In Home Practice Made Fun

Q: I’ve been to training, but it’s hard to practice at home. What can I do?

 

A: When you attend a training class, most, if not all, trainers will tell you that you must practice frequently with your dog. Some will even get specific and tell you that you need to practice at least 10 times a day for a period of 2 to 5 minutes each time.

 

This is where the problem comes in. Basic training, sit/down/stand/stay/etc, is pretty boring stuff…boring for you and for the dog. These are the kinds of things that make it difficult for dog parents to follow through with work at home and therefore lead to less desirable results from the training class.

 

What if I told you, however, that your at-home sessions need not be so boring? Not only don’t they have to be, but they shouldn’t be. If you and the dog are not having fun, learning is not happening. So why not make it fun? There are many games and activities that can teach and reinforce teaching to give you solid reproducible, predictable results with your dog.

 

Working on recall? How about playing hide and seek with your dog? When you make a game of it, your dog LOVES to hunt you down to find you (especially if you are out of sight or move quickly away from him).

 

Teaching stay with distractions? Once he has the idea, the old Monkey in the middle is excellent for stay and self-control (just make sure he gets the ball every once in a while so he can have fun too).

 

How about loose leash walking (LLW)? Make a maze with chairs and other household objects and have your dog follow you through the maze. If you can teach him to stay by your side without a leash and add distractions to that, Lose Leash Walking is almost a given.

 

There are many games you can play or make up to have fun teaching your dog even the basics of self-control, position changes, and just about anything you want. Use the Net to search training games, make them up yourself, or find a trainer (like Pack Leader Behavior &  Training) that uses these methods and can help you. The important thing is that you are having fun with your dog. While you are doing so, you will also be increasing his “education”.

Tags: ,
Posted in Training Tips by jmneve. 3 Comments

All In A Day’s Work

When you attend a training class, most, if not all, trainers will tell you that you must practice frequently with your dog. Some will even get specific and tell you that you need to practice at least 10 times a day for a period of 2 to 5 minutes each time.

This is where the problem comes in. Basic training, sit/down/stand/stay/etc, is pretty boring stuff…boring for you and for the dog. These are the kinds of things that make it difficult for dog parents to follow through with work at home and therefore lead to less desirable results from the training class.

What if I told you, however, that your at-home sessions need not be so boring? Not only don’t they have to be, but they shouldn’t be. If you and the dog are not having fun, learning is not happening. So why not make it fun? There are many games and activities that can teach and reinforce teaching to give you solid reproducible, predictable results with your dog.

Working on recall? How about playing hide and seek with your dog? When you make a game of it, your dog LOVES to hunt you down to find you (especially if you are out of sight or move quickly away from him). Teaching stay with distractions? Once he has the idea, the old Monkey in the middle is excellent for stay and self control (just make sure he gets the ball every once in a while so he can have fun too). How about loose leash walking (LLW)? Make a maze with chairs and other household objects and have your dog follow you through the maze. If you can teach him to stay by your side without a leash and add distractions to that LLW is almost a given.

There are many games you can play or make up to have fun teaching your dog even the basics of self control, position changes, and just about anything you want. Use the net to search our training games or make them up yourself. The important thing is that you are having fun with your dog. While you are doing so, you will also be increasing his “education”.

Tags: ,
Posted in Training Tips by jmneve. No Comments

Taking Treats Gently

Taking Treats Gently

One important thing that dogs must learn is how to take treats from people gently. When taking a treat, there should be very minimal or no sensation of teeth on the person’s hand, much less any type of pinch or bite. To combat this, I have heard many people give treats to their dog while saying “gently” and many times, the dog understands this command. However, will your dog always know to take treats gently when the 5 year old neighbor comes to give your dog a treat and doesn’t know to say gently first? That’s why I maintain that a dogs soft mouth should never be under command, it should be a natural.

 

In order to accomplish this, you must readjust your thinking to not say gentle when giving treats to your dog. You should always give them from your fingers (rather than open palm or throwing them on the floor). You also need to start to pay attention to any sensation of teeth on skin, even if it doesn’t hurt you.

 

The procedure is simple. If you feel teeth on skin, simply jerk the treat away from the dog and let out a high-pitched, loud “ouch”, almost of squeal quality. Your dog will likely look shocked or startled. Present the treat again, and 99% of the time he will come at it MUCH softer again. Repeat as often as necessary, but the hard biting will likely disappear quickly. This must be followed by everyone who gives treats to your dog until he has learned a solid soft mouth

Tags: ,
Posted in Training Tips by jmneve. No Comments

Pit Bulls as Family Dogs

By Marie Neve,  Associate Trainer

 

In the last 100 years, The American Pit Bull Terrier gone from America’s sweetheart to one of America’s most feared and misunderstood dog breeds. It has gone from showing up as the poster child for both world wars and even being referred to as “nanny dogs” throughout the United States, to being persecuted, banned and ultimately hated. Thanks to questionable bite statistic studies, skewed media attention and irresponsible ownership; these dogs have obtained a nasty reputation as vicious killers. But Pit Bulls weren’t the first to undergo such undeserving discrimination and conceivably won’t be the last, as before them came German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Rottweilers.

However, I am pleased to report that just as things got better for the America’s demon dogs of the past, things are finally starting to turn around for Pitties everywhere. And for good reason, Pits make wonderful additions to any family.

You can choose either extensive research on the topic or my years of personal experience working and living with the breed as a credible basis to make such a declaration. Either way, the fact remains that they are truly incredible, loving creatures. Do you live alone and want a furry friend to keep you company? The pitbull is extremely loyal to its owner and wants nothing more than to befriend everyone it encounters even complete strangers, assuming they are friendly strangers, of course. Pitties love nothing more than snuggling up with you on the couch and greeting you with sloppy doggy kisses and a wagging tail upon your arrival home from work. Or maybe you have an itch for adventure. Pits are superb athletes and will eagerly keep up with whatever outdoor escapades you embark on. Want to settle down and raise a family? Pit Bulls are notoriously patient and gentle with children. Their high pain tolerance and even temperament means that your young children can tug, hang and poke to their hearts desire without the worry of sudden and/or unexpected retaliation. (Although out of respect for your four-legged family member and general “every dog” safety, this is strongly not recommended.) Still skeptical of the Pit Bull’s rock-solid temperament and all around family-dog-worthiness? Contact us for more information or check out the atts.org website where you can see for yourself that the American Pit Bull Terrier scores an awesome 86.8% on the American Temperament Test, only a handful of breeds score higher!

As an end note, despite the unsurpassed family-dog-qualities the American Pit Bull Terrier possesses, as with any dog, they still need loving pack leaders (that’s you) to raise them the right way to ensure they can be the best dog they can be! This means proper, life-long socialization, regular exercise, appropriate discipline and lots of lovin’! And please, whether your fuzzy family member is a 4 lb Yorkshire Terrier or a 100 lb Mastiff, never leave children unattended with any dog, and make sure to teach your children how to appropriately interact with animals.

Tags: ,
Posted in Dog Breed Tips by jmneve. 3 Comments

It Takes Attitude

Did you ever see one of those people that can ask your dog to do anything, and they just blindly obey, leaving you stupefied? You asked, asked, and asked again with no response from your dog and here comes this stranger and viola, obedience.

Did you ever go through training sessions and come away completely frustrated because your dog just doesn’t seem to “get it”? Chances are your dog isn’t slow and you are working as hard as you can. What is missing is probably the leadership that is communicated through your attitude.

Dogs are pack animals and the pack is a highly structured unit which must have a leader and followers. In the absence of a leader, a dog will step up to fill that position. If you provide that proper leadership, you will have a dog that will be more willing to please, pay greater attention, and be more responsive when you ask him to do something . . . .the first time! And it all starts with Attitude (with a capital A).

Providing leadership does not mean that you don’t show your dog love and affection. Believe me, there’s no way I would stop petting and cuddling with my four dogs. What it does mean is that you present yourself in a way that the dogs respect you first and love you second. When you speak a command, they listen the first time. Similar to raising children, the object is creating a balanced, well behaved pet.

When you walk your dog, do you allow him to pull. . . .He is the leader. When you leave the house, is he darting out before you, leaving you to chase and call his name . .. He is the leader. When you are feeding him, does he start snarfing down the food before it hits the floor. . .. he is the leader. Do you have to repeat commands several times before he decides to listen. . . He is the leader.

To break this cycle is a combination of projecting a different attitude and practicing leadership exercises. (A link for the exercises is found at the bottom of this article). Below are some simple ways to project the attitude that will help you communicate more effectively with your dog.

Project Attitude

  • Speak calmly and in a low tone when you are asking your dog to do something. Don’t yell or get frantic regardless of the situation. Don’t chase your dog.
  • Never ask more than once. If he doesn’t obey, wait. . . don’t immediately repeat the command
  • When walking your dog, walk with shoulders back, head up, and confidently, with a lose relaxed hand on the leash. . .KNOW that he will not pull and correct immediately and consistently when he does not comply. Stay calm.
  • In short, KNOW that you are the leader and act accordingly. If you have to pretend and take on an assumed persona temporarily, that’s fine. In my classes, I tell people to pretend they are a drill sergeant, WWE fighters, or if I’m dealing with children, superheroes. You can fake it till you make it.

–joann neve

Tags: ,
Posted in Uncategorized by admin. 1 Comment

Leadership vs. dominance

Leadership does not mean dominance. A leader has more to do with respect than dominance. Leadership is an understanding (a communication, if you will) about who is greater in the hierarchical stricter than others in a given social group.

Being the provider of your dog’s food is the primary way to communicate with your dog that you are the leader. If your dog is dependent on you for the sustenance of life, you are by default higher on the social scale than your dog and by extrapolation worthy of his respect.

Other ways in which you can demonstrate leadership to your dog is your body language. A confident body language, calm assertive posture and voice tones are also good communication tools to demonstrate leadership to your dog.

There are other ways in which this can also be demonstrated. The classic dog trainer d (which I don’t necessarily subscribe to) is not letting your dog out the door in front of you. Another is if you need your dog to move (that he is in your path he should move instead of you walking around. (I do sometimes step over or move around my dogs, however, if I am carrying something heavy or I need a certain path, a simple “excuse me” and my dogs know they have to move. I call this benevolent leadership and it is understood in my pack). Along the same lines is being able to take anything from your dog, even his food, right from his mouth. It should be clear that you own everything and you are allowing him to have those items. This extends to his favorite corner of the couch. While is ok for your dog to be there (if you allow your dog on the couch), when you go to sit on the couch and that is your spot, it is your dog who must move, not you who finds another place to sit.

It is important to remember, that these actions should not be performed in a threatening or aggressive manner, but in a more matter of fact, “this is just how it is” fashion. This will communicate leadership instead of dominance and deepen the bond between you and your dog (which dominance fails to do).

The Problem of Digging

Have you seen it? Have you noticed? All over Minnesota people are bustling with the long-awaited coming of spring. It took long enough to get here (as usual) but now that it has begun to look like the long winter is over, we are all preparing and becoming more active.

Animals are no exception to this rule. The squirrels are out in force. With the melting of the snow and thawing of the ground, the burrowing creatures are making home repairs; and in general the creatures who share our living space are as active as we are, if not more.

This is the time of year for much excitement for our dogs: with the smells coming up from the thawed earth, the activity they can hear on the ground and above their heads, and the sounds of activity they can hear, but not quite identify. They are anxious to get back into their environment and investigate all that has and is going on. As owners, we love to see this renewed excitement, except for the digging that goes along with it all.

Digging is a common problem that is probably universal to all dog owners. I personally have a hole in my yard that, if I were in a different part of the country, I would erect an oil derrick and hope for the best. Digging can be a difficult and frustrating issue to curtail, but there are steps you can take.

First the rules:

  • If you can’t be available to watch and correct your dog every time he goes out (until the behavior is extinguished), correction probably isn’t a viable option for you.
  • Dogs get lots of positive reinforcement just for digging. Either the reinforcement needs to be removed or a more attractive alternative given.

Now that all the icky stuff is out of the way, what can you do to keep your garden and lawn intact? First, if you want to correct you dog for this behavior, you need to SEE the action happening. If you don’t see it, by the time you do, correction is useless. A rule of thumb is if you can’t correct within 2 seconds, it’s too late for the dog to associate the act with the fact that it’s a bad behavior. Many people find this time constraint prohibitive. If it does work for you, here is something to help correct your dog.

  • Make a sandbox for your dog to dig. When he starts to dig in an inappropriate place, verbally correct him and bring him to the sandbox. Make the sandbox attractive for him to be in; bury treats and toys to help him “hunt” for the buried treasure.

If consistent observation or correction is not an option, you will need to reactively make your dog’s digging spots no longer attractive. Several key ideas to help you through this task are:

  • If there is a specific area where your dog constantly digs… by a fence, around a garden, etc. . . bury chicken wire fencing about 1 ½ inches under the topsoil. When your dog dogs, the chicken wire will not feel good against the pads of the dogs feet and he will stop digging in that spot.
  • If the spots that he digs are more spread out around the yard, (believe it or not) bury the dog’s feces in the hole and cover it up. A dog will not dig around his own excrement. (Gross but effective).

Best of Luck. Enjoy your spring as much as your dog does!!!!

Counter Surfing

Roasted turkey, fresh baked ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh baked pies; these are the many delights that await the coming holiday season. This time of year brings lots of entertaining with lots of food. It is also the time of year where disaster can strike a festive holiday meal as the lovable family dog does what he will naturally do and help himself to the feast that waits on the counter.

Counter surfing is not only maddening but potentially dangerous as there are a myriad of human foods and other substances that can be dangerous to a dog. Like all poor behavior, owners tend to ignore bad behaviors until they become painful enough to address. At that point, though, how do you break a bad habit? As with any behavior modification it takes several things, all of which equally important: respect from the animal, consistency, and ongoing training and reinforcement. If any of these items is missing, you will have less than successful results.

Dog will counter surf for a number of reasons, all of which provide reward:

  • They don’t know any better. The reward here is the delectable treat
  • They are hungry
  • They are begging for attention. Even being scolded is a form of attention that will do if no other attention is forthcoming.
  • Boredom or lack of exercise

Understanding your dog’s motivations is one of the keys to devising a plan to stop this unwanted behavior. If they are bored or begging for attention, increase you daily walks and play time. If they are truly hungry, investigate adjusting feeding times. If they don’t know any better, training is clearly indicated. In any case, however, it is important to make your dog understand that this is an undesirable behavior and be consistent with that message.

The first step to curb this behavior is to prevent it from happening. Don’t give your dog the opportunity to counter surf by removing all delectables from his reach. It is easier to extinguish a behavior if it is not a constant taunt for your dog. (I tend to use the microwave quite a bit for “storage” as I have melted quite a few containers in the oven L). The always important second step is to make sure you dog has some basic obedience commands down pat: responding to his name, and leave it. These two commands are crucial for extinguishing many problems your dog might have. Once the basic commands have been mastered, provide supervision when your dog is around food. With constant attention and appropriate, calm correction, you will be able to be in the same room (and not paying much attention, then to another room, etc).  You might also want to give your dog an alternate activity when there is food in the kitchen. Teach him to go to “his place” and lie down and stay on command. Make sure this spot is an appealing spot so your dog feels rewarded by being there.

Dos and Don’ts of Counter Surfing

  • DO Keep food out of reach
  • DO Supervise at all times when the potential of the unwanted activity exists
  • DO only feed your dog from his own bowl
  • DO provide your dog with enough mental and physical stimulation daily
  • DO Always reward desired behavior (this can be verbal or physical (petting) and doesn’t always mean treats)
  • DON’T ever chase, yell at, hit, or give your dog attention for undesirable behavior
  • DON’T set up “traps” to teach your dog a lesson in hopes of extinguishing a behavior