Archive for the ‘Behavior and Training’ Category

How We Can Confuse Our Dogs

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

WHOLE DOG JOURNAL WEEKLY

TIP

So often in training, when a dog doesn’t perform the desired behavior in response to the given cue, we blame the dog. I often hear, “He’s blowing me off!” or “She’s being stubborn!” In reality, the handler just didn’t make it clear enough for the dog to fully understand what the person was trying to teach. Here are ways we confuse our dogs:

DON’T EXPECT YOUR DOG TO AUTOMATICALLY KNOW OUR LANGUAGE. Dogs don’t come with an English software package installed. We must patiently teach them our language, one cue at a time.

NOT TAKING THE TIME TO DEFINE THE CUE’S GOAL BEHAVOIR. Have in mind the specific definition of what you expect. I suggest you create a cue dictionary. Write down every cue you currently use, then define the goal behavior for each cue. Do you want a straight sit with square hips or a sidesaddle sit? A speedy down or a slow down? Defining your cues and the goal behavior for each in writing will help you be clear in your own mind about what you expect, and that will make it more clear for your dog.

AVOID ADDING CUES TOO EARLY. It’s important to teach your dog the behavior and make sure she can perform it reliably before adding the cue.

DON’T USE TWO CUES SIMULTANEOUSLY. For example, a verbal cue and a body cue (hand signal): Dogs are keen observers. They pick up on our body language before they pick up on our words. If you use a verbal cue, but also a body movement with it (such as the word “sit” and then the hand signal for “sit”), I’d bet that if you said the word and didn’t use the body movement, the dog probably wouldn’t understand what you meant and might not give you the behavior you expect.

POOR REINFORCEMENT. Don’t fail to reinforce the newly learned behavior enough for it to become fluent. Some dogs catch on very quickly; others more slowly, but they all can learn if we’re patient and reinforce the desired behavior appropriately.

DON’T CHOOSE CUES THAT LOOKS SIMILAR OR SOUND SIMILAR. Choosing the verbal cues such as Down and Bow for two different behaviors can be confusing for your dog. Instead of Bow, I suggest Bravo or TaDa!

There are other reasons a dog doesn’t respond to a cue: the dog didn’t see or hear the cue; the dog didn’t recognize the cue because it’s too similar to another cue; the dog was distracted by the environment (another dog, person, squirrel); the dog felt unsafe.

So, repeat after me: “Don’t blame the dog.” Take a look at your training techniques and find a way to tweak the process so you can help your dog be successful. When your dog is successful, she earns reinforcement and that behavior you worked diligently to install and put on cue works perfectly. The result is clear communication with your favorite furry friend. Happy dog. Happy trainer!

For more information on cues for your dog, download Whole Dog Journal’s ebook The Recall.

German sniffer dogs show promise at detecting coronavirus

Monday, July 27th, 2020

Researchers in Germany have found that army sniffer dogs can discern between samples from coronavirus-infected and healthy patients. So high is the level of accuracy, they hope this can be used in real-life scenarios.

    
Deutschland Coronavirus Spürhunde der Bundeswehr (Reuters/W. Rattay)

Scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover have found that trained sniffer dogs could be used to detect COVID-19 in human samples with a relatively high rate of accuracy, a study published on Thursday revealed.

Eight sniffer dogs from the German Bundeswehr were trained for only a weekto distinguish between the mucus and saliva of patients infected with coronavirus and non-infected individuals.

The dogs were then presented with positive and negative samples on a random basis by a machine.

‘Potential to take this further’

The animals were able to positively detect SARS-CoV-2 infected secretions with an 83% success rate, and control secretions at a rate of 96%. The overall detection rate, combining both, was 94%.

In its conclusion based on more than 1,000 sniffed samples, published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal, the team said dogs could play a role in detecting infected individuals.

Sniffer dogs that normally look for explosives or drugs have been used previously to smell various cancers and hypoglycemia in diabetics. This medical application motivated veterinary scientists to research the potential ability of sniffer dogs to detect the coronavirus.

“We think that this works because the metabolic processes in the body of a diseased patient are completely changed and we think that the dog is able to detect a specific smell of the metabolic changes that occur in those patients,” said Professor Maren von Köckritz-Blickwede, a specialist in the biochemistry of infections.

“What has to be crystal clear is that this is just a pilot study,” said Holger Volk, chair of the university’s department of small animal medicine. “There’s a lot of potential to take this further — to really use these dogs in the field.”

In their conclusion, the team envisaged using sniffer dogs to detect infectious individuals in certain places.

“In countries with limited access to diagnostic tests, detection dogs could then have the potential to be used for mass detection of infected people,” said the conclusion. “Further work is necessary to better understand the potential and limitation of using scent dogs for the detection of viral respiratory diseases.”

The samples with which the sniffer dogs are being tested were chemically rendered harmless. The question remains whether the canines can detect active coronavirus cases in patients.

The researchers are also looking at how well dogs can differentiate between samples from COVID-19 patients and those with other diseases such as flu.

The Poisoned Cue from Dogs Naturally Magazine

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com

 

One of the best “Cue” articles that we’ve seen!

Most of us are generally on board when it comes to reward-based training. We all like to be nice to our dogs and we all like happy, willing partners … so it just seems like a good idea to use cookies and games when teaching our dogs new things.What To Do When Your Dog Doesn’t Obey
Let’s use a recall as an example. If you you ask your dog to come and he simply shrugs you off and continues doing his own thing, is it time to change stride and start correcting poor choices?

It may seem that giving cookies for right responses and verbal or physical reprimands for wrong responses is a good idea. This is what many people call ‘balanced training’.

But while it seems like good sense, there are very real and unwanted byproducts of using reprimands.

Let’s Make A Deal
If you teach your dog with cookies, you’ve established a pact with your dog: “You do what I ask and I’ll give you something yummie.”

It’s a good deal … your dog is happy, you’re happy and everything goes well. And your dog learns over time that every time you ask him to do something, it’s a promise of good things to come. And that’s good …

With positive training, your dog becomes very motivated to comply with your wishes because every request is an opportunity to earn a reward. As you repeat this over time, your cues actually become rewards in themselves.

Breaking The Deal
Let’s say you call your dog and he doesn’t come. So you go and get him and give him a little shake for being bad. Suddenly, there’s a shift in your dog’s perception of the cues.

Once he’s corrected for a wrong response, your cues are now threats as well as promises.

When this happens, your cues no longer serve as rewards … so your dog will have a lot less emotional attachment to them and a lot less motivation to comply.

Cues As Rewards
If you teach your dog that “come” means an invitation to come and get some cookies and play some games, your dog would really look forward to hearing that word. He would also be motivated to actually come because he knows there’s a chance that doing so could earn him rewards.

But once you say “come” and follow up with a correction, your dog will become suspicious of the cue. He’ll no longer feel that happy anticipation when he hears the word, because it’s no longer a good predictor of Good Things For Dog.

The Results . . .
If you punish your dog after a cue, even if he doesn’t comply, you’ll start to see slower responses, fear of responding, or calming signals such as sniffing the ground or looking away. Your dog will lose interest and motivation because he’ll understandably want to avoid any chance of correction or punishment.

Even if you continue to reward right responses, you’ll see this shift in motivation. This is because your requests are no longer safe for your dog.

This is called poisoning the cue … your cues are now threats as well as promises.

12 Games for Dogs to Keep Your Pup Entertained and Healthy

Saturday, April 25th, 2020
  • From ApartmentGuide
  • We have 12 games you can try playing with your dog
  • Stuck indoors? Try out the indoor games and puzzles
  • Looking to get some exercise in the yard? We’ve included outdoor activities as well

Similar to humans, dogs need their exercise to stay healthy. While walking your dog can be a good way to release energy, sometimes you don’t have the time or space to go on a long walk. In these situations, use these games for dogs to tire your pup out.

Whether it’s a sunny day and you can spend time in the yard or you’re confined to your small apartment, we have a variety of games for your pup. When playing, be sure to consider your dog’s size and age. Bigger dogs tend to have more energy and might need longer games. Small dogs may tire more easily. When considering age, older dogs are more prone to hurting themselves. This means you may want to choose games that are easier on their joints.

No matter your dog’s breed, size or age, we have twelve games for dogs to keep them healthy and happy.

DIY puzzles for dogs

You’ve found the perfect pet-friendly apartment and now you need games to entertain your dog throughout the day. Luckily there are plenty of indoor puzzles for dogs that you can try out in the comfort of your home.

graphic showing dog doing a scent experiment

1. Scent experiment

Try out a scent experiment with your dog to test its snout. This can be played in a variety of ways. In the most basic version, you’ll hide a treat somewhere and have them find it.

Muffin tray tennis ball game

For this activity, you’ll need a muffin tray, four tennis balls and treats.

  • Step 1: Start by having your dog sit. Place a few treats in different cups of the muffin tray as they wait patiently.
  • Step 2: Instruct them to find the treats.
  • Step 3: Now that they are familiar with the game, repeat step one but this time put tennis balls over the treats.
  • Step 4: Instruct your dog to find the treats. See if they can sniff them out and figure out how to move the tennis balls out of the way to retrieve them.
  • Step 5: As your dog gets better at sniffing out the treats, set up some decoy tennis balls with no treats under them.

This game can last as long as you’d like it to. For variety, try changing which treats you are using or use a more difficult treat to gobble up like peanut butter.

graphic showing dog with treat dispenser

2. Treat dispenser fun

Give your dog a treat puzzle to figure out. You can either buy a treat dispenser like the popular Kong toys or make your own.

How to DIY a dog treat dispenser

For this project, you’ll need a water bottle, dog treats and a drill.

  • Step 1: Wash the bottle so that it’s clean and remove any labels.
  • Step 2: Drill a hole in the side of the bottle. The size of the hole will depend on the size of your treats. The hole should be a little smaller than your treats so they don’t easily fall out.
  • Step 3: Put the treats in the bottle and screw on the top.
  • Step 4: Give the treat dispenser to your dog and see how long it takes them to solve the puzzle.

Be sure you are supervising your pup when they play with this toy. If they manage to chew off the lid or tear through the plastic, you’ll want to take it away.

Active indoor games for dogs

Just because you are confined to your apartment, doesn’t mean your dog can’t release some energy. Try out one of these active indoor games to keep from going stir crazy.

graphic of dog playing hide and seek

3. Hide and seek

A fun indoor game to play with your dog is hide and seek. Have your pup sit and stay. Then go hide somewhere in the house. When you are hidden, tell them to come. When they find you, reward them with a treat.

graphic of dog racing up the stairs

4. Stairway race

Release some energy by having an indoor race with your dog. This is best for homes that have carpeted stairways to prevent any injuries. Have someone say, “On your marks, get set, go!” Race up the stairs and see who can make it to the top first. Have everyone in the family race in different heats to determine who is the champion.

Training challenges to try with your dog

While you might have taken a training class when your dog was a puppy, you may not have kept up with teaching them as they grew. Test their mental strength by practicing new skills and learning agility.

graphic showing hand signals for training dogs

5. Practice skills

Test your dog’s memory and obedience by teaching them some basic skills. These can include sit, stay, shake and roll over. Skills are good for a dog of any age to practice. Use their favorite treat as an incentive. Be sure to only reward them if they are successful in completing the action.

If your canine has already mastered these basics, try some more advanced skills. Some advanced dog skills include:

  • Play dead
  • Crawl
  • Kiss
  • Hug
  • Spin
  • Sit pretty
  • Bow
  • Leash

Practicing these skills will create a deeper bond between you and your pup as well as lead to them being more obedient.

graphic showing an indoor agility course

6. Create an indoor agility course

If you are practicing agility with your dog, you can make an agility course with basic home furniture. Learning agility can help solve dog behavior problems, improve their off-leash reliability, build your bond and gain some skills you can show off.

Make a scorecard and see how your pup would fare in a real competition. To learn more about agility, check out the American Kennel Club scoring guide.

Homemade dog agility course

Create your own agility course at home to learn these skills.

  • Weave: Set up laundry baskets in a row. Have your dog practice weaving in and out of them.
  • Jump up: Have them jump up on a chair or your bed. Practice with different heights.
  • Jump through: Hold up a hula hoop and have them jump through.
  • Under: Practice going under a few chairs that are lined up in a row.
  • Crawl: Get a box and open the ends. Have your dog practice crawling through.
  • Over: Rest a pole or broom over two stools. Work on their ability to jump over the pole.

infographic of games for dogs

Additional classic games for dogs

These are the games that your dog knows and loves. When you’re at a loss for what to play, try one of these classic games for dogs.

7. Clean up

If you have toys scattered throughout your apartment, clean up is the game for you. A game of clean up will entertain your pup as well as get rid of some of the clutter in your home.

Have them pick up one of their toys and lead them to the toy bin. When their head is over the bin, instruct them to “drop it.” Praise them with words or treats. This process may take a little longer for them to understand so be patient as they are learning. In the end, you’ll be rewarded with a tidy space.

8. Fetch

Fetch is a classic for a reason. This game may seem repetitive to you, but to your dog, it’s endless entertainment. To play, throw a ball of some sort. Typically tennis balls work best because they fit in your dog’s mouth, can be thrown far distances and their color is easy to spot. Your dog will chase after it and return the ball, panting and ready for more.

Many play fetch with sticks they find in the backyard, but this can be dangerous. The stick can easily break down when chewed and the splinters can be harmful to your dog’s mouth or stomach. Be sure you are using soft, pet-safe toys when playing fetch.

photo showing dog with frisbee

9. Frisbee

Another crowd favorite is a frisbee. Frisbee is similar to fetch, but oftentimes your dog is content playing with it alone for hours. Since frisbees have rounded sides, they often roll away. This turns into a game of chase and then a wild battle until your pup comes out of it victorious.

There are two types of frisbees you can purchase. The classic plastic kind is durable, but be sure to keep an eye on how it’s holding up. Sharp teeth can cause the plastic to crack, making it dangerous for dogs to play with and humans to throw. Another option is to get a softer, cloth frisbee. These are good for dogs with more sensitive gums like puppies who are teething.

10. Water games

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than cooling off with some water games. Get sprinklers and attach them to the hose in your yard. Be sure you’re using a garden hose that is lead-free. If it’s been sitting out in the sun, run it for a little bit to clear out any bacteria that may have formed.

Set up the sprinkler in an area of your yard that needs some hydration. Turn it on and encourage your dog to jump over it with you. For more dynamic entertainment, get an oscillating sprinkler so your dog can chase it back and forth.

11. Soccer

A game for the whole family, soccer can be an excellent way to release some energy. Get a soccer ball and be sure it’s fully inflated. If a dog’s sharp teeth puncture it, your match will be over.

Familiarize your dog with the ball. Reward them with treats when they push it with their nose. Once they are comfortable with the new toy, try playing pass. Lightly kick the ball towards them and see if they can return it to you. Another option is to set up a goal (could be two sticks that serve as goal markers) and have your dog play defense.

photo showing tug of war

12. Tug of war

Your dog may naturally try to play tug of war with you with something you’re holding. To be sure they don’t destroy your couch pillow or shoelaces it’s important to give them an item they are allowed to play with. Create a tug of war toy with some natural cotton rope. Tie knots in the rope so your pet has something to grab onto.

Many pet parents are worried that this type of game will bring out aggression in their dog. To avoid this, be sure you are playing on your terms. Keep the toy stored out of reach and bring it out when you want to play. When playing, be sure that your dog never touches you. If they do, the game is temporarily over. This will teach them boundaries. In addition to learning these boundaries, they should know how to “drop it” when instructed to. If they haven’t learned this command, it’s a skill you should work on.

Spending quality time with your dog

Partaking in these games for dogs will create a stronger bond between you and your four-legged friend. Be sure to add these skills to your dog’s pet resume when moving to a new apartment.

Sources:

The Dos and Don’ts of Crate Training

Friday, March 6th, 2020
Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker       March 06, 2020
  • I’m an advocate of crate training dogs, because done right, your pet’s crate serves as a secure, happy, restful place she visits throughout the day
  • The obvious first step in successful crate training is finding the right type and size crate for your canine companion
  • Step two involves turning the new crate into your dog’s favorite place to hang out (other than with you, of course!)
  • Finally, there’s a right and a wrong way to introduce crating to your dog, and it’s important to know the difference
  • Most dogs who’ve had a bad past experience with being crated can be patiently and successfully “reprogrammed” to view their new doggy den in a positive way

If you’re a regular reader, you know I’m a big advocate of crate training. Whether your furry family member is a pup or a senior, providing her with her own cozy, private space has a number of benefits for both of you. For example, a crate can help not only with housetraining, but also car or plane travel, and overnight stays with friends, family, or at a pet-friendly hotel.

A health benefit of crate training is that dogs accustomed to spending time alone in their “bedrooms” are much less likely to develop separation anxiety or other phobias. Putting a puppy in her crate for a nap or some quiet time also helps her learn not to expect constant human attention, similar to the use of playpens for babies.

This strategy coupled with basic positive reinforcement obedience training will set the stage for a secure, balanced adult dog who is pleasant to be around, which is always the goal. To create crate-love in your dog, her space should be safe, comfortable, and relaxing, and she should associate it with only positive experiences.

How to Select the Right Crate

When you purchase a crate for your dog, the size is important. You want a space that’s not too big or too small. Your dog should be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably in it, but it shouldn’t be so large that he can easily use one end as his potty spot and the other end for sleeping and snacking. If you need to housetrain your dog, a crate large enough to have a bathroom at one end can actually slow down the process.

If you’re unsure what size crate to buy, talk to a shelter volunteer, your veterinarian or your breeder about what you want to accomplish so they can help you pick the right size. If you’re crate training a puppy, especially a giant breed, you’ll probably want a smaller crate initially and then a bigger one as he grows.

When you bring the new crate home, place it in an area where your family spends a lot of time — not in an isolated spot, or outdoors, or a high traffic location (which can be stressful), or where your dog will experience temperature extremes.

Make sure there’s nothing hanging inside the crate that could cause your dog harm, and especially while he’s still young and rambunctious, take his collar off before you put him in the crate so it can’t get hung up on anything. As necessary, disinfect the crate with either mild soap or vinegar and baking soda and rinse it thoroughly.

Transforming the Crate into a Delightful Doggy Den

Your canine companion will need something comfy to lie on in her crate, so bedding is a must. Depending on your dog (some destroy their beds, others don’t), you can choose a plush bed, a crate mat, or something in between. (If your dog is a persistent bed shredder, she probably needs more frequent or vigorous exercise and/or additional mental stimulation.)

You’ll also want to keep a fresh supply of clean filtered water in the crate. To keep the mess to a minimum, you can use a stainless-steel bowl that attaches to a side or the front of the crate. If you’ll be confining her to her crate for short periods, it’s a great idea to have food-stuffed or treat-release toys on hand to keep her occupied while she’s home alone.

Keeping the environment inside your dog’s crate comfortable is also very important. Depending on where you live, where in your home the crate is located, and your dog’s tendency to overheat, you might want to consider a crate fan (attached to the outside of the crate), or a small floor fan placed near the crate. The fan should provide good ventilation and keep your dog cool, without blowing directly on her — or she should be able to move away from it if she feels the need.

It’s also important not to place your dog’s crate in direct sunlight, too close to a heat source, or in a cold, drafty area of your home.

Something else you might want to try is covering the crate at night or to provide your dog with quiet time when she needs it. What I do with my dogs is drape a blanket over the back half of their crates to create a quiet, dark, den-like environment. My dogs use their crates as bedrooms — they go into them to sleep. If you decide to cover the entire crate, keep in mind it will cause the temperature inside to heat up, so you should make adjustments as necessary.

Getting Your Dog Used to His Crate

If you purchased a crate ahead of time and it’s there when your dog comes home, as long as he hasn’t had a bad experience with confinement in the past, it’s should be pretty easy to get him acclimated to his little den.

The first rule of crate training is to never, ever force your dog into or out of his crate, because you can end up with an unmanageable case of separation anxiety or a pathological aversion to enclosed or small spaces. The crate must represent a safe zone for your dog, so you never want to make his safe zone feel unsafe.

The second rule of crate training is what I call, “It’s all good,” which means everything about the crate is positive from your dog’s perspective. While you’re getting him used to his crate, everything he loves goes in there, and the door stays propped or tied open so he can freely investigate.

Put treats in and around the crate, along with treat release toys, chew toys, food puzzle toys — all his favorites. I also recommend feeding him in his crate with the door open. The goal is to have your dog voluntarily go into his crate because everything about it is positive and fun.

How to Handle a Case of Crate-Hate

If your dog is nervous or fearful due to a past bad crating experience, you’ll have to take things slower. A dog who has been crated as a form of punishment or locked in a crate for inappropriately long periods of time will need to be gently and patiently reintroduced to the crate.

Make sure to leave the door open (tie it open if necessary so there’s no chance it will close while he’s in there). Put food rewards around the outside of the crate and inside as well so he can get comfortable going in and out without worrying about being “trapped” inside.

Once you sense he’s comfortable inside the crate, feed him in there with the door open. Once he’s comfortably eating in the crate, close the door. Don’t go far and keep an eye on him. At some point he’ll realize the door is closed and he’s inside. Try to ignore any whimpering or barking. Once he’s calm, open the door and praise him.

When you start closing the crate door, leave it closed for very short periods of time (no more than a minute) so that he realizes he’s not “trapped” or being punished. In the meantime, continue tossing treats into the crate several times a day to reinforce the association between it and good things.

Once your dog begins associating good things with the crate and he’s feeling more comfortable in there, you can close the door for longer periods. Be sure to leave something fun inside such as a treat-release toy he can focus on. Don’t leave your house until your dog is completely comfortable in the closed crate while you’re at home. You can gradually extend the amount of time you leave him in the crate, providing he’s getting consistent, frequent trips outside to potty.

Once he’s comfortable being in a closed crate when you’re at home, you can begin taking short trips away from the house. If you need to leave your dog for longer than 4 hours, I recommend you use a dog sitter or a doggy daycare facility rather than crating him for long periods of time.

If you’re struggling with crate training, I recommend talking with positive dog trainer who can help you work through the problems you’re experiencing.

Please don’t rush up to pet my dog!

Monday, February 24th, 2020

Dear parents,

I realize my dog is super cute. I know it is fun to watch her playing fetch with me and it drew your child’s attention when I walked by with my pup.

I am guessing that your family probably doesn’t have a dog right how and it appears from all the fuss I’m overhearing that your kids really want one. I applaud your determination to not get a pet until you really have the time for one. It is a very responsible choice to wait.

But here’s the thing, just because I’m out and about with my dog, doesn’t mean she is public property to be approached or touched. She isn’t that used to kids and in fact, isn’t all that comfortable with strangers in general. I bring my dog out for walks and to the park so I can spend time with her and we can enjoy the fresh air together.

I honestly don’t want to appear rude or say anything harsh to your kids, but if they rush up to her or try to hug her, it will make her nervous and I’m not 100% certain how she might react. It’s my responsibility to keep her safe in the world so I’d appreciate if you would simply admire and keep your distance.

I’m sure you would feel the same if I was excited and came rushing up to hug your kid because he was wearing such a cute outfit. Actually, I wouldn’t blame you if you called the cops on me if I actually did that!

But you see what I mean? Personal space is a big deal for both humans and dogs. Let’s just be mutually respectful of one another and simply smile and nod as we keep walking and pass by. I promise that if I wanted you to come say hi, I would invite you and your kids to come pet her. If I felt like interacting, I’d make it obvious, but if I didn’t issue that invitation, please keep moving or just ADMIRE from a distance.

Thanks for understanding and for helping raise your kids to understand that dogs need to feel safe too.

Sincerely,

A responsible dog owner

The First Thing To Do After Getting A Dog from A Shelter – DECOMPRESSION

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
From kdmatthews.com

The First Thing To Do When Getting A Dog From A Shelter – Learn What “Decompression” Is

It’s pretty damn awesome of you to look to the shelter to rescue a dog when searching for that new furry family member.I mean that.

Our nation’s shelter’s, pounds, and humane societies are overflowing with perfectly healthy and awesome dogs who desperately need good homes where they can live out their lives. The fact that you have decided to go there first is great.

But all that greatness will be meaningless if you do not do your homework first, and even more importantly, introduce them to their new home properly. We want it to truly be their fur-ever home right?

I’m not even talking about having the Barkbox subscription underway or spending 200$ on chew toys. There is something even more important that you must be aware of, be cognizant of, and be prepared to implement the moment you take that dog from the shelter.

SHELTERS ARE NOT FUN PLACES

If you have ever walked through the kennels of an animal shelter you surly can attest to the stress of the experience.  Perhaps you can remember the first time you entered one.  It might have been a memorable experience!

They are very very loud.

It is non stop barking, howling, whining, and yelping.  The sound can be deafening at times and if you are not used to it or it is your first time, it can cause a heavy dose of anxiety to rise up your bones and make you want to turn around and walk out.

It’s intense.

Now realize that you CAN turn around and walk out.  Those dogs can’t. They are there all day, all night, all week, all month.  It shouldn’t take too much contemplation to realize this isn’t the ideal setting for any dog. Some dogs can be there for months on end if it is a no-kill shelter.

The longer they are in there the worse the mental trauma can be.

While some dogs will completely shut down others seem to amp up developing numerous anxiety based behaviors that border on neurotic.  While the observable behaviors might be different, the source is the same, stress from being in there.

Recognizing that this type of experience can have an impact on a dog’s state of mind, it baffles me how people think that simply putting a leash on the dog and taking it home means everything is suddenly going to be O.K. As if anything is that simple!

So many of these dogs end up back at shelters for a wide variety of reasons, including aggression, because their well intentioned new family did not take the time to research the proper way to bring a dog from this type of environment home.  When the dog starts acting in inappropriate ways or even worse, becomes aggressive, everybody is quick to blame the dog’s “troubled past”.

It’s not the dog’s past, it is the dog’s present.

The first day in a new home is not the day to meet other family members, loud and energetic toddlers, other dogs, the cats, the super nosy neighbor who wants to give your new dog hugs and kisses….

NO……NOT AT ALL……

DECOMPRESSION

The name is indicative of the what it means in terms of what the dog has been through and what the dog needs. All the stress from the living conditions the dog is coming from needs to be addressed.  The dog has been under a lot of stress and pressure.

The dog needs to “decompress” and take some time getting back to a balanced state of mind.  This will not be achieved with going from one crazy high activity place to another. The dog should not be introduced to the couch for endless hours of belly rubs on day one because you feel bad the dog had a rough past.

That makes YOU feel good.

This isn’t about you and what you like, this is about what is best for the dog.  Remember?

For at LEAST 2-3 WEEKS, your new dog’s life should be incredibly simple and boring. Keep the affection to a bare minimum, keep talking and training to non- existent levels.

A nice calm and quiet beginning is essential

You want as much silence as possible.

Have a daily routine or schedule 100% planned out prior to the dog coming home. This should be the dog’s day mapped out.  From bathroom breaks, to crate time, to short walks in quiet boring places, the entire day should be on a schedule.

Dogs find exponentially more comfort in routine than they do belly rubs and cuddles.  For that reason, keep the affection to a bare minimum.  This is not the time to shower the dog with affection as all that will do is reinforce an unbalanced state of mind and confuse the dog as to YOUR role in their lives.

The premise behind decompression is allowing the dog to get back to a neutral and relaxed state of mind, opposite of what it just came from.

Your dog needs leadership and calm predictability.

These two things are crucial to the dog becoming appropriately integrated into your home.  Allowing the dog time to decompress without having to deal with a whole new set of intense stimuli will set you all up for a successful future.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

My free E-Book is the instruction book that should have came with your dog.  It’s short and sweet and easy to get through.  Learn the very basics of owning a dog FIRST before worrying about the other stuff.  What color you paint your walls doesn’t matter if the foundation is wrong.  My intention was to sell it, then I realized it’s too important to allow even a penny to come between this book and somebody who needs it.  Click below and download your copy!

Click HERE!

While the book has a bunch of super important chunks of information you need, it’s still just a book.  If you really want to ensure that you are going to give your new furfamily member the best chances of success and happiness I have put together a crash course designed to give you EVERYTHING you you need to make your furkid’s new home it’s last!  One on one, you and I, online will cover all the essentials and I will explain to you how to implement the information into YOUR unique home environment.

Simply send me a message via my contact page for more information and we can get you and your home ready!  Even if you have already brought them home, we can make sure they are getting everything they need in a way that will help them be completely fulfilled and balanced.

5 Fun and Easy Brain Games for Dog

Friday, February 14th, 2020

Exercise your pup’s mind and increase your bond when you play these brain games for dogs.

John Woods  |  Apr 16th 2019 for Dogster.com

Want some easy ways to keep your dog entertained while increasing the bond you share with your loyal dog? Try these fun and easy brain games for dogs!

Why brain games for dogs?

Playing brain games for dogs can help to alleviate boredom and prevent destructive behaviors such as chewing or excessive barking. Brain games for dogs can also give your dog a sense of purpose and achievement and help to form an even closer bond between the two of you.

All of these games are easy to play and will keep your dog’s brain engaged and active. Have a go at playing these five brain games for dogs, and your four-legged friend will thank you!

1. Which Hand Game

This is one of the easiest brain games for dogs — you won’t even need to get up from the sofa.

Use your furry friend’s favorite toy, or a treat, and hide it in one of your hands. Have your dog sniff both your hands, and guess which hand the treat is hiding in. Whichever hand they place their nose on first is your dog’s guess.

If she gets it correct, turn over your hand and release the treat or toy. Your dog will soon be conditioned into playing this game easily.

2. Treasure Hunt

This is one of those brain games for dogs that you can play over as little or as large of an area as you like. For the first few times, try it just in one room. As your dog gets more adept at this hunting, you can span the whole house!

Hide a few treats around the room and watch as your dog has fun trying to sniff them out. If you don’t want to use treats, you can use anything that has a strong scent, for example a toy or some of your clothes.

As your dog finds each toy, label the behavior as “hunt.” Say “hunt” just as your dog finds each treat.

To increase the challenge, hide treats all around the house in separate rooms, once you’ve hidden the treats, ask your dog to hunt.

Tip: If you do this outside, you’ll have to set it up directly before playing the game or you’ll end up losing the treats to other animals!

3. Toy Tidy Up

We love when brain games for dogs help you out, too! To be able to play this game, your dog must know the name of her favorite toys and the “fetch” command.

If there is ever a point where there are a few different toys out around the room, try training her to fetch them. Underneath your hands, place a basket, as your dog fetches each item let it pass by your hands into a basket.

For example, ask her to pick the ball up and fetch it.

Once your dog has mastered this, you will be able to train her to bring certain items to you, such as your shoes, or her leash.

4. Hot or Cold

Hide a treat, or a ball, somewhere around the room. For the first attempt, you can put it somewhere in plain sight, until your dog understands the rules.

Each time your dog moves in the right direction, say hot and give her a small treat. If she’s not going in the right direction, say cold and don’t hand out a treat.

Your dog will soon start to associate the word hot with moving closer toward whatever you’ve hidden, and you’ll be able to choose harder hiding places, such as behind the curtain or even under a box. This command can also be used during the treasure hunt game.

5. The Shell Game (or the Cup Game)

This is one of the brain games for dogs that we’ve all heard of.

Get three identical cups from your kitchen, line them up in a row and hide a treat under one of them. Let your dog watch you put the treat underneath a cup so she can see there will be a reward to guessing correctly.

Then mix the cups up — the more challenging you want to make it, the more quickly you move the cups.

Let your dog select the right cup with her nose or paw and lift the cup up. If she is right, she wins the treat!

If she’s not right, mix the cups up and try again. To start with, place treats under all three cups before reducing this down to two and then one. For an extra challenge, don’t lift the cup up. Let your dog figure out how to knock it over to get the treat.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Purple Collar Pet Photography | Getty Images.

Need more ideas for fun with your dog? Check out some suggestions from Whole Dog Journal >>

About the author

John Woods has two degrees, is a graduate in Animal Behavior and Welfare is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and is an accredited author by the Dog Writers Association of America. He is the senior editor of All Things Dogs.

use approval from John Woods given to the AHF in February, 2020 via email

Look for the Look Away

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Debunking the “Alpha Dog” Theory

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Exerting “dominance” over your dog is the wrong way to build a good relationship.

The alpha myth is everywhere. Google “alpha dog” on the Internet and you get more than 85 million hits. Really. While not all the sites are about dominating your dog, there are literally millions of resources out there – websites, books, blogs, television shows, veterinarians, trainers and behavior professionals – instructing you to use force and intimidation to overpower your dog into submission. They say that you, the human, must be the alpha. They’re all wrong. Every single one of them.

The erroneous approach to canine social behavior known as dominance theory (two million-plus Google hits) is based on a study of captive zoo wolves conducted in the 1930s and 1940s by Swiss animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel, in which the scientist concluded that wolves in a pack fight to gain dominance, and the winner is the alpha wolf.

The Origin’s of the “Alpha” Dog Theory

Schenkel’s observations of captive wolf behavior were erroneously extrapolated to wild wolf behavior, and then to domestic dogs. It was postulated that wolves were in constant competition for higher rank in the hierarchy, and only the aggressive actions of the alpha male and female held the contenders in check. Other behaviorists following Schenkel’s lead also studied captive wolves and confirmed his findings: groups of unrelated wolves brought together in artificial captive environments do, indeed, engage in often-violent and bloody social struggles.

The problem is, that’s not normal wolf behavior. As David Mech stated in the introduction to his study of wild wolves (Mech, 2000), “Attempting to apply information about the behavior of assemblages of unrelated captive wolves to the familial structure of natural packs has resulted in considerable confusion. Such an approach is analogous to trying to draw inferences about human family dynamics by studying humans in refugee camps. The concept of the alpha wolf as a ‘top dog’ ruling a group of similar-aged compatriots (Schenkel 1947; Rabb et al. 1967; Fox 1971a; Zimen 1975, 1982; Lockwood 1979; van Hooff et al. 1987) is particularly misleading.”

What we know now, thanks to Mech and others, is that in the wild, a wolf pack is a family, consisting of a mated pair and their offspring of the past one to three years. Occasionally two or three families may group together. As the offspring mature they disperse from the pack; the only long-term members of the group are the breeding pair. By contrast, in captivity unrelated wolves are forced to live together for many years, creating tension between mature adults that doesn’t happen in a natural, wild pack.

Dominance-Based Training is Disrespectful to Your Dog

But that’s all about wolves anyway, not dogs. How did it happen that dog owners and trainers started thinking all that information (and misinformation) about wolf behavior had anything to do with dogs and dog behavior? The logic went something like, “Dogs are descended from wolves. Wolves live in hierarchical packs in which the aggressive alpha male rules over everyone else. Therefore, humans need to dominate their pet dogs to get them to behave.”

Perhaps the most popular advocate of this inaccurate concept, Cesar Millan, is only the latest in a long line of dominance-based trainers who advocate forceful techniques such as the alpha roll. Much of this style of training has roots in the military – which explains the emphasis on punishment.

As far back as 1906, Colonel Konrad Most was using heavy-handed techniques to train dogs in the German army, then police and service dogs. He was joined by William Koehler after the end of World War II.

Koehler also initially trained dogs for the military prior to his civilian dog-training career, and his writings advocated techniques that included hanging and helicoptering a dog into submission (into unconsciousness, if necessary). For example, to stop a dog from digging, Koehler suggested filling the hole with water and submerging the dog’s head in the water-filed hole until he was nearly drowned.

Fast-forward several years to 1978 and the emergence of the Monks of New Skete as the new model for dog training, asserting a philosophy that “understanding is the key to communication, compassion, and communion” with your dog. Sounds great, yes? The Monks were considered cutting edge at the time – but contrary to their benevolent image, they were in fact responsible for the widespread popularization of the “Alpha-Wolf Roll-Over” (now shortened to the alpha roll). Reviewing the early observations of captive wolves, the Monks concluded that the alpha roll is a useful tool for demonstrating one’s authority over a dog. Unfortunately, this is  a complete and utter misinterpretation of the submissive roll-over that is voluntarily offered by less assertive dogs, not forcibly commanded by stronger ones.

The Monks also advocated the frequent use of other physical punishments such as the scruff shake (grab both sides of the dog’s face and shake, lifting the dog off the ground) and cuffing under the dog’s chin with an open hand several times, hard enough to cause the dog to yelp.

While professing that “training dogs is about building a relationship that is based on respect and love and understanding,” even their most recent book, Divine Canine: The Monks’ Way to a Happy, Obedient Dog (2007), is still heavy on outdated, erroneous dominance theory. Immediately following their suggestion that “a kindly, gentle look tells the dog she is loved and accepted,” they say “But it is just as vital to communicate a stern reaction to bad behavior. A piercing, sustained stare into a dog’s eyes tells her who’s in charge; it establishes the proper hierarchy of dominance between person and pet.” (It’s also a great way to unwittingly elicit a strong aggressive response if you choose the wrong dog as the subject for your piercing, sustained stare.)

Despite the strong emergence of positive reinforcement-based training in the last 20 years, the Monks don’t seem to have grasped that the “respect” part needs to go both ways for a truly compassionate communion with your dog. Perhaps one of these days . . .

The Birth of Positive-Reinforcement Training

Just when it seemed that dog training had completely stagnated in turn-of-the-century military-style dominance-theory training, marine mammal trainer Karen Pryor wrote her seminal book, Don’t Shoot the Dog. Published in 1985, this small, unassuming volume was intended as a self-help book for human behavior. The author never dreamed that her modest book, paired with a small plastic box that made a clicking sound, would launch a massive paradigm shift in the world of dog training and behavior. But it did.

police dog training

Forward progress was slow until 1993, when veterinary behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar founded the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Dunbar’s vision of a forum for trainer education and networking has developed into an organization that now boasts nearly 6,000 members worldwide. While membership in the APDT is not restricted to positive reinforcement-based trainers, included in its guiding principles is this statement:

“We promote the use of reward-based training methods, thereby minimizing the use of aversive techniques.”

The establishment of this forum facilitated the rapid spread of information in the dog training world, enhanced by the creation of an online discussion list where members could compare notes and offer support for a scientific and dog-friendly approach to training.

Things were starting to look quite rosy for our dogs. The positive market literally mushroomed with books and videos from dozens of quality training and behavior professionals, including Jean Donaldson, Dr. Patricia McConnell, Dr. Karen Overall, Suzanne Hetts, and others. With advances in positive training and an increasingly educated dog training profession embracing the science of behavior and learning and passing good information on to their clients, pain-causing, abusive methods such as the alpha roll, scruff shake, hanging, drowning, and cuffing appeared to be headed the way of the passenger pigeon.

A Step-Backward for Positive-Reinforcement Training Techniques

Then, in the fall of 2004, the National Geographic Channel launched its soon-to-be wildly popular show, The Dog Whisperer. Dominance theory was back in vogue, with a vengeance. Today, everything from housetraining mistakes to jumping up to counter surfing to all forms of aggression is likely to be attributed to “dominance” by followers of the alpha-resurgence.

“But,” some will argue, “look at all the dogs who have been successfully trained throughout the past century using the dominance model. Those trainers can’t be all wrong.”

In fact, harsh force-based methods (in technical parlance, “positive punishment”) are a piece of operant conditioning, and as the decades have proven, those methods can work. They are especially good at shutting down behaviors – convincing a dog that it’s not safe to do anything unless instructed to do something. And yes, that works with some dogs. With others, not so much.

My own personal, unscientific theory is that dog personalities lie on a continuum from very soft to very tough. Harsh, old-fashioned dominance-theory methods can effectively suppress behaviors without obvious fallout (although there is always behavioral fallout) with dogs nearest the center of the personality continuum – those who are resilient enough to withstand the punishment, but not so tough and assertive that they fight back. Under dominance theory, when a dog fights back, you must fight back harder until he submits, in order to assert yourself as the pack leader, or alpha.

Problem is, sometimes they don’t submit, and the level of violence escalates. Or they submit for the moment, but may erupt aggressively again the next time a human does something violent and inappropriate to them. Under dominance-theory training, those dogs are often deemed incorrigible, not suitable for the work they’re being trained for nor safe as a family companion, and sentenced to death. Had they never been treated inappropriately, many might have been perfectly fine.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a very “soft” dog can be easily psychologically damaged by one enthusiastic inappropriate assertion of rank by a heavy-handed dominance trainer. This dog quickly shuts down – fearful and mistrusting of the humans in his world who are unpredictably and unfairly violent.

Most crossover trainers (those who used to train with old-fashioned methods and now are proud to promote positive reinforcement-based training) will tell you they successfully trained lots of dogs the old way. They loved their dogs and their dogs loved them.

I’m a crossover trainer and I know that’s true. I also would dearly love to be able to go back and redo all of that training, to be able to have an even better relationship with those dogs, to give them a less stressful life – one filled with even more joy than the one we shared together.

We Aren’t Dogs, and Our Dogs Know It

Finally, the very presumption that our dogs would even consider we humans to be members of their canine pack is simply ludicrous. They know how impossibly inept we are, for the most part, at reading and understanding the subtleties of canine body language. We are equally inept, if not even more so, at trying to mimic those subtleties. Any attempts on our part to somehow insert ourselves into their social structure and communicate meaningfully with them in this manner are simply doomed to failure. It’s about time we gave up trying to be dogs in a dog pack and accepted that we are humans co-existing with another species – and that we’re most successful doing so when we co-exist peacefully.

The fact is, successful social groups work because of voluntary deference, not because of aggressively enforced dominance. The whole point of social body language rituals is to avoid conflict and confrontation, not to cause it. Watch any group of dogs interacting. Time and time again you’ll see dogs deferring to each other. It’s not even always the same dog deferring:

Dog B: Hey, I’d really like to go first. Dog A: “By all means, be my guest.” Dog B passes down the narrow hallway.

Dog A: “I’d really like to have that bone.” Dog B: “Oh sure – I didn’t feel like chewing right now anyway.” Dog A gets the bone.

Social hierarchies do exist in groups of domesticated dogs and in many other species, including humans, and hierarchy can be fluid. As described above, one dog may be more assertive in one encounter, and more deferent in the next, depending on what’s at stake, and how strongly each dog feels about the outcome. There are a myriad of subtleties about how those hierarchies work, and how the members of a social group communicate – in any species.

Today, educated trainers are aware that canine-human interactions are not driven by social rank, but rather by reinforcement. Behaviors that are reinforced repeat and strengthen. If your dog repeats an inappropriate behavior such as counter surfing or getting on the sofa, it’s not because he’s trying to take over the world; it’s just because he’s been reinforced by finding food on the counter, or by being comfortable on the sofa. He’s a scavenger and an opportunist, and the goods are there for the taking. Figure out how to prevent him from being reinforced for the behaviors you don’t want, and reinforce him liberally for the ones you do, and you’re well on your way to having the relationship of mutual love, respect, communication, and communion that we all want to have with our dogs.

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, is WDJ’s Training Editor. Author of numerous books on positive dog training, she lives in Fairplay, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center, where she offers dog training classes and courses for trainers.