Children and dogs

 Elsa adores her babies but I am hovering over ever interaction.

Elsa adores her babies but I am hovering over ever interaction.

Just the other day I sat through a horrible YouTube. I had to force myself to watch it because it was something that I knew I did not want to see. The video was of a baby and a dog, a large dog. Another dog trainer had posted it with many appropriate warnings about content so I knew it was going to be bad. Sometimes you need to see things. I am a big believer that if we always look away; there are lessons that are never learned. Of course I did not need a lesson from the video but wanted to watch the signals that the dog was giving.

The video was of a child approaching the family dog. I’m not sure if it was the Mother or Grandmother’s dog or who was videoing. The child approached the dog on the floor and immediately signaled that it did not want to interact. It got worse as the child climbed up on the dog and the dog snapped, right in the child’s face and the video ended. The entire interaction gave me chills but sadly many people would see nothing wrong with the dogs behavior. Many people don’t read dogs well.

The dog gave lots of clear communication but the adult in attendance recognized none of it. The person videoing the interaction saw the dog as friendly. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of inappropriate interactions between children and dogs on the web. I can barely contain myself when I see them pop up on Facebook and read all the “awww so cute” comments. Some are cute but most are pushing dogs to defend themselves.

As a Grizzle bear style Mom and Grandma (Gabby) I am all about safety between dogs and children. Of course if a dog bites a child, the dog receives the blame. Often the dog is not to blame but the adult in charge who should be blamed. Yes it is wonderful when a dog loves children. I think it is the best thing in the world, because it is the biggest worry (for me at least). But even when dogs love children, they have limits; and dogs do not communicate the way that we do.

When we fail to supervise and control interactions between dogs and children, we fail both. It is our job to protect our children and our dogs. If you don’t referee interactions, you force your dog to defend themselves in a way that dogs do.

Dogs are dogs. They are animals with huge teeth and strong jaws that do not speak English. If they feel threatened they will react like a dog.

Most dogs give lots of warning but some give none. We tend to squelch growling from our dogs; feeling that it is in someway bad. A growl is a warning and an insight about how your dog is feeling. Without it you are blind. Without understanding body language, you are handicapped.

Children can and do weird and very inappropriate behaviors towards dogs. They are wise enough to understand a dog’s warning. It is our job as adults to protect children, all children with regards to our dog. It is also our job to protect our dog from everything. Our dogs should NEVER feel the need to protect themselves from a child. That is never going to go well.

When we protect our dogs from unwanted interactions we release them from being defensive. No one wants a dog to defend itself from unwanted child advances, no one. Safety first, should always be the rule around children and dogs. NEVER, EVER allow children to crawl on your dog.

Children and dogs can be a wonderful thing; but they can also be a horrible thing when left alone. Most bites received by children can be avoided. Dogs are not people, they are dogs and will act appropriately. Thinking that all dogs should quietly tolerate whatever a child dishes out is extremely unfair and foolish. Our dogs deserve more as do our children.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS SUPERVISE.

Living with dogs

 Elsa and Luna coexist. It is important to understand their communications.

Elsa and Luna coexist. It is important to understand their communications.

I am constantly asked what I do. My licence plate says Justdogs so when people see it or I give them my email address they always ask “what do you do with dogs?” My typical answer is “I’m a dog trainer,” but if they really want to chat about dogs then I elaborate to photographer, writer, blogger, webinar creator, baker for dogs, temperament testing, online courses…etc. etc. But what I really do is “life with dogs.”

My Just dogs with Sherri mission statement is:

To bring humans and canines into a symbiotic relationship.  Where each thrive with the presence of the other.  Alone they are just man and just dog; together they complete the perfection of a "canine lifestyle."

Life with dogs should be amazing but it isn’t always. The relationship can take a beating when we don’t understand one another. Humans understanding dogs is the first step to creating an amazing connection. When we understand our dogs; then they will be able to understand us.

Let’s face it, humans often forget that dogs are not furry humans. Sadly many of the biggest issues when living with dogs is the fact that we treat them like humans. We put human emotions on our dogs and assume that they communicate as we do. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dogs are dogs and to think of them as furry humans is a disservice to them. In many ways dogs are far superior than us; especially in the communication department. But if we don’t now how they communicate then we don’t “get them.” So many people have no idea what their dog is saying or trying to communicate. Humans often misread information given by their dog and there in lies the biggest issue.

Dogs have a lot to say. It’s funny because just the other day as my husband and I were walking Elsa and one of our Grand-dogs, I thought about the fact that our dogs never say anything. My husband and I were chatting away as we walked, Elsa and Luna said nothing. That is, they didn’t say any words but they were constantly communicating. Our dogs often have a great deal more to say than we do, but are we listening? Watching?

Understanding how our dogs communicate is all about watching. They are master body language communicators. But much of their communications go unnoticed because they are so tiny and fleeting that we miss them. I often hear from guardians that they have no idea what happened when there dog seems to have a behavior issue. This can be because we regularly miss what they are saying. Some folks haven’t a clue what their dog is saying ever.

Living with dogs can and should be amazing. But, living with dogs can be stressful, frustrating and regretful. If we don’t take the time to learn about the dog or dogs that we are living with, then there will be fallout. Finding out how your dog communicates, understands and learns will lead to a much better relationship, bottom line.

We expect so much from our dogs. Sadly many of us don’t really understand how dogs work. Many people tell me “I’ve lived with dogs all my life,” meaning that they know dogs. But if you’ve never taken the time to really learn about canine communication; it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived with them. You simply may not have been understanding them the entire time.

Admittedly I don’t know much about cats. I don’t live with cats so it doesn’t really matter that I don’t “get them.” If I was interested in them then I might do some research; but I’m not a big cat person so I stick to dogs. I believe if you are going to live with an animal; you should know as much as you can about them.

Our biggest problem is us. We humans tend to think like humans and put those thoughts on other animals. It is the easiest for us to not have to learn about other animals but it is most definitely not the best. Truly learning about the animals that we live with means putting our human ways aside for a while. If we are going to have dogs in our homes with us; then we should learn about them and how they work, right?

I love dogs, they are amazing creatures. There is nothing like a canine/human connection at it’s bet.

A dog's neck

canine neck

The canine neck is complex; holding in it a mosaic of bones, muscles, nerves, veins and more.

Elsa and I were at the bottom of the final hill before ending our Monday morning exercise together. As we looked up and prepared for our big push up the hill; a dog caught my eye. To the right of the hill and down the path was a dog who was being naughty. He was leaping frantically on his owner; grabbing and shaking his leash. I watched for a moment as any dog trainer would.

Two woman were walking what looked to be a juvenile Shepherd/Husky mix. Not knowing how to control his outburst of behavior; the woman on the other end of the leash yanked. The dog was wearing a choke collar. I could literally hear the chain as she yanked and yanked. She’d had it and was obviously grasping to control him. Sadly his neck was taking a beating for his behavior.

After his outburst of exuberant behavior she yanked in attempt to get him under control. She yanked his every movement. She was not tolerating him even looking around now and yanked his every head turn. I shuddered at the thought of what his neck was having to endure. We just don’t consider our dog’s necks near enough. Often after a good assessment, I would step in and say something but the dog and two women were a good distance off. After the yanking ended, Elsa and I moved on.

I am a big harness fan. Although I started training using the conventional choke collar; it is all there was way back when I was 13 years old. That is a very long time ago (43 years to be exact) and we are must smarter now, right?

dog neck

Being that I have been involved with 3 serious rear end collisions I am hyper vigilant about neck issues. My neck is bad pretty much all the time; some days worse than others but a constant issue for me. The way many people yank their dogs around by the neck is very disturbing. I know that it does not come from ill intent but a lack of knowledge. We just don’t think about our actions much of the time.

After trying with no success to yank her dog into control; the person on the other end of the leash was stressed and frustrated. This lead her to just yank on her dog out of anger. And this “anger” is where I see much of the problem with being attached to our dog’s necks. We try to stop our dog’s actions by yanking on them. The whole yank method of training is based around stopping behavior by yanking on our dogs. Sadly it can require more and more yanking to achieve the smallest amount of success.

Many canine neck regions are being damaged by constant yanking. It is often a knee jerk response; where we aren’t even thinking about what we are doing. I see folks walking their dog and talking on their phone inflict some almighty yanks when they aren’t even looking at their dog. The dog is lagging, maybe relieving themselves or just sniffing and they receive the yank.

We need to consider our dog’s necks. Just because they have a neck does not mean that we should throw a chain, collar or rope around it and yank them into behaving. It boggles my mind that yank type training is still out there. But the sad part is that many people just do it because. That’s just what people think that we should do.

The neck is a complicated myriad of components that is hidden under a coat of many different colors and textures. There are long thin, short stocky, near non existent to the big beefy type necks. All contain the same bits and pieces inside but in different shapes and sizes.

Our dog’s neck can be easily damaged. It is our job to protect our dogs and do what is best and right for them. The neck is a big part that needs our protection.

Controlling your dog

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Controlling your dog is an essential part of being a good canine guardian.

Control - to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command:

Control can take many different forms. Depending on your dog, you and the work that you’ve done will factor in what type of control may be needed in certain situations.

Control is important. It is even more important that we… the guardian of our dog, be able to control them. Controlling our dog should not fall on others. Our visitors, passersby, guests or extended family are not responsible for controlling our dog. We need to control our dog.

When Elsa got attacked by an English Bulldog several years ago; the woman who was walking them had no control. Her dogs literally dragged her to the ground and commenced to attack Elsa. It’s pretty mind boggling that these two dogs were on leash yet were completely out of control. If you cannot control your dog either verbally or physically then you should not be out in pubic with your dog, bottom line.

When Elsa and I are out and about on our daily walks, the last thing I want to see is someone who cannot control their dog. We have come across many people in this type of predicament and it is unnerving to say the least.

You love your dog, great; but not everyone loves your dog. Controlling your dog is one of the K9 etiquette musts. When you are in public with your dog, it is your job to keep them safe and the public safe. Just because your dog would like to come and see my dog does not mean that he should be allowed to do that.

Ask. Always ask before allowing. The other day while Elsa and I were out for an early morning, quiet stroll; a woman headed our way with her black Labrador. He looked nice enough but we were not there to see him; we were enjoying our quiet oneness that we are. On their approach I automatically stepped off the path to give Elsa some space that she requires. The woman stepped off the path as well as her dog dragged her our way. I then turned on a dime and started walking away; a clear visual that I was not interested in a meet and greet. She continued to be dragged our way. FINALLY, I had to blurt out a loud “NO” with my hand up. This she understood and tried to brace herself and control her dog. She was having a very hard time not being dragged any longer.

YOU MUST CONTROL YOUR DOG. If you have no means of controlling your dog through voice command then you must be able to physically control your dog. If your dog drags you down the street on their collar then you need something different to walk your dog on if you are not going to train. Find something that gives you control.

It boggles my mind when someone says “he won’t listen, he wants to say hi,” like they have no say in the matter of what their dog does. Just because your dog is friendly; does not mean that every other dog wants to say hi. Dogs need to learn to walk by other dogs unless there is an invited an agreed upon meet and greet. Train.

I love being out walking with Elsa and seeing all of the other dog lovers walking as well. But I do not want to stop and have a tussle with every one of them. Elsa is uncomfortable with dogs that she does not know; unless they are puppies of course. She has been attacked and she has every right not to trust strangers. Do we trust strangers? I don’t. Do we control ourselves when out and about? Hopefully. ;)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

 Beautiful little lady

Beautiful little lady

Elsa is beautiful, probably one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever known.  Most people feel exactly the same way about their dog; and that my friends is how it is suppose to be.  Isn't it amazing how we all have the most gorgeous dog that ever lived?  

Beautiful - having beauty; possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction see, hear, think about etc.' delighting the senses or mind:

There is beauty and then there's beauty.  I like the term "gorgeous" or "good looking" as the phrase or word used for outer visual appeal and beauty for that inner stuff.  Of course being beautiful inside makes one more beautiful outside, right?  

As far as I'm concerned dogs are beautiful as a species; covering just about every one of them.  Like humans, there are some that are more beautiful inside than others; but then again that is a personal thing as well.  Kind, caring, loving and compassionate people are beautiful.  The same goes with our dogs except that they tend to be much more pure and naturally more beautiful inside than us.  

Dogs are beautiful.  But sometimes life itself can alter a dog.  A dog who has had to deal with a situation that may have changed who they are can make them seem not as beautiful.  This is when we humans need to be able to look passed what has happened to them and into their core.  

I am far more concerned with the inside of dogs and humans as well.  Our outer shell is a first visual connection but aren't we and our dogs sooooo much more?  

When I temperament test a litter, I get to have a first glimpse into who these little creatures are.  They give me a clear read on who they are as a individual; I get to meet the real them, their core and I love it.  

When we choose to live with a dog it should be through an inner connection, not an exterior preference.  Do you want to live with a maniac retriever, couch potato, guard dog, highly emotional, social butterfly etc etc? 

A dog's exterior visual appeal is simply the vessel that carries in it, their true beauty.   

When to start training

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Now, right now.  If you already have your dog/puppy, start immediately.  Is your dog 8 weeks old?  Maybe 8 years?  No matter how old they are, start educating them right now.  Many people think that there is a specific age that you should start training your dog; but that came from the idea that a puppy had to be large enough to withstand collar yanks.  I don't think that any dog should receive collar yanks at any age.

Positive reinforcement training can be used very, very early on tiny puppies.  I have taught pups as young as 6 weeks old to sit in a matter of minutes.  I have also taught old dogs to sit in minutes as well.  

There are of course limits to what we can expect from very young puppies but they can learn for sure.  Most of the learning restraints on small puppies are length of time and distractions.  Everything is new and their little attention span is short.  

That said, every single dog/puppy is different; some puppies have amazing attention spans but we should always remember not to push (mentally) too hard.  Training should be fun; dogs should look forward to their training and learning new things.  If they don't enjoy it then you are doing something wrong.  

Feedback is educating.  With simple sounds we can educate our puppies/dogs on things that should be done and should not be done.  Starting on the road to learning is in my opinion, essential.  Without an education or even learning how to learn, our dogs are quite handicapped in this human world of ours.  

Life is all about learning.  Everyday brings with it something new.  My days are always better when I say to someone "I didn't know that."  I love to learn and I love Elsa to learn as well.  There is so much to know about this world that we live in.  We live with rules and regulations, so to should our dogs.  

Education is a gift, give the gift to your dog.  Teaching your dog how to maneuver more easily through life is just a win win for everyone involved.  So get to it, now.  

National Dog Day 2018

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Yesterday was National Dog Day.  I hope that you all enjoyed the day with your dog/dogs by your side.  I happened to think that every day is dog day but hey, that's just me.  ;)

We (my husband and I) spent Saturday afternoon celebrating National Dog Day at the Pet Project Foundation fund raiser at the Outlets at San Clemente mall.  This was my first time at the event and I was extremely surprised by the turn out.  Before it was officially started, there was a steady stream of canines and guardians.  By midway in, it was packed. 

Three hours spent visiting with dogs, talking dogs, helping guardians with their dog problems and listening to stories about dogs, not too shabby for a huge dog lover.  :)  The dogs were all very well behaved.  There was everything from the tiniest of pocket pooches all the way up to a huge Mastiff and a couple of Great Danes.  There were young puppies out socializing and old dogs just moseying around.  

I had made four batches of my Elsa's Pure Delight cookies to handout that were a huge hit.  I was so stoked when several guardians told me that their dog had spit out other cookies at the event, but ate mine.  They were hesitant to try more cookies but after one taste of Elsa's Pure Delights, they chowed down and their guardian grabbed a second bag to bring with them.  

There was no shortage of body language for me to watch.  As most of you know, I could watch dogs communicating with other dogs and humans all day long.  They truly are so amazing to watch as they interact.  One special moment was between an adorable young Golden puppy a mixed breed adult.  The puppy was very apprehensive to say hi to the adult because the adult was frozen in stance.  He was not giving off the warm and fuzzy feeling and the puppy clearly understood.  He hesitantly sniffed the adult and then backed away; sitting down and just watched which was the best thing for him to do.  Nice.  

It was a great family event that I was thrilled to be a part of.  I hope that we can make it again next year; it was most definitely a fun time for all.  

Happy National Dog Day, yes it is every day for me and should be for you.  Have a great day.  

Ruffwear - Hi & Light, a new harness

 Elsa sporting her new Hi & Light Dog Harness

Elsa sporting her new Hi & Light Dog Harness

Elsa and I are just back from a huge, really early exercise outing.  As most of you know, exercise is very important to me.  Both for myself and for Miss Elsa.  We rarely take a day off because it is that important for us to stay in shape.  Anything physical that you do in life is made easier when you are fit; and that goes for our dogs.  

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On our walk today we gave the new Hi & Light Ruffwear harness a try, and WE LOVE IT.  Elsa has worn the Front Range harness for a long time now; so when I saw the new lighter version I wanted to try it out.  The very first thing I noticed when the harness arrived was the packaging, no struggling to cut ties or pry plastic to get it out.  There are three slats on a recyclable card where the harness fits in nicely.  Easy to get out and toss the cardboard in the recycle.  Nice. 

The next thing I noticed was the snaps on the harness.  They are smooth and not threatening as far as the pinch factor.  I can't tell you how many times I've pinched my fingers in snaps over the years.  They are a breeze to do up and so smooth.  

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The Hi & Light harness is lower profile than the Front Range .  It has one leash attachment on the back and 4 points of adjustment so that you can get a really great fit on your dog.   I adjusted the harness on Elsa in about a minute.  It is sleeker than the Front Range with a debris resistant liner inside; which is great for dry, brushy seasons like now and the fall.   

It comes in three colors: blue, gray and red/orange and sizes from XXXs to large/x large.  Elsa wears a medium and it fits like a glove.  She is 24.5 inches tall and a 45 lbs.  

Like the Front Range harness, the Hi & Light is easy peasy to put on and take off.  It pops over their head and does up on both sides of their chest.  Taking it off can be done one handed which is how I typically do it as I often have stuff in one of my hands. 

I love harnesses, they are my canine/human attachment device of choice.    For dogs who are very active on their walks, it's even more important to wear a harness in my opinion.  Another great thing about the Hi & Light harness is that it does have less material to it; and for times like now when the temperatures are soaring is was nice to have a lighter harness on Elsa.  The harness is very light; easy to carry in your pack or purse even. 

This will be a second "go to" harness for Elsa and I.  She was extremely comfortable wearing it and that of course is one of the most important factors when choosing a harness for your dog.

Counter conditioning canine behavior

counter conditioning

Counter - something that is opposite or contrary to something else.  

Conditioning - a process of changing behavior by rewarding a subject each time an action is performed until the subject associates the action with pleasure.  

Counter conditioning is a highly effective way to alter a dog's response.  It is commonly used to change how a dog reacts to a specific stimulus by changing the meaning of it.  

Example:  Your dog is terrified by the vacuum cleaner.  Every time you try to vacuum your dog runs for the hills, hides under the bed or behind the couch.  

Like most rehabilitation type behavior modification, baby steps in progression should be used to best facilitate success.  Depending on your dog's response you may want to start by just bringing the vacuum out of the closet or just open the vacuum cleaner closet.  Then link an enjoyable activity to it.  Maybe the closet door opens and you pull out your dog's leash.  Maybe it  means feeding time or time to play catch.  

This should be done until you are seeing a positive response from your dog.  Next would be to pull out the vacuum and create the same activity - feeding, playing, walking. etc.  

The goal would be - each time you pull out the vacuum, your dog associates it with something wonderful.  You start small and slow, only moving on to more intense work with complete success at each stage.  

Like desensitizing, counter conditioning is about association.  Counter conditioning is typically used to re-associate the stimulus that causes a fearful or stressful response.  It is on e of  most useful tools in positive behavior modification.  

Questions?

Desensitizing the canine response

 Ready to give up?  Dealing with an out of control trigger?  You can fix it.  Read on.  

Ready to give up?  Dealing with an out of control trigger?  You can fix it.  Read on.  

Desensitize - To lessen the sensitiveness of.  To make indifferent or unaware.  

Many different things can become sensitized for our dogs.  Particular items like leashes, toys, shovels, cars etc. etc.  Sounds can become sensitized; thunder, door bells, food pouring in a bowl, packages being opened etc. etc.  

The moment that we need to step in to desensitize is when the response becomes a problem.  This is a very common issue with dogs, no matter what the cause.  

When a fear response is exhibited due to a sound, item or activity, we typically use counter conditioning which is different from desensitizing.  I will discuss counter conditioning in the next blog.  Today's blog is about desensitizing which is usually used for an over excitement issue.  

I am going to use the leash for my example.  The leash often results in a severe sensitivity caused by the whole "going for a walk" thing.  Dogs love going on walks, most do.  So when a leash is a trigger for wild and out of control behavior we need to step in and fix it.  I have had many clients who had a big time leash sensitivity causing them to race around the house like an out of control maniac resulting in a very frustrated guardian who cannot get the leash on their dog.

The goal with desensitizing training is to make the leash less of a trigger.  The way you do that is to pull it out often with no response.  Mix it up, pull it out and throw it on the floor, walk away.  Pull it out right before your dog's mealtime.  Pull it out and go outside.  Pull it out, hook it up to your dog and go no where.  Your goal is to make the meaning of the leash less powerful. 

By bringing it out often and creating a different meaning of the leash being out it loses its crazy out of control power.  The more mundane the leash becomes the less power it holds.  Soon the leash coming out means a lot more than just a walk; your dog never knows.  

This is how you desensitize things like the doorbell, pulling out the food bowl, a noise making item or any other item or sound that causes a loss of control.  Out of control is never a good state for any dog to be in.  

Make sense?  Questions?  Leave me a comment!

 

 

Reading dog body language

 Not the puppy from today but Elsa clearly stating how much she loves to play with Yogi and as a puppy.  (Taken a couple of years ago)

Not the puppy from today but Elsa clearly stating how much she loves to play with Yogi and as a puppy.  (Taken a couple of years ago)

We were out as the sun came up this morning.  Hearing about our impending heat today, Elsa and I head out to the park early, before the heat hit.   Like myself, Elsa needs to workout strenuously daily; so I love when I can get her power run in before the day starts.  Today's run was a quiet one, as we were out before most others, nice.  

As we were ending our walk we ran into a woman and her 5 1/2 month old yellow Labrador.  From far away I could see his rambunctiousness and that he was quite a handful for his guardian.  Elsa watch carefully and I watched her intently.  As we got closer I could see the question coming from the human on the end of the puppy's leash.  

"Can he meet her?" the woman asked.  I'd been monitoring Elsa's body language well before they were upon us.  Elsa LOVES puppies.  But, she is very wary of adult dogs because she has been attacked several times.  So...I read very carefully before meeting any other dogs face to face.  I go with what Elsa tells me, and if it is another adult dog we typically get space and keep on moving.  But this morning she told me that she was interested in this little man.  

Even though the youngster was exhibiting direct eye contact and straining at his leash to meet her; Elsa knew that he was non threatening.  Elsa is probably one of the best readers that I have ever met.  She also knows who she wants to meet and this one was someone who she wanted to meet.  Her tail was high but not all the way up; and wagging slowly in an excited by not overly excited manner.  She reached out to get a sniff and there was no snorting.  Snorting is her stress signal that I listen carefully for. 

I asked how old he was before allowing a greeting.  He was 5 1/2 months old and even as large as he was, Elsa knew this before I did.  I let Elsa sniff him as he strained at the end of his leash.  I HATE on leash greetings.  Even the friendliest dog greeting can go wrong if they become tangled.  After their first sniff I unhooked Elsa.   Watching like a hawk (as I always do) Elsa's body language went from interested, happy and a little tense while on leash; to instantly no worries and calmly excited off leash.  

The release of tension (unhooking the leash) gave her the freedom to move about, away or closer as she felt the need.  Leashes can interfere with body language drastically.  Of course there are leash laws and most of the time our dogs MUST be on leash.  But it really is amazing to witness the huge change in body language on and off leash.  

Even though Elsa had clearly shown me that she wanted to meet the young man this morning; she was much more relaxed off leash while interacting with him.  She truly is amazing with puppies.  So many adult dogs are not big puppy fans; they don't want to put up with their antics.  But not Elsa, she much prefers puppies over adult dogs.

It always amazes me what she allows puppies to get away with.  Even puppies that she has never met before are allowed to push the boundaries that an adult would NEVER be allowed.  The puppy bounded around, jumping on her and pawing her with his huge feet.  I thought that she might give him a bit of a schooling on etiquette but she just enjoyed his naughtiness.  Now... had this boy been her little brother; he'd would have had a great deal of education at 5 1/2 months of agee.  Elsa is an amazing teacher with the patience of a saint.    

Elsa and Forest (little mans name) had a short romp before I stated that we were going to continue our walk.   "Quit while you're ahead," one of my motto's in life.  They had had a great interaction, so I chose to end it and keep moving along.  Elsa was happy, Forest was happy and both guardians were happy.  I hope to meet Forest and his guardian in the park again; Elsa really enjoyed his crazy and energetic puppy antics.  

Dogs are SOOOOOO much more versed in communication than we humans are.  We can go on and on with our words without saying anything.  But dogs, they speak volumes with their body alone.  Paying attention to that and knowing your dog is so important when living with dogs.  Canine body language is fascinating and telling.  

Do you know what your dog is saying? 

 

 

Leave it

 Elsa doing a very nice "leave it" for demonstration purposes.

Elsa doing a very nice "leave it" for demonstration purposes.

The "leave it" exercise is one of the most useful things that you can teach your dog.  The "leave it" behavior is typically taught for leaving food items; but once your dog is accomplished at it, you can use it for anything.  Personally I have used it for gross items found on the ground during a walk, babies, bees, retrieving items, toys that do not belong to my dogs and so much more.  

Imagine if you could tell your dog not to touch an item and they didn't.  No pulling, no yanking, no yelling?  Wouldn't that be the greatest thing ever?  Well, it is up there with some of the greatest things ever, for sure.

Showing off their "leave it" skills.  

The "leave it," behavior, like most other behaviors is a progression of steps to get to a solid and reliable response.   Once your dog has it down and if you have used it extensively; it is often not needed in certain situations.  Dropping food off of the counter, table or hand can become a non issue once they understand that you control the items.  

The big secret to teaching a solid "leave it" is to reward it.  The exercise begins with a low level food item like toasted o cereal (cheerio type).   The food that is used to reward the dog should be of equal value.  So don't tell them to leave a piece of steak and then give them a cheerio for not touching the steak.  They are very smart and will soon be going for the steak faster and sneakier.  Makes sense right?  

  • Put Cheerio in your open hand and cover with your thumb.
  • They will NEVER be receiving the food in the hand that you have the cheerio.  You do not want them to think that at some point they will get the food in your hand.
  • Tell your dog to "leave it" and put your hand out.  They will typically try to get the food for a while but do not let them pry it out from under your thumb.  
  • As soon as they pull away from your hand for a split second, mark the behavior and reward with a cheerio from your other hand.  At the same time pull the lure hand back beside you.  
  • Do this as many times as it takes for them to "get" that moving away from your hand is what gets them the reward.  
  • This requires a great deal of patience.  
  • Be sure to tell them to "leave it" before you place your hand out.  Give them a heads up.
  • Try doing it with your hand on the floor, then put the food on the floor with your hand hovering over it.  NEVER let them get the item that you have told them to leave.
  • As they become more solid with the "leave it" you can get further and further from the item. 
  • Once they are super star professionals at "leave it" you can drop food from your hand and then the counter top; always rewarding them for not touching the item.  Don't forget to tell them to "leave it" before dropping the food.

Now that they are amazing at "leaving it" you can use it for anything that you don't want them to touch.  

Remember to only make the exercise harder when they have complete success as each step.  Too much challenge can mean failure.  Best to take baby steps during the process.  

 

 

Bad dog training

mean mom

We sat waiting for our flight; a flight that should have got us home early afternoon.  But there we sat at 4:00pm hoping to get home.  My husband and spent a wonderful five days in Cabo San Lucas with great friends and were now headed home.  

As we sat waiting for our flight I spotted a little cutie sitting on a chair by it's guardian.  A small and demure Dachshund that I had noticed earlier in the airport.  Her guardian was eating and she (the little dachshund) glanced up to see the food.  Her owner quickly smacked her in the face.  Not hard but negative enough to create a response from the little dog.  She quickly turned her head, ears back and head down.  

I was appalled by this of course.  Honestly, the dog was not allowed to even look her way when she was eating?  As I watched the little dog turned her head ever so slightly and used mostly her eyes to sneak a peak.  She again got a smack in the face along with a verbal reprimand.  The dog was crushed; she put her head down and shutdown.  My heart was breaking for the little dog. 

First off, I think it is amazing when our dog simply look at us when we are eating.  Many dogs could actually take our food from us but they don't.  In the wild a wolf who is lower in status within the pack will look.  They will then be told with a look from the alpha that they are not allowed to have whatever it is that they are eating.  A glance is all about communication.  Elsa always watches me eat; it is her way to know what she will and will not be allowed to have. 

The other huge issue that I had with this (aside from hitting her dog) was that the dog was then afraid to look at her owner.  There she was in a loud and crowded airport in Cabo; where a big stranger sat beside her, unable to get the reassurance she needed from her owner.  She was dying to look up and connect with her owner but was afraid to do so.

I wanted to run over and tell her what a good girl she was, because she was.  I wanted to lecture the woman about what she was doing; but realized that the middle of an airport in Mexico was probably not the place to do it.  She was indeed a "mean Mom" and probably would not be changing her ways because of what I would say to her. 

There is often so much fallout behavior from one action from us to our dogs.  Just yesterday as my husband and I sat enjoying lunch together in Huntington Beach we saw a beautiful young Labrador with his guardian.  Just moments after sitting down I witnessed the man grab his dogs lip and pull him into him to reprimand him.  Then he grabbed the skin on his back and pushed him into a sit; all because the dog was watching him eat.  

The whole idea behind "begging" has gotten out of control on our part.  Yes, a dog trying to take your food is pretty annoying and should most definitely be stopped.  But, a dog sitting quietly watching us eat is pretty amazing and a very natural response from our dogs.  

Let's look at our dogs as dogs and give them credit where credit is do.  If your dog needs training, train positively.  We have dogs because we love them; let's not treat them poorly.  You don't treat something you love with disrespect. 

Great dog leash

Elsa has a new collar and leash.  How smashing does she look sporting this new beautiful and light weight collar/leash set?  

The collar leash set came from Poodleit and I love it.  Not only is it visually gorgeous, it is light weight and reflective.  It is a great width yet retains an extremely light feel in the hand.  

The first thing I noticed about this collar/leash set was the plastic collar clasp.  Having recently been pinched by one of these type clasps, the difference was very obvious.  The smoothness as I placed the collar on Elsa was unmistakable.  

 Elsa and I head out to give the collar/leash set a try.  One thing that I hadn't noticed until our walk was the reflective trademark on both the leash and collar.  I love this, it was so visible that you could see that it would be a great safety measure during the evening or night talks.  

Elsa and I head out to give the collar/leash set a try.  One thing that I hadn't noticed until our walk was the reflective trademark on both the leash and collar.  I love this, it was so visible that you could see that it would be a great safety measure during the evening or night talks.  

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Elsa is shown sporting the collar and 6' leash but it also comes in a 4' length.  I always prefer a 6' as it gives more flexibility in the distance that you can offer your dog.  The leash is made from climbing spec nylon tubular webbing; so it is extremely strong.  

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I love this pink color, so summery and visible.  The collar/leash would be wonderful for any guardian who loves to walk their dog, no matter what breed or mix of breeds. 

The leash comes in red, purple, black, pink and blue.  A wonderful variety of colors making it easy for everyone to get their favorite.   

Use FROMSHERRI coupon code to get 5% off of your collar/leash

Collar, use FROMSHERRI to get 5% discount

Dogs and fireworks

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Happy 4th.  Last night as we sat enjoying a glass of wine and Elsa was enjoying her rat hunting, the booming began.  My attention turned to her immediately as I heard it.  Waiting to see what she was going to do; I watched without eye contact.  With her attention on a rat that was up in the bushes, she didn't flinch.  

Here it was, proof in the pudding as they say.  The rats were helping Elsa to forget about the fireworks; at least for a little bit.  Our reaction to fearful stimulus needs to be calm and chill.  The solution to fearful response is counter conditioning.  Linking the booming sound to something enjoyable or captivating.

With her full attention on the rats hoping around our yard; she paid little attention to the booming in the distance.  For a good 10 minutes she was preoccupied by the little rodent.  I smiled seeing the evening events unravel before me.  The rat had so much power that it was keeping Elsa's mind off of the scary stuff.  Nice.  

After her time of captivation, the booms got bigger.  Elsa quietly walked inside and remained there until we calmly joined her.  

Like every other year I am putting out a warning about fireworks and your dog.  Each year many dogs are lost, injured or worse.  Fear of fireworks is very common in the species; they don't understand the celebration behind it all.  It would be great if we as guardians could explain the booming; but sadly we cannot let our dogs know that it's just sound and sight and nothing more.  We can't clarify it for them but we can keep them safe when fear strikes.

  • Don't take your dog to the fireworks display.
  • Make sure that your dog is locked safely indoors.
  • Turn your radio and television on if you leave your home.
  • Be sure that your dog has up to date identification on them.
  • Do not coddle their fear.
  • Try to have fun.  If your dog LOVES an activity, try doing that during the booming action.
  • Show your dog that you are not afraid of the fireworks.  Get your best "chill" on.

Have a great day and night.  Be safe and keep your dog out of harms way.  Happy 4th

 

Blind yanking

 Don't yank.

Don't yank.

Yesterday's walk was once again the spur for a blog.  Many times I have to record my blog ideas when they pop into my head (my memory is horrible) but sometimes it just happens on a walk the day before.  As we wandered along the pathway of the park; a woman up ahead was yanking.  She was blind yanking her dog.  

blind - unwilling or unable to perceive or understand.

yanking - to pull or remove abruptly and vigorously.

I see this type of behavior from humans constantly.  Said human is out on their walk without putting any attention on their dog.  They are not interacting with their dog except for the constant blind yanking.  The woman was getting annoyed by her dog's pulling so she pulled back.  Think this works?  Nope.  

Have you ever yanked on your dog in attempt to stop them from pulling?  They yank, you yank...it goes round and round with no results for anyone.  Just annoying on both ends. 

The dog involved in the yanking on this day was a Shiba Inu.  He looked young and rambunctious and was diving in and out of the bushes as they walked.  The dog was lucky that he sported a harness and not a collar.  But even still he just kept getting yanked, blind yanked by his guardian.  This is a really annoying behavior that humans inflict on their dogs.

So what are you to do when your dog yanks you?  Stop walking and wait.  Wait for some slack in the leash and then walk.  DO NOT WALK when the leash it tight.  It takes some work but typically dogs catch on pretty quickly to this rule.  Pull and we stop - Give me slack and we walk.  

If you are a yanker, please stop.  Don't respond to your dog's yanking by yanking back.  Teach them, yanking doesn't work; because it doesn't work for either species.  

 

 

Dog scissors - touch ups

dog grooming scissors

Every once in a while I come across a product that I absolutely love and just have to share.  So I am sharing my love for these little scissors today.  I bought these two years ago and have used them a lot.  For the price, they are amazingly sharp and precise.  I have used them to groom between toes, around eyes and nose and lots of other small places that need extra safety precautions.

I would recommend these for anyone with any breed; and would place them on my "essentials" list without a doubt.  With their rounded end, comfortable grip and small size they make tiny snips a breeze.  I've even used them to cut gum out of Elsa's paw that she picked up somewhere along one of our walks.

Long ago I had a pair of rounded tip scissors but they very quickly went in the trash once I acquired these little guys

The company also has a scissor trimming kit which looks like kinda cool.  I have not used it but for anyone wanting to do more trimming without an electric trimmer it could be a good alternative.   

So for those you would love a pair of i, sharp and safe scissors; these little babies just might do the trick.  

Leash pulling

Leash pulling dogs

Sitting in the coffee shop, sipping my organic home brew I enjoy the view from the outdoor patio down by the coast.  My seat allows me a great vantage point for people and dog watching; a bonus activity after a business meeting.  The sky is overcast which lends itself to more human/canine out enjoying the weather.   As I sit savoring the view; a woman walks by with a HUGE mix breed.  She is literally being dragged down the street behind her dog.  Obviously her monster of a dog is on a mission.  It is unclear if the guardian is aware of the mission or not but she is being dragged along for the ride.   

I hate seeing guardians being dragged by their dog.  Why?  Because I know that the human part of the team is not enjoying their together time with their dog.  With a little training they could both be enjoying the walk instead of just the dog. 

Even tiny dogs can be a drag to walk if they are doing the dragging.  Why do dogs drag their humans on a walk?  They drag their guardians because no one ever taught them to walk differently.  It is as simple as that.  Leash training should start as soon as possible; as soon as you add that little bundle of fluff to your family, it should begin.  If you’ve added an adult dog to your family then start with them immediately as well. 

If your dog already has an ingrained dragging behavior; it will take longer to get rid of but you can do it.  Starting today, don’t allow it.  This means when your dog pulls, you cease to move.  Very literally STOP and don’t move until they offer you some slack on their leash.  No cheating, you cannot give the slack, it must be them.  So you stand completely still and wait for them to move back, offering the slack needed to keep walking.

You can also implement the reward system for loose leash walking.  When your dog walks without pulling, reward them.  Using tiny little bits of treats, keep them coming.  I like to use the “catch” behavior as well.  It not only keeps your dogs attention on you, it is a great behavior to fall back on.

A dragging dog is no fun for anyone, no matter what size they are.  You can start working on it today.

Bicycles and dogs

Bicycles and dogs

I have a new bike and I'm super stoked about it.  After years of not being on a bicycle; my biking days are now back and I'm loving it.  I bought a beautiful crossover or hybrid bike.  This means that I can ride on the pavement/asphalt or dirt and grass.  So I've been out riding as much as I can trying to feel "one with my bike," after a long absence.  :) 

Having fun and being active is my main objective.  Enjoying the freedom of speed I am also very aware of safety.  I wear a helmet and am constantly scanning the environment around me.  That includes dogs.  Those who love to ride bikes must stay very aware to the dogs around them. 

I was riding down a path this weekend, where there were folks walking their dogs.  I zipped off and on the path when needed; always giving pedestrians and dogs the right of way.  Judging the distance of leash guardians had given their dogs and making sure that they knew I was coming; I took the needed amount of space between them and me. 

I am writing today because I had a few moments with dogs that I needed to address.  The first was an area that was very close quarts.  As I rode down the path, a more narrow path was ahead of me.  At the entrance of the path was a couple with their dog.  Their actions made me get off of my bike.  They had cornered their dog; the husband put his leg across the dog and the woman had a stick in ready.  Hmmmmmmm.  This looked like an accident waiting to happen.  Clearly the dog was not going to be okay with me riding by.

I got off my bike and gestured for them to go ahead.   "He loves to run with bikers," they explained as the dog dragged them my way.  "I could see that he was focused on me" I said back to them.  Before I could scoot around them the dog was sniffing my bike.  "How did you know?" they asked.  I told them I was a dog trainer and then we had an impromptu Q&A.  Being that I wanted to continue my ride I quickly answered some of their questions and started to move away.  The dog went into full CUJO mode where they continued to explain what was going on.  I already knew, smiled and continued my ride.  

The dog wanted to control my movement; he was not interested in a fun run by my side.  The dog's guardians were being ruled by their dog.  As long as I stood where he wanted me to stand, things were fine.  But when I took it upon myself to move away, he was not.  Had I just rode my bike passed them; I have no doubt that I would have had to deal with a large Lab/Border Collie lunging at me.  

The next incident was one where I also got off of my bike.  I was riding a long a path and saw a couple of women up ahead with their dogs off leash.  Off leash dogs is not something you like to see when you are on a bike.  I slowed and watched where the woman were going to take their dogs.  They FINALLY saw me coming and moved away from the path.  I got off my bike, both dogs were herding type dogs so I knew they would be more prone to my bike as a trigger. 

What happened next really shocked me.  One of the woman leashed their dog, which was good.  The other woman put her dog between her legs and held onto the collar.  As I got closer, the dog went so crazy that the woman could barely hang onto her dog.  This was direct at me just walking by, I had already got off my bike thinking about what might happen.  The other dog was on high alert, ready to pounce when given the chance.  Neither of these dogs should have been off leash EVER in public.  

So, I love my new bike.  I will enjoy it whenever I can.  Dogs are often triggered by bikes, it is a common occurrence.   It is much the same as walking vs. running trigger chase.  Many dogs have very strong chase drive; so this is something that a rider must be aware of.  Always be prepared to react to a lunge.  Always be ready and give yourself more space when riding by dogs.  

If your dog is not accustom to bicycles or has the drive to chase them; you must take extra precaution.  One lunge, even if the dog does not connect; can send a bike rider off of their bike resulting in a serious injury.  Keep your dog by your side and hire a positive trainer to help you to desensitize them with bicycles if needed.  

By desensitizing and counter conditioning, bicycles can be a problem in the past, very quickly.   

Private dog training

Private dog training

Private dog training, let's break it down.  (I love using definitions)  ;)

  1. Private - confined to or intended only for the persons and or dogs immediately concerned.
  2. Dog - a domesticated canid, Canis familiaris, bred in many varieties.
  3. Training - the education, instruction, or discipline of a dog that is being.

Private in-home dog training is one of the training services that I offer.  The other services are online consultations which is beneficial for those who don't live in my area.  

But my private in-home is a hands on type of training; highly personalized for you, your family and your dog.  This is essentially all about you.  Your home, your dog, your training.  

What are the benefits of in-home personal training?  

  • You have my undivided attention.
  • Training approach is specifically for you and your dog.
  • Training within your home allows me to see environment that you and your dog live in.  Enabling to work up a highly personalized training regimen.
  • Training in your home allows me to show you exactly how to train your dog in your day to day.  
  • Being in your home allows you to show me exactly what is going on and where.
  • In-home makes it easy for us to walk through a day in the life of you and your dog. 
  • We work on a plan that will specifically fit your family and your dog.

I love working one on one so to speak; with a family and their dog.  It gives me the chance to concentrate on only you.  You and your dog that is.  It is a great way to implement the whole family into the training.  No distractions, very specific training work, hands on demonstrations giving you the confidence to do it yourself.  

From the moment I arrive at your home until the day that I leave; there is a huge transformation in you, the family and your dog.  My job is to train you and the family to train your dog.  There inevitably comes the day when I have to say goodbye; and on that day, I have given you all the training to take it from there.  Of course there is always the open line of email and phone help when the need arises. 

Private in-home dog training.  I come to your home, your family and your dog to work on your problems.  Nice.