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General Training Tips

Easy ways to teach your pooch some doggone manners

Few things will land you on your neighbor’s bad list faster than poor dog etiquette. The good news is that being a respectful dog owner boils down to two major things: Be conscientious and don’t be lazy. Proper dog etiquette can mean the difference between living peacefully amongst your neighbors and living a life fraught with conflict and turmoil. Here’s how to make sure you’re doing what you can to be on the right path.

Make sure your dog knows basic public etiquette

As a dog owner, you don’t have to teach your dog dozens of tricks. They don’t have to be able to balance a ball on their nose or be able to bark the numbers one through 10. All your dog has to do is be able to exhibit basic public etiquette, otherwise known as not being rude around other people.

First, this means they will need to know the basic commands. These are fairly easy to teach. If your dog knows how to sit, stay, come, and get down, you’re well on your way to having a dog that behaves well in public. Etiquette around dining situations is also crucial (think neighborhood BBQs!). Your dog should learn not to beg for food and to never be aggressive with any food item.

Avoid the temptation to forgo the leash

If you have a well-behaved dog whom you feel comfortable with, it’s tempting to just leave the leash inside when playing in the front yard or going on a quick walk around the block. Try to resist this urge. It’s okay to have your dog unleashed in a fenced-in area like your backyard or the dog park, but in all other scenarios it’s just good etiquette to keep them leashed up. A dog that’s simply being friendly can frighten or injure kids, for example. A leash just gives you ultimate control, and you’re better safe than sorry.  There are different leashes and collars that work better for certain dogs and situations. Another way to keep your dog safe is to invest in a GPS dog tracker. A high-quality GPS dog tracker can help you find your dog if he escapes your property.

Limit the Barking

Dogs bark. It’s just a fact of life. But there is a point in which the occasional bark turns into a full-fledged barking crisis – one that will make neighbors enemies really quickly. You can’t be a conscientious dog-owning neighbor if your dog is outside in the backyard incessantly barking. If your dog is alert barking at things outside, its best to keep him indoors. You can’t change this behavior if you’re not there to provide immediate feedback.

It’s fairly simple to curb a dog’s barking if he is barking for attention. Dogs bark to get attention and when you give them attention, they learn that barking works to get them what they want. If you don’t give them the attention they want, they will eventually stop trying that method. The moment your dog looks at you and starts barking for attention, simply say ‘bye’ and walk away. Your dog will learn that his barking makes you go away, which is the opposite of what he wants, and this should eliminate attention barking.

Finally, you should teach your dog to stop barking on command. This is done with positive reinforcement including giving out treats when they are nice and quiet.

Clean up

Does it need to be said? Well, you’ve stepped in a big pile before – so you answer that. Some (rude) dog owners must think that dog poop degrades quickly or something, because many owners fail to clean up their dog’s mess. This is dog-owner etiquette rule No. 1 – be a proactive pooper-scooper.

The overarching goal of being a good dog owner is to always remember that nobody loves your dog as much as you do. Your dog may not bother you when it does A, B, or C, but it bothers others. Think about ways to make you and your pet leave the smallest footprint on your neighborhood as possible and you’ll be well on your way to developing good ties (or mending broken ones) with your neighbors.

Photo by Samantha Scholl on Unsplash

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Why Your Pet Is So Important To Your Mental Health

Many people consider their pets an extension of their family. The love that owners have for their animals isn’t something that should be underestimated, and neither should the benefits of that bond. From better moods to lowered anxiety, pets can be absolutely vital to your mental health.

Lowered Stress

Stress can wreak havoc upon your mental health and sense of well-being. It can make everything seem much more dire than it really is, and leave you at an increased risk for things like depression and anxiety. It’s a serious issue to combat – and it turns out that pets can help lead the charge. According to the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, in a study conducted in conjunction with other similar associations, owning a pet can actually help diminish symptoms of stress on a long-term basis.

Relieves Anxiety

There are many different ways that a dog can serve as a great companion animal. For many, just petting or cuddling with a dog can help to fight anxiety disorders. Keith Humphreys, a professor of Psychology and Behavior Studies, admits, “Holding and stroking a dog is calming for many people, even those without anxiety problems.” No matter what the issue is that is keeping you down, cuddling with your pet is sure to help!

Better Sleep

Sleep is important to both physical and mental health, and it can be particularly difficult to achieve quality sleep when you’re not in the right headspace. Did you know that sleeping with your pet could help? Many people find that they feel more comforted and secure with their pet in room than they do without them. If you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, consider sharing some space with your pet to see if it helps. While it doesn’t prove effective for everyone, especially if you have a particularly rambunctious pup, owners are often surprised at how much their pet’s presence can help.

More Exercise

Living a healthy life is important to your physical health as well as your mental health, however it’s a particularly difficult goal to achieve sometimes. Pet owners are more likely than other people to get some form of exercise daily, especially walking, and generally live healthier lives that are less sedentary as a result. This, in turn, helps boost mental health and offer coping mechanisms to handle stress.

Owning a dog is a rewarding experience, but the confirmation that owning one can help with your mental health is relatively new. Make sure to give your pup a treat the next time you see them!

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HOW TO HAVE A BETTER BEHAVED DOG

We all want wonderfully behaved dogs, but it doesn’t happen on its own just because we wish it.  It takes time and effort to create the kind of dog and relationship you want. Here are some basic principles that can help you have a better behaved dog.

  • Have realistic expectations about your dog. No matter how good your dog is, things will get peed on, chewed or scratched/dug up. Barking / meowing, door dashing and/or pulling on the leash can happen with even the best animal.  Accept the fact that dogs are living beings and not china dolls to sit in the corner.  If you have a dog, some time during his/her life, you will loose something of value. 
  • To change behavior you have to be patient and persistent.  Change will not happen over night.  Sometimes it can take weeks or months to change behavior.  The more time you spend and the more often you work with your dog the quicker the change. Despite what some books say, most puppies can’t be housetrained in 7 days.
  • Recognize and meet your dog’s behavioral needs.  Dogs have needs for exercise, social contact with people and other animals and mental stimulation. Problem-solving toys, can provide mental stimulation. Games such as ‘find the hidden object’ and events such as agility can provide all three. 
  • Make it easy for your dog to do the right thing.  Arrange the environment so that the behavior you want is easily produced. The more often desirable behavior happens the stronger it becomes. For example, minimize distractions when you’re trying to teach your dog something new. Put scratching posts where they are easy for your cat to find and use. 
  • Make it difficult for your dog to do the wrong thing.  Arrange the environment so it is hard for your dog to make mistakes.  The more often unwanted behavior happens the harder it is to change.  Close the blinds to keep your dog from barking at those that pass by.  Scoop out your cats’ litter boxes every day.
  • Realize that animals don’t do things out of spite, for revenge or just to make your life miserable. They do what works – that is, what meets their behavioral needs, gets them rewards or allows them to escape or avoid bad things. They sometimes do some things because they are ill.  Dogs counter surf because they occasionally hit the jackpot of a sandwich or chicken leg.  Cats sometimes pee out of the box because they are sick even when they don’t act sick.
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TIPS FOR GETTING YOUR DOG TO COME (RECALL)

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 “Find It” and “Hide and Seek” to train the recall
  • 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
  • If your dog does not come, go get him, show him the treat he missed out on and eat it yourself (make sure it is edible by you), making a huge deal over how good it was.  Repeat if necessary but this should work for independent dogs.
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Puppy Biting and Nipping

1. Puppies explore with their mouths just like babies explore with their hands.  Puppies have sharp teeth and weak jaws – so this is the time to teach them to bite gently – and then not at all – before they develop the strong jaws of an adolescent dog. It is important to teach your puppy to reduce both the force and frequency of his biting.

2.  To do this, play with your puppy.  Sit on the floor and purposely put your hands near your puppy’s mouth.  If you feel a hard bite, say Ouch! And stop playing. If your puppy stops biting, lure him into a sit and reward and start playing again. If your puppy ignores the ‘ouch’, and continues to bite, say OOOWWW and leave the room.  Come back after a 20 second time out and do a little sit/down training before starting to play again.

3. An excellent way to practice this is to tether your puppy in an area where he can’t have any fun except with you.  Sit on the floor and play with your puppy and when you feel hard bite, say Ouch! Then get up and leave the area for 20 seconds.  Repeat this 10 times in a row twice a day.  You should be able to play longer and longer between hard bites. Then start reacting to the softer bites as well.  If you have children, each person should practice this exercise separately, starting with the adults.

4. Another way to teach your puppy to have a ‘gentle mouth’ is to hand feed him.  Your puppy only gets the food when being gentle – and not grabby. If your puppy likes to bite and grab pant legs, stop moving immediately and interrupt him.  Call his name and then ask him to do something else such as Sit.

5. Be aware that when your puppy is excited, he’ll be more mouthy and bitey.  So first practice when he’s calm.  When he is calm, you can do a lot of gentle petting and give him a nice belly rub.  If he bites, then all petting stops for 20 seconds.  Another consequence to biting is 30 second time out in his crate.  Don’t do this in anger – it’s just a neutral consequence to his biting – “Oops – time out – in your crate.”

If you don’t see an improvement in reduced biting, consult a Certified Professional Dog Trainer in your area.

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Playing with Your Puppy!

TOYS AND GAMES WITH YOUR PUPPY

Playing regularly with your puppy will help you form a strong bond.  The purpose of play is to develop skills that will be useful throughout their lives, such as impulse control.  The more games you play with your puppy, the more he will consider you to be the most interesting thing in his world. Encouraging puppies to play with toys provides a good outlet for their physical and mental energies.

You puppy should have two sets of toys:  toys that he can play with by himself and ‘interactive toys’ that he can only play with you.  Keep the interactive toys put away so you initiate play and keep you and the toys interesting to your puppy. 

Developing interest in the toy

Rather than just offer your puppy a new toy, take it out, play with it yourself, or play catch with another family member and act like you are having fun.  Then put the toy away.  Repeat this until your puppy is chomping at the bit to join in the play.  Keep toy moving/wiggling along the ground. Then select your special toys that you will put away after every play session.

Enthusiasm first, control later

Build enthusiasm for play first, then put in controls like sit and wait later.  Keep the games fun!!

Types of Games

Fetch – often preferred by herding dogs, retrievers and hounds

Tug – often preferred by guard dogs and bull breeds

Shake and Kill- often preferred by terriers

Rules of the Games

Invite your puppy to play with you often

With Tug of War, win more often than you lose

Do not play too roughly

Teach him to “Drop It” on command – stop tugging and trade for treat

Stop before your puppy gets bored – play several short sessions per day

Stop playing immediately if you feel any teeth to skin

Stop playing if your puppy begins to growl or gets over-excited

Always put the toy away after the game

Teaching impulse control

Teaching your puppy control during games will help your adult dog maintain control, even in times of stress or excitement.  After your puppy has developed great enthusiasm for the games, practice sits/waits, downs/waits and recalls before and during play.

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Housetraining 101

1. The best way to house-train your puppy is to consistently and generously reward him for going in the right place and prevent him from going in the wrong place.

2. You want to teach your puppy the ‘rewarding’ place to go and to give him plenty of opportunities to eliminate there.  This means pro-actively taking him out every hour or so when he’s awake, after naps, after eating and after playing, as well as first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  Stay pro-active about bringing your puppy outside – don’t expect him to let you know he has to go.  As you build up a consistent reward history for him going in the right spot, he will be more motivated to go there.

3. Make sure you bring your puppy out on leash so you can control where he walks and sniffs. Go to the elimination area and just stand there and let him walk around and sniff a bit but keep him in the general area.  Be aware that any distractions will interrupt his peeing or pooping – cars, people, squirrels, etc.  Watch for signs that he is about to go so you recognize them over time.  A small puppy may only pause briefly to pee so you need to be very observant. 

4. As soon as your puppy finishes, verbally praise him and give him 5-6 tiny treats in a row.  If he doesn’t go, bring him back and take him out 5 minutes later.  Watch him carefully when you do go back in because that may be where he is more comfortable going.  Continue to go out every 5-10 minutes until your puppy goes and then lavishly praise and reward him with high value treats. Make sure you’re with him when he goes so A) you know that he went and B) to teach him that it is rewarding to ‘go’ when he is next to you.

5.  Next, you want to start tracking your puppy’s elimination schedule so you can anticipate when you need to take him out.  When inside, watch for sniffing or circling as a sign that he needs to go and ‘when in doubt, take him out’.  If he does have an accident inside, calmly clean it up with a proper odor eliminator and take note of when and where the accident happened so you can be more diligent about preventing it next time.

6. Punishing your puppy after the fact does no good –he won’t understand why you’re yelling at him so don’t it.  Just be more observant next time. The first few weeks of owning a puppy are some of the hardest and most important. Spending extra time and effort now will pay off in a big way. If your puppy has an accident inside, take a newspaper, roll it up and hit yourself in the head with it!

7. Once he’s going regularly in his spot, start putting this behavior on command- use whatever phrase you want but be consistent:  “Hurry up”, “Do your Business”, “Do Potty”, “Potty time”, whatever.  Start saying the command as your puppy starts to go.  Don’t say it when you’re not sure – we want him to associate the command with the correct behavior.  Eventually start saying the command earlier and it will be his cue to go.  This will come in very handy on a rainy or cold night when you want him to go quickly so you can get back inside.

8. Finally and the most important, the only way for you to prevent your puppy from going in the wrong place is by using 100% management and supervision.  This means that when you can’t watch your puppy, he’s in his crate and when he is out of his crate, he’s never out of your sight.  You’ll need to gate off a small area of your kitchen or family room or have your puppy on a leash attached to your belt. 

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Important Training Tips!

Important Rules to Know

  • Focus on what you want your dog to do, not what you don’t want him to do
  • Ignore the behavior you don’t want and immediately reward an acceptable alternate behavior, ie, sitting vs. jumping
  • All consequences must be immediate
  • Training is all about providing consequences to the dog.
  • You have control of your dog’s access to everything he wants in life
  • Select the behavior you want to reward – make the dog do his part of the bargain first.
  • Rather than rely on a built in desire to please (fallacy), you need to build a desire to please by exploiting your control of the dog’s environment.
  • The more lively your dog gets, the quieter you should get
  • Avoid Blocking Signals (ie hand in treat jar)–make sure your dog is focused on you
  • You need to help your dog be successful – he has to understand what behavior gets rewarded
  • A history of reinforcement is what drives the dog’s behavior so reward the behavior you want repeated
  • Rewards must be of high value to your dog.  Use favorites for difficult training
  • Fade food rewards – put dog on a random reward schedule and use LIFE rewards – walks, play, belly rubs, etc instead of food over time

Fine-tuning Your Training

  • Provide lots of feedback (praise for good, ‘uh-uh’ for no)
  • Provide prompt feedback and reward for what you want (ie, don’t reward sit when your dog gets up)
  • Raise criteria gradually, one at a time, and keep asking for more
  • Giving prompt/cue only once and wait or help your dog do what you want
  • Make sure your dog knows the behavior before you start using the cue
  • Don’t call your dog to come from a distance if you have no control over making it happen.  Always reward your dog for coming to you
  • Different locations and distractions require training from scratch
  • Don’t give things away ‘for free’ – always ask your dog to ‘say please’ with sit, down, eye contact, wait, etc. for things they want
  • Dogs still need practice
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HOW TO HAVE A BETTER BEHAVED DOG

 

 

We all want wonderfully behaved dogs, but it doesn’t happen on its own just because we wish it.  It takes time and effort to create the kind of dog and relationship you want. Here are some basic principles that can help you have a better behaved dog.

  • Have realistic expectations about your dog. No matter how good your dog is, things will get peed on, chewed or scratched/dug up. Barking / meowing, door dashing and/or pulling on the leash can happen with even the best animal.  Accept the fact that dogs are living beings and not china dolls to sit in the corner.  If you have a dog, some time during his/her life, you will loose something of value. 
  • To change behavior you have to be patient and persistent.  Change will not happen over night.  Sometimes it can take weeks or months to change behavior.  The more time you spend and the more often you work with your dog the quicker the change. Despite what some books say, most puppies can’t be housetrained in 7 days.
  • Recognize and meet your dog’s behavioral needs.  Dogs have needs for exercise, social contact with people and other animals and mental stimulation. Problem-solving toys, can provide mental stimulation. Games such as ‘find the hidden object’ and events such as agility can provide all three. 
  • Make it easy for your dog to do the right thing.  Arrange the environment so that the behavior you want is easily produced. The more often desirable behavior happens the stronger it becomes. For example, minimize distractions when you’re trying to teach your dog something new. Put scratching posts where they are easy for your cat to find and use. 
  • Make it difficult for your dog to do the wrong thing.  Arrange the environment so it is hard for your dog to make mistakes.  The more often unwanted behavior happens the harder it is to change.  Close the blinds to keep your dog from barking at those that pass by.  Scoop out your cats’ litter boxes every day.
  • Realize that animals don’t do things out of spite, for revenge or just to make your life miserable. They do what works – that is, what meets their behavioral needs, gets them rewards or allows them to escape or avoid bad things. They sometimes do some things because they are ill.  Dogs counter surf because they occasionally hit the jackpot of a sandwich or chicken leg.  Cats sometimes pee out of the box because they are sick even when they don’t act sick.
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HOUSETRAINING TIPS

Some house training reminders!

Observation

It’s up to you to make sure your puppy does not make mistakes indoors in the first place.  The more that happens, the more he’ll think it’s OK.  This means that good and constant observation on your part is essential to preventing indoor accidents.  To help with supervision, loosely tie his leash to you or tether him where you can see him.  (Do not leave him tethered while unsupervised!).

Restrict his Movements

Make sure you never leave your puppy loose and unsupervised during the housetraining period.  This means that 100% of time you are either watching him, or he is in his crate or X-pen.

Feeding Times

It is important that you regulate your dog’s food and water intake.  Pay closer attention to your dog for the hour or so after feeding so you can be ready to take him out.  Most puppies will want to relieve themselves 15 minutes after eating.  Leave food out for 20 minutes, then remove it, whether your dog has finished or not.  Don’t worry if he doesn’t finish – he won’t starve himself.

Reward

Reward your dog every time he eliminates outside.  Be there to praise while he’s going (low key praise so you don’t interrupt him) and treat immediately afterwards.  You may want to save his very favorite treats for these rewards and use these treats only for housetraining rewards for now.  Use going for a walk as an additional reward.   If puppy does not eliminate, bring him back inside, and try again in 10 minutes.  Then go for your walk – the walk is a reward for going outside, not a bribe to entice him to go.

Go With Him

Make sure you go with your puppy every time so you are present to praise and reward.  Also, this way you know for sure whether or not he has eliminated.  Also, you don’t want him to learn that it is OK to go when you’re not there (as in indoors when he’s unsupervised!). Go to the same spot or area every time so your puppy associates this as his potty area. 

Adding a Cue

When you see your dog about to relieve himself you can add a cue such as ‘good pee’ or ‘hurry up’ or ‘do your business’.  Make sure to say this only when you know he is about to go.  After a while, you can use this cue to get him to go right away (very handy for the 11 pm and bad weather potty trips).

He’s Just a Puppy

A general rule of thumb is that a puppy can ‘hold it’ about 1 hour for every month of age.  So a 4 month old puppy can hold it for 4 hours.  This is breed dependent and smaller dogs will need to go more often.  Plan your training schedule accordingly.

Eliminate Odors

Make you thoroughly clean and deodorize any indoor accidents.  Any remaining scent will entice your puppy to go in the same spot.  You can try feeding on accident areas – puppies do not like to eliminate where they eat – which is why the crate is effective.

Record Keeping

Keep a chart on your refrigerator of you puppy’s elimination schedule so you can start to detect patterns and take him out based on those patterns.

Persistence

It will take time for your puppy to fully understand that he is not allowed to go inside.  Your dog may have an occasional accident when he is 6-12 months old.  Be diligent and patient.

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