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Mark-Rewards Training – November 28, 2012

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

Mark/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 him 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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New Puppy Tips – November 14, 2012

Here are some tips and guidelines to help you with your new puppy.

Don’t Expect Your Pup To Understand Sentences
It’s okay to babble along to your pup as you care for it, just don’t expect it to understand anything you’re saying. It will only understand the tone of your address. Dogs can learn a number of word cues (“commands”) – even hundreds of them – but they are just that, word cues. A pup can and should be taught at least a few words of human language. In English, “Sit!” and “Dinner!” are a couple that might be useful on occasion. But if you tell the dog, “Sit in your Dinner”, the meaning is lost. Dogs do not have a language center in their brains like humans do, and they cannot fathom syntax. Use one-word commands when communicating. Say the word clearly. Say it only once. And say it with importance. Reward the desired response immediately. Do not use the pup’s name when addressing it (unless the pup is at a distance). Do not repeat commands. Dogs hear even better than we do. Their “deafness” is usually not attributable to poor hearing. It is selective – they choose not to obey. Remember that if a dog does not respond to a verbal cue it should not be punished. The opposite of reward is not punishment – it is no reward.

Don’t Allow Young Children (Under 6 Years Old) To Interact With Your Pup Unsupervised
It comes as a surprise to many people to learn that children and puppies, though both cute, cannot be trusted alone together. Bad things can happen. Children are naturally curious. Often a child will do “something bad” to the pup by way of experimentation. In one case, a dog bit a child and the dog had to be euthanatized. On post-mortem it was found that the child had jammed a pencil into the dog’s ear, snapping the end off after penetrating the dog’s ear drum. If accidents like this are to be avoided, complete supervision is necessary. It’s not usually the dog that starts the trouble, it’s the child. If you can child-proof your dog, there should be no cause for concern.

Do Not Feed It From The Table
Puppy food is best for pups (AAFCO approved, is most desirable). Adding an assortment of human foods in who-knows-what quantities will not only detract from the optimal (proprietary) food but will encourage fussiness. Also, if the human food is fed from the table, you will wind up with a dog that mooches around the table at mealtimes, always begging for food. Start out the way you intend to continue. Set limits and be firm about them. Make sure that you feed your pup a good quality food. This is essential to his good health.

Do Not Expect Love And Attention To Substitute For Good Puppy Parenting
Young pups are so adorable that it is very tempting to always give them all of the love and attention you possible can. But it is also important to set limits of acceptable behavior. This is especially important as they go through the canine equivalent of “the terrible twos” at about 4-5 months of age. Bad behavior, like excessive or hard nipping, should be punished by immediate withdrawal of attention (following sharp exclamation of a word like “Ouch” or “No-bite”). This is how puppies communicate their likes and dislikes to each other. Spare the “Ouch” and spoil the dog!

Do Not Supply All The Good Things In Life For Free
One simple rule is to make the pup work for food and treats. “What’s work?” you ask. It’s having the pup “Sit” or “Down” in order to receive food and treats (like Grace). This will make sure that the pup always views you as its true (resource rich) provider and, therefore, leader. Problems of owner-directed aggression downstream can be all but completely addressed by this simple measure. Don’t give everything away. Insist on good puppy manners: Manners maketh the pup.

Do Not Ever Get Angry With Your Pup
Work hard to remind yourself, whatever happens, that this is a baby you are dealing with. If you lose your cool, you will act incorrectly, your puppy will think you have gone crazy, and you will lose its respect and trust. Be a good puppy parent. Think cool.

Following these simple rules of what NOT to do can help create the dog of your dreams as opposed to a canine nightmare. The basics are the same as in child raising. Be fun, be fair, but be firm (the 3 F’s) and set limits. Children are happier when their parents are obviously at the helm, and so are dogs. Dogs need strong leaders if they are to be model canine citizens.

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Introducing a New Dog to Your Family Dog – November 8, 2012

So, you have decided to add another dog to your family! You may have made the decision to adopt another dog to give your current dog a companion, to rescue the new dog or because you just wanted another dog. Before you adopt another dog, consider the breed, sex and personality of the dog(s) you already have. Has your resident dog been socialized to other dogs as a puppy and either lived with or regularly been around other dogs as an adult? Is he generally friendly and relaxed with other dogs? Does he meet new experiences well or does he become fearful or aggressive? What do you know about the personality and experiences of the dog you are going to adopt? Is he friendly and tolerant with other dogs?

Whether you adopt a puppy or an adult dog, the same steps should be followed to introduce your new dog to your resident dog.
However because puppies are more easily injured than adult dogs you must be extra careful to ensure your puppy’s safety. Puppies are also quite impressionable and if your adult dog is aggressive or threatening, this can greatly influence your
puppy’s behavior toward other dogs.

How To Introduce Your Dogs To Each Other
It is very important to make the introduction a positive experience for both dogs.

First impressions are important and if the dogs have a bad experience with each other, it may either take them longer to get along or permanently damage their relationship. If possible, allow the dogs to first meet outside your home such as in a room at the shelter, or in a park before bringing the new dog home.

During the introduction period, until the dogs are reliably getting along, they should be supervised at all times and housed separately when they are not being supervised. Alternate which dog is allowed the run of the house or yard when alone and which is confined in a part of it, such as an extra bedroom.

At first, you may not want to allow the dogs to have free access to each other when you are supervising them. Separate them with a baby gate or put one or both dogs in their own crate so they can see each other. If you only use one crate, you can rotate who is in the crate at each session. As they watch or interact with each other through the barrier, talk to them quietly, give both treats and encourage calm, relaxed behavior. Don’t allow the dogs to become overly excited or aroused. You can also take the dogs for a walk on leash, keeping a distance between them.

Watch each dog’s behavior carefully. Look for any tenseness, fearfulness, or threatening or aggressive behavior. If you observe any, continue to keep the dogs separated and do not allow them together until you see only calm, relaxed behaviors while they are on either side of the barrier. You may need to keep them apart this way for only several hours, or possibly several days.

Once the dogs are comfortable in each others presence, allow them to come together with both on leashes. It is very important that you either keep the leashes loose or just allow the dogs to drag them. If you are tugging on the leashes to keep the dogs away from one another this can cause fear which may trigger aggressive behavior.

If either dog becomes uneasy or unmanageable, calmly end the session and next time have them together for a shorter time period or keep more distance between them. Keep a squirt bottle with water, or a can full of coins at hand to interrupt overly exuberant or aggressive behavior. A citronella spray called Spray Shield™ can be used if necessary should the dogs fight. If this happens, you should separate the dogs and contact an experienced certified applied or veterinary behaviorist or other behavior consultant. Talk to your pet professional about help or a referral.

Dogs vary as to how quickly they move through the introduction phase. Some dogs may be immediate buddies, while others may take days, weeks, or months to accept each other. As they become more familiar with one another, their behaviors may continue to change. Some dogs get along well at first but develop problems later on, or vice versa. In rare cases, the dogs may never get along and finding one of the dogs another home may be the best thing to do. Consult a behavior consultant to help you evaluate your situation.

If you have more than one resident dog to introduce to your new dog, introduce each dog separately to the new dog and gradually work up to having all the dogs together.

Managing Multiple Dogs
Work to get good verbal control over your dogs. The better the control, the easier the introduction will be and life in general will be less stressful for you and your dogs. Teach each dog to sit, lie down, stay and come reliably under many different circumstances. Work on teaching your dog to sit, down and stay. You may need the help of a trainer to get your dogs under control. Provide individualized attention for each dog with out the other dogs present so the dogs aren’t always competing with one another for special time with you. Be patient and consistent with your dogs and know that the time you spend introducing them in the beginning will improve their chances of developing a friendly relationship and make fighting less likely. Spaying or neutering your dogs will help reduce the chances for some potential behavioral problems and may make
the introduction smoother.

What Not To Do
Do not leave unfamiliar dogs alone and unsupervised. Once the dogs are comfortable with each other while you are supervising them you can gradually work up to longer times that you leave them alone together. You can do this by briefly standing outside the door, getting the mail or runningan errand. Avoid using pinch or choke collars, especially during the introduction, as the discomfort from these collars can elicit fear and aggressive behavior. Don’t physically punish the dogs if they show fearful or aggressive behavior toward each other. Do not use “alpha rolls” or scruff shakes to discipline one dog for threatening the other. This could be dangerous for you and the dogs.

Never break up a fight or wrestling match with your hands or body. Squirt the dogs with water, make a loud noise or spray them with Spray Shield™ to break them up before separating them.

The dogs will need to work out their own relationships with each other. Do not try to dictate which dog will be the leader among your dogs, based on how long the dog has lived with you, which one is oldest or largest or that one dog is your favorite. This may cause instability in their relationships and could lead to fighting problems among the dogs.

This article comes compliments of Drs. Suzanne Hetts and Daniel Q. Estep, Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. and Ms. Lori Holmberg, M.A. Drs. Hetts and Estep are Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists and international award-winning speakers and authors living in Denver,Colorado. For over 25 years they have been helping pet parents understand their pet’s behavior and solve behavior problems.

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