Author Archives: Mary Green

Country Living Training Tips

posted May 30th, 2016 by
Coconut Oil

Country Living Training Tips – Training 911

By Mary Green

I know lots of people who live on farms, ranches and other acreages. I think they are so lucky! I am pretty sure that my dogs would love to have some room to roam. The problem this presents, though, is dogs may roam off of the property. I am often asked how to teach the dogs to stay on the property.
Can dogs learn to respect and understand their boundaries? Can they be taught to stay home even when they are left loose?
The short answer is, as always, “that depends.” Some factors to consider:

• Intact dogs are more likely to roam than sterilized dogs.

• Dogs that lack human interaction are more likely to roam, so bring them inside!

• Dogs that are not bonded to people are more likely to roam.

• Dogs new to the household may be chased off by established family dogs.

• Owners must comply with leash laws in their area.

• No dog should ever be chained up.

• It takes time for a dog to learn boundaries. Never expect a new dog to stay put!

Many of my friends have dogs bred to work on the farm: the herders like Border Collies, Aussies, Heelers, and the guardian breeds like the Anatolians and the Pyrenees. These breeds or types of dogs have an innate sense of territory. They work with people. They have stock sense. They are more likely to stay close to the livestock, or hang out on the porch than perhaps a hunting dog would. They learn the territory in a natural manner by accompanying their owners, doing farm chores. It’s a natural evolution for many dogs.
Learning the ropes can be passed from older to younger dogs. The youngsters stick close by the elders who teach them what is allowed. They learn what to chase and not chase, what animals belong there, and what animals do not. They gain working knowledge of life on the property in an organic process.
If you don’t have a mentor dog, you can still train your dog to understand boundaries. Use a long line (like for tracking dogs) or a horse lunge line to allow your dog some freedom. You will hold on to one end as you would a leash, but you don’t reel it in or even pull on it. You call your dog and reward him for coming to you. Repetition is key to success in this. Over time, your dog will learn to stay close by. If you are one of the lucky folks who have property plus an ATV, you can teach your dog to ride on the vehicle with you, or run along with you as you do chores.
If you cannot be 100 percent sure that your dog will not roam off of your property when you are not present, then he must be confined in some manner. Failure to do so can result in his death. While it is unreasonable to expect someone to chain-link fence a 10-acre area, it is completely reasonable to expect someone to fence a suitable dog yard. At the very least, put up a chain-link dog run!
Not everyone without a fenced yard lives on a farm. I also know plenty of wonderful, responsible dog owners who live where fences are not allowed. There are ways to train dogs to stay on your property, even if you live on the golf course.
I am not a fan of the invisible fences where the dog has to wear a collar that delivers an unpleasant shock if he ventures out of bounds. These fences do nothing to prevent other animals from entering into your yard. There are also lots of dogs that charge out of dog doors, barking, lunging and snarling toward the barrier. The person, or dog, happening by has no idea that the dog will likely stop before the barrier. It’s pretty traumatic to that individual!
Even on a small unfenced property, you should teach your dog the boundaries in a positive manner. Make a routine of walking your dog along your boundary line. Walk every day, or several times daily, to help establish boundary understanding. All the reward, reinforcement and “good stuff” happens on your property.
Make it your habit to walk your dog on leash to your mailbox if it is at the curb. Practice your obedience training in your yard. Make that the place where all good things happen. Teach a solid come-when-called behavior, and practice it often with a really yummy reward.
My dogs get super excited when I say, “Do you want to go to Sharon’s?” because they know they will get to run in the meadow. They will smell all the favorite country aromas and forget for a little while they are city dogs. They would probably love to live on a farm… as long as they could be near me and sleep on my bed.

Kids and Canines

posted May 7th, 2016 by
What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Kids and Canines – Training 911

By Mary Green

 

My mailbox has been full lately with questions about kids and dogs. I grew up with dogs, and there were dogs in our household when my son was growing up. So from my perspective, kids and animals go together like peanut butter and jelly. But you must have a good plan of action and realistic expectations of the amount of work involved. And understand that all dogs aren’t Lassie, and all kids aren’t Timmy.

What’s a good age for a child to get a dog? School-aged children can help a lot with a dog! They can learn how to measure the dog food and scoop it into the dog bowl. Feeding the dog presents a great opportunity for the dog to learn some self-control, like sit and wait for food. If you teach the kids, and the dog, the kids can help brush the dog’s fur. Taking the dog for a walk should be a family activity—there should always be an adult present.

There are two very important rules for children to learn: Never touch or bother a dog while he is eating, and leave sleeping dogs alone. Obeying these simple rules reduces potential dog bites.

One mother writes, “How can I get my  16-week-old puppy to play gently with my kids. They are 1 and 3 years old.” My answer may not have been quite what mom wanted to hear. At 16 weeks of age, the puppy needs to be in a good training class, learning how to “sit” on cue, take treats gently, and how to settle. And the adults need to be training the pup.

A 1-year-old child is too young to play with a puppy. Children in this age range don’t generally have a concept of “personal space” that a dog may need. They also love to hug dogs (which dogs do not like), and they pursue dogs no matter where the dog tries to go! Every interaction between the puppy and the 1-year-old must be closely supervised by an adult. We certainly don’t want the puppy and the baby to be afraid of each other, so don’t segregate them—but supervision is essential to ensure a positive experience for them both.

A 1-year-old can learn how to properly pet a dog. Preferably an older, calm dog to start with! Use a stuffed dog if an older, calm dog isn’t available. The puppy can learn that cool things happen when the baby is around. If the baby is present, the puppy can be rewarded for calm behavior.

The 3-year-old child can give basic cues, such as sit, lie down, and stay, once the puppy understands these behaviors. Kids of this age can deliver a treat to the puppy, as long as the puppy has learned to take treats gently. Again, every interaction is well supervised by an adult. Playing together means there is a toy for the dog. It does not mean wrestling or chasing! It does not mean teasing the puppy with the toy. The child can toss the toy away and see the puppy get it—the puppy may not bring it back, but the interaction provides a positive experience for the puppy.

From another parent: “My 7-year-old son has been begging us to get him a dog. I don’t really have time for a dog, but he has his heart set. Is he old enough?”

Two (anonymous) quotes come to mind when I hear this question. “Every boy should have two things: a dog, and a mother willing to let him have one,” and “Every boy who has a dog should also have a mother, so the dog can be fed regularly.”

At 7 years of age, basically your son can feed and water the dog. He cannot be responsible for walking the dog. He cannot drive the dog to training class, and he needs a lot of support to train the dog. He can play with the dog if he is taught how to do so appropriately (no chasing, no wrestling). That being said, a dog can be a great friend to your son! As they both grow up, they can have a great relationship and do lots of things together. Just be realistic that for the time being, the majority of dog duties will fall to the adults.

“I’ve told my boys that if they don’t stop tormenting our dog he’s gonna bite them.” “Yes,” I thought. “He sure will.”

 Teasing a dog is a great way to provoke a bite. Teasing, tormenting, bullying, and scaring are not fun for a dog to experience. Younger kids may be able to understand   this if parents can relate it to how the kids feel when they are teased, bullied or tormented. Again, if proper adult super-vision is happening, this will stop! And don’t threaten to “get rid of the dog” if the kids’ (or dog’s) behavior doesn’t improve. 

Some dogs that have not been around children are fine, while others are very uncomfortable. Dogs that are used to children of a certain age may be wary of younger or older children. Your family dog may be safe and trustworthy around your own kids, but may not be safe around visiting children. Be smart! Do whatever management you need to in order to keep everyone safe. My advice to one pet owner whose grandchildren were coming to visit from out of state was to board her dog when they were here. It would be less stress on the family and less stress on the dog!

Each year nearly 2.8 million children are bitten by a dog. Most of these bites are not coming from some scary dog that got loose. Sensational stories make headlines, but most dog bites are more commonplace. Half come from the family’s own dog, and another 40 percent come from a friend or neighbor’s dog.*

I know that kids and dogs belong together. There are so many fun activities for kids   and dogs, like going for a walk or hike, playing fetch, running agility courses and just hanging out. I’ve seen some awesome Junior Handlers in the Obedience, Rally and Agility rings. My own dogs get super excited when my grandchildren come over. The older kids love to help with dog chores. Jackson, who is 6 years old, loves to let the dogs go outside. He tells them to sit and wait at the door, and sends them out politely. Julie, who is only 3 years old, is very proud that she can say, “Brutus, sit,” and using the hand signal, the 6-month-old puppy responds. They are going to have big fun with Grammy’s dogs, and maybe they will have a dog of their own some day.

 

*Colleen Pelar’s Living With Kids and Dogs.com

Training 911

posted October 31st, 2015 by
20141115c

That Dog’s Got Skills

By Mary Green

 

My new friend asked, “What are the most important skills you can teach a dog?”

I had a fun conversation the other day with a first-time dog owner.  Like any “new mom” she was feeling overwhelmed about training her dog and was getting way too much unsolicited advice about what to do. As a dog trainer, I am always asked about how to fix many behavior problems, but I don’t get much opportunity to talk about how to prevent behavior problems. As we chatted, I thought about her question and what dog owners really need to train. It’s pretty simple, really.

 

My top 3:

Sit

Come when called

Self-settle

 

Sit

Isn’t it amazing that most dogs figure this out pretty quickly? They sit quickly if you head for the cookie jar or the treat bag. Even very inexperienced pet owners can figure out how to get their puppy, or dog, to sit. If you’re not sure, just take a little treat and “lure” the puppy by moving the treat over his head (and slightly toward his back) and give him the treat as his knees bend or his rump hits the ground.  So many behavior problems or challenges can be avoided with a rock solid “sit” cue.

Anti-jumping up: sit for all petting.

Bolting: sit at all doorways, intersections, etc.

Lunging on leash: (turn away) and sit will diffuse many tense situations.

Impulse control: sit to get the leash on/off, sit and wait for food, sit to come out of crate or confinement… and so on.

 

The science of operant condition, an approach labeled by psychologist B.F. Skinner, tells us that behavior which is rewarding has a higher likelihood of being repeated than an un-rewarding behavior.  Our dogs sit because they know that if they sit, good things happen. You can build your dog’s willingness to sit by giving him treats and other things he likes for sitting.  You are making deposits in his brain bank, which is creating a “reinforcement history.”

 

Come when called.

A solid “recall” can be the one skill that can save your dog’s life.  I want my dog to come each and every time I call him.  I want this to be a reflexive action rather than a decision. There are many reasons why your dog may not come when you call.

 

He is having too much fun: sniffing, playing with another dog or person, chasing something, or playing keep-away.

Something scared him, startled him or caused him to panic and bolt.

He is anticipating a reprimand or a punishment.

He has insufficient “reinforcement history.”

Too much freedom without enough training.

 

Regardless of why he is not coming when you call him, you would practice basically the same way. You would do many, many practices in a place where there are no distractions—inside, away from the other animals, with a handful of yummy treats; say, “Brutus, come!” and give him a treat for coming to you. Then give him a second treat as you touch his collar, so he can’t dart away. Gradually add distractions and practice in different safe locations where you can be 100-percent sure that your dog cannot fail.

The best way to have that reliability is to always reward your dog in some way for coming to you.  Pet him if he likes that, give him a treat, play tug, go for a car ride or a walk. It will build that reflexive head-turning, spin-on-a-dime, solid recall.

There are some common things that dog owners do to cause their dogs not to come.  For example, don’t call your dog to scold him for something such as getting into the trash or having an accident. Don’t call him when you’re angry! Don’t call him and trick him into something he doesn’t like. If I’m putting my puppy in his crate, I say, “Brutus, get in your house!” and he learns that there will be a treat in there.

If he didn’t like going into his crate, I would just go get him and put him in.  In my experience, many dogs (puppies and small dogs especially) don’t want to come because they have been pursued and picked up. They don’t like this, so they run away. This is especially problematic if children have been chasing and grabbing them.

 

Self-Settle

I see a lot of dogs that have absolutely no ability to calm themselves. Many of them have trained their owners to be at their beck and call. They seek and solicit attention in a number of ways such as barking, whining, stealing things they shouldn’t have, pawing or scratching, begging, and going inside and outside incessantly. And I see some really exhausted owners.

If you have a puppy, start him early on stuff-able, chewable toys, such as Kong toys.  There are lots of products available that are safe to leave with a puppy. Stuffing a toy with your dog’s food, treats, biscuits, etc., and putting that in the crate with him can really help him settle down.  This isn’t just for puppies—all dogs can benefit from chew toy training.

Give them a place to settle down besides the crate. Teach him to go to his mat and settle down there. That’s a safe place where good things happen. He can be with the family, but the children are not allowed to disturb him when he is on his mat. He can hang out with you without being underfoot.

Respond to his attention-seeking behavior by telling him to sit before you pet, get up, or otherwise engage him. If you can learn to observe your dog for calm behavior, and reward him for that, he will hit that point of decision whether to be calm or not. If he has had more rewards for calm–the impulsiveness can fade away.

If you would like more information about teaching some of these behaviors, check out our website at www.k9-manners.com. On the “what we do” page, there are some one-page .pdf files you can review or print!

DOG TRAINING 911

posted July 15th, 2013 by

by Mary Green

Q.  I have two dogs, Bubba and Charlie. Charlie is my problem child. We live in an apartment complex where there are lots of dogs. Charlie is apparently barking a lot when I’m gone. I know it’s him because I didn’t have any problems with Bubba before Charlie came along. He’s a Terrier mix, about a year old we think, and I’ve had him for about three months. Does he have separation anxiety?

A.  Separation anxiety is a diagnosis that your veterinarian might make based upon Charlie’s behavior. The first thing to do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian about Charlie’s problems. Many times, what the pet owner believes is separation anxiety is really just a situation where the dog can’t be left alone and unsupervised.

When a dog has separation anxiety, he will exhibit behaviors such as: panting, salivating, vocalizing, pacing, destructiveness, chewing on his paws, flanks or tail; he may urinate or defecate, and may not eat food left for him. The dog appears to be anxious, stressed and uncomfortable. Also, he may scratch and claw at doorways and thresholds or attempt to escape from confinement.

Dogs with “home alone” problems may do some of these same behaviors, but they don’t act anxious. They may not like being home alone and do destructive things and bark, whine or howl, but they will usually eat food that is left for them and play with their toys and whatever else they can get into! If it looks like they had a party while you were gone, they probably did!

If your dog has “home alone” problems, there are steps you can take to help him be more comfortable and calm while you’re gone.

Crate training or confinement training: Reduce the space that your dog has available and restrict him from off-limits areas. Gradually acclimate him to the crate or confinement area and use it sometimes when you are staying home.

Interactive toys: Stuffable and chewable toys, like Kong toys, are wonderful for keeping dogs entertained. Other food delivery toys that are not designed for chewing, such as the Buster cube or Kong wobbler, can provide much mental stimulation and self-reward for clever dogs.

Exercise: Be sure that your dog is getting enough exercise when you are home. Address the need for both physical and mental exercise. A tired dog will nap a bit while you’re gone!

Calming aids: Some dogs are helped by herbal calming treats, aromatherapies, classical music or talk radio. There is a product called DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) that comes in an electrical outlet plug-in design or a collar that the dog wears. Discuss the use of homeopathic supplements with your veterinarian before you try something new.

Environment change: Close the curtains, open the curtains, turn on the TV or radio, or leave it off! Do something different than what you have been doing. Reposition the crate or place it in a different room. Sometimes just moving a dog closer to a heat or air vent or moving them farther away does the trick.

If your veterinarian does diagnose Charlie with separation anxiety, he or she may opt to prescribe medication. Medication alone is not the long-term solution, so behavior modification training will have to happen.

Q.  How can I teach my dog to swim?

A.  How great that you want to teach him! First, ask him if he wants to swim, and where he would like to swim. He may want to frolic at the edge of the pool, or on a step, but may not want to get his whole body in it. He may want to run into the lake or pond, where it is a gradual increase in depth, and splash around on the shore but may not want to jump off the dock or boat.

Put him in a vest! Life jackets or floatation vests for dogs have come a long way and are necessary for all but the most experienced and proficient swimmers. Prices range from around $25 to $75. If you are attempting to teach him how to swim, and he panics, he can cause harm to himself and to you. He is much less likely to panic if he has the vest on and doesn’t go under water.

Try to get him to swim to a toy that he likes. There are some great floating toys available for dogs. Most dogs tend to do better if they have a purpose for swimming! You may also have some luck getting him to swim toward a treat. I know personally that Charlee Bears dog treats float!

If you have a pool in your yard, please teach your dog how to get out of it. It’s imperative that you have a ramp or steps. You can purchase ramps specially designed for dogs that can be left in your pool all the time. Also, remember pool covers are responsible for many dog deaths each year, so don’t assume that your dog will stay off of your pool cover.

Dog Training 911

posted May 27th, 2013 by

by Mary Green

Q I would love to be able to take my dog for a walk, but he pulls on the leash so bad he chokes himself! How do I stop this?

A Teaching loose leash walking is especially challenging when your dog is already a committed puller. Sometimes the best way to start is to make a change in equipment. Today there are a number of dog harnesses on the market that are specifically designed as no-pulling, or anti-pulling, harnesses.

Traditional harnesses did a good job of taking pressure off of the dog’s throat and distributing pressure across the whole chest but did nothing to discourage pulling. In fact, they make pulling much more comfortable. Over the last decade, there have been many advances in no-pull harnesses.

The Whole Dog Journal™ reviewed various no-pull harnesses in the October 2012 issue, listing their top picks. One pick for being simple and economical is the SENSE-ible harness, which is one that we recommend to our K9 Manners & More clients.

A no-pulling harness can help you control the front end of the dog without causing him pain or discomfort. Using a no-pull harness is definitely a management tool, and if you are using it as such without teaching the dog (with positive reinforcement), to walk calmly with you, he will eventually learn to pull against the harness as well.

Collars such as choke chains and prong collars might help stop the dog from pulling, but there are reasons why we do not recommend them. They are not easy to use without causing damage to a dog’s throat, trachea, tonsils, and perhaps, thyroid. In some cases, they actually increase a dog’s reactivity or aggression while on leash. Here are some of our tips for teaching loose leash walking:

• If he is pulling, we are not moving! Just stand still for a second, and then do something to get your dog’s attention. Move forward once he has reoriented toward you.

• Lure/Reward! Have treats in your hand and lure him along where you want him to be. Every few steps he gets a treat. After you’ve done that a few times, he will know that’s where the good stuff is, and you can reinforce him for staying close.

• If he pulls out ahead of you, stop. Then lure him so he is facing you; then lure him toward you (still facing you); then lure him around to your side. Feed the treat at your side.

• Be interesting and a little unpredictable on a walk! Walk in a circle, do some about face turns, stop and sit, etc.

• Take time to smell the roses! Or maybe smell the mailboxes? Stop frequently and let your dog enjoy a sniffing opportunity! Walks should be fun and interesting for both you and your dog.

Q Why does my dog seem friendly one minute, wanting to make friends with another dog, and the next minute wants to fight?

A Goodness, I wish I had a perfect answer for this question! The truth of the matter is that we just don’t know. It often seems that the snarky behavior came out of the blue. Some dogs are snarky at times with dogsthey know really well and usually get along with. Others are reactive only to dogs they don’t know.

Here are some points to ponder:

On leash/off leash: Many dogs are just fine with other dogs while off leash, and are reactive only when on leash. Reasons could include prior experience of being attacked while on the leash, making flight not an option.

Or perhaps some were collar corrected for sniffing other dogs, so they now associate the presence of another dog with a correction coming. Another reason I see for dogs to react while on leash is that they have been subjected to improper greeting by dogs, and their owners have “made” them tolerate it. So they want to warn off a potential improper greeter!

Resource guarding of their important human: I do think some dogs are just not comfortable with a dog coming too close to their beloved. Or maybe just too close to their stash of treats!

Prior bad experience: Some dogs react only to a certain breed, type or look of dog. It could be because of history of a bad experience.

Reaction of the other dog: There is a split second where dogs decide how the encounter is going to go; play, fight or retreat. They really are great at conflict resolution, and the vast majority of encounters do not result in fights. Frustration: Dogs that play with other dogs a lot may be frustrated on leash because they are not going to play.

Cues and signals from the owner: We can trigger a reaction in so many ways—tugging or jerking back on the leash, speaking sharply, tensing up or holding our breath. Our dogs are so attuned to us that they might sense danger because our hearts are beating faster, and we are breathing rapidly. And, since we are afraid our dog might act aggressively, we do all of these things!

Dog Training 911

posted March 9th, 2013 by

by Mary Green

Q Is there anything you can suggest to keep my dog from eating his poop?

A The correct term is coprophagia, which means the consumption of feces. “Yuck!” That’s how we, as pet owners, feel about eating poop. To dogs, it’s perfectly acceptable behavior. For flies, dung-beetles, and pigs, this is survival.

Probably at some point in their lives, all dogs will eat poop. Always check with your veterinarian before trying any supplements or home remedies on your pet. Also, be certain that he is getting enough exercise—physical exercise and mental stimulation. Boredom is often a contributing factor in poop eating. These tips will help with varying results.

Q Our family would like to adopt a dog. We have no animals in our household and would like to teach our kids (ages 11 and 9) some responsibility. How do we select a shelter dog?

A it’s so encouraging to me as a professional trainer to hear someone such as you pre-planning for a pet! People frequently acquire pets on impulse, but afterward, “buyer’s remorse” sets in, and the pet is relinquished or abandoned.

Before you look at any dogs (because if you see them you will go home with one), sit down as a family and discuss the following factors, such as: appearance, size, sex, activity and exercise requirements, grooming requirements, etc. Decide what is flexible and non-negotiable.

Then you can begin to look at dogs that fi t your ideal pet profile. By doing some research online, you can find shelter dogs by description or breed type and learn a little about them before you go visit.

When you go visit, ask the adoption counselor if there is any history that they know of about the dogs. Was he surrendered by a previous owner? Was he a stray? Did he come from a puppy mill or hoarding situation? This information isn’t always available, but it can be helpful if known.

The staff and volunteers who have been taking care of the dogs you are looking at will have a pretty good idea about the personality and behavior of the dogs. They may know if he is shy or fearful of kids or men, if he is safe around cats or if he tries to keep his kennel clean.

When you are meeting the dogs under consideration for your family, be sure to choose a dog that is sociable. The dog that is hanging out in the back of the kennel, or not approaching the people, is not going to be the best choice for a family with young kids. in your household, where this will be an only (or first) pet, be sure that the candidate is seeking out the attention of the people rather than the other animals.

While I am not familiar with the adoption policies of all the rescue groups and shelters in the area, I do know that many of them do not adopt out animals the same day that you meet them. I think this is a great policy! This allows the organization adequate time to check your references, and it gives you some time to think and re-think your decision.

It also gives you time to go purchase food, toys, a crate, leash and a collar, which is fun for the kids and builds anticipation. You can even make a daily schedule of dog chores, such as feeding and exercise, to involve the kids in the adoption process.

The bottom line is that successful adoption and integration of a pet into your household takes research, commitment, flexibility and a good amount of patience.

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