I am SO happy and proud to introduce Erin Howes as an official Animal Instincts Dog Trainer. Erin has been assisting me for about 2 years now and I am so glad to have her on my team.
I met Erin, about 2 years ago, at a Manitoba Underdogs event. Guess who she adopted from Underdogs?? Josie Jo!!! Remember Josie? You can read about her here if you don’t. She was going through a Vet Assistant program and needed to log some hours so decided to do that training with me. Well, she is so awesome, I hired her on as my assistant as soon as her volunteer terms were done.
Moving forward, Erin is not only a trainer, but also the manager of my new dog daycamp opening this summer, Wooftopia Dog Training and Recreation Centre. Here she will still be assisting me in some of my classes, but also be teaching her own! Her specialty is training tricks so you can expect some super fun workshops coming up in the future.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
- Start inside with no distractions. This way, your dog will only focus on you.
- Move outside to the back yard, or the driveway.
- Add it in during your walks.
- 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.
Four Keys to Successful Training
- 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.
- 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.
- You are always training – Just because your training “session” has ended, keep rewarding your dog for offering you good behavior!
- 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!
Interested in getting involved in the animal rescue world but not quite sure how?
As most of you already know, I am very involved in the Manitoba dog rescue world. When I started out, I knew that I wanted to do something to help but lived in an animal free apartment so I couldn’t foster or adopt. I began by helping the foster families walk the dogs, or let them out and feed them if they weren’t going to be home, things like that. Later on I became more involved with helping create the print outs for the adoptables album for the adoption fairs, and once I moved into a house I began fostering and adopted two of my own. Once I realized my true passion for animal rescue I became more involved with DREAM and am currently their Spay/Neuter Program Coordinator and Operations Director. I am also helping the foster dogs and families, from Manitoba Underdogs Rescue, with any training questions or issues.
Here are some of the many ways to get involved with rescue (not in any order of importance):
Foster – fostering will cost you nothing, and you are directly helping save a life! Fostering is also great for those who are not sure if they are ready to make the full commitment to adopt, or aren’t sure what kind of dog will fit into their lifestyle.
- Adopt – Looking to add a pet to your life? Check out your local rescue and adopt! You will be directly contributing to helping the animal community and ending overpopulation and abuse. Adopting a pet is also MUCH cheaper than purchasing one off of the internet, through a breeder, or in a pet store because all of the shots, immunizations, and spay/neuter is included. These can add up to $500 on top of the purchasing fee or more versus the $250 – $300 to adopt a pet. “But what if I want a pure bred or a small breed?” Rescues very often have pure bred animals AND small breeds! You just need to make sure to check out all of the rescues and shelters in your community!
- Support a foster family! Help out with walking, feeding, snuggling, and whatever they need a hand with!
- Looking to do something from the comfort of your own home? Why not be a reference checker! Phone potential adopters references or phone adopters for a follow up on how their lives are with their newest furry family member.
- Donate money, or items such as food, collars and leashes, blankets, newspaper, kennels, etc….
- Have a fundraiser – instead of wedding favors make donations in your guest’s names, instead of birthday presents have people donate to your favorite rescue, have a garage sale – get creative!
- Help out at adoption fairs! Man the BBQ or take care of the pups, speak to potential adopters, or sell merchandise!
- Easiest way to help out? Post and share about dogs and/or rescues in need on your social media platforms and encourage your friends to do the same!
- Want to be more involved? Check out what inside positions are available! A rescue is just like a business, but run by volunteers, there are marketing teams, community outreach teams, productions (event planning etc) teams, data entry teams, finance and admin teams, operations (dog intake, foster support etc) teams, and so much more!
Send an e-mail to a local rescue today and find out how you can help! Here are just a few of the many rescues here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada:
- DREAM – Dog Rescue Education and Advocacy of Manitoba
- Manitoba Underdogs Rescue
- Earthdog Terrier Rescue of Manitoba
- Manitoba Small Dog Rescue
- Hull’s Haven Border Collie Rescue
- Happy Tails Adoption Center
- Winnipeg Animal Services
- Winnipeg Humane Society
- Before the Bridge Senior K9 Rescue
- Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue
- Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue
Have any questions on how to get involved? Are you currently involved in rescue? What do you do to help? Let me know in the comments below!
I will start by introducing myself, my name is Dez McKay, and I am an animal enthusiast. My whole life I’ve lived with and loved dogs. We always adopted our pets from local animal shelters. Our first was a Border Collie/Husky Mix, Max. He was an amazing boy who loved to play and be outside! We also adopted Ted, the Lhasa Apso who loved to snuggle. Next came a Toy Poodle named Tiny Bubbles.His name suited his personality perfectly! My parents now own a 6lb Miniature Pinscher adopted through Hull’s Haven Border Collie Rescue. They have always had a soft spot for helping animals in need and I am the same way. I currently have two rescue dogs of my own from Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue, a Husky Lab mix and a Shepherd Husky mix. More info on them here!
In 2009, I moved into my first apartment where no pets were allowed. This was a big adjustment, but I wanted to continue being around animals. I started volunteering for a local rescue group walking foster dogs. I loved being involved in the dog rescue/welfare community and am now involved with D.R.E.A.M. (Dog Rescue Education & Advocacy of Manitoba) as the Spay/Neuter Program Manager.
Through my volunteer work, I realized my true passion for animals, in particular dog training. I have started practicing under The Noble Hound Dog Training & Obedience and volunteer my time supporting foster homes with Manitoba Underdogs Rescue.
I started this blog to write about my journey becoming a trainer. Along the way, I’ll share helpful tips and exercises, and answer general training questions for all you pet owners.