Originally written for the PWD Shorelines Newsletter April, 2021
Do you have a “Covid Puppy”? If you got your puppy during 2020, you’ll find that people are sometimes referring to them as Covid Puppies… When they say this, it is usually coming with a negative association. When I hear someone say this about their puppy, I immediately think – Under socialized. Unfortunately, this is the case more often than not.
I have a little Covid Puppy too. We scooped her up in June, 2020. Right when all of the puppy classes were put on hold. Even if we were to take her for a walk, no one wanted to come up close enough to pet her and say Hi. Luckily, we have been able to get her out a lot lately, and (fingers crossed), she is almost ready for her very first dog show!
Some of the puppies have had a pretty rough time with this lack of socialization. They are very afraid of anything outside of their home, their safe little bubble. And, since they have grown past the age of actual socialization (which ends around 14-ish weeks), we are now left to train them to be comfortable with different environments. It can sometimes be stressful for the dogs, and for us humans too!
Here are some tips to help your dog overcome the fears of the outside world…
Let’s take Stranger Danger as our example. We might pet our dogs and say “it’s okay”, when our dogs are afraid. But guess what, they’re still scared. This means their fear is overriding their ability to listen to what we are saying, right? If you look at this scenario in the larger picture, it’s telling us that our dog is unable to trust us to take control of the situation. He is unable to trust us to keep him safe.
First and foremost, our dogs need to know that we are going to keep them safe.
Imagine this scenario – I am out walking my shy dog and I see a friend of mine. We approach each other and stop about 6’ away. At this point, a few things could happen:
Which do you think is the most appropriate way to handle a shy dog? Let’s break it down.
“I push my dog to walk out in front of me to greet the person.”
Um, yikes! I hope we can agree that this is probably the worst thing you can do! If a dog isn’t ready to say Hi to someone, pushing them forward could make the situation worse. You could create a fear biter and solidify the dogs’ anxiety in seeing new people. A definite no-no!
“My dog hides behind me, so I hand some treats to the person and ask her to give my dog a treat.”
Nope! Not this one either.
This is a suggestion that many trainers offer for shy dogs. They often suggest this is because they think when a dog takes treats from a stranger, they will associate that stranger with something good. If your dog loves new people, then great! You can go ahead and use this method. However, if your dog is feeling unsure of the person, please do not do this. It could, and probably will, set your dog back in their training.
Think of this from the dog’s perspective. They are afraid of a person, yet they want the food. So, they may quickly go towards the person to get the treat, but then they will quickly go back to their owner’s side. This doesn’t teach or train them to like the person. And it certainly does not teach them that you are going to provide them with a safe environment. In fact, this method completely TAKES YOU, THE TRAINER, OUT OF THE EQUASION! This also leaves you with zero control of what the other person does.
You know how people can be well-meaning, but still do things that can mess your dog up? I can think of countless situations where you say “please don’t pet him”, and after a couple minutes what happens? They reach out to pet your dog. Or you say “please don’t let him jump on you”, and what happens? They say “oh that’s okay, I love dogs”!
There are also many, slight things, that this person could do that would set your dog back in their “stranger training”. If they are offering your dog a treat, they are most likely positioned incorrectly for a fearful dog. Facing your dog, front towards your dog, reaching out towards your dog, looking at your dog – all no-no’s for fearful pups! Even if you ask them not to do that, it’s human nature to flow into that posture. Plus, now you’re relying on this stranger to train your dog, not you. This is a situation where you really need to take control of your dog’s environment to show them that you are keeping them safe.
Another thing they may do is reach out to your dog to pet it, right after it’s taken the treat. I can almost guarantee you that your dog is going back up when that person reaches their hand over your dogs head. If that happens, your dog will remember the experience. Now you have a dog that takes a treat quickly and then backs away to avoid the strangers hand over their head.
Lastly, do not verbally encourage your dog to approach the person. If you talk to your dog and say things like “it’s okay, that’s just Bob!” you could be inadvertently scaring your dog even more. They may want to listen to your command, but be too afraid. Or, your voice may be spoken in a praising-type tone. Which would mean you’re accidentally praising your dog for feeling fearful…
“I move away from the person and ask my dog to pay attention to me.”
Yes! Perfect! This is the one! If you have a dog that is shy of new people, this is the way you want to start. Doing this will help your dog in a few different ways:
Ideal training scenario for a fearful dog – Level One
Pick a place where there will be people, or people and dogs. No, not a dog park! Those are way too uncontrollable! Say you’re in the parking lot of Menards, or even better - at a dog show. You’ll want to place yourself and your dog outside the building, near the entrance, but not too close! Have super-high value treats ready. Take your chair, get comfy.
Whenever you dog sees someone walking towards the door, ask for a “Look” and start treating. Continue the treats as the person walks towards you (of course they’re walking towards the door, but your dog doesn’t know that”). As soon as the person is no longer walking towards you, but has passed that imaginary line and are now walking away from you, the treats stop. Don’t talk to your dog. Calmly ignore your dog.
People can be approaching from any direction. They could be coming out of the building or going towards the building. Approaching simply means they are facing in your general direction.
Next person starts to approach. You ask your dog to “Look” at you. The treats start flowing. Remember, keep your talking to an absolute minimum at this point. Just “Look” and then treat rewards. As soon as the person is no long walking towards you, treats and attention calmly stop.
The reason you stop treating when the person walks away is because you want your dog to learn that the approach is the good part! All too often we reward our dogs when the training portion is done. I don’t want my dog to think that a person walking away is the good part. My dog will start thinking, phew! I’m so glad that person walked away. Nope, I want my dog to think a person walking towards him is awesome!
Continue this for 5 minutes or so. If someone wants to stop and say hi, politely put your hand out (like you’re motioning STOP) and say “we’re training right now, I’ll talk to you later”!
Guess what you just did? You taught your dog THREE simple, yet very effective things:
Once your dog is comfortable with people coming towards him, you can start working on more direct training. But this will give you a good base to start with!
As always, feel free to contact me if you have training or behavior questions!
Giene Keyes, Shooting Star Water Dogs
Giene Keyes is well-respected dog trainer, helping thousands of owners develop better relationships with their canine companions over the past 30 years. She founded an award-winning dog training company and uses a humane, positive and scientifically sound approach that makes it easy for owners and their dogs to succeed. Giene and her family live in the rolling hills of the Southern Wisconsin countryside with a menagerie of pets, including their adorable and active PWDs.
0 CommentsEXPLAINING BEHAVIOR EXTINCTION2/18/2021
Oftentimes we are caught off guard in our training by what’s called Behavior Extinction. Or, Extinction Bursts. Here is the definition of Extinction Bursts from the Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development: Extinction burst refers to the phenomenon of a previously reinforced or learned behavior temporarily increasing when the reinforcement for the behavior is removed. Learning theory suggests the organism is increasing the frequency of the behavior in an attempt to regain the original reinforcement for the behavior. In the absence of additional reinforcement, the behavior will diminish to lower (pre-extinction burst) levels and eventual cessation.
In layman’s terms - It’s going to get worse before it gets better!
When you’re working to eliminate or change a behavior from your dog, you’re most likely going to see this happen. Sometimes it may be slight and last only a few moments. Sometimes it can actually flow over days and maybe even weeks. Part of it depends on your consistency, part of it depends on your dog's willingness to change, and a large part depends on your dogs persistence. Patience is always key! Our dogs have been bred for generations to be persistent!
Picture this, your dog is out on the boat, back in the day. He has a job. He’s a working dog, alongside the Portuguese fisherman. He is commanded to jump off the boat into the cold sea water off the coast of Portugal. A moment of mental and physical motivation is necessary to take the leap. If your PWD sat there and said, nah. I think I’ll sit this one out, do you think he would be bred? Nope! Only the dogs that worked tirelessly, day in and day out. Working in all types of weather, swimming constantly throughout the day with an overly-willing attitude to jump in the water without hesitation. They have a competitive nature. They like to win. They like “the game”. They are wicked smart. That is what a PWD has been bred for. I know how I feel when someone tells me I can’t or shouldn’t do something. It makes me want to do it even more! If you tell a PWD to stop doing a behavior, well, they are not ones to calmly say okay, and go lay down...
There are many different scenarios where you may see Behavior Extinction during training or behavior modification - Demand Barking, Dog Reactivity, Barking in the crate and Leave It to name just a few. You can see it rear its ugly head when you’re working to curb a behavior, or eliminate an unwanted behavior. I saw clear Extinction Bursts when I was teaching my dog to no longer scratch at the door when he wanted to come in from the backyard. This is a behavior that I wanted him to “unlearn” because I was noticing the scratch marks on my screen door, and I didn’t want them to get any worse.
I knew if I tried training the behavior, in the classical sense of training, it wouldn’t work. This is where you get your treat pouch on, your clicker in hand. You work on things like timing and reward, but you also have a physical presence with your dog, and you have eye contact. Training typically involves direct interaction with your dog. With this behavior I didn’t want to have to talk to my dog, because I didn’t want to tell him to STOP pawing at the door. I wanted to not have to talk to him at all. I wanted to Shape the behavior, but I wanted my dog to figure it out all on his own. I didn’t want to interfere with his training by having him see me. Whether we like it or not, we are a huge influencer of our dogs behavior. Even slight little movements, eye contact, voice inflections. Those can all influence training. I wanted him to learn it on his own, because if HE learned it, it would stic.
My goal was that I simply wanted him to stop pawing at the door and offer whatever benign behavior he wanted. It could be to sit. It could be to lay at the door. It could be to stand there and stare at me, to try to use his mind power to guide me to let him in. No scratching and certainly no barking… I wanted him to calmly wait for me to let him in when I was ready, not him.
I knew that if all of a sudden I stopped letting him in when he pawed at the door, I was going to get some type of Behavior Extinction, and I was ready for it! Heck, all he knew was to paw. He thinks - I paw at the door, the door opens for me. If all of a sudden I let him know that his pawing at the door is no longer working, he’s going to try something different. He’s a PWD after all. He’s not going to just think, oh well.
So, here is how he worked through his Behavior Extinction:
Morning - Scratched at the door. Nothing (from me). Scratched again. Nothing. This probably happened 5-6 times and then he heard a neighbor dog bark, so he turned and walked a couple steps away from the door. I quickly opened the door and called him in. Yes, this sounds like cheating, but it still counts! Remember, he’s not scratching at the door. In fact, he is placed further away from the door, not barking, just standing there when I let him in.
Lunch - Scratched at the door. Nothing. Scratched again. Nothing. Jumped up on hind legs and scratched. Nothing. He stood there on his hind legs with his feet on the door for a few seconds. Jumped off. Scratched again. Walked backwards and barked. Huh… Interesting. Do you see how the burst is starting? In the morning he became distracted so he didn’t really have the time to work through his frustration. But now he’s thinking about it more because nothing else is going on, and he wants to come in.
He probably scratched and barked for about 5 minutes at this point. He walked away from the door in a large circle and I quickly called him in. I think he was going to just circle around and come back to the door, but I called him in before he had a chance to.
Evening - Same scenario as Lunch…
Morning - Did not scratch this time, but went to the door and barked. Walked backwards, barked some more. Came over to the window (near the door). I could see him staring in the window (but he couldn’t see me). At this point I could have let him in, but I thought that at any second he’d start barking again, and I didn’t want him to hear my hand on the doorknob as soon as he barked. That would have been horrible timing!!
Lunch - He came near the door but didn’t bark (yay!!!!!). I quickly let him in before he had time to think more about it…
Dinner - He came over to the door and didn’t move. This time I wanted to wait a second to see if he’d bark. My goal at this point is to wait longer and longer. But, only by a few seconds extra each time. Shoot, he barked. So I waited. I look like a weirdo because I’m hiding behind the door so he can’t see me. If he could see me it would be game over.
Morning - He didn’t scratch. Didn’t bark. Just stood at the door. I waited until the count of 10 and let him in. Yippe!! This doesn’t mean we are home free, but for sure on the right path. From this point I can start waiting longer. Or, I can decide if I want him to offer a different behavior, like sit or lay down and wait.
If at any point during this Behavior Extinction period I would have looked at him, said something to him, let him in when he was about to bark (or scratch or whatever is an unwanted behavior), I would have had to start from scratch. In fact, it would be harder than starting from scratch because I’ve already shown him that if he’s persistent in his unwanted behavior, he’ll get attention.
It’s so easy for us humans to yell at our dogs, “be quiet”! It makes us feel good to get that release of frustration. And, it may work… for a minute. But all it does is give our dog attention. Albeit negative attention, it is still attention.
So, at this point all of my dogs come up onto the deck and wait to come in. I can usually hear them walking on the deck. They just hang out there and wait. Sometimes they look around like Yertle the Turtle and survey their surroundings. Sometimes they sit and stare at the door or window. Occasionally I get a whine here and there, and then I have to think about my training again.
Hopefully this helps you to recognize Behavior Extinction. When it’s happening in your dog, and how to work through it. If you still have questions, let me know!
Shooting Star Water Dogs & Training
Photo credits; Diana Albright Kilburn, Alyssa Smith, Dani Blin, Danielle Collins
Article originally posted in February, 2021 Shorelines, the newsletter for the Portuguese Water Dog Club of Greater Chicagoland
0 CommentsJUST THE SLIGHTEST5/10/2020
I went back to look at some of my photos that I had for a training article. I was surprised at what I found! What a difference a couple inches can make! Can you see the difference in this photo?
When you're training your dog, try to be aware of how you are moving your body. I know it can be really hard - Really hard! We get so focused on what our dogs are doing, and how to get our dogs to do things. How to lure them, How to wait for behaviors so we can mark them. How to encourage them and keep up the motivation and engagement. But, we also need to think about what we are doing, and how we are doing it.
I didn't even realize I was doing this with Harper until I looked at the photos later. I was rewarding her for a simple "sit". In the first photo (with my bent leg), I had reached down to treat her at her nose level. See how she is planted in her sit and just reaches forward a tiny bit? That is how she should be treated. Me, reaching down to her.
In the second photo, I'm treating her all wrong. I didn't bend down far enough to treat her at her nose level, and you can see how she almost broke her sit, to try to reach for the treat. Her neck is stretched out and her back legs are almost coming up to a stand or a squatting position. I should put a big red circle with s line through it on this photo!
When I am training my dogs in conformation, I will often train in front of a mirror. It's not to watch myself, it's to see if my dog is in the right position. But, now I'm thinking I should be watching myself just as much! I love it when people video tape me when I'm in the ring, and even sometimes when I'm training. You can go back and watch your dog and yourself. I can sometimes be a little too hard on myself and I'll watch things over and over... Looking for the spot where I made the mistake. Most of the time when I'm in the ring with my dogs, my DOGS do great, but I get points taken off for "handler error"! I think if you show dogs, you've probably been in this position before too! But, it's a good thing to remember. We have to learn to work on ourselves while working with our dogs.
Slight little movements can make a big difference. Some breeds are more aware of little movements. If I'm working with a dog on how to be respectful of space - Like "wait at the door", I'll have to lean in more with some dogs and less with some dogs. My old Rottweiler, Wyatt, had zero comprehension of personal space, haha! So, with him, I'd have to over-exaggerate my movements when I'd lean in towards him. But, if I were working with a Border Collie, for example, I could probably lean in with just the slightest movement, and he'd recognize that and lean back.
Can you see the difference in this photo? On the left, I had leaned back at my hip, just the slightest. I have also dropped my shoulders. See how Harper is leaning towards me? The photo on the right, I am planted and standing with my shoulders back. She recognizes that and she is sitting comfortably in her sit position.
Practice with your dog! This is a really fun exercise to see how much your dog is paying attention to your own body language. If you can, practice in front of a large mirror. Or, video tape yourself while you're training. It's a great way to critique yourself and help to become a better trainer for your dog!
0 CommentsTRAINING TOOLS FOR WALKING NICELY ON LEASH4/6/2020
Training Tools for Walking Nicely on Leash
There are many things we can use or buy, to help our dogs walk better with us while outside. Believe me, you could spend as much money as you wanted to on the latest, greatest dog training tool that promises to make your dog walk nicely on leash! Here are my thoughts and suggestions..
Go to any pet store and you’ll see a wall full of different types of leashes! I like three kinds - One for walking, one for safely hanging out in the yard and one for training recalls.
Leash for Walking - I like one kind, and one kind only, a regular ‘ol nylon or leather leash that is 4-6’ long. Get one thick enough so that it is easy enough to hold on to and strong enough for your own dog. Please do not get the retractable leashes. Those are just asking for trouble. Your dog will never learn to “heel” because sometimes they are at 5 feet, sometimes at 10 feet. There is zero consistency. Your dog can also sprint to the end of the leash, only go get “clotheslined” when he reaches the end. And, heaven forbid you get one of those tangled around your leg. They can leave some dangerous burns.
Leash for safely hanging out in the backyard - I like fences. I like leashes. They keep our dogs safe in our yards. I like a good old fashioned tie out if your dog is going to be in your yard for any amount of time (I do not advocate dogs being outside unattended - They are like kids.. Anything that can go wrong, will!). But, if you’re hanging out in your yard, enjoying the day, gardening, etc. a secure tie-out can be your dogs friend. Get the kind that your dog is unable to chew through, and have some fun “outside” toys within reach (so he doesn’t decide to start digging holes in your yard, because we all know how much they love to dig!).
Leash for recalls - I like to use a long, lightweight leash when I’m working on recalls with my dogs outside. Inside, you can manage without a leash. Simply because there are not as many distractions, and if your dog doesn’t come right away, he’s not going to get very far… But, outside, you want to slowly add distractions and still be able to have your dog understand that “come” is not optional!
Gobs and Gobs of collars! You can get just about any size and shape of collar. When my dogs are in the house, they go naked. I’ve seen too many stories of dogs getting the collars caught on things, especially in the crate, when the owner is gone :( My dogs also play pretty rough. Just like when I owned my daycare, I think that dogs should play with all accessories off. Teeth can get caught (and ripped out!) too easily… So, first rule, no collars inside.
Martingale - My favorite collar is called the Martingale. They even come with a quick-release nowadays. They were originally developed for Greyhounds. Dogs whose necks are bigger than their heads. If a Greyhound pulled backwards, a regular collar would easily slip over their heads and they would be loose. I like them because they are safe, but unlike a choke collar, they don’t continue to get tight around the dog’s neck.
Buckle - I also like regular buckle collars. I probably use these the most on my own dogs. Simple, but you can get them in just about any color or pattern you like!
Choke Collar - These are pretty old school. We had one for my little Border Collie when I was growing up. It was her daily wear collar (can you imagine now?). She even had her tags hanging from it… I don’t use these on a daily basis, but I do still use them occasionally. Very occasionally. I might use one if I’m working with a dog that is very strong and untrustworthy. Maybe it has gotten away from its owners while on walks and attacked another dog. Choke collars are strong and they have purpose. I don’t recommend using one, but if you have questions about them, I’m happy to talk to you.
Prong Collar - These look super midevil! Metal collars with prongs sticking out. These prongs can only be made for one thing, inflicting pain on a dog when the collar tightens up (when they pull, or when the owner pulls back). I have to tell you though, I have used a prong collar before. I used it on my own dog. My 120 pound Rottweiler, Wyatt. I was pregnant and he was larger and much stronger than me! If he saw something he wanted to run towards, there was no way I was going to negotiate him back. So, I used the prong collar. We went back to using a regular martingale when I was back to my normal self and felt comfortable taking him on walks again. Don’t worry, he was actually an angel on walks (he was a complete marshmallow of a dog in real life), but I didn’t want to take any chances. And, like many bully-type breeds, he was always under the microscope, so he had to be perfect 100% of the time, if you know what I mean…
I could probably write an entire article on the different harnesses that you can buy! But, I’m going to talk about two in general. The kind that allows/encourages pulling, and the kind that does not.
Pull Harness - These are the old fashioned harnesses. I use them all the time, when I’m doing Tracking with my dog. They are nice because your dog can pull as hard as they want, and the harness will not restrict their movement, nor will it put pressure on their throats.
No-Pull Harness - Not sure which ones these are? Just ask at the pet store and they’ll be able to direct you. These harnesses typically have a clip at the front. So, the leash clips near the dogs chest. The idea is to discourage pulling. Look for a harness that fits your own dog well. Thicker straps are usually more ideal because they will not chafe as much as thinner straps. Some even have padding.
Electric Collars and Noisemakers
These are two of my least favorite training tools. I’m usually going to work on positive reinforcement. I believe it works better and faster than aversive training. There are a few problems with using electric shock collars and noise makers when training, and especially when going out on walks. 1. Your dog may learn to stop what they’re doing, but the REASON they are doing it still remains. It’s kind of like putting a bandaid on the problem. The problem will come back, and it may come back even worse (and you may find other behaviors pop up because they are no longer allowed to do that one). If your dog is pulling on the leash (to see another dog) and you shock him, or startle him with a noise maker, he may stop pulling. But, he may not understand the reason he was shocked. For all he knows, he could have gotten shocked because that other dog was there. You could potentially create a dog that now becomes reactive to other dogs because he’s associating the shock with seeing another dog. Make sense? It happens more than you think…
Your voice and body
These are great tools you can use when you’re training your dog to walk nicely on leash! A happy, positive voice will help keep your dog engaged. Couple that with handing him a yummy treat when he’s in the right place (walking next to you) and you’ve got it made! Walks should be this fun time spent between the two of you. Talk to your dog, enjoy yourselves!
Alternately, your voice can help to create stress. If your dog sees another dog and starts to get all excited while out on a walk, and you pull back on the leash and start saying “it’s okay, it’s okay”. Or, even worse, yell at your dog, he’s going to think - oh gosh! This is a bad situation, I better start barking at that dog (or person, or car, or.. insert whatever your dog is barking at). One thing that I’m always telling my clients is - If your dog is doing something he shouldn’t, oftentimes the best option is NOT to talk! Your stress or frustration or confusion will come through your voice.
Yay for treats! When you’re training your dog inside, or just giving him a treat because he’s so cute, you can use whatever you’d like. Store bought treats or human food. But, when you’re outside or away from home, use really awesome, high-value treats! Cut up chicken, hot dogs, cheese, unseasoned steak. Make it something they can’t possibly resist! Your dog will be more motivated to do what you’re asking and your more likely to get the response you’re looking for.
When I’m enrolled in a group class, I usually have 4-5 different treats in my pouch. This way my dog won’t get bored with the same thing each time. He never knows which one he’s going to get! I’ll have different flavors and textures in there. Sometimes I’ll even put a handful of his kibble (dog food) in there. It will get covered with the oils and flavors of the other treats, so it will become even more appealing!
As long as your dog is over two years (ish), getting the right amount of exercise is important, and can help you on your walks! Try to keep your walks as consistent as you can. That doesn't mean the exact same time, or the exact same path. That means you expect your dog to have good manners while on your walk. And you go on a walk every day. You don’t skip a day because you had to work longer than you thought, or the weather isn’t perfect. Most dogs really require regular exercise! Many of the breeds today have been bred to work for most of the day! The more consistent you can be on your walks, the better your dog will be during the walks!
This will only help on your walks! Practicing your sits, downs, attention, leave it. There are all sorts of things! Don’t make your walk about getting as far as you can, or as quickly as you can. Mix it up a bit! Have fun with it! If your dog has a good training base, he will be more engaged with you and will listen to you nicely when you’re outside.
If our dog gets nervous when you’re out of the house, you can try using essential oils. Be sure to use the real oils, not the fake perfume. I’m sure there are many different oils that are “calming”, but my favorite is Lavender. Plain ‘ol Lavender oil. Our dogs are very sensitive to this, so be sure to use a teeny amount. I like to take about ½ a drop and rub it on my finger tips. Then give my dog a slow little massage behind his ears. Do this about 10 minutes before you’re going to go on your walk (or anything that may create anxiety for your dog). It’s one of those things that may or may not help - but it’s worth a try because it won’t hurt!
0 CommentsSAFER AT HOME - ENRICHMENT TIME!3/28/2020
Many of us are at home with our dogs during our "safer at home" time. We may be having moments where we are happy to have this quality time home with our beloved furry pals, and we may also have moments of frustration, sadness, confusion... I can only imagine that I'm not the only one feeling a range of emotions. But then I glance down and see one of my dogs at my feet, one laying beside me, and two quietly sitting on the floor playing with toys. I really do have to soak in these moments of calm and quiet (before my kids wake up!).
So as I'm sitting here with my dogs, I want to come up with things that will help keep them happy and occupied, because I think we are all most content when we are getting the things we need. Our dogs too! I'm not talking about the necessities, I'm taking about our mental and physical needs - Attention, mental stimulation, physical exercise.. ENRICHMENT. Good for the brain and soul!
The more you think about what you can do for your dog and with your dog, the happier you both will be! It all trickles down also.. When you do more things with your dog, you feel great, your dog feels great. Your dog will look to you more for positive engagement. They won't be doing "naughty" things to get your attention (getting into the trash, taking off with the kitchen towel, barking at seemingly nothing out the front window).
Here are some fun enrichment ideas that you can do with your dog. When you read this, I hope it also inspires you to be creative! If you think of more fun, positive ideas, please let me know! We can keep adding to our list!
Have you seen these? They are GREAT for dogs! They are essentially woven mats or balls made from strips of fleece. You sprinkle dogs treats, or your dogs kibble, in the mat, and your dog needs to "snuffle" it out! Rather than just pouring their food in a bowl and letting them eat out of it (how boring is that!), they actually work for their food. they use their great sniffer and their snout to figure out where the treats are. Since they are also using their brains, they are a bit more tired at when they have found all of the treats! Here is a great Facebook link to some homemade Snuffle Mat = Facebook.com/SmartyPaws
There are about a gazillion puzzles that you can buy for your dogs at the pet stores or online. Cool ones where your dog has to move wooden or plastic pieces around to find the treat. Sometimes they'll nudge with their nose, sometimes paw and scratch. Really fun for them, and fun to watch! You can also make homemade puzzles if you don't have a store-bought one handy. Muffin tins covered with tennis balls, so they have to move the tennis balls in order to get the treats. Cardboard boxes with treats hidden inside. Hiding a treat under a small rug... There are a ton of ways you can create puzzles at home! This is another great way to feed your dog his meal, or give him when he's bored and you're trying to get a little computer work done!
The 'ol Stuffed Kong Trick
This one has been around for a while. Most of us have a Kong (or seven) at home. They're great chew toys, but also fun because you can stuff them with yummy treats! One of my favorite things to do is to freeze the Kongs, especially on warm days! You can put almost anything in the Kong - (non sugared) applesauce, plain yogurt, a little cream cheese, peanut butter (be sure to read the ingredients when using "human" food to make sure it doesn't have anything that may be toxic to dogs). After I put in one of those, I'll add in a handful of treats, then cover the top and shake it! Stick it in a baggie and put it in the freezer for a few hours. The treats get frozen in the "sauce". This is also great to put in the freezer at night, so when you're ready to walk out the door in the morning you can pop it in your dogs crate. Keeps 'em busy for a while!
Get some fresh air!
Go out for a walk with your dog, the weather's great! Okay, even if it's not so great, I bet you'll feel really good once you've done it. Even if you get wet, or cold, think about how you feel when you get back from your walk - I bet you feel more energized, right? Glad you did it? I'm sure your dog is glad you did too! Of course when you go on your walk, you'll want your dog to walk nicely at your side (that's a whole different blog, haha!), but remember to let your dog be a dog too! When I walk my dogs in town, I have an "every other" rule for myself. I will ask them to walk nicely at my side for one block, and then the next block I will give them the whole leash and let them sniff around as much as they want to! They are getting so much information and joy from sniffing around! Make sure that you are very clear as to when they have to "heel" vs. "free". I usually do a SIT between the two. So, it would look like this: Sit, Heel. Then when you get to the next block: Sit, Free! This way they don't assume that they can decide when they are going to stop walking at your side, haha!
Although you may not be able to take your dog into buildings, you can go for a fun car ride! If your dog loves to ride with you, this is a great way to get out of the house! Smelling all of the smells, spending some time with you - They'll love it! You might even come across a nice on-leash park that you can walk around. Or, a new neighborhood that has new smells and sights!
There are many places that allow well-mannered dogs. Home Depot is one, many coffee shops allow well-mannered dogs, some bookstores... Once it's safer to go outside, take your dog for an outing! Bring your high-value treats and go on an adventure! It's great to be able to take your dog on errands with you, and you can use this a a little socialization/training time! Work on your "heeling", attention, distractions. Boy, there are a ton of different things you could do with your dog just on this one trip!!
Have you heard of Susan Garrett? She has a whole series on Crate Games! These games can help build self-confidence, control and motivation. I have fun with my dogs and crate games almost daily! Google "Susan Garrett Crate Games" and I bet you'll find a lot of fun information and videos.
DIY Obstacle Course
If you've seen or have done agility with your dog, you know what fun they have running and weaving and climbing! Use what you have! You can make one outside, weaving through cones, around trees, through your legs. Teaching your dog to run past you onto a mat or blanket. My son has made many different obstacle courses in our front room. Some even complete with doggy "forts" to be used as tunnels!
Give your dog a place to dig!
Most dogs love to dig, but we don't really want our yards to be torn apart! Give them their own little sandbox to dig in! You can make it even more fun by hiding biscuits in the sand. Teach them to "find it" and watch them go to town! I do this with my pot bellied pigs. They love to root and dig, so I pop treats in the wholes and cover them up. They get a delicious surprise!
There is an endless amount of enrichment ideas you can do with your dog! Does your dog have any favorites? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you!
0 CommentsFEBRUARY 20TH, 20202/20/2020
Puppy class is the most important class you will ever take your dog to. Let me repeat this – Puppy Class is THE most important class you will ever take your dog to! Here’s what I want you to think about when you take a puppy class. Don’t worry about learning commands like sit and down. Yes, those are all great, but you have your dog’s entire life to work on commands and fun tricks. What I want you to think about is socialization, proper socialization. Being around other puppies, other people and different environments in a positive and structured manner. Let me explain…
How to pick a puppy class
There are many different dog training schools out there, and sometimes it’s difficult to choose just by looking at a web site. Here are some tips to help with your decision:
What to look for in an instructor
Your instructor should be knowledgeable on dog behavior and pack mentality. He/she should be aware of puppies that are overly confident (they can easily turn into bullies) and puppies that are overly shy (they can easily develop fear aggression). Having certifications after their name is always nice, but not always needed. Like other professions, there are many different companies that will take your hundreds of dollars to give you initials after your name. You can have a really great instructor that does not have certifications, but can still be savvy with dog language and has the proper experience.
What the curriculum should include
If your puppy is under (around) four months old, don’t be worried if your class does not include too many commands. It should have a few basic tricks, like sit, down, pay attention. But it should mostly include socialization time. Structured interaction with the other puppies. Structured interaction with the people. Safe introductions to scary objects (like vacuum cleaners and big brooms) is always great, because your puppy will go through a few different fear stages. Your instructor should be coaching you on how to work with your puppy so he/she can learn that none of these are worrisome. This is also a great class to teach you more about crate training, house training and other “age appropriate” experiences.
Be your puppy’s advocate
When you finally pick a training school that meets your requirements, don’t forget that you are your puppy’s advocate! If your puppy is in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to put a halt to it! This is a very fragile age, and one bad experience can alter the way your dog feels about things for the rest of their life! Some puppies will be afraid the first couple times they go to puppy class, that is very normal. But, if your puppy is put in a situation that makes you feel worried – Speak out! Let the instructor know that you are going to pick up your puppy, or take your puppy out of that situation. Yes, it’s okay to do this! It’s also okay to remove your puppy from a situation in that moment, and then talk to your instructor about it later. Any instructor that is confident with what they are doing will not put blame on you, or tell you that your puppy is bad, or talk bad about others. They will (or, they *should*) encourage conversation and use this as an education time to share knowledge about how to prevent the situation from happening in the first place, or how to correctly work through it if it happens again.
If you can find a good Puppy Playgroup near you, consider yourself very lucky! Take advantage of it as often as you can during these first few months after you bring your puppy home. The more supervised socialization you can give your puppy during this time, the better! Playgroups will often offer a larger group of puppies, so the chances of your puppy finding a fun playmate are even greater.
The two biggest things we see in puppies at this age, and to look out for, are the puppies that want to jump on everyone (overly bold), or the puppies that want to hide and become invisible.
If your puppy is overly confident, you may want to become a “hovering” owner for a while. This means always being within arms-reach of your puppy, so you can quickly and gently redirect him if he gets too rowdy with his playmate. Your class instructor should be able to coach you on good timing with this. I am of the opinion that continually diffusing play will help to elevate it from escalating in the first place. Simply showing your puppy a treat and having him turn his head towards you while he’s playing is great. Do this every 30-60 seconds while he’s playing. This also teaches him that when he’s playing and you approach, it’s a good thing!