Sunday, January 17, 2016

"I'm Not Ignoring You..........I'm Distracted"


In class we talk about 'distractions', these are things that dogs hear, see, feel and smell.  For dogs distractions are a normal part of their day-to-day life and they're happening all the time.  Some distractions are bigger than others, some are fun and exciting, some are scary and some make your dogs pause and/or begin to investigate.

Too often when working with dogs, people assume that their dog is ignoring them, when in fact, the dog is distracted by something else.  Many frustrated pet parents assume that Fido is being disobedient when he won't come away from his squirrel watching to return to you.  Why are we surprised that dogs can't concentrate on more than one thing at a time?  And if the 'other thing' is super exciting..........you are going to have to take the time to train your dog how to handle distractions in a way that you find acceptable.   Slapping labels on dogs such as alpha, disobedient, hard headed and vengeful fail to address the real issue and increase frustration for dogs and their humans. 

Years ago a fellow trainer told me to make myself more interesting than whatever my dog is distracted by.  I have always found this to be true and I would add to that, become an advocate for your dog when they are fearful or unsure, don't become one of the things they are afraid of.  


What are some of the ways a dog can become distracted?

  • They're in class, you would like them to pay attention to you but the dog next to them is 'inviting' them to play
  • The doorbell rings and they can't seem to respond to simple cues
  • They can't ignore other dogs on walks
  • More than one person is asking them to do something at the same time
  • They are training in a new environment............generalization has not happened
  • Something in the environment is making them nervous or anxious
  • Squirrels, leaves blowing, birds flying, kids on bikes, joggers, the list is endless


How do you redirect a distracted dog?
  • teach them attention building skills, looking at you always results in a reward/reinforcement
  • start with low level distractions and gradually increase the level of distraction
  • train 'leave-it' or 'lets go'
  • use behavior modification for situations when your dog is fearful
  • don't label them train them
In class we work continuously on techniques for redirecting distracted dogs.  We don't use force we use redirection, and reinforcement.   

http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/change-your-perspective-and-train-your-dog


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ten Year Anniversary of Pawsitive Comfort Therapy Dogs

September marks the 10th Anniversary of the Pawsitive Comfort Therapy Dog Program at St. Joseph Chelsea Hospital.



In the Summer of 2005 I was looking for somewhere to visit with my Therapy Dog Leo.  We wanted to volunteer in our hometown so I contacted Chelsea Hospital and was put in touch with Recreational Therapist Jan Shamraj.  Together Jan and I worked with the staff of Chelsea Hospital to build this amazing program.  It was no easy task, but the end result is a program like no other and I am honored to be a part of it.

 
In the early days Leo and I visited every Friday on the Head Pain unit, we were the only team back then.  We visited patients on Head Pain as well as participating in Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy sessions.   There was no shortage of patients and staff wanting to spend time with Leo.

Today there are 12 teams visiting various areas of the hospital and many wonderful dogs who have since retired.



In 2013 Enzo came on board  and has done a wonderful job following in his mentor Leos pawprints.  When Enzo is not volunteering at Chelsea Hospital he is helping kids learn to read at local elementary schools.



Our newest addition to the team is Carmine, he is training and visiting at the Cancer Center.   When he finishes his training he will be moving to Kentucky where he will live with his new family and work at the University of Kentucky Gill Heart Institute.









The teams of Pawsitive Comfort are tested and registered with Allegiance of Therapy Dogs, a national Therapy Dog Program.  We have the highest standards for our teams and provide ongoing training and support.   We screen each team to ensure the 'goodness of fit' for our program.

As an ongoing support for our community, many of the Therapy Dogs of Pawsitive Comfort are members of Canine Comfort Crisis Response Therapy Dogs, a group I helped form in 2012.  Canine Comfort offers support to local communities in times of crisis or a tragic event.

Here's to many more years!!!!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

On-Line Training !!


Would you like to train your dog from the convenience of your own home?  With K9 Home Schoolings On-Line Training, all you need is a broadband connection and a webcam.   We're excited to be able to offer a variety of training services:


  • Obedience Training
  • Behavior Consultations
  • Group Classes
  • Therapy Dog Training
  • Workshops




Our On-Line training is live, not recorded, so you can actively participate in a group class or workshop.  We are regularly contacted by people who do not have access to quality training services. On-Line Training is great for people unable to attend in person, dogs who are not comfortable in a group setting, families with more than one dog or who have small children.  For new puppy families this is a great way to start your training and we provide you with detailed homework to properly socialize your puppy outside of class.

For people needing private training or a behavior consultation, On-Line Training gives you the one-on-one support you need.  Not all behavior consultations can be done via on-line training, if we determine that you need to work with someone in-person and we are not within your travel area, we will refer you to a professional near you.

To become a K9 Home Schooling Student, visit www.k9homeschooling.com and click on APPLY to complete a New Student Profile.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Play Now Or Pay Later


 You can teach an old dogs new tricks but you can't teach him to be comfortable in his own skin.  There is a critical window of opportunity to socialize puppies, birth to approximately 16 weeks of age.  During this time puppies are forming life long opinions of how they 'feel' about the world around them.  This includes people, places, sounds, smells, surfaces and especially other dogs.

I recently read a great article called 'The Dog Aggression Epidemic' and it was spot on.  Those of us who work with dogs are seeing a dramatic increase in aggression, specifically dog-to-dog aggression.

https://positively.com/victorias-blog/the-dog-aggression-epidemic/

The sad thing about this is, for the most part it's preventable.  How do we change things?  We start with educating Vets, Breeders, Shelters, Owners and Trainers about the importance of early socialization!!



To address concerns regarding safety, here is the AVSAB's position on early socialization with regard to vaccinations and disease.

http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/puppy_socialization1-25-13.pdf

We know that waiting until a puppy is fully vaccinated,  to allow them to play with other dogs, can put them at risk for fearful, anxious, aggressive behavior towards other dogs for a lifetime.  While there are other factors that can influence behavior problems, lack of early socialization tops the list!!

What are the benefits for well socialized puppies?

http://www.petmd.com/blogs/purelypuppy/lradosta/2012/june/magic_pill_for_puppies-25948

If you've lived with a fearful, reactive or aggressive dog, you know all to well the heartache and livelong struggles.  The risks to adult dogs, just to name a few:
  • Isolation
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Losing their home
  • Losing their LIFE
The advantages for well socialized dogs:
  • Confidence
  • Adventures
  • Calm and relaxed
  • Freedom to go more places
  • Dog Friends
  • Exercise and walks
  • Quality of life 
It's our responsibility to help our puppies get off to a great start in life.  You only have one chance to get it right and your dogs life may very well depend on it.  I've never met a person who regretted the time they put into properly socializing their puppy.  I have however, worked with countless families who live with the regret for not having done it.




Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Please Keep Your Paws To Yourself


Enzo is practicing 'Four On the Floor" with his Kindergarten Kiddos.    This is no small task when surrounded by all this cuteness.  Learning to greet and interact calmly with people, especially children, does not come easily to all dogs.  Here's how you can help.

Commit To Training
From the day a puppy or dog joins our family we work on 'polite greetings' and boundaries.  This means, paws on the floor, no jumping on people, a little personal space please, keep your paws to yourself..............well you get the idea.  There's no need to use punishment for jumping up, no need for shaker cans of pennies, spray bottles, muzzle flicks, none of that nasty stuff.  To tame the wild beast, simply stop paying attention and wait for them to offer a more polite behavior before interacting with them.   Use time-outs  and settling exercises to help calm an overly excited pup.   Most puppies and even untrained adult dogs are prone to jumping up and on people, especially if the humans are on the ground.  Quite often we encourage goofy behavior by inviting rowdy play especially by participating in wrestling or chasing games.  What seems like innocent fun in the beginning, is not funny when someone gets hurt.



Have Realistic Expectations
Does your puppy/dog know that jumping on you hurts?  Do they understand that knocking you down could break a bone?  Do they understand that even if kids are running and screaming 'come get me', they should not be participating?  The answer is no, they don't.   Dogs will gladly participate in activities you encourage so pick them wisely.   If you encourage or allow wild, out of control behavior, that's what you'll get.  If you expect your dog to instinctively know how to behave, you'll most likely be very disappointed and frustrated.  It's our job to help our dogs be successful in the 'human' world.  We tend to have expectations that far exceed their understanding or abilities.


Play For Keeps
Don't stop having fun with your dog just because they're a little rowdy. If your 'wild child' is ever going to learn to 'play nice', you have to take the time to teach them.   There are great games you can play with your dog that are fun ,teach impulse control and  encourage appropriate interaction with people.   A fun game of 'Musical Mats' or the 'Statue Game' are always fun for kids and dogs.   A great resource is the book,  Play-Together-Stay-Together by Patricia McConnell.

http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/store/Play-Together-Stay-Together.html


Raising a puppy or dog with small children is not about picking the 'right breed' of dog, it's about understanding how kids and dogs can safely live and play together.  Family Paws offers great online resources for families, follow the link below to their website.

http://familypaws.com/

The best approach is to be proactive, don't wait for problems to arise, start training the day your puppy or dog arrives.




Thursday, December 18, 2014

CATch Me If You Can

Are you at your wits end trying to get the dog to stop chasing the cat??   Here are a few training tips to help calm things down.

Get Down To Basics
Take time to teach basic obedience skills, a solid "Stay", "Come" and "Leave It" are important foundation skills.   Hurling commands at an over aroused untrained dog is pointless and frustrating for everyone involved.  Resist the temptation to punish your dog and invest time in training alternate behaviors.

Use Crates, Gates and Barriers
During the introductions and  training phase, use barriers to keep everyone separated and safe.  Try to avoid having your dogs first exposure to the cat be one of them in high pursuit as the cat is racing for cover.

Capture Calm Behavior
Set up situations that allow your dog and cat to be in a neutral state, this could be having the dog in a crate and the cat freely moving around.  Allow your dog time to adjust to seeing the cat moving calmly around the house, preferably on the opposite side of a barrier.   With everyone calm and safe start working on training exercises:

  • When your dog looks at the cat in a calm manner Click/Treat
  • When your dog looks at the cat, cue 'Leave It' , when they look away from the cat and look at you, Click/Treat (This will require a trained and well practiced  "Leave-It") 
  • Cue your dog to 'Stay' as the cat is moving around 
  • When you see your dog paying attention to the cat, cue them to 'Come' away from the cat and move towards you and Click/Treat, pet, praise, etc. 
  • Reward ALL calm behavior, absence of whining , barking, lunging
Work on Impulse Control
Use toys and distraction to practice impulse control. 

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=752767664758905&set=vb.613237495378590&type=2&theater

Be Patient
Having your dog and cat coexist peacefully may take time, be patient and provide supervision and management.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Providing Safe Playtime, Training And Socialization For Your Puppy






"Puppies have a limited 'optimal' socialization window, birth thru 16 weeks of age.   During those early weeks we have the opportunity to slowly and positively expose a puppy to everything that comes their way.  After 16 weeks they are genetically preprogrammed to become wary of new things, making it much harder to shape them into an easygoing , friendly adult dog"  (Operation Socialization)

Having clearly identified that puppies need early socialization, how do we safely achieve that?

Start with a Vet check
When your puppy arrives, you should schedule a visit with your Veterinarian.  Your puppy should be fully examined, you're checking for any medical problems, parasites, both internal and external and establishing a vaccination schedule.

Enroll in an appropriate Puppy Class
Healthy puppies can begin training in an appropriate Puppy Class as early as 10 weeks of age.

http://www.petmd.com/blogs/purelypuppy/lradosta/2012/june/magic_pill_for_puppies-25948

http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/puppy_socialization1-25-13.pdf

http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/dr-ian-dunbar/puppy-classes-and-canine-parvovirus

How do you find the right Puppy Class?
When selecting an appropriate Puppy Class, start by picking one that's run by an experienced trainer who uses only Humane Reward Based Training!  Anyone can call themselves a 'trainer', you're looking for someone with credentials and experience to back it up.  You want  a small class, preferably no larger than 6 puppies to provide appropriate supervision and safety.   Avoid large 'Puppy Socialization Classes' that typically have 10-15 puppies, this is a nightmare for puppies in so many ways.

What if your puppy is not ready for a group class?
Not all puppies are appropriate for a group class, due to health or temperament issues.  If your puppy has a health condition that prevents them for participating in a group class, work with your Veterinarian and a professional trainer to come up with appropriate accommodations.   I once had a clients whose puppy broke his leg at 10 weeks of age.  The family used a baby stroller to take the puppy on walks to expose him to new sights and sounds.

If your puppy is fearful, nervous and or reactive around other dogs then a group class may not be the best choice.  Working with a trainer who can help you understand these behavioral issues is the first step to helping your puppy.   It's important to remember, you have limited time, 0-16 weeks, so waiting until 6-9 months to address the problem will only make it worse and possibly impact your puppy for the rest of their life.

I recently had a 4 month old puppy attend class who was very fearful of other dogs.  Seeing another dog, even hearing them,  caused lunging, barking, growling, clearly a terrifying experience for her.  It was noted that she had come from a bad situation and had been injured in what appeared to be a dog attack before she was 3 months of age.  I first assessed her one-on-one and determined that we could try having her attend a group class with a few accommodations.   These included having her in an x-pen in a quiet corner of the training center.    Having her in the x-pen allowed her to be off leash which made her feel less restricted and stressed.  We placed blankets over the sides to restrict her view so that she would not become visually fixated on the other dogs, this decreased her reactive behavior by about 95%.  As the weeks went by she made remarkable progress.  Towards the end of a 6 week class she was able to work inside of her x-pen, with no visual restriction and she was welcoming 'nose sniffs' through the x pen from other dogs in class.  Her progress was the result of committed owners and a training program that fit her special needs.  There is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to training puppies.

Whats the best way to start socializing a puppy?
Socialization is ongoing, it does not happen in 1 or 2 sessions or walks in the park, it's happening every minute of every day, so make every minute count.   A good socialization program includes exposing your puppy to new sights, sounds, people, places and dogs, in a way that allows them to feel safe and comfortable.   First impressions are critical, both good and bad.

Why should puppies have play dates?
Puppies need ongoing socialization, this should go on well into their 2nd year of life.   Playing with other puppies/dogs is critical for their development.  A well socialized puppy is comfortable and confident with other dogs, and will reap the rewards for a lifetime.   Through play, puppies learn how to navigate social interactions with other dogs, both good and bad.

Where should puppies play?
It's important to play in 'clean' environments so avoiding public dog parks and day cares for young puppies is advisable, this includes playing with dogs who frequent these places.

We offer a variety of classes for puppies from our Level 1 Obedience Class thru Outdoor Socialization Outings.  Check our website for details.