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Renee PremazaPhone: 609-280-9338Email: renee@JerseyDogTrainer.com

Training a Dog to Wear a Muzzle

dog muzzledThere may be times in your dog’s life when you need to use a muzzle. Teaching your dog to like wearing a muzzle is something every dog owner should do, not necessarily just for aggression problems, but in case you need to muzzle the dog in an emergency situation. God forbid, if your dog was injured in an automobile accident, or if another dog attacked him, he might not allow someone else to pick him up or move him to the vet’s office for treatment. So, be prepared for this by desensitizing the dog to wearing a muzzle. Here’s how to do it:

Generally, I prefer using the basket style muzzle; it has wire openings that are large enough on the sides to feed the dog treats, and the dog still has the ability to pant and to drink water. Sometimes these muzzles are available in Petsmart or other large retail pet supply stores; but, you can also get one directly online at: http://www.morrco.com/wirbasdogmuz.html Be sure you get the correct size for your dog. You’ll see a page that will help you decide which size is best.

When you finally have the muzzle, show it to your dog, and keep your voice very happy and upbeat. Let the dog sniff it, and praise him to the skies for any positive attention he shows to the item. Next, place his favorite dry treat at the bottom of the muzzle, and let your dog put his nose inside of it to retrieve the treat. Praise him and encourage him to do this. Feed him some treats a few more times, and then put the muzzle away. While he’s wearing the muzzle, you keep praising him, BUT…when you take the muzzle off – ignore him for at least 3 minutes each time you work on this! That will help him associate good attention while wearing/working with the muzzle, vs. things getting kinda boring when you take it off and put it away.

Next day’s session, you’ll want to repeat this procedure again. Offer him treats that take a little longer to chew, and attempt to hold the muzzle up on his nose for a bit longer than the prior day’s lesson. Praise him, and keep adding a treat at a time while holding the muzzle on his nose for a longer period of time. Tell your dog how great he is for being so cooperative. ONLY when you’re satisfied that the dog seems very comfortable when he sees you bring out the muzzle, and he readily eats from it, you’ll be ready for the next step. Stay on this level of training for a day and practice at least 2 to 3 times for no longer than 3 minutes each time. Remember to keep things a little boring right after you put the muzzle away.

To prepare yourself for the next lesson, practice feeding slivers of treats through the side wires of the basket, but not while the muzzle is on the dog. You want to do this because it takes a couple of times to get this right. I know it was very awkward when I first started trying to feed my dog treats and fit them through fast so he could eat them.

Now, for the most important segment of muzzle training: Be prepared with about 20 treats, but instead of using the dry treat, use a much higher level of food; i.e., use bits of chicken, cheese, liver, roast beef, hot dog slices or steak.

On this 3rd day, always start out with a review of the last day’s level of training, and of course, don’t forget to praise him. Then, place the treat at the bottom of the muzzle, allow him to chew it, and then fasten the strap behind his head. IMMEDIATELY, start feeding him the soft meaty or cheese treat THROUGH THE SIDE WIRES. Continuously feed the dog one treat right after the other, and praise him like crazy in a very happy voice. FEED, FEED, FEED! Then unhook the strap, STOP FEEDING, and DO NOT PRAISE HIM once the muzzle is removed. Keep him at this last level of training for about 2 days and work on getting him used to wearing the muzzle for longer and longer periods of time.

When you see your dog wag his tail every time you bring out the muzzle, you know you’ve accomplished your desensitization work. However, don’t stop training. You’ll need to remind him once in awhile that wearing the muzzle is always a good thing. If you stop working on it, and you don’t use the muzzle for a very long time, you’ll only have to go back and work on it again from scratch. You want your dog to be prepared at any time to have a muzzle placed on his nose. With any training of any behavior, dogs are like we are…if they don’t use it – they’ll lose it!

One last thing: never put your dog’s muzzle on him when you’re showing any anger or frustration. The muzzle ALWAYS has to be associated with your being happy about giving it to him to wear.

A Message About Christmas Puppies

For those of you who are planning to purchase puppies this season, please give this idea a lot of thought before you make that final decision. Puppies are a lot of work! Ask yourself if you will have the time to devote to this new baby in order to get him housetrained properly. Will you be able to take him for potty breaks every 1/2 hour to 45 minutes throughout everyday? If you are planning to keep puppy in a crate for 8 hours every weekday while you’re at work, your puppy will not be able to hold his water or bowels for that long. Puppies have a bladder the size of a pea! He may wind up soiling his crate and get very upset about having to sleep in a mess. Puppies that are crated for too long will not become emotionally stable dogs! They need both mental and physical stimulation every single day. So… all that being said, will you be able to provide your beautiful new puppy with all of his needs during this very hectic time of the year? Please think carefully about this before impulsively getting a puppy.

Puppies need to be thoroughly socialized. They need to meet 100 people by the time they are 12 weeks old! They need to meet other puppies and dogs of different colors, sizes and breeds too. Puppies need to be exposed to everything in their environment that they will experience in their life by 12 weeks of age. Will you have the time to devote to getting your pup sufficiently socialized throughout this holiday season? Most people would have to answer, “No.”

Sadly, June of every year is a month when shelters begin to fill up with adolescent dogs. These surrendered animals were the puppies purchased during the holiday season. People surrender their dogs at this age because (1) they are now showing shy, fearful and aggressive behaviors due to insufficient socialization, (2) they have not been completely housetrained because nobody took the time to get the dog out often enough for potty training, and (3) the novelty has now worn off for the children to whom these puppies were given as Christmas presents.

Puppies are living, breathing creatures. They have special needs just like human infants. Please think carefully whether bringing a puppy into your home during this holiday season is an appropriate decision to make for you and your family. A better choice might be to wait until spring when the weather is warmer and you won’t have to worry about housetraining your puppy during a snow storm. Also, you’ll have more time to research the breed that will be best for your lifestyle.

©2010 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!

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

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!