Diane Mitchell – Trainer, Animal Instincts Dog Training and Obedience

Hello, I would also love to welcome Diane Mitchell to the team! Diane is an amazing trainer and specializes in dog sports. She will be teaching Agility, Rally Obedience, and General Obedience. Here is what Diane has to say about training, “I love helping dogs and owners understand each other and grow as a team.”
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Diane started teaching in 2009 at Best West and most of her background is in the sport and activity zone. She played Flyball for 13 years with 4 different dogs, her biggest accomplishment was with her Sheltie, Vega. He retired with his Grand Champion title. Diane also competes in Agility, Disk Dog, and Rally-O with her dog Blue, a Border Collie X. Her other dog, Static is retired from the sports scene. Static is a 10 year old Australian Cattle Dog.
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I met Diane last winter when she was assisting Kev Roberts and the Oxford Dog crew in Skijoring/Kicksledding class. Diane loves to go Kicksledding in the winter with her pups. After meeting her there, I knew I just had to take one of her classes. I took her Body Building, beginner Agility/dog sports class at TLC and it was just amazing.
Since taking that class, Diane and I have discussed her coming on board as a trainer and I am so excited that it is finally that time!
Diane will not only be a trainer, but she will be the manager of my retail section at the new dog daycare, Wooftopia Dog Training and Recreation Centre.

 

Puppy Training Basics

Hey there!

Sorry it has been so long since I last wrote anything! I have been getting quite a few questions from recent puppy adopters about some of the basics so that is what I will be writing about today. I mean really, who doesn’t love a puppy?

Bathtime!

First of all I want to mention a common mistake that is made by puppy owners. Teaching your puppy to shake a paw is SO easy right? However, puppies lack the impulse control to really learn what shake a paw means. Therefore, your puppy will just paw at you until they get something and will continue to do so as they get older, and bigger. This may be cute when they are pawing at you until a young kid comes by and gets pawed in the face…Generally I won’t teach a dog shake a paw until they have good impulse control. Sometimes this can be at 8 months, and sometimes it won’t be until a year and a half.

Ok let’s get started on the good stuff!

Keys to Successful Training

  • Patience – Be patient while training your dog. If you are feeling frustrated, take a break. Your dog will feed off of your energy and thrive in a calm, supportive setting. It is best to train a specific behavior in short periods of time, I usually suggest 3 – 5 minute sessions an evening, and make sure to end on a positive note.
  • Set them up for success – Always start your training in an environment where you are confident your dog will be 100% focused on you. By setting your dog up for success, they will get a better understanding of what you want them to do and thrive.
  • Continually train – Your dog is always learning, therefore you are always training. It can take a dog hundreds of repetitions before learning a behavior. This means that outside your regular training sessions, make sure to always reinforce wanted behavior.
  • Consistency – Dogs thrive on consitency and structure. You need to be reinforcing the behaviors you want every time and make sure that everyone else in the household is as well. If you train your dog not to be on the couch, but your kids always let him onto the couch, your dog will become confused and not know what you want him to do. Consitency is key in successfully training any dog.
  • Using the right rewards – Make sure to find a reward that your dog goes crazy for. This may be a certain type of food, toy, bone, or attention. When using food, toys, or bones, make sure to only let your dog have this during training times, this will make him more motivated to please.
    Food rewards should only be the size of half of your pinky nail, regardless of the size of your dog. Make sure to account for these in your dog’s daily food intake as you will be using a lot of them and do not want to be overfeeding.

House Training

House training can sometimes be tricky, but with some consistency and patience, your pup will get it in no time! There are 2 focuses when house training, to teach the pup to go to the bathroom where you want them to go, and to discourage them from going where you don’t want them to go. Make sure to get an enzyme based cleaner to eliminate the odor if they do happen to go on the carpet, I recommend Nature’s Miracle found at most pet stores.

Until your pup is house trained, you will need to be watching them at all times. Either have them tethered to you, or contained when you can’t be watching (in a kennel or gated area).

  • As soon as you see your foster sniffing and walking around an area, get them outside! Use an excited voice “Come on, let’s go outside!”
  • Once they go to the bathroom outside, make a big deal of it and give them a few treats.
  • REMEMBER if your foster has already gone inside, there is no point in yelling at the pup, or forcing their face into the mess. This will just cause the pup to develop fear issues towards you, or certain places in the house.
  • Once your dog is doing really well at house training, start giving them a little more freedom. If you are in the living room, let them be loose in that room. You can close off spaces with baby gates or x-pens if you need to.
  • REMEMBER set them up for success! Don’t give them freedom too fast as you do not want them to go backwards in the training process!
  • REMEMBER some dogs will go to the bathroom more than once. Just because your foster just went to the bathroom outside, does not mean that you can let them loose in the house. They could go inside a minute later!Bathroom Schedule:
  • As soon as they come out of the kennel, make sure to not give them a chance or they will go where they stand!
  • Before going back into the kennel
  • After a nap
  • After play time
  • 5-10 minutes after eating/big drinks of water
  • Ideally, your foster pup should be going outside every 1-2 hours while you are home
  • REMEMBER, the more freedom you give your pup and the more opportunities they have to go to the bathroom in the house and the harder it will be to train them to go outside.

Nipping

Nipping is a normal stage for your puppy to go through. Puppies explore with their mouths, so it is up to you to let them know what is okay to chew on and what is not. Nipping can also be brought on by teething pains, similar to a human child. To alleviate this pain, you can freeze a wet towel or some teething toys for them to chew. Make sure to have A LOT of acceptable toys and bones around that your foster is allowed to chew on. Dollarama has a great selection of affordable chew toys for puppies.

  • Start out the training right, teach them what you want them to do rather than showing them what not to do.
  • Start by rewarding calm behavior. During play times with your foster, don’t engage the pup until they are sitting and being calm.
  • Completely ignore them if they are jumping at you, even you telling them “no” and pushing them away is giving them what they want: attention. During play times, stop them, wait for calm and then start to play again. A tug toy is a great tool for teaching these behaviors.
  • If your dog is consistently nipping at your heels, try going into a room for 30 seconds, coming out, and rewarding for calm behavior.Or put them in a “positive time out” in the kennel to calm down with a treat or toy.
  • Have A LOT of toys for them to chew on. Different options to redirect them from chewing on your hands, clothes, and other items.
  • Train “LEAVE IT” and “DROP IT”

Nipping

Leave It

  • Start with some treats. Put a treat in a closed fist, once the dog stops sniffing and trying to get the treat out, use your verbal marker, “YES” or click and reward FROM YOUR OTHER HAND. You will never be giving your dog the “leave it” treat. REMEMBER to do this as soon as they, even for a second, back off.
  • Once the dog is consistently leaving the treat alone, start to add the verbal cue “leave it”
  • Once the dog understands the term “leave it”, you can up the criteria using an open hand.
  • Does your dog have that down pat? Now move onto putting food or toys on the floor, “leave it” and then releasing them with your release command. “OK”, “BREAK”, “FREE”, or whatever you have chosen to use.

If you are feeding your dog off of the counter while cooking dinner, or off of your plate while eating, it is making your dog to think that there are treats for him on there, therefore causing him to beg or counter surf. Giving your dog treats from your dinner is OK as long as you wait until you are done eating, and give it to them in their dish or away from the eating situation. REMEMBER that your dog is always learning and you are always training! Once your dog gets really good at leave it, start adding it into your walks when he is trying to eat something he shouldn’t, or is barking at a dog walking past.

Drop It

  • Start with some treats. Say “DROP” and drop a few treats on the ground. Make sure to point to the treats so your dog gets used to your hand being near whatever he is dropping. Do this 5-10 times in a row.
  • If your dog loves toys, start with something that isn’t his favorite. “DROP” drop the toy, pick it up, and give him a treat. If your dog picks up the toy, say “DROP” and offer him something better in return when he drops it.
  • Now, give the toy to your dog. Say “DROP” and offer him something better, either a high value treat, or toy he likes more.
  • Continue to go through these exercises using objects/food of more value to him. If he ever stops dropping the toy, back up a few steps.

Jumping

Jumping is similar to nipping. You always want to set your pup up for success and reward them for the behavior you want. Pushing them down is also rewarding them because they want attention. They jump up to be closer to your hands and face, they are also used to getting treats from above them. Consistency here is key. Make sure the whole family and any visitors now not to give the puppy ANY attention when they are jumping up.

  • Walk away from the puppy, as they come up to you put a treat on the ground in front of them before they have a chance to jump up. This is teaching the puppy that good things come when they stay on the ground.
  • Now continue to walk around and as the pup gets to you, treat on the ground. Continue this for about 3- 5 minute sessions a day.
  • REMEMBER if the pup starts to jump on you, wait them out and reward on the ground when they stop.
  • Make sure to have treats at the front door when you come home or guests come over!
  • If your puppy gets MUCH too excited when people come over, put them in a room or their kennel when they first come. After your guests get settled, let the puppy out and make sure they treat him on the ground and do not give him any attention when they are jumping up or nipping. You can even have your puppy on leash and reward him for calm behavior, ask for sits, etc…..

Well folks this is a great starting point for all you new puppy owners out there! What is my NUMBER ONE RECOMMENDATION FOR PUPPY OWNERS you ask?!?!? Enroll your puppy in a socialization class!!!!!!! Your puppy is at SUCH a pivotal age where anything can change how he sees the world. Socialization is super important to get your puppy used to new people, sounds, objects, surfaces, etc…As well as to teach them focus and basic obedience. Send me an e-mail if you are interested in enrolling your pup in my upcoming classes desiree.mckay@gmail.com or look for a positive reinforcement trainer near you!

Do you have a puppy? What has been the hardest part about training? Let me know in the comments below!

Is Your Dog Listening? Common Mistakes in Dog Training

I recently read a great article on some of the most common mistakes made when training your dog. This inspired me to write about some of the errors I have noticed in my classes and private training sessions.

Dogs obviously don’t speak our language, therefore do not understand what you are asking of them until you teach them. If your dog isn’t listening to you, it is because they don’t understand what you are asking. They also don’t do things out of spite, they do things because they are bored, or they are getting some kind of reward out of the behavior.

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1. Saying the cue before the dog understand what it means

When you begin to train your dog to do a new behavior, until they catch on, they don’t know what you are asking them to do. Therefore when you say the word “sit” and they don’t do it, they won’t learn what that word actually means. First lure your dog into the position with a treat, or wait until he sits on his own. Once he gets the hang of it and starts offering it to you, then start incorporating the verbal cue.

2. Saying the cue more than once

I see this ALL the time.  Like I mentioned before, dogs do not understand us until we teach them to. Therefore when we say “sit, sit, sit, sit….” they aren’t learning the specific word, or action for that word. All they hear is a jumble of sounds, similar to how the adults sound on Charlie Brown. OR they are learning that the cue is “sit, sit” so you say it once, nothing, then you say it again and they respond. They are waiting for you to say it twice. In consequence, they are also learning that they don’t have to listen to this command every time. An example of this is when you call your dog to come in from outside “come” and they don’t listen, they are thinking that they don’t have to, or can whenever they want.

3. Asking your dog to do something while they are distracted by something else

Is your dog sniffing that tree, or trying to chase that rabbit? Well, they likely are not going to listen to you asking them to “sit” or “come” as you are not going to be as exciting as whatever they are focused on. Therefore, you don’t want to be asking them one of these cues because they will learn that they don’t have to listen to it! This is where treats come in. Make sure to use a high value treat in environments where there are a lot of distractions. Examples include, chicken, liver, tuna, hot dogs, smelly cheese, etc while on a walk. Use a sound to get your dog to pay attention to you, or use an excited “Let’s GO” cue to get him moving. Once he is paying attention to you completely, then ask for a behavior.

4. Down/Off cues

When teaching your dog a new behavior, remember to have a different name for each one that is easy to understand. A common training mishap I see people making is using “down” for lay down, and getting off of the couch or counter. So, use “down” for lay down, and use “off” for getting your dog to move off of something. Dog’s can learn a lot of new behaviors over time, just make sure they are all distinguishable and you will have your dog getting you a drink out of the fridge in no time!

5. Lack of verbal marker or clicker

This is always the first topic that I go over in all of my obedience classes. Your dog will catch on to what you are teaching them much faster if you use either a verbal marker or a clicker.  The marker, such as “YES” or a click, is used as soon as your dog does the behavior, and then you treat. Just as your dog’s butt is hitting the ground “YES” or click, and treat.  This will teach your dog that when they hear the marker, they are doing what you ask and will therefore learn much quicker. They may even start to offer you a bunch of known behaviors until they hear that click and then they will understand exactly what you want them to do. For more information on clicker training, check out my blog here.

6. Too much too soon

Remember, you always want to set your dog up for success. Did you do some recall training inside for 5 minutes and they were so good at it you took it outside but they wouldn’t come back to you? That is because you added in too many distractions too soon. You want to continue to work on the training with minimal distractions and slowly add in others over time. The slower you go, the stronger their response will be to whatever you are asking them to do. Again, make sure to bring a HIGH VALUE treat when adding a new distraction. If you ever get frustrated, take a break!

7. Rewarding unwanted behavior

 Does your dog keep jumping on you no matter how much you push them away or say “no”? Or do they continue to pull you over to snuff stuff while on a walk? That is because you are rewarding the unwanted behavior! Think about when your dog does something bad, are they getting some sort of reward from it? For example, when they jump on the counter, are they getting a snack? Or when they bark at the window, is the dog walking away? They are either self rewarding, or getting a reward from you. When a dog is jumping up at you, you pushing them away is still what they want, it is attention. Try to ignore that bad behavior and reward your dog when they are sitting calmly! When your dog is pulling you on leash, they are getting the reward of either going forward or getting to sniff what they are interested in. Try stopping and not moving until they offer you a loose leash. Keep your counters clean, or curtains drawn during peak walking hours during the day. Your dog is never trying to be the “alpha” dog, he is doing things because he gets something out of it. For more information on the alpha/dominance theory click here.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? You will be surprised at how much difference just a small change can make when training your dog. All dogs can learn new behaviors, you just have to learn how to teach them.

What mistakes have you noticed yourself making? Let me know in the comments below!

Is Your Dog Trying To Be The Alpha? Doubt It!

Unfortunately many trainers still believe in the dominance/alpha theory. This is harmful because it prevents owners from understanding what their dog is actually trying to tell them.

This “dogs are wolves” theory started in the late 1960s. The underlying meaning is that because dogs and wolves are the same species, they must behave the same way. A man by the name of David Mech trapped several wolves and put them all in a pen to observe them. He came to the conclusion that wolves “pack” and “dominate” each other, therefore dogs must do the same, right? Wrong.

wolves

As science advanced, Mech continued his research but started to observe wolves in their natural habitat. He came to a much different conclusion, the model of the wolf’s supposed “fight for dominance and alpha status” was replaced with one where parents and older siblings guide and lead the younger ones. Now, Mech has written and edited many books on this subject stating why his earlier observations were misinformed and explaining his observations of packs in the wild.

Since that time, studies of the domestic dog have also moved on. It has been well established that the social behavior of the domestic dog is not the same as a wolf. Humans have been breeding dogs for thousands of years to not only work for them, but to be companions. These adaptations have removed the need for them to operate as their wild ancestors. Although dogs do congregate in groups around resources, they do not form packs in the cohesive family way that wolves still do.

The concept of “dominance” itself has never been a quality of an individual, but the product of a relationship. In fact, the relationship of the pet dog to human, is much more complicated than to just label it as one trying to “dominate” the other. Dogs do certain things because they are getting some sort of positive reward from it. They jump on the counter because they find food, not because they are trying to show you that they are “alpha” and can do whatever they want, they bite people because they are scared and people misread or ignored their warning signs.

person-and-dog

Dog training has come a long way scientifically and to continue to label so many issues as “dominant” and “alpha” is doing a disservice to the dog and owner. So get some treats, and start rewarding for the behavior you want and you will in turn, have a great partnership for many years to come!

Interested in leaning more? Check out this great article here!

“Squirrel? WHERE?!?” Training a Reliable Recall

Does your dog come when called? Let me rephrase the question. Does your dog come when called immediately, no matter where you are,what you are doing, or what is around you? The majority of the dog owning population will say that generally their dog comes to them when called inside the house, or in the yard, but not as much at the dog park. A response I get when I ask about how someone’s dog’s recall is at the dog park is “Well, they don’t come when I call, but they don’t go too far.” Well, what if a squirrel is across a busy street, your dog gets out the door and bolts. You call for him but he is too distracted by the squirrel. A good recall can save your dog’s life, not to mention is a great training tool!

Now, how do we become more exciting than said squirrel? Depending on your dog’s personality, this can be a long process but by using positive reinforcement, setting your dog up for success, and making training fun, the end result will be worth it.

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Focus

Step 1:

Start in an area with few distractions like a room in your house, or your yard.

  • Get some tasty treats, something soft and cut into pea-sized pieces as your dog will be getting a lot of them.
  • Have your dog sit in front of you on leash, when he gives you eye contact, “YES”, or click (if you use a clicker) and treat.
  • Make sure you reward your dog when he is looking at you, not while he is looking away, or else you are training him that looking away gets a treat.
  • Once your dog has this step down, add in some distractions, either the backyard, driveway, or on a walk.
  • REMEMBER, you aren’t using the word “come” yet.

Step 2:

  • Now start moving backwards away from your dog. Reward for him following and looking at you. Make sure to make it REALLY fun!
  • Once your dog has this step down, add in some distractions, either the backyard, driveway, or on a walk.

Step 3 – Leave It:

  • The next step is to toss a treat, out of his reach, when he goes towards it, he is learning that when he isn’t focusing on you, he doesn’t get the treat. Make a whistle sound to get him back to you, reward for eye contact, say “OK!” and walk on a loose leash to go get the treat you tossed on the ground. This is also teaching your dog to ask permission before running off and playing with that other dog, or chasing a rabbit.
  • Now start walking around and having your dog follow you. Treat for eye contact and focus.
  • Once your dog has this step down, add in some distractions, either the backyard, driveway, or on a walk.
  • Once your dog begins to leave the tossed treat before you give the “ok” cue, start incorporating “leave it”.

Step 4:

  • Now graduate to a long lead. If you have a very strong dog, I would recommend investing in a proper one from the pet store over one from Dollarama.
  • You may need to start inside if your dog is getting too distracted with his new found “freedom”
  • Go through the steps in exercises 1-3.
  • Add in a fun chase game! Say “Let’s Go” or whatever term you choose, and run the other way! When your dog reaches you and sits, reward him. Reward him to getting to you and sitting, and then reward for his continued focus being on you.
  • You can also start incorporating a fun game like tug when your dog gets to you. You never want your dog to come to you, and have the fun stop. Make sure to play a bit of a game or give some free treats before leashing and leaving the park.

Now that your dog is coming to you every time, start incorporating the term “come”. Start inside with no distractions to introduce the cue and move up from there. When you start your dog off leash, go through all of the steps again. REMEMBER if your dog ever stops focusing on you, back up a step, change up the treat or toy, or take a break. Although you are consistently training, specific training sessions should never be more than 3-5 minutes long, depending on the age of your dog.

REWARD your dog every time he comes to you throughout your day. When he comes to you, make it SUPER fun.

Does your dog have great recall? What training methods worked for you?

Dogs: Not Too Cool For School

Scenario 1: You just got a new puppy or adult dog and think, “I won’t do classes with this one because I did with the last one and I still have the notes.”

Scenario 2: You have had your dog for years and you think, “I’ve had my dog for 5 years, I don’t need to take any classes now.”

Scenario 3: You think, “My dog already knows sit, down, and stay, I don’t need a training class.”

Sure, classes are a great learning experience for your dog, but that isn’t the only benefit. Training classes are a great way to create a bond with your pet, entertain them during the cold winter months, getting them involved in great activities, having one on one time with one of your multiple pets, and training impulse control.

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“Who’s Walking Who” leash manners workshop

Puppy Socialization

Socialization is so important and your dog is never too young to start training! Your dog will start to imprint fears in the early stages of his life, therefore it is important to safely introduce him to new situations. Puppy socialization classes are a great learning tool as the puppies learn to be around other dogs and people in a safe environment.

My Puppy Manners class focuses on helping to raise a well-mannered, balanced dog. You will learn fundamental obedience skills through games and interactive exercises, with a focus on techniques to help prevent puppy nipping, chewing, and jumping.

Puppy Manners is about building a stronger bond with your pup, and practicing daily skills with other dogs and people in new environments.

Basic Obedience

When a dog hits about 8-9 months old (exact age can vary depending on the breed) it is officially in his adolescents and can stay in this life stage until close to 2 years. Training your dog during this time is important because they will start getting more interested in outside distractions and may listen a little less, even when given commands they already know.

My Basic Obedience class focuses on basic obedience skills for dogs eight months and up. We  cover the basics, including sit, stay and down, but this class is so much more than that!

Our focus is helping you to connect with your dog by creating a lasting bond. By the end of this class, you’ll have a strong understanding of your dog’s body language as well as know how to exercise your dog both mentally and physically!

Advanced Obedience

Continuing on with your training is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog. Dogs were bred to have jobs so learning new tricks/tasks keeps their life more interesting, makes them want to please you, and keeps them from chewing up your shoes while you aren’t home.

My Advanced Obedience class dives deep into formal obedience. Topics include: sit-stays and down-stays at a distance, sit-stays and down-stays for long time periods, greeting behaviour and impulse control.

A mentally stimulated dog is a happy dog!

A mentally stimulated dog is a happy dog!

REMEMBER: There are a lot of classes out there! I try and switch up my classes all the time so I am offering something new, and focus on what participants want to learn. Don’t want to do another obedience class? Try a for fun agility class, or a few fun workshops! I offer workshops on specific types of socializing for puppies, fun tricks, hand targeting, leash manners, and more!

A dog is NEVER too old to learn new tricks!

If you are interested in taking one of my classes click here for more information and to register.

All classes are $120, 15% discount is given to Manitoba Underdogs Rescue alumni, and $10 off for all dogs adopted from a rescue/shelter. Classes are held at the Riverview Community Center at 90 Ashland Ave, Winnipeg, MB.

Not from Winnipeg? Make sure to find a positive reinforcement trainer near you!

Setting Your Dog up for Success

How is your dog training going? It your dog succeeding in whatever you are teaching him? If not, perhaps you are doing too much too fast or using the wrong treats.

Setting Your Dog up for Success

REMEMBER, starting small and setting your dog up for success is the key to training. Start inside, where your dog will be completely focused on you. Once your dog has mastered the task, start adding in distractions. If you move up a step and your dog stops paying attention to you, either move back a step, try a different treat, or take a break. Five 3-5 minute sessions will be much more productive than one long session.

  1. Start inside with no distractions. This way, your dog will only focus on you.
  2. Move outside to the back yard, or the driveway.
  3. Add it in during your walks.
  4. Add it in at the dog park while off leash, or other highly populated areas.

Here is a chart with the varying places of training and what treats should be used at each time.

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This is just a general chart. These can obviously adjust depending on your dog’s tastes.

Four Keys to Successful Training

  1. Patience – Be patient with your dog. If you become frustrated, your dog will sense that and not understand your expectations. It’s best to train frequently for short periods of time and always end on a good note.
  2. Set them up for success – You have to let your dog succeed in order for them to move ahead successfully. If you move your dog forward too quickly, you will never get to where you would like.
  3. You are always training – Just because your training “session” has ended, keep rewarding your dog for offering you good behavior!
  4. Consistency – Just like kids, it is important for dogs to have rules and boundaries. It is also important that ALL family members follow the rules and participate in the exercises. Consistency is the key to a well-mannered dog.

Some soft bought treats that are my favorite are Zukes. They come in 2 different sized packages, a variety of flavors, are made in North America, and are only 3 calories a treat! REMEMBER, you will be using A LOT of treats during training time so make sure to adjust your dog’s regular food intake so they don’t gain any unwanted weight.

What is your dog’s favorite treat? Let me know in the comments below!

Brain Games for Dogs

How do you exercise your dog? Do you exercise their brain too? Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Throughout history, dogs have been bred to have jobs. Sure, most of our pets aren’t working dogs, but none the less they still need something to do to keep busy. Dogs that are heavily exercised but lack outlets for mental stimulation suffer from an imbalance that can lead to several behavior problems. If you exercise your dog well but don’t provide mental stimulation, a possible result is a wonderful but bored athlete that has the energy and physical fitness to destroy lots of things or participate in many undesirable behaviors!

It is important to give your animal the opportunity to perform various activities each day. If your pet spends an hour a day barking or gnawing on the table legs, it is probably lacking stimulation. If you provide a variety of structured activities, it is likely that the undesirable behavior will decrease or be extinguished. For example, if your pet spends 30 minutes to an hour per day eating instead of wolfing food down in 5 minutes, it will have met a large part of daily activity needs, and will be less likely to destroy the couch or dig holes in your backyard!

Feeding Your Dog

How do you feed your dog? Do they get meals in a regular bowl and wolf it down in seconds flat? Just think! All of those rewards being wasted in just a few minutes. Use it for training exercises or stuff it in a kong or other treat dispensing toy and make them work for it! In the video above, you can see Nanu eating her breakfast out of a kong. Buy or make a few different dispensers and switch them up but remember to always put them away after they are done with them. You don’t want it to be available to them all of the time because you want it to be a novelty.

Home Made Treat Games

You don’t have to break the bank on expensive treat dispensers for your dog! Pick a few good items (like a kong) and try making some others at home.

  • Different types of plastic bottles or containers. Make it interesting! Use some with the lid off, and some lid on and cut holes into the plastic in different places. Just make sure not to leave any sharp edges.
  • Put pieces of kibble or treats in a muffin tin and cover each indent with a tennis ball. Remember, you want your dog to be sniffing out the food so make sure not to fill each hole and always leave different ones empty.
  • Put kibble or treats underneath different Tupperware containers and get your dog to sniff them out and figure out how to get the container off of the reward.
  • I recommend using your dog’s food for all of these activities so they do not gain any weight. However, if you are using treats, make sure to minus that from their daily food intake.

TIP: If you want to give your dog a tasty treat to calm them down if they are over excited, or anxious because company is coming over, try frozen peanut butter, sweet potato, or low sodium chicken broth in a kong!

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When playing a special game, or when teaching a new behavior, make sure to use a really high value reward that your dog wants to work for. These treats should only be about the size of a pea and very soft. Switch it up! Use different kinds of rewards such as chicken breast, cheese, Zukes Training Treats, etc. If your dog starts to get bored of one, either take a break or switch to another. If your dog isn’t big on treats, you can use a favorite toy that they only get to play with during training time, or if they are attention seekers, give them some love.

Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is a great game to get your dog to use his brain, and get some physical exercise. This is especially good on those really rainy or cold days, or you are just too busy to get outside. Hide and seek also encourages your dog pay attention to you on walks, because he learns to look for you and he gets a tasty reward or fun toy.

  • When your dog isn’t paying attention to you, slowly walk away and find a hiding spot (examples are around a corner, in a different room, etc)
  • Wait for a second and then call your dog’s name. If he has stopped and isn’t looking back, call your dog’s name again in a very excited tone.
  • As he rushes to find you, keep calling out his name. Once he finds you, praise him and give him a treat or toy. After the first few times, your dog should figure out to come find you after just calling his name once.
  • Now that your dog is catching on to the game, start incorporating some training! Get your dog to “sit” use “stay” or “wait” go hide, and introduce “find it”. REMEMBER, don’t start using “find it” until he is going to look for you every time.
  • When your dog is a hide and seek expert, you can start hiding in more difficult spots inside the house, and move to play in the backyard or at the park where there are more distractions.

Hide and Find the Treat

This game is similar to the first, except you will be hiding treats around the house. If you have multiple dogs that can be aggressive around food, play with each of them separately.

  • Grab some treats, go into a room without your dog and hide them. Make sure to use really smelly treats the first few times.
  • Hide the treats in pretty easy spots until your dog learns how to play the game, you may even have to point them out for him at first.
  • Call your dog into the room and let him at it!
  • Once your dog gets really good at the game, start incorporating some training! Get your dog to come into the room and “sit”, “stay”, and “find it”!
  • If this game becomes to easy for your dog, start hiding the treats under different types of tupperware containers.

Tricks and Obedience

Work on your dog’s obedience training! Sit, stay, down, shake a paw, etc. Take a class with your dog, this does not only work your dog mentally, but it also creates a great bond with you and your pet. There are so many different tricks you can teach your dog, not only to impress your friends, but also as a calming method when they get overly excited or nervous.

REMEMBER mental stimulation is very important, but needs to be paired with physical exercise, you cannot do one or the other.

How do you keep your dog happy? What is your dog’s best trick? Let me know in the comments below!

Collars, Collars, Collars

As you already know, I am a Positive Reinforcement (Force-Free) Dog Trainer. Something I see ALL of the time is people using abrasive collars on their dogs such as pinch, choke, or shock collars. As a PRDT, I do not use, nor train people to use, these methods as it is scientifically proven to be detrimental to your dog’s training success. It may seem like your dog is walking nicely, but he is only doing it to avoid punishment. Once you put on a regular harness, or collar, you will be right back where you started. This is also associating events that happen on your walk with a negative experience, such as other dogs walking by, children playing, or whatever it may be. You can see how this can have a negative effect on your dog’s psychological well-being.

These forms of collars can cause not only psychological damage to your dog, but also some pretty serious medical issues. Dog’s (same as people) have very sensitive necks that many medical issues, such as hypothyroidism, ear and eye issues, nerve damage, etc, can be linked. If you are interested in learning some of the more serious medical issues that these collars can cause check out this article here. I always walk my dogs on some sort of harness, whether it be no pull or regular, depending on your dogs walking style, and I always recommend my clients to do the same.

Pinch/Prong Collars

Pitbull-prong-dog-collar-pinch-collar-prong-collarWhen we first got Kali, she was terrible on leash, a huge puller, very typical Malamute. I hadn’t tried any forms of “no pull” devices yet, and wasn’t very educated in the subject. Off I went to the pet store to ask some questions and see what they recommended for us to try. The FIRST item that they recommended was a pinch collar. Not only, did they not give me any other choices, they also said that this is a “humane and pain-free” option to teach your dog not to pull. Pain-free??? I would like to see her put it on her neck and give it a good yank. When there are are tons of pointy pieces of metal jutting into your neck, it is not “pain-free.” Thankfully, I questioned it, and ended up trying out an easy-walk harness instead. ALWAYS QUESTION PEOPLE IN THE PET INDUSTRY, INCLUDING TRAINERS. If you think something is off, or are not feeling comfortable with a certain technique or recommendation, ask as many questions as you need to. Also, go with your gut, it will usually guide you in the right direction.

Many people say that the prong collar “emulates the correction of a mother’s teeth.” This is A MYTH and is not correct. These collars can cause many health issues, as mentioned in the article above, and can go as far as becoming embedded in your dog’s neck. One quick jerk is all it takes. The more pressure you are putting on your dog’s neck, the more pressure they will feel emotionally. You want your dog to remain under threshold the entire time you are on your walk, this will be next to impossible with this type of tension on their neck. Dog’s have a natural instinct to pull forwards when something is pulling them back, therefore making the entire experience painful and frustrating. The behavioral issues that this can cause your dog are limitless.

If you would like to take a more in depth look on the effects of this type of collar, check out this article here.

Choke Collars

choke-dog-collarChoke collars have basically the same negative effects on your dog’s mental and physical health as the prong collar. One of the big differences is however, that they can choke themselves to death. There is nothing stopping this type of collar from tightening to the point of actual choking on your dog’s neck. Again, the natural instinct of your dog to pull away from something putting tension on their neck comes into play, causing a negative experience on walks, as well as a negative experience relating to the surroundings. For more information about the effects of the choke collar, check out this article here.

Shock Collars

D58134All of these collars have similar negative effects on your dog’s well-being, however the shock collar is a whole other ball game. Some people say that the shock is just like a tap on the shoulder, while others say that it is more of a zap, similar to sticking your finger in a electrical socket. Well, which is it? It seems that only a dog can answer this question, and since they can’t tell us, it is important for us to know their body language. A dog who is being trained positively has a loose body, tail wag, open mouth, and they show a willingness to learn and please you. A dog being trained with a shock collar will have a closed mouth, possibly yawning, stiff body and tail, ears back, whale eyes, and a general nervousness about them.  For more information about shock collars, check out this article here.

Notice the body language of the dogs in these pictures? Stiff postures, ears back, and on high alert. If you ever see a dog wearing one of these collars, compare their body language to that of your positively reinforced dog. There will be a huge difference between them.

Wouldn’t you rather focus your training sessions and walks on the positive, rather than on the negative? You especially do not want to use any of the aforementioned training methods with a fearful or aggressive dog. These techniques will just enhance their issues and very likely cause more harm than good.

What kind of collar does your dog wear? What worked for you when training your dog to walk on leash? Let me know in the comments below!

Weekend Crate Training Plan

Crate training is seen in two lights; it is cruel to confine your dog to a kennel, and it is good for them to have their own safe place for down time. I believe that the crate is a great retreat for your pooch, as well as an amazing training tool.

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A few positive aspects to using a crate:

  • Can be used as a training tool for house training, and preventing him from being destructive.
  • As a safe and effective way to transport your dog.
  • Creates a place of their own, which is especially important for dogs with fear and anxiety issues.

A few tips about crate training:

  • Never use the crate as a punishment, you do not want your dog to be afraid to go in there.
  • Always associate the crate with something good, feed him in there, give him a special bone, chew, or toy that he only gets when going into the crate.
  • Put the crate somewhere permanent, dogs thrive off of consistency. If you keep the crate in the dining room, your dog will get used to that being “his place”. Once you move it for a dinner party, he will get confused and be unsure of what to do.
  • If you’re dog is having a lot of trouble adjusting, try a different type such as wire vs plastic. Sometimes this small fix can make a world of difference.
  • Make sure to make it comfortable with blankets, a dog bed, or even a shirt with your scent inside.
  • Always exercise your dog before he goes into his crate. 30-60 minutes of physical exercise, paired with mental stimulation (obedience training, treat games, etc) is preferred.
  • Leave the door to the crate open so that your dog has access to it whenever he wants. He now feels comfortable here, and it will be his safe place if he ever feels uncomfortable, or just wants to take an uninterrupted snooze.
  • Make sure to let your dog out to the bathroom before he goes in and after he comes out of the crate.

Recommended time lengths to crate your dog:

  • 8–10 weeks 30–60 minutes
  • 11–14 weeks 1–3 hours
  • 15–16 weeks 3–4 hours
  • 17+ weeks 4–5 hours

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, a crate can be detrimental to their issues depending on the severity. If your dog is having a lot of uses in the crate, defecating or urinating, soaked with saliva, damage to the crate, moving the crate, or excessive howling, please contact a professional trainer near you.

I have had great success with the Weekend Crate Training plan as have my clients, so here it is:

Friday

During this phase, the crate door always stays open.

  • When your dog isn’t looking, toss a few tasty treats inside the crate to spark their investigation. Make sure to use something extra tasty that they only get during training time.
  • Leave the crate door open and every time your dog looks towards it, walks towards it, takes a step in, etc, give him a lot of treats and praise.
  • Periodically leave extra special treats inside like a kong, bone, or toy.
  • Feed them their dinner inside the crate. If they are too uncomfortable to go all the way inside at this point, try leaving it just inside by the door or even just outside the door.
  • Over the next couple of days you will be rewarding your dog for going towards and into the crate, make sure to have a bunch of training treats ready because you will be using them!

Saturday Morning

Get your treats, toys, and bones ready!

  • Decide on the verbal cue you will use to send your dog to his crate. You can use “Go to your bed” or whatever you would like. Start using the verbal cue once your dog is going inside every time. If you add it in too early, they will get confused and not understand what you are asking.
  • Start by either sitting on the floor or in a chair beside the crate. Show your dog one of the treats and toss it in. Once he goes in to eat it, give a lot of praise and feed her another treat while inside.
  • Use your release cue, again, “okay” or “break” whatever you would like to use, so they know they can come out again. Don’t reward when they leave the crate so he learns that good things happen when he is inside.
  • REPEAT these steps about 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. After you have finished the two, end the session.

Later on in the morning….Now you are getting your dog to earn the treat. Instead of tossing a treat in for them to follow you will be using your verbal cue and rewarding once he goes inside.

  • First, warm up with a few reps of tossing the treat in and using the verbal cue.
  • Give your cue and point to the crate instead of tossing in the treat. If he is being stubborn, try your “point” in the same motion as tossing in the treat.
  • Once your dog goes in, then give a lot of praise and treats while he is still inside.
  • Use your release command for your dog to come out.
  • REPEAT these steps about 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. After you have finished the two, end the session.

If your dog isn’t catching onto the cue or seems nervous, step back to tossing the treat in first and wait until he understands and feels more comfortable.

Saturday Afternoon

During this phase, you will start getting your dog used to being in the crate with the door closed.

  • First, warm up and do a few repetitions of the last step, remembering to release him every time.
  • Do the same thing, reward him for going in, and then gently close the door, give him a few treats and praise with the door closed
  • Give your release cue, open the door, and let your dog out
  • If your dog seems to be too nervous with the door closed all the way, break this down into two parts, start with the door halfway closed and then transition to fully closed.
  • REPEAT these steps 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. As you go through your repetitions, increase the time the door is closed. Do 1 second, then 5 seconds, then 8 seconds, then back to 5, then 10, then 8, and so on. Make sure to mix up the times.

Saturday Evening

Once your dog is comfortable sitting the crate with the door closed you are going to start getting them ready for alone time.

  • First, warm up with a few repetitions from the last step, but each time start to slowly move away and then back to the crate.
  • Release your dog, go through the same steps, once the crate door is closed, treat.
  • Now, with the door still closed, stand up, treat, take a few steps away, then go back and treat again.
  • Open the door and release your dog.
  • REPEAT these steps 10 times, each time walking in a different direction. After a short break, start again increasing the time your dog is left alone in the crate. Do 5 seconds, then 10, then 8, 15, and so on. Be generous, give a lot of treats for now, and as your dog gets more comfortable being in the crate, you can gradually start giving less.
  • After these repetitions, take about a half hour to an hour break, and repeat the steps again. Start leaving the room, only for a second, and then releasing your dog. Gradually build up the time as we did before, try to get to him being in the crate for 1 minute while you walk around the room, briefly leave, and come back. REMEMBER if you go through the steps too quickly, you will have to step back or even start over.

Sunday Morning

Now you will be working on getting your dog comfortable with longer periods in the crate. Grab your treats, and a kong stuffed with something delicious, or a favorite bone or toy as well as something to occupy yourself.

  • Ask your dog to go in the crate and close him in with the kong, bone, or toy and get yourself comfortable watching TV, reading a book, or whatever you choose to do in that room. Leave him in there for about 30 minutes.
  • If your dog finishes the kong or bone, you can continue to give him a few treats here and there as long as he is staying quiet.
  • After the half hour is up, release your dog and take away the bone, kong, or toy. DO NOT give him any treats when he comes out or make a big deal out of it. You want him to learn that good things happen while he is inside the crate, not when he is released.

At this time, your dog may start to wine, or bark while being left alone inside. My suggestion here is to ignore him completely. If you release him, or treat him for this behavior he is learning that if he makes noise he will get your attention. Once he has stopped, then reward him with a few treats.  This step can be frustrating in some cases, but if you are consistent, your dog will learn that it is in his best interest to be quiet and relax.

Sunday Afternoon

Now it is time to give your dog some alone time in the crate. Make sure to exercise your dog before this step, take him to the park, for a walk or run, play fetch, and also do some basic obedience training and maybe even some mind games. .

  • Ask your dog to go into his crate. Give him his kong, bone, or toy, and leave the room.
  • Stay out of the room for 10 minutes, then return and release him. If he hasn’t finished his kong or bone, take it away (he only gets these treats while in the crate). If your dog is making noise, don’t return until he has stopped for 5-10 seconds.
  • REPEAT the exercise, after a short break.

Sunday Evening

If your dog can calmly stay in his crate for an hour while you work around the house, it is time to try leaving completely.

  • Ask your dog to go in his crate and give him his special treat.
  • Without saying any goodbyes. leave the room and house for 10 minutes.
  • When you return, calmly let your dog out of the crate and take away his treat.
  • REMEMBER your dog will feel more comfortable going in and out of his crate if it seems like no big deal. Don’t give him any indication that you are leaving, or be overly excited when you return home.
  • REPEAT this exercise as often as possible before going to bed with bathroom breaks and exercise between. Gradually increase each time you are out of the house until you get to about an hour or even longer.

THAT’S IT! You have (hopefully successfully) completed the Weekend Crate Training plan. Now you are ready to start crating your dog every time you leave the house, and overnight (if you wish).

REMEMBER if you are having any issues at all, don’t hesitate to consult a professional in your area. For a more in depth look at crate training check out the ASPCA website.

Is your dog crate trained? How was the process for you? What worked and what didn’t? Let me know in the comments below!