Help for Hand Shy Dogs – March 29, 2012

Accept Reaching Hands and Touching

This exercise will help hand shy dogs become more comfortable with being touched. It is important to begin practicing with familiar and accepted adults first. Again, keep in mind that your objective is not for the dog to merely tolerate, but rather to remain relaxed and enjoy the process, and that an inexperienced helper can get bitten if you proceed too quickly without making sure that the dog is truly accepting rather than merely tolerating the touching.

Goal 1: Relaxed Dog will accept face touch from owner and/or helper.
1. Reach toward dog, stop 6 in. from side of dog’s face, treat from other hand.
2. Repeat reach toward dog, stopping 3 inches from face, treat from other hand.
3. Repeat reach, stopping 2 inches from face, then repeat stopping 1 inch from face.
4. Lightly touch the side of dog’s face.
5. Repeat toward chin.


Goal 2: Relaxed dog will accept collar and body touch from owner and/or helper.
1. As you feed the treat with one hand, touch the dog’s head with the other.
2. As you feed the treat with one hand, touch the dog under the ear and on the ear.
3. As you feed the treat with one hand, touch the side of the dog’s neck.
4. As you feed the dog with one hand, touch the collar.
5. As you feed with one hand, touch the dog’s chest, front legs, back, lower back, belly, down the back legs, the tail, and finally the paws.
6. Progress to touching from different positions and at different speeds.

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Helping Your Dog and Cat Get Along – March 21, 2012

Many dogs and cats get along very well, especially if they’ve grown up with each other or have prior experience living with the other species. But dogs who have never lived with cats are more likely to treat cats like other dogs and try to play with them—or like prey animals and try to chase and possibly kill them. Similarly, cats who have never lived with dogs will likely view them as predators and will run away or become defensively aggressive. Keep in mind that a dog can kill a cat very easily, even in play. But if your dog is gentle and friendly, and he’s not a squirrel-chasing predatory type, he may be a good candidate for successfully living with a cat. And in general, kittens and laid-back cats are good candidates for successfully living with a dog.

Two exercises that are important for your dog to do well when asked are a recall (coming when called) and a “leave it” exercise. These skills will help you control your dog if he gets overexcited around your cat

At first, confine your new cat in a room with her food, water and litter box. You can start to introduce your cat and your dog by the doorway to that room. Fill your pockets with treats that your dog loves, like bite-sized pieces of chicken or cheese, and treats that your cat will love as well, such as bits of meat or tuna. Keep the door open but block it with a baby gate. Walk your dog slowly by the doorway several times each day for a couple of days. Praise and treat him for calm behavior, and then toss the cat a treat as well. This way, your cat will associate your dog with delicious treats. If your dog overreacts to the cat, distract him and get his attention focused on you. Avoid accomplishing this by using leash corrections. Instead, get your dog’s attention by asking him to do basic obedience skills, like Sit and Down. Use delicious treats to reward him for his obedience in the presence of something as tempting and distracting as your new cat! Your cat should be free to approach the baby gate to get closer to the dog or to retreat if she wants to. Reward her any time she approaches the baby gate by tossing her treats.

Let your new cat set the pace. If she chooses to run and hide under the furniture when you and your dog walk by, let her. It simply means your introductions will take longer—maybe weeks longer. Taking things slow will help to avoid a bad first impression. Keep in mind that cats can take months to form relationships with other animals. Never attempt to force any interactions by holding your cat, putting her into a crate or carrier or restricting her movement in any way.

If your cat doesn’t seem afraid of your dog as you pass by the doorway of her room, or if she even tries to jump over the gate, you can introduce them in your living room or other large room. Make sure your cat can get away from your dog during the introduction. She should have the freedom and room to retreat, run and hide, slip beneath a piece of furniture where the dog can’t follow or jump up on something higher than the dog.

Keep your dog with you on-leash during these introductions in the living room and for the first couple of weeks. Allow the leash to be loose, but hold onto it in case your dog decides to try to chase your cat. Use your recall and “leave it” exercises if your dog starts nosing or following your cat and she seems perturbed. When you ask your dog to come to you or leave your cat alone and he responds, be sure to give him a very special treat.

When you’re not present or can’t directly supervise, keep your cat and dog confined in separate areas of the house.
Interrupt any chasing, barking or agitated behavior from your dog by using a leash to move him away from your cat. Redirect his attention to another activity or ask him to do some easy obedience skills for food rewards. Avoid scolding, yelling or jerking on your dog’s leash. A positive approach is crucial because you want your dog and cat to learn a pleasant association with each other’s presence. You don’t want them to learn that everyone gets tense and angry and bad things happen when the cat or dog is around. Dogs are more likely to engage in chase or prey behavior when they’re tense or aroused.

Most cats will accept a young dog and correct him when necessary. Be sure your cat’s nails are trimmed before bringing her home so that she doesn’t hurt your dog if she corrects him.

Your dog shouldn’t have access to your cat’s litter box. If he does, it will be highly stressful to your cat, and your dog may
eat the feces and litter.

To prevent your dog from eating your cat’s food, consider feeding your cat on a high surface, like a window sill, dresser, shelf or cat tree furniture.

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Building Focus with Your Dog – March 14, 2012

• Plan ahead. Know which exercise you’ll be training and be prepared to promptly and effectively deliver that reward when your dog produces the desired behavior. You miss a learning opportunity and your dog’s focus is dissembled when you send changing body signals to your dog by rooting around in your pockets for a food reward, or trying to untangle a something from your belt.
• Orchestrate success. Introduce early focus-building exercises in a quiet environment without distractions. As your dog develops its focus skills, incrementally transition the exercises to more stimulating environments. Key the training environment to your dog’s focus skill level with an appropriate progression over time from a distraction-free environment to a highly stimulating one. Prematurely expecting or demanding too much of the dog will set the scene for failure for the dog, for you, and for the overall training.
• If you are using a ball/toy/tug reward in your training, identify the one that is most favored by your dog and reserve it for training purposes only. Don’t allow your dog to have access to this favored item during idle moments, in the crate, for puppy teething/chewing, etc.
• Avoid displaying the reward visibly in your hand, and inadvertently making it the primary object of your dog’s focus. A tug can be tucked into your waistband, a ball in your pocket, or food kept out of sight in a pouch at your side, until needed for reward purposes.
• Keep it up close and personal. Use a leash length that keeps the dog in close physical proximity to you. When using a toy reward in the training, keep it close to your body. A ball on a short leather lead, or a tug with handle, will provide an outstanding reward while keeping the dog physically close to, interacting with, and focused on, you.
• Make your dog’s play time fun and exciting one-on-one interaction with you. Allowing your dog to spend all of its recreational time with other dogs or other people will diminish your position as the most interesting, rewarding, and desired prize in the universe. Allowing your dog to regularly run freely with other dogs, either at home or at an off-leash park, is squandering time, energy, and focus better spent with you in constructive play in training.
• Familiarize yourself with the basics of Operant Conditioning and develop your own method of precisely marking desired behaviors (e.g. clicker, vocalization) and rewarding appropriately (e.g. food, toy, praise, release). Build the intensity and duration of your dog’s focused obedience by incrementally extending the period of time between (a) marking the correct response to your command, and (b) rewarding it.
• Maintain consistency in your total body language, hand signals, and verbal commands. The more precise and unambiguous your communications, the less unwanted distractions to potentially diminish your dog’s sensory awareness of and focus on you.

• Deliver a clear and consistent command to mark the end of a focused obedience exercise. “Okay”, “Break”, “Release”, and “Free” or “Free Dog” are examples of unique release commands. The release command builds anticipation and focus by signaling the completion of a required behavior and releasing the dog physically and psychologically from the stressors of training. The release command can be supplemented with a reward, or it can be a reward in and of itself.
• Crate-train your dog and utilize its time in the crate for resting periods between training and play interaction. Allowing your dog to idle around the yard or house 24/7, especially in your absence, creates boredom and encourages the dog to identify alternate sources of stimulus and pleasure.
• Utilize moments of interaction with your dog as spontaneous training opportunities. Create the environment where your dog is earning each desired activity. For example, require a sit before allowing your dog access to his food bowl; a wait before going through the door into the house; a quiet before being allowed out of the crate or kennel; a teeth, ears, or toes command and examination before petting. Vary the required behaviors to maintain spontaneity and keep your dog alert and focused on you to hear, see, or feel your command.
• Create an attitude of purpose and direction in your daily walks. A purposeful, energetic walk with many turns and changes of pace and terrain will build the dog’s focus on you and secure its confidence in your leadership. A slow, lazy walk in a straight line will allow your dog to sniff and smell whatever strikes its fancy and encourage a head-down, indiscriminately scenting dog intent on ‘reading the newspaper.
• Employ the powerful effects of touch. Regular grooming and massage sessions with your canine partner are superb opportunities for bonding. The stronger the bond between you and your partner, the better the focus. Spending quiet, one-on-one time in close physical contact is relaxing and healthful for both you and your dog, and is the surest way to closely examine your dog from nose to tail tip to identify and treat minor health issues before they become major.
• Shape your dog’s behavior to await your explicit permission to sniff and greet other people or animals. Withhold that permission far more often than you grant it.
• Take control of the learning curve. Proactively create opportunities for your dog to successfully learn and develop desired behaviors and skills. When this is done correctly, you should be generating 500 opportunities to praise your dog for every one time you correct your dog.
• Less is more. A five-minute training session with an energetic, enthusiastic, highly focused dog and handler that concludes with a celebration of success will always be more productive than a 60-minute training session with progressively diminishing mental and physical resources that concludes in frustration and failure.
• At the end of every training or play session, leave your dog wanting more, more, more and enthusiastically looking to you to provide it!

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On Leash Greetings – March 7, 2012

It is important to control on leash greetings and not let them go on for too long. All dogs have a fight or flight mentality and if they feel ‘trapped’ with an over exuberant dog on the other end of the greeting, there is a risk of them lashing out. Don’t let your dog pull to every other dog they see – you should decide when you want to allow and on leash greeting. Here are some guidelines.

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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