan of who will take care of your mother’s dog should she be hospitalized short term, or long term, and who will be respon­sible for the dog in the event of your mother’s passing away