A dog should be allowed to bark. After all, that is one reason we have dogs, to alert us. We would just like to control the “on and off switch.” It’s the rare human who hasn’t yelled at their dog, “Quiet" or "Shut Up!” when the dog is barking at the doorbell, a noise, or at you to get your attention. We think that if we raise the volume of our voice, this ...read more
Training with toys has become popular in most dog training circles lately. If you’ve used food successfully in your training program, you might wonder why you should move outside your comfort zone and start using a new type of reinforcement. Why should you train with toys?
Toys provide many advantages that treats do not. By using toys, trainers can turn practice sessions into fun and games. Linking work and play can create stronger drive, increased confidence, reduced stress, and a happier dog. Dogs that think of their obedience or agility performance as play are more likely to find the work reinforcing, even when the toy is not present.
Increased drive and decreased stress can lead to speedier performances. Dogs that are “thinkers” may get caught up in the game and allow themselves to react without over-analyzing their job. At any point during a training session, a handler who uses toys can stop training and start playing, which can defuse stress brought about by confusion or complex exercises. Learning can be difficult; a sudden game of fetch or tug can provide relief and an improved attitude. Toys also help the trainers to de-stress. It’s not only the dogs that need to understand that training is play - sometimes the trainers need the reminder more than the dogs.
Playing with a variety of toys can help a dog have fun even when there are no actual toys available. For dogs that are accustomed to playing, a stick, an empty water bottle, a leaf, and even the handler herself can be part of a rousing game. This is ideal for times in which you cannot actually have toys or treats with you, like at the start line of an agility course or in between exercises in the obedience ring. Toys can be easily used as targets when training the dog to work away from you. Placing toys where you want the dog to go (like on the table or to the ring gates) can help him understand what to do.
Toys can also be used to help handlers reward dogs for working at a distance. Rewarding with treats often requires the dog to return to you or you to run to the dog. Both of these actions reinforce the idea that rewards occur in only in the handler’s immediate presence. By using an easy-to-throw toy like a Frisbee or a ball, the dog can be rewarded at a distance.
Training with toys can help avoid some of the pitfalls of food-only training. Some dogs become so focused on the food that they are unable to pay attention to what they should be learning. A training session can be sidelined by a dog obsessed with finding a dropped treat, hunting for treats dropped by others, and picking up odd items that might be food. And while you may use all your treats during a training session, toys never “run out.” Sometimes dogs acclimate to their training treats, and you have to hunt for a new ‘taste’ to keep the dogs drive up. Toys seldom lose their appeal; in fact they’re more likely to become more valuable over time.
Trainers who use a lot of treats may have to reduce the size of the dog’s meals to keep him from getting fat. Excess weight is detrimental for performance dogs that need to be fit to do their best and to avoid injury. Cutting back on the dog’s well-balanced regular diet and adding high calorie treats that lack adequate nutrition can raise other health concerns as well. Also, since treats are consumables, they have to constantly be replenished; a good quality toy can last for an extended period of time.
There are so many toys available now that there is bound to be something for every dog. Even very food motivated dogs can enjoy Tug-N-Treats and other toys with hidden pouches for tasty rewards. While training only with treats can be effective in some situations, any trainer that doesn’t use toys as an important part of their training program is missing out on a useful tool.
Behavioral Terminology: What are they talking about?
You hear dog trainers tossing around training terms that don’t make sense to you? Here’s a look into decoding the lingo.
The definitions are generally accepted among behaviorists (which is where this terminology is standardized): Whether a given act is reinforcement or punishment is defined by what the dog does in the future. Doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of it, it's the dog ...read more
The title might sound political but it isn't. Rather, this is written from the dogs point of view for owners who don't seem to "get it" despite their best intentions, and the advice of a qualified professional.
Dear owner, your dog would like you to know:
- Despite you giving us human names, we are in fact dogs that react to you and our environment.
- What is most important to us is not who ...
Scientists have discovered that dogs can smell the presence of autism in children.
'Seizure Alert' dogs can alert their owners up to an hour before the onset of an epileptic seizure. There are dogs that can detect cancer before medical tests can. With these incredible capabilities, it is hard to deny the effect that our own energy can have on our dogs. The idea of sharing "good energy" is not just a “woo-woo” concept reserved ...read more
Rowdy little children and naughty little puppies have so much in common!
Let's learn from the human example, so we can quickly and gently redirect puppies away from naughtiness, toward great and fun behaviors.
I sat trapped on the airplane, hurtling toward Orlando, strapped into my seat, some 30,000 feet above ground. I say “trapped” because my seat, my entire row even, was constantly shaken, bumped and tossed by a pair of blond ...read more
Vacation Angst…or What to do with the Dog?
Leaving home for work or vacation? Are you concerned about leaving your pets behind? A clean, professional kennel offers convenience and a secure location for your dog. But there is an alternative. Your pets can stay home in the care of a professional pet sitter. Here’s what you need to know to help you choose the very best for your dogs, cats, snakes or gerbils ...read more
Rain, rain…go away. All our dogs want to play!
Bad weather shouldn’t stop you from exercising your dog’s body and brain. Here are a few great ways to keep your dog from going stir crazy when you’re house-bound.
Days of rain or bitter cold, even unbearable heat usually mean we coop up the dogs with nothing to do. And that got me to thinking: What do we do with our dogs ...read more
Today I want to talk to you about the often dreaded "Vet trip."
For some lucky dog owners, it's a breeze. Their dog happily bounds into the examination room and only seems mildly put off by the doctors poking and prodding. Most dog owners aren't so lucky. The good news is your dog can learn to enjoy the Vet if you start doing a few specific things. But before I tell you how ...read more
Many, if not all, behavioral problems have a direct link to the dog’s physical, emotional and mental health.
To be successful, any approach taken to address a behavioral problem must take into consideration the dog’s diet, exercise, general health and relationship with its owner.
Sudden changes in behavior should always raise a red flag about the dog’s physical health. The first step to addressing a change in behavior that is radically different ...read more
Most puppies can be housebroken prior to 8 months of age using traditional methods. But for older dogs that are still having accidents in the house, the umbilical cord method should be used. This method has worked on the most difficult housebreaking cases and can be used with dogs of any age.
When the owner makes a commitment to success and is consistent with its application, the success rate using this method is very ...read more
Pack work, or using a group of dogs to influence the behavior of an individual dog, is an amazing tool which can create permanent change in a dog and help create a healthy balanced attitude and behavior.
There are a variety of ways in which trainers use this concept to assist in the training of a client dog from simply using a senior steady, trained dog to calm a nervous nelly, to having a young ...read more
In my ‘Behavioral HELP for Dogs’ seminars and 1 on 1 sessions, I start teaching with a sound foundation.
During the course of our time together, I build line upon line on that foundation until my students or clients have a complete understanding of how to interact with their dogs, so as to draw from them the behavior they want, thus creating harmony in the home and the neighborhood.
One of the main reasons that ...read more
(Addictive behavior in dogs which can sever the bond with their family)
You may already be in trouble if you did not study the history and purpose of your purebred dog before you brought him home. Your failure to diligently manage your dog to prevent his characteristics from growing into dangerous obsessions could seal your dog's fate.
You may think you did everything you could to successfully raise your dog. Following well-meaning veterinary advice ...read more
Do you find yourself avoiding taking your dog out for a walk because you are unable to stop their constant pulling?
Do you hold the leash in a death grip as you brace yourself for the ensuing tug of war through your neighborhood?
Do you worry that your dog may knock you over or break free during your walk?
Learning how to achieve a relaxed, controlled walking experience with your dog will not only alleviate ...read more
We started teaching our dog to ’Spin’ and now it’s time to introduce the ‘Step-up!’
What is Step-up? This trick is the first part of teaching a dog to place its front feet on a low solid item and remain there until released. As training progresses the dog will eventually be able to sit on top of a low object and balance perfectly! Dogs’ love this one so much that when a ‘practice object ...read more
Dog training (reliable dog training) is my passion. It's a long story, going back to 1966.
I've been a professional dog trainer since 1970. I have always worked hard to make my dogs trustworthy off lead, but it takes time and consistency. I am rather old fashioned in my dog training techniques. My dogs have a lot more 'freedom' because we trust each other. They all know that there are consequences for their ...read more
I am not the trainer for everyone; no one trainer is. Some will pooh-pooh my ideas, some will love them, some will get angry about them. I get results and I've never harmed a dog.
To teach come: I use a variety of methods depending on the dog. I do not ever call a dog out of a stay command for at least the first year following training. To that end, I frequently use ...read more
Your dog must be taught to instantly drop whatever he is holding in his mouth.
This is a safety issue since your dog may pick up a dangerous or poisonous object. It is a pack leadership issue since your dog should obey every command without hesitation. It is a behavioral issue when used in conjunction with classical counter-conditioning, as it can help prevent and correct resource guarding.
Use the following methods to teach this command ...read more
Teaching a dog to touch his nose to your hand on command is a simple, highly effective training protocol that has many practical uses:
- It can teach a touch sensitive or hand shy dog to welcome physical contact instead of avoiding it.
- It can help a reactive dog to direct his attention to the handler, thereby interrupting fixation.
- It can establish a bond between an anti-social dog to a human handler because it is a ...
One of the most important things for your dog to learn is to walk on a leash without pulling.
This makes walking the dog much more enjoyable for both you and the dog. If the dog is pulling, walking is unpleasant and he gets walked far less often -- this makes him pull all the more because he needs the exercise even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
Never wrap the leash around your hand: you ...read more