Don't Say You Didn't See That Bite Coming!

Don’t Say You Didn’t See That Bite Coming!

Our relationship with dogs has evolved dramatically over recent years. We consider them a member of our family – so much so that when they behave “doggishly” we don’t understand. Has your sweet innocent loving dog ever snapped or tried to bite someone? It happens. Let me tell you about a recent incident at our house.

We recently moved to our new home. One of the things that we didn’t have was a fenced yard. With 2 active dogs, both hounds, it was a necessity to get one ASAP. I called someone who I used before. I will call him Bob. He is very professional, friendly, and does a fabulous job! I also had Bob divide the fenced area so that I would have a dog run/training area.

The day came for the fence install. I’m not sure who was happier – me or Emmett and Ellie. I leashed Emmett up and took him out to potty and to play in the new dog run. On our way to the run, Bob wanted to meet him (who can resist Emmett?). I took Emmett over to him. A little excited to meet Bob, Emmett sat nicely for some rubs. Bob gave Emmett some great rubs, then put his hands on either side of his face and stuck his face in his. Emmett gave a warning snap and Bob jerked back in shock. I will admit I was a little shocked too, but given the new surroundings, the new person, and Emmett’s excitement over meeting someone new, this was actually a normal behavior for a dog.

Bob came back the next day to finish up some things and we had a discussion about dogs, which led to a short discussion about the “incident”. I explained to him that he should never ever put his face in a dog’s face especially when he doesn’t know the dog. He understood and that was that. But after having the “dog” discussion with Bob, I realized that there are so many who are still unaware of a dog’s warning signs. So many do not understand dog behavior.

Let’s look at this from a “human” standpoint. You meet someone for the first time. They shake your hand, give you some compliments (rubbing the dog), then put their arm around you while continuing to talk (sticking their face in a dog’s face). I don’t know about you, but my reaction would be, “Look. You don’t know me so back off Buddy!” Since a dog can’t talk, he does what is customary for a dog. He gives a warning just like Emmett did.

You’ve heard all of the stories about dogs attacking without being provoked. The truth is, they probably WERE provoked. The human just didn’t realize they were doing it.

When we feel bad or are in a bad mood, we want to be left alone. When we don’t know someone, we certainly don’t want them in our “space”. When someone touches us and we don’t know them, that is not acceptable. We have the ability to voice our dislike. Dogs don’t. The only way they know to show fear, anxiety, or other negative emotions is by giving warning signs. These are not always a “snap” or another obvious sign. They can also include tucking their tail, looking away, shaking, excessive panting, scratching, ears pinned back, or a low growl to name a few. It’s important to understand a dog’s body language to know the warning signs and respect the dog’s space.

Dog Body Language Poster

We must understand that dogs have emotions very similar to ours.  A dog’s interpretation of events and the way they react to the associated emotions is what differs. It doesn’t mean that a dog is bad. It means that they are normal. Would you run up and hug a grizzly bear? Of course not! You know what the repercussions would be. Most, if not all, dog bite incidents can be avoided if we all educate ourselves on dog body language. It’s NOT the dog’s fault. Feel free to print the Dog Bite graphic above, created by Lili Chin, that will help you better understand what to look for when interacting with a dog. The AMVA also has a selection of videos on Dog Bite Prevention for children and children at heart.

If you have any questions about Dog Body Language or Dog Biting or would like to schedule a consultation, call or contact me today at 762-218-3708. We currently serve the Columbia County, GA area.

5 Ways Trick Training Can Help Your Dog

How Trick Training Can Help Your Dog

I’ve always been fascinated with dogs doing tricks. I could spend hours watching dog trick videos on YouTube. I finally decided that it would be fun to teach my dogs a few tricks. Little did I know I was in for a delightful surprise.

 

About a year ago, I began teaching Emmett a few tricks. He has always been a very sweet, affectionate dog, but with a huge amount of energy. He gets bored very easily. When I started trick training with him, I saw how excited he would get – not in the sense of a dog out of control with excitement but the “Oh Boy” kind of excitement. His ears would perk up. His focus was on me and nothing else. He was ready to learn some new skills. This was a new side of him I had never seen before. I realized that he really and truly enjoyed learning.

 

Now that we have Ellie (aka Chet – if you’ve never seen The Santa Claus 2, you should). She is literally all over the place. She’s all legs, extremely hyper, but all she wants to do is please. She also has a very bad instinctual jumping behavior. She can jump to eye level in a flash so we are always careful to read her expression in case she gets any crazy ideas.  Because of the luck I had with Emmett, I began teaching Ellie to jump. It wasn’t long before Ellie was jumping over a pole and jumping less without it.

 

So what am I saying? I’m saying that teaching your dog tricks has some great benefits. Here are 5 that I have observed.

1. Mental Stimulation

Your dog needs physical exercise but he also needs mental exercise. When you spend a lot of time at your computer, how do you feel? If you’re like me, I am exhausted. I usually yawn a lot and feel like curling up in my bed. For dogs, mental exercise is also proven to drain excess energy better than physical. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s a substitute for physical exercise but it’s a great supplement.

2. It’s Calming

You will find that your dog is calmer and more settled after a good trick training session. The only way I can describe it is that it’s like when you are so hungry you could eat just about anything. Once you consume a good meal, you are completely content.

3. It Redirects Unwanted Behavior

Just like with Ellie’s excessive jumping, teaching her when to jump curtails jumping at the wrong time. Teaching your dog to bark will help eliminate excessive barking. Teaching them the unwanted behaviors lets them fulfill their instinctual need for the behaviors but teaches them when they are allowed.

4. It Builds Self-Confidence

Dog’s thrive in an environment that has a steady routine and guidance system. Timid dogs gain self-confidence by learning the basic commands and by having a routine. Giving them an extra boost with trick training is a great way to help them grow into a fabulous dog.

5. It Builds the Bond Between a Dog and Their Human

Do you look forward to spending time with your dog? Did you know that having a variety of activities to do with you dog, increases your bond? You learn what your dog likes to do and doesn’t like. Then you choose the activities that you both enjoy and spend time doing them. So many dogs have found great joy in trick training. It is a sport that allows you to spend one on one time with your dog and enjoy the transformation as he grows and learns. You will actually find that your relationship will change over time into one that you never knew could exist.

 

*NOTE:  If your dog is unresponsive to these techniques or you don’t feel comfortable implementing them, contact a trainer who is familiar with behavior modification in dogs. Do NOT attempt to do anything that will jeopardize your safety.


 

If you have any questions about Trick Training or would like to schedule a consultation, call or contact me today at 762-218-3708. We currently serve the Columbia County, GA area.

Crate Training

Crate Training for Housebreaking and a Safe Space

Many years ago when I got one of my dogs, someone suggested using a crate for potty training. I thought that was the most horrendous and cruel thing. Why would I want to confine my dog when he could be with me? He should be able to have the run of the house while I’m gone. I mean, why not?

Several years later I got married and my husband and I decided to get a puppy. We lived in an apartment at the time and we were very concerned with our new pup having accidents in our home while we were away at work. It was then that I did some research and found that crates weren’t that bad if used correctly. I proceeded to crate train our pup and the next two dogs we got after moving into our house. After successfully housebreaking them, we decided to remove their crates to see how they would do while we were away. We were astonished when we arrived home, to find each of them laying in the exact spot that their crates had been. They were perfect little angels. It was almost like they missed their crates!

After that experience I swear by crate training. It is important to first understand that crates should NEVER be used as punishment. They should not be used as a babysitter where your dog stays hours at a time. They should be a safe place that your dog loves to be in. I use crates for 2 main reasons:

2 Reasons for Using Crates

  1. Housebreaking/Potty Training
  2. A safe place if there will be many people in the house or if I’m leaving the house for more than an hour. I never crate for more than 3 hours at a time and usually it’s no more than a couple of hours.

Crate Training

Choosing the correct crate is just as important as the training itself. When selecting a crate, pick one that allows your dog to stand up completely, turn around, and be comfortable. If you are crate training a puppy, you can purchase a crate that has a divider. Use the divider while he is small and as he grows you can remove the divider to make a regular sized crate. If you give him too much room, he will eliminate in the crate if not potty trained.

Start by encouraging your dog to approach the crate. Use his favorite treat or toy and toss it in the crate allowing him to go in on his own. Never force your dog to go in the crate. This will create a negative experience from the beginning and your training will be unsuccessful.

Let him come back out of the crate and toss another treat or toy inside, again allowing him to go in on his own, leaving the door open.

After he has gone and in an out several times, continue tossing a treat or toy inside and begin closing the crate door and opening a little at a time. Allow your dog to come out if he chooses. You want your dog to know that he is free to come out.

As he gets more comfortable, close the door completely. Make sure to have a safe chew toy, some food and water inside of the crate.

Work your way up to longer periods very gradually beginning at 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes and so on. You will be able to tell what your dog can tolerate.

Potty Training

If you are potty training, work your way up to 30 minutes or so crate time, then take your dog outside immediately to eliminate. Give him play time when he comes back in, then have him go back in his crate for another 30 minutes to an hour. Repeat the process reducing the amount of crate time each time. Your goal is to eliminate the crate. The amount of time you leave your dog in the crate and the frequency you take your dog outside will vary depending on his age. For instance, young puppies don’t have complete control over elimination while older ones have more control. For this reason, it is important to have a lot of patience and be very consistent.

NEVER, EVER Punish Your Dog for Having an Accident in the House! I can assure you that your dog DOES NOT potty in the house out of revenge! If your dog is eliminating in the house, there is either a medical or behavioral problem such as anxiety or stress.

As with any training, consistency is the key. It won’t take long before your dog understands that the potty is outside and not in the house.

 

*NOTE:  If your dog is unresponsive to these techniques or you don’t feel comfortable implementing them, contact a trainer who is familiar with behavior modification in dogs. Do NOT attempt to do anything that will jeopardize your safety.


 

If you have any questions about Crate or Potty Training Your Dog or would like to schedule a consultation, call or contact me today at 762-218-3708. We currently serve the Columbia County, GA area.

 

The Optimal Dog Training Formula

The Optimal Dog Training Formula

Have you seen all of these great training videos and tv shows about training dogs? It seems so easy! You think to yourself, “Why can’t my dog learn that fast? What am I doing wrong?” The truth is, it doesn’t always happen that fast. That’s the magic of TV. Training videos are demonstrations. What you don’t see many times is that training involves more than just showing your dog how to do something, giving them a treat, and then they remember it next time. Most humans don’t even have that good of a memory. If you follow my Optimal Dog Training Formula, you will be amazed at the results. 

Training Starts with You

The speed at which your dog learns each new skill will depend on what the skill is, how consistent it is taught, the ways that she is rewarded, and patience. The very first element of dog training start with you. You MUST be in the right frame of mind before beginning a session. Forget what just happened with the kids. Forget about what’s going on at work. It’s just you and your pooch. You must be calm, confident, assertive, and in the right frame of mind when training.

The Optimal Dog Training Formula

  1. Begin a new skill in a quiet room with no distractions. Once your dog has mastered the skill, you can move her to a different area of the house.
  2. Go over the skill again and again until she’s mastered it in the new room. Different surroundings can throw a dog for a loop so this part is important.
  3. Now you’re ready for the real test. Take her outside on a lead and have her perform the skill. If she doesn’t respond, don’t panic. This is perfectly normal. Go back to the last place she mastered the skill and begin again.
  4. Don’t forget that some skills will take longer. It may take several days or more before your dog has a particular skill mastered.

Don’t Forget Consistency

Having everyone in the family on board with training is very important. Similar to children, dogs will learn that they can get away with bad behaviors if some family members allow certain behaviors and others don’t. It’s not that it’s intentional, but it’s confusing for them. With everyone on the same page, you will see new skills learned quicker and bad behaviors disappear.

Using Rewards

Using a clicker is a great way to mark the correct completion of a skill. If you don’t have a clicker, you can replace it with a chosen word marker, like “Yes”. Whether you use a clicker or a word to mark behavior, it is imperative to mark the desired behavior at just the right time. Failing to do so will mark the wrong behavior.

In the beginning of teaching a new skill, give your pooch a treat at every successful completion. Once she is comfortable with the skill, give her a treat on every other completion. After that, give her a treat every 2 completions and so on. You may praise her instead when you don’t give her a treat. This will ensure your dog will know the skills without having to have a treat. Decreasing the treats keeps her guessing as to when she will be rewarded. She will continue with the skill hoping for the next reward.

If you have any questions about Training Your Dog or would like to schedule a consultation, call or contact me today at 762-218-3708. We currently serve the Columbia County, GA area.

 

*NOTE:  If your dog is unresponsive to these techniques or you don’t feel comfortable implementing them, contact a trainer who is familiar with behavior modification in dogs. Do NOT attempt to do anything that will jeopardize your safety.


 

The Importance of Teaching Your Dog Basic Skills

The Importance of Teaching Your Dog Basic Skills

A solid foundation for your dog begins with the basics. Knowing Basic Skills has several advantages:

  • Your dog develops good manners through learning basic skills.
  • Your dog must learn the basic skills before learning more complex skills.
  • Basic skills can be used in a multitude of situations.
  • Taking your companion in public places will be more enjoyable.
  • Your trained dog will be happier. So will you.

The “Wait” Skill

Look, Sit, Stay, Come, and Heel are a great start, but there are other skills that I incorporate into training because of their flexibility in multiple situations. For instance, the “Wait” skill is used as a temporary stay. A few of examples of this skill are:

  • “Wait” when opening the car door and before jumping out
  • “Wait” before going outside when you open a door
  • “Wait” when crossing a street to make sure there are no cars coming.

The “Leave It” Skill

I also love the “Leave It” skill. This skill is usually taught with food or a toy first. Once learned, your dog quickly realizes that it means to leave something alone unless you tell her otherwise. Here are some examples:

  • When walking, use “leave it” to cue her to ignore a barking dog or another person.
  • Use “leave it” to keep her away from something harmful like a dead animal, toxic plant, or human food.

The Full List of Basic Skills

Here are the other “basic” skills that I recommend with brief explanations.

  • Look: Looks at you for direction. Gets her attention if distracted.
  • Sit: Sits where told
  • Down:  Lays down where told
  • Wait:  Waits in a spot (sitting, lying or standing) until released – Usually temporary
  • Stay: Waits in a spot (sitting, lying or standing) until released – Usually longer period of time
  • Come: Comes to you when called
  • Off: Get down from a person or object, such as furniture
  • Leave it: Leaves an object alone. This could be food that is harmful, a toy, etc.
  • Heel: Walks nicely beside you with a loose lead.

There are other recommended skills that will make your pup the perfect companion. These are found in the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program and available at Paws for Life, LLC.

If you have any questions about Training Your Dog or would like to schedule a consultation, call or contact me today at 762-218-3708. We currently serve the Columbia County, GA area.