Information for New Puppy Owners – June 30, 2011

Here are some important tips for new puppy owners!

Socialization is the most important part of puppy training. Introduce your pup to as many people, places, and friendly dogs as you can. Have strangers feed your dog some treats. Get your friends and family to do the homework with you and show them how to teach Sit, Down and Stand. Good places to bring puppies include: Cub Scout or Brownie meetings, shopping centers, baseball and soccer games, and your friends’ houses. Have a puppy party at home, invite lots of people of different ages and ethnicities, and practice the handling exercises like we did during “Pass the puppy” in class. Read about socialization in your handout.

Bite Inhibition – Step 1: React to Hard Bites
Biting is a normal puppy behavior. It is important to first teach your puppy to bite softly before teaching him to stop biting people altogether. Allow soft bites for now. When you feel a harder one, screech “Yiiikes”. This week’s rules are:
1) Allow soft biting.
2) When your pup nips hard, screech “Yiiikes” then get him a safe chew toy to bite on instead.
3) If he continues to bite hard despite “Yiiikes” then give him a one-minute time-out.
ANY biting of faces or clothing counts as a hard bite.

Preventing Food Guarding: Hand Feed Meals
We want our puppies to like having people around them when they eat. Sit next to your pup’s dish and feed him kibble, one handful at a time. Now and then, approach your pup while he is eating from his dish and drop a spoonful of cottage cheese or meat into it. Occasionally remove the dish and put in an extra-tasty morsel before putting the dish back down. Do this exercise once a day, during a meal.

Chew Toys – How to Keep those Puppy Jaws Busy and Tired!
Provide safe, fun chew toys to keep your puppy busy chewing only the right things. Kongs, Goodie Ships, and hollow Orka toys are great because they can be stuffed with food to keep your puppy interested. The Bustercube is a great kibble-dispensing puzzle that will keep your puppy busy for. Chewber is a terrific safe multipurpose toy – it is a frisbee, tug toy, chew toy and food dish, all in one. Nylabones come in a variety of natural and synthetic designs, and the company makes some especially for puppies. Tire Biter is a hardy nylon tire that you can wedge treats in, smear a bit of peanut butter inside, or play fetch with. High quality chew toys are a smart investment – they are safer and last longer than low quality toys, and they help protect your household belongings from destruction.

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New Puppy Guidelines – June 27, 2011

Your puppy will grow up very quickly. Know how to train him right and he will become a good natured and well mannered adult dog.

Before You Search For A Puppy
Before you get a new puppy, make sure you know exactly what kind of puppy to look for and how to raise and train him. If you haven’t done so already, purchase a dog crate, Kong chewtoys, and some freeze-dried liver treats before your puppy comes home.

Deciding Which Type of Puppy
The breed, type, size, activity level, hair color, hair length, and sex of your prospective puppy are personal choices and best left entirely up to you and your family. Once you have all agreed on a choice, go to your local humane society or dog training school to look for and “test-drive” at least six adult dogs of the type that you have selected. Testdriving adult dogs will teach you more about what to expect from a puppy than any book or video. Also, the experience of test-driving will ensure you know how to teach and control
adult dogs before you get your puppy. Really, the process of choosing a dog is not much different from choosing a car. First, you need to learn to drive, and second, you want to choose a car that looks and feels right to you.

You will probably have read lots of well-meaning advice from pet professionals that advise you, for example, not to get certain breeds if you have children, not to get large dogs if you live in an apartment, and not to get active dogs in the city. In reality, all breeds and types of dog can be wonderful or problematic with children. It very much depends on whether or not the puppy was trained how to act around children and the children were taught how to act around the puppy.

Because of their lower activity levels, large dogs adapt more quickly to apartment living than little dogs. Big dogs just take up more space. And active dogs can live in cities just as active people live in cities. In fact, city dogs tend to be walked and exercised more than suburban dogs. In the long run, it will be you who will be living with your puppy and teaching him to adjust to your lifestyle and living arrangement.

Selectiing Your Individual Puppy
It is vital however that you know how to evaluate whether your prospective puppy is physically and mentally healthy. Research your prospective puppy’s lineage to confirm that his grandparents and great-grandparents all lived to a ripe old age, and to check how many of his doggy family suffered from breed-specific problems. Long life is the best indicator of overall physical and behavioral health and the best predictor that your puppy will have a long life expectancy. Research well; you want your puppy to enjoy his sunset years with you.

Raising and Training Your Puppy
The first week your puppy comes home is the most important week of her life. From the very first day, start an errorless housetraining and chewtoy-training program so that you prevent any future housesoiling, destructive chewing, excessive barking, or separation anxiety problems. When you are not at home, leave your puppy in a long-term confinement area (puppy playroom), which has a comfortable bed, fresh water, several chewtoys stuffed with food, and a temporary indoor toilet. Long-term confinement prevents mistakes around the house and maximizes the likelihood your puppy will learn to chew chewtoys and use her toilet.

When you are at home but cannot pay full attention to your puppy, confine her to a small, short term confinement area (doggy den or dog crate) with a couple of stuffed chewtoys. Confining your puppy to a den prevents any mistakes around the house, maximizes the likelihood your puppy will learn to chew chewtoys, and allows you to predict when your puppy would like to relieve herself. Knowing when your puppy wants to go makes housetraining easy because now you can show her where to go and reward her for going in the right spot. Confining a pup to a den temporarily inhibits elimination, so that every hour, you can take her to an appropriate toilet area. When she promptly pees (and sometimes poops), give her three liver treats as a reward. Confinement is a temporary management and training measure. Once your puppy has learned household manners, he may enjoy full run of your house for the rest of his life.

If you are still searching, read BEFORE You Get Your Puppy. If you already have a new puppy, read AFTER You Get Your Puppy and Doctor Dunbar’s Good Little Dog Book, and watch the award-winning Sirius Puppy Training video, all available from your local book store or www.dogstardaily.com.

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Stay Patient With Your Puppy – June 23, 2011

You know most of us nowadays have WAY too much to do in life in general. I don’t know about you but it seems like if I get to sit down and do nothing for even just a little while it’s a luxury!

You have a job and/or a family or maybe you have another business or volunteer work or you are active in your community or church. Or maybe you just have an active social life.

Anyway sometimes you can be so busy that you wish the dog was just EASIER to deal with! “I don’t have time for all of this right now!”

Have you ever said this? Maybe your dog is starting to “act up” or misbehave and you feel like, “I don’t need this right now!”

Once you start feeling or thinking this you need to go on high alert! You may be about to lose your patience!

A couple of things to remember: First, if your patience is thin, don’t even think about training your dog or trying to fix any behavior problems. Now is not the time to train!

Take a deep breath and get through the situation, whatever it is, without “losing it” and remember: Whatever is going on with your dog you can begin to make changes almost immediately but not if you’re pushed for time or impatient. Your dog will feel your tension and will also feel tense. This will make the situation worse!

Second, remember that one of the keys to getting your dog to behave is for you to be the leader. In the dog world the leader doesn’t “lose it”. The leader is calm and composed.

When you get tired or impatient or pushed for time by your circumstances it’s easy to be frustrated when your dog doesn’t respond like you want.

So if you are having one of those frustrating moments or days when your dog is just not behaving well, don’t lose your patience. When you lose that then you’re not acting like a leader!

Get through the situation by reminding yourself that it can be fixed, but today is not the day. Wait until you have more time or your situation is more convenient to begin the training.

Be patient and be the leader!

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Mark – Reward Training – June 20, 2011

One of the greatest gifts we can give our dogs is clear, concise and consistent communication.

Mar/Reward training is a simple way to communicate with your dog, letting him know, YES, that’s exactly what I want!” It helps your dog sort out what you’re really asking, and gives hi a way to understand the rules. It’s the quickest way for a dog to learn and fun for both the dog and human as they learn together how to best communicate.

The first thing we want to do to get started is to ‘charge up’ the reward marker. Just say the word ‘YES’ (or click your clicker) and give your dog a treat within a second. Practice until you can deliver 10 treats in 15 seconds. The order is very important. The treat must come after the YES or click. Yes! Then treat. This is how your dog learns that YES predicts a reward.

Timing is everything. Be sure to say YES at the exact moment your dog does what you want. Then you can deliver the treat. Decide what behavior you are going to reward ahead of time. As your dog is first learning a behavior, ie, to look at you when you say his name, you may first decide to ‘mark’ just a head turn but then build up to ‘marking’ full eye contact.

Once your dog knows the behavior in that setting, move to random rewards. Rewards can be petting, neck scratches, tossing a toy, going outside in addition to just treats.

The best way to teach a new behavior is to reward every success, every time. The best way to keep a learned behavior strong is to reward it less frequently and randomly. Your dog will try harder knowing that he might get a reward at any given time. You can start to reward for every 2 sits or after 2 or 3 different behaviors. Sometimes make it harder and sometimes make it easier.

It’s important to transition away from food rewards when the dog has learned the desired behavior. Begin to introduce ‘life’ rewards. Still say YES when your dog does something you want, but instead of giving a treat, give a neck scratch, belly rub, play with a toy, go for a walk or anything else your dog enjoys. Keep observing your dog’s response to things and use rewards to keep the behavior strong. Use food rewards occasionally as well.

Dogs don’t generalize behaviors right away. Just because they know sit in the kitchen does not mean they know sit at the store or in your backyard. We have to re-teach them each behavior in gradually more difficult situations so they will eventually generalize. It’s very important to make things easier (what and how much you are asking for) when you train in a new place or with more distractions. If your dog can do a 30 second down/stay in your living room, start by asking for a 3 second down/stay outside and work up from there.

Keep teaching your dog and help him be successful. Keep him well rewarded through praise, food, games and other things that he enjoys.

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Teaching Your Puppy to be Home Alone – June 16, 2011

All owners find it occasionally necessary to leave their puppy at home alone. So before leaving your puppy for long periods, you should teach him how to amuse himself appropriately when left alone, such as by chewing stuffed chewtoys, and learning how to enjoy his own company without becoming anxious or stressed. A dog is a highly social animal and therefore requires adequate preparation for spending some of his time in social isolation and solitary confinement.

To teach your puppy how to settle down calmly and quietly when you are absent, start by teaching him to settle down with a chewtoy at times when you are present. Right from the outset, make frequent quiet moments part of the puppy’s daily routine. Following the confinement schedule will help your puppy train himself to settle down. Additionally, encourage your puppy to settle down beside you for longer and longer periods. For example, when you’re watching television have your pup lie down on leash or in his crate, but release him for short play-training breaks during the commercials. For a young puppy, you can’t have too many rules.

When playing with your pup, have him settle down for frequent short interludes every one or two minutes. Initially have the pup lie still for a few seconds before letting him play again. After a minute, interrupt the play session once more with a three-second settle-down. Then try for four seconds, then five, eight, ten, and so on. Although being yo-yoed between the commands “Settle down” and “Let’s play” is difficult at first, the puppy soon learns to settle down quickly and happily. Your puppy will learn that being asked to settle down is not the end of the world, nor is it necessarily the end of the play session, but instead that “Settle down” signals a short timeout and reward break before he is allowed to resume playing. If you teach your puppy to be calm and controlled when told, you will have years of fun and excitement ahead. Once your puppy has learned to settle down and shush on cue, there is so much more your dog can enjoy with you. Until you have trained your puppy to enjoy spending much of his day at home alone, you might recruit a puppy sitter who has time to spend with him.

Separation Anxiety

Maintaining your puppy’s confinement schedule when you are at home prepares your puppy to be calm when you are gone. Allowing a young puppy unrestricted access to you when you are at home quickly encourages him to become overly dependent, and overdependence is the most common reason why dogs become anxious when left at home alone. Try your best to teach your puppy to enjoy his own company, to develop self-confidence, and to stand on his own four paws.

Once your puppy is confident and relaxed on his own, he may enjoy all of his time with you when you are at home. When leaving your puppy for hourly sessions in his short term confinement area (dog crate), make a point to check how he fares when left in another room. For example, periodically confine your puppy to his crate in the dining room while you prepare food in the kitchen, then keep the pup in his crate in the kitchen while the family eats dinner in the dining room.

Most importantly, when you are at home, make certain to familiarize your puppy with his long-term confinement area (puppy playroom). Confining your pup when you’re home enables you to monitor his behavior during confinement and check in on him at irregular intervals, quietly rewarding him for being quiet. Thus your pup will not necessarily associate his confinement area with your absence, but rather he will learn to look forward to time spent in his playroom with his special toys.

Give your puppy plenty of toys whenever leaving him on his own. Ideal chewtoys are indestructible and hollow (such as Kong products), as they may be conveniently stuffed with kibble and occasional treats which periodically fall out and reward the pup for chewing his toy. If your puppy is gainfully occupied with his chewtoy, he will fret less over your absence. Additionally, leave a radio playing. The sound will provide white noise to mask outside disturbances. The sound of a radio is also reassuring, since it is normally associated with your presence.

When Leaving Home

Make sure to stuff a number of chewtoys with kibble and treats. Make sure to stuff a piece of freeze-dried liver into the tiny hole of each Kong, or deep into the marrow cavity of each bone. Place the tastily stuffed chewtoys in your puppy’s long-term confinement area and shut the door . . . with your puppy on the outside! When your puppy begs you to open the door, let him in and shut the door, turn on the radio or television, and leave quietly. Your puppy’s chewing will be regularly reinforced by each piece of kibble which falls out of the chewtoy. Your puppy will continue to chew in an attempt to extract the freeze-dried liver. Eventually your puppy will fall asleep..

Home Alone

Dogs are quite happy to sleep all day and all night. They have two activity peaks, at dawn and dusk. Thus, most chewing and barking activity is likely to occur right after you leave your pup in the morning and just before you return in the evening. Leaving your puppy with freshly stuffed chewtoys and offering the unextracted treats when you return prompts your puppy to seek out his chewtoys at times of peak activity.

Jekyll-and-Hyde Behavior

Smothering your puppy with attention and affection when you are home primes the pup to really miss you when you are gone. A Jekyll-and-Hyde environment (lots of attention when you are there, and none when you are gone) quickly creates a Jekyll-and- Hyde puppy which is completely confident when you are there, but falls apart and panics when you are gone. If you allow your puppy to become dependent upon your presence, he will be anxious in your absence. When stressed, dogs are more likely to indulge in bad habits, such as housesoiling, chewing, digging, and barking. During your puppy’s first few weeks at home, frequent confinement with stuffed chewtoys is essential for your pup to develop confidence and independence. Once your puppy is quite happy busying himself with his chewtoys whenever left alone, you may safely allow your now wellbehaved and confident pup to enjoy as much time with you as he likes, without the fear that he will become anxious in your absence.

Wonderful Weekends and Worrisome Weekdays
Whereas weekend attention and affection is wonderful, it primes your new puppy to miss the family on Monday morning when the parents go to work and the children leave for school. By all means, play with and train your puppy lots during the weekend, but also have lots of quiet moments to prepare your puppy for lonely weekdays.

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Tug of War Rules, June 13, 2011

People often hear that playing tug with your dog is not a good thing to do. When played by the ‘rules’, tug is a great way to play with your dog, have fun, enhance your relationship, and train Take It, Drop It, Sit and Wait.

Here are the ‘rules’ for playing Tug:

1. Never leave the ‘tug of war’ toy lying around. Keep it put away so you initiate and end play
2. Make sure that the game only starts when you invite your dog to play by saying ‘take it’ and letting the dog grab one end of the toy
3. Teach your dog to drop the toy by saying ‘drop it’ while playing tug of war. Trade with a treat to start
4. Once your dog is hooked on the tug of war game, you can institute the 3 ‘fouls’. The 3 fouls occur when your dog:
• Tries to take the toy before you say ‘take it’
• Any mouthing of your skin, clothing or hair in the dog’s excitement to get the toy
• Not dropping the toy when asked
The foul is a brief 30 second to 2 minute ‘time out’ meaning your stop playing the game by saying ‘too bad’, and put the toy out of reach and ignore the dog
5. Always end up with possession of the toy
6. Start throwing in obedience exercise before inviting the dog to ‘take it’ or after ‘drop it’ – Commands you may practice include:
• Sit
• Down
• Stand
• Wait-you can toss the toy and have the dog wait until you give the release “OK” for them to go get it. This is also a good way to start the ‘fetch’ command, as most likely your dog will bring it back to you to continue the game.

Always have the session end when the dog still wants to play – initially just play for a couple of minutes.

Also, only keep a few of your dog’s other toys out for play and rotate in different toys each week.

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Housetraining – Next Steps, June 8, 2011

When you reach a plateau with your puppy you now must begin to move beyond simply confining the dog. Remember that confinement alone does not teach the dog anything, and it may not help the dog with any actual understanding of housetraining rules at all: your dog may go right in front of you – because she doesn’t understand that that is “wrong”. Confinement is simply a way to prevent the dog from going in the house when the owner can’t supervise, and a way to acclimate the dog to holding it too.

So – you now should begin to take that dog everywhere with you in the house, using a leash or dragline – that way you will see it when the dog gives any sort of signal that she needs to go, and then you can respond to it verbally and rush with her outside.

Now the dog will finally begin to get the idea that if she feels that physiological feeling of having to go, that she should rush outside. You should stop taking her out regularly and let it be a hit or miss of her going simply because you took her out. It must be that when she needs to go you will notice a sign and then she will get taken out. If she starts to go in the house, you will see it (because she will be on leash with you) and then you can respond with a negative marker (Uh uh! No! Outside!) and rush her outside praising all the while.

Why praise at that time? Because now she is doing the right thing, which is rushing outside! (No use in continuing to reprimand her on the way outside, that is already in the past and now it is being rectified.) Reward with 5-10 treats in a row after she goes outside.

The only time she should be confined is when you can’t supervise her. Obviously you need to understand too that she must not be out of your sight in the house, and that only when there have been no accidents for three weeks and when you notice that she is beginning to want to rush for the outside door on her own can you begin to give her more freedom being within your sight.

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On Leash Greetings – June 3, 2011

1. Many otherwise social dogs will behave aggressively toward other dogs while on leash with their owners.

2. Many dogs are less social than your own.

3. If your dog is straining at the leash as he approaches another dog, the other dog may perceive your dog’s body language as confrontational or intimidating, and vice versa.

4. A tight leash may telegraph stress to your dog, and cause him to be more on guard.

5. Safe and successful introductions between adult dogs are most likely when the following conditions are met:

a. Both dogs are regularly socialized and have no history of aggression
b. Both owners have voice control (at minimum) over their dogs in stimulating situations (i.e. there is a balance between stimulation and control)
c. Both owners know their dogs well and are able to read canine signals
d. Both dogs are able to approach on slack leashes with relaxed body language
e. Both owners are relaxed and confident
f. Owners have good communication with one another
g. Neither dog is wearing any training equipment that might cause unintended corrections or inhibit natural body language
h. Neither dog is on a taught leash or a retractable leash
i. Both dogs have the freedom to walk away
j. Owners have good communication with one another

6. Allowing unwelcome or uncontrolled introductions may undermine your leadership with your dog, who may trust your judgment less after being subjected to an introduction that goes badly.

7. If you are not certain your dog (or the other dog) is adequately prepared for a successful greeting, try walking in parallel with the other dog and owner at a safe distance, to see if both dogs relax a bit, to give them each an opportunity to take in the other dog’s body language, and to gauge your control over your dog (and the other owner’s control over his) in each other’s presence.

Holding the leash can cause the following issues:
• inhibits body language of the dog
• feed off of human emotions because of tension in the leash
• resource guarding of owner
• fearful dogs can’t escape
• frustrates playful dogs who may redirect on owner
• leashes tangle causing potential injury dogs/humans

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