“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?

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!

Resource Guarding – Part 2

Hi everyone!

I will write about some alternate forms of resource guarding today, focusing on food. Resource guarding is a normal behavior for a dog, especially if they grew up in a situation where they had to fight for their possessions. This behavior can range from relatively tame behavior, like running away with a coveted item or growling at an approaching person, to full-blown aggression, such as biting or chasing a person away. Some dogs will only direct their guarding at certain people while others will do it with everyone. They also can have a number of different items that they guard such as, food, kennel or dog bed, toys, bones, socks, etc.

Many times, if a dog only guards their food, owners will not try to alter their behavior, they will just “leave him alone” at meal time. This is a fine solution while the dog is at home during a typical evening, but what happens if you go on a holiday and leave the dog with your friends who have a young child, or when you have guests over that don’t know your dog’s feeding habits? During this process you dog’s body language is very important. If he is very stiff, staring, panting, yawning, growling intensely, and you think he may bite, please consult a professional in your area to come over and do an in home assessment. To better understand your dog’s body language, make note of their body movements, tail, eyes, and ears, while you know they are comfortable, then when something changes you will be better equipped to notice.

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The method used for resource guarding is desensitizing and counterconditioning, which are quite complex so this exercise will take a bit of time and dedication but will be well worth it in the end.

Changing Your Dog’s Behavior:

  • To begin, you will stand a few feet away from your dog while their dry kibble is on the floor. Use a cue like “That looks good” or whatever you want, and at the same time toss a piece of chicken, or other high value treat to them (use a treat that he only gets during this exercise). Continue to do this every few seconds until your dog is finished. Repeat this step for a few days. REMEMBER, if your dog moves close to you to get a treat, just ignore them until they go back to eating.
  • Now, take a step forward, use your verbal cue, toss a treat, and step back. Do this for a few days until the dog is getting more comfortable and move onto step 3.
  • Take a step to be standing right beside your dog, use the verbal cue, drop the treat directly into their bowl, and step away. Again, do this for few days until he is visually comfortable and move on!
  • Repeat the above step, but bend down closer to your dog’s bowl to drop in the treat. Continue to do this and as the dog gets more comfortable, keep inching down until you are placing the treat into the bowl.
  • Now, continue to bend down, touch his bowl, and give him the treat from the other hand. Do this for a few meals and then you can move onto picking the bowl off the ground while treating with your other hand and placing it back down.

If your dog is getting the steps very quickly then you can adjust as you feel the need to, however make sure not to rush through this, you do not want your dog to feel threatened at any point in time. You may even need to have everyone in your family go through the steps individually for the dog to get comfortable with each person.

You can apply this exercise to anything that the dog is guarding, the steps remain the same but the area will change. Is your dog a resource guarder? What did you do to adjust their behavior? Let me know in the comments below!

MUR Adoptable – Josie

Hi friends!

I wanted to share about another beautiful adoptable from Manitoba Underdogs Rescue who has a soft spot in my heart, Josie. If it were up to me, I’d be adding Josie to my pack. Unfortunately my partner is at his dog limit (for now) so I have to settle for co-fostering Josie and helping with her training.

Josie before - note her body is very stiff, her head is down, and her ears are back

Josie before – note her body is very stiff, her head is down, and her ears are back

Before coming into care, Josie was living as a stray in a remote Manitoban community. She was terrified of people and we couldn’t get anywhere near her to catch her, so we had to use a humane trap. Upon arriving to the “big city”, Josie stayed at my house for a few days. I had a “safe place” set up for her including a crate, blanket, food, and water. Crating a dog has a bad rap for being “cruel”, but in reality, dogs need a safe place that is always available for them if they are feeling anxious, nervous, have a special bone to chew, or need to take a nap, most dogs love having a crate.

After an initial behavioral assessment, I determined that there wasn’t a mean bone in Josie’s body, she was just extremely afraid; understandably, as it was her first time in a car, crate and house. You never want to force a fearful dog to do anything, either lure them with treats or wait them out. With Josie, I wanted to take her outside, so I started with offering her food and water, then experimented with some other snacks. During this process I did not give any eye contact, I sat a fair distance away where she didn’t have to walk right to me to leave the room, and I had my side facing her. Body language, both yours and the dog’s, are very important when working with dogs like Josie. Turned out, Josie was a big fan of hot dog buns so I left a little trail of crumbs and eventually she came out of the kennel and off we went into the backyard.

At this point, Josie was a flight risk so even though I have a fully fenced yard, I kept her on leash at all times, even inside the house. Once outside, it was a bit of a challenge to get her back inside. I left a trail of treats going inside the door and turned my back as to not intimidate her, eventually we made it back in, and she bee lined straight for her kennel. That was what we did for the next few days, going out and back in, which got increasingly quicker each time. By the second day, she would even stop to check out the house before heading back to her crate!

It turns out that Josie LOVES other dogs, and her foster sisters have been great influences on her! Dogs can be the best teachers, or the worst, depending on their habits. Josie now walks right inside with my girls because she learned from them that it is safe to walk past me when I open the door. They also taught her to walk on the leash and that it is a fun activity rather than an intimidating, scary one.

Josie fitting right in with my girls at their favorite lookout spot!

Josie fitting right in with my girls at their favorite lookout spot!

Josie has now been in care for just over three months. I continue to work with Josie, getting her used to different items and experiences, like the collar and leash, and checking out new environments. Josie now walks right into my yard with confidence and molds right in with my pack. We even have her coming on our walks and greeting people at the door. Needless to say, when Josie finds that perfect family, she will also come with a couple of humans who will need some visitation rights!

Josie after - note her body language, ears perked, loose body, head and tail up

Josie after – note her body language, ears perked, loose body, head and tail up

Interested in adopting this sweet girl? Check out www.manitobaunderdogs.org/ for more information!

Hope this blog is helpful for those who ever need to work with timid/semi-feral animals. If you’ve had your fair share working with timid/semi-feral animals, I’d love to hear what steps you took to help them transition to life as a pet!

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!

Puppy Nipping

Everyone loves a puppy right? Well, what do you do when that puppy goes through the nipping stage? I have been getting that question a lot lately so I thought I would write about it this week.

This is 4 week old Azzy, him and his siblings will be available for adoption through Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue at 7 weeks!

This is 4 week old Azzy, him and his siblings will be available for adoption through Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue at 7 weeks!

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.

To help with your puppy’s nipping habit, you are first going to teach them bite inhibition. They start learning this with their littermates at a young age. When a pup bites their brother or sister too hard they yelp and often the play stops momentarily. You are going to be imitating this behaviour so the dog can learn the pain limitations of human skin. This will also help in the future if your dog ever bites someone outside of play, because of fear or pain, they are less likely to bite hard or break the skin. When you are playing with your puppy, let him mouth your hands and as soon as he bites too hard, imitate a yelp or other sound, pull your hand away and let let it go limp. Praise the puppy for stopping or for licking you. You can repeat these steps for about a 15 minute period before moving onto something else. If he will not stop trying to bite you too hard, use a “timeout” method of completely ignoring the puppy until he leaves you alone. Then praise him and keep playing or give him a toy.

When a pup or adult is excited they do not know the difference between a happy human and a mad human. Saying “no” or pushing away still feels like play to them, so do not give any eye contact and keep turning your back to the puppy until they stop. Once your pup starts to decrease his pressure, you can continue to do this process until your pup is putting no pressure on your skin at all.

The next step is to teach the pup that skin isn’t for chewing! You need to have TONS of toys and bones for your pup to chew on around the house. This will be frustrating as you walk around and keep tripping over and stepping on toys, but it will be worth it in the end. Make sure there is always something to pick up and give to your dog when they start to nip at you. This will teach them what is appropriate for chewing and what is not. Start playing no-contact games such as fetch or tug of war, when they start nipping, to redirect their focus onto the tug toy or ball. Eventually your puppy will begin to look for these toys when wanting something to chew on.

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If your pup is chasing you around the house nipping at your legs, go into a room and close your pup out of it. You may have to stay in the room for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or may have to do this a few times before they stop nipping and calm down, but once they do make sure to give them lots of attention and a toy. Reward for the good behavior! Once they begin stopping almost immediately, make sure to have a toy to redirect and reward them.

Are you having issues with puppy nipping? What methods have worked for you? 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.

Leave it

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!

Clicker Training!

Hey there!

So, I’ve just started experimenting with the clicker. I am doing some behavior shaping with Kali and Nanu and thought I would try it out. So far they seem to be really responding to it!

Clicker training is a method used to mark a desired behavior, an alternative to a verbal marker like “YES.” Many trainers use the clicker, especially if teaching a dog agility exercises or other activities that require a quick response. It has been said that because the clicker is a quicker sound than a verbal cue, that it is more effective when training. I believe that this is true, however I also think a verbal cue is just fine when teaching the most basic commands such as sit and down.

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The first step to clicker training is to amp up the clicker! You want your dog to know that sound and know that as soon as he hears it, he gets a reward. For the first few days you will focus on getting him to know the sound and respond to it immediately.

Introduction to Clicker Exercise

  1. Start off in an area where your dog will be completely focused on you and the treats, I use a high value treat for this exercise, whatever is your dog’s favorite.
  2. You will do this 3 times in a row with a small break between each session. Get 20ish pieces of food in your hand, and within about half a second (this needs to happen fast) click and treat, between each click and treat leave about one second.
  3. Do that until the pieces of food are done, wait a minute or two and start again!
  4. Take a longer break after the 3 sessions are finished, a couple hours, and do it again!

I would do this 2-3 times per day for about 3 days or whenever you see a consistent response from your dog. Remember only to click for the exact behavior you want and right after it happens or else your dog will become confused and not totally understand what you are asking. If you miss a click, don’t try to make it up a bit late, just start again.

You can also get a few clickers, they are fairly inexpensive, and put them all over the house. Then whenever your dog offers you a good behavior you can click and treat!

Clicker

Once this step is complete, you are ready to start training behaviors with the clicker! Make sure to click as soon as your dog does the desired behavior and treat. As time goes on you can start leaving a longer break between clicking and treating and then eventually take the treats away altogether!

Remember that whenever you are doing a lot of training and treating with your dog, you need to adjust his food level, you do not want your dog gaining any extra weight! My dog’s favorite treats are hot dogs and cheese, which I like to limit in their diet. I put their regular everyday kibble in a ziploc, cut up the (low fat) cheese and hot dogs, mix it in and keep it in the fridge. That way, the flavors of the cheese and hotdogs mixes into their kibble so it is like a special treat when really it is just their everyday food.

Interested in learning more? Karen Pryor is an author and clicker expert, you can find her books on the subject in your local bookstore or online!

Have any questions? Do you use a clicker? Are you a fan or not? 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.

fia1_sm

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!