Author Archives: renee

Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation for Dogs

As a dog trainer, I’m always reminding my clients about the importance of exercising their dogs. But physical exercise alone isn’t always quite enough, especially with breeds such as the Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, or  Jack Russell Terrier. Retrievers and Terrier breeds come with with their own batteries that are on the charger all day long! Most of our dogs were bred to work. We have herding dogs, hunting dogs, protection dogs, flock guardian dogs, sled dogs, etc. It’s alarming when people tell me they don’t have to take their dogs out for walks because they have a backyard to run and play. Relying on the backyard to provide exercise stops all socialization since there is zero interaction with the world at large. That means the dog never gets to see or play with other dogs, s/he never gets to greet the neighbors or see children of all ages, s/he never gets used to hearing traffic or seeing moms walking their babies in strollers. Isolating dogs causes boredom, fearfulness and sometimes aggression.

Here are some ideas to get your dogs to be more active, and also to help them use their brains:

  • Sports Activities (Agility, Flyball, Canine Musical Freestyle, Tracking, Dock Diving, Lure Coursing, Sheep or Duck Herding, Hiking).
  • Group Training Classes (AKC Canine Good Citizen, Pet Therapy, Tricks, Rally-Obedience, Nosework).
  • Best Toy for Super High-Energy and Herding Dogs (Flirt Pole) See video below.

If you live around South Jersey, check out some of these sports activities and group classes at Wonderdogs in West Berlin, NJ: http://www.wonderdogs.com/store/scripts/index.asp

See for yourself how much fun you and your dogs can have. Fetch games are okay, but dogs actually become stressed when they play fetch for too long! Yes, Really! Look at some of these terrific ideas how to physically and mentally exercise your dog:

  1. Here is a video showing dogs having the time of their lives doing Flyball: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=youtube+videos+of+flyball#id=2&vid=8ac55be219183275308a0053e91c0042&action=click
  2. Watch how these dogs are being taught to do Nosework: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=nosework+videos#id=24&vid=5941d5737cd668dbcab204d3211b6a49&action=view
  3. This is a beginner doing Rally Obedience: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=videos+of+rally+obedience#id=1&vid=78dbaec77bbf1646d7730d8e6324f1b3&action=click
  4. Watch how beautiful Canine Freestyle is: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=canine+musical+freestyle#id=4&vid=dddeaead4b481ea863e73c11087d84e2&action=view
  5. If you have a Sight Hound, try doing Lure Coursing: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=video+of+lure+coursing#id=2&vid=30b748f2c5f4bb9e37d67ec721b9082b&action=click
  6. Here is a video showing how to use the Flirt Pole: https://vimeo.com/26279876
  7. Have you heard about the Kong Wobbler? Watch this video of Louis, The Dog Toy Critic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-9Q0_BPUHM
  8. Have you heard about the Snuffle Mat? Watch this video of Louis, The Dog Toy Critic: https://beaglefanclub.com/dog-toy-critic/
  9. One of my favorite games to recommend is called The Muffin Tin Game. Watch this video: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=videos+of+muffin+tin+games+with+puppies#id=6&vid=8c5037c6d7a2ca3aac687fd2e964e078&action=view
  10. Make your dog’s meal a hunting expedition. Take his bowl of food out on your lawn (grass should be cut short. Ask your dog to sit and stay. Take out a few kibbles from the bowl and toss them on the lawn. Tell him to “Go Find It!” Make it easy for him to find them at first. Call him back to you and place her back in a sit/stay. This time take a slightly larger amount of kibble out of the bowl and toss them over a  larger area, but it should still be easy for him to find his food. Once he knows the name of this game, It shouldn’t take too long before your dog learns how to hunt for his food. I promise she’ll love it!

This is just a small sampling of how to provide very fun and stimulating activities for your dog. I hope you like them!

 

 

 

ON-LEASH REACTIVITY

Does your dog turn into Cujo as soon as he sees (1) another dog; (2) a white man or a black man; (3) a woman walking with a stroller;  someone riding a bike; or a jogger? Unfortunately, this is not a unique issue. We’ve discussed the importance of early socialization recently to prevent such behaviors, but what should a pet parent do when their dog is behaving this way? Should we yell at the dog? Should we do a leash correction or use a shock collar so the dog knows he’s being bad? Or, should we just tell the dog to “SIT!” until the stimulus that’s causing the reactivity goes away? NOOOooooo!

Keep in mind that reactivity is based in FEAR. When a dog is scared, he can make one of two choices: FIGHT or FLIGHT. That decision is based on the dog’s temperament. Without getting boringly technical, let’s just say the dog is having an adrenaline rush. If the dog looks like the one in the photo above, he probably can’t even hear you when you’re speaking to her. There are very good behavior modification protocols available to us to help make the dog feel better when faced with scary stimuli. But I want all of you to know that your default behavior should be to CREATE DISTANCE!

Purchase a well-fitted Freedom harness or a Gentle Leader head halter. Each of these can help you gain good control of your dog so you can make an “Emergency U-Turn” in order to get the heck outta Dodge. Check these items out at Amazon. Never ask your dog to sit when faced with fear. Help your dog and let him know you are the one who can protect him! Your dog needs to have that confidence in your ability to keep her safe and out of harm’s way.

Good luck!

 

 

 

toy dog

Toy Dogs

Do you live with a toy dog? Toy dogs are classified as being 20 pounds or less. I have some helpful hints for you if you’re raising a little dog and you want to have a happy and healthy, well adjusted companion.

First, keep in mind that a little dog views the world much differently. EVERYTHING looks huge to a little dog. This is why they seem so much more reactive to their environment. Some of these little dogs don’t know they’re little, based on their behaviors. Many of the small breeds seem like they’re very big dogs in small bodies. Movement also creates a lot of excitement to them – they’re always afraid that they’re going to get stepped on.

Begin socializing your puppy as soon as you get him home. Each week introduce your new puppy to all sorts of different people, but not all at the same time. Introduce him to people coming into your home. Introduce him to your neighbors. Take him for walks in a park and teach him to sit politely for a greeting from a stranger. Hand the stranger a treat, and tell this person to wait for the dog to sit first, and then they can kneel down and offer the dog the treat reward. Try to find other friendly puppies or dogs of the same size or similar sizes to play with your dog. Put your dog in the car and take him with you on your errands. Take him to get gas in your car so that he gets used to someone reaching inside the car to give you change. Introduce your little dog to people in uniforms, like the mailman or a police officer.

THE WINDOW OF SOCIALIZATION CLOSES AT 12-14 WEEKS. If you do not give your dog sufficient socialization, your dog will never reach his full potential of being a friendly dog.

Little dogs seldom like it when people lean over them, or pet them over top of their heads. The best way for someone to greet your dog is to kneel down along their side, and pet them along that same side where they’re standing. If your dog shows any shyness or fearfulness, tell people NOT to make eye contact with your dog. Dogs consider staring as a threatening behavior.

When you’re housetraining a small breed puppy, don’t lose your patience, because it may be more of a challenge to housetrain him than it would be with a German Shepherd, or a Golden Retriever. First, they have very little bladders, so don’t expect your toy dog puppy to hold it in for long periods. As soon as he’s finished a meal, take him out to relieve himself. If you’ve been training him with treats, take him out immediately following your training sessions because he’ll have to go for sure. Take extra special care in getting your puppy out very often to go to avoid accidents.

So many people think that their little dogs don’t have feet! Put your dog down on all 4’s so that he can exercise. Sometimes, when you carry a little dog around all the time, you can give him a Napoleon Complex. Did you ever try to pet a Chihuahua or Pomeranian when their owners were carrying them around? You just might get bitten! Be very cautious about what dogs you introduce your little dog to. Big dogs sometimes see little dogs as DINNER!

One thing you should consider before bringing a toy dog home. Toy dogs and little children don’t make the best combination. Children can accidentally injure little dogs, and some dogs have been killed because a small child has picked up the dog and dropped it. Many of the small dogs, as mentioned before, are more reactive to things, and they can be a little nippy and growly. Teach your children to respect your dog by not pulling tails, ears or jumping on the dog. Teach children that not all dogs like to be hugged or kissed on the face! Many times, children will get nipped or bitten on the face because of this very same thing. Teach children not to chase the dog, nor allow the dog to chase the children. All dogs have, what is referred to as, PREY DRIVE. Little children often behave like wounded prey! Running, screaming, arms flailing get dogs all excited, and will create inappropriate behavior in the dog because of that instinctual prey drive. Remember to supervise ALL interactions between the dog and your children. NO MATTER WHAT BREED OF DOG, ALWAYS SUPERVISE THE CHILDREN AND THE DOG WHEN THEY ARE TOGETHER. If you can’t supervise, please crate your dog or put him behind a baby gate until you can watch everybody. Once your dog matures to adulthood, you will have a perpetual 2 year old living with you!

When walking your little dog, use a harness instead of a collar. I get very upset anytime I see a tiny dog being walked with a choker collar. Little dogs are prone to having a collapsed trachea, so putting any pressure on that area should always be avoided, especially with any of the toy dogs.

Teach your toy dog obedience. Obedience is the way to let your dog know that you’re his leader. When dogs don’t have confidence in their people, they will assume the role of pack leader themselves. If your dog is growling at you, biting you or your children, OR, if he is demanding your attention and pretty much, ruling your house, your dog is telling you that he is in charge. Become his leader by making him earn his privileges. Do this by making him sit before being fed treats, playing with toys, going for walks and rides, and being petted, and generally before he gets any attention.

Little dogs are also prone to dental disease because their mouths are crowded by their teeth. Learn to brush your dog’s teeth to avoid dental disease, which can also cause other problems.

If you own a toy dog, I would urge you to purchase a book called, “The Irrepressible Toy Dog, by Darlene Arden. This book is available at www.dogwise.com

Enjoy your toy dog and good luck!

 

Getting Dogs Off of Food Rewards

A common complaint that people make 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 command while you are showing him a piece of food while you’re asking him to do something. If you have that food right in front of the dog’s face, your dog will see that food as being part of the entire cue for doing that particular behavior. That’s why he isn’t following your request when you omit that cue.

You may be at a point in your training where your dog is doing a particular behavior very well every time you ask him for it. 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!”

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 RR Schedules should use less and less food treats and more of other types of rewards.

Ideas for other types of rewards could be:

  • Belly Rubs.
  • Praise
  • A short game of Tug
  • A short chase game (he chases you)
  • A short game of fetch
  • A chance to chase a squirrel
  • Chasing a squeaky toy

Make a list of all the things your dog loves and use them in your reward schedules. Here is your sample of a Random Reinforcement Schedule. 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, 18, 21, 22, 23, 26.

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

By: Renee Premaza

Critical Periods of Socialization

dogsAges 3 weeks to 12-14 weeks are THE most critical developmental stages of life for puppies – This is the SOCIALIZATION PERIOD. Dogs MUST BE EXPOSED to other dogs from ages 4 to 6 weeks. Dogs MUST BE EXPOSED to people from ages 6 to 12 weeks. Experts used to think we had until the dog was 16 weeks to socialize him to people, but they’ve discovered this to be inaccurate. If we fail to sufficiently socialize our puppies at this age to all sorts of dogs and all sorts of people, we will wind up having a dog that is always scared of other dogs and people. Now you can see why it’s so important for breeders to do what they’re supposed to do during these critical ages. I’ve gone into homes to train puppies where they didn’t get the puppy from the breeder until he was 12 weeks old. This happens a lot with the toy dogs. But if the breeder didn’t expose the dog to enough people, guess what happens? The dog becomes shy and fearful, which can lead to aggressive behavior. Irresponsible breeders set the dogs up to fail if they keep them too long and don’t socialize them.

During the socialization period, puppies need to be exposed to all situations that it’s likely to encounter during its life. THIS is the time to take your puppies to puppy kindergarten classes. Don’t let your vet talk you out of going to classes at 9 weeks. Although there is SOME risk of health problems, the risk of your dog developing fear and defensive behaviors due to lack of socialization is much too risky. MORE DOGS DIE TODAY, NOT FROM DISEASE, BUT FROM BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS DUE TO LACK OF SOCIALIZATION.

If we miss the opportunities to socialize our puppies and to teach them certain things at this age, we can retard their development and ability to learn in the future. Much of the aggression we see in dogs is the result of insufficient socialization to other dogs and humans by the time the dog is 12 weeks old. Socializing your puppies doesn’t mean just casually introducing them to your family and friends. You need to get these dogs out and about and in as many public settings as you can. However, don’t do this all in one day, PLEASE. You should be introducing your new puppies to 5 new people every week, and then 5 more, and so on as he goes through the socialization period.

Researchers, Drs. Scott and Fuller state that puppies should never be adopted before 6 weeks of age, and best not before 7 weeks. The puppies need to be interacting with their littermates prior to those weeks is very important in their development.

At around 8 to 10 weeks, puppies go through a fear period where it’s very susceptible to physical and psychological trauma, and if something bad happens during that 2 week period, the effects could be permanent and irreversible. That’s why it’s best to get your puppy around the 8th or 9th week, so that YOU can control what’s going on in his life. Dog’s who experience abuse at this age, or if they have bad experiences with vets or other dogs, or ANYTHING that causes them emotional or physical harm, this poor dog will be traumatized for life by those scary events. Maybe now you’ll realize that punishing your puppies for housetraining accidents when they’re going through this fear period can cause terrible problems with your relationship. If you scare him by punishing him now, he will never fully trust you.

Here is a list of ALL of the things you need to expose your puppies to during that socialization period of 8 to 12 week period:

Textures, like pavement, rugs, cement, metal, sand, grass, gravel, vinyl flooring and dirt.

Sights would include trees, insects, other animals, men with beards, women in hats, people in wheel chairs, people with canes, and many children. Sounds like traffic, airplanes and trains, railroad crossing signals, construction and the sounds of children playing. Various recordings of sounds are commercially available and very useful for this. Especially important is to get your puppies used to the sound of rain and thunderstorms. CD sound effects are great for this. You can purchase these CD’s at: http://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=DTB653

If your 8 to 12 week old puppy is kept in his kennel most of the time, he’ll become fearful and hard to rehabilitate!! This would equate to the infant who is given little or no mental stimulation. They become mentally disabled for life.

Now we come to the time that will try men’s souls – the canine period of adolescence – YIKES! This is when you want to go on a cruise around the world and not come home until your dog is at least 2 years old! When your puppy becomes 4-5 months old, you’ll notice that he becomes VERY independent. The puppy that wouldn’t leave your side now won’t come to you anytime you call him. When he was a bit younger, he was so easy to train, but from 4 to 10 months, he may become fearful and cautious even to people and novel things he was fine with before (this is the 2nd fear period that dogs go through). If you were training him early on, that will pay off now because he will trust you to guide and protect him through this.

NEVER  PUNISH YOUR DOG FOR BEING AFRAID OR YOU CAN TOTALLY RUIN THE DOG!  Your dog is always looking to you for guidance and encouragement, especially if he’s fearful. If you scold him because he isn’t comfortable meeting Uncle Joe, you will only convince him that Uncle Joe is not a good thing!

So…there you have it. If you can get through your puppies first 18 months you can get through ANYTHING. Now, if you’ve got kids that are growing up with your dog, and THEY’RE going through their adolescent periods, I don’t envy you one bit!