Saturday, March 25, 2017

Things My Dogs Have Taught Me

This year marks my 17th year working with dogs......just a few things they've taught me. 
Stepping on a partially chewed Nylabone hurts almost as much as having an Elk Antler dropped on your bare foot
Slipping in dog drool on the ceramic tile floor will not end well
Tripping over the dog in the dark because he decided to sleep next to your bed instead of on his bed results in some profanity
Coming in too fast and getting a black eye instead of a dog kiss
Realizing your arm really does not bend ‘that way’ when your dog pulls on leash
Throwing too many bumpers at the lake will result in months of Physical Therapy
Having your phone fall out of your pocket and onto the ground, breaking the screen, because your puppy got into the laundry and chewed a hole in your shorts because you always have treats in your pocket
Seeing all the warning lights on your dashboard light up because the dog was not sleeping in the back seat he was chewing thru all the wiring under your seat
Seeing how far into the air you can fly when the dog hits you full steam from behind in the back yard
Learning that ‘bend at the knees’ is not a dance move it’s a survival technique during playtime
Wishing you had spent less money at the Pet Store and more money on the ‘better’ steam cleaner
The moment you realize you got Giardia from your dogs
Realizing your potential as a sprinter as you rush to get your dog off the carpet and onto the tile floor as their puking
Knowing I wouldn't change a thing

Friday, February 17, 2017

H.A. L. T.

HALT, this is the term I use when I work with Clients. Often puppies have been labeled with undesirable behavior without really understanding what's motivating the behavior. Here is a helpful way to "Halt' and assess your puppies behavior.

H is for Hungry: Is your puppy getting enough to eat? In our attempt to avoid overfeeding, which is a serious problem with some dogs, we tend to not feed our puppies the amount of food they need to keep up with their growing bodies. A hungry puppy will be more likely to scavenge, counter surf, eat non-food objects (PICA) and inhale their food. A puppies daily food ration should be based on their activity level not the chart on the dog food bag. It will also change from week to week as they grow so adjustments need to be made thru the first year of life.

A is for Anxious: Anxiety is often overlooked in puppies or misdiagnosed as being 'unruly' behavior. An anxious puppy can be timid, fearful of people/sounds/other animals, tremble, hide, reactive/aggressive, overly excited/aroused, mouthy, afraid of handling. Anxiety is often complex and needs to be assessed by a professional. There are many new supplements available to help decrease anxiety, L-Theanine, Composure, Adaptil, Solliquin. With the help of your Veterinarian and a qualified Behavior Consultant, you can help you're puppy overcome or cope with their anxiety.

L is for Lonely: Puppies are social animals, they do not thrive being isolated for long periods of time. They need mental stimulation every day, this can be training, playing, walks or just spending time with family. They don't need 24/7 attention, but leaving a puppy alone for extended periods of time is often stressful and can create a variety of behavior issues from excessive barking to separation anxiety.

T is for Tired: Puppies need on average, 18-20 hours of sleep per day. The belief that 'a tired puppy is a happy puppy' is not always true. How 'happy' are you when you've not had enough sleep?? A tired puppy will often exhibit behaviors such as excessive biting, barking, destructive behavior, rough play, humping, just to name a few. As the puppy fatigues their coping skills go right out the window and things tend to fall apart. *Refer to a previous post on the benefits of Crating*

Rarely do puppies solve their own behavior problems, they need our help. If you find yourself frustrated with your puppy........HALT.......and make sure their needs are being met

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 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.

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 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 them to be comfortable in their 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.

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.

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?

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.

We work closely with families to help develop socialization and play programs for puppies that promote safe and positive play experiences.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Please Keep Your Paws To Yourself

Keeping 'four on the floor' 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.

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.

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