Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Why Dogs Need Time To Learn

Dogs don't generalize well.........In dog traininggeneralization means that your dog can apply a concept to many situations; he knows that “Sit!” means he should sit whether he's home, on a loud, crowded sidewalk in the rain, or in a grassy park with squirrels chattering in the trees.  Dogs don't 'shift gears' easily when they are in training and the smallest change can throw them for a loop.   

Examples of puppies and dogs who have not generalized their training: 

  • Your puppy always sits on cue at home but when you take him to the Vet he acts as if he has not clue what the word sit means
  • Your dog only listens to one family member 
  • You ask a friend to work with your well trained dog and it's as if they have no training
  • You've always trained your dog indoors and they're a rock star, when you take them outside things fall apart
I was recently out with one of my young dogs when someone approached and starting asking him to 'sit'.......over and over and over again.  My dog just stood there staring at them.  They then said, 'oh he doesn't know how to sit'......I replied....'no he doesn't know you' :)    

Quite often people assume a puppy or dog is being difficult or is untrained, when in fact they're just unclear of what to do.   A huge part of the training process is helping our puppies and dogs generalize their training, this takes time and exposure to a variety of environments and distractions.  It's also important to have all family members work with the puppy/dog.   When I'm raising a puppy I recruit friends to bring my puppy to class and be their handler, so that they can learn to work for someone other than just me.  

So lets give our four legged friends a break and stop assuming they are lazy or disobedient, what they probably need is more practice. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Your Off-Leash Dog Is Ruining My Walk

Lately it seems there aren't many places I can walk with my dogs that we don't encounter off-leash dogs.   Most cities have leash laws requiring that dogs be on-leash in public places,  parks, neighborhoods, etc.  If your dog is not on your property, it's safe to assume they should be on a leash.  This seems to be difficult for many people to understand because everywhere I go lately I'm being chased by loose dogs.   I don't think people understand that dogs running into the street, charging at on-leash dogs and wandering into other peoples yard is not  OK!  

It's hard enough walking past the dogs who are charging their 'fence line' barking and growling, add to that the dogs who charge you in the street while their owners are no where to be found or quite frankly don't care.   It's no surprise there are so many reactive/fearful dogs, all it takes is one negative experience.  

When I'm walking with my dogs we want to have a relaxing walk, I don't enjoy walking the gauntlet, never knowing when we'll be ambushed.  I don't enjoy turning my walk into your dogs training session as I'm forced to deal with them, catch them, bring them home, or figure out how to get away form them! 

Here are a few things to consider when you choose to let your dog run loose:

  • You're not following leash laws!
  • Your dog has the freedom to roam on your property.......your property does not extend into the street or other peoples yards
  • The on-leash dog is trapped and will often respond very defensively
  • All our hard work can go right down the drain if my dog is scared or injured by your dog
  • The on-leash dog can be recovering from injury or surgery, the last thing they need is to be jumped by another dog
  • The on-leash dog may not be friendly towards other dogs
  • Your dog can be hit by a car
  • I'm stuck trying to manage chaos when all I wanted to do was walk with my dog
  • You're taking away my freedom to safely walk my dog in public

I understand that occasionally dogs get loose, those aren't the dogs I'm referring to,  I'm talking about the dogs who are running loose all the time.  Most people don't realize that there are fines, up to $200 if your dog is running loose.  The fine can be even higher if your dog is not licensed.......which many dogs aren't.  

So why does this bother me so much..........ten years ago while walking my dog in my I was attacked by a loose neighbor dog.  He had a long history of chasing people and biting them, yet nothing was done about it.  On my walk he charged us in the street, pulled me down, dragged me, attacked my dog, it was absolutely terrifying.   I spent years in Physical Therapy and had to have multiple surgeries to repair both my shoulders.  My dog was never the same after that, he never again enjoyed walking on-leash.   

I've witnessed horrible fights between dogs, watched owners being dragged on the ground because an off-leash dog was chasing them and I work with MANY clients whose dogs are struggling with stress and anxiety due to dog-to-dog issues from their walks.  

Please think about the fall out that comes from thinking it's no big deal to let your pup run loose. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

How To Spot A Fake Service Dog Trainer

If we are going to address the problem with  fake service dogs,  we should consider starting with the source of the problem..........Fake Service Dog Trainers. 

How can you spot a 'Fake' Service Dog Trainer??

1.  Fake Service Dog Trainers do not have any type of screening process or temperament testing for the dogs they work with.   Their websites often state the programs or services they offer, but the will not require any type of screening or assessment of the dog.   As long as you're willing to pay them, they will work with you.

2.  Fake Service Dog Trainers can't answer questions regarding ADA Service Dogs Laws, nor do they understand them. 

3.  Fake Service Dog Trainers are not affiliated with any legitimate Service Dog Program such as the IAADP, an organization that provides standards for training and working Service Dogs.

4.   Fake Service Dog Trainers tell clients they will have a 'Certified Service Dog' when there technically isn't a group that certifies Service Dogs.  This is still an unregulated industry, thus why there are so many problems.

5.  Fake Service Dog Trainers rarely talk about the dogs that are not suited for Service Dog work.  A legitimate Service Dog Trainer knows that close to 50% of dogs who begin the training process are career changed due to behavior or health concerns. 

6.  Fake Service Dog Trainers don't tell their clients that it takes approximately 2 years to train a Service dog.  The training process is a big commitment with NO guarantees.

7.  Fake Service Dog Trainers encourage clients to purchase  ID badges, vests and bogus medical letters off the internet so they can take their dogs into public places and pass them off as trained Service Dogs. 

8. Fake Service Dog Trainers offer 'Boot Camp' training programs, a 2-4 week program that 'guarantees' a trained Service Dog upon completion.

9.  Fake Service Dogs Trainers do not understand the developmental needs of young dogs, often pushing them beyond their abilities.    A legitimate Service Dog Trainer will only work with a dog who 'wants' the job, they do not claim to turn any dog into a Service Dog.

10. Fake Service Dogs Trainers rarely have any type of formal training or credentials, they are 'self made' trainers.

To understand how to spot a Fake Service Dog, and to better understand the ADA Service Dog laws, see the link below.

For Trainers interested in working with Service Dogs, see the link below.  Cooperative Paws offers a program that teaches trainers how to work with Service Dogs and their humans.   This comprehensive program gives trainers the tools they need to effectively work with teams.

We need to protect the rights of legitimate Service Dogs and the life changing work they do,

Monday, March 19, 2018

Walking Your Dog Is More than Just 'No-Pulling' On Leash

Having a dog who is comfortable and relaxed on walks requires a commitment of time and training from the day your puppy joins your family.    I want Dillon to walk without pulling on leash , but I also want her to feel relaxed around the MANY distractions and stressors we encounter.  From Pup Start Class thru Outdoor Adventures Class we work on navigating the challenges encountered on walks.  

Today was a perfect example of why all of the hours of training is necessary.  My husband and I headed out to our local park with Dillon for a 3 mile walk.  On the first half of the walk we encountered dogs who were growling and lunging at Dillon.   After hundreds of hours of walks Dillon knows that seeing other dogs results in 'good things', clicks and treats.  I do not force her into a sit or down, I prefer we keep moving,  we add distance between ourselves and the other dog and just keep going.   Over time Dillon has learned to walk past just about anything with barely a pacing glance.  

Today we had the ultimate test of our training and ability to manage chaos .  While walking I saw someone walking 2 dogs, both were struggling and becoming more reactive as we came into their view.  Their owner did a great job of adding distance so that we could pass each other without incident.   As we walked on I heard someone yelling 'my dog is loose", one of the dogs had gotten out of his collar and head halter and was charging us from behind.   Before I could turn around the dog was on top of Dillon.   His initial reaction was that he wanted to play, but he was getting more amped up and frustrated.  The owner was about 20 feet away holding his other dog who was growling, so I asked him not to come any closer.  My priority was to keep Dillon safe.  The owner tried calling his dog back to him but he was too distracted and did not respond.....not a surprise.  I then asked my husband to go to the owner and get the dogs collar and leash so we could catch him.  My husband tried, but the dog would not allow him to leash him up.  I then started tossing treats in the opposite direction for the loose dog to get him to move away from Dillon .  I handed Dillons leash to my husband and asked him to start walking her away so that I could try to catch the loose dog.   The other dog started growling at Dillon so I had John stop moving and I tried distracting the other dog with hand clapping, 'happy voice'  and moving in the opposite direction to get him to follow me as he was too focused on Dillon.   It's hard  to remain calm when something like this is happening, but if the humans behavior escalates it can increase the likelyhood of a conflict.   Having been the victim of a dog attack I  know all too well how dangerous this could have become.    I was finally able to get his collar on him and return him to his owner.  

I politely shared with the owner that walking 2 reactive dogs by himself was probably not a good idea!!   If I had been alone this could have had a very bad ending.   My husband said had he been alone he would not have known what to do, as would be true of most anyone out for a walk with their dog.    

As we finished our walk John and I  talked about the challenges of encountering other dogs who have challenges.   The only thing I can do is help my dogs  navigate these situations as it seems that it's becoming more frequent.   I do avoid places that allow off- leash dogs and we avoid walking at peak times so we aren't stressed the entire time.  I was so impressed with how Dillon handled this crazy situation, she's one awesome pup :)   

** It is important to note that if your dog is not enjoying walks, is reactive or aggressive towards humans other other dogs, seek professional help and avoid public places**

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Helping Your Dog Find Their Comfort Zone

How do we help puppies and dogs who struggle with fears, phobias and anxiety?  A good starting point is understanding your dogs triggers, the things that make your dog anxious or afraid.  What causes your dog to go over their threshold and change from a calm relaxed state to one of panic or fear?  What makes them feel like they have no alternative other than to use aggressive displays or to run and hide?

The link below is an article that does a great job describing what it feels like for a dog to be 'drowning' in their fears and how certain types of 'training' can make things considerably worse.

It's not hard to find articles or products promoting 'quick fixes', ways in which you can quickly solve any problem.    There is no shortage of advice from friends, family and dog professionals....and I use that term lightly :) 

  • Dog is afraid of kids......take them to a park and ask lots of kids to pet them
  • Dog is nervous around other dogs......take him to the dog park
  • Puppy is anxious in their crate........don't let them out until they learn to like it
  • Dog is barking, lunging and aggressing towards other dogs.......sign up for a group class
  • Dogs is misbehaving, send him to Boot Camp so he can be fixed in a few weeks

Somewhere in this process we  lose sight of the dogs ability to participate or cope with what's happening to  them.   Understanding that not all problems can be 'fixed' is not always easy to hear,  but important to consider when working with puppies and dogs who have problems. 

When I work with clients my primary goal is to improve the puppy or dogs quality of life.    We should always work to problem solve, modify behavior, encourage change and celebrate success.  But sometimes we need to adjust our expectations and focus on helping our dog find their comfort zone, perfection should not be the  only sign of success.

I know a wonderful dog, he's fun loving, amazing house manners, loves people and other dogs,  enjoys going to training classes, excellent student and demo dog, you couldn't ask for a more wonderful dog.  He does however have anxiety issues that at times make life very difficult.  After nearly 2 years of behavior modification, medication and making accommodations to his daily routine he has found his 'comfort zone'.   He no longer has to go for  walks at the park, because he never really enjoyed them......he gets to play in his huge fenced yard where he feels safe and gets more than enough exercise.  He does not enjoy going into strange public places, so he only walks in his neighborhood.   He loves spending time with his family and riding in the car,  so he is the designated co-pilot when they run errands or take road trips.  He loves his dog friends so he has playdates and has been an amazing mentor to puppies.   He sees a Veterinarian who understands his anxiety about going to the Vet and works to help him feel safe during visits.  What became very clear is that he enjoys a very simple life, one without pressure and stressors.   This wonderful dog is my Hendrix :)    Making accommodations for your dog does not mean that your training has failed or that you need to keep trying to fix them. 

If your dogs is drowning in their fears......throw them a life jacket.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Making The Most Of Your Behavior Consultation

I've been working as a Behavior Consultant for over 15 years.  I work with puppies and adult dogs to address a wide range of behavioral concerns.  Some appointments are to help families get their new puppy or dog off to the right start, other appointments are to address  existing  problems.   When it comes to dealing with most behavior problems, a group class is not the answer, one-on-one training is the best option.  To help clients make the most of their appointment I suggest a little prep work prior to meeting.

  • Complete a Behavior Evaluation Form and return it to me prior to our appointment.  This allows me time to review and gather as much information as possible on your dogs day-to-day routine.  
  • Send short video clips of problematic behavior, being able to see your pup in action is very beneficial, especially when it's not always possible to replicate something during an appointment.  
  • Some problematic behavior can be due to an underlying medical condition, a Vet check up may be warranted for some pups prior to our meeting.
  • Bring any supplies, treats, toys needed to work with your pup during the appointment
  • Have a list of pertinent questions to go over
  • Give us permission to speak with your Vet both prior to and after the appointment if needed
A Behavior Consultation is 'your time'  to get the help you need for your pup and I want to make the most of this appointment for my clients.    

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Making The Most Out Of A Group Class

Attending a group class with your puppy or dog is a good way to get your training off to a great start.  There are things you can do to make the experience positive for you and your pup.

Showing up for class can be overwhelming for many can be stressful for everyone.   For some puppies and dogs it may be the first time they've left their home.  Many puppies and dogs have never been around other dogs, now their surrounded by a room full of them.  For some people this may be the first time you've done formal training with your dog, so you're feeling a little anxious.

For all incoming students I hold New Student Orientation, which is held the first week of class for humans only.  This gives me time to prepare students for the following weeks of class and send them home prepared for when the dogs attend.

When the first class with dogs arrives, here are some things to consider:

  • Prior to coming to class, let your instructor know of any special accommodations you will need, i.e.,  help getting into the building, help unloading your dog from your vehicle, a place to sit during class, etc.  
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early the first week of class to give your puppy/dog time to check out the training center and use the bathroom 
  • If you have a puppy or dog that is pulling on leash, have them wear a body harness or head halter.  Make sure it's on them prior to entering the building 
  • Have an ample supply of training treats for your puppy/dog
  • Bring something for your puppy/dog to chew on during class
  • Enter class and go to your designated place and refrain from allowing your dog to wander in class as this is often stressful for other dogs and handlers 
  • Save socializing with human classmates for the end of class as this is disruptive for other students and the instructor
  • Give your puppy/dogs breaks as needed, an hour can be a very long time, some pups/dogs need a few short walks outdoors to break up the hour
  • Refrain from ALL on-leash greetings unless directed by the Instructor
  • Ask for help as needed, don't struggle in silence 
  • Keep your puppy/dog home if they are not feeling well 
I've been running group classes for over 18 years and love it, there's never a dull moment.  My goal is to make it an enjoyable and educational experience for humans and canines.  I keep my class sizes small so that I can give attention to all of the students.   Just as students don't enjoy feeling overwhelmed, neither does the Instructor.   While group classes are a great training option, it's not for every dog or human.  Some pups and/or humans require private sessions for a variety of reasons.  It's always best to share any concerns you have prior to the start of class so that you can pick the best training option.