Erin Howes – Trainer, Animal Instincts Dog Training and Obedience

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.

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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.

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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.

MUR Adoptable – Abby – Separation Anxiety

Hi Friends!

Today I am going to introduce another dog, Abby, that I worked with from Manitoba Underdogs Rescue. Abby suffers from separation anxiety, which is fairly common and can often result in some destruction or escaping from the home. We want the bond between us and our pets to be strong, but sometimes the dog can become too dependant on their human, which causes them stress when they are left alone.

Abby has been adopted and is fitting in great in her new home with a family willing to work through her issues!

Abby has been adopted and is fitting in great in her new home with a family willing to work through her issues!

Some common causes of separation anxiety are:

  1. Straight after a change in routine, you may be working different hours, a family member may of moved out, or you might be on vacation or off work spending more time with your dog and then return to them being home for longer periods of time.
  2. When you bring your new dog home, being in a new environment will create some anxiety until they get used to your routine and realize that it is a permanent home. It can take up to a year for your new dog to fully settle in.
  3. If your dog experiences a traumatic event while on their own, a break in, something large falling, a thunderstorm, etc.
  4. If you move to a new house or neighborhood.

Abby’s fosters/adopters had tried putting her in a kennel, but she would not settle down, so they tried containing her in a room. While in this room she broke through the screened in window and when confined again, chewed and scratched through the door. After all of this, they decided to just leave her out in the house and see what happens. She was doing much better but still scratching at the doors and windows.

After meeting with the family and observing Abby, we made an action plan. Unfortunately, depending on the severity of the anxiety, this isn’t an easy fix, it takes a lot of time and patience. We decided to kennel train her, even if not for her to stay in all day but just a safe option for her to retreat to if ever feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes confinement can make separation anxiety worse so I definitely recommend consulting a professional before making any decisions on your course of action.

Training Steps:

REMEMBER: Separation anxiety can be quite serious depending on what level your dog is at. If you are worried about the safety of your dog, or your house, please contact a Force-Free trainer in your area! During this training time, you shouldn’t leave your dog at home for long periods of time. Most people have full time jobs and can’t stay home during the day, so consider taking your dog to daycare until their anxiety starts to get better. These length of time that you dedicate to each step will vary depending on the dog. If ever your dog starts to get anxious, back up a step or two.

  • If your dog becomes nervous while you are getting ready to go out, start putting on your jacket and just staying in the house, or picking up your keys and carry them around with you inside. Go through the actions that make your dog nervous and don’t leave the house.
  • Once your dog is more comfortable with you getting ready to leave, start leaving the room (close yourself off in another) for a few seconds at a time, showing your dog that you will be coming back. REPEAT this step as much as necessary.
  • Once your dog is comfortable with the few seconds, start adding more time closed off in the room. Make sure to switch up the times as well. 2 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds, 8 seconds, 30 seconds, 15 seconds, etc…. Continue to increase the time until you can make it a few minutes.
  • Once that step is complete, start doing the same exercise but out the front and back door. Try to work your way up to 15 or 30 minutes.
  • Now it is time to actually leave! Go run a quick errand, and return. Start small with 15-30 minutes and work your way up to a couple hours. Eventually start with half a day at work and stop in at lunch to let your dog out and have a short play.

Once you are starting to leave your dog home alone for periods of time, distract them with treat games and lots of toys to occupy their time. Separation anxiety happens for the first hour or two that you are gone, so if your dog has something to distract them during that time, they should settle down and go about normal behavior until you return. I would recommend “hiding” food around for them to go and find, if they are too nervous to take regular kibble, try putting some low sodium chicken broth on top or mixing in some mashed sweet potato. Then scatter a whole bunch of bones and toys for them to chew, make sure to leave a mix of stuffed toys, food bones (not too many of these because you want them gaining any weight), plastic bones (nylabones work great), rope toys, anything your dog enjoys.

Through this whole process, make sure your dog is getting a lot of exercise, mental and physical, before you leave the house. Take your dog for a long walk before you leave and when you get home, also do some obedience training for 15 minutes before leaving, teach him some tricks! You can do the basics, sit, down, sit and stay, down and stay, and then move into others like shake a paw, rollover, crawl, bow, whatever you want! The less energy your dog has when you leave, the less likely they are to experience any level of anxiety.

Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety? What techniques worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Getting Involved in Animal Rescue

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.

The DREAM Team

The DREAM Team

Here are some of the many ways to get involved with rescue (not in any order of importance):

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. Support a foster family! Help out with walking, feeding, snuggling, and whatever they need a hand with!
  4. 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.
  5. Donate money, or items such as food, collars and leashes, blankets, newspaper, kennels, etc….
  6. 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!
  7. Help out at adoption fairs! Man the BBQ or take care of the pups, speak to potential adopters, or sell merchandise!
  8. 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!
  9. 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:

  1. DREAM – Dog Rescue Education and Advocacy of Manitoba
  2. Manitoba Underdogs Rescue
  3. Earthdog Terrier Rescue of Manitoba
  4. Manitoba Small Dog Rescue
  5. Hull’s Haven Border Collie Rescue
  6. Happy Tails Adoption Center
  7. Winnipeg Animal Services
  8. Winnipeg Humane Society
  9. Before the Bridge Senior K9 Rescue
  10. Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue
  11. 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!

MUR Adoptables – Fia “Leave It”

Hello again!

Last week I talked about Manitoba Underdogs’ Adoptable, Fia. In addition to her separation anxiety, Fia was also having issues of counter surfing and garbage can diving. These are common behaviors found in any dog.

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The first step in fixing this behavior was for Fia’s foster mom to take away all of the temptations. Move the garbage outside, closed off in a cupboard, or under the sink, and keep the counter and sink clear of all food, wrappers, and dirty dishes. Anytime she gets to eat garbage, or something off of the counter she is self rewarding and reinforcing the behavior.

To change this habit, we are going to use the “leave it” technique. Once your dog has mastered “leave it” with food and objects inside the house, you can start applying it on a larger scale outside with other dogs, critters, people, or even when barking at something out the window or fence. “Leave it” is also handy for health reasons, choking and disease, when you see your dog eyeing that dead bird on the side of the road, or a bone that fell out of the garbage.

Remember to set your dog up for success; work in an area where your dog will be completely focused on you. If you own other dogs, you will want to keep them in a separate room or space where they can’t distract from your training. Begin without using the term “leave it” at all, once the dog starts to automatically do the behavior you will add in the verbal cue. You never want to use the word more than once, because then the dog won’t understand it, or learn that they do not have to listen to it the first time, they know it will come again.

Teaching Your Dog “Leave It”

  1. 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” and reward FROM YOUR OTHER HAND. You will never be giving your dog the “leave it” treat. If you are using a clicker, once they stop sniffing and licking, click and treat. Remember to do this as soon as they, even for a second, back off.
  2. Once the dog is consistently leaving the treat alone, start to add the verbal cue “leave it”
  3. Once the dog understands the term “leave it”, you can up the criteria using an open hand
  4. Does your dog have that down pat? Now move onto putting food or toys on the floor, “leave it” and then releasing them with the command “OK” or “Break” or whatever you choose to use to release them.

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!

Fia has found her “Furever” home but if you are interested in adopting check out the other dogs available at Manitoba Underdogs Rescue!

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Have a dog who counter surfs? What did you do change the behavior? Let me know in the comments below!

MUR Adoptables – Fia

Hello Friends!

Today I wanted to share my first training experience with Manitoba Underdogs Rescue where I got to work with a beautiful Lab mix named Fia. Miss Fia came into rescue in May 2013 through a spay/neuter initiative which Manitoba Underdogs organized with DREAM called Beat the Heat. Manitoba Underdogs visited three First Nations Communities in Manitoba to vaccinate and deworm dogs and bring back stray dogs for vetting and adoption. As the Spay/Neuter Program Manager for DREAM, I am a huge supporter of working to fix the dog/animal overpopulation issue. So far Beat the Heat has vaccinated and dewormed over 100 dogs and fixed 15. For more information about Beat the Heat, and ways to get involved, click here.

Fia

Fia came into care with general anxiety towards people; not uncommon for stray dogs coming from remote communities. Fia’s foster mom called me up, we discussed the problems they were having and off I went to help! One of Fia’s issues was with her foster dad. He works out of town for part of the week, not on a set schedule, and when he was in town she was very uneasy around him. Whenever he walked past her she would growl and cower away, she wouldn’t let him get anywhere near her.

When a dog has any fear issues whether it be around people, food, other dogs, or whatever, NEVER force your dog towards it. Look for the signs that your dog is uncomfortable – ears back, panting, yawning, and the whites of eyes showing are just a few of what to watch for. You never want your dog to get to his or her breaking point, which can be avoided if you know what to watch for.

Fia loves her foster mom and treats, so we used those to start making her feel more comfortable around foster dad. We started with Fia a safe distance away from FD, (where she was comfortable), and had him make very small movements, without moving towards her or making eye contact. Movements as small as just standing up, or taking a small step to the side. Every time he moved, FM gave a treat and a big “YES!” Once Fia was comfortable with these movements, FD started moving closer and doing the same sideways movement (still no eye contact), FM treating AS SOON AS he moved and using the voice marker. Remember that this process cannot be rushed and can take weeks or longer depending on the severity of the anxiety or fear. It has been about a month now and Fia is snuggling with FD any chance she gets! She is also greeting new people at the door and LOVES playing with children, she has two human foster siblings.

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Fia is available for adoption through Manitoba Underdogs Rescue. Visit their website to learn more about Fia and the other Underdogs available!

Have you experienced working with an anxious dog? Do you have any questions about your dog’s anxiety? Let me know in the comments here!

Positive Reinforcement Training

As you know I am working on becoming a dog trainer. To do this I am sitting in on other trainer’s classes (The Noble Hound Training and Obedience) and working with rescue dogs for Manitoba Underdogs Rescue. Becoming a well rounded trainer means observing different techniques and also reading TONS of books and articles by a variety of trainers. Through this blog I will be mentioning some of my favorites if anyone else is interested in learning more about their furry friend. There are two main methods of dog training, one that emphasizes positive reinforcement (setting up your dog for success and rewarding for the behavior you want), and one that is correction-based training (setting your dog up to make mistakes and correcting them using force such as tugging at the leash, tapping with your foot, using prong collars etc). I will be working on becoming a positive reinforcement trainer!

Positive Reinforcement Training is an ethical and humane way to train your dog. Think about it this way, every time your dog does something you want, you reward him, therefore making him want to continue that behavior because he knows he will get praise, a treat or toy for doing it. If you are punishing your dog for a behavior you don’t want, your dog is going to be afraid of you. There are scientific studies proving that correction-based training can cause more issues for your dog down the road, which as a trainer we want to prevent. Click here for a great article on positive reinforcement training and some tricks to ensure success!

http://www.braveheartdogtraining.net/EastBayDogTrainersHome.html

http://www.braveheartdogtraining.net/EastBayDogTrainersHome.html

Here are some of my favorite trainers/authors if anyone is interested! Patricia McConnell, Jane Killion, Grisha Stewart, Suzanne Clothier, Turid Rugaas, and the list goes on! I will be going into more depth on these trainers and their techniques as we go along so stay tuned!

Hello!

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!

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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.