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Training 911

posted December 11th, 2015 by
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by Khara Criswell, MA, CPDT-KSA, CNWI

 

Holiday Training Tips To Keep Your Home Jolly And Safe

 

Fresh Water

If your dog is spending some time outdoors, check the water dish. Just because the temperature has dropped, it doesn’t mean your dog is drinking less water. If the temperature drops below 32 degrees, make sure you have chipped away the ice so your pup has a place to drink. Dogs eating snow could pick up dangerous objects or chemicals that may be hidden. Some dogs that eat snow can get an upset stomach and even hypothermia.

 

Warm Place to Stay

Dogs have fur coats, but even in extreme temperature changes a dog can get frost bite. If your pup lives outdoors, provide the pup a heated dog bed and adequate shelter. If you have a small dog or a dog with little or no hair, a sweater will help the dog retain its body heat. If you see your dog lifting its paw more than normal, check the paw. Some dogs’ paws are more sensitive to cold than others.

 

Kong Stuffed with Goodies

During the holidays, we might be too busy to pay as much attention as usual to our pets, so they need some other forms of mental stimulation. Stuffing and freezing a Kong makes for an excellent treat while company is over or during any hectic time. The dog is occupied while you can enjoy your guests or holiday prepping.

 

A Break or Retreat Zone

During the holiday season, your pup can get too much socialization or over-stimulation. Company can be tiring, so make sure your pup has a place to go to decompress away from the action. Start designating an area as the “dog safe zone,” so the pooch can get away, and maybe you too when you need to decompress. Sometimes the break could just be a walk with a familiar friend. One of the best things to train a dog to do is to go to a place/mat.

 

How to Mat Train:

Step 1. With a treat in your hand tell your dog, “go to your mat,” in a cheerful tone of voice and point to her mat.

Step 2. Pause a second or two (one-one thousand, two-one thousand), then lure your dog onto her mat by putting the treat up to her nose and slowly moving it over the mat. If you move your hand too quickly or too far away from her, she may give up and lose interest.

Step 3. As soon as your dog has four paws on the mat, give the treat.

Step 4. Tell your dog, “down/sit.” Give the hand signal or lure her if she needs helps. It is up to you whether you want to make her lie down or sit. If she doesn’t stay on the mat, you can take her to it. When she lies down, give the treat to her. Continue to give treats to keep her on the mat. After a few seconds, tell her “OK/free” and allow her to get up.

Repeat steps 1-4, gradually increasing the amount of time you ask her to stay on the mat. Mat training is great for working at your desk, watching TV, cooking in the kitchen, when guests are visiting (like during the holidays), or any time you need to get your dog out from under foot.

 

Practice

Practice this skill when you can pay attention—such as when you are answering easy emails, not when concentrating on a report due tomorrow, or when preparing a sandwich, not trying a gourmet recipe for the first time. TV commercials are a better practice time than engrossing movies.

As you increase the time the dog spends on her mat, throw in some shorter intervals to keep her motivated. As your dog gets better and better, space out the treats so she gets some for staying on her mat.  Eventually she will stay for no treats at all, but to keep the stay strong, give a verbal praise such as “thank you” or “you’re such a good dog.”

Troubleshooting: If your dog gets up before you release her, tell her “ah-ha” and immediately direct her back to her mat and into a down/sit. Don’t treat her, but make the duration of this down/sit short, so you can release her and repeat the exercise right away and reward for a successful result.

 

Beware of the Dangers

With the cold holiday weather and additional edible delicacies, keep these dangers in mind:

Antifreeze is highly toxic; although it tastes good to pets, it can kill them.

Human foods to keep away from Fido include grapes, raisins, avocados, onions, chocolate, anything coffee-related, macadamia nuts, tomatoes, and seeds from apples, cherries, peaches and similar fruit, and of course bones, which can break apart in the intestines.

Household items such as cleaners, rat and mouse poisons.

Christmas décor can be hazardous, including Christmas berries, Christmas cactus, sap, candles

Christmas Rose, the tree and all its parts (needles, tree water, holly, and mistletoe, tinsel, ornaments and lights). If you have a puppy, start the decorations on the tree higher from the ground than he or she can reach.

 

Call your vet or Animal Poison Control if you feel your pet ingested a toxin at (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Keep these tips in mind to ensure a safe holiday and remember you’re never too young or old to have fun with your pup

Training 911

posted October 24th, 2015 by
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That Dog’s Got Skills

By Mary Green

 

My new friend asked, “What are the most important skills you can teach a dog?”

I had a fun conversation the other day with a first-time dog owner.  Like any “new mom” she was feeling overwhelmed about training her dog and was getting way too much unsolicited advice about what to do. As a dog trainer, I am always asked about how to fix many behavior problems, but I don’t get much opportunity to talk about how to prevent behavior problems. As we chatted, I thought about her question and what dog owners really need to train. It’s pretty simple, really.

 

My top 3:

Sit

Come when called

Self-settle

 

Sit

Isn’t it amazing that most dogs figure this out pretty quickly? They sit quickly if you head for the cookie jar or the treat bag. Even very inexperienced pet owners can figure out how to get their puppy, or dog, to sit. If you’re not sure, just take a little treat and “lure” the puppy by moving the treat over his head (and slightly toward his back) and give him the treat as his knees bend or his rump hits the ground.  So many behavior problems or challenges can be avoided with a rock solid “sit” cue.

Anti-jumping up: sit for all petting.

Bolting: sit at all doorways, intersections, etc.

Lunging on leash: (turn away) and sit will diffuse many tense situations.

Impulse control: sit to get the leash on/off, sit and wait for food, sit to come out of crate or confinement… and so on.

 

The science of operant condition, an approach labeled by psychologist B.F. Skinner, tells us that behavior which is rewarding has a higher likelihood of being repeated than an un-rewarding behavior.  Our dogs sit because they know that if they sit, good things happen. You can build your dog’s willingness to sit by giving him treats and other things he likes for sitting.  You are making deposits in his brain bank, which is creating a “reinforcement history.”

 

Come when called.

A solid “recall” can be the one skill that can save your dog’s life.  I want my dog to come each and every time I call him.  I want this to be a reflexive action rather than a decision. There are many reasons why your dog may not come when you call.

 

He is having too much fun: sniffing, playing with another dog or person, chasing something, or playing keep-away.

Something scared him, startled him or caused him to panic and bolt.

He is anticipating a reprimand or a punishment.

He has insufficient “reinforcement history.”

Too much freedom without enough training.

 

Regardless of why he is not coming when you call him, you would practice basically the same way. You would do many, many practices in a place where there are no distractions—inside, away from the other animals, with a handful of yummy treats; say, “Brutus, come!” and give him a treat for coming to you. Then give him a second treat as you touch his collar, so he can’t dart away. Gradually add distractions and practice in different safe locations where you can be 100-percent sure that your dog cannot fail.

The best way to have that reliability is to always reward your dog in some way for coming to you.  Pet him if he likes that, give him a treat, play tug, go for a car ride or a walk. It will build that reflexive head-turning, spin-on-a-dime, solid recall.

There are some common things that dog owners do to cause their dogs not to come.  For example, don’t call your dog to scold him for something such as getting into the trash or having an accident. Don’t call him when you’re angry! Don’t call him and trick him into something he doesn’t like. If I’m putting my puppy in his crate, I say, “Brutus, get in your house!” and he learns that there will be a treat in there.

If he didn’t like going into his crate, I would just go get him and put him in.  In my experience, many dogs (puppies and small dogs especially) don’t want to come because they have been pursued and picked up. They don’t like this, so they run away. This is especially problematic if children have been chasing and grabbing them.

 

Self-Settle

I see a lot of dogs that have absolutely no ability to calm themselves. Many of them have trained their owners to be at their beck and call. They seek and solicit attention in a number of ways such as barking, whining, stealing things they shouldn’t have, pawing or scratching, begging, and going inside and outside incessantly. And I see some really exhausted owners.

If you have a puppy, start him early on stuff-able, chewable toys, such as Kong toys.  There are lots of products available that are safe to leave with a puppy. Stuffing a toy with your dog’s food, treats, biscuits, etc., and putting that in the crate with him can really help him settle down.  This isn’t just for puppies—all dogs can benefit from chew toy training.

Give them a place to settle down besides the crate. Teach him to go to his mat and settle down there. That’s a safe place where good things happen. He can be with the family, but the children are not allowed to disturb him when he is on his mat. He can hang out with you without being underfoot.

Respond to his attention-seeking behavior by telling him to sit before you pet, get up, or otherwise engage him. If you can learn to observe your dog for calm behavior, and reward him for that, he will hit that point of decision whether to be calm or not. If he has had more rewards for calm–the impulsiveness can fade away.

If you would like more information about teaching some of these behaviors, check out our website at www.k9-manners.com. On the “what we do” page, there are some one-page .pdf files you can review or print!

Who is training who?

posted August 6th, 2014 by
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We are nearing the end of summer and everyone in my house is getting a little anxious and antsy for our usual routines that come with the school year.

The other afternoon I decided to kill two birds with one stone and attempted to keep my boys and toddler all entertained at the same time. It seemed like a great idea to teach my toddler how to give commands to our two Bostons and reward their behavior with treats.

While I definitely accomplished my initial goal of keeping everyone entertained for the afternoon, I think I also stumbled on to a great exercise as far as teaching my daughter patience with our animals and teaching our animals to listen to our toddler.

At first, things were a little chaotic and it was a free for all with my toddler yelling ‘sit!’ while making it rain treats on the dogs. Once I regained possession of the treat bag and a little control, we started to make some progress.

We kept it simple. Sit. Stay. Lie down. At the end, we added high-five for fun. I had my daughter say the command and use a hand signal at the same time (sometimes toddlers are hard to understand!). This was an easy refresher for my boys, they have been through training before. Admittedly, around the time my daughter was born, we stopped practicing so much.

My dogs loved having the attention of my toddler and got some extra stimulation (and a lot of extra treats!). My daughter got to see what it was like to be in charge and tell someone else what to do, with the added bonus of experiencing the frustration of not being listened to. I don’t think she liked it!

Both toddler and dogs need to work on their technique, but all in all, it was a successful afternoon and an activity we will repeat in the future!

– Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Whose fault is bad dog behavior?

posted November 9th, 2012 by
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When it comes to the bad dog at my house, I already know the answer. It’s all my fault.

It used to be that only good dogs lived at our house. Dogs who minded their manners and followed the rules.

Then, this summer, we found out Yoda was sick. A mass on his heart required immediate surgery.

The week of his surgery I babied him and spoiled him. I bent some of the rules and outright ignored others. I rationalized my behavior with the fact that this could very well have been his last week at our house.

When he came home from surgery, I continued the special treatment and rule-breaking. Again, I rationalized. He just had surgery, he is in recovery and these could be his last days!

My husband now jokes that I have ensured our bad dog’s final days are nowhere near and that we will be sharing our home with our Boston Terror, yes Terror, for many years to come.

Our once rule-following dog now thinks he should have his own seat at the dinner table and that he should eat what we eat.

His once cozy crate is no longer good enough. Nothing but the middle of the bed for this dog!

And ask him to do anything without promise of a treat? Forget about it.

So now, Yoda and I are both relearning a few of the house rules.

Whether we are successful is a different story, although it doesn’t really matter. I would much rather have my bad dog than no dog at all.

Have a bad dog at your house? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

- Lauren Cavagnolo

Teaching old cats new tricks

posted July 5th, 2012 by
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When searching for our new home, one of the first things I looked for was a spot for the litter box. If there is no good spot for a litter box, the home just isn’t going to work.

I was thrilled when I found our home’s large laundry room with a nook that was perfect for a litter box. The previous owner must have thought so, too, because the door already had a cat door installed. Perfect!

When it came time to move in, I was nervous about whether or not the cats would actually use the cat door. They had no previous experience with such a contraption.

And using the cat door was a must. It meant keeping the dogs out of the litter box in search of  ‘snacks’. It is also a great help with odor control.

Our cats are all 7-years-old or more: not too old for a cat, but old enough to be set in their ways. And any cat owner knows the litter box routine is just not something you want to mess with.

I decided the best way to introduce them to the pet door was to put them all in the room (so they could use the box) and see how long it took for them to get out.

Two of the cats were quickly back in the living room with the rest of the family. The other two were still in the laundry room howling. But I guess two out of four isn’t bad.

The next day I decided to put their food in the room and shut them out. And suddenly four out of four cats were using the cat door. It only took a few more tries of either shutting them in the room or shutting them out of the room with their food on the other side before they were all pros.

I must admit, I was surprised at how quickly they all adapted to the cat door, the new routine and the new house in general. Hopefully, they won’t be needing to learn any new tricks anytime soon. I don’t want to push my luck.

Have you ever had to teach your cat a new trick? Share your story below.

-Lauren Cavagnolo

Help Your Shelter Pet Learn

posted January 15th, 2012 by
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By Merit Day

Perhaps you’ve recently adopted a puppy or adolescent shelter dog. Kudos to you! But now it’s time to get down to business — the business of training that unruly (and likely poorly-socialized) pooch into the obedient, charming dog just waiting to be cultivated. Let’s begin at… well, the beginning.

Human babies grow and learn by leaps and bounds during the first year of life, from a helpless creature dependent on its mother, to a mischievous toddler exploring its new world. Puppies are not too different; in fact, the majority of a dog’s physical and emotional development also occurs in its first year. Learning during this time has a significant impact on the future behavioral development of a dog. Research shows that socialization and training can greatly influence this learning process. Therefore, (just like children) providing socialization and training at the correct times in a dog’s life is crucial to its future behavior. If your pooch is still in the adolescent stage, the following information on a puppy’s development will help direct your steps as you shape your little friend into a happy, obedient, well-adjusted dog.

During the first eight weeks of a puppy’s life it is driven to bond with its mother and littermates. A young puppy will have its initial exposure to the world through smell, touch and vision. He or she will learn through playtime with littermates what it means to be a dog. Through chewing and exploring it will learn motor skills, early social skills, and even how to eliminate outdoors if its mother has access to properly teach this skill. Having access to a few people, interesting toys, and the outdoors can help ensure a stable, well-adjusted dog as it matures. A puppy has its first “fear period” around 8 weeks old. If you bring home a new puppy at this age, let it adjust slowly to new things. Try to eliminate anything that would constitute “scary” for a puppy during this short period. For example, keep its social exposures limited for a few days to only immediate family, and to a smaller area in the house.

As the puppy develops in its third month, it has increasing social needs, which for the domestic dog includes being open to bonding with humans and developing human relationships. This is a good time to bring a puppy away from its littermates and into its new home. Human owners will now delegate the boundaries for nipping, jumping, and playtime carried over from its mother. The mother will have weaned and trained the puppy in many ways, which is an important step toward accepting limits from human owners. As the dog enters into its adolescent development stage around four months, it is most receptive to learning through positive reinforcement training. The puppy is constantly absorbing and processing information from its environment, and many perceptions are formed at this age. The concept of correlation (consequences) is being learned.

At this time, a puppy will be quick to associate a specific behavior with a reward it receives. This is the time to associate rewards with human touch, restraint, and encouragement. This is a critical process for the puppy called “socialization.” Linked to this is a dog owner’s first big responsibility because the puppy is dependent on its owner to experience new things. Training/learning verbal commands for proper behaviors is easily started and should continue through the pup’s first year.

By the time the dog is 6 to 8 months old, and reaches sexual maturity, much of its temperament is now observable. Researchers believe that a dog’s adult temperament is determined by 50 percent genetics and 50 percent environmental factors. This means it is possible to change or alter a dog’s behavior through environmental influence — either good or bad. At this time, a dog develops independence; therefore, new behaviors will emerge, such as the willingness to explore farther away from the owner’s reach. Any previous training on manners or verbal commands may appear to have been lost as the dog makes the choice to test boundaries and owner expectations. Reinforcement of these things is necessary, but don’t lose hope; previous learning is not permanently lost during this testing period for a puppy. Again, just as children and teenagers test boundaries, adolescent dogs will do the same.TulsaPetsMagazine.com

Understanding which developmental stage your dog is entering or leaving is helpful for identifying its specific training needs. Working with your dog—with these tips in mind — according to his or her age-appropriate needs will ultimately influence its long-term adult behavior — and hopefully lower your stress level.

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