Category Archives: Principles of Dog Training

Have A Holly, Jolly and Oh-So-Safe Holiday!

Have a Safe Holiday Season

Walking in a winter wonderland of waving Santas, prancing reindeer and swirling snow globes may seem like paradise to us but it can feel like a battleground to a nervous pooch. Remember when dealing with a Nervous-Nellie introduce new, scary, stimuli slowly and with a lot of patience and praise.  To keep your dog under the threshold of having a freak-out, we want to start changing your dog’s association to new the items.  The secret: start well in advance of his anxiety, try to anticipate things that will be stressful, and reward and praise your dog profusely as you approach and pass the item.  You should be as jolly as a little elf yourself, praising your dog for bravery as you pass. Your happy body language is key to building your dogs confidence.  Remember if you are tense yourself that communication transmits down the leash and only feeds your dogs anxiety. My rule of thumb is if I don’t feel silly and over the top I’m not doing it right!

Ultimately if your pet ever starts to really react negatively to an item and you can’t divert their attention, do the emergency u-turn and give them some space.  Let them sniff the object while you praise like crazy, and never force your pet or drag them over to “meet” something scary.

Of course you want to include your furry companions in the festivities,  but as you celebrate this holiday season, try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. And to keep your pet safe and decking the halls for years to come,  the ASPCA has the following great tips for pet holiday safety:

O Christmas Tree Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he decide to drink it, so discourage this behavior.  You may even have to barricade the bottom of the tree area so that curious pets don’t make the tree dish their own personal drinking fountain. Or worse yet, decide you brought the outhouse into your house, and mark the tree!

Tinsel-less Town
Some pups love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.

No Feasting for the Furries
By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising pooch will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.

Toy Joy
Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Choose gifts that are safe.

  • Dogs have been known to tear their toys apart and swallowing the pieces, which can then become lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. I recommend staying away from un-processed rawhide.

Forget the Mistletoe & Holly
Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.

Leave the Leftovers
Fatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills.

That Festival of Lights
Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!

Wired Up
Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth.

House Rules
If your animal-loving guests would like to give your pet a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session. Keep  a lot of fun toys on hand so that dogs can be encouraged to fetch a toy and not mouth a guest. Go-get-the-toy is a great distraction for a dog that loves to jump on guests as they enter and hasn’t perfected his sit-to-greet.

Put the Meds Away
Make sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.

Careful with Cocktails
If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

A Room of Their Own
Remember your normally quiet home may have a lot more hustle and bustle than usual. Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.

New Year’s Noise
As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a dog’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.

Take into consideration all these tips and your holiday season is sure to be merry and bright for all the members of your family!!!

This article taken directly from the ASPCA website at : http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/holiday-safety-tips.aspx

Welcome to the Family: How to Introduce Cats and Dogs

Animals are wonderful creatures and it is always fun to have at least a couple in the house. Despite what you may think, you can teach your kitty and pooch to live harmoniously together in one household. The key to getting your feline and canine to get along has to do with the introduction. The following are tips to help train your cat and dog to get along without attacking each other

Things to consider before the introduction:

When you add a new pet to your household, there are several things to remember. Your older pet is the king or queen of the castle. Your new pet will be an intruder. You need to treat them that way for a little while. For example, if you have had your cat for awhile, then your cat will see the dog as an unwelcome guest. You should not let the new dog have the run of the household for at least a while. Give your cat and dog time to adjust to each other slowly. Keep the new pets separated in other rooms for a couple of weeks and allow the introductions to happen over a few days. Let them get used to each others new smells and all the new stuff before you start introductions.

You will have better chance of success if your dog is a puppy. A puppy who grows up with a cat is likely to see the cat as part of the pack. Puppies can meet older assertive cats (cats who stand their ground and don’t flee) very successfully.  It is more difficult to introduce a young fearless kitten to a high energy prey-driven dog.

Combinations that will definitely clash:

  • If our dog has an aggressive or predatory nature. An aggressive dog can seriously injure or kill a cat. Dogs with intense prey drive are tough to counter condition in this case, the chase instinct can be too hard-wired.
  • If your cat is a small kitten, or is declawed, handicapped, or elderly. A kitten can be injured by an overly playful dog., older, or handicapped cats are less equipped to defend themselves so they will usually bite a dog as a first line of defense since they have no other weapons. This is not good for cat or dog.
  • If your cat is very skittish and prone to fleeing. This makes they cat appear like prey and can induce the chase instinct in the dog. Remember most dogs will chase rapidly moving objects. So if a cat gets frightened and runs, a dog often feels honor-bound to chase it. It’s important to nip that in the bud. If you don’t, the result can be injury, and even death, for the cat.

Two Basic Rules

Here are the top two rules to follow when you introduce a new cat to a dog household, or add a dog when you already have a cat:

  • Make sure your cat has total freedom, and can run and hide if desired.
  • Make sure your puppy or dog is well restrained and can’t follow a fleeing cat.

The reason for these rules is simple: In any cat-dog introduction, there’s more potential danger to the cat than to the dog. If there’s going to be a problem during cat and dog introductions, it’s usually caused by the dog, says Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, PhD, James Law Professor of Behavior Medicine – Emeritus at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Preparation steps – Important!

  • Get to know your dog and cat well. Be able to interpret their body language and sense their moods.
  • Your dog should have some training, and respond to commands to come, stay, and sit. Leave-it (turn away and make eye contact with you) is also a good one to have on board and should be heavily rewarded.
  • You should also know how to blend mild discipline and positive redirection to gently influence both pets behavior.

Do not proceed with the introduction until you have completed the steps in this section.

The Introduction

  • Beforehand, exercise your dog and feed him a nice meal; put him in a relaxed mood. Put your dog on a short leash or in his crate.
  • Put your cat in her carrier if she’s a scaredy-cat by nature; otherwise let her walk around. Be armed with lots of treats for good behavior.
  • Let dog and cat check each other out at a distance. Pet and talk to your dog soothingly. It’s not time for dog to approach cat just yet. Give your dog and cat some treats and praise as rewards for calm behavior.
  • Encourage your dog to do the sit/stay or down/stay while being HEAVILY rewarded for being calm around kitty.
  • If your dog bolts toward your cat, correct him with the leash. If he shows any signs of excessive excitability, calm him. If this doesn’t do the trick, cut the visit short and try again later when the dog is calmer.
  • Repeat these short visits several times a day, gradually giving your dog more leash as appropriate.

Do not move to the next phase until you have several consecutive days of incident-free visits in which both animals demonstrate to your satisfaction that they are comfortable with each other.

Helpful Gear

To keep all the pets in your home safe during introductions, the experts recommend using this gear:

  • Cat trees or perches. Whether your cat is the newbie or the senior pet in the house, before making cat and dog introductions, be sure your cat can move freely. Make sure there are “perches or cubbies for hiding, someplace where the cat can get off the floor and settle in somewhere,” says Christopher Pachel, DVM, a Portland, Ore. veterinarian who focuses on animal behavior issues. “You basically want an elevated resting place” for the cat.
  • A dog leash. Make sure your dog is safely restrained so it’s not able to chase, even if the cat darts away. This is a bigger issue with herding breed dogs, who have a prey instinct, but it’s really a hardwired response in all dogs to chase small fluffy things running away quickly.
  • Baby gates can help you gradually introduce dogs and cats, and the barrier minimizes danger to the cat. A baby gate is often better than a cat carrier because it gives the cat much-needed freedom.

Providing hiding space and perches for your cat, and finding a way to restrain your dog — and doing these things before anything is expected of the pets — sets the stage for a calmer introduction. Just make sure the dog is comfortable, the cat is comfortable, the dog can’t chase, and the cat can get away.

The Next Phase

Once your dog and cat consistently get along during leashed visits, you’re ready for the next step. Take your dog off the leash, and supervise the two closely. If you see problems, and they don’t abate with a few simple voice commands, back up to the previous phase for a few days. Gradually make the no-leash sessions longer. Do not leave the cat and dog alone until you’re sure they’re both fully comfortable with each other and there will be no trouble. Make sure your cat has places she can jump to for safety. Make some private space in your home for each animal. Use cat doors or baby gates if practical, as well as gentle discipline and rewards to enforce the rules. Keep kitty’s litter box and food bowl out of your dog’s reach.

Now relax and give these guys some hugs.

Don’t Do This

Here are common mistakes that people make when introducing cats and dogs:

  • Just throw them together and let them work it out! Not only is this dangerous, but it sets the stage for disaster. First impressions are everything to a cat and a bad experience makes it nearly impossible to get them to want to participate again.
  • Forcing physical proximity: Picking up your cat and holding him or her in your dog’s face by way of introduction will tempt your cat to scratch the dog and encourage the dog to really not like the cat. Always let kitty decide when or if it will approach the dog.
  • Not knowing the background of the dog you adopt. Adopting a dog from a shelter is often a wonderful idea, especially if you don’t have other pets, but Houpt notes that people rarely know a shelter dog’s background. “If a 2-year-old dog is looking for a home, there’s usually a good reason,” says Houpt, who also professionally consults on animal behavior issues. In some cases the dog may be aggressive, destructive, or have other problems. If you want to bring a canine into a feline household, Houpt usually recommends getting a puppy.
  • Not preparing your pet for change: Pachel suggests making changes — like moving your cat’s litter box, putting up a baby gate, or closing certain doors — before you bring your new pet home. That way, your long-time pet has a chance to get used to the changes before the new pet shows up.
  • Not thinking about your pet’s reaction. Try to think about the changes you’re making in your home from your pet’s perspective. For example, be aware that if you move the litter box and the cat has to walk past the dog’s kennel to get to it — and the dog is barking — that’s stressful for the cat.

When it Doesn’t Work Out

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it wasn’t meant to be. Some dogs are simply too dangerous to be around cats (occasionally the reverse is true). If your gut is telling you that this isn’t working out, respect that message. The humane thing to do in this case is  find a good cat-free home for the dog or dog-free home for the cat. In the interim, keep dog and cat separated and give them both lots of love.

Dogs and cats can usually live together peacefully, although creating a harmonious “blended family” requires some planning, patience, and careful guidance on your part. In some cases your dog and cat will become best friends. Some dogs unfortunately will be too dangerous for your cat, and one of the most important points of this article is that you need to recognize when this is the case. Like any love affair, you shouldn’t force a relationship that just isn’t working.

Excerpted from Introducing Cats and Dogs Without Re-Writing the Movie By Gary Loewenthal
and When Dog and Cat Meet By Wendy Fries

“Shame On You!” Uncovering the truth about the ‘Guilty Dog’.

    We have all seen it.  You come home, open the door, and maybe it’s the scent of urine or stool that greets your nostrils, or maybe it is the sight of trash strewn all over the room. Your dog was naughty while you were out. You turn to your pooch, understandably upset, and start to scold, “Bad boy! How could you!”  Your dog slinks away, shame written all over his face.

    Most owners swear that their dogs know they done something wrong, that their “look” of guilt means that they know why we are upset.  Most of us puzzle over why our so eager to please companion would want to do something that they seem to know makes us so angry!  Many owners even speculate that our dogs must be doing it on purpose, exacting a form of canine revenge because we go out and leave them all alone.

But truth be told this is not the case.  Dogs while very intelligent, are not a vengeful species.  Their antics while we are out are not premeditated and spiteful like we may think.  They are far too immediate and responsive to our body language for all that.  Remember dogs are body language communicators, they read us far better than we even read ourselves.  What your dog responds to is your displeased body language, your angry tone of voice, maybe even some sort pheromone that we excrete. The smell of fury if you will. Those are the things that make your dog slink away, not shame over the mess they created.  Pair this with the fact that you always find their tidbits at your homecoming and pretty soon you have classical conditioning working against you.  Now you have a dog that is instantly guilty and dreading your arrival the second you walk in the door, mess or no mess. Trust me! This is an experiment I have already conducted.  Well science has some more information on why your dog wears that “guilty” expression, and you might find the results surprising.  Not only is our dog reading our angry body language and reacting to that, but we are in fact imagining their guilty body language.  Talk about being on different wavelengths. This article from  ScienceDaily (June 11, 2009) — really explores the depths of our misunderstanding.

By ingeniously setting up conditions where the owner was misinformed as to whether their dog had really committed an offense, Alexandra Horowitz, Assistant Professor from Barnard College in New York, uncovered the origins of the “guilty look” in dogs in the recently published “Canine Behaviour and Cognition” Special Issue of Elsevier’s Behavioural Processes. Horowitz was able to show that the human tendency to attribute a “guilty look” to a dog was not due to whether the dog was indeed guilty. Instead, people see ‘guilt’ in a dog’s body language when they believe the dog has done something it shouldn’t have – even if the dog is in fact completely innocent of any offense. During the study, owners were asked to leave the room after ordering their dogs not to eat a tasty treat. While the owner was away, Horowitz gave some of the dogs this forbidden treat before asking the owners back into the room. In some trials the owners were told that their dog had eaten the forbidden treat; in others, they were told their dog had behaved properly and left the treat alone. What the owners were told, however, often did not correlate with reality. Whether the dogs’ demeanor included elements of the “guilty look” had little to do with whether the dogs had actually eaten the forbidden treat or not. Dogs looked most “guilty” if they were admonished by their owners for eating the treat. In fact, dogs that had been obedient and had not eaten the treat, but were scolded by their (misinformed) owners, looked more “guilty” than those that had, in fact, eaten the treat. Thus the dog’s guilty look is a response to the owner’s behavior, and not necessarily indicative of any appreciation of its own misdeeds. This study sheds new light on the natural human tendency to interpret animal behavior in human terms. Anthropomorphisms compare animal behavior to human behavior, and if there is some superficial similarity, then the animal behavior will be interpreted in the same terms as superficially similar human actions. This can include the attribution of higher-order emotions such as guilt or remorse to the animal. The editor of the special issue, Clive D.L. Wynne of the Department of Psychology, University of Florida, explained, “this is a remarkably powerful demonstration of the need for careful experimental designs if we are to understand the human-dog relationship and not just reify our natural prejudices about animal behavior.” He pointed out that dogs are the oldest domesticated species and have a uniquely intimate role in the lives of millions of people. Recent research on dogs has indicated more human-like forms of reasoning about what people know than has been demonstrated even in chimpanzees.

 



Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Elsevier, via AlphaGalileo and Science Daily at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090611065839.htm

“Don’t Leave Me!!!” A Plan for Preventing and Treating Separation Anxiety

Summer time is coming, and that means more outdoor time for you and your dog! It also means lot’s of family activities that your dog may not get to attend. Which means more time alone in the house or yard. Some dogs don’t mind this R & R time, while others get nervous about being separated from their pack. Destruction and barking can be a troublesome side effect.

Remember dogs don’t have a lot of natural hobbies, digging, chewing and alert barking is their way of stress relief.  They don’t do naughty things to punish you or “let you know their upset” as is commonly thought.  They just can’t think of another way to relieve all this pent up nervous energy. Remember dogs are pack animals, they don’t understand why we have to separate they wouldn’t do this under natural circumstances.  Here are some good ways to work on preparing your dog for your separation.

A behavior modification plan:

  • Give your dog a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour of aerobic exercise each day. If possible I like to do this before you leave. Remember a tired dog is a good dog!
  • Work on basic obedience commands (come, sit, sit-stay, down, down-stay) for 15 or 20 minutes each day. Use rewards for compliance (praise, a quick pat on the chest, a food treat) rather than reprimands or punishment for lack of compliance. If you need help getting consistent obedience from your dog, work with a professional trainer (like me!).
  • Wean your “Velcro dog” from being attached to you at all times when you’re home. Use a baby gate to barricade her in a separate room for part of the time when you’re home.
  • Provide her with a delicious distraction, such as a Kong (click here to get great recipes and game ideas) toy stuffed with a food treat (peanut butter is a popular Kong stuffer) while she’s by herself. You can also use a “down-stay” or “get in your bed” command to put some distance between you. Also creating a doggie scavenger hunt hiding food-based chewies and things in her area is very helpful.
  • Ignore her for 20 minutes before you leave and 20 minutes after you return. Effusive goodbyes and hellos make a dog with separation anxiety feel worse.
  • When you leave her alone, don’t give her the run of the house or apartment. Instead, use a baby gate to confine her to one room, such as the bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen—wherever she’s least likely to do damage or disturb the neighbors. Leave a radio or TV on very low to provide distracting background noise.
  • Do not leave a dog with separation anxiety in a closed crate unless he/ she is comforted by being in her den. Many dogs with separation anxiety have panic attacks when crated and will injure their mouths or front feet trying to bite or claw their way out of the crate. Test run this before you leave for hours. If the crate is very wet when you return (excessive salivation) this is signs of a panic attack.
  • Don’t use an anti-bark collar. It’s unlikely to work on a dog with separation anxiety.
  • Start a program of desensitization or “flooding.” Flooding for separation anxiety would involve setting aside several hours on a weekend during which you enter and leave your apartment so often that you essentially wear the dog out. Leave the apartment every few minutes, on a varying schedule, for a minute or two at a time then come back. Be sure not to return while your dog is barking or howling, or else you will be rewarding her for that behaviour. If it’s impossible to walk out the door without having your dog bark, you might have a friend remain in the apartment while you go in and out. Desensitization for a dog with separation anxiety involves giving her your customary cues that you’re leaving—such as picking up your car keys or briefcase, opening the coat closet, putting on your “work shoes,” and so on—without actually leaving.
  • A DAP (Doggie Pheromones) diffuser or collar may help calm an anxious dog.
  • An antidepressant may be helpful for a dog with separation anxiety. Clomicalm (clomipramine) is widely used for that purpose. In severe cases and for occasional use, an anti-anxiety medication can also be given one hour before your departure. No drug can extinguish separation anxiety on its own, however. Desensitization is essential.

Excerpted from Hound Health Handbook © 2004, 2009 by Urbanhound, LLC Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York All Rights Reserved Available wherever books are sold.

The Importance of Being Persistent!

As a dog trainer I have always know how important it is to be consistent.  Good pack leaders are always consistent! But just as important as consistency is being persistent.  It is one thing to be consistent and always ask your dog to sit while waiting at the door, but it does you no good if you give up easily when your dog doesn’t respond the first time.

I was really reminded of how being persistent can be used as a training tool while on my recent trip to Paws with a Cause, in Michigan.  There I got the opportunity to work with folks with disabilities and see how they worked with their service dogs.  I went on many field calls to help teach people how to better work with their assistance dog.  But the most interesting thing of all was that even though I was the dog trainer, the one supposed to do the teaching, my clients taught me a much more valuable lesson.

You see a person in a wheelchair with limited mobility of their arms and legs doesn’t have a lot options when their dog doesn’t obey the command.  They can’t snap the leash and offer a correction, they may not be able to get out a treat and bribe their dog, and they certainly can’t manhandle their dog and force them into doing the behavior.  All they can do is persist and ask again. Imagine if you will this scenario:  You are in your wheelchair and you drop your keys, you ask Fido to retrieve them and Fido looks at you blankly.  What can you do but ask again, you aren’t going to get into your house until he retrieves them so you have to keep trying.  Eventually Fido gets bored with just standing there and grabs those keys, he wants to go someplace too!

Many times those of us with all our capabilities get frustrated or in a hurry and we give up to soon.  We cave to the confused, distracted, or maybe just lazy dog, and our leadership quotient takes the hit.  So much can be gained by just showing your dog that when you say sit, you mean it, and nobody is going anywhere until they sit, so they may as well do it.  Remember good leaders get what they ask for, nobody questions the president when he gives a command!  You are the leader of your pack, empower yourself and get results!

Licks and Wags,

Melissa

The Power of Consistency…

Part I

I was working with a client tonight and was reminded of another training concept that I feel is important.  We were talking about leash skills and how important it is to be consistent.  While it is true that I spend a lot of time encouraging my clients to be unpredictable to keep their dogs on their toes,  there are also some times  when a consistent pattern of behavior is appreciated.  Keeping the leash soft and tension-free is definitely one of those areas.  It is also something your dog can be taught to be in control of.  This can be good (if your dog is working to keep the leash loose), or it can be a nightmare (if your dog learns that pulling is the norm and an acceptable way of moving forward). So here is one place where consistency saves you a lot of training time.  You just really have to adopt a no-pull policy.  In other words, from now on we will not accept being pulled any longer.  EVERY time you pull ahead of me and I feel that leash go tight I will correct and turn the opposite way even if only for a few steps to get you back in line with me;  and only when I feel the leash is loose again will we move forward.  It is a tedious process  I know! But one that pays off in the long run.  If you are absolute and this is the law, your dog learns very quickly how fruitless it is to pull the leash tight.  You set a boundary for yourself and it must be respected.  Ultimately any behavior that you really want your dog to do without fail this must be your mantra. A word of caution, by the same token realize that any time you ask for a behavior as the leader you need to make it happen.  So as any mother of a small child will tell you, pick your battles.  If you don’t have the time to persist and make it happen don’t even ask! All you do is confuse the dog and show them that your cues sometimes need to be respected and other times not.  Instead, if you don’t have time to walk the dog properly DON’T EVEN WALK! One day without a walk will not kill your dog, you can always play fetch or run around the yard if your pup needs exercise.  Teach them that a loose leash is a state of being, whenever the leash is on there is never any tension on it.  Persist and you shall see the rewards of your labor, I promise.

So if consistency is king then being persistent is its cousin.  Check out Part II for more info…

Catch your dog being good!

A trainer friend of mine sent me an email last night that reminded me of a really important training concept. She always signs off her emails with a tagline that reads “catch your dog being good.” I remember thinking, “wow, what an important concept that is so often forgotten.” I mean how do we expect our dogs to do the right thing if we never show them what we like.

I was reminded again of this concept while walking two of my client’s dogs this afternoon. For whatever reason we were just having a great walk, nobody was pulling or lagging, everyone was just hanging out by my side. I thought to myself, what a great opportunity to show them what behaviors I like. I better praise these dogs soon if I want this behavior to continue.

In the training community this is called capture training.  You capture the behavior the animal does and reinforce it.  Eventually the animal anticipates your reward and offers up the behavior on their own. Dolphin trainers do it all the time during play sessions.  A dolphin will do a really cool jump and the trainers will click and reinforce.  Dolphins are so smart they will often repeat the behavior to solicit more fish.  Parents do it all the time with young children, often without realizing it.  Little Johnny gets done playing with a toy and puts it back in his toy box while he selects another.  His mom pipes up eagerly, “Thanks baby for remembering to put your toy back!”

Whenever I start a new puppy class I encourage my clients to start the Pollyanna Principle.  If you remember the movie Pollyanna from your childhood, Pollyanna was encouraged by her father to look for the good in people.  He said if you look for the good in people you will find it.  More than just perceiving the glass as being half full this encourages us to search for those moments when our loved ones are doing something good and reinforce it.  Even if just with a kind word, you will see that it makes a big difference.

So next time your dog just comes over and lays at your feet instead of jumping all over you, remember to reach down and tell him what a good dog he is, and how much you love it when he lays “DOWN”.  I guarantee if you do this often enough, soon you won’t have to even ask.

Licks and wags,

Melissa

Welcome to my Dog Blog!

First of all, I want to commend you for taking the first step and coming to my blog.  Behavioral problems are the number one reason that dogs enter shelters today and just the fact that you came here shows that you love your dog and are are interested in transforming your relationship. This blog is all my thoughts and feelings on everything dog.  Come here any time you like and read what has been going on.  Also feel free to contact me with any questions you have I am happy to help.  My journey with animals has been an interesting path and I am excited to share all that I have learned!

The Principle
I believe dog training should work for your life!  It is not some magic science, it is really more intuitive than people think.  There is a lot of common sense that goes into it, I think a lot of dog owners over think stuff sometimes.  I want everyone to have a better more enriching relationship with their pet.  This relationship is built through trust and cooperation.  Through your behavior your dog learns to trust that if he cooperates he will be rewarded. Either with something tangible that he needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), or something he wants (love, a toy thrown, etc.).
This relationship in some ways is like that of an employer and an employee.  Your dog’s one job in life is to pay attention to you and follow the patterns of behavior YOU reinforce.  You one job is reinforce the behaviors you want to stick around and redirect the ones you don’t like.  If you keep this principle in the foreground of your mind you will always see success.

Remember, just like any living creature, training is always occurring for your pet at every moment of the day.  Even right now as you are reading this blog your pet is learning something.  It is your choice what your pet learns.  Just like a human child, raising a puppy is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week job.  Just as with children, there are no days off from training.  Invest every moment wisely and you will see rewards quickly.

Now if you are one of the fortunate, and you are reading this blog while your puppy is in between the ages of 8 weeks and 16 weeks you are very lucky indeed.  You dog is at the perfect stage to start training, your dog is a clean slate just waiting to be written on.  On the other hand if your dog is a little older, don’t fret, just because your slate may already have some words written on it doesn’t mean they can’t be erased and re-written.  Just recognize you will need to have the patience to take the time to erase and rewrite.  It always takes more time to unlearn a naughty behavior and replace it, than it took to learn the behavior in the first place.

Licks and Wags,

Melissa