Tag: puppy training

Finding the right Puppy

Finding the right Puppy

If my last post didn’t horrify you then let’s move on!

What flavor of puppy would you like?

Have you met the breed?

Done your research to decide if this breed is a good fit for you?

Found a responsible breeder?

“What does this even mean!? I just want a puppy”

I see many puppies each year. I can definitely see the difference between someone who has done their research and one who impulsively got a puppy because it was cute, or someone once said this breed would be a good family pet. (I am going to gear this article to families looking for a pet, because that is most of my clients, but if you are looking to do a dog sport then the same principles still apply, but your criteria will be a bit different.)
When you look ahead 2 years, what does your image of life with a dog look like? What does your lifestyle actually look like right now? What sacrifices are you willing to make to ensure that your dog is getting the attention that it needs?

baby cargo
My Malinois puppy at 10 weeks old. She’s a nutcase and everything I wanted in a puppy!

I brought home Cargo, my Belgian Malinois puppy in September. When I was looking for a puppy, I wanted a dog who could do dog sports, had a stable temperament, and good work ethic. I looked for higher energy breeds who need daily training and exercise because I like training and I am a fairly active person. In two years, I hope to be competing in agility and dock diving with this dog. Right now my lifestyle is fairly flexible to allow me to adjust to having a high energy dog in my life (yay self-employment!) My day now begins at 5:30am, and includes about 2 hours of devoted “dog time” to my existing dogs, and the puppy. This also includes a financial sacrifice as my puppy will also require training classes and equipment to meet these goals. (yes, the dog trainer’s dog goes to training classes!! Class is not for the human, it’s for the puppy!)

This is not a sacrifice that most people are willing to make. Keep that in mind as you look for your next breed.

As you choose your next breed, read and understand breed characteristics. There will be variation in each breed, but genetics is a very good predictor of your dog’s temperament when they get older. If the breed characteristic uses descriptive words like “strong,” “intelligent,” “trainable,” or “stubborn” then training is going to be required for the life of your dog. Getting through a 6 week puppy class will not be enough to keep these dogs happy. Make sure this is something that you are prepared to give your dog.

Once you have settled on a breed, now to find a good breeder! The Pet World at the mall is not the place to go! (Google puppy mills and pet stores for more information on that) Start on the internet, avoid places that are selling more than one breed of dog, or places who seem to always have a litter ready to go.
Good breeders will require that you contact them. They will interview you to make sure their puppies are going to appropriate homes. Ask about the parent’s and grandparents temperament. Even if you are not planning to show or do a dog sport, that is a good place to start with finding a good breeder. A good breeder should be able to tell you about the puppies lineage back a few generations.
Ask if they are part of their breed club, and what sports or shows they have done with the parents. Many show litters will only have one of five puppies who are show quality. The rest will need pet homes, look for one of those puppies. The research has been done by the breeder to make sure they get the puppy they want, reap those benefits!
Good breeders put a ton of time and energy into every litter, making sure they have the strongest genetics carrying the breed forward. They will also get your puppy started on the basics of potty training and crate training before they leave. Look for breeders who use puppy programs like Avidog, or Puppy Culture to raise their litters. The difference in litters who are raised with a program like this and one who is not, is truly

boston puppy
This litter of Boston Terrier pups have not opened their eyes and they are being exposed to regular handling, novel substances under their feet, and obstacles to overcome.

incredible.
Do not pick up the newspaper or craigslist and find a breeder that way. Most of the time backyard breeders are only into dogs for the money, and do not put the time and effort into making sure they are breeding for the best of the breed. More often than not, these dogs do not look anything like the breed standard when they are adults, and we are usually questioning if that dog is actually the breed you chose.
If you have chosen a breeder and you arrive to conditions that are not at all what you expected, or temperament of your puppy is not what you want, WALK AWAY! Do not let all that research and money go to waste. A puppy will be with you for 10+ years and is an investment. If the “breeder” was not honest with you, then do not give them money! You are not “rescuing” this dog by paying for it. You are simply allowing the person to continue to breed poor quality dogs.
If breeding and looks don’t matter to you, then consider rescuing a puppy from a local shelter or rescue. Depending on the time of the year, you can usually find a pregnant momma or a litter of pups dropped off or picked up because someone had an “oops litter”. The shelter will do the best they can to label a breed to stray pups, but without knowing who momma and daddy were, it’s a shot in the dark. If you do get the chance to see momma then you have a good idea of temperament. Genetics doesn’t move far between parents and offspring. Training can do some temperament change, but genetics is what lands you on the spectrum. If mom is super happy and outgoing, then chances are you will also have an outgoing pup, if mom is more reserved and wary of new people, there is a good chance your pup will be aloof towards strangers and that is something you will have to be aware of for the remainder of your pups life.
There is no difference between getting a family pet from a shelter or breeder. Just make sure you are making an informed decision, and one that best fits your needs for your new companion. More often than not, disaster strikes when there is unfair expectations placed on the new pup or the family. If the dog is not a fit for the family, then usually it’s the dog that suffers the most.
If you would like help evaluating a particular breed for your lifestyle, please contact me! I am happy to give you my insight and help you find the best path for you and your family!

Advertisements
So you think you want a puppy?

So you think you want a puppy?

The holidays are a popular time to get a puppy, or adopt a new four- legged member of the family. Puppies are really cute, and super fun for the whole family to take responsibility of. Their floppy ears, and wonky legs make everyone laugh and post a million pictures on Instagram.
Getting a puppy means once you get through the puppy stage, everything is perfect right? You get that wonderful dog that hangs out in the front yard, and can be walked easily around the neighborhood, never bothering anyone, or causing a problem. Yep, get a puppy, and you can raise it how you want it and everything will be grand!

Haha! I wish it was that easy!

Over the next few weeks I will be offering puppy tips to make sure you are looking for the right puppy for your family, and are prepared to set puppy up for success when you bring him home. I will cover many of the things that people often contact me about, when they bring puppy home and then feel the puppy paralysis of “what have I done?!” and then “what do I do about this?!”
If at the end of the series, I have totally talked you out of a puppy, I will go over what to look for in an adult dog, and how to navigate the overwhelm of the shelter environment, or find a reputable rescue to adopt your pup from.

A dog joining your family is a 10+ year commitment. Make sure you can look ahead and your pup can cope with any life altering situations over the next 10 years. Marriage, having kids, moving, changing jobs are all big changes for people! Living near the largest military base on the east coast, I can’t tell you how many times “deploying” shows up on the surrender form at the shelter. Craigslist is full of pets needing a place to go because the person planning to keep the pups for 6 to 10 months suddenly can’t commit to that time frame any longer. If you are military or have job that requires travelling more than occasionally, make sure you plan the cost of boarding or petsitter into the cost of your pup.

2013-05-27 14.51.51

If one of these situations might be in your future, fostering for a reputable rescue might be a better option. Reputable rescues have a network of people willing to watch your pup while you travel or will cover the cost of boarding for your trip. They will also cover medical care and food while you are housing the pup. You provide the love and they spend the money. It’s a win win win situation for you, the dog, and the rescue!
I have fostered 7(ish) dogs in my lifetime, and only kept one. (Pixie is the worst, and I am the only one that would put up with her crap) I cry each time they leave, even if I am really excited to see them go. The satisfaction of knowing that I have helped them on their journey to a forever home, keeps me in the game. Each of the dogs I have fostered, would have done terribly in a shelter situation, or I pulled them from the shelter, to give the other dogs there a better chance at adoption. Shelters do a great job of housing the pets in their care, but the door never closes. There is always another dog coming in the door, and if I can help get one out, then I have done my small part.
If a puppy is part of your plan for 2018, then stay tuned! I will offer all of my tips and plan for getting you started off on the right track and make sure you have set your family up for success, and planned for every possible outcome before puppy comes home!

Keeping my Sanity!

Keeping my Sanity!

October was a crazy month! Most of you know I got married on the 14th, and weddings take up a ton of time. The day was perfect, but it took a ton of planning and coordinating to make that happen. With Cargo at home, I also had to make sure that she was not missing out on the socializing that is so important with a young puppy. Anytime there was a training opportunity to get some errands run, and play with the puppy, I took advantage. Visit one of my bridesmaids at the barn? We met the pony and the chickens while we were there. Vendor is near the park, 20 mins playing on the trails built into that trip! Walk through at the venue, yep puppy tagged along. We managed to make it to one Puppy class locally, so she got to play with a few puppies and work on her focus for a little bit. Even with those little trips I still feel like she was still getting the exposure to things that she needed during that critical time.

IMG_20171021_164246038

At home, my monster puppy did not understand that it was not playtime 24/7! I had to get some stuff done, so I planned out each of her 3 meals to be something that was mentally stimulating. This helped give her something to do, and keep her quiet while I was making phone calls or writing emails. Thankfully, puppies also sleep quite a bit at 12 weeks old so I took full advantage of that as well! Slow feeder for breakfast meant that the meal took about 15 minutes to finish, and all that effort usually gave me an hour of her napping afterwards. Lunch was usually a frozen Kong, zogoflex (west paw toy) or busy buddy (petsafe) that she would work on for a bit in her kennel if I was gone for appointments or running errands. Dinner was a wobbler or kibble in a box. She learned pretty quickly to knock the wobbler around to get the food out, and if you have ever watched a pup play with the wobbler, you can hear them scratching on it while they are playing with it. That meant I could get our dinner made while listening to her play with her dinner for a good 15 minutes. Those of you with puppies understand how amazing 15 minutes of occupied puppy can be!

We also played a bit between these sessions. Cargo learned how to fetch the ball, target her tug toy and not my hand, play with the thing that I am playing with, go into her kennel willingly, and most importantly, her name. Each of these were done in 5 to 10 minute sessions, and would wear out her brain and let her sleep a little more soundly.
These lessons were also applied to my older dogs. I felt guilty that the little bit of time I did have, was spent with the puppy, so they also rotated playing with the wobblers, food in boxes, or kongs while I was getting things done. Now that the wedding is done, and I have a little more time back, I am still applying these things to make sure my dogs are getting the mental work that they need.

The busy holiday season is upon us, so I want to challenge you this month to add in a few enrichment games to your dog’s day. Get creative and post your dog playing on my Facebook page! There will be a winner in December for the person with the most posts! Winner will be announced December 18!

If you are not already following my Facebook Page, check it out here: Facebook

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 One Most Important thing to do when Training your Dog!

The One Most Important thing to do when Training your Dog!

You have a dog.

You have a behavior that you don’t like.

You have a goal for your dog.

What now?

This is where many people lose their momentum in training their pups. I’ve been there so I’m not judging you. You sit down, think “hey I should work with the dog on something”

Or you end up with a face like this…IMG_20170414_170531030

What do you work on?

Well there is the door manners, but I don’t have anyone to knock on the door.

That counter surfing needs some work, but it’s not that bad…

10 minutes later, you are still sitting on the couch looking at the dog and nothing is getting done. You now feel overwhelmed and instead of doing something you are doing nothing, and no progress is being made.

SO what is the ONE thing that you can do to help overcome that endless cycle of thinking about it and doing nothing?

START TAKING NOTES

I started Bullet Journaling in October of last year. I saw someone talk about it in a facebook group and looked into it.

More about Bullet Journal here!

Now some of those journals are crazy. Mine does not have any colors or symbols, but it does give me a place to quickly write down things I need to remember or notes to add about clients, in a place that I can quickly refer back to as I need to.  (And as much as I like to color code things, I don’t have the time for all that nonsense.)  Once I figured out a way to make the journal work for my stream of consciousness, I thought perhaps it would work for my dog’s training as well.

I started adding the dogs training into my personal journal, but notes were getting convoluted, and I was having a hard time separating personal things from dog training things.

Both of my competing dogs now have a journal of their own. At the beginning of the month I take a look at what we are competing in that month, and what skills we need to work on to be successful. It gives me a short list of ideas and goals for right now, instead of all the “hopefully one day” things that I tend to add in on a whim.  We don’t have an Index page, or a Future log since all their competitions are also in my journal, that’s where I need them to plan my own life. My dogs journal is just their day to day stuff.

On the Month Log, I write a general idea of what we accomplished that day so I quickly know how often we are working on each skill. I also know at a glance how often we take days off.  All the days are on one page, and they say things like “conditioning” “work” or “park.” If they are competing, then it says “dock dogs” or “barn hunt” and nothing more!

In the Daily Log, I write a quick recap of the training session. What we did, how it felt, what I think we need to work on at the next session. I try to do this as soon as the session is over while it is still fresh in my mind. It also helps when, later, I remember to train my dog, I can go back and read what I thought of the last session and go from there. (It’s really helpful when I write down what I think the next session should be)

Here is a picture of Pixie’s journal. You can see it’s not terribly detailed or long, but it gives me something to go back to. I saw that on March 19 we did a few weaves around cones, which was fun. It’s a good shoulder workout so maybe we will add that into our training tomorrow. Conditioning plan done! See how easy that is!

training journal

 

It seems daunting and over kill for training your dog, but I promise you that having a plan will allow you to meet those goals that you have. It also helps to see how far you have come when you begin to get frustrated by your progress or lack thereof.

This also helps reduce the amount of time that you are choosing Facebook over your dog.

If you need help developing a training journal that works for you, let me know! Everyone organizes things differently in their brain, so what works for me might not be perfect for you! Together I am sure we can come up with something to get you started!

 

 

 

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!