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Dog Training 411

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Mary Green

Q Is there any way I can stop my dog from barking at everyone and ev­erything that goes down my street? I like to leave my solid door open and the storm door closed, but Lacey spends the day barking. She doesn’t charge the door, thank goodness, but the barking needs to stop.

A It’s hard to completely extinguish barking, and perhaps that’s not what we want to do. One benefit of hav­ing dogs, even small ones, is that they can sound the alarm to warn you of a threat. It is possible, though, to teach a dog to stop barking when you tell her and maybe help her discriminate be­tween what is and isn’t bark-worthy.

You might start by covering the storm door with a decorative window film available at home improvement stores. There are lots of patterns avail­able, and you could select one that is opaque enough that she can’t see out, but the light comes through. Of course, you may only need to apply it to the lower portion of the door.

The most effective training option may be to teach Lacey the meaning of “that’s enough” or a similar signal. To do this, sit with her at the door, and when she barks, tell her, “That’s enough,” and give her a treat. It may feel like you’re rewarding her for barking—that’s OK, because at least for the second she is eating the treat, she isn’t barking. You can continue to give her treats until the person (distraction) is out of her sight. Pretty soon, she is barking one time and coming to you for her treat!

Teaching an alternate behavior is an­other option. When Lacey starts to bark at the door, call her to you and give her a toy, preferably something that squeaks and have her hold or carry it. When Parker, my Boxer, was a little guy, he would be so excited that he would grab whatever was handy, which often was a sock. We could say, “Parker, put a sock in it!” and he would grab a toy, bone or sock. To this day, nine years later, Parker still greets everyone with something in his mouth. At least the barking was muffled!

You might teach Lacey to go away from the door. At K9 Manners & More, we teach a “go to mat” skill that comes in very handy for this type of problem. By having Lacey go and lie down on her mat or dog bed, she is removing herself from the excitement of the door and us­ing self-control.

Q Are little dogs harder to train than regular size dogs?

A I’m not sure what you consider “regular size dogs” to be, since dogs come in all sizes! From toy and small dogs, such as Yorkshire Terriers or Chihuahuas to giant breeds like the Newfoundland and the Irish Wolfhound, the size of the dog’s brain will change, but the manner in which they learn is the same. There are perhaps notable differences in trainability.

In 1994, Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, wrote a book on dog intelligence, “The Intelligence of Dogs.” The book explains Coren’s theories about the differences in intel­ligence between different breeds of dogs. Coren published a second edition in 2006. He defines three aspects of dog intelligence in the book. Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, retrieving, guard­ing or supplying companionship. Adap­tive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems on his own. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans.

There are reasons why one might think little dogs are harder to train. Training little dogs may be physically hard on a person because of the need to bend over more than with a me­dium or large dog. A small dog’s tum­my fills up quickly on treats, making a training session very brief. Small dogs often are afraid of being stepped on or picked up, so they may stay out of arms’ reach. They also have a compara­tively small bladder, and housetraining may be more challenging than with a larger dog.

One thing is for certain in dogs… One size does not fit all!

Serving Those Who Have Served

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Stacy Pettit

Photography by Bob Foshay

   For some veterans, the battles continue every day even after the guns have qui­eted, and they have returned to what was once a peaceful home. In Afghani­stan and Iraq, each gun shot that stole away fellow soldiers and friends, and each IED blast that ripped away any chance of normality, left these veterans not only with obvious, external scars, but also with deep, hidden wounds. For these servicemen and women, the ghost of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continues to haunt their everyday lives, leaving some trapped in a dark world of war.


But one organi­zation is training its own team to battle PTSD’s effects on veterans by lead­ing them away from the unending battle with a little help from some four-legged friends. This past January, Thera­petics Service Dogs of Oklahoma began a pilot program to train a group of puppies to become service dogs for returning veterans suffering with the mental illness.


“Our goal in this program is the same as the goal in our main program,” says Susan Hartman, executive director for Therapetics. “We want our veterans that we serve through this program to be able to get their lives back, to do the things they want to do in life that they’re not able to do currently. If they just want to get out of the house and go grocery shopping, if they can achieve those goals with one of our ser­vice dogs, then we have met our goal.”


For the first time in its 20 years of serving individuals with physical disabili­ties, Therapetics is adding a program to include veterans without physical dis­abilities.


“For some time, veterans with physi­cal disabilities received priority status in our application process,” Hartman says. “The idea of serving our returning veter­ans has always been really important to Therapetics. PTSD was a medical condi­tion we were going to be faced with. We needed to learn about it.”


In fact, experts believe PTSD has im­pacted 11 to 20 percent of returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs website. PTSD is also associated with elevated rates of suicide and substance abuse among veterans.


After discussing the possibility of the pilot program with community mem­bers, Hartman says she discovered the overwhelming need for such a program for veterans in Oklahoma. The new pro­gram was not expected to begin for a few more months. However, when Thera­petics volunteers donated three German Shepherd puppies to be trained specifi­cally for veterans with PTSD, Hartman says she knew the time to begin serving veterans with hidden, but sometimes crippling, disabilities was now.


“You could be talking about working with a veteran who hasn’t even left his house in six months, or who hasn’t gone into a restaurant in a very long time,” she says.


That life of fear and isolation was ex­actly the world Shawn Wright had lived in for more than a decade before turning to Therapetics. After serving as a com­bat medic in Bosnia in the 1990s, Wright was not able to break free from the feel­ing that he needed to be aware of the potential threats around him. And any­thing could trigger a flashback says his wife, Julie. At one time, while ordering take-out from a restaurant, an employee dropped a plate in the kitchen. “He actu­ally hit the ground,” Julie says.


Wright continually avoided crowd­ed public places and could not keep a steady job, eventu­ally leading him to alcohol to deal with his dark world. Af­ter years of battling his life of fear, he was diagnosed with PTSD along with a traumatic brain injury. But having a name for his de­mons did not make life easier.


“Finding where you fit into society is kind of rough,” he says. Last sum­mer, after research­ing ways to deal with PTSD, Shawn and Julie contacted Therapetics to ask if they would be in­terested in training a service dog for Shawn. A few months later, Shawn was partnered with his service dog Jake.


Shawn says Jake has made an over­whelming difference in his life, allowing him to go out in public and live a life again. With ease, Jake will stand be­tween Shawn and another person dur­ing conversations, a situation that at one time brought Shawn anxiety when someone seemed to be too close. When Shawn has nightmares, Jake will turn on the bedroom light. And in times when Shawn is overwhelmed and in a panic, Jake will immediately bring comfort by standing against Shawn.

“Having Jake there reassures me that it’s OK to be in a crowd, and that no one will come behind me and attack me,” Shawn says. “He gives me a sense of security.” The success of Shawn and his dog last year were the roots for the new pilot program. Now, to ensure vet­erans like Shawn can get back to living a life free of fear, the donated German Shepherds for the new program are un­dergoing basic and advanced obedience classes. They are also working on learn­ing how to do certain tasks for the vet­eran, which Hartman says is imperative, even if the client does not have a physi­cal impairment.

“The service dogs that will be part­nered with a veteran with PTSD will do a lot more than simply provide emotional comfort through their existence,” she says. “It goes far beyond that. The dog can go into a dark room and turn on a light. In some programs, dogs are trained to wake up a person when they’re having a nightmare.”


Like Jake does for Shawn, service dogs can also learn how to help ease a panic attack by leaning on the person, placing a paw on him or her, or resting its head on the individual’s lap, which provides a physical feeling to ground the veteran.


Before moving to Oklahoma to be a service dog instructor for Therapetics, Donna Willis instructed service dogs in California, training many of them spe­cifically for PTSD service. Even though training a dog to be a service dog takes months of hard work, funding and dedi­cation, Willis says it is more than worth it once the dog is matched with the client.


For the past four months, she has been working with three volunteer pup­py raisers and trainers. These volunteers give their time to not only take care of the dog as their own pet, but also train it at home, in the Therapetics classroom, and out in the community.


Although the German Shepherds are quickly learning commands, the most difficult piece of training these dogs for the PTSD program will be socializing them in public, Willis says.


“Socialization is such a key part, be­cause these dogs have to be pretty much bulletproof and 100 percent ap­propriate in public,” she says. “If you sat and thought about every place you as an individual might go, that’s what these dogs have to be exposed to.”


And because the clients for this pilot program might struggle with being in public due to their PTSD, Hartman says they plan to be patient when the time comes that the veteran begins work­ing and training with the dog out in the community.


“When you walk into Wal-Mart with a service dog, your anonymity goes out the window,” she says. “Going out into the community with a service dog will be different for a veteran with PTSD be­cause oftentimes they don’t want to be noticed. They don’t want to have to deal with the public.”


Hartman says the organization will be­gin taking applications for the dogs in a few months, and she expects to have the three dogs fully trained and placed in 18 months. Through donations, fundraising and grants, Therapetics will place these trained service dogs with individuals at no cost.


Volunteer puppy raiser and trainer Jennifer Bagley has been helping train one of these dogs, Trigger, for the past few months.


Although Bagley says Trigger has much more to learn before he can be placed with a client, she says she is proud to be part of such a needed pro­gram for veterans who have already giv­en so much.


“I have never served my country, so this is my way to actually do that,” she says.

Dog Training 411

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Mary Green

Q My mother, who is 80 years old, wants a companion dog. She re­cently lost her elderly little dog and is really lonely without him. I am con­cerned about her being able to house train a new dog, and I worry about a dog knocking her down or scratching her skin. I’m not really excited about the prospect, but I want my mom to be happy. Suggestions?  — Karen

ASeniors and pets have so much to offer each other; I hope you are open to supporting your mother in bringing a new pet into her household. Besides the companionship a pet can provide for your mother, being respon­sible for feeding and watering the dog and toileting him can really give her a reason to get up and going in the morn­ings. Dogs always seem to wake up hap­py and ready to get on about the daily business. Their happy attitude works wonders toward getting their humans motivated, too! Petting and stroking an animal has been proven to lower blood pressure—so there are even health ben­efits to pet ownership.

My recommendation would be to bring in an older dog rather than a puppy. I would also recommend a dog not over about 15 lbs. Some groups only adopt senior dogs to senior citi­zens. Dogs that are 7 or 8 years old are often overlooked at a shelter, but have a lot of living yet to do! As you meet prospective pets for your mom, look for a dog that is friendly and wants to be petted, or wants to sit in your lap, but is not “clingy.” A dog that can settle down with a toy or chew bone, or is crate trained, will give your mother suf­ficient space and time to do what she needs to do without having him underfoot.

I understand your concerns about an octo­genarian being responsible for house training a new dog. A small dog can learn to eliminate on the wee wee pads or in a litter box. You also might consider installing a doggie door if that is possible. If you fashion a small yard (maybe an exercise pen) just out­side of the doggie door, the dog can’t go through the doggie door and get to the remotest point in the yard! If a dog is in a foster situation, you might know if you are adopting a house-trained dog.

Could a family member volunteer to take mother’s dog to a training class? She could be included in doing the homework, and she might enjoy the class outings without having to manage the dog at the same time. Someone else could teach the dog how to greet properly without jumping up and how not to be underfoot. At K9 Manners & More, we have a Day Training program where the professional trainers work with the dogs, and then teach the own­ers what to do.

Don’t just rush out and get your mother a dog. Do your homework to find the right fit for her. The shelters are full of previously owned and loved family pets looking for a new family. Sometimes people lose their jobs and/ or homes, and move where they cannot take their pets. Not all dogs at the shel­ter are from hoarding situations, puppy mills or from the rough streets.

Lastly, have a plan in place for caring for your mother’s dog’s needs: veteri­nary transportation and care, purchas­ing food and supplies, and see to his or her grooming needs. And have a plan of who will take care of your mother’s dog should she be hospitalized short term, or long term, and who will be respon­sible for the dog in the event of your mother’s passing away

Invisible Dogs

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

It was an exciting day at my house— the day I got to pet my foster dogs. This may not sound like a momentous occasion to most people, but those who have rehabilitated a seriously shy or under-socialized dog realize it’s a pretty big step.

My foster dogs are a pair of 4-yearold Dalmatians that were rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri and have no concept of life as a companion animal. Dubbed Jack and Jill, the two actually climbed onto my bed today and let me reach over to pet them. I could not face them directly, and I could not stand up, but we actually had a moment where my touch wasn’t such a terrible thing.

Training sessions on my bed? Well, not what I had planned, but if it works, I’ll run with it. Every dog is different, making every training plan a puzzle to be solved.

There are a number of factors that can cause certain dogs to be shy. For some, it can be blamed on a lack of proper early socialization. Puppies are like little sponges during the first 16 weeks of life. Dogs not properly exposed to human handling as young puppies will have a much harder time assimilating into our world as companion animals.

Dogs that experience stress can also become shy. A stray dog may learn that humans can’t be trusted. A dog in a shelter environment may start to withdraw. And of course, dogs that have experienced abuse or neglect may also become quite timid.

Then, there are genetics. Just as some people have a natural tendency toward shyness, so do some dogs. You can have a litter in which each of the puppies has been raised with the same level of socialization and interaction, but some of the pups might be shy while others are quite outgoing. Whatever the root cause, our shrinking violet dogs are often misunderstood and can be a source of frustration and embarrassment to their owners.

Truth be told, humans tend to be a bit narrow-minded when it comes to communicating with dogs. Usually our intentions are good, but our dog communication skills are often quite clumsy. While most dogs take it all in stride, shy dogs can find the human approach to friendship very overwhelming and confusing.

When humans meet, direct eye contact is expected. We tend to stand squarely facing each other. We immediately grab each other’s hand for a firm shake. It’s all very direct and considered polite.

Now look at things from the dog’s point of view. The average dog generally stands a couple of feet tall or less. Human strangers tower overhead. To greet a dog, well-meaning humans generally move straight toward the dog while bending forward at the waist, staring directly into the dog’s eyes and talking in a loud, high-pitched babble. Then toss in a hand immediately reaching out for a too-much-too-soonpat on the head.

So, when the shy dog backpedals and looks more than a little panicked, what do we do? Well, most people either scold the dog, drag it back toward the newcomer by the leash or collar, or a lovely combination of both. At the same time, the newcomer loudly proclaims that “dogs just love me” and proceeds to try even harder to make the dog submit to attention.

When you consider the dog’s perspective, it’s a giant recipe for disaster, isn’t it? A truly fearful dog who feels trapped and threatened might even resort to growling or barking at the stranger in an attempt to end the confrontation.

So, what to do? How can we help our shy dogs come out of their shells to learn to accept and, hopefully, enjoy socializing with our species?

First, be your shy dog’s champion. Understand your dog’s personality and work to help shift the perception from “new person equals scary” to “new person equals safe interactions and reward.”

Be prepared to explain to people interested in meeting your dog that he or she is a bit shy. Ask them to not acknowledge the dog for a few minutes, so your dog has a chance to smell the new person from a safe distance beside you. If possible, ask the new person to squat down or sit down at an angle to the dog. If the dog chooses to move forward to sniff the newcomer, let that happen without any attempt to interact with the dog. Just give the dog a little space and time to feel secure.

If you see signs that your dog is relaxing, you may want to just stop there. The dog has had a good experience and is starting to feel at ease around a new person. Resist the temptation to ruin that progress by moving forward with too much contact too quickly.

Let the dog move casually away from the new person and quietly praise the dog. By remaining calm yourself, you are setting the stage for your dog to remain calm and happy as well.

Another great tool in helping a shy dog gain confidence is to enlist the aid of another dog. In my experience, most people-shy dogs are good around other dogs. If your shy dog enjoys interacting with other dogs, enlist the aid of a friend with a confident, friendly dog to serve as a good role model. Take the two dogs out to socialize together. Ask people to pet and pay attention to the confident dog while pretending the shy dog is invisible. Just let the shy dog observe the interaction with no pressure to join in.

After a few outings, you may find that the shy dog will start approaching new people along with the confident dog. As this starts to happen, remember the “don’t overdo it” rule. Perhaps let the shy dog sniff the newcomer and maybe have the stranger offer both dogs a treat. End the interaction at this point, again walking away in a calm, matter-of-fact manner.

My shy dog duo is particularly fond of my personal dog, Howie. Howie is a very social, easy-going dog. By petting and playing with Howie, I’ve been able to start including Jack and Jill in the fun. Howie is the best teacher I have for these two dogs.

Formal training with your shy dog is another great way to boost confidence. A group class can provide a learning opportunity where no one dog is the center of attention, allowing a shy dog to blend into the class. If you do choose to take a group class with your dog, be sure to let your instructor know about your dog’s issues, so he or she can adjust lessons accordingly.

For some dogs, however, a busy training school might be too overwhelming. If your dog walks into a training facility and shuts down or panics, perhaps you should contact a trainer for a one-on-one private session. No matter where you train, make sure the methods employed focus on positive motivation training to help boost your dog’s confidence in a fun, engaging manner.

The more you can teach your dog, the more tools you have for helping your dog cope in uncomfortable situations. For example, if you are out for a walk and a neighbor comes to greet you, ask your dog to sit and stay by your side. You have now given your dog a “job” to focus on instead of allowing it to worry about the stranger standing nearby. When you release your dog from the stay, offer lots of calm praise and perhaps even have your visitor casually hand or toss a treat to your dog. This gives your dog a positive association with your neighbor and rewards appropriate behavior.

Another fun exercise I use in working with shy dogs is the touch game. Extend your flat palm to your dog. Most dogs will sniff your hand out of curiosity. When your dog sniffs your hand, or touches it, praise the dog and immediately offer a treat. Then, repeat. Pretty soon you will see that your dog quickly touches its nose to your extended palm when you give the verbal cue “touch.”

Once your dog catches on, you can move your hand from place to place in front of you, beside you and even behind. The dog will enjoy the fun interaction.

This game can then become a tool to use with a friendly stranger. Have a visitor sit and, without staring at the dog or trying to touch the dog, offer a palm in front of the dog and give the “touch” cue. The beauty of this game is that the dog gets to initiate the contact. Keep it simple, short and positive. Hopefully, you will soon see your dog feeling more comfortable around newcomers.

These ideas are just a few of a number of ways you can work to socialize your shy dog. Most importantly, vow to stay patient and, please, always obey the shy dog golden rule: Do not force your shy dog into the spotlight. As much as you want your dog to be social, and as much as people want to win your dog’s affection, trying to force your dog to like new people will almost always backfire.

As for my extremely shy foster dogs, training sessions on my bed with the help of mentor dog, Howie, continue. I look forward to helping them understand that people are a source of good things. In the meantime, I will celebrate every touch and every small step forward.

Help Your Shelter Pet Learn

posted January 15th, 2012 by
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By Merit Day

Perhaps you’ve recently adopted a puppy or adolescent shelter dog. Kudos to you! But now it’s time to get down to business — the business of training that unruly (and likely poorly-socialized) pooch into the obedient, charming dog just waiting to be cultivated. Let’s begin at… well, the beginning.

Human babies grow and learn by leaps and bounds during the first year of life, from a helpless creature dependent on its mother, to a mischievous toddler exploring its new world. Puppies are not too different; in fact, the majority of a dog’s physical and emotional development also occurs in its first year. Learning during this time has a significant impact on the future behavioral development of a dog. Research shows that socialization and training can greatly influence this learning process. Therefore, (just like children) providing socialization and training at the correct times in a dog’s life is crucial to its future behavior. If your pooch is still in the adolescent stage, the following information on a puppy’s development will help direct your steps as you shape your little friend into a happy, obedient, well-adjusted dog.

During the first eight weeks of a puppy’s life it is driven to bond with its mother and littermates. A young puppy will have its initial exposure to the world through smell, touch and vision. He or she will learn through playtime with littermates what it means to be a dog. Through chewing and exploring it will learn motor skills, early social skills, and even how to eliminate outdoors if its mother has access to properly teach this skill. Having access to a few people, interesting toys, and the outdoors can help ensure a stable, well-adjusted dog as it matures. A puppy has its first “fear period” around 8 weeks old. If you bring home a new puppy at this age, let it adjust slowly to new things. Try to eliminate anything that would constitute “scary” for a puppy during this short period. For example, keep its social exposures limited for a few days to only immediate family, and to a smaller area in the house.

As the puppy develops in its third month, it has increasing social needs, which for the domestic dog includes being open to bonding with humans and developing human relationships. This is a good time to bring a puppy away from its littermates and into its new home. Human owners will now delegate the boundaries for nipping, jumping, and playtime carried over from its mother. The mother will have weaned and trained the puppy in many ways, which is an important step toward accepting limits from human owners. As the dog enters into its adolescent development stage around four months, it is most receptive to learning through positive reinforcement training. The puppy is constantly absorbing and processing information from its environment, and many perceptions are formed at this age. The concept of correlation (consequences) is being learned.

At this time, a puppy will be quick to associate a specific behavior with a reward it receives. This is the time to associate rewards with human touch, restraint, and encouragement. This is a critical process for the puppy called “socialization.” Linked to this is a dog owner’s first big responsibility because the puppy is dependent on its owner to experience new things. Training/learning verbal commands for proper behaviors is easily started and should continue through the pup’s first year.

By the time the dog is 6 to 8 months old, and reaches sexual maturity, much of its temperament is now observable. Researchers believe that a dog’s adult temperament is determined by 50 percent genetics and 50 percent environmental factors. This means it is possible to change or alter a dog’s behavior through environmental influence — either good or bad. At this time, a dog develops independence; therefore, new behaviors will emerge, such as the willingness to explore farther away from the owner’s reach. Any previous training on manners or verbal commands may appear to have been lost as the dog makes the choice to test boundaries and owner expectations. Reinforcement of these things is necessary, but don’t lose hope; previous learning is not permanently lost during this testing period for a puppy. Again, just as children and teenagers test boundaries, adolescent dogs will do the

Understanding which developmental stage your dog is entering or leaving is helpful for identifying its specific training needs. Working with your dog—with these tips in mind — according to his or her age-appropriate needs will ultimately influence its long-term adult behavior — and hopefully lower your stress level.

Fostering for Success

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

So, I just walked into my living room, and there was no place for me to sit down. Every possible surface was covered with snoozing dogs. I wish I could tell you this is an unusual sight for me, but it’s not. I have a lot of dogs. A lot.

No, I am not going to appear on the next episode of Animal Hoarders. At least, I sure hope not. A good number of the aforementioned couch-hogs are not mine — they are my foster dogs. They are my very welcome, temporary canine guests who are staying in our home until the perfect adoptive family comes along to give them a permanent home of their own.

Standing there wondering how and when I might be allowed to relax on my own couch, it did dawn on me that there might be a little flaw in my fostering plan. Dogs free-range in the house and on the furniture… Hmmm…. What if a great prospective home comes along that prefers dogs stay off the furniture? (All of my dogs just gave a huge collective shudder.)

Fostering homeless dogs is a great thing to do. No, this is not me patting myself on the back. This is me patting myself, and a huge number of dedicated people in our area, on the back. The ability to house rescued dogs in private foster homes helps relieve the strain on crowded shelters. It helps non-profit groups save more deserving animals while saving the expense of boarding fees. And for the animals fostered? It lets us learn as much as possible about their temperament and habits, while also getting a jump start on important training. Oh… we’re supposed to be training them.

Ok, I am selling myself a bit short. I do work with my foster dogs to integrate them into normal home life, although I am not sure you can call anything at my house normal. Jim, my ever-patient partner in life and fostering, and I do teach our foster dogs that they should potty outside. We teach them that a dog crate is really just their own private room. We teach them that sitting politely will earn them a cookie. But is that enough? Perhaps not.

According to Amy Hoagland, volunteer with Pet Adoption League (PAL), the most common reason dogs are returned to the rescue is because they are not housetrained. Additional complaints include destructive behavior and/or a lack of manners.

Time for a tiny soapbox moment here. It makes me a tad bit crazy when I am approached by people who want to rescue a dog, but would like one that is housetrained, behaves perfectly in all situations, doesn’t need to use a crate, heels on walks, and if it could make the morning coffee that would be great, too.

Really? Oh yes, dogs just like that are turning up in shelters and rescue programs every single day.  And now I’ll hop back down now. Truth be told, anything a foster volunteer can do to jumpstart a rescued dog’s training is a great thing. It’s part of the job and, hopefully, part of the fun.

Hoagland says that in addition to housetraining, her foster home wish list includes crate training and a routine feeding schedule (no free-feeding!).

“It’s also important for foster families to help socialize the dog and teach it good basic manners — things such as no jumping up on people, not allowing begging from the table and walking nicely on a leash,” says Hoagland. “Instilling routines and boundaries during the foster process will help the dog succeed when it gets to its new home.”

I decided that I should create a pro/con list of sorts for my foster dogs.  If you know a dog’s strengths and, let’s call them “areas in need of improvement,” then you can devise an adoption-focused training plan. Let’s take a look at one of my dogs in waiting.     Meet Suzy. Found stray outside of a convenience store, she is a young mixed breed dog. So mixed, in fact, I can’t really even decide what breeds came together through the generations to create her. She’s about two years old and has a great temperament.  A great candidate for adoption, right? But, she has not yet found that perfect home, so let’s take a closer look at Suzy, and the things I could do to improve her potential.

Pros: Suzy is young, friendly, good around children and good with other dogs. She is housetrained. She will stay in a crate without fussing. She is a nice, medium size and has a short coat that requires little grooming.  She is out of the puppy destructive phase, and she’s very sweet and playful.

Cons: Well, yes, she gets on the furniture. Not a con at my house, but perhaps not what someone else would want. She is housetrained, but accustomed to using a dog door. Without the convenience of a dog door? Well, I’m not sure she understands to cross her legs and whine at the door.

Finally, and perhaps odd for the con list, she’s friendly. Really friendly. When you meet Suzy for the first time, she acts as though you are her long lost best friend. To put it simply, she goes a little (…OK, a lot)  nuts.

On the scale of cons, being overly-friendly may not seem like such a big deal. Friendly is, after all, good. Suzy, however, is bouncy, squealing, jump-all-over-you friendly.  Frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming.

To do my sweet foster girl justice, I need to teach her a few more skills to help her find and stay in a loving, permanent home. The housetraining issue just requires that I designate a few key times throughout the day and evening to take Suzy out the back door and then praise her for doing her business outside. I will crate her at night, so I can take her straight out the door in the morning. I can start a potty routine with her instead of letting her come and go as she pleases, via the dog door.

As for the crazy greeting ritual, a little creative training is in order. Suzy’s intentions are good, she just needs a bit of work on her mode of expression. In the positive training world, the best way to stop a dog from doing a behavior you don’t like is to pick a behavior you do like that is incompatible with the undesired behavior. So, for a dog that is jumping up on people, you teach her to sit for attention. The dog soon learns that jumping up does not get attention, and sitting does.

For a dog that is as enthusiastic about her greeting ritual as Suzy is, just teaching her to sit for hello may not be totally effective. In addition to sit for hello, I am going to teach her a few fun tricks that will allow her to interact and receive attention, but in a fashion that is not only appropriate, but also endearing. Suzy is going to learn to high five, perhaps to sit up and wave or maybe to turn in circles on request — all ways to burn enthusiasm without knocking someone over.

I will also teach Suzy to “hug.” Often, when you put an undesirable behavior on cue, you can control it and give it an on/off switch. By teaching Suzy to “hug” on command, she will learn to do it only on cue, and I will be able to tell her when it’s time to stop.

I think this is a good solution because Suzy really loves to hug, and I really enjoy hugging her back. Anyone who doesn’t want a huggable dog should not adopt Suzy. Actually, I really believe that anyone who doesn’t want a huggable dog shouldn’t adopt a dog at all. Food for thought.

OK, back to the situation in my living room. Well, truth be told, I am going to continue to allow my dogs on the furniture. I truly enjoy having them relax there with me. I’m not going to tell my foster dogs otherwise, but my compromise is that I do teach every dog the “off” cue. So, while I am not teaching them to stay off the couch, I am giving prospective owners the ability to ask the dog to move off of prime seating when necessary. If anyone out there is interested in adopting Suzy, or any of my foster dogs, just know that if you don’t care to share your couch, then you’re going to have a little bit of work to do. My guess is that Suzy’s beautiful brown eyes just might change your mind.



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