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The Science of Food Rewards in Training

Using food rewards to train your dog or puppy is a very effective way to get results quickly.  However, its important to use food rewards properly and effectively.

Treats need to be pea-sized OR SMALLER and easy to get to (pocket, training pouch or nearby table top). They should be soft so your dog can chew quickly without leaving crumbs on the floor – plus soft treats are easier to break into small enough pieces

Distracting environments call for better treats. You can usually get away with something like Cheerios or kibble in the house with no distractions, but for outside leash walking practice, whip out the cubed cheddar or hot dogs.

When in working with distractions, or a particularly challenging situation, feed lots of treats in a continuous fashion – to help your dog be successful.

A mix of treats is ideal so your dog never knows what’s coming. Figure out what your dog really likes!

If you are having trouble with a particular behavior such as housetraining or coming when called – use your dog’s very favorite treats for these rewards and ONLY for rewarding these behaviors.

Once a behavior is learned, start rewarding randomly – start with ‘2-fers’ and gradually vary the intervals in which you reward, slowly decreasing over time but continue to reward occasionally – ‘slot machine effect’

Treat ideas:

– Cubed lunch meat (to dry it out a bit, microwave it 3 times for 30 seconds sandwiched between pieces of paper towel)
– Shredded or string cheese
– Cream cheese, peanut butter, Easy cheese (a lick per behavior – also great for grooming practice and stuffing in Kong when your dog will be alone for awhile)
– Cereal such as cheerios
– Kibble (dry food) – try placing some in a paper bag with some bacon to ‘stinkify it’
– Freeze dried liver treats
– Beef Jerky
– Apple pieces
– Cooked green beans, carrots, or peas
– Hot dogs, Liverwurst
– Imitation crab (try peeling layers apart and freezing them in a colander to dry them out)
– Meat baby food
– Hard boiled egg white pieces
– Commercial dog treats (be sure to check ingredients to avoid preservatives, artificial colors and by-products)

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Adolescence in Dogs

A dog’s adolescence is the time when everything starts to fall apart, unless you make a concerted effort to see it through to the stability of adulthood. Your dog’s adolescence is a critical time. If you ignore your dog’s education now, you will soon find yourself living with an ill-mannered, under-socialized, hyperactive animal.

Here are some things to watch for.
Household etiquette may deteriorate over time, especially if you start taking your dog’s housetraining and other good behavior for granted. But if you taught your pup well in his earlier months, the drift in household etiquette will be slow until your dog reaches his sunset years, when housetraining especially tends to suffer.
Basic manners may take a sharp dive when puppy collides with adolescence. Lure/reward training your puppy was easy: you taught your pup to eagerly come, follow, sit, lie down, stand still, roll over, and look up to you with unwavering attention and respect because you were your pup’s sun, moon, and stars. But now your dog is developing adult doggy interests, such as investigating other dogs’ rear ends, sniffing urine and feces on the grass, rolling in unidentifiable smelly stuff, and chasing squirrels. Your dog’s interests may quickly become distractions to training, so that your dog will continue sniffing another dog’s rear end rather than come running when called. (What a scary thought, that your dog would prefer another dog’s rear end to you!) All of a sudden he won’t come, won’t sit, won’t settle down and stay, but instead jumps up, pulls on-leash, and becomes hyperactive.
Bite inhibition tends to drift as your dog gets older and develops more powerful jaws. Giving your dog ample opportunity to wrestle with other dogs, regularly hand feeding kibble and treats, and periodically examining and cleaning your dog’s teeth are the best exercises to ensure that your adolescent dog maintains his soft mouth.
Socialization often heads downhill during adolescence, sometimes surprisingly precipitously. As they get older, dogs have fewer opportunities to meet unfamiliar people and dogs. Puppy classes and parties are often a thing of the past and most owners have established a set routine by the time their dog is five or six months old. At home, the dog interacts with the same familiar friends and family, and is walked, if at all, on the same route to the same dog park, where they encounter the same old people and the same old dogs. Consequently, many adolescent dogs become progressively de-socialized toward unfamiliar people and dogs until eventually they become intolerant of all but a small inner circle of friends.
If your adolescent dog does not get out and about regularly and few unfamiliar people come to the house, his d-socialization may be alarmingly rapid. At five months your dog was a social butterfly with nothing but wiggles and wags when greeting people, but by eight months of age he has become defensive and lacking in confidence: he barks and backs off, or he snaps and lunges with hackles raised. A previously friendly adolescent dog might suddenly and without much warning be spooked by a household guest.
Puppy socialization was a prelude to your safe and enjoyable continued socialization of your adolescent dog. However, your adolescent dog must continue meeting unfamiliar people regularly, otherwise he will progressively de-socialize. Similarly, successful adolescent socialization makes it possible for you to safely and enjoyably continue to socialize your adult dog. Socialization is an on ongoing process.
Dog-Dog Socialization also deteriorates during adolescence, often at an alarming rate, especially for very small and very large dogs. First, teaching a dog to get along with every other dog is difficult. Second, it is unrealistic to expect a dog to be best friends with every dog. Much like people, dogs have special friends, casual acquaintances, and individuals they don’t particularly like. Third, it is quite natural for dogs (especially males) to squabble. In fact, it is a rare male dog that has never been involved in some physical altercation. Everything was fine with young pups playing in class and in parks, but with adolescent dogs, the scraps, the arguments, and even the play-fighting seem all too real.

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Tips for Coming When Called

The two most important things to remember are to always praise your dog when they come to you – and set yourself up for success.

Teach your dog that ‘Come’ means – run to me, there’s a party over here!
Never say ‘Come’ when you think your dog may not do it
Only call your dog to come when you KNOW you can make them, not hope that they will
Always balance distance and distractions for level of difficulty – ie, work at a level where your dog can be successful. If there are distractions, work at a short distance away. If there are no distractions, you can be farther away
Do not call your dog to ‘Come’ for anything she doesn’t like
Never call your dog in anger
Call your dog only once – and then make her come or walk away
Always praise and reward your dog for coming to you- make sure you reward and praise a lot!! (a full 20 seconds of petting for example)
Never punish your dog for coming to you – even if it takes awhile for him to get there.
Never chase after your dog
Get your dog to chase you if you don’t have control
Practice first indoors with no distractions
Use a food lure at dog’s nose and walk backwards to start the behavior
Practice calling ‘Come’ for mealtimes and for walks
Practice 10 times on each outdoor leash walk (intersperse walking backwards and calling your dog)
Gradually add distractions and different locations
Practice outside on a long line –first with no distractions, then add distractions
Use high value food rewards when practicing outside
Don’t expect to get from kindergarten to graduate school quickly – this takes time!!
Practice “Gotcha” so your dog is used to having its collar grabbed
Say name first, make sure you have attention, and then call Come
Praise your dog as they come to you
Do NOT repeat the command over and over – just get closer and try again

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Pet Ownership Cost Guideline

Pet ownership represents a large emotional – and financial – commitment. Whether you buy from a pet store or a breeder, adopt an animal from a shelter, or take in a stray, initial costs are just the beginning of the story.

This guide examines the different costs associated with pet ownership and helps you know what to expect, how to plan for these expenses, and potential ways to reduce the financial burden of pet ownership.

The Lifetime Cost of a Pet

There are two main cost areas when owning a pet: the initial cost (adoption costs, vaccinations, training, etc.) and then general costs over your pet’s lifetime (food, toys, routine vet visits, etc.) Combining both of these costs together will give you a rough estimate of the lifetime cost of your pet. Even without some of the larger expenses like a fenced in backyard, initial costs like vaccine

s, heartworm prevention, toys, training, and food can add up to $680 or more. Throw in routine expenses such as dental care ($40 to $80 per year), food ($240 per year), and grooming ($30 per visit) and you’re looking at $300-$400 per year before major medical expenses.

Acquisition Costs

One of the first expenses of pet ownership is the adoption or purchase price. The price of purchasing from a breeder is typically influenced by the demand for that particular breed. Reputable breeders will charge fair, if competitive, prices, while backyard breeders will charge high prices to earn a profit. You should avoid purchasing from backyard breeders; their practices are driven by money rather than care for the animals. Backyard breeders often purchase from puppy mills and other unethical institutions. The Partnership for Animal Welfare provides a useful guide for identifying the differences between backyard breeders and legitimate breeders. Legitimate breeders know their breeds and can refer buyers to other satisfied customers, while backyard breeders will sell to whomever is willing to pay.

Adoption costs, on the other hand, cover a variety of expenses. Many shelters and rescues will microchip animals, provide medical care and heartworm care, and in some cases even spay and neuter animals. The cost of all this care can be upwards of $800, but shelters rarely ask this much. The upper range of most adoption fees is around $500, but can be higher in some cases.

Medical Costs

Medical costs are arguably the most expensive aspect of owning a pet; even smaller expenses quickly add up. The average vet visit can be anywhere from $50 to $400, while dental care runs about the same. Vitamins are usually around $100 per year, and preventative medication for fleas and heartworms are each around $20 per month. None of this includes emergency treatments your pet may require. Pet insurance is another expense that can be marked as a medical expense, but is well worth it. We explain pet insurance in a later section.

Grooming Costs

Depending on the breed of dog or cat you own, grooming can be a relatively minor cost or a budget-breaking one. Long haired breeds require much more grooming than short haired breeds, although you can often reduce the cost of grooming by handling it yourself. Brushing your pet’s hair daily and trimming their nails at home can save $50 per month.

Food Costs

Pet food will be a large portion of your yearly pet budget, but despite common belief, your pets don’t have to have the most expensive food. Many pet food claims to be “all-natural” and “premium”, but there isn’t much regulation on what it takes to meet those qualifications, they are typically just marketing terms. Price isn’t the determining factor in quality, make sure to do your research on what best fits your budget and pet’s needs. A 22-pound bag of Purina One Complete cat food will cost around $17.48, while a 50-pound bag of Kibbles ‘N Bits dog food is around $22.98 from big-box retailers. Depending on the size of your pet, this could be enough for a single month.

Equipment Costs

Equipment costs vary wildly depending on the individual. If you need to fence in your backyard, you’re looking at well over $1,000 on average. However, for an indoor pet, you may only need water and food bowls and a few toys. This cost depends entirely on your personal circumstances.

Training Costs

Training is an optional cost. Cat owners likely won’t need to pay for training because most cats don’t require it but dog owners have two options: pay for training or train their pet themselves. If you have owned a dog before, then you may be able to get away with training it on your own unless it is a particularly difficult breed. If you’ve never owned a dog, then professional training can be worth the cost. Not only does training reduce behavioral issues, but it can also reduce costs later in the future; for instance, the cost of a lawsuit or medical treatments if your dog bites someone.

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