Training and behavior

Change in dog behavior

46094161_10218262593982188_6213188596216627200_o.jpg

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

elsa3.jpg

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.

43603046_10218111956376342_5466692111594160128_n.jpg

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.  

 

Canine relationships

29354747_10216408720796517_8192971718952987179_o.jpg

We have a house guest.  One of my Granddogs is here for the long weekend.  I have often had Penny here for several days or a week; but this time our visitor is Luna.  Luna is a little rescue mix.  We are not sure what she is but she looks like a mix of cavalier and Japanese Chin to me.  

Luna is a very tiny girl with a big luxurious coat.  She came from a rescue group with no past information on her life before her new one.  She is not fond of new people until she gets to know them.  It can take a couple of visits but once your in, your in.  She is not a fan of large dogs but likes others her size.  

When we introduced Luna to Elsa it took sometime until a face to face was advisable.  Luna is a very alpha female.  Elsa is a fun loving, highly energetic, rambunctious girl., mature and non submissive.  In other words she will always choose to play over anything but will not back down when confronted.  In the beginning of their relationship, Luna wanted to be the boss; telling Elsa what to do and when.  Knowing that Elsa would not appreciate this in her home, we took our time.  

As you can see from the image above, they now coexist.  If it was up to Elsa they would be best buddies.  When Luna arrives at our house, Elsa spins, leaps and smiles.  They charge out to the backyard where Luna stops.  She gives Elsa a "look" to remind her that she does not indulge in this crazy behavior.  Off they go with Luna peeing in the yard and Elsa peeing on top of every single pee that Luna does.  Is in Elsa's yard and she knows it.  

Not all dogs get along the in the same way.  Many relationships need a great deal of work to a good place.  Luna and Elsa now hang out together.  Luna is not a touchy feely type with Elsa and so they co-exist.  They can eat together and are at this moment on my bed together as I write.  The bed could be an issue but I have made it a very structured event.  Supervision, supervision.  

I love when I see them lying together on their own.  It is a funny relationship but it is just that, a relationship.  No relationship is the same as another.  Luna sleeps in another room and is only allowed on the bed while I write.  The bed is Elsa's special place and sleeping with me is her right as my constant companion.  Both girls are sound asleep right now, nice.  

When it comes to dogs and relationships with other dogs; you must look at each as a separate entity.  If you have a houseful of dogs; each will have a different relationship with each other.  You cannot force a relationship but you most definitely can nudge it with very careful work.  Knowing your dog/dogs is essential.  

I know that Elsa loves other dogs who are non threatening.  She will always choose to be friends if the other is willing.  That said if the other is pushy or threatening then it will not go well.  Luna is use to being the boss lady so she has had to learn that she cannot be the boss in this house.  

I have to laugh when I watch Elsa choose to lie beside Luna outside in the sun.  The look on Luna's face is priceless.  Her expression and body language clearly says "really blondie, you have the whole place and you have to lie right here beside me?"  :)   

 

Indulging our dogs

 Those eyes, honestly.

Those eyes, honestly.

 Do you indulge your dog?  I do.

Indulge - to yield to an inclination or desire; allow oneself to follow one's will

There are days when Elsa gets to accompany me where or what I want to do.  Other times we go out it's all about her and then there are times when we get to both indulge.  

So what did we do today?  

Very early this morning, as the sun was just starting to hit the open field; we were out there indulging Elsa.  She was getting a good long round of Chuck it in.  With my hands tucked into my fleece jacket I tried to keep them warm from the early morning chill.  I was indulging Elsa.  That is why we were at the park so early in the morning; for some nice long Chuck it indulging.  

With her tongue hanging out and my fingers nearly frozen we head for home.  Once home we had some downtime for Elsa to cool down and I jumped in the shower.  After about an hour we ate.  We basically shared our breakfast.    I heated some some yummy Filet Mignon left over from the night before, scrambled eggs, added spinach, a little cheese and yum.  Elsa enjoyed it as much as I did. 

With the bulk of her exercise done, a rest time and full stomach we got ready to go out again.  We were heading to the outdoor mall for some shopping.  I wanted some new shoes and I know that Elsa is more than welcome at this specific mall; even inside the stores where the employees welcome her with open arms.  So off we went.

Once we were there I further indulged my girl.  Being that it is very dog friendly there is a lot of peemail to read and Elsa loves to catch up on her mail.  We meandered through the mall stopping at every single tiny bush.  I wasn't in a hurry and it makes me happy to make Elsa happy.  

To indulge is not a bad thing; if it is something that you want and you will not regret the indulgence.  Want to skip the gym and hit the donut shop?  Do it if your not going to obsess over the decision.  

I like to indulge Elsa at least once a day.  That could mean a great long retrieve session, maybe going to the park, a long slow peemail walk or play date with a friend.  If we can both indulge at the same time then we get to do more fun things together that we both enjoy.

Indulging is a good thing if you will not regret the decision.  If the end result is not worth the indulgence, then skip it.  

Do you consider the things that your dog would like to indulge in?

 

 

Frustration in dog training

ext.jpg

Every person is an individual; every dog is an individual.  

Individual - a distinct, indivisible entity; a single thing, being, instance, or item.

This reason alone is why dog trainers need to be very flexible in the training approach.  There is no one size fits all when training individual dogs.  Knowing how a dog reacts to stimulus is very important when working towards a positive training session.  

I am an instant gratification type person.  Not that I need reward instantly but when working on a project, I don't like the finished result being weeks or months out.  Which is why I love digital photography so much; snap an image, plug it into your computer, presto!

Some dogs need rewards or success more often.  I have seen dogs being trained who become frustrated when they don't succeed fast enough.  They may even shut down, cease working at all as they have given up.  So what does frustration look like?  

  • walking away
  • barking at you
  • stress triggered behaviors like yawning
  • quickly offering other already known behaviors
  • shutting down

If  your dog becomes frustrated easily; breaking a behavior down into tiny baby steps can help to eliminate this.  Some dogs need such tiny steps and constant positive feedback that you may need to pre-plan your behavior lessen.  Sitting down and figuring out the steps needed to get to the final behavior should be thought out.  

Some dogs will "get" the whole behavior taught at once; but many need it to be broken down to avoid frustration in the learning process.  Neither  is better or smarter than the other.   The success lies in the trainer knowing how to teach the dog.  The ability to see a dog struggling is so very crucial to happy and successful training.  

Teaching your dog to shake

shake a paw

After sniffing the treat, Yogi stopped and gave me eye contact.  Asking "what do I need to do to get this treat?"

 

Shake a paw.  Everyone wants their dog to shake, right?  Strangers often walk up to dogs expecting them to "shake."  

Shake a paw is cute and very easy to teach a dog to do.  It can be evolved into other cute behaviors like high five and waving.  So how do you teach a dog to shake?  Patience, much like many other behaviors; you need to wait until your dog offers a behavior.  The best way to ingrain a behavior is for the dog to figure it out themselves.  That means no cheating.  No grabbing their foot and shaking their paw for them.  

The way that I teach the shake exercise utilizes both lure and shape training.  The lure is a piece food in the hand and the shape is waiting for the dog to paw the food.  

 Sniffing the treat under my thumb

Sniffing the treat under my thumb

Here's how

  • Put a small piece of food (not too high value) in the palm of your hand and cover it firmly with your thumb. 
  • Place your hand on the floor near your dog with your palm facing up.
  • You can break the exercise down into many baby steps but I normally prefer to wait for the pawing action.  But if a dog is easily frustrated I will then break the behavior down into baby steps (next blog) to avoid this. 
  • Wait for dog to paw at your hand and immediately open hand, rewarding dog.
  • Do this until the dog is reliably pawing at the hand immediately.
  • Then remove the food from the hand and put it into your other hand and behind your back.
  • Place the empty hand on the ground in the same position with thumb on palm and wait.
  • As soon as the dog paws at the hand reward them with food from the other hand.  Repeat.
  • Next paw attempt, hold your dog's paw gently while rewarding.
  • Move hand up from the ground and remove thumb from palm
  • Add verbal cue "shake, give me paw" etc. 
  • Gently add a full foot handshake while rewarding.
  • Be careful to never grab the dog's foot negatively (too hard, too long, too much shake).  This could create an unwillingness to continue. 

So there you have it, the shake.  

Yogi didn't get the shake behavior at my house on this day as we only worked for a few minutes on it.  I was showing his Mom what to do when she went home.  After a few moments at home working on it Yogi's Mom accomplished the highly prized "shake."  

 Trying to nudge the treat out of my hand

Trying to nudge the treat out of my hand

You can evolve this behavior to the high five and wave by simply moving your hand slowly to different positions and rewarding.  

 

 

 

Dog training help now. Online Consultations!

27973250_10216006485020874_5688233276432484686_n.jpg

No matter where you are...

"I need help, right now" the email said.  The woman was having some huge canine issues with her new puppy and needed HELP!!!!!!  I replied right away "I can help right now."  I sent her the questionnaire and we began immediately.  

The new canine guardian had been ready to pitch everything.  She was starting to regret ever getting a dog and was ready to give up.  Sometimes you need help right away; and that help can come in many forms.  One form of help that I offer is my online canine consultations and I have to say that "I LOVE IT."  I love being able to connect with people right away.  The ability to get them started on their very personalized remedy to their problem with their dog, instantly is wonderful.

So what does my online email consultation look like and who can benefit from this service?  First it is a very cost effective remedy to your canine behavior issues.   We work via email which enables us to communicate back and forth over a period of time.  This lets you, the canine guardian get to work right away.  We can span the emails out as far as you like.  As you and your dog make progress we walk through new things that arise until you have a handle on your problem.

And it doesn't matter where you live, which is the greatest thing EVER.  

Online canine consultations are geared to those who want to address their problems.  That means that I tell you how to help your dog.  Then you tell me how its going and we work on fixing more, until you are happy with your dog's behavior.  Sound good?  

I offer local hands on behavior modification but I'm not limited to local anymore.  I love helping people all around the world with my online canine consultations.  

Often a couple of emails are all that's needed for a canine guardian to be on their way to complete success.  And I might add, they did all the work; which I believe is essentially important for the best possible outcome.  This is because a guardian needs to understand what's going on. With the personalized give and take of an online consultation, that happens very naturally.

So wherever you are and whatever your canine problem, shoot me an email.    

  

Dog on a leash. Pay attention!

 Fanny pack gone wild.  :)  I had to bring several balls with me to this beach in Connecticut.  Other dogs stole the balls all the time so I had extra bags to put the wet balls in.  

Fanny pack gone wild.  :)  I had to bring several balls with me to this beach in Connecticut.  Other dogs stole the balls all the time so I had extra bags to put the wet balls in.  

I see ducking dogs everywhere.  Team after team stroll past Elsa and I; at the beach, the park, malls and street, ducking.  What do I mean ducking?  

Ducking - to avoid or evade a blow, unpleasant task, etc.; dodge.

Humans strolling along, walking their dog with their arms swinging back and forth.  Along with their arm swing is also the leash swing, perhaps a poop bag swing if you are one of those folks who attach a poop bag holder to the leash.  While the leash swings the dog ducks to avoid the constant and annoying leash and/or poop bag holder hitting them in the face or head.  

When I am working with a client on walking, loose leash walking or heeling, I'm all eyes.  I was trained as a youngster in obedience by a very strict obedience teacher.  She was unfortunately a harsh conventional method trainer but that was many, many years ago when there was nothing else.  She watched our every movement looking for things that would interfere with the robot like obedience we were training our dogs to do.  

The obedience teacher hated when the human students swung their arms about willy nilly.  She'd scream at you until you stopped.  If you held your body crooked, you'd hear about it.  Anything that was unlike a statue was not allowed.  So, although I hated the training method; movement was something that was drilled into my head.  To this day, the arm that holds Elsa's leash is motionless, typically held by my waist.  For those students who did not catch on to the "no flailing" rule; they were told to keep their hand in a belt of waist of pants.  

I see people walking along, not paying any attention to who is on the other end of the leash.  The leash can be whipping them in the face, their collar half pulled over their head, the humans hand even hitting the dog in the face as it swings.  So many dogs walk very far away from their human simply due to an avoidance behavior.  The guardian has no idea that their dog is not enjoying the walk because of the swinging.  

When you walk your dog, pay attention.  Yes there are times when something can happen for a moment and you might miss it.  But typically if you look down at your dog on a regular basis you'll notice this kind of stuff.  Does your dog strain at their leash?  Either sideways or backwards?  Well maybe they are trying to avoid the swing.  

The whole poop bag holder is a big thing now.  I don't understand attaching one to a leash, honestly.  I wear the very chic fanny belt; although it is not on my fanny.  ;)  I carry everything I need on a walk in it, poop bags included.   

So pay attention.  Ask someone to watch you walk.  Be aware of what your body is doing.  Along with the annoying face swapping, there could be other things going on that you have never noticed.  

What is your dog afraid of?

 I captured this image shortly after the first feather incident.  She is clearly not herself and very concerned and other feathers in the area.  Poor girl.  

I captured this image shortly after the first feather incident.  She is clearly not herself and very concerned and other feathers in the area.  Poor girl.  

The other day I was discussing fears with my husband.  I thought long and hard about what I'm afraid of and came up with sharks, bears and alligators.  Other than that, there aren't a whole lot of things that would send me running the other way like Fred Flintstone.  

Fear - a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil pain, etc.  

Our dogs have fears as well.  Like us they are all different and what one might fear another will not.  Elsa has a very strange fear; although when I dissect it I can figure it out.  Nonetheless it is a fear and it is most definitely real to her.  Elsa is afraid of feathers, but not just any old feathers.  She is afraid of ones that have recently come off of birds that are lying around outside.

Today I tried to capture a video of her when she first sees or scents a feather, but I missed it.  Just about a week ago when we were out walking at the harbor, she had the biggest reaction that I have ever seen.  The height and distance that she jumped after locating the feather had me laughing, I couldn't help it.  She had to jump 3.5 feet in the air and about 7 feet in distance.  All in her attempt to get away from the feather.  

Once she has seen and labelled it a rogue feather then she is skittish on the rest of her walk. Luke had the same huge recoil when he saw or scented a snake skin which was also something I had not seen before in any of my dogs.

So what can or should you do about a fear?  React the way that you want your dog to react.  In other words, pretend like it is no big deal at all.  Our dogs watch us to see how we respond to things; so if you coddle your dog when they are fearful, the fear grows.  If you ignore the fearful trigger then you will be helping them to conquer their fear.  

The feather fear of Elsa's is a strange one.  I assume it is because it smells like a real creature yet just sits there frozen.  Frozen posture is a bad thing.  Feathers from a pillow or craft bag do not instill the fear, only fresh from a bird feathers do it.  So when it happens I just keep walking as if nothing happened.  Although I am probably snickering, which is a good thing as far as vocal feedback.  

Show your dog how you want them to react by reacting calmly in response.  Even if you have to fake it big time.     

Runaway Dogs

"Is she a bolter?" the sitter that I was interviewing asked.  I probably turned my head much like Elsa does at the question, what?  "Will she take off out an open door?" she asked, rephrasing her question.  "Oh no, no" I replied.  "But you'd want to be careful anyway," I said.  The whole idea of dogs that run away is so strange to me.  I've never had one that would, just take off.  Jessie was probably the closest thing to a runaway but it was just her terrier trigger that got the best of her sometimes.  

My dogs have always seemed to have a magnetic pull to our home.  Let out of the car and the door is where they head.  I remember a very long time ago someone left a gate open at the side of the house.  Luke was a youngster at the time so he went out and around to the front door.  My neighbor saw him standing at the front door and rang the bell for him.  I opened it up and there he was, wagging to come in.  What a guy.

There are things that will draw a dog away, a distraction, something interesting to go see; but taking off and running away is entirely different.  Why do dogs run away?  There are many reasons that a dog will runaway.  Being scared is a big one; they are often not even in a normal state of mind when this happens, they are just running.  A lack of exercise.  It feels good to run free and let out all your ya ya's.  A positive reinforcement can fuel your dog to run.  If they get out, have a great run around, maybe meet someone else or find some food along the way, presto...you have the desire to run.  

A lack of bonding can also cause a runaway.  Is everything out there better than you?  Does your dog think that the grass is greener elsewhere?  Maybe it is, you need to look at your relationship if you have a runaway.  You should be the most important thing in your dog's life.  This takes time, commitment, trust building and fun.  Even if you have a couple or more dogs; you should still be the most important thing to all of them individually.  

How do you become the most important thing in your dog's life?  Bonding.  Time spent together, training, feeding, grooming and trust building.  All of these things make you important.  In the beginning it is food, treat rewards that are worth hanging around you for.  Then with time comes the connection that grows.  You need to be present in your dog's life to become that special someone.  The one that your dog turns to for everything.  

Runaway dogs are no fun.  If you have one you need to figure out why they are running and fix it.