a wonderful event for the entire family, and we can also discuss additional tips to help keep your pup happy and healthy!
Sunday, June 2, 2013
a wonderful event for the entire family, and we can also discuss additional tips to help keep your pup happy and healthy!
Thursday, May 16, 2013
The more prepared you are to bring your pup along to an event the better set up you'll be for success, so in addition to everything you've learned from your BlueDog classes or private lessons, I have put together a list of tips and reminders for you to make the very most out of the experience!
1. Pack some super treats and don't forget you clicker! Oh common...you knew I wouldn't allow you to leave your clicker at home! The tastier the treats the better...regular kibble or chopped up carrots aren't going to cut it when there are sheep running around. And your clicker will help you let your pup know the precise moment he's doing something right!
So, what are we clicking for? you might ask. Well, anything your dog does that you like! I want you to go there with a list of GOOD behaviors you'd like to see your dog give you. The moment he does one, CLICK and give him a treat! You should be clicking and treating at a high rate of reinforcement, we want to catch all the good things! It could be anything from your dog glancing up to you, walking on a loose leash, or simply nice, calm behavior. If he's being good let him know, because the more you reward the behaviors you like, the more he'll give them to you. And don't forget that it's not just all about the clicker and treats, you've got to make it SO much fun for your pup to be with you! Talk to him, surprise him with a toy in your back pocket....you're going to have a lot of distractions to compete with so the silly puppy voice WILL be necessary.
What if my dog does something I don't like? you might also ask. Simply avoid reinforcing it! If your pup pulls, don't move and work on getting his attention back to you. He only gets to move forward if the leash is loose, simple as that!
2. Start easy. Find a place by the edge of the park where there are minimal distractions and begin reinforcing your dog immediately for good behaviors before moving toward the crowds. You can even start your training in the car...why not?! Begin by getting his attention with the Name Game, that's one of Walt's favorites, or try some easy commands like "sit" or "touch." Setting him up for success early on will make the entire experience easier and much more fun for him.
3. Look for signs of stress. We want public outings like this to be enjoyable for your pup, so if he looks too overwhelmed, he may not be ready for such a busy event. Signs of stress include heavy panting, ears pulled back, low tail and head, not taking his treats, licking his lips, blinking his eyes, holding up his paw, or lots of yawning. Of course, some of those behaviors may also represent excitement, but you know your pup and we've taught you well...so if you think he's unhappy, he likely is. Simply bring him home (or surprise him with a trip to his favorite local trail!) and allow him to calm down. Then start bringing him to more locations but with less distractions (the park on a normal day would be much better to start.) Just because he was overwhelmed, that doesn't mean he'll never be able to go to a busy event, he just needs some more time and training before he's comfortable with it!
4. Don't forget additional supplies. Make sure your pup is wearing his ID when you go to an event and make sure you have a supply of poop bags. Bring along some water as well, all the excitement might make him thirsty. If you use a front-clip harness or head halter for training, this is a good time to use it. And avoid bringing your pup's retractable leash as it will give you limited control and can prove to be dangerous in crowds; opt for his regular 6 foot lead instead. And fun toy is always a good idea as well in case he starts to get bored with his treats!
5. Be respectful. It's wonderful that Andover and North Andover are so dog friendly and allow dogs at these events, so let's keep it that way! Make sure you clean up after your dog and always respect the personal space of others....not everyone loves slobbery kisses like we do! And as I ALWAYS preach, make sure you ASK before you allow your dog to greet another dog or person, or simply don't allow him to say hello, he's too busy having fun with you anyways! If you don't want your pup to say hello to another, feel free to throw me under the bus by saying "I'm sorry but he's in training, and my dog trainer is very strict!" Or if you do want him to say hello, use it as an opportunity to reward good behavior by waiting until he's calm and on a loose leash before you allow him to say hi.
For more about proper greetings, ask me about the Yellow Dog Project. And make sure to visit us at Dog Days at Smolak Farms where we'll be talking about the project and handing out yellow ribbons for dogs who need them!
6. If things are going well, practice some of the more challenging behaviors your pup learned in class! Use the event as a learning opportunity for your dog....if he's giving you great attention and straying by your side, feel free to ask for a little bit more, such as for a "down" or a 5 second "stay." Or if you've been working hard on generalizing you pup's "settle," bring a mat and spend a couple minutes shaping him to it. (This could be a great exercise for a couple of adolescent doodles I had in class...you know who you are! : ) This will help your pup learn to generalize the behaviors he's learned in class, so that he'll do them for you anywhere, with any distractions.
Remember, when you bring your dog to a community event, you want to keep things as positive and fun as possible! I will be thrilled if I get to see some of you at the Sheep Shearing Festival this Sunday, you'll find Walt and I at the North Andover Merchants Association's booth from 2-4pm (and will definitely get bonus points in class if you stop by with your pup and some treats and your clicker!) The entire BlueDog team will also be at Dog Days at Smolak Farms at the BlueDog booth all day long.
If you would like advice about your dog and if he is ready to attend these events, feel free to contact me. And if you came across this blog and would like to understand what the heck I'm talking about because you haven't taken one of our classes, call me and we'll get your pup enrolled in some super fun training!
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Each year as the air begins to turn cold and I must pull out my winter jacket, it never fails that I will find stale dog cookies in my pockets. Search my car and I can guarantee you’ll find bits of dog kibble throughout. I will even (shamefully) admit that during a recent dog training conference I was absolutely convinced and disgusted that the guy next to me smelled of rotten food. However, at the end of the day as I pulled my keys out of my purse, I discovered a bag full of old chopped up chicken that I had used to train my dogs a couple days prior, placed in my purse, and forgotten about. Oops!
The verdict is: I am a dog treat junkie. I have them everywhere, prepared for anything.
And I’m constantly recommending that every dog owner has a pocket full of dog treats as well. However, I find time and time again that people are chock full of too many excuses for not using treats. Their dogs will get fat. Their dogs will learn to beg. They don’t want to have to always carry treats with them. They want their dogs to do things because they asked them to, not because of food.
I understand the concerns, and I will gladly dive into each and every excuse later this week (for those of you who want to hear me rant even more.) However, for now I will keep this short and sweet and give you my blunt opinion.
When I take my two dogs anywhere, 90% of the time I have treats on me. I can confidently let them off the leash where it’s allowed, and know that they will come when they’re called. We could be walking past another dog, a squirrel could run by, or they could be indulging in something that I’d rather they didn’t eat. If I called, they’d come running, because they are always rewarded for it.
Of course, there’s that 10% when I don’t have treats on me. Last summer, my husband let our younger dog, Reese, out into the backyard in the evening without a leash and without treats. He wasn’t aware that about 30 feet away there was a skunk strolling across the yard, but Reese saw it and ran right up to it as if it were her best friend. My husband suddenly realized what was going on and called “Reese COME!” in a panic. Reese stopped in her tracks, turned around, and came running back to him; smelling just as fresh as she had before the adventure.
Reese came to my husband that evening because throughout her life she had learned that nearly every time we call her, she receives a treat. Over time, she became conditioned to respond to “Reese come!” because she had done it so often and had nearly always been rewarded for it. If Reese had only been 6 months old when she ran across a skunk in the yard, we likely would’ve ended up washing her in the bathtub that night. She wouldn’t have had enough time in her young life to become conditioned to respond to the command. But instead, she’s spent three years learning that if she comes when she’s called, she gets a treat. So it becomes automatic for her to obey us, even when there’s a very interesting, smelly new friend in her backyard.
I consider the command “come” as a life saving command. In Reese’s situation, it saved her from getting sprayed by a skunk. But in some situations, it can literally save your dog’s life. So if that’s the case, why not always have treats on you? At the least, it could save your dog from getting into trouble like Reese nearly did, or it could simply make your relationship with your dog a more trusting one; don’t we all want that? But in some cases, it could be a lot more than that, and getting your dog to listen to you could save his life.
When you take your dog out for a walk, what do you need? A leash. A poop bag. Perhaps a water bowl if you’ll be out for a while. So then, what’s the big deal about bringing along some treats? Get a treat pouch that attaches to your pants; you’ll look as stylish as me, and you won’t even need to use your hands to carry the treats! Reward your dog every time he is good by giving him a treat: when he comes when he’s called, when he looks at you instead of the dog across the street, when he’s walking nicely on the leash. The more you reward those behaviors, the more you’ll get them. And someday, I can guarantee that your habit of carrying those dog treats will come in handy.
So in the Great Cookie Debate, my vote is YES: all dog owners should carry treats with them. Not only will it create happier, more well behaved dogs, but it just might save lives as well. What’s your vote?
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Favorite toy: Lamby and Raccoon (he insists on bringing them outside with
Favorite hobby: chasing squirrels and chipmunks (and even caught a real raccoon in the backyard!)
Favorite TV show: All the commercials with dogs in them. He also likes checking out Samoyeds on the internet too (as seen in the picture)
Favorite Treat: pork liver or Butcher Boy calves liver
Skills: Exceptional bed warming, singing & digging skills
Dislikes: the blow dryer
Next Tuesday, Hunter will compete against 15 other Samoyeds to try to win Best in Breed. If he wins, he'll then compete against the winning dog of each breed in the Working Group. That winner will go on to compete against the top dog of each of the 7 groups to win Best in Show!
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Friday, September 2, 2011
Well hello there! It's been quite a while since I've been able to write. I'd like to say it's because I've been lounging on the beach all summer long with a margarita in my hand, but that's not quite the case. I've been busy spending my summer days with dogs (which in my opinion, is even better than the beach!)
Ah, but I've finally found a moment or two! As usual, just when I think I know as much as I can about dogs, the wonderful pups that I work with have taught me even more. And of course, my favorite thing to do is share what I've learned.
If you've got a dog and if you watch TV, then I'm sure you've watched an episode or two (or a lot!) of Cesar Millan's The Dog Whisperer. And if that's the case, you've heard of his famous suggestion to portray "calm, assertive energy" while working with a dog. And yes, he's completely right. A calm, assertive energy is going to help you handle your dog better.
However, that doesn't just apply to people. Our dogs are surrounded by other dogs. There's the neighbor's dog, the dog that you run into at the park, or the dog that you pass on the street. In the Andovers, they're everywhere! But not all of them are taking Cesar Millan's advice to stay "calm and assertive."
This became quite clear to me when our other dog trainer, Amy, and I recently worked with a Golden Retriever named Duncan. Prior to his next training session, his mom had emailed me saying that though his training has been nothing short of astounding, he's still very reactive around other dogs; lunging at the leash and barking if they pass another dog on their walk. The embarrassment and frustration had gone on long enough; she was ready to tackle the issue.
So next time we met up, I brought along my two dogs, Elsa and Reese. Amy stayed with Duncan and his mom, while I drove down the street to prepare my dogs to walk past them as they went for a walk. I started with my older girl, Elsa.
Now, as a side note - Elsa is perfect. Ok, I'm bias. Perhaps she's just a well-behaved snob. See, Elsa could care less about other dogs. She's been around them her entire life, attends daily dog walks and training sessions with me, and has more friends than I could ever imagine having. So quite frankly, a new dog means nothing to her. In addition to that, she's extremely obedient. And for those reasons, Elsa barely blinks an eye if we walk past another dog.
So as Duncan came towards us, Elsa and I walked by. Elsa kept walking, and Duncan kept walking. And not a thing happened.
You'd think Duncan's mom would be happy about the turn out, but she was not at all! Her dog had just made a liar of her! She had gone on and on about how bad he reacts to other dogs, and then Duncan walks right past Elsa as if it's nothing. So I suggested a twist. I'd bring out Reese.
Now, about Reese. Reese is a social butterfly and absolutely loves to have fun. However, just like Elsa, she's very obedient. So we could have easily walked past Duncan without a hitch. But we were there to tackle Duncan's problem, so that's not what we did. It doesn't take much to get Reese to play, so play we did! She leaped and jumped and barked as I egged her on. She had a blast! And Duncan totally wanted in. So the lunging and barking began.
See, Reese wasn't expressing the calm, assertive energy that Elsa was. Elsa was boring. But Reese was exciting and playful and quite frankly, a bit out of control at times. So Duncan reacted by pulling and barking, his go-to behavior when he walks past another dog with unstable energy. And because we were in a controlled situation, Amy was able to coach his mom on how to get Duncan to stop the bad behavior. By the end of our session, Reese was exhausted, and Duncan was comfortably walking past her distracting behavior.
So how does this relate to your dog? Well, it means you've got to give him some credit! I hear it all the time, "my dog is fine around most dogs, but he hates the neighbor's dog." That's because that particular dog isn't expressing the right energy and your dog is feeding off of it.
Now of course, there's sometimes more to it than just the other dog. Many of our dogs are conditioned to react to all dogs, no matter what their energy, because we allow them to. That's why I've literally taught my dogs to be snobs. (To learn how to do that, read Why My Dogs Are Snobs.) It could also simply be a matter of a lack of socialization. And you have to remember that if your dog is reacting inappropriately to another dog, it's not just the other dog exuding the unstable energy - it's your dog too.
I told you Elsa is a snob. However, she will make friends and play with a pup who approaches her correctly. But if there's a dog lunging at the leash, she just turns and walks the other way. Fortunately, she's learned to disregard such distractions, but not all dogs have. And it's not easy, so give your dog a break. I can assure you that your neighbor's dog who he absolutely hates is totally egging him on!
So how can you teach your dog to react better to other dogs, especially those who are not exuding the right energy?
- Start by staying calm and assertive yourself. If you see another dog coming, don't tense up and tighten on the leash. Your dog is going to sense your energy and get tense himself!
- Keep treats on you. When you see another dog in the distance, start getting your pup's attention by saying his name, and then giving him a treat. Teach him that when there are distractions, you have something that's even better - food!
- Avoid the problem dogs. If you see your dog's nemesis approaching, turn around. Don't set your dog up for failure; begin by walking past only the dogs who are exuding the right energy and work your way up to more difficult dogs.
- Plan some play dates. Talk to some friends who have well socialized dogs and arrange for your pups to play. Start by walking as a group with your dogs on a leash, and then reward their good behavior by allowing them to play.
- Teach your dog to be a snob. Don't let your dog say hello and meet every dog you pass, because he's going to begin to anticipate it and pull towards every dog. Teach him that he only says hello once in a while, and it's only if he's behaving well.
- Avoid having your dog face the other dog and make eye contact. That position is confrontational to dogs. Unless the dogs are already friends, they should meet by approaching each other to the side and without much eye contact. If you allow your dog to face forward, you’re setting him up to appear threatening to the other dog.
- Work with a dog trainer. If you can't seem to get your dog under control no matter what you do, try getting professional help. A trainer will not only show you how to properly control your dog in those situations, but can also teach your dog how to react correctly to other dogs.
- And most importantly - keep things positive and have fun! When your dog passes another dog without reacting, that's a BIG deal! Let him know how happy you are by lavishing him with praise. Just as much as you want to understand your dog, you want him to understand you - so let him know that you're most happy when he's well behaved!