Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Do's and Dont's Of Socializing Your Puppy

Gone are the days of leaving your puppy home for the first 6 months of their life for fear of them contracting a disease.   It was common practice to keep puppies isolated at home until well into their adolescence.    Not only would puppies be kept away from people but owners were often advised to keep them away from other dogs too.  YIKES!! it's no wonder we have raised so many fearful and reactive dogs.    We know that lack of proper socialization has a lifetime of negative consequences.

This is the AVSAB Position Statement on Puppies and Socialization with regard to Vaccinations.

Early socialization is important and needs to be done in a way that allows your puppy to experience the world in a safe and comfortable manner.  Here are some Do's and Don'ts when it comes to socialization:

  • Do take your puppy to a group class once they have received 2 of their 4 puppy shots
  • Don't enroll in a class that is overcrowded and poorly supervised
  • Do arrange playtime for your puppy with other puppies and dogs
  • Don't pick poorly socialized dogs or puppies as playmates
  • Do expose your puppy to riding in the car in a crate or seat belt
  • Don't allow your puppy to ride on your lap or unrestrained
  • Do let your puppy meet LOTS of new people of varying ages, sizes, etc
  • Don't force your puppy to be handled by someone they are afraid of
  • Do expose your puppy to new places and environments
  • Don't overload them with multiple trips in one day, keep outings short and sweet
  • Do make visits to your Vets office to be petted and receive treats
  • Don't use a Vet who uses harsh handling methods 
  • Do educate yourself about puppies and dogs
  • Don't believe everything you see on TV
The following Chart explains the Developmental Stages that puppies go through from birth thru 2 years of age.

The socialization process is a marathon not a sprint!  Take your time, enjoy spending time with your puppy, they grow up quickly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Use It Or Lose It!

There's nothing better than a well trained dog.  Life is so much easier when your four legged friend has great manners, loves people, obeys the 'house rules' and follows all your cues.   The process takes time, but once you've arrived, it's a beautiful thing!  The challenge then is to maintain the training because quite simply, "if you don't use it you'll lose it".  If you don't maintain the skills you've worked so hard to train, they will begin to fade away and be replaced by less desirable behaviors.

It's easy to let your training backslide, busy schedules, work, activities, etc.   It can be hard to keep yourself on track much less fit Fido into your busy schedule. 

How do you know when your training is backsliding?  It's pretty easy to figure out.
  • you find yourself feeling frustrated with your dog
  • your once responsive pooch is paying little, if any, attention to you
  • your dog stops responding to cues they were quick to respond to in the past
  • they become much more vocal or demanding of your attention
  • their house manners have gone out the window, they are replaced with counter surfing, jumping on guests, digging, chewing, stealing
  • your dog thinks his name is NO!
  • you question why you ever got a dog
  • you blame the dog or the training method for the breakdown in behavior
Getting back on track won't be as hard as you think.
  • dust off your clicker and put it to work
  • practice the skills your dog learned in class, it will come flooding back
  • reward/reinforce appropriate behaviors, positive attention is always better than negative attention
  • find time for daily short/fun training sessions
  • remind yourself why you got a dog, to be a friend and companion
The good news is your dog will be ready and willing to spend time with you!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back To School Blues

For most families it's soon to be 'Back to School' week.  After 3 months of fun and family many dogs are finding themselves home alone.  With all the hustle and bustle of getting our kids back to school we often overlook how this impacts our dogs.  Not only are the kids back to school, but after school activities are also starting which takes up alot of evening and weekend time too.  For months our dogs have enjoyed more walks, more petting, more rides in the car, more of what they enjoy most, YOU!   This is the time of year that I start getting phone calls from frantic pet parents who's dogs are misbehaving.   The offenses include barking, digging, stealing things, destructive behavior, house soiling, etc. 

To help your dog adjust to the new routine, keep a few things in mind:
  • Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise!  We often don't realize the decrease in exercise when our kids return to school.  Your dog may go from having hours of playtime to suddenly laying around all day.  All this pent up energy has to go somewhere.  If you have to leave your dog home alone all day be sure he is getting sufficient exercise in the evenings. 
  • If your dog suffers from separation anxiety consider hiring a dog walker to split  their day and give them some human companionship midday.  To go from having constant companionship to suddenly being left alone for 8-10 hours is very distressing, a mid day break can help ease the pain.
  • Provide your dog with a variety of food dispensing toys, these provide mental stimulation and allow your dog to entertain themselves in your absence. 
  • Schedule play dates with other dogs,  puppies and adult dogs enjoy socialization and play
  • Allow your dog to ride along on the carpool, walk to the bus stop with you, attend the after school soccer game when appropriate. 
If you find yourself in a quandary as to why your typically well behaved dog is suddenly acting like a terrorist they may have a case of 'Back To School Blues".

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Dos and Donts Of Taking Your Puppy To An Outdoor Event

It's a tradition in my town to attend the multiple Parades and outdoor music events held throughout the year.  Taking a puppy or dog to an outdoor event  can be a great way to expose them to a variety of new sights and sounds, lots of new people, fire trucks, sirens, horses, tractors, motorcycles, the list goes on and on.   It can also be totally overwhelming and terrifying and the wrong choice for your pup.   The socialization process is not a one-size-fits-all as not all puppies and/or dogs are comfortable or prepared for these events.  They could be sound sensitive, nervous in new environments, fearful of strangers, too young to have had proper exposure to all that an outdoor event involves, this includes  concerts, parties and sporting events.

If you're thinking about taking your puppy/dog to an event, here are some things to consider:
  • Pick a location that allows your pup to feel comfortable.  It's best to position yourself a far distance away from the event until you can determine if your pup is comfortable with the noise and activity.   If you can't control the environment for your pet, they should stay home
  • Pick a location that is shaded so your pup will not overheat
  • Bring water if the temps are warm
  • Take YUMMY treats and offer them freely
  • Give them a chew toy or frozen cheese kong and let them enjoy and relax
  • Watch for signs of stress in your pup and know when it's time to leave, even if the event is not over.  Dogs communicate their feelings clearly, it's our job to know how to interpret them
  • Let your pup meet and greet strangers if they are comfortable, don't force them to interact with people
  • Allow your pup to take breaks and to move around, sitting still for long periods of time is not much fun for a pup and can be stressful.
  • NEVER punish your pup for being afraid, nervousness is a cue for you to leave
  • Don't expect your pup to enjoy all your activities......we don't enjoy all of theirs :)
As much as I love spending time with my dogs, sometimes they are happiest staying home :)   

Monday, August 15, 2011

Prevention VS Punishment..........A Better Way To Go!

I'm often asked  how to properly punish and or correct a puppy or dog when they do something wrong.  The list of offenses typically includes, chewing, biting,  digging, barking, jumping up, stealing food and the big one, showing aggression.    When you bring a new puppy or dog into your home you should expect all of these behaviors.    A new puppy needs boundaries and management, this takes time.  An adult dog is adjusting to a new environment and often stressed so expect a host of stress related behaviors.   There is an advantage to expecting your dog to act like a dog, it allows you to approach training your dog in a whole new light. 

Instead of thinking that everything your dog does needs to be punished, look for ways to prevent unwanted behaviors instead of doling out punishment.   All dogs need time to learn and it's our job to teach them the 'house rules'.   We all know practice makes perfect, so lets be sure our dog is practicing behaviors we find acceptable.  For this to happen you have to be proactive and have a game plan.  Here is a list of suggestions that may help you keep your cool and your sanity:

  • My dog steals my shoes- Put all shoes in closets or behind closed doors.  The number one rule in my house is "If you place value on something, put it away"
  • My dog steals food off the counter tops - Keep all counters clean and free of tasty morsels
  • My dog barks out the window- Block their access to the window with blinds, curtains, gates, etc.
  • My dog begs at the table- Crate or contain your dog during mealtime
  • My dog barks at other dogs - Learn techniques to reward him for being calm in the presence of other dogs
  • My puppy bites everyone- Work to teach them bite inhibition using positive methods and don't encourage rough play.  Puppies explore the world with their mouths, give them something appropriate to chew on instead of punishing them.
  • My dog tears up his toys - Buy toys appropriate for your dogs level of chewing
  • My puppy shreds his toys - Don't give puppies cloth, fabric or stuffed toys, these 'feel' just like our belongings, give them Kongs, food dispensing toys, chew bones, frozen carrots, anythings safe and appropriate for a young puppy
  • My dog digs in the yard - Don't put your dog in the yard with nothing to do, play with them or give them a food dispensing toy.  It's not alot of fun for a dog to be left alone in the yard no matter how nice you think your yard is
  • My puppy/dog is afraid of everything - Commit to properly socializing them and helping them overcome their fears
  • My dog is always getting into trouble - Make sure they are getting enough exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom.  Lack of exercise and boredom is a bad combo!
  • My puppy/dog is driving me nuts! - Give yourself breaks by placing them in their crate with a chew toy.  No one should have to spend 24/7 with their dog,  raising a puppy or getting a new dog is stressful, cut yourself some slack :)   Rome was not built in a day and you will not train your dog in a day so pace yourself.
The next time you find yourself wondering how to effectively punish Fido, stop and come up with ways to prevent annoying behaviors from happening, an ounce of prevention goes a long way.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Is Your Puppy Getting Enough Rest?

How much sleep does your puppy get each day?  The average puppy has a very busy day, full of new experiences, play, training, socialization and travels.  All of this activity may leave your little pup tired and cranky.    It's important to be aware of how much sleep a puppy needs and be sure to meet that need.   

The Sleep Deprived Puppy
It's quite common for puppies to be sleep deprived .  A young puppy needs a minimum of 16-18 hours of sleep per day.   The majority of puppies get less sleep than they need which can result in a number of problems.  A puppy that is sleep deprived can become cranky, hyper, easily aroused, fearful, nervous, anxious, nippy and overly vocal.   Quite often people do not realize that their puppies undesirable behavior is the result of being tired. 

Establishing Better Sleep Habits
It's important that puppies have a regular sleep and nap schedule.  A young puppy will have more restful sleep in a confined area, such as a crate or gated area.   As tempting as it may be to allow your puppy to crash anywhere they please, refrain from doing this, especially when they're young.   Imagine trying to sleep peacefully in the middle of your living room floor, people walking by, talking to you, touching you.   For a puppy to have restful sleep they need to have their own 'quiet space', not in isolation, but somewhere that they can be left alone.  Utilizing a crate is the best approach and provides a safe haven for your tired puppy.   Try to resist the temptation to constantly hold your puppy as this will create an unhealthy dependency on you.  There is nothing wrong with cuddling and holding your puppy, but avoid rocking them to sleep, letting them sleep with you or carrying them around to keep them quiet.
Put together a schedule so that everyone knows the puppies routine.  The following is a good guideline: 

  • Puppy wakes in the morning
  • Outside for bathroom break
  • Breakfast
  • Playtime for 30-60 minutes
  • Outside for bathroom break
  • Nap for 1-2 hours
  • Repeat

Try to avoid long periods of time where the puppy is up and active.  Too often people try to impose their busy lifestyle on a young puppy.   A young puppy should not be up and active for hours at a time, taking naps throughout the day will ensure that they do not have a meltdown at dinner time.   Don't subscribe to the belief  that an overtired puppy will sleep better at night, that plan can backfire on you.  A puppy needs a consistent routine that includes play and exercise, but make sure naps and rest are included. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Start Of A Beautiful Friendship

Today was a big day at the McCarthy house, today is the day that progress was made!!  Just three short weeks ago Wally joined our family and while Faye was thrilled, Leo was not happy with his new brother.   Leo has always done great with other dogs but he has always had problems with intact males, due to an attack when he was a youngster.  Wally had just recently been neutered so he still had testosterone, as it takes time for that to dissipate after a neuter.   So for any dog that would meet Wally, they were still reading him as intact.   For many dogs this is not a problem, but for Leo, it was a deal breaker.   When Leo was 1 year old, while on a walk,  we were attacked by an adult intact male and both of us were seriously injured.   From that day forward he has had significant fear issues around any intact male.  As hard as I've tried he just can not forget that horrible day .  Thankfully we rarely encounter such dogs so he has been able to avoid those unpleasant encounters most of his life. 

The day Wally arrived I knew there was the possibility that Leo would not welcome him with open paws so I took a number of precautions during their initial introduction.  We had both boys on leash in my backyard and just started walking them near each other but didn't allow any formal greeting.  I could tell from the minute Leo got a good whiff of Wally that he was not comfortable.  We then slowed things down and had Leo walking 15-20 feet behind Wally so he could gather a little more 'information', still he could not relax.  Wally of course is a big dog with a puppy brain and all he wanted to do was play with Leo.  After 10-15 minutes we moved the dogs closer and within seconds Leo began to growl, bear his teeth and use very good canine communication to tell everyone how much he wanted Wally to move away.  Fortunately Wally is very dog savvy having grown up with many dogs, he immediately knew that he needed to back off and look away.   Even with distance between them Leo could not relax and was clearly stressed so we moved farther apart.  Just as we were walking away, Leo turned and launched a full fledged attack on Wally.  Thankfully Leo has a very good inhibited bite so there were not wounds but it was loud, lots of growling, snapping teeth and horrible to watch.   Wally was well aware that Leo was not happy to meet him and quickly retreated.

I found myself suddenly living in a potentially dangerous situation and knew I had to take time to think this through.  After everyone calmed down I had a family meeting and informed them that we would have to implement some very strict safety measures while we attempted to work through this.   The first step was keep the boys apart so that things could settle down.  From that moment we were rotating them in and out of crates.  When Leo was free, Wally was in a crate and vise verse.  This was not a problem because all the dogs are comfortable in their crates.  The next step was to purchase a DAP Collar for Leo and plug in a DAP Diffuser.   DAP has a very calming effect and I knew it would help all the dogs relax.    We used ALOT of desensitization exercises, offering Leo treats when ever Wally was hear him, clicking and treating for calm behavior, etc.   For nearly 2 weeks I did not allow the boys to have any contact other than approaching each other in their crates.   For the first week Leo would not even go near Wally crate and if Wally approached him he would growl.   By the 2nd week there was no more growling, he was choosing to sniff around the crate but still would not engage in any way with Wally.  At the start of the 3rd week Leo had made repeated approaches to Wally while he was crated and even began sniffing and licking his muzzle.  I was so excited but still wanted to take things slowly and use precautions.   A few days ago I placed a soft muzzle on Leo and had him outside with Wally and Faye.  He was now able to move about freely with Wally but we had the safety of the muzzle just in case.   It was at that point that I saw things changing, more relaxed body language, choosing to engage with Wally and no signs of fear or aggression. 

Today with drag lines on both dogs I decided to remove the muzzle and let them meet.   As you can see from the pictures things went very well.  The dogs immediately started playing a game of tug and running in the yard.   I could feel my blood pressure lower and knew that we had just had a major breakthrough.   

I've learned alot these past three weeks and as always, I'm in awe of these wonderful creatures.    When given time and the opportunity to resolve conflict great things can happen.  Too often we expect our dogs to 'get with the program' forgetting that they have 'opinions' of their own.    We have to respect what our dog is trying to tell us whether we like it or even understand it.   It's never easy watching your beloved dog behave aggressively,  it's scary and makes everyone feel helpless.  Understanding that aggression is a form of ccommunication puts things into perspective and helps you move past your emotional response and move towards a resolution.    I'll still be keeping my eye on the boys in the days and weeks to come but I think they are well on their way to a Beautiful Friendship!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Is Your Dog a Space Invader?

It can be challenging to teach your dog to remain calm on leash when others are allowing their dog to invade your personal space with jumping, barking,  lunging, grabbing, etc.  Space Invaders are everywhere and they can make walking your dog a stressful experience.   Because this is a common problem I address it in all my group classes.  When we enter the class I ask that people to keep their dogs focused on them and not allow them to rush up to the other dogs.  I think this confuses and even frustrates students at times because they think their dog REALLY needs to greet every dog they see.  Students tell me that their dog will only calm down if they are allowed to meet and greet other dogs.  By allowing your dog to 'meet and greet' every dog they see you're creating a problem that will be hard to fix.  

To better understand what a "Space Invader' is, read this great article written by fellow trainer Veronica Sanchez of Cooperative Paws Dog Training in Virginia.

By Veronicz Sanchez-Cooperative Paws Dog Training

Imagine if you were walking in the mall and suddenly a total stranger rushed up in front of you and stood literally inches from your face. As this person talks to you, you can smell their breath, they touch your arm, and stay in your space even as you back up to move away. What might your reaction be? Might you become afraid or angry? What if you are trapped and cannot move away? This would make most people feel very uncomfortable. And unfortunately, many pet owners routinely make dogs tolerate canine close talkers.

Most adult dogs are not happy to have an unfamiliar dog rush up into his or her face. Some dogs may react with a growl or a snap or other aggressive behavior, others might become frightened. Even those dogs that patiently tolerate the behavior may become less tolerant over time. Moreover, some dogs that rush up to an unfamiliar dog show additional pushy behavior such as jumping on top of the other dog, standing with their head over the other dog’s shoulders, and may not respond to the other dog’s signals to back off. Owners often misinterpret this greeting behavior as “friendly.” This is not friendly, it is rude! Add leashes to this situation and now you have two dogs that are trapped in this uncomfortable situation.

Recently, at a practice event for competition obedience that I attended, there were a number of dogs of various breeds in close proximity. Many of these dogs had advanced training, some titled at very high levels. None of the dogs were interacting with each other, they were paying attention to their owners. Why didn’t the owners have the dogs interact? Simply put, because most adult dogs do not necessarily enjoy interacting with unfamiliar dogs. Even adult dogs that are highly trained and extremely obedient will not always interact in a friendly way with another unfamiliar dog. Instead, these dogs know to listen to their owners, and – even more importantly – their owners know to handle their dog in a way that prevents their dog from making another dog uncomfortable.

Compare this situation to a typical visit to a pet store on a weekend, pet owners give their pets the full leash length and allow their pets to rush up to greet many of the other dogs in the store. These dogs temperaments and vaccination status is completely unknown. Since the dogs lack training, when the dogs become too excited or even aggressive, the owners have little to no ability to stop an altercation.

Pet owners sometimes mistakenly think that they are “socializing” their dog by allowing their dog to greet every dog they see on a walk or outing. Instead they are creating the very problem they hope to avoid, they are teaching their dog to be rude to other dogs. The dog is also learning to ignore the owner, that pulling on leash gets rewarded by the opportunity to greet a dog, and because some dogs will react aggressively, the dog is also learning that other dogs are not that friendly. Sometimes these dogs develop aggressive behavior to dogs themselves as they mature after repeated negative experiences.

The nice thing is that it really isn’t that hard to prevent your dog from becoming a canine close talker. Simply respect other dogs’ space. Do not allow your dog to greet every dog you see on a walk. Reward your dog for paying attention to you when other dogs are nearby. If your dog is friendly with other dogs, you can let your dog greet another friendly dog whose temperament and vaccination status is known after giving him or her permission to do so. Ask your dog to sit before letting him greet the other dog – do not let your dog pull you to greet the other dog. Train your dog or work with a professional trainer to teach your dog to look at you when other dogs are around. Take the time and effort to prevent your dog from becoming a space invader – your dog and the other dogs you encounter will thank you for it!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Shape Up Isn't Just For Humans

It looks as though Spring is actually on the way and you know what that means, time to get ready for summer.   The reality hits that in a very short period of time it will be swim suit season.    The health club is overflowing with people wanting to shed those winter pounds.   There is suddenly activity outside, the yard needs to be cleaned up, the car needs to be much to do.

We also are excited about getting back to outdoor activities with our dogs.  This past winter in Michigan was brutal, sub zero temperatures, ice, feet of snow, just plain misery.  It was slippery and cold for humans and I received many reports of paw injury from all the salt on the roads.  As a result there were fewer play dates, only the occasional walk and many dogs were lucky to see anyone outside for weeks at a time.    With less activity many dogs added a few winter pounds, just like their human.  One of the first things we notice when we take Fido for a walk is that his on-leash manners are a little rusty.  Things were going so well in the Fall, walking nicely on leash, no more chasing after squirrels, ignoring kids on bikes.  Well after 6 months of Arctic lock down all of that is out the window.  You find your pooch barking in the yard as people walk by, overly excited to see other dogs or any living creature that moves, life is just down right exciting!!! 

Before you panic and think all your hard work has gone down the drain, stop and remember, you had a well trained, well adjusted dog once, you can have him back again.   Your training is not gone, it's just 'out of shape' so-to-speak and needs to be shaped up.  There are a few common problems when Spring appears:

The Moment Of Truth, My Dog is Chubby!  The Need To Shed Those Winter Pounds
Many dogs, just like their pet parents, have added a few pounds over the Winter due to decreased activity.  This is a very common and many Veterinarians are having this conversation with many of their clients during routine Heart worm visits.  It is important to keep your dog at a healthy weight, overweight pets are at risk for health and orthopedic issues.   A measly 5 pounds of extra weight on a dog can be equal to 25-30 lbs on a human.   If your dog is in need of a slim down, work with your Vet to develop a healthy weight reduction program of diet and exercise. 

What Happened To My Dogs On-Leash Manners?
Leash manners are just like muscles, if you use them and exercise them regularly they stay strong, but if they are put on a break they weaken.  During the Winter months we spend less time walking our dogs on leash due to shortened daylight hours, cold temps, snow, ice, etc.  When the weather breaks and we try to resume our old routine we're shocked at how 'crazy' our dog behaves on walks.  Your once composed pooch is now pulling on leash, barking at other dogs, wanting to chase squirrels, alerting on anything and everything which makes going for walks less enjoyable.   Now is the time to polish up your dogs skills by getting back into your old routine and consider enrolling in a group class.  We offer a variety of short classes for brushing up on skills.  This Spring we are offering a new Outdoor Adventures Class that will meet for 3 weeks at various outdoor locations.

Spring Is A Critical Time For Winter Puppies
If your puppy came to live with you after November then you have a Winter Puppy.  These are puppies who due to our weather conditions had  limited socialization.  If you live in Michigan they most likely have never seen  lawn movers, kids on bikes, skate boarders, roller bladers, strollers, you get the picture.  There are so many things we take for granted, yet they are going to be a regular part of the scenery moving forward.   You'll want to do some remedial socialization and expose your puppy to this new and exciting world.  If you find that your puppy is fearful or nervous of new things consult a qualified behavior consultant.  It's also a good idea to enroll you puppy in a group class, this will provide socialization and ongoing training.  

Spring is just around the corner, get out side and enjoy it with your dog!

**Check our website for a complete listing of Spring Classes**

Monday, March 7, 2011

You Know What Happens When We Assume....................

I recently met a family with a wonderful 7 month old Golden Retriever named Max. When I arrived I was taken on a tour of their home, well actually it was more a tour of the destruction left by Max. There was chewed up furniture and rugs, toys shredded into pieces, paint scratched off walls and a variety of other canine crimes.

The family seemed quite baffled by Maxs behavior and desperate for ways to make it stop.  My first question for the family was "where were you when Max was getting into trouble?" The family replied "we don't remember, we may have been home, but no one was watching Max".  My next question was "Does Max have a crate or area you confine him"?  The family replied "We stopped using the crate a few months ago, we thought he no longer needed to be crated".  My final question was "Can you show me some of the toys Max has to play with ."  The owner showed me a box full of stuffed animals and fabric toys, most of which were torn into pieces. 

If this sounds all too familiar I have some good news!!    Max is a typical adolescent dog who was given too much freedom too soon.    Lets take a look at ways to keep the Maxs of the world safe and out of the dog house.

Use Supervision And Management

Don't give your young untrained dog free run of your home, use a crate or gated area.   If you can't give your dog 100% of your attention,  they should be confined, this keeps them safe and prevents bad behavior from developing.    When you need to confine your dog give them something to chew on like a frozen cheese Kong. 

Provide Appropriate Chew Toys

Young dogs need to learn chewing discrimination, the difference between legal and illegal chew toys .   They chew to exercise their jaws, to ease the pain of teething, to explore their environment and to relieve stress.  The smart owner selects chew toys wisely, recognizing that she is laying the foundation for her dog’s lifetime chew habits.  Stuffed frozen Kong toys, food dispensing toys, and other indestructible but inviting objects are better choices than items that resemble our valued human possessions.    Discarded socks and old tennis shoes teach a pup to head for the closet floor and the laundry basket when the chewing urge is strong.  It’s not Jaws fault that he can’t tell which socks are his and which ones you are still using!  


Be sure that your dog is getting enough vigorous daily exercise.  A leash walk is fine, but off leash exercise (in a safe fenced area) is a better choice.  Boredom is the number one cause of destructive behavior, and lack of exercise causes boredom. 

Training Is Not Just For Puppies

Training provides more than just 'good manners' it provides mental stimulation.    Enroll your dog in a class, try something new like scent work or tracking.   If your dog loves people consider Therapy Dog Training.   K9 Home  Schooling offers a variety of classes, check our website for details.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Searching For Answers

There is nothing more stressful than living with a dog that has behavior problems such as:
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Resource Guarding
  • Dog-To-Dog Aggression
  • On-Leash Reactivity
  • Fears and Phobias
  • Housetraining Issues
  • Destructive Chewing and Digging
  • Excessive Barking
When you find yourself living with a dog or puppy who has behavior problems it can be overwhelming.   Where do you turn?   Helpful friends, neighbors, co-workers are quick to dole out advice.  There are even TV shows that promise to teach you how to 'fix' your dog in 10-15 minutes.   When all else fails, go on line and 'Google' your problem.  There is a never ending stream of information.  The problem with all of these approaches is that behavior problems are complex and require expert help.   While we would not want to have our medical or behavioral problems diagnosed via email or by a good friend, we should not use this approach for our four legged friends either

The majority of behavior problems are misdiagnosed or ignored.   Here are a few things to consider when dealing with behavior problems:

  • The majority of behavior problems do not resolve on their own, they do in fact escalate. 
  • If your dog is showing signs of aggression,  fear or destructive behavior, it's not being done to 'spite' you or because he thinks he is the 'alpha dog'. 
  • Enrolling a fearful or aggressive dog in a group class to 'test' their behavior is stressful for your dog and potentially dangerous. 
  • 'Practice Makes Perfect' the longer your dog practices a behavior, the better they will get at it. 
  • Quick fixes don't work!  It takes time for behavior problems to develop, it will take time for them to resolve. 
There are many resources available to help pet parents and their dogs, start with a phone call to your Veterinarian.   When searching for someone to work with, credentials DO matter, so ask questions and ask for references.    Visit our website and click on "Recommended Resources" for books, videos and websites to assist you in your search.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Perfect Puppy

For those of you that know me, you know that I LOVE puppies.   They're full of possibilities.  But one thing I have learned over the years is that, just like people, puppies are individuals, each one different in their own way.  Many people have fond memories of that 'one special dog' they've had that was 'perfect'.  He always listened, came when called, never messed in the house, never was destructive, he was PERFECT!  As the years go by and you bring a new puppy into your home the comparisons are endless. 

Why cant Buster be more like Fido?
I don't ever remember Fido barking as much as Buster does
Fido never ran away, he always knew to come home.
Fido just housetrianed himself, he was AWESOME!
Fido never showed any aggression, he loved everyone and everything.

If Fido really does exist, I would love to meet him :)   I've had many dogs in my lifetime, wonderful and amazing dogs, but alas none of them were perfect.  They've all had their own quirks, some more endearing than others.   In a nutshell, embrace your puppy or dogs uniqueness and don't compare,  it will only drive you nuts!    I'll bet if you take a few moments and make a list of the things you love about our dog, you'll realize just how wonderful they are :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside.........So Lets Train Inside

Don't let the cold Michigan weather keep you from training and socializing your dog.   With the single digit temps we've been having,  it's easy to see why most people opt out of outdoor activities with their dog.   It is however  important to remember that our puppies and dogs need ongoing socialization.    Just like people, dogs get 'cabin fever' so make sure they're not spending too much time at home watching life go by from the living room window.

With the help of our good friends at Wags To Wiskers Ann Arbor and Chelsea we are now offering Indoor Socialization Outings.  The Outings are open to all K9 Home Schooling students 12 weeks of age and older. 

The class is 1 hour and limited to 4 students.   It's an opportunity to be around other dogs practice skills learned in class and meet and greet strangers.   Whether we are practicing loose leash walking or polite greetings, it's a fun and WARM opportunity to train your dog. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

If You Hear Barking..........Sing Louder!

Over the past year I've taken Faye on many outings in our never ending quest of new people, places and things.  Today she made her first visit to Church.  We have a big  congregation so there was alot of activity.    Even though Faye has spent her entire life working in public I know that taking her to a new place means this is going to be a training exercise not a social visit.  Entering a new building means new smells, new sounds and new people.   Training in public is part of a working dogs life, here are a few tips to help you and your dog be successful.

Setting Them Up For Success
The key to having a successful training session is setting your dog up for success and having realistic training goals.  To do this start by having a clear, well thought out plan,  this helps you and your dog not feel stressed.   Any time you work your dog in a new environment you can expect to see some degrading of training.   Because dogs don't generalize well, we need to give them opportunities to practice learned skills in a variety of environments.   When you enter a new environment let your dog sniff around for a few minutes and explore this new place.  It's not a good idea to start firing off cues the moment you arrive,  even the most basic skills like Sit and Down may fall on deaf ears if your dog is nervous or distracted.   Once your dog has relaxed, begin practicing skills that your dog knows, set them up for success. 

Recruit The Help Of Strangers
There are dog lovers everywhere and who doesn't want to pet an adorable dog.  I always recruit the help of strangers when I'm training my dogs.  Because we are always working on 'good manners' I ask people to be a 'friendly stranger' and pet my dog as long as they keep 'four on the floor'.   I also ask people to ignore my dog, this allows my dog to learn to settle and not always be the center of attention. 

Forget The Fancy Stuff and Keep It Simple
As tempting as it can be to want to show off all your dogs 'bells and whistles', I find it more beneficial to work on basic skills and reward/reinforce calm behavior.   You may not think there is anything impressive about having your dog lay at your feet, but think again, how many dogs do you see in public who can just chill out and relax.   

Have A Good Sense Of Humor
Yep, you got it, this should be fun too.   I never go into any situation expecting my young untrained dog to be a superstar.  These are learning opportunities and I definitely learn something every time I train in public.   As we entered church today I wondered if Faye would be quiet during the service?   She is typically not a barky dog, but just in case she decided to have a vocal moment,  I prepared people.  "If you hear barking..........SING LOUDER!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Faye---Oh What A Year It's Been!

Today we are celebrating Lafayette (Fayes) first Birthday!!    I am always surprised how quickly the first year goes by.  Those first few weeks with a new puppy are so busy and tiring, there is never a dull moment.  But in the blink of an eye our sweet little Faye is turning 1 year old.  It has been a fun filled year living with Faye, she's got it all, beauty, brains and personality. 

Faye began training at 9 weeks old by attending my group classes with the help of our good friend Judy who worked as her handler so I could teach the rest of my students :)   My hardworking Assistants Joy and Jacob were always there to lend a hand too.

Along with training, Faye has made many friends along the way both human and canine.  She works hard but I make sure she plays hard too.  Whether it meant standing in the freezing cold , wading in a lake or logging hundreds of miles on walks, Faye has had no shortage of outdoor fun. 

As a Therapy Dog In Training we are always working and training in the community, lots of outings, visiting the Hospital, local stores, schools, parades, the list is endless.  As I have watched Faye grow and mature this past year I'm so excited to see her well on her way to becoming a Therapy Dog.   Again, many thanks to our good friend Judy for helping us train, we couldn't have done it without her.

Even though Faye loves to have fun, her favorite activity is hanging with Leo and she does it very well. 

We look forward to spending many more wonderful years with Faye, Happy Birthday Fayby!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Do You Know What You Need?

On average I receive numerous calls per week from people inquiring about training services for their dog.   I offer a variety of services and quite often people are unsure about what type of training they need.   It seems as though it should be fairly straight forward, unfortunately that's not always the case.  There is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to training.  There is basic obedience training, puppy socialization, behavior consultations, behavior modification and play/exercise.   Every situation is different and knowing what service you need depends on a variety of factors.  Here are some of the calls I receive, do you know what training service you would recommend?

Our new puppy keeps biting our kids when they play with him, he chases them too.

Our Golden Retriever jumps on our guests and licks everybody.

Our 9 months old dog barks when guests enter and growls at them too.

When ever we approach our 9 week old puppy while he's eating he growls at us and tries to bite us.

Our dog is really sweet but does not listen to a word we say

Our 7 year old dog is suddenly very nervous and anxious

I'm sure some of these sound familiar :)  Not all unruly dogs need behavior consults and not all puppies should be in a group class, how is that for confusing *grin*.   When you find yourself in need of help with your dog,  the best thing you can do is contact a professional and ask for guidance.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Obedient Owners Make Great Pet Parents

I believe that most people are under the assumption that Dog Training is just for their dog.   The hope is that by enrolling your puppy or dog in a class, Fido will learn how to behave in our human world.   I always enjoy the first night of class, meeting new families and preparing everyone for our 6 week adventure in training.    Everyone enters class with different goals and objectives, but the one thing they all have in common is wanting their dog to be better behaved and learn the 'house rules'

As a dog trainer there are two questions I get more than any others:

“How do I get my dog to stop doing (insert annoying, yet often natural, behavior here)?”

“How do I punish my dog when he’s just being bad?”

All to often these puppies and dogs are labeled difficult, aggressive, hard headed, spiteful, dominant, the list goes on and on.   When you feel frustrated with your dog’s behavior, remember that someone must teach a dog what is acceptable behavior and what is not. A dog that has not been given any instructions, training or boundaries can’t possibly know what you expect of him.   It's equally as important to understand that  WE the humans must take the time to learn how to properly teach a dog.   When students enter my class my goal is not to train your dog, but to train you how to work with your dog.    To train a dog you must understand what is normal dog behavior, how to socialize dogs, how to enrich their environment and most importantly how dogs learn.  There is so much information available on TV and the Internet it can be overwhelming and confusing.    Our society loves a 'quick fix' but in reality training a puppy or dog takes time and behavior problems are even more complicated so quick fixes as seen on TV are fantasy not reality.    We can eliminate so much of the frustration by learning a few basics about canine learning theory, which is understanding how dogs learn,.   Once we know how to communicate with our four legged friends we can be great teachers!   

We have a "Recommended Resources' link on my website to direct you to great books, websites and videos on raising and training dogs.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Remembering 2010

To all the wonderful dogs and their families who made 2010 a GREAT Year! 

Hope to see you in 2011!

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