Training and behavior

Dog litter boxes

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Hello, you’ve stumbled upon this blog because you were looking up litter boxes for dogs. I commend you for doing your research and hope to explain my opinion on the subject fully.

Am I in favor of litter boxes? Yes, but yes with conditions. So here goes.

Breeders who opt in on litter boxes are very smart. Why have your puppies peeing and pooping all over when it is very easy to teach them to go in one place. This is most definitely a plus and the very beginning steps of house training.

Anywhere from 8-12 weeks a puppy typically goes to their new home. Now this is where I differ in my opinion to the next steps of how a litter box should be used. Breeders who have been teaching and using the litter box method of elimination will often send home a box and litter to their new puppy homes. The new guardian is instructed on how to set up the box and keep the usage ongoing.

But what are we teaching our puppies by putting a pee/poop box in the house? That’s right, to pee and poop in the house. When we bring home a new puppy we have the chance right then to change things. If they are accustom to using a litter box then we can utilize that learning with a twist. When I brought Riggs home he had been using a litter box with pellets in it. It was wonderful to see the puppies go into the large box and relieve themselves. But I didn’t want him thinking that he should relieve himself in our house so I declined the box but took home some of the litter.

Once we got to our house I put some of the wood pellets out back in the yard. The transition took all of a few moments. We took him out to where I had placed the pellets and presto, done. The pellets remained in the grass for a very long time (months). They sort of fell apart and lay beneath the blades of grass. When we went out each time I would sort of give them a kick to release the wood scent and Riggs would immediately relieve himself on them.

I do not agree with using litter boxes once the puppy goes to their new home. That is unless you are planning to continue the use of a litter box in your home. I AM… a big fan of litter box usages for those who work long hours where their dog cannot get out to relieve themselves. Or those who live in an apartment and will utilize the benefits of a litter box.

It goes without saying that litter boxes are better for small dogs. If you use one with a big dog then it has to be a very big box, so that’s kinda gross in your home. But for small dogs in an apartment or condo, a litter box may be a wonderful thing. I know that I worry about my dogs getting out if I’m away too long. It is what always keeps me watching the clock.

Imagine if you work long hours and your dog has no where to relieve themselves midday? How great would it be if they could just go in there litter box and be comfortable? It can be an ideal situation for dogs who cannot get out for long hours at a time. I recommend them for this. But if you are going to want your dog to go outside and they will not be using a litter box in your home in the future, ditch it now.

I commend breeders who use litter boxes with their puppies. Those little suckers can learn big stuff right from the get go. But send your new guardians home with just the litter if they will be using their backyard as the “go to” spot. For those with an apartment or who will be using the litter box forever, have at it.

That’s my opinion on the subject. Have a fabulous weekend.

New Puppy Frustrations

Yep, you can do it. Just read this and you’l be ready to go.                                                 Buy this book

Yep, you can do it. Just read this and you’l be ready to go.

Buy this book

Do you have a new puppy? Are you going out of your mind with frustrations? Are you asking yourself “what the heck were we thinking?” Believe me when I say “this is normal and it too shall pass, more than likely.” There are those who completely change their mind once they have a puppy. They either had no idea what they were getting into; forgot what it is like to have a puppy or it may be a very bad match. No matter what the reason, there is a learning curve and hump to get over.

Believe me when I say “even dog trainers get frustrated with new puppies.” Truly. I think the most important advice that I give to new k9 guardians or those with a new puppy is “you can do it.” It is absolutely essential that you think that you can. I can guarantee that if you feel incapable of training, caring and teaching your puppy, you will be.

Having a puppy can be tough if you have no idea how dogs communicate, function or think. But with just a bit of information you can have an “AH HA” moment and be on your way to a wonderful relationship. I cannot tell you how many times my clients have said “Sherri you make it look so easy.” Well, that is because it is for me, it’s what I do. But it can be easy for you too once you understand what you are doing.

Hire a positive trainer, read a positive reinforcement book or new puppy book like the one I wrote (wink wink). Don’t be stubborn. After all we are humans and we barely get by with trying to communicate with each other let alone trying to teach another species. Help is close at hand.

There is a great deal to understand about guiding a puppy through the early years; even before the actual obedience training begins. It is all about understanding each other and yes you can.

YOU CAN DO IT, I KNOW YOU CAN!

Dog behavior issues

Learning manners

Learning manners

Are you dealing with k9 behavior issues? Do you feel like pulling your hair out daily because you feel overwhelmed about what to do? This is so normal…believe me, even dog trainers feel like this now and again. When I see a new behavior that I don’t like I take a breath and think. It is easy to go to a place like of helplessness; throwing your hands in the air and giving up. That’s usually when I get the call; and when we address the problem and the guardians ALWAYS wish that they would have called sooner.

As I always say each dog, person and problems are different. But hiring someone who can sit back and figure out either where the problem is coming from or how to fix it is easy peasy. With our new boy Riggs, we are dealing with lots of new stuff; many behaviors that I have addressed with client dogs but not my own. So in my home I have to consider how best to change it.

Many things factor into changing a behavior and the longer it has been going on, typically the longer it takes to change. A committed guardian is a big aspect; along with consistency and clear, precise directions and steps to take. The more complicated and foggy a solution to change a behavior is; the less likely the guardians are going to stick with it. I have long learned that people will only do what they find doable. This is huge to understand as a k9 consultant specializing in behavior modification.

I truly love helping people to smooth out a relationship with their dog. It is why I have a FB page and go live often on most of them. There are no stupid questions; asking questions makes you look smart in my books.

Dog lessons on the fly

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“Don’t stop” I shared with my client. I’d already explained why you should not stop when working with walking issues. But it’s hard for humans to not stop and address. The other day Elsa and I were out and about very early. I enjoy getting our walk in as the sun just starts to rise. It’s quiet, peaceful and just what we both need to start our day. Also as we are now into spring and nearing summer; early walks are an essential part of living in Southern California.

So we were out walking when I saw a man and his small, white fluffy dog far off. I’m a scanner, something I think is also essential when you are a canine guardian. I saw him as soon as he stepped out onto the path. Like I said, he was far off. He quickly kicked into his training mode when he spotted us. He told his dog to sit and continued to tell the white fluff that there was nothing to worry about. Clearly the dog had leash aggression. Where the leash aggression came from I do not know but this is how he was dealing with it.

He was addressing the issue wrong (in my opinion). Our dogs are master readers, meaning that they see everything that we do. Each and every movement or request we give is a cue to them. So what may seem like a reasonable control request can soon become a cue for an issue.

Let’s take leash aggression like the man mentioned above was dealing with. His dog may not have seen Elsa and I but as soon as the man stopped, the dog would have begun to scan. It is a cue that the dog takes when another dog is approaching. This man not only asked his dog to sit; cuing the dog of some impending danger but he did so from far, far away. They sat there for the longest time…like the Austin Powers steam roller segment in the movie.

What he should have done in lieu of stopping and waiting…forever, was to keep moving. Keep moving and show his dog that we were a non issue. When a dog has behavior issues with something; be it an inanimate object, other dogs, people with big hats or little kids; it is our job to show them that these things are non issues and keep moving. Of course this means that you must learn to reward on the fly.

Counter conditioning implementation on the fly can take some practice but it is well worth it.

Counter - contrary; in opposition

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

So if every time you see the trigger for your dogs reaction, you stop; then it only fuels that reactive behavior. When you keep moving you instill a “who care” attitude so that your dog can learn that it means nothing to you. Then by adding something good, a tug toy, treats or a ball to the situation; it then goes from a bad thing to a good thing. Make sense?

Love to hear from you. Leash issues are the biggest and most common thing that people deal with.

Puppy biting and/or nipping

PUPPY BITING

Looking down at my wrist, I didn’t have to think long before coming up with today’s blog topic. Puppy biting, ahhhhh…those wonderful/horrible little piranha teeth. The above image is where Mr. Riggs raked his ever so sharp k9 across my wrist. My husband and I had been away for five days at a family event; and when we returned home, both Elsa and Riggs were over the moon with joy. Well, this is how it played out for me.

As I stood soaking up the blood dripping from my arm; I discussed the past five days with my pet sitter. We were both surprised by the scrape because Riggs is very much a soft mouth. I feel very lucky to have a lesser piranha that many puppies. Oh, I’ve had really bad piranhas over the years. Both Tilley and Elsa were horrible piranhas; and I clearly remember hearing “MOM” when my kids couldn’t handle the biting.

Let me just put this out there…

PUPPIES BITE

Puppies bite and they should bite so that we can teach them to bite/nip gently. Puppies who never lay a tooth on another creature never get the feedback required to learn how to use their mouths correctly.

The first thing that many new guardians do when I arrive for a training session is to very angrily say “NO BITING” as their puppy begins to feel me out. I quickly let them know that I am fine and that I want to gauge their puppy’s bite inhibition. As I talk to my new clients; asking questions about their puppy, I am being chewed upon and assessing.

Bite - to cut, wound, or tear with the teeth:

Inhibition - a restraining, arresting, or checking of the action of ;

Puppies need feedback, it is how they learn. Without feedback how are they to know if their biting is bad or not? So when I address nipping it starts out with the hardest biting and moves on from their. We offer feedback for the ouchy bites first. Then move onto the lesser and lesser pressure bites. Finally moving onto the “no teeth on skin” rule. This rule is the k9 guardians to make or not.

Having your puppy play with other dogs can really assist with bite inhibition. Other dogs will let your puppy know when they are using their mouths incorrectly. Other dogs will yelp or scold a puppy for biting too hard. This is what we need to do as well. Paying close attention to the pressure of a bite; offer feedback for the hard ones. A loud “OUCH” is typically enough feedback for a learning curve. But if you have a puppy that does not respond to a loud “ouch” then leaving the room abruptly may be required.

Action/Reaction

The scrape shown above on my arm was from an over exuberant k9 tooth raking across my arm in joy. Riggs was doing the very typical arm hold greeting. Unfortunately puppy k9s are the last to go. He has lost the bottom right one but still has three more. I will be more than happy when they are gone.

A New Puppy

First alone walk on the beach, big time life experience for baby Riggs.

First alone walk on the beach, big time life experience for baby Riggs.

You’ve got a new puppy, where do you begin? What are the first things you need to do? Let’s discuss.

With the addition of a new dog to your home and family, there is much to do. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard from new guardians “I don’t know what to do?” Puppies are a lot of work and there are many important things to teach them before you even get started on the official obedience stuff, that is other than “sit.” “Sit” is so very important to teach right away; it is the beginning of learning about manners.

We have a new puppy and it has been a ton of work; puppies are a substantial amount of work up front. But the pay off for all your hard work is a well mannered k9 member of the family. Like humans, all puppies are different; each comes with it’s own personality and issues. Some require more work than others; there is not a one size fits all when addressing the addition of a k9 to your family.

With Riggs nearing the 5 month mark, we’ve been busy. For the last 5 days my husband and I have been away on a family trip. What this means for us is getting back at it hard and intense. Much of the rules and regulations that I have instilled have gone by the wayside with my absence. So we have started off this day with strict rules and Riggs is remembering easily.

Without even addressing the obedience stuff (other than sit) there is so much to work on. Food guarding, nipping, jumping, house training, crate training, socializing (life experience) and so, so much more.

My book above covers all the things that you need to know when you have a new dog. Without getting into too much official “obedience;” it covers all the essential basics that you can address to avoid problem issues down the road. It is a must read for any k9 lover or guardian (if I do say so myself.) ;)

Our human world is vastly differently than that of the k9. It is our job to assimilate them into our world as best we can. Some have a more difficult time than others but they can all “get it,” with our help. As our dogs age and things start to become easier, we will drop the ball to a degree. This is how we humans work for the most part, myself included. So when we begin a new relationship with a canine we must start off with a bang.

That new little canine brain has got so much to learn in a very short time. And I have to say that I cannot believe what they can learn in a fraction of the time that we learn. They are amazing, truly.


Training and treating

Full attention

Congratulations, you have a new dog. You’ve done your research and decided that you are going with positive training. First, good for you; your dog will thank you for it. There is much to know about positive reinforcement training; the first and most important part is timing. Timing of the delivery of the reward, be what it may. Timing will be saved for another blog; today I’m discussing the actual treats or rewards. What do you use when?

The difference between the results of using a low value versus a high value treat can be amazing. Low value treats are used around the house when you want to say “yes, that is what I like.” High value rewards are used for difficult times, big distractions or major attention requirements.

Just the other day I took Riggs to a favorite walk destination where Elsa and I have frequented over the years. It is a marina/harbor on the coast. Dana Point Harbor is beautiful and a must see for anyone visiting from out of town. The walkways through the yachts, pelicans, squirrels and turquoise water is a hot spot for folks walking with or without a dog; and is a great place to get in some quality life experience.

Recently on some of my “live” sessions on FB I have explained how walking Riggs is very much like walking a kite. Well, that’s the best way that I can describe it so I knew that I’d need to up the value of my treats if I’d want some attention in such a high stimulus area. Armed with a full pouch of ground turkey and beef we head to the harbor. Yep, messy, messy.

The difference was incredible. As soon as the first piece of beef/turkey was delivered I had Riggs’s undivided attention. The contrast between low value and high value was remarkable. In fact I had to lower the value at times during our walk so that he could experience everything around him. When I needed undivided attention, I got it.

But positive reinforcement is not all about food; it is about incorporating whatever motivates a dog. I use a great number of reinforcers - tug toys, balls, catching , a squeaker, whistle etc. You need to know what motivates your dog.

If it is food then you need to dish out the rewards appropriately. That means that they need to have the right amount of value for the moment. Too little and they are useless; too high and the dog cannot even think straight. It is a juggling act.

Value - relative worth, merit, or importance: the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange.

It’s not what we consider to be valuable; it is entirely up to our dogs on what is valuable. This is why it is essential to know your dog. Or to have a trainer who can very quickly discover what motivates your dog.

Motivation - something that motivates, inducement; incentive:

If you aren’t sure what you are doing, hire a trainer. Buy a great book or schedule and online consultation for extra help or some questions that you might have concerning the whole “reward system” of positive reinforcement training.

Now, go train your dog.

Leash aggression

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Leash aggression has got to be the most common problem that k9 guardians deal with on a regular basis.

Leash - a chain, strap, etc., for controlling or leading a dog or other animal; lead.

Aggression - the practice of making assaults or attacks; offensive action in general.

There are many reasons for leash aggression and most are not true aggression. Leash aggression can be caused by fear, over excitement, lack of education or a misplaced leadership status. There are some cases that are truly dominant aggression but most are not. Even the friendliest of dogs can display leash aggression.

Let’s take Mr. Luke (now gone nearly 4 years) for example. He was one of the worst leash aggression cases that I worked with, yep my dog. The funny thing about Luke was that he was also one of the friendliest and most stable dogs with other we’ve ever had. He was a rock solid lover, not a fighter. Even if a dog picked a fight with him; he’d laugh it off, turn on a dime and head the other way. Many a dog were left standing alone as he chose not to fight, ever.

But the love of my life sure had a blustery case of leash aggression. So where did it come from? As soon as we strap a leash onto our dogs they change. Their ability to move and communicate freely is taken away. They are also close to us, their guardian and may have a guarding behavior kick in. Body language communications are misread as our dogs movement is restricted. Excitement can be misread as aggression when a dog strains at the end of the leash. Back and forth the dogs are misreading much of what could otherwise be a friendly greeting.

A few bad experiences can lead to leash aggression as well. A face to face greeting gone wrong can lead to going on the defense. I am not a fan of face to face on leash greetings. Dogs get tangled, get too close, send wrong communications due to the leash etc. etc.

So what do you do if your dog displays leash aggression? You find the trigger and change the association. Is it other dogs? People? Cars? Once you discover the trigger then you find what most motivates your dog; food, balls, tug toys, catching etc. Then you associate the trigger with the great stuff. Depending on how bad the leash behavior is will factor in on your time to full or partial recovery. If you really want to get rid of leash aggression; then you will implement many different things to connect a positive association to the trigger.

Along with the great “thing” you need space. Space if your friend when dealing with leash aggression. You will not achieve success if you walk right up on the trigger. You must distance yourself far enough to NOT elicit a response. So for some people that may mean 6’ away, 12’ away or 50’ feet away. Once you achieve a tiny bit of success then you can reduce the space by small increments. i

One of the biggest factors in leash aggression is us. Yes, we humans can fuel a leash aggression problem so it is imperative to get a grip and get your chill routine down to a t.

Hire a trainer to help, they will let you know what you are doing right and wrong to solve your leash issue.

Change in dog behavior

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Canine behavior is an intricate thing. It is imperative as a canine guardian that you get to know your individual puppy or dog. Each dog is different so how your dog responds to a stimulus will be different compared to how my dog responds.

This past weekend my husband and I took Elsa out for a good hard run. When we got back she was exhibiting some strange behaviors. What can sometimes be a normal occasional leg kicking thing became strange when it was happening over and over. Elsa was donkey kicking her left back leg and chewing at her foot. She was kicking her foot drastically as if something was stuck on it. Several times I went over her foot; feeling between her toes, her ankle and around each nail bed. I could find nothing. Something was definitely bothering her.

My husband and I sat watching her; trying to figure out what was going on. Could it be a bee sting I wondered? I ran and got a Benedryl just in case. If it wasn’t a bee sting, the meds would just make her sleepy and I wasn’t taking any chances. Looking closely into her eyes it did look like her pupils were dilated a bit. Watching is so important when you are trying to figure out a change in behavior. I was witness to her anaphylactic response to a bee sting years ago and didn’t want to see it again.

I got a wet cloth and prepared to clean her foot. It was bothering her so I was very careful. I gently held her foot and dabbed the cloth on the bottom of it. Her response to this was a huge and high donkey kick which landed just above my eye. It happened so fast and landed hard. She stood there watching me. I hadn’t anticipated a kick in the eye. I went back to watching.

We changed our plans for the day; she was not being left alone until I saw that she was going to be okay. So off we went to the car wash, storage unit and then home for a nap as her benedryl kicked in. After waking from her nap she was a new woman, she was fine. I don’t know if she indeed got a bee sting, perhaps twisted a toe or what but she is now fine.

A change in behavior is always worth noting. Dogs don’t just change for nothing. Of course there can be changes that happen over time but when it is sudden it is important. There could have been many different things that caused her to be making sudden and drastic donkey kicking motions. The important thing is that she’s fine now. Super happy and her normal self. I’m super happy too.

Walking your dog-walking 101

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As Elsa and I rounded the corner we came across a group of women walking about 30 feet in front of us. One of them had a red miniature poodle with them but the other women were dogless. They were chatting about working out and were deep in conversation. The woman with the poodle was oblivious to what was going on with her dog, pretty typical. She was walking and talking away to her friends and never once glanced down to see what her dog was doing.

What was her dog doing? Trying to get away from her. The little poodle was trying to escape the constant yanking on his neck. With every swing of her arm she inflicted a pretty good yank. The more she swung and yanked the more the dog tried to avoid it; pulling to the very end of his leash in his attempts to avoid the yanks. Of course the harder he pulled the more severe his yanks were; it’s physics.

I often see dogs straining and ducking, trying to get away from their swinging leash. Sometimes it’s the hook on the leash that is hitting them in the face; other times it is just the leash, and in this case it was the constant tugging.

Many, many years ago I learned to still my leash hand; the hand that is holding the leash is kept motionless. Sitting quietly by my side, maybe tucked into the belt of my pouch or bent up over my chest, the leash hand lays dormant, inflicting nothing for Elsa to avoid.

There are times when guardians become so oblivious to their dogs pulling that they themselves are oblivious to their yanking. Every time their dog pulls at the end of the leash they yank. Much of the time they don’t even know that they are doing it; and it becomes a vicious circle of behaviors.

Is your dog enjoying their leash walk? Do you look down every once in a while to see how they are doing? Are you aware of how you are walking? Are you also aware how your walking is impacting how your dog is walking? Sometimes we just need someone else to tell us what is going on. Many guardians don’t take a big interest in how they are walking, just that they are out walking their dog. But there is a good way to walk and many bad ways to walk.

What is your leash hand doing?

Next time you are out somewhere with your dog, look around; do you see people causing their dog to move away from them? Now, how do you walk your dog?

Need help? Call me.

Service dog in the making

Sheppelley, service dog in the making.

Sheppelley, service dog in the making.

I was excited to see her again. It had been 5 months since I first looked into those dreamy eyes. Just a week ago I spoke to this gorgeous girls breeder about seeing some of the puppies that I had temperament tested back in May and she told me about Sheppeley and Lindsey.

In April I had contacted Craig and Laura of Poodle Store about their beautiful puppies. We chatted back and forth about health and temperament testing and they asked me to come and temperament test their litter in May. I was thrilled, temperament testing is my favorite part of being a dog trainer. Spending a couple of hours with 7 week old puppies is never a bad thing. So in May I head to their home to test 9 seven week old puppies.

I love temperament testing; it is such a fascinating and enlightening test. Each puppy is brought out alone to a stranger (me) in an environment that they have never been before. They are put through a number of tests to see who they are and what sort of family they would best thrive in. After doing the whole litter I exclaimed “really nice litter.” Of course when I’m testing a litter I usually fall for one or two of the puppies myself. In this litter I had a favorite in the the girls and the boys. But the little brown and white girl with the beautiful eyes really stole my heart.

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Now I found myself meeting Sheppeley (Claire when I first met her), the little girl who had stolen my heart so many months before. It was at Sheppeley’s new home where I met her human; the one who chose her to be her service dog. Sitting down in their backyard, I watched. And what I was witnessing was pure magic. I have never seen such a devoted 7 month old. She watched her guardian like a dog much older than her age; and had a calm about her that made me wish I had brought her home with me when I met her.

After meeting Lindsey and seeing the amazing connection they have at only five months into their relationship; I was happy that I had not brought her home with me. Here is where she was meant to be and I have never observed such a kismet moment.

Lindsey is a phenomenal woman. At 26 years of age she has been diagnosed with Dissociative Disorder, Social Phobia, Bipolar and Rheumatoid arthritis. Sheppeley will be Lindsey’s psychological service dog; and the human/canine team are already extraordinary to watch. It is almost unbelievable to see Sheppeley at work at only 7 months old. Her job is all about watching her charge and learning to sit still.

As I listened and watched, Lindsey told me about her search for a service dog. At every turn she was brought to the Standard Poodle. Once she’d decided on the breed she searched for a breeder and was turned away many times because of her list of diagnosis. That is until she found Craig and Laura. She explained her situation fully to them and not only did they not turn her away; but they offered to pick her up and bring her to see the litter on a day when she was having severe driving phobia. They helped her pick out the right dog for her and have continued to stay in touch. Great folks going above and beyond.

Lindsey and I sat and talked for an hour and a half. Sheppeley was so well behaved for the entirety of our discussion. She had one little puppy moment of wanting to eat a leaf but other than that she was watching Lindsey and responding to anything she thought she might need to alert.

Sheppeley is learning her life tasks which will include:

  • finding exits in a building for Lindsey.

  • forward momentum pull, to ground Lindsey and get her moving.

  • physical support.

  • DPT - deep pressure therapy. DPT involves a dog using its weight and sometimes warmth to mitigate a psychiatric symptom, often either as a calming strategy or to minimize disengagement from the world. ... Large dogs can be trained to provide DPT by lying on the person's lap or chest when the handler is sitting or lying down. (taken from psychdogpartners.org)

  • cover, standing in front of Lindsey to get her needed space.

  • block, standing behind Lindsey to get her needed space.

  • corner check, checking areas where Lindsey feels insecure or paranoid about going in. Sheppeley will check it out before Lindsey goes in.

  • alerting Lindsey to her mood changes and anxiety.

  • bring Lindsey her medications.

Lindsey

Lindsey is a naturally amazing dog trainer. Not only does she need a service dog to help support her but she is training Sheppelley herself. Lindsey credits her earlier years with horses plus her good friend and dog trainer Charlie Ridge for producing her intuitiveness in training. Charlie’s unconditional support has given Lindsey her true passion for dog training and that passion emanates from her.

As we sat and talked, Lindsey’s attention never left her duty to Sheppelley. She is quick to give feedback and get Sheppelley on the right tract. After about an hour of watching them work together I said “you are always in trainer mode.” “Yep” she replied. So for now while Sheppelley is in training; if Lindsey is hit with anxiety or a mood change, she needs to be working through it while teaching Sheppelley, which is a huge challenge.

Lindsey told me that she was overwhelmed when she first brought Sheppelley home by the sheer magnitude of what lay head. She has since set to task for what needs to be done; knowing that in the near future she will benefit from her hard work and dedication. She has a lot of work ahead of her and has already run into some obstacles. She told me that because she is not in a wheelchair or visibly handicapped she has been judged about having a service dog. Especially now because there are so many fraudulent service dogs out there in public. But her attitude is to take the high road and try to educate when she can. I know I learned a great deal from her and much appreciate her candor in telling her story.

Being that I have lived with Standard Poodles for over 33 year I was curious about Sheppelley’s grooming. When I asked Lindsey about Sheppelley not looking “poodley” she stated that because she knows she may be judged for needing a service dog; she wants Sheppelley to look as much like a “working dog” as she can. Although from where I sat there was no doubt that they are working and extremely serious.

service dog

Sheppelley

Sheppelley is an extraordinary little lady. At seven weeks of age when I first locked eyes with her, I knew that she was special. She was a little pistol with something extra. She had that something that you can’t put a finger on, but know that it is there. At 7 month old now she is incredible and her dedication to her human, fascinating.

When I temperament tested this little girl; her eye contact was what drew me in. I love eye contact and she offered an abundance of it. She came readily and was very happy to meet me, a big plus. Sheppelley had little startle visually and offered more eye contact during the restraint test. Aside from a nice temperament test; she had that something extra that made me think she was going to be a very special dog for someone. I was not wrong.

Sheppelley will have a big job to do and I know that she is up for it. Seeing her sit and watch Lindsey’s every move at just 7 months of age gave me a glimpse of what she is capable of. Sheppelley’s natural ability to watch and respond to her humans needs are impressive to watch. It seems like she was born to do this job and is very happy doing it.

When Sheppelley is working she wears her Service Jacket. When she is not required to work she has it off and can do as she pleases. Her jacket specifies that she is in training and that you should not touch her. This is very important as she goes through her training and learning to pay strict attention to Lindsey. Sheppelley is well on her way to becoming a phenomenal service dogs, thanks to Lindsey’s need for her and natural talent for training.

Sheppelley will not only help Lindsey once she is trained; but already helps by simply being Sheppelley. Her need for around the clock canine daily care gives Lindsey a job that needs doing. Lindsey states that her life is fulfilled with Sheppelley in it. The two are quite clearly unstoppable and will make a mark on this world of ours.

Sheppelley is already alerting about 15 times a day for Lindsey. She is learning what needs to be alerted on and what doesn’t. Their partnership and connection is new but intense. I have rarely seen such a bond between new guardian and puppy at this age.

I want to thank Lindsey for sharing her story with me and Sheppelley for being the missing piece of the puzzle in Lindsey’s life. I would also like to thank Craig and Laura from Poodlestore for being wonderful breeders and humans. I feel honored to have met all these wonderful humans and Sheppelley.

You can follow Lindsey and Sheppelley on instagram at Simply_Sheppelley

Psychiatric Service Dog partners

Anything Pawsable

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.

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.  

 

 

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.  

 

 

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.

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. 

 

Communication - human/canine

A clear communication

A clear communication

Elsa and I head up the hill towards the lake at one of our favorite spots.  As we neared the bend a woman stood on other side of a narrow road with two large dogs in one hand and her phone in the other.  She kept nervously watching us as we continued.  Needless to say I was now watching her and assessing what exactly was going on before continuing any further.  She yanked at the dogs over and over again; pulling them in to an inch beside her.  It was what she did next that caused me to make the decision to u turn with Elsa. 

Watching the situation with the woman, dogs and phone carefully; it was obvious that she was not comfortable with us passing by.  Trying to balance her phone conversation and two large dogs she then held up one leg and put it in front of the dogs.  Okay, that was enough information for me; I did a quick u-turn and head back down the hill, taking our walk in a different direction.  

 The woman's body language clearly stated "I don't think I can control these guys with one hand."  She was not giving up on her phone conversation so she was hoping to rely on the one leg up and the other leg balancing to do the work.  Hmmmmmmm....

Sometimes it's just best to turn around.  She was not blocking our way at all but I saw the scenario as an accident waiting to happen.  A simple direction change rectified what I saw as a possible situation.  As we turned and head the other way I looked back to see the woman loosen her grip on her dogs and continue her walk.  So it was a win, win. 

Coming across someone who looks like they have no control over their dog can be as intimidating as a loose dog running around.  It fact, it was a woman who had lost control of her Bulldogs while still on leash that attacked Elsa several years ago.  I do not want to be the victim of someone's lack of control over their dog.  Either get control of your dog or don't have a dog so large and strong that you can't physically control it.  

The woman with the two large dogs had communicated to me that she was not confident in her ability to control her dogs.  Having both hands available and not trying to carry on a conversation; she may have been quite capable of controlling her dogs.  I clearly understood her body language because that's what I do.  I read.  Not everyone sees communication via body language and it is a big problem.  

Just the other day Elsa and I were out in a big open field playing catch.  A man with a Labrador started approaching.  Seeing that he was coming our way, I made a clear communication by moving further down the field.  He should have seen this "I don't want to interact," but he didn't.  He kept coming so I upped my communication.  I abruptly turned and walked away.  Nope, he was still coming.  It boggles my mind.  Finally I leashed Elsa, turned around completely and started walking away.  He then called out to see if they could play together.  Wow!!!!

Canines are far superior to us in the reading body language department.  We humans can in fact communicate without ever having to open our mouths.  But whether or not the other person we are trying to communicate with can read or not is the question.