Tag: fear free training

Why it’s Absolutely Okay to Avoid the Dog Park!

Why it’s Absolutely Okay to Avoid the Dog Park!

Do you stare longingly at your pup wondering if he’s happy laying at your feet chewing on his bone?

Do you wonder if he needs more socializing in his life?

Every dog wants to play with other dogs, right?

I work with quite a few dogs who just lose it at the sight of another dog. I’m talking jumping, barking, pulling on the leash, and otherwise doing the exact opposite of what you would like them to do when this scenario comes up. (If this embarrassing scene is happening to you, contact me, or a local force free trainer in your area. We can help!)
Many of these dogs act this way because they are, in fact, afraid of the other dogs approaching them. For your dog, acting this way gets the other dog to go away, because there is absolutely no way you are going to walk over to that person to explain why your dog is loosing his $@**.

Most pet parents also have the idea in their head that dogs should have doggy friends. They should be able to be social at the dog park or doggy daycare in large groups of dogs and still keep a cool head. If you have one of those dogs, consider yourself lucky!

Here is an example I like to use when explaining this to people:
Some people like to go to the bar every weekend. Some people like to sit at home with their dogs on the weekends, and some people like to have a few close friends over to play a game or watch a movie.

Is one option better than the other? It depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I’ll be at home on Saturday night with my dogs every single time! Now, I go to the club once a year because I like my friends and I want to hang out with them, but asking me to go every weekend is going to just wear me out!

Now let’s look at your dog. If he is freaking out at one new dog from 100 yards away, I don’t think he’s going to like going to the “bar” where there are 30 dogs on top of him all at once. Your dog may learn to enjoy one or two doggy friends in his lifetime, or he might be a dog who doesn’t want friends. Both of those options are okay!

Society puts a lot of pressure on dogs to be super friendly and A-Okay 100% of the time. No one can hold up to those expectations. Take an honest look at your dog, and decide if your dog as an individual is okay with doggy friends. If your honest answer is “no” or “not right now,” that’s okay! Your dog just heaved a sigh of relief that you are not going to ask him to do something he’s not ready to do!

This concept is the root of my training philosophy. Is your dog ready and capable of making good choices in this situation? If not, then we need to train some more to get him ready, or we need to decide if this position is one that your dog needs to encounter. Then determine the best way to help your dog cope with this decision.

Find things that truly do make your dog happy, and pursue those options. Does he enjoy swimming, or playing ball with you? Make sure he gets the opportunity to have those social interactions with you, and having doggie friends becomes farther down the list of requirements for a happy life.
For more insight to my struggles with Pixie’s reactivity, check out my past blog posts!
Until next time, make good choices!

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Back to School Tips for your Dog

Back to School Tips for your Dog

September is here and that means Back to School!
If you have kids, that means packing lunches, homework time, and getting to sports practice. If you are a teacher, that means back to your normal 7am to 7pm (yes, I know that’s a 12 hour day. Teachers work a lot y’all). So what does that mean for your dog?
If you have an older pup who has gone through this routine change before, then they might be a little more prepared than if you brought home a new puppy or rescue dog this summer. That doesn’t mean you should expect them to readily adjust to a huge change in routine. Here are a few tips for helping make the transition a smooth one!

#1 Make sure your pup is ready to handle you being gone all day.
No one likes puppy surprises when they get home from being gone all day. If you have a pup who is younger than 5 months or an older dog who is used to you being home to let him out every 3 hours, then test pup on how long he is ready to “hold it.” Plan to run some errands for just a bit longer than you are normally leaving pup home alone. If pup can successfully wait until you get home then slowly make that time equal the amount of time that you will be gone for work and school. If pup is having some trouble with the extended time, plan to have a neighbor or dog walker come by for a few weeks to help with the transition. As puppy gets older, and as older dog adjusts to the new schedule, you will find that they are able to “hold it” a bit longer to meet your scheduling needs.

#2 Create a new routine for Rover too!
Since pooch is going to be waiting around all day for you to get home. Add him into your morning routine. A nice long walk early in the morning allows pup to know that you have not forgotten about him in all the shuffle, and he gets to burn off some energy. If you are not a morning person then an evening walk is fine, just make sure it doesn’t get shadowed by homework or sports practices. Most people find that waking up just a few minutes earlier to get the pup out is not that bad and they actually look forward to it. Science says exercise is good for our productivity too! Rover is tired, and we get more done. Win win situation!

#3 Invest in some new toys.

IMG_20170324_090704_143I know, one more thing to spend money on! The kids got new backpacks and lunch boxes, why not spend some money on the pup too! A new puzzle toy or game for Spot to work on when you leave will spare you his ideas of remodeling your kitchen. A frozen kong or bully stick wrapped in a paper bag allows your pup the opportunity to do something constructive while you are gone. It also has the added benefit of reducing stress in your pup by allowing him to forage. This allows him to use different areas of his brain that we have inadvertently shut off by offering food in a bowl. Scavenger activities for dogs is like taking a relaxing bubble bath for us!

Little things will make a big difference for your pup this September. If you find that your pup is having a hard time with the life changes of back to school, schedule a vet visit as soon as you notice the change. Often behavior changes are linked to health problems that are masked until something stressful happens. If all checks out well and you are still having some trouble, look for a certified trainer who is knowledgeable in behavior modification and separation anxiety. There are lots of things we can do to help you out, but we need to address it sooner rather than later!

Just a reminder to my local clients: I am quickly counting down the days to my Wedding! Things are moving along smoothly so far! Make sure you get your appointments scheduled so I can see you before all the chaos really begins! If you are interested in scheduling a consultation with me, please contact me soon! I will be limiting the number of new clients I see in October so I can give you the attention you and your pup deserve!
Until next time!

Is frustration affecting your dog walking?

Is frustration affecting your dog walking?

I want to touch on the idea of giving your dog a choice. Is your dog ready to go for a walk? Are they actually capable of listening to you in the moment you are speaking? Sometimes the answer is no.

Most of the time your dog does not respond to the cue given because their brain is elsewhere. You know the look I am talking about, the one where their nose is twitching and their head is on a swivel. They have no idea you actually exist in that moment. They are looking off to the hills, and have forgotten about the leash and the walk that you are ready to go on. From a training point of view, that is a problem!

Many traditional trainers teach that the dog should obey what you say no matter what, and that level of sharp obedience is what you strive for. If you are not getting the result you want, then a sharp pop of the collar to remind the dog what he is supposed to be doing will help him get there. If this is how you were taught to train your dog then one of two things are happening. (I was also taught this way originally, so I know your frustration) One, you are now constantly popping the collar and giving cues that your dog is ignoring. Two, your dog is giving you a half-hearted sit when you collar pop but still no actual focus to do what you ask. A very frustrating problem.

A story: Pixie loves dock diving. Her favorite thing in the whole world is jumping from the dock into the pool and going for a swim. She loves it so much however, that she leaves her brain in the car when we get to the pool. All of last year I struggled with her staying on the dock. I could see in her face that there was no brain in her head. The more training I did on the dock the more frustrated I got because I could not get any thought processes while near the pool. So I stopped going to the pool to let her jump. The first time we went to the pool this year, she didn’t get anywhere near the dock. I just let her sniff. We sniffed in the parking lot, and the fence line. We sniffed the parked cars, and watched the dogs go into the vet clinic. Any time she offered me some eye contact, I would reward, and move her a little closer to the pool. Thoughtfulness, gets you closer to what you want.

What would happen if you just gave your dog a few minutes to sniff? Hang out on the porch, and let your pup get all the sniffing out of his system before you asked him to move forward. I’m not saying let your dog drag you all over the yard to sniff every blade of grass, you stay in one space, giving your dog as much room to sniff as the leash will allow and just wait. Let me know how this goes, and the difference you see in your walks with your pup!

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!

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