Impulse Control…..Does Your Dog Have It?
You decided to participate in an obedience class in hopes of teaching your dog some new skills. These new skills are typically taught in a perfect setting, the classroom, your dog on leash with the instructor helping every step of the way. By the end of class your dog is focused on you and performing the commands beautifully. Things are improving quickly until…..you exit the building and your dog’s natural impulses take over.
Unfortunately, dogs do not generalize from one situation to the next very well. Dogs are smart and quickly learn the expectation within the context of the classroom; focus on my owner, I get rewarded when I resist impulses and watch my owner’s signals. But, how good are you at helping your dog translate the impulse control and expectations into other contexts? At home your dog’s impulses are stronger, driven by the desire to protect “their possessions”, whether that’s at your front door or walking on leash through the neighborhood. Take a moment to reflect on the many different distractions your dog experiences on a typical walk through the neighborhood. Kids on bikes may equal a chase impulse. A stranger walking too closely may equal a resource protection impulse. An off leash dog running up to you may equal a fearful impulse. In order to ensure a positive outcome you need to ensure your dog resists its natural impulses and looks to you for behavior signals. This takes consistent and continual reinforcement of classroom skills applied to everyday life.
A knowledgeable instructor should teach you how to help your dog translate these impulse control skills to other situations. Once a skill is mastered in the classroom, your instructor should set up distraction scenarios that cause you and your dog to work through behavior corrections and develop critical thinking skills. These distraction scenarios will develop your ability to quickly identify impending poor behavior cues and apply quick appropriate corrections. These scenarios will also provide opportunity for constructive instructor feedback. Your instructor should also increase the distraction factor by taking the training outside the classroom, to the parking lot, dog park or even a public event. Your instructor’s job is to teach you the skills to train your dog then challenge you to put those skills to use.
An easy way to challenge yourself and your dog is to check his/her behavior leaving the classroom. Is your dog calmly walking on leash, listening to you as you walk to the car, waiting for you to open the door then politely jumping in on command? Or, does your dog pull you into the parking lot after class, pull you out the door of your home when going for a walk or bark at people passing by? If the latter is closer to reality, find a certified professional dog trainer to reinforce impulse control outside the classroom. Remember that most of your companion’s life will be spent out in the real word away from a classroom.
The foundation for every level of training should be impulse control. Whether it is a puppy or advanced learner impulse control is the most important skill a dog should acquire. When a dog has strong impulse control all other obedience and life skills fall right into place. If a dog can resist the temptation of every day distractions walking on leash, coming when called and staying in place will be quickly mastered.
Focusing on impulse control in every obedience level will significantly improve any dogs over all behavior and ensure a certificate on graduation day.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Does your dog growl when you attempt to take away his food? Does Fido snap at you when you go near his bone? Does he bark and growl at anyone attempting to come near you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your dog may be displaying signs of resource guarding. Resource guarding is a fairly common behavior owners of problem dogs experience and it can be very dangerous to other household pets and humans. If not handled correctly, it can lead to euthanasia of the dog. Pet owners can take steps, though, to prevent and eliminate the behavior.
Dogs may become possessive of objects when a new member of the family is added to the home. Some are possessive because of a learned behavior from their youth. Food, toys, treats, bones, furniture, humans, yards, kennels and the home are examples of some of the things dogs like to protect. Dogs can quickly develop negative associations when their valuable resources are taken away from them. Each time another dog or human attempts to take a resource away from them, it can represent a significant conflict in their mind. When this conflict arises, dogs tend to send warning signals before they attempt to bite. A bite is usually a last resort for most pets. Let’s say the dog is possessive about a bone. The first signal a dog will display as soon as he perceives a threat is to stop chewing the bone. He will stare and wait for the threat to turn away. If those signals do not work and the threat continues to approach, the dog’s entire body will become tense and he will lower his head closer to the bone. The staring will become significantly more intense and pupils will become dilated. The next warning signal is a growl and/or displaying of teeth when the threat is too close. At this point most threats turn away and the dog learns how far he needs to go before moving perceived threats away from his valuable resource. If none of these warning signals work, he may snap and bite to protect the bone. Once a dog learns that biting will work to keep the valuable resource to himself, he will rehearse the same behavior any time he feels the resource is in danger. This can become a very dangerous learned behavior. Some dogs will even move on to protect more than one resource once they learn they can protect resources.
How can we prevent or change these negative behaviors? The most important thing is to assess the dog’s level of behavior. Is your dog beginning to growl or is your dog already attempting to bite. Either level can be very dangerous for both you and your other pets.
The best thing to do is consult with a veterinarian or behavior specialist. Most behavior specialists understand how to deal with these dangerous behavior problems.
Preventing a dog from resource guarding is valuable to both his life and yours. When puppies are young it is vital they learn that it is okay for things to be taken away from them. Play with your puppy’s food while he eats. Take some food out of his dish and hand feed it to him. Do the same thing with a bone or toy. When he receives these fun objects practice taking them away by trading them with another object or yummy treat. High value treats tend to be the best option to trade. This helps create positive associations in the dog’s mind at a young and impressionable age. The same can be done with an older dog that has had no history of resource guarding. Dogs that already display signs of resource guarding need to be worked with very carefully. They should lose the privilege of taking that valuable resource whenever they please. Food should be fed piece by piece from your hand and all bones/toys should be put away until you can consult with a professional to solve those issues. Never attempt to forcefully take an object away from your dog because it may lead to a severe bite and build more conflict in the dog’s mind. To get an object away you will need to trade the object with something extremely valuable to the dog. Trading will be the safest way to get that object away until you can work on the resource guarding problem. Trading can still be dangerous because you may not understand how close you can get to your dog’s resource.
If your dog displays any of these negative behaviors, contact your veterinarian or behavior specialist as soon as possible. Proper communication between you and your pet will make your home a safer place for all of you.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
It's storming, where's Fido?
In light of another strong start to thunderstorm season, we are running this article for people seeking more information on how to alleviate your pet's stress during a thunderstorm.
Thunderstorm season is upon us and the storms that rumble through may cause anxiety for your pets. In this article, I will discuss a few options to help alleviate stress in the household for both you and your dog.
First, assess and understand the level of anxiety your dog may be experiencing. If none of the options in this article help relieve anxiety, you may need to consult with a behavior specialist and/or your veterinarian for pharmaceutical assistance. There is a wonderful product on the market called Thundershirt. The Thundershirt is designed to wrap around the dog's body, hitting certain pressure points to alleviate stress. The dog feels safe and secure in the shirt. It is very important for the dogs to get accustomed to a Thundershirt gradually before storms arrive.
On fair weather days put the Thundershirt on your dog and let him wear it for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. This will help him build positive associations to the shirt with fair weather. If you put it on him for the first time during a strong storm, your dog may develop a negative association towards the shirt. The Thundershirt will help most low anxiety dogs relax when storms approach. The shirts will not completely cure the phobia for dogs that experience high levels of anxiety during thunderstorms.
For this you will need to do some behavior modification in adjunct to using the Thundershirt. The same is to be said with pharmaceutical assistance as well. Your dog's brain will learn through a process called counter-conditioning. You must replace an unfavorable response towards the thunderstorm with a favorable response.
You can seek a favorable response from your dog by building positive associations toward the thunderstorm. To do this, you must find what your dog absolutely loves. It may be lunch meat, cheese, hot dogs, chicken, a treat ball or a squeaker toy. Once you find what really gets your dog's attention over anything else you want to save that special treat or toy for thunderstorms.
When storms approach pull out that one special thing Fido loves and use it to keep his attention during the storm. It is essential to only reward relaxed behaviors during the duration of the storm.
Other great products you can try using in adjunct with everything described above are essential oils. Aromatherapy is another great way to help alleviate stress before pursuing pharmaceutical assistance. It is extremely important to consult with your veterinarian before purchasing and using essential oils. Your veterinarian will direct you to the best and safest products for your own pet's particular needs.
The same products and training process can be used for other noise phobias such as fireworks. If none of these options help, consult a behavior specialist or your veterinarian for further assistance. Using these products along with counter-conditioning can help improve your best friend's thunderstorm phobia.
With a little patience and consistency, thunderstorms will be one less thing on your list to worry about this coming summer.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Is Fido lonely? Separation anxiety can impact pets, too
Have you ever wondered what your dog feels when he’s left home alone? There are many different types of behaviors your dog may display when he is by himself.
Let’s uncover the difference between simple disobedience and true separation anxiety. Some dogs enjoy being left home alone because they can finally get into the garbage or chew on their favorite piece of furniture without being corrected. Many inappropriate behaviors can simply be the products of boredom or too much freedom while left unsupervised. Some dogs may bark at strangers passing by the house due to boredom or soil when left home alone too long. These are all behaviors that can easily be corrected with exercise and less freedom in the house. These behaviors are usually associated with simple disobedience and boredom. Teaching your dog proper house manners can help eliminate many of these issues. It is extremely important your dog is provided with appropriate amounts of physical and mental stimulation each day. Many different types of behaviors are usually associated with separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is a serious emotional behavior problem your dog experiences when left home alone. There are many early warning signs that indicate a dog may have the start of or already have full blown separation anxiety. Some of these behaviors may be on display when you are preparing to leave: whining, pacing, excessive panting, dilated pupils or constantly following you from room to room. Most of these signs tend to be displayed when your dog understands you are about to leave. When you put on a certain pair of shoes, get the car keys, put on certain clothing, open the garage door, get your purse or get out a bag you normally take with you, you signal to your dog you are leaving. Once your dog is tipped off he tends to display signs of stress before you are out the door. Once your dog is left alone, signs of separation anxiety will be evident when you arrive back home.
Dogs with separation anxiety can harm themselves. Typical signs of separation anxiety include but are not limited to: puddles of drool in the house or kennel, very sweaty pads, appetite suppression, excessive trembling or destructive chewing/scratching near exits of the home due to attempts to escape.
These signs need to be put in the correct context to diagnose your dog with separation anxiety. If your dog displays any of these behaviors contact your veterinarian or behavior specialist right away. Separation anxiety can be very difficult to correct without proper behavior modification. Some dogs may even require pharmaceutical assistance. For more information contact a veterinarian or behavior specialist.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Separation Anxiety Part 2
Last month we covered how to determine if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety. In this article we will look at how to prevent separation anxiety and what to do when your dog begins to display signs of separation anxiety.
When you bring home a new puppy, you are very excited to spend every moment together. It is most certainly a great way to bond with your puppy, but there are a few small steps you should take to prevent attachment issues.
It is important for any puppy or newly adopted companion to spend time alone in their new home. The best and safest place to keep new dogs/puppies is in a kennel. The kennel becomes a safe and relaxing retreat for your dog when you are unable to spend time with him/her.
There are a few important things to work on when spending time with your new companion. It is important your dog learns how to relax and spend time away from you out of the kennel as well. We all love to shower our dogs with love and affection but it is important to not overdo it.
When you come home to let Fido out of the kennel it is vital to only give Fido attention after he is displaying calm behaviors. With new dogs it may take time for them to settle down before you can give them attention. The best transition is usually to let your dog outside to eliminate and then give him attention after he has finished.
If you give your dog too much attention while he is in an anxious state of mind he will quickly feel/learn life is only good when you are around. Yes, that does make us feel good but we do not want that to become a point of stress for Fido when it is time to leave.
What can be done when your pet is already showing signs of stress when left home alone? Usually, dogs that have separation anxiety show signs of stress well before you are even out the door. They learn your routines and cues, tipping them off you are getting ready to leave.
It is important to desensitize your dog to these cues. Randomly put on your shoes and do not leave. The same can be done with your purse and/or jacket. Once you have these things on, simply continue whatever you were doing in the house. After 10 or 15 minutes, put your things away.
You can also open the garage door and take out your keys at the same time without leaving the house. These two things usually happen within a few moments of each other before we exit the house. After a few minutes you may close the garage door and put your keys away.
It is very important to exercise Fido before leaving for long periods of time. This will help relieve stress and anxiety before he is left home alone. Once you are ready to leave do not make a big deal out of it. Being relaxed yourself and not giving attention to Fido right before you leave will help keep Fido more relaxed.
There are many causes of stress and separation anxiety can be a major cause for some pets. Taking the proper steps can prevent creating a Velcro dog and will be one less thing you have to worry about when leaving Fido home.
When dealing with a dog with separation anxiety there are many options to help alleviate this problem behavior. The best option is to consult with your veterinarian or a certified behavior specialist first. With the correct diagnosis and guidance Fido will soon be a stress free pet when left home alone.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
The weather is changing and the holidays will soon be upon us. Our attention will quickly turn toward the preparation of holiday food, decorations and shopping for presents for our loved ones.
What does this mean for our furry little friends and how can we make it safe for them during this exciting time of year? In this article we will cover what may occur and how to prevent these issues during the holiday season.
Our dogs love routine and receiving our undivided attention. It can be challenging this time of year to maintain a routine. And changes in our routines and a lack of attention to our pets can lead to changes in their behavior. When the weather turns colder we tend to exercise our dogs less and less. With more pent up energy many behavior problems tend to come to fruition during the colder months.
There also are new and exciting objects Fido can get into as we decorate for the holidays. New décor can be irresistible to Fido and it is important to make sure these objects are out of reach. Christmas trees, ornaments, extension cords, decorative lights, snow globes, scented candles, poinsettias (poisonous to dogs) and holiday treats are all new things Fido may want to explore.
It is important to work on or refresh "leave-it" training before putting out your holiday cheer. The best way to decorate is to put Fido in another room during that time. If Fido does not see you moving and touching new objects (decorations), the items will interest him less. After you have finished decorating, let Fido out of his room and keep a close watch on him for the first couple of days. Doing it this way should cause the new décor to become boring background objects for your dog. Remember to keep plenty of toys and chew toys out so your dog will direct his focus on those items rather than your decorations.
This is also a popular time for visitors to our homes. It is important to be a support system for your companion. Many guests arriving at one time can be stressful for your dog. Many dogs enjoy guests coming to the house but they can become stressed when guests stay for long periods of time. It is important to take Fido out for a short walk to unwind during your guests' stay or put Fido in a separate room for some down time. This will help prevent Fido from becoming over stimulated especially when your guests include children.
To keep Fido and your guests safe this holiday season instruct your guests how to act around the dog. It is important to teach your guests what Fido can and cannot have. We all know our guests love to spoil our pets with food and new toys. It is very important to establish boundaries for our guests. Every family has different rules but the most important thing is to help Fido be as stress-free as possible. Training in advance will help Fido understand the rules and stressors that come with this time of year.
Our guests are sometimes not limited to the two-legged kind. Some guests may bring their dogs when they visit your house. It is important all four-legged friends meet each other outside before rushing into the house. This will help prevent over stimulation and chaos at the door.
Remember to pick up all of your pet's prized possessions before furry friends visit to prevent resource guarding. Some objects may include: favorite toys, bones and food. Encourage your guests to exercise their dog before arriving at your home. Calm four-legged guests will provide a more relaxing atmosphere for your own pet.
With a little time and planning this holiday season can be successful for both you and your pet. Exercise and mental stimulation can help alleviate a lot of stress for Fido while all the new changes occur. If you have concerns about your pet's stress this holiday season consult with your veterinarian or seek a professional trainer for help.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Yes, you can teach your dog to come when called!
Does your dog come every time you call her? When distractions are around is it difficult to get Fido to come back?
Many dogs struggle with “come” because they do not see the value in returning at the exact moment they are called. In this article we will cover the proper way to teach your dog to come and how to correct bad habits.
Many dogs are great with technicalities and manipulating their surroundings. A lot of clients say to me,
“My dog will come when I call her, but will remain out of my reach.”
Dogs quickly learn if they get too close their fun time may be over. The mistake many of us make is we tend to only call our dogs when fun time is truly over for them. We only call our dogs to leash them up, go in the house or put them in the kennel.
Dogs quickly learn the word come is a negative word. Therefore, dogs will technically come back to their owners and stay just out of reach. Then we make the next biggest mistake: We chase after Fido. Once the chase is on, Fido will attempt to recreate that game over and over.
There are a few ways to correct and prevent these issues from occurring. First it is important to find Fido’s most favorite thing in the world. Once that toy or treat is found never use it again until you start teaching come when called. Why is this important? We want to keep the sausage or squeaker toy relevant in their world.
Once you find Fido’s irresistible treat the teaching may begin. The first time you teach come, you want to start in a boring room. Say your dog’s name first and wait for her to pay attention to you. Once you have her attention instruct her to “come” in a fun voice.
As she approaches hold the toy or treat out in front of you to lure her in close.
Once she is within reach, instruct her to “sit.” After Fido is sitting you may reach down and give her the reward. At the exact same moment you are rewarding Fido reach with your free hand and touch her collar. It is extremely important Fido gets used to you reaching for her. This will help prevent the keep away game.
As Fido becomes more reliable with the recall, you may move to more distracting areas. Once you are ready to move outdoors put a long lead on Fido to keep her under more control. The lead will allow you to reel Fido in if she does not respond after the first attempt.
There are a few key things that need to be done to keep the recall exciting for Fido.
Say your dog’s name as many times as you need to until you get her attention. Never say, “come” unless your dog is paying attention to you. When dogs are intensely sniffing they tend to block out their surroundings. If you use the word “come” too many times it will become irrelevant in no time.
Another important thing to remember is never only call Fido when it is time for her to be restrained. Call Fido randomly without going in the house or being put in the kennel. The reward given each time during the training process will become the positive thing Fido remembers.
Last but not least, always keep calm when calling the dog. Yelling and screaming at your dog after they return will only teach them coming back to you makes you angry. Therefore, she will come back less and less when you call her. Always praise and reward Fido for coming to you even if it takes her awhile to return.
Come when called can be lifesaving, fun and rewarding. Start out with minimal distractions and work your way up to major distractions.
This process will help Fido succeed.
If you have any concerns about teaching your dog to come when called, consult with professional.
A little practice each day will have Fido coming back to you in no time.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Who's walking whom?
Now that spring is in the air, many of us attempt to take Fido on a walk after the long winter. Some are greeted with pulling, lunging and over-excitement, and are left with very sore arms at the end of the walk.
Loose-leash walking isn’t a complicated art form but it does not require a significant amount of time to make a few simple changes.
When your dog is young, he typically is taken outside on leash to learn to go potty. Unfortunately, he is allowed to pull in any direction he would like to go in the yard. Once pulling is learned, it can be difficult to correct until proper changes are made.
It is important to teach a young puppy to follow you on leash rather than you following the puppy. Teach Fido to follow you on leash with a reward like a treat and/or toy by walking backwards.
Once he follows you consistently, you may turn your body in the forward position and teach him to follow you at your side. Be sure to choose one side and stick with it. Continue to use treats and/or toys to keep him focused on you instead of nearby distractions. It is best to start indoors and work your way outdoors as Fido improves. As Fido improves, you begin weaning off of the treats and/or toys.
Use a fixed tie-out instead of a leash for potty breaks. If you are unable to use a tie-out, be sure to continue moving with Fido to keep slack in the leash. It is easiest when encouraging Fido to follow you during potty breaks.
Another reason dogs tend to pull is because of how their brains are hardwired. Dogs have a behavior mechanism naturally occurring in their brains to help with survival. This mechanism is called the “opposition reflex.” When the body feels pressure from one direction it is instructed by the brain to instinctively resist and provide force against that pressure. Therefore, when dogs feel pressure on the front of their neck, they will resist against the pressure and pull forward. This is where most loose-leash walking fails.
Some simple techniques to prevent a dog from pulling are changing directions or stopping as soon as Fido begins to pull. The moment you feel tension on the leash you should stop walking immediately or change directions completely. This will teach Fido to pay attention to your movements and teach him pulling will not allow him to get to his desired destination.
If you have a dog that tends to become over-stimulated around distractions, give yourself as much space as possible. If you notice a distraction coming your way, immediately cross the street to allow more room between Fido and the distraction. If you need to pass a distraction, follow the same process explained above.
Using different tools such as Easy Walk harnesses or Gentle Leaders can inhibit pulling immediately with proper use. These tools take advantage of the “opposition reflex” to stop pulling in its tracks. Using an Easy Walk harness or a Gentle Leader will give you more control around distractions. These tools are even used on dogs with reactivity issues and service dogs in training. They teach a dog to walk properly from the beginning.
When dogs have pulling issues they typically are walked less. Of course, when dogs are walked less and less they tend to develop behavior problems. Their high energy combined with the lack of socialization with the outside world can create many issues in the household. Dogs are social creatures similar to humans requiring both mental and physical stimulation away from home. Daily proper loose-leash walking can help improve many nuisance behaviors and build a strong relationship that lasts a lifetime.
With a few small changes and proper guidance, walking with Fido will soon become an enjoyable daily routine. For more help with loose-leash walking, speak with a professional dog trainer or your veterinarian.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Teaching Your Dog To Stay
Spring has finally arrived and the snow is melting away. Not only are we excited to get back outside but our furry little companions are ready as well.
With new odors in the air it can be a challenging time of year when dogs begin to sneak outdoors or leave the yard to greet distractions passing by. It is important to teach our dogs to stay on command whether out for a walk, in the house or in the yard. In this article we will cover how to teach “stay” and how to reinforce its importance.
Stay can come in many different forms but the true root of stay is teaching your dog to properly wait until released. The most common forms of teaching stay are instructing your dog to sit or down and stay in place.
Many attempt to teach stay but forget one of the most important steps during the training process. The most important part of training stay is teaching your dog the release word. The release word signals your dog may move from the stay position once given.
The release word can come in many different forms. Some common words used are “okay,” “release,” “free,” “break,” “alright” or “finished.” These words need to be taught early in the training process. If you are a person that tends to say okay or alright frequently when conversing with other people you may want to pick a different term to use with your dog. Once your dog understands sit and down you may begin teaching stay.
The first step is to instruct your dog to sit. Then count five to 10 seconds in your head. Once you reach your set time give the release word. As you release your dog step back a few steps. This will help Fifi understand she may get up. Once she breaks the stay position you may give her praise and a reward. It is important to repeat this process a dozen times before adding the word stay. It will keep the training simple and help Fifi understand the release word.
Once Fifi understands the release word you may begin adding the word stay. First instruct Fifi to sit and then instruct stay. You may place your hand in front of you with an open palm facing Fifi.
It is important to only hold your hand out for a second or two. If you hold your hand out during the entire stay Fifi may only stay when your hand is out. The same can be said with direct eye contact when you begin adding distance.
After instructing stay, count five to 10 seconds in your head followed by the release word you chose. This will signal to Fifi she may move from the stay position to receive her praise and reward. It is very important to take your time and focus on duration before adding distance.
Once Fifi is staying in place consistently for 30 seconds to a minute you may begin adding distance. Once you begin adding distance do not start with long periods of time. It is important to walk to the set distance and walk all the way back to Fifi before releasing.
If you add come when called in addition to distance stays remember to always give the release word before instructing come. This is another area in stay training that causes great confusion for dogs when not used properly. When teaching down stays follow the same teaching process as sit stay. Whether starting over or starting for the first time, consistency is very important throughout this process.
It is always best to start any training, including stays indoors, before training outdoors. Do not hesitate to use a leash during the training. The leash will be needed outdoors especially when practicing on walks or in your yard. Once you begin training outdoors start the entire process over by building time and adding distance slowly. Having a reliable stay will help improve nuisance behaviors and potentially save Fifi’s life.
Stay can help improve sit for greeting, yard training, door training and overall impulse control. By taking the proper steps and being patient during the training process Fifi will be staying in place in no time. If you have any concerns teaching your dog to stay, contact your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Why is your dog barking at you?
Do you ever wonder what your dog is trying to say when he is barking at you?
Vocalization is one of many ways dogs communicate. Dogs communicate through body postures in adjunct with vocalization. In this article, we will cover reasons why dogs bark and how to stop excessive barking.
Dogs can bark for many reasons, and to solve a barking problem, it is extremely important to understand why the dog is barking in the first place. Dogs may bark because they are protecting a resource/territory, demanding attention, are bored, are afraid, are being playful, are greeting someone or have separation anxiety. These are all common reasons dogs bark.
Once you understand why your dog is barking, you may begin the training process. Teaching a dog to bark less or to stop barking altogether can be challenging. The main reason dog owners fail teaching their dog to be quiet is inconsistency.
Teaching a dog the "quiet" command means exactly what the word states. The simplest way to teach quiet is to catch the behavior. Most dog owners yell or try to give instructions while Fido is in the process of barking. This simply teaches and reinforces Fido to continue barking. Yelling or talking while Fido is barking is actually doing the opposite of what is desired. In addition, most dogs associate your frustration with the distraction they are barking at. Therefore, they feel you are joining in and supporting their barking. Some dogs may stop out of intimidation. It does not fix the problem, and Fido will continue barking when you are not present.
When Fido stops to take a breath, instruct "quiet" in a calm, firm voice. As soon as you instruct quiet, immediately reward the quiet behavior with a treat. This process may take time for Fido to learn the new behavior.
When Fido is barking to protect a resource/territory, it typically occurs when people and/or dogs are passing by your house. If Fido is outside barking and he does not comply after the quiet command is given, immediately bring him inside the house. It is important to remain consistent with this process to teach him it is a privilege to be outdoors. If Fido is going to continue barking, he loses the privilege of being outside. The same process should be followed with dogs that bark out windows. If they do not comply immediately, shut the blinds or curtains for 5 to 10 minutes.
Sometimes, Fido may bark because he is simply bored and not receiving enough mental/physical stimulation in his life. It is important to exercise and mentally stimulate your dog each day. More exercise tends to eliminate many nuisance behaviors, including barking, in a very short period of time.
Keeping Fido well exercised and socialized is important to meet his behavioral needs. Dogs are social creatures, similar to humans, and need time to socialize away from home. If you have any concerns with barking, contact your veterinarian or a behavior specialist. With a few small changes and consistent communication, a quieter household will be in the near future.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
What makes a great pet therapy dog?
Pet therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes, bringing support to people in different types of environments.
Therapy dogs can help individuals both emotionally and physiologically by providing emotional support in the form of attention and affection. Many call it unconditional love.
They can be found roaming the halls of nursing homes and hospitals, stopping room to room to cheer up each individual’s day. They can be found in schools and libraries, providing nonjudgmental support to children. Therapy dogs can be essential in times of crises after traumatic events. Crisis therapy dogs travel all over the country to areas of natural disaster or catastrophic occurrences. These dogs help many people with the healing process.
Therapy dogs play an important role in our society, but should never be mistaken for service dogs. Service dogs provide a service to specific individuals in need. These services help individuals get through the day by assisting them with specific tasks and emotional support as well. Service dogs are the only dogs that are allowed in just about any public or private establishment. Therapy dogs are not allowed the same rights as service dogs.
With the demand for these types of supportive dogs on the rise, many people wonder if their own dog would make a great therapy dog. Not all dogs are suitable for this job.
The right dog comes with a natural ability, coupled with many hours of training. Therapy dogs have to demonstrate adeptness at obedience skills, maintaining a proper aptitude and the ability to adapt to changing environments.
Therapy dogs need to be able to handle visual distractions, such as staggering, gesturing, direct eye contact, flailing arms, flashing lights, quick-moving objects, medical equipment, uniforms and costumes. These are all things many therapy dogs encounter while providing pet therapy.
They also need to remain steady and calm through audible distractions in the form of crashing carts, angry yelling, high-pitched screaming, sirens, medical equipment, sloppy speech, dropped objects and loud banging.
Therapy dogs will be exposed to many types of touch. From children to the elderly, with or without disabilities, they all touch therapy dogs in different ways. It may come in the form of sloppy petting, pulling of ears, pulling of hair, pulling of the tail and tugging on the paws. Yes, these are all inappropriate ways to pet a dog, but often these are situations pet therapy dogs face.
Therapy dogs will face all types of environments. Many facilities keep their buildings very warm, and some therapy dogs are required to offer support in extreme environments. Through it all, they need to be able to hold certain positions and show a general interest in people.
Therapy dogs are still dogs. They enjoy what they do and understand the types of things they will encounter along the way. They learn all these things through training and experience.
Pet therapy is a great way for you and your dog to give back to the community. If you would like to learn more about pet therapy, speak with a therapy dog organization or your veterinarian.
If you are unsure if your dog has what it takes to be a therapy dog, contact a certified professional dog trainer to assess your dog’s behavior before testing with an organization.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Are you having difficulty getting your pet to eliminate outside?
Ways exist to properly train your dog, and certain signs can be observed to prevent accidents from occurring.
Housebreaking isn’t only for new puppies, but also for adopting older dogs as well. The same techniques should be used regardless of age and whatever situation Fido may have come from.
New puppies and newly adopted dogs need restriction when they are first brought home. Too much freedom can lead to accidents in the house and dogs will find areas out of sight to eliminate when they are free to roam indoors. If they are restricted to one area of the house, it will allow you to supervise more efficiently.
Restriction also helps prevent unwanted chewing and destruction of valuables. Gating off a room for Fido to play in and be with the family is a good way to restrict. When you are unable to supervise, a kennel is another great way to keep Fido safe.
As Fido learns elimination should only occur outdoors, you may allow for more freedom in the house.
New puppies should be taken outside every couple of hours when they are first brought home. As they grow older, they are able to hold it longer and longer.
Many dogs will need to eliminate shortly after eating their meals and drinking water. A great way to manage their elimination habits is to feed Fido at certain times of the day. Always follow what your veterinarian recommends for how much to feed and how many times to feed a day. Free feeding tends to lead to inconsistent elimination patterns and can lead to more accidents.
Another important time to let Fido out is immediately after play time. Many puppies need to eliminate before and after physical activity, and this can be in as short as a few minutes. When a puppy abruptly stops playing and wanders off, it is a good indication an accident is about to occur.
After a nap, Fido should be let outside to eliminate regardless of whether he is in the kennel or gated in a restricted area.
Potty pads can be a popular way to keep accidents in one area of the house, but it can lead to dependence for the rest of Fido’s life. Potty pads are great to use if you live in a big-city high rise and have a difficult time getting outdoors. Typically, they are used for small breeds only. It is strongly encouraged to train a puppy or newly adopted dog, regardless of size, to eliminate outdoors rather than becoming dependent on potty pads.
When you take your new puppy or newly adopted dog to visit a different house, keep Fido on the leash the first couple of visits. This will keep Fido in close range to prevent accidents from happening as well as make it easier to grab Fido before an accident is about to occur. Eliminating in other locations indoors can lead to more accidents at home.
If you have a dog that begins to have frequent accidents out of the ordinary, it is important to check with your veterinarian to rule out any infections. Medical issues can play a major role in preventing Fido from learning to eliminate outdoors. It is extremely important to watch for cues your pup may be trying to tell you.
Some cues may be obvious, and some may be very subtle. The more time you spend studying your puppy, the better you will become at learning your pup’s cues and habits.
Following the suggestions above and developing a consistent routine will help potty train Fido in no time. If you have any concerns about potty training your new best friend, contact your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
We enjoy watching our furry little companions play with other dogs.
But what does proper play look like and when should we become concerned with play intensity?
When dogs play with each other, you typically see an encouraging play bow. This signals all takers to not take offense to any posturing that occurs from this point forward.
Dogs have very fluid moving body postures when playing with other dogs. You may see teeth; hear light growling or barking during play. This is very common as long as the rest of the body is relaxed.
Proper play is an extremely important learning tool for young dogs because it teaches them bite inhibition, proper communication skills, and develops positive relationships with other dogs. Each dog has a different personality and it is important to understand not all dogs enjoy playing in large groups as they grow older.
Dogs tend to play chase, teeth spar, wrestle or tug on a toy together. It is very important to watch for possessiveness when toys/objects are involved. If one dog becomes possessive over a toy take it away for the remainder of the play session. Role reversals should take place and it is important to see a give-and-take aspect during play.
One dog should not be on top harassing the other during the entire play session and natural breaks for a second or two before resuming play should occur frequently. Some dogs take longer breaks when they are tired and this should be honored by both dogs to prevent issues from occurring. Over-stimulation can lead to a disagreement between the two dogs.
Most dogs prefer to pair up with a play partner, but three or more can become a concern. When a third dog teams up with another dog it can quickly turn into bullying and lead to negative experiences for the singled-out dog.
Another important aspect of play is staying on all four paws. When dogs become vertical and engage in play on their hind legs for extended periods of time it can quickly lead to over-stimulation, and is an indicator of a will-imposing behavior. You may see hair standing up at this point and body slamming sometimes follows. This is a good time to redirect their attention towards something else and a time to enforce a quick break.
Many of these behaviors can be seen for a few seconds before they return to proper play. When you notice negative behaviors during play time it is important to redirect their attention elsewhere. Sometimes it requires us to create a break for them before escalation occurs.
Overall, play should be relaxing and enjoyable for all dogs involved. If you have any concerns about your own dog’s behavior during play time contact your local veterinarian or a professional dog trainer for more assistance.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Does your dog attempt to escape every time a door opens?
Door dashing is a very dangerous and fearful thing for any pet parent to experience. The most common reasons for door dashing are fear, lack of exercise, lack of socialization, prey drive or to protect the property.
The first and most important step is to teach your dog to wait. "Wait" is a special cue taught to Fido to prevent him from crossing a threshold before being allowed to do so. Wait will teach patience and help Fido understand the meaning of impulse control.
Start with putting a leash on Fido when beginning to practice by the door. Once near the door instruct Fido to “sit” and then instruct “wait”. It is best to choose a specific spot a few feet away from the door. Place your hand on the door knob and reward Fido for waiting if he does not break his position. Remember to use a release word to signal to Fido he may move freely from his wait position.
The next step is to start over and attempt to open the door. If he gets up before you release him, shut the door immediately and reset. This part of the process may take 10 to 15 attempts before Fido begins to understand he may not cross the threshold until he is released. Once he is consistently sitting and waiting while the door is open, the next step is to attempt it without a leash. Do not attempt this next step until you are extremely confident he is ready to attempt waiting without a leash on.
When you are at this point, you will release Fido after you open the door and then close it. Remember we do not want to release Fido out a door without a leash on unless it is to another confined space.
The best time to practice wait when starting out is without any distractions on the other side of the door. When you feel Fido is ready to start practicing with distractions outside your door use a leash to prevent him from eloping. The biggest distraction tends to be when guests arrive at your door.
If Fido does get outside without a leash, do not panic. Becoming frantic tends to make matters worse. First, call Fido back to you. If he does not respond, only move toward him to keep him within eyesight. Do not chase after him because it will only encourage Fido to continue running away.
Call Fido to you in a fun excitable voice and stay calm. You may also try making fun noises and running in the opposite direction to encourage Fido to chase you. If that does not have any affect crouch down to the ground and act as if you found something very exciting to play with. Another great tool to use is a secret squeaky toy that you only use in emergency situations such as this. Once Fido does return to you, never scold or yell at him for coming back to you. If you do scold him, it will only discourage him from wanting to come back to you. No matter how scared or frustrated you are, always praise Fido for returning to you. Wait is a wonderful and essential cue that will give you peace of mind the next time your door opens to the outside world. If you continue to have door-dashing issues with Fido, contact your local veterinarian or professional dog trainer to assist you in the training process.
by Jake Guell, CPDT
Does Fifi get into things frequently she shouldn’t? Does she like to steal things and take off with them creating a game of chase?
Leaving things alone is a lifesaving skill every pet needs to learn.
Young puppies and newly adopted dogs enjoy exploring their world with their mouth. Picking up objects is how they learn the environment that surrounds them, but certain objects can be harmful or expensive to fix if damaged.
Furniture, pillows, socks, underwear, tissue paper, children’s toys, plants, electric cords, remotes, phones, human skin and low hanging items are all common objects dogs tend to find very interesting. Once Fifi understands she can reach an object to chew on, she will likely continue the behavior. Self-rewarding behaviors can be quite challenging to eliminate without proper training. That's why it's important to puppy proof your house before bringing a new puppy or newly adopted dog into your home.
The first step in teaching Fifi to leave an object alone is to find a valuable reward to reinforce the action of not taking the object. Place a treat on the floor near Fifi allowing her to move freely. If she attempts to take the treat immediately, instruct “leave-it” and cover the treat with your hand. It is very important to be patient the first few attempts. Fifi might try to nudge or paw your hand in an attempt to steal the treat. Once Fifi backs away from your hand, uncover the treat for her to view in close proximity.
There are multiple steps in the dog training process. (Photo: Alan Wong, Getty Images/iStockphoto)
If she attempts to take the treat immediately, re-cover the treat with your hand. Repeat this process until Fifi leaves the treat alone for a few seconds while your hand is not covering it. After Fifi moves away from the treat and does not attempt to take the uncovered treat, you may pick it up. It is important to pick the treat up before allowing Fifi to receive it as a reward. Dogs need to get used to receiving things from humans rather than taking objects freely on her own. Her toys should be the only exception to the rule unless trained otherwise.
If you cannot reach the floor, you may follow the same process on an end table or piece of furniture Fifi may attempt to swipe objects from.
The next step in the training process is to place actual objects on the floor. Typically the most popular objects to start with are either socks or tissue paper. Start by placing the object on the floor and instructing “leave-it.” Once Fifi backs away from the object, you may reward with a high value treat or her favorite toy. Remember to always praise lavishly to lay the foundation for weaning off treats and toys. Of course, if Fifi attempts to take the object, immediately cover it with your hand or foot. Repeat the process until Fifi is able to leave the object freely.
Any time there is an object Fifi is attempting to investigate she shouldn’t be, immediately instruct “leave-it” and redirect her attention with something appropriate such as her toys. It is important to have a variety of toys and rotate them weekly to keep her interested in the toys rather than other forbidden objects. The first few days you may find yourself saying, “leave-it” frequently and that is completely normal. Consistency is of the utmost importance during the training process.
Don't get in the habit of chasing dogs who run off with items they shouldn't. (Photo: Jupiterimages, Getty Images)
If Fifi already has an object in her mouth she shouldn’t have, take out a toy or treat to trade for it. Do not get into a habit of chasing Fifi, because it will only encourage her to steal more objects. The chase game is quite fun for young dogs when they are not receiving adequate attention. After you trade for the object remember to give lots of praise. Keeping a squeaker toy to yourself can be a great secret weapon to eliminate the chase game.
Another great time to use “leave-it” is outdoors when Fifi becomes interested in animals or humans. "Leave-it" is an essential tool for proper loose-leash walking as well as coming when called around distractions.
Teaching Fifi “leave-it” is an important step to creating a strong impulse control around distractions. These ideas and suggestions are the foundation to a safer household for Fifi. If you have a difficult time teaching your dog to leave things alone, contact your local veterinarian or a professional dog trainer for more assistance.
by Jacob Guell, CPDT
Most dogs enjoy going for walks and exploring their surroundings.
However, there are some that find walking stressful and it causes them great anxiety. Dogs with reactivity issues while on a leash tend to be insecure, which causes them to react.
Because they are restricted, they do not have a flight option, and in turn become defensive. Most barking and reactive behaviors accomplish what they are intended to do — the source of the stress tends to go away. This reinforces the behavior and when the source of stress does not go away the negative reaction tends to get worse.
When we notice Fido acting this way we become anxious ourselves. Over time, we become anxious before Fido even begins to react, causing more stress for Fido. It is important to develop a plan to set Fido up to succeed when correcting an unwanted behavior such as this.
One of the most important things to look at is what type of tools you are using on a walk. Anything that chokes or pinches enhances negative reactions when dogs lunge. When Fido lunges or reacts towards a distraction and feels a choke/pinch he will associate that distraction as the source of his pain.
Once you find a proper harness, head halter or collar, you are set to start Fido down a new, positive path. Make sure not to use flexi-leads with a reactive dog during the training process. A simple 6-foot nylon leash will do.
Before going on a walk with Fido make sure to burn some of his energy off at home. Playing ball in the backyard, treadmill or mental stimulation are great ways to alleviate pent up energy before heading out.
Bring along high-value rewards, such as low-sodium lunch meat, cheese, low-sodium hot dogs, chicken or a toy Fido cannot resist. This will help Fido build a new positive association towards the distraction that causes him stress. It is important to only use that high-value reward when the stressor is present.
Young woman taking her dog for a walk on the beach (Photo: Purestock, Getty Images/Purestock)
Be observant of your surroundings. As soon as you notice a distraction approaching, cross the street immediately if the distraction is on the same side as you and Fido. Once you are across the street, instruct Fido to sit and pull out your high-value reward. As the distraction passes, use the high-value reward to redirect Fido’s attention. If Fido still reacts negatively, give yourself more distance next time between you and the stressor.
After the distraction is passed, you may continue on your walk. If you notice something that makes you uncomfortable down the road or path, do not force the issue. If you are uncomfortable or stressed, Fido will be feeling the same way. Simply turn around and walk a different direction away from the distraction.
If you have a dog that does not react toward distractions it is still very important to teach Fido to sit when distractions pass by. It is polite to allow bikers, runners and walkers to pass by preventing any negative reactions from occurring. Not all people are fond of dogs and not all dogs are polite when you encounter them on your walk. Having a routine of stepping off to the side and instructing Fido to sit until the distraction is passed is a great way to prevent any future problems —such as leash-reactivity from occurring.
These are just a few steps to help make walks enjoyable again for both you and Fido. Depending on Fido’s level of stress it is extremely important to consult with your veterinarian or a certified professional dog trainer to assist in the rehabilitation process.
by Jake Guell, CPDT