Let’s Talk About Barking!

Let’s Talk About Barking!

Occasionally I have people ask to me to help them fix their dogs barking problem. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“My dog barks a lot. Can you help me?”
“Sure, what is your dog barking at?”
“Nothing”
“Is he barking at you?”
“Nope”
“Is he barking at things going on outside?”
“Only if there are things going on outside”
“What kind of things?”
“Anything”
“So he’s barking at everything, not nothing?”
“No, he will bark when there is nothing going on too”

It’s a “who’s on first” kind of conversation.

Just a heads up, if you tell me your dog is barking, that gives me absolutely no information on what is going on with your dog. If you tell me your dog barks at other dogs while on a walk, or at you while you are trying to read your favorite blog (it’s this one, I know!) then that gives me an idea of what’s going on. To me, barking is a symptom. It’s telling me that your dog is lacking in one of the areas that are important for behavioral wellness, and it’s up to us to figure out why.

In my sleuthing, I will ask you questions like “how much playtime does your pup get every day?” “How much time do you spend with your pup?” and “what does his typical day look like?”

Usually these questions will lead me to a behavior plan of more enrichment, exercise, or better communication with your pup. The end idea being, spend 15 minutes doing something with your pup every day! Together we can come up with a plan to implement this strategy, and get you back on a path to a calm and quiet house hold.

Now, with that being said, don’t ignore your dogs barking. If your pup is particularly chatty then he might be telling you that he is feeling insecure in a certain situation, or that you have been ignoring those basic exercise or enrichment tasks that he is craving. We went to the park for our hike yesterday. It was a particularly nice day, and we arrived a bit later than usual so there was quite a bit more stimulation than they are used to. We also had to run a few errands on our way home, so again, more than they are used to on a given day. I have been on my computer, working for the last 6 hours, and I have not heard a peep out of either one of them. (other than Pixie snoring)

Now, it has not been a particularly quiet day, its trash day, the guy next door has landscapers out, car doors slam and kids got off the bus just like normal. The difference is my dogs are mentally exhausted from their outing yesterday, so no barking at the things that normally would set them off. (Yes, my dogs bark at things. No, they are not perfect.)
Pixie is reactive. (Yes, Crystal, we know!!) When she barks at things, she is telling me that she is scared, and in the past the barking has gotten the scary things to go away. It does not matter if you have a mastiff, a pit bull, or a Chihuahua, that barking out of fear needs to be addressed. It’s not fair to your dog to have them in situations where they are that terrified, without trying to give them the emotional support they need to get through it.
Dragging them away is not what I mean. I am afraid of snakes. If there was a snake every time I stepped foot out the back door, I would stop going out the back door. Unfortunately our dogs can’t tell us what they are afraid of, but we can be better at reading their body language and supporting them.
If you have a barking issue, please contact me so we can get to the root of the behavior and begin working to change it. Commit to making life more enjoyable for the companion you love. You are the only advocate your dog has in this life! Make sure you are on the same page!

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How to give your dog a job!

How to give your dog a job!

‘Your dog needs a job’

How many times have you told a puppy owner this one? What does that even mean?!

Does every border collie owner also own sheep? Does every lab owner go duck hunting every weekend? Heck no!

Can these dogs be successful in a pet home? Heck yes!

So what does “give your dog a job” even mean? It means finding ways to teach your dog what is expected of them while living in your world, and how to be successful in your environment.

It means giving them fair and consistent guidelines on how they should behave in certain circumstances. In my house, my dog’s jobs are to sit quietly while I work with the other dog, wait for a release before running out of their kennels, stay on the rug while I am cooking dinner, and not mug me if I drop food. (I am a mess in the kitchen so this was a hard one for my dogs)

I also give them fun jobs, like our conditioning work or finding their kibble in a puzzle toy. We play with the flirt pole a few times a week and go to sport class sometimes.

In public, my dog’s jobs are not to pull me around, and not rush or scare the other people in the park. (This one is easier for Opie than Pixie. See “I hate walking my dog” from April 2016. She’s a work in progress) Sit quietly in their kennels until I am ready to get them out of the car. (This one is difficult for Opie)

Now, all this sounds like I spend an extraordinary amount of time with my dogs. Each of these things we work on for about 2 minutes at a time.  A conditioning session might be 10 to 15 minutes because it’s mostly repetitive, and usually I can do that while waiting for dinner to come out of the oven. The key is to get a bit creative and to DO SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter what it is, just do something. This will morph into a plan, which becomes routine, and the next thing you know you aren’t even thinking about the responsibilities you have given to your pup, and the things they have learned!

The Secret to Loose Leash Walking!

The Secret to Loose Leash Walking!

My secret to Loose Leash Walking!

The ultimate goal!! To have a dog who doesn’t drag you down the street! Who listens when you are tethered together. The one skill that every 6 to 8 month old puppy owner is wishing they had the magical answer for!

Somewhere I read that teaching your pup to walk on a loose leash was just the same as teaching any other trick. That clicked for me, the dog trainer, but my clients look at me like I have 3 heads. (There is that glassy look that I was talking about in my Trigger Stacking article) Follow me here!

Remember when you were teaching your pup to sit? He learned first in front of the cookie jar because jumping up at you was not a good idea. Brilliant pup! Then you moved into the living room and asked for a “sit” and got the blank stare?

Yeah that blank stare!

Dogs have a hard time generalizing what you are asking of them, unless you ask them for things in lots of different places.  Add in all the new exciting smells of the world and your puppy has no brains left to give you!

Take a look outside to the sidewalk. See all those individual squares? Those are all different places for your pup, with new smells and different experiences. That means you have to tackle a loose leash on every single one of those squares until your pup gets the idea. Don’t worry, with some consistency on your part, this will go quicker than you imagine.

Homework!

Start inside the house. Yep! Leash puppy up and walk around the kitchen then the living room and down the hallway. If there is any pulling on the leash just stop and wait for puppy to look back at you with that blank stare. Reward puppy right at your side where you would have a nice loose leash. I aim for the seam of your pants. If cookie shows up at your side, then puppy is going to want to stay at your side to get those cookies.

The other secret is to set a timer for your session. 5 mins for baby puppies, maybe 15 mins for older puppies. Heck, maybe you only have 5 mins of patience, it’s better than nothing!

Once your inside walking is great, start moving toward the door you would like to begin to go out for a walk. Same rules apply! If you feel any pulling, you stop and wait for puppy to look at you. The first time you venture out the door, you might be walking one very long step at a time, but the more consistent you are, the faster your puppy will pick up on the concept that pulling means you stop.

Set the timer! If you only make it to the mailbox in 20 mins, well, that is your pups walk for the day. Having them think about what they are doing is so much better than letting them drag you around for 20 mins. You are also one day closer to meeting your goals!

The Secret!

Practice! Sorry, I wish my magic wand worked for this one. If your pup is struggling to get down the driveway, go back to something easier like the front door. Once you turn around and go back to a place that your dog has already had the chance to investigate, then they have more brain to give you. When they walk with a nice loose leash back to the door, then tell them what a brilliant puppy they are! Feedback is so important!!

At the end of the day there are 100 different ways to reach the end result. Hopefully, this gives you some idea on how to get started!

Being sent to the principals office

Being sent to the principals office

Why is “going to the trainer” a bad thing? When did I become a high school principal?
I am currently working with a dog at a local daycare. I pull him out of his play group for an hour in the morning, and put him back when we are done. It’s a good set up for the things we are working on. Recently, one of the daycare staff was struggling with one of the dogs in the group, and quipped “knock it off or I’ll send you to the trainer” I chuckled because it sounded very similar to “Daniel, I am sending you to the principal’s office,”  but it milled around in my head for the rest of the morning.
I thought about the things I worked on in my day training session. We played with a new squeaky toy, got a massage, polished up some cues, and chased some cookies around the floor.
Well, now that sounds like fun! I think the dog had fun. He certainly worked hard for me, and played even harder.
I thought about my dogs training sessions at home. They are always willing to join me, and give me everything they can at that particular minute. I am respectful of how they are feeling and make sure to break any session up with a game of tug or chasing some cookies.
I know I don’t like to do things that aren’t enjoyable. If training wasn’t fun for my dog, would I have to leash them up to get them off the couch? Beg them to come out of their crate? I don’t have either of these struggles so I am thinking that what I am asking them is pretty fun.
Then I wonder why do people think that training is not fun? I know training for competition or sport is not everyone’s cup of tea but enjoying your dog should be. (Isn’t that why people get dogs?) Is it the notion that the trainer is going to make you or your dog do something they don’t think is right? Is it the idea that you or your dog will fail?
I’m not sure any of my clients have failed in their journey with their dog. They may not have reached their goals, or the dog may not have been the right fit for them, but I definitely don’t see that as a failure. I also don’t think I have ever asked them to do anything that they were not comfortable doing.

Biting on dad? How about a time out in the kennel.

Don’t want to recall from the back yard? Don’t wait for them to decide they want to come in, go get them and practice more.

Not into a tug session at 7:30am?  Me either kid!

Why do you think that “going to the trainer” is seen as a punishment?

2017 and the holes in 2016

2017 and the holes in 2016

It’s 2017. Is anyone else wondering how that happened? I will tell you that I am definitely that person who still thinks 10 years ago was 1996. A client’s 7 year old son was singing “baby got back” at an appointment today, and I realized how long that song has stood the test of time. (Go ahead and google when that was released…1992… yeah… think about that for a second)

That being said, I realized I’ve had Pixie for 4 years and Opie for 2 years come March (time flies when you are having fun). Pixie was never meant to be a sporting dog and I raised her with the intention that she would be adopted out into a pet home where she would live out her days sleeping on the sofa. She knew she was never leaving.

2015 was the year I decided to keep her and try out some dog sports. It’s also the year I broke her. She has a natural drive, and the pit bull willingness to do anything I asked her. She learned what I wanted from her quickly, and my inexperience in sports caused me to push her into more than she really was capable of handling. I have kept or fostered numerous dogs and trained them to be appropriate pets, but the stress and chaos of competition is still relatively new to me. Her drive and willingness to please masked her fear of new situations, and new people, both of which she had to deal with when competing.

Raising a sport dog is very different than raising a pet, and Pixie started off with quite a deficit. She is so stoic and willing that I didn’t realize what was going on until her extreme reactivity began to surface in the winter of 2015. (More on that here: I hate walking my dog)

2016 was then dedicated her reactivity and making her feel more secure with her environment. I also discovered her food sensitivity and how that was contributing to her crappy attitude. We competed very little, but competed in new venues where I could control the chaos in her experience. The more I worked with her the more I realized that the fundamentals in our relationship were what was broken. She loved dock jumping but was so overwhelmed by the chaos in the atmosphere that she could not think through what I was asking her. My frustration with her was not helping either.

Training sessions have moved from strict conditioning and management of her reactivity to just hanging out and trying to get some focus to work in a new place. The bar has been lowered tremendously and I am beginning to enjoy the dog things that I love with her. Going to the park to walk is not a detailed plan to rival that of a Navy SEAL mission, it’s actually a walk, and some play and some focus. I enjoy it. Pixie enjoys it. It’s far from perfect but definitely not a panic situation that it used to be.

We will continue with this new training path to see where it brings us. I have a good feeling 2017 will be about filling the holes and enjoying the time with my dog. I have learned to adjust my expectations and give Pixie clear indications of what I am asking. Work is work, she has to work when I ask, but I will make sure she is ready and feeling secure in her surroundings. I am her person and I want to know that I will keep her safe.

If you see us in a field or in a parking lot just hanging out, know that we are training, maybe subtle skills, but we are training. I am dedicating this year to as much foundation training as we can. Maybe by 2018 we will be back on track, or we will have a new goal, either way, I will be enjoying the dog I am with.

 

Crate Training… Do it Now!

Got a new puppy? Crate Train them!

Got a newly rescued dog? Crate Train them too!

Got an older dog who is trusted inside the house? Make sure they are still comfortable inside their crate!

Think crates are “mean” and “jail” for your dog? Get over it!

I have to say that 60% of the issues that I see with my clients can be greatly improved by their dog being crate trained at a young age. Crates don’t have to be jail like, and your pup will actually appreciate a place to go when they are feeling overwhelmed or need some space. Don’t you like to have a few minutes to yourself?

Puppies should be taught at a young age, that their crate is a place to go to relax. Just like a toddler at a birthday party, sometimes the young ones don’t know when to cool it. Anyone who has raised a puppy knows that sometimes they get so overstimulated that they lose their brains, and need a quick time out to find them again.

Housebreaking? That’s a job in itself! No one can have their eyes on a 9 week old puppy 24 hours a day, I mean sometimes you have to blink! The solution: crate time with a chew or stuffed Kong so puppy does not make any mistakes in training.

Overly friendly adolescent? Practice meeting people on leash when they come in the door. If they fail at keeping all 4 feet on the floor 3 times, then crate until they calm down.

Bringing a new dog in the house? Allowing some crate time for the new dog to get acclimated with their new surroundings or new family members is a great way to make the transition go smoothly!

Need to run out of town on emergency? Your friends will be much more willing to watch your dogs if they can be safely crated while they stay!

Did your dogs get into an ugly fight? Crate and rotate until wounds are healed and the cause can be addressed by a professional!

I could seriously go on for days about the benefits of crating your pup! My dogs love their crates, and we make going in and coming out a game to give them positive associations with it.

Look at all the crating happening here! Crating at a trial, crating with a friend, crating when a friend is too crazy and needs a nap, crating to recover from an injury. All things that may not be a normal part of life for you, but definitely will make your life easier!

If you have a dog that does not love his crate, or a new puppy that you would like to get started with crate training, contact me today! The Freckled Paw

The Journey of J.D.

January 2016 I received a call from a friend through one of the rescue groups I had volunteered for many years. She had been without a dog in her home since the passing of her previous dog, and was now ready to bring a new temporary companion into her house. She had been told of a male bully breed who was not meshing well in his foster home. Jean, who at this point, had no companion animals to speak of, thought she had a much quieter environment for him to adjust and move on to his forever home. She did not expect this guy whose head was too big for his body, and covered in sores which she would have to medicate twice a day. Johnny Depp was a little bit of a hot mess.

jdjan16I met Johnny about a week into his stay with Jean. He spent most of that week working on housebreaking, going outside every 2 hours, pacing the house, going through his neuter surgery, pacing some more, and learning how to be inside a house for the first time in his life. The rescue stated he had been picked up as a stray, so his history up to that point was unknown. From the way he reacted to the house and his stance when first arrived, I am confident he spent the better part of his first 18 months on the end of a very heavy chain.

Jean and I decided the first thing Johnny needed was to reduce some of the stress in his life, so we worked on very easy things to get started, “touch” and “focus” were easy things that could be quickly rewarded to teach him how to think, and give him the opportunity to “win” this new game we were teaching him. We spent some time crate training him, so he felt safe inside the house, and to reduce the constant pacing. After about 3 weeks of working with him, the pacing transformed to following Jean around the house wondering what she was up to, and when he could nose touch for a cookie again.

Once he began to think a bit, he picked up cues very quickly. He struggled with the difference in “sit” and “down” partly because of the way his shoulders and back were not flexible enough from years of being on a chain, and partly because he would slide on the hardwood floors. It was endearing, and he tried hard so we didn’t push the issue.

Months flew by, Johnny continued to blossom in his foster home. He gained weight, learned how to walk on a leash, ride in the car, and explore the new exciting world that is city life. It was certainly a difficult move for him and quite the adjustment for his foster family.

I am happy to report that JD has completed his journey, and this year will be spending his first Christmas in his forever home, thanks to those who helped him on his journey. jddec16

Let me help you and your pup on your journey together this year!

New Year New Adventure!