Author Archives: renee

PREVENT DOGS FROM GETTING LOST – PART 2

Prevent Dogs From Getting Lost – Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of my article, scroll down and read that first. Part 2 is a discussion of how to get your dog to come to you every time you call him. But let me remind you that you can never call your dog and then holler, or tell her she’s bad for having gotten out! I can’t stress that enough!. Your dog needs to develop complete trust in you so he doesn’t ever feel afraid of being punished when returning to you, even if he’s been gone for hours. Also, make sure you practice, practice, practice these games a lot. Practice makes perfect. However, if he’s gotten out, even once, she’s been reinforced for getting out, and will eventually escape again given the opportunity (gates left open, jumping the fence, digging holes underneath the fence, etc.). You need to keep a close eye on your dog whenever she’s outside

The following are some games/exercises that I want you to play with your dogs as often as possible. You should play them minimally once, preferably twice a day when you first start training. As your dog improves with each of these games, you can play a couple times/week. Sometimes play one of the games, and then switch to another game to keep your dog practicing coming each time she’s called:

GAME #1 – GO FIND IT RECALL GAME 

Show your dog a treat, and then say “Go Find It” as you toss that treat on the floor away from the dog. At first, don’t toss it too far because you want the dog to learn what this game is all about. As soon as she eats the treat, call him back by saying “come” or “here” or my favorite word, “Com’ere.” Use your party-voice whenever you call your dog back to you — ALWAYS!  Make sure to praise him up and applaud her when she comes back to you! Then quickly toss another treat somewhere else, keeping your dog fully engaged in this game of returning back to you.

Once your dog understands what you’re doing, begin tossing the treats further and further away so you can call her back from further distances.  You should play this in several different locations inside your house. This is a fun hunting game as well as a fun recall game. Dogs love it!!

GAME #2 – PUPPY IN THE MIDDLE RECALL GAME

Start out standing just a few steps from the person you’ll be playing this game with.  One person calls the dog to him with a happy word (e.g, “com’ere”), by luring him a treat.  When the dog gets right in front of that person, he praises and gives that treat as a reward for coming.  The second person then calls the dog and repeats this same process.  When your dog gets really good at coming to each of you, (1) start increasing the distances between you and your partner a little bit at a time when you’re calling the dog back to you; (2) put that treat lure behind your back now, and bring it out only when your dog returns to each of you. 

GAME #3 – RECALL TRAINING OUTSIDE USING A LONG-LINE

Anytime you train your dog outside, make sure to use high-value food rewards (e.g., cooked bits of chicken, smelly cheese, tiny cooked meatballs, etc.). Put your dog on a 15-20 foot nylon long line (most pet supply stores carry these). Do not use a flexi-leash! Take a walk with your dog out in your backyard (if you don’t have a backyard work on this at a park or other safe area where you have some room to walk around holding that line).  Give your dog plenty of line to allow him to wander away. Don’t pull on it at all. Randomly call your dog over to you, praise with your party-voice and reward him for coming treating her with those high-value treats. Switch directions as you walk around. Sometimes walk in large circles and then smaller ones.  Walk at a slow pace at first, and use your happy recall word.

GAME #4 – TEACH YOUR DOG TO COME RACING TO YOU IN YOUR HOUSE

Some dogs will recall right to the backdoor and then get a treat. But once some of those dogs have gotten the treat, off they go again 😉 This exercise will teach him that coming directly into the house is where the good stuff is. But you will need someone else to help you who can do a little bit of running. Also, everyone in your family needs to practice this so your dog knows to come to all of you when called.

Put the dog on your 15-20 foot long line. Make sure you have plenty of your high-value food rewards in your pocket. Give your dog one of those treats right before you begin working with him.

You should be standing close to your backdoor, but not at the door YET. Your assistant should begin by taking the dog to various places in your yard not too far from where you are standing. Call your dog to you using your designated recall word and your party-voice. If your dog doesn’t begin to come, have your assistant start running toward you holding the loop of that long-line and encouraging the dog to run with her. When your dog does reach you, give lots of praise and offer a treat.

Then your assistant takes the dog to a different spot in the yard. Have your assistant take her to places where she likes to dig or to look for squirrels. Once your dog understands that you’re giving him scrumptious food rewards, she’ll begin to look in your direction and will start running on her own to get to you.

Once your dog is running happily over to you, and your assistant no longer needs to hold onto the long-line, you can now place yourself right inside your backdoor holding the door open. Practice again calling your dog from various areas in the yard. Always offer a treat now right at the backdoor.

The last part of this exercise consists of your recalling the dog right inside the backdoor. Start playing the GO FIND IT game, and toss one treat at a time all over the floor inside for at least 15 seconds. Quickly close the backdoor as soon as she’s in that room. Once she’s found all the treats, let him right back outside again to continue practicing recalling her back inside.

Make sure to practice this game a lot. Your dog will eventually learn to trust you not to make all her fun end every time she is called into the house!

 

 

 

Prevent Dogs From Getting Lost – Part 1

I get stressed out each time I see an announcement for LOST DOG on Pawboost Alert. I would love to know how and why so many of these dogs are running away and getting lost. I thought it might be a good idea to discuss how to PREVENT this from happening. Keep in mind though if you have recently adopted a shelter or rescue dog, many will try to escape in the early days of coming home. So closely supervise your newly rescued dog for several weeks! Do not allow that dog to be out in your yard unsupervised!

One reason dogs will run away is: it’s more exciting and fun to be outside hunting or scavenging, or playing with a neighbor’s dog rather than being stuck in the house with nothing to do! Dogs need exercise, both physical and mental. You must provide enrichment activities that will keep their brains working and give them something enjoyable to do, especially when they’re alone in the house. There is a blog on my website that has tons of ideas for providing enrichment activities . Click on this link to read it:  “Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation for Dogs.”

NEVER call a dog to you to do something unpleasant (e.g., to say “bad dog!” or to put him in his crate, or to take him to the vet’s or groomer). No matter when you call your dog, it should be with a happy, cheerful voice, even if you’re mad as hell. Dogs will not come to you if they think they’re going to be punished! Even if your dog comes home hours after you’ve been going crazy trying to find him, BE JOYFUL and praise him for coming home. Remember that punishment will teach him something bad will happen if he approaches you!

NEVER chase your dog! Doing that will teach him/her running away from you is more fun than coming to you.

Below is my handout of games for teaching dogs to COME WHEN CALLED first from inside the house to teach him that coming to you is a good thing. My next article will teach you how to get your dog to come in from outside the house:

BACK UP AND TREAT GAME

Get your treats and begin the game with the dog sitting directly in front of you. Show him the first treat in your hand, and lure him to follow that treat as you take a step backward and he comes forward to you. Say, “COM’ERE” and give him that treat immediately when he reaches you! Keep taking one step back, and each time he comes to you, give him a treat right away using the word, “Com’ere.”

Only use a food lure for 3 repetitions! Once you get past this first part of the game, you should hide your treats behind your back and offer it only when he’s right in front of you. Encourage everyone in your family to play these games. 

DOGGIE IN THE MIDDLE GAME

Start out with the dog standing between 2 family members who are at a small distance from one another. One person calls the dog saying, “Com’ere” and rewards with a treat as soon as he arrives. Then the second person calls the dog and repeats this same process. As the dog gets better at coming to each person, begin slightly increasing the distances that you’re calling the dog back to you. Start calling your dog from different rooms to find both people who are playing the game when he’s doing well.

GO FIND IT GAME 

Toss a treat to the left of the dog and say “Go Find It.” Let him eat his treat. Then call him back to you saying “Com’ere.” When he is directly in front of you, give him a treat immediately. Then toss a treat way out to the right. Tell him “go find it!” Let him get his treat. Then call him back to you saying “Com’ere” and give him a treat immediately when he’s directly in front of you. Toss a treat out front of him and say “go find it.” Repeat this process over and over. Little by little, increase the distance you’re tossing those treats so he has to return back to you from further away to get his rewards! 

 

Help You Can Give To Your Separation Anxious Dog

If you haven’t read my first article about Separation Anxiety, please read it before reading this one (scroll down this page to see it). Judging from the amount of comments, likes and shares in that article, I can see that many of you, or your friends, are dealing with this issue. I will provide as many suggestions as possible so you can, at least, get started on your own to improve your dog’s anxiety. However, I would still urge you to hire a Behavior Consultant who is very experienced working with SA, or visit with a Veterinary Behaviorist at some point to help you get as much success as possible.

It is important NOT to leave your dog alone until you are seeing some success with your teaching your dog to accept being alone. More often than not, I will recommend to clients to take their dog to a doggy daycare 2 to 3 times per week, as long as the dog gets along with other dogs. Daycare has a 2 day effect because they’re still tired the next day. Some doggy daycares can leave a dog crated (if she’s crateable!) if she doesn’t get along with other dogs, but will play with the dog or walk her periodically through the day. Of course, hiring a pet sitter to come a few times a day can also be helpful. If you have a friend or relative who would be willing to take your dog, that also would be very helpful (as long as your dog’s anxiety doesn’t involve one specific individual who leaves. If any of these suggestions would not work for you, there are still things you can do.

Purchase an Adaptil, Dog Appeasing Pheromone diffuser to help your dog feel more relaxed (aka DAP). This product is available at Amazon. Many veterinarians also recommend this product. The DAP Diffuser needs to be plugged into an open outlet that is not blocked by anything. If your dog can remain in a crate, plug the diffuser into an outlet nearby. The liquid in that diffuser will last around 30 days. Don’t neglect to have a refill on hand. The liquid will emit through your house wherever you plug it in. I love this product! However, if you have a pet rabbit or bird, you cannot use this.

I have discovered FREE music choreographed specifically for dogs with SA to help them relax or sleep. The music can play for as long as 10-15 hours (please avoid leaving your dog alone for that long — EVER!). You can download this music to your TV, computer or phone. Sometimes, I’ll play this music just because I like it too. However, you need to play this music randomly throughout the day when you are home. You don’t want your dog to think the music means  You’re Leaving!

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcasa&p=calming+music+for+dogs+with+separation+anxiety#id=1&vid=862f1927fa965c00febf50ca145649a4&action=click 

Teach your dog to wear a Thundershirt. I call this “Hug Therapy.” Thundershirts are available at several retail stores (Bed, Bath & Beyond, Petsmart, Petco, or www.thundershirt.com). The thundershirt is guaranteed and you can return it within 30 days for a full refund!

There are some good calming treats available. Give the recommended amount to your dogs at least an hour prior to your leaving your house. If you have a pet sitter come during the day, ask to give your dog another one before leaving. When going to these companies, type in the names of these items into their search boxes:

  • Zesty Paws, Calming Bites – Available at http://www.amazon.com
  • VetriSCIENCE, Composure Pro – Available at http://www.amazon.com
  • Bach Flower Essences, Pet Rescue Remedy – Available at: http://www.entirelypets.com

Make sure to give your dog some mentally stimulating activities to keep him occupied so she’s not thinking about being alone all day long. Here are a few ideas:

  • Keep at least 3 frozen-filled Kongs in your freezer all the time. Freezing Kongs makes it more of a challenge for the dog to lick all the goodies out of it. I suggest soft mixtures like peanut butter, yogurt, cream cheese, or banana. Mix whatever soft food you’re putting in with chunked up bits of healthy biscuits (never Milkbone!! – not healthy), fruits or veggies, or left-over kibble.
  • Provide your dog with a Kong Wobbler. This is a wonderful food-release toy that your dog must push around in order to get treats or kibble to come out of a hole that’s on the side of it. Teach your dog what to do with it and get all excited when encouraging him/her to interact with it.
  • Hide treats around the house in little containers. Put them just slightly underneath your furniture, in the kitchen just underneath your oven or sink. Hide treats in corners and areas that she has to work in order to get them. I like hiding a couple treats in cardboard boxes (remove all staples) and scattering those boxes around in rooms where dogs are allowed to be.
  • Take one or two pieces of your laundry and fold some treats in them. It will comfort the dog to have something of your scent while hunting for treats.
  • Have you heard of a Snuffle Mat? Check that out at www.amazon.com. It’s  kind of a new thing. It’s a mat with tons of folds in it to hide kibble and treats to keep your dog busy hunting for a long time. If you purchase this, make sure to see how he uses it before leaving him alone with it.
  • If your dog loves to shred newspapers, then let him have newspapers you’ve already read, to shred when she’s alone. All you’d have to do when you come home is throw the papers out.

Here’s what I definitely do not want you to do:

  • Never punish your dog! I realize how difficult it is to come home and see destruction, or pee and poop on your floors. But… your dog is already suffering from anxiety. Punishment creates more anxiety! When you leave, he finds things to do (like destruction) to occupy herself until you come home.  Peeing and pooping in the house is not spitework. It happens because she is stressed to the max!
  • If you just rescued a dog, or if you just brought home a new puppy, do not make a big deal when you leave your house or when you return home. It may sound cruel, but when my dog sees me coming home, it actually takes him a minute or two to come greet me! It’s a calm greeting! I just tell him, “you be a good boy” when I leave, and “hi buddy” when I come home. That’s it! Believe it or not, some of my clients are so used to acting woeful when leaving and excited when returning, it is harder for the humans to change that habit than the dog getting used to its human’s new greeting routine!
  • Again, if you just rescued a dog, do not allow him to sleep in your bed for at least a year! Separation anxiety is very common with shelter dogs. They’ve already lost a home or two. Sleeping in your bed will only make him feel more dependent on being close to you. Don’t add fuel to a possible fire!

I have some referrals for you if your dog is suffering from this emotional disorder:

  • If your dog’s SA is severe (a lot of damage to the structure of your house, poop all over walls and ceilings, dog is escaping the crate and injuring himself, broken glass where dog has attempted to escape), you must see either your own veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. A dog that’s showing severe SA will likely need to be put on medication. However, don’t think meds are going to be a cure! Medication will help your dog to be able to learn better when doing behavior modification training. If you live anywhere near Mount Laurel, contact Dr. Shana Gilbert-Gregory at Mount Laurel Animal Hospital. The address is 220 Mount Laurel Road, Mount Laurel, NJ. Call (856) 234-7626 for an appointment. She also makes house calls.
  • If your dog is struggling with SA, but some of his behaviors are causing him to become injured, I can also recommend a certified SA trainer, and can work with you either by phone or remotely using Skype. Her name is Leslie Wiesler. You can contact her on Facebook by typing in her name and messaging her.
  • I also work with dogs that suffer from SA. When speaking with me on the phone I can often determine whether or not you first need to speak to your vet or to Dr. Gilbert-Gregory before doing behavior modification: (609) 280-9338.

I hope these suggestions are helpful in making your dogs feel less anxious! But there is more work to be done…

 

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety is one of the most complicated behavioral issues dogs can develop. Separation Anxiety (SA) is an emotional disorder. Dogs are such social beings, and when we bring them into our homes and expect them to be alone for up to 8 hours, 5 days a week, it can sometimes be very taxing on them. To make things worse, we don’t realize our dog is suffering from anxiety because we’re too quick to get angry at them for making a huge mess in our house. People come home from work and discover their dog has eliminated in the crate, or all over the house. People are shocked to see their dog ripped into the pillows of their sofa and chairs and there is pillow-stuffing all over the house. Dogs with SA commonly chew the walls and woodwork around windows and doorways! Some dogs are so anxious to escape their crates, they will actually break their teeth trying to escape through the wires of it, or they will chew a hole in the airline-carrier crate to get out. Dogs with SA can bark or whine for hours throughout the day causing the neighbors to complain.

Many of my clients exclaim “My dog knew he did wrong because when I told him he was bad, he looked guilty. She cowered and ran behind the sofa!” NOOOooo! Dogs do not feel guilt! Cowering and running away is an attempt to escape your anger. Reprimanding only increases the anxiety. This can happen over and over again, but the dog only continues its destruction and elimination.

Let me give you a few reasons dogs develop SA so you’ll have a better understanding of how this disorder can happen:

  • You are a teacher and are home all summer. You figure this would be a great time to get a puppy because you’d have plenty of time to spend with her. Then… you go back to work in the fall.
  • Your teenage daughter always takes your dog for a walk and plays with him when she gets home from school. She’s graduated from high school and just left for college. Your dog is alone now for several additional hours until you come home.
  • Grandpop has lived with you and your family for many years. Your little dog loves him and spends hours sitting on his lap everyday. Sadly, Grandpop passes away.
  • You and your family move to a new home. You spend a week getting settled in and then go back to work. When you return home, you’re shocked to see the dog has chewed all around the wall and woodwork of the front door and insulation is exposed.
  • You adopt a beautiful dog from the shelter and spend a 3-day weekend with her. On Monday… you go back to work.
  • You purchase 2 littermate puppies and are so impressed with how close they are. You make sure to put them both in the same crate, and they are together 24/7. Sometime later one of the dogs needs to go to the vet, and the other dog winds up having a major panic attack! The same thing can happen when adopting 2 shelter or rescue dogs at the same time. They can bond and their over-the-top closeness is encouraged.
  • Shelter dogs commonly develop SA!

I will follow-up with another article offering some ideas to help dogs suffering from Separation Anxiety.

 

 

TRAINING DOGS WITH RANDOM REWARDS.

A common complaint people have when training their dogs using food rewards is, “my dog won’t do anything that I ask him to unless I have food in my hand!” Well, first you have to ask yourself if you’ve trained your dog to follow a cue while you’re showing him a piece of food. If you have that food right in front of the dog’s face, your dog will learn food is part of the entire cue for doing that particular behavior. That’s why he isn’t following your request when you omit that part of the cue. Think of that food as a paycheck. Nobody gets paid on Monday morning before they do their job, right?

Ask your dog to do something simple, like “Sit.” If he sits for you, bring that food out either from behind your back, or from out of the sink, or have someone else hand you that food that was hidden from view. Do a few easy repetitions of having your dog sit, and reward with a treat. Then ask him to do something a little harder, but make sure it is an already-trained behavior. Produce the food reward as I just suggested. This should do the trick with future training.

Figure out what behavior(s) your dog is excelling at, and begin putting that behavior on a “Random Reinforcement Schedule.” Have you ever sat in front of a slot machine? If you have, you know that sometimes the machine pays you, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we might win 50 cents and sometimes we might win 50 dollars. A random reinforcement schedule is based on the “Slot Machine Principle” which states, “sometimes you get paid and sometimes you don’t!” Atlantic City makes a fortune because of this principle. Trust me, I know because I get hooked every time I’m down the shore 🙁

Keep in mind, however, that if your dog does a behavior perfectly in the kitchen, he needs to learn that same behavior in many different places inside your home. Dogs do not generalize well unless it’s a traumatic experience! Then go outside and begin to train that behavior right near the house, then further down the driveway. You’re now adding the distraction factor to your training.

I’m going to give you a random reinforcement schedule below to help get you started. You can then develop your own random schedules as your dog gets further along with other types of rewards. These subsequent schedules should use less and less food treats and more of other types of rewards. Make a list of all the things your dog loves and use them in your Random Reinforcement Schedules.

Ideas for other types of rewards could be:

  • Praise
  • A short game of Tug
  • A short chase game (he chases you)
  • A short game of frisbee
  • A chance to chase a squirrel
  • Fetching a squeaky toy
  • Applause
  • Petting

Here are two samples of Random Reinforcement Schedules. The numbers listed are those times that a dog does a behavior in which he is rewarded with food. All other times are rewarded with alternatives.

1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16,18, 21, 22, 23, 26.

Here’s one more to follow:
2, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 26.