Thursday, March 31, 2011


My 10 month old daughter loves string cheese. So do her furry brother and sister. It is quite a laugh actually to see the three huddled together waiting for me to dole out the goods! As the three were munching on cheese with me this evening, I was thinking about my clients that are hesitant to use cheese or human food for training.

I am lucky both of my dogs are so highly food motivated. It makes training a lot easier. They will also work for toys, playtime and what I call "life-rewards." What about dogs that aren't so into food though? How are they best trained and motivated?

I have met many picky dogs, and most all of them were small breed dogs with one thing in common: free feeding. If Fluffy has access to food all day, food isn't that exciting. Also, Fluffy may be full when it comes time to training. There are other top reasons why Fluffy may not "like" treats.

1. The treats being given are boring (like milkbones).
2. The dog is too stressed or excited to eat.
3. The owner never changes/rotates the treats given.
4. The dog was given his full dinner before training.

For those gourmet dogs (I have one!), owners shouldn't be afraid of using people food. Of course, we want to give our dogs healthy treats, so take care in the people food chosen. Does feeding people food turn your dog into a beggar? No. Feeding dogs from the table creates beggars (I know this too because I find begging cute, even though my husband does not). You could create a begging dog by feeding him dog food from the table! Owners should also rotate treats frequently so the dog does not get bored of them. Just because he loved that bag and now it is empty, doesn't mean you should buy that same bag over and over again.

Below is a list of my top favorite dog treats:
1. Zukes Z-Filets
2. Chicken Jerky (any brand works)
3. Duck Jerky
4. Wellness Pure Bites
5. Natural Balance food rolls
6. Freeze dried liver treats (any brand)

Freeze dried liver treat crumbs are delecious!

All of the treats are by-product free, chemical preservative free, sugar and salt free and contain no artificial colors.

Below is a list of my top favorite human foods for treat usage:
1. String cheese or colby jack cheese sticks (the easy packaging is a plus)
2. Peanut butter placed in a squeeze tube
3. Liverwurst in a squeeze tube
4. Tuna mixed with cream cheese in a tube
5. Leftover meat cuts
6. Cucumber, carrot, or apple pieces (some dogs love it, Lex is not one of them though)
7. Fat free cool whip in a can (not the healthiest, but this is Lex's FAVORITE! He will overcome things that terrify him for cool whip)

After talking to owners about other treat options, usually we find the dog that "hates treats" really doesn't hate them, he just hated biscuits and his dog kibble!

List of toy rewards:
1. Frisbee
2. Tug toy
3. Laser light
4. Plastic bottle
5. Squeaky tennis ball

Life rewards:
1. Going potty outside
2. Going for walk
3. Playing fetch
4. Playing tug
5. Getting a massage/petting session
6. Getting up on the furniture
7. Playing with other dogs
8. Playing a game

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fat Dogs

We all know that America has a human obesity issue and some people with pets know that this problem is now affecting our fuzzy companions as well. According to an article I read today, 50 percent of America's dogs are obese!

I am a stickler for keeping my dogs lean. They are active dogs that need to be fit for flyball. With Lucy getting older, the lighter she is, the better her hips will feel.

Dog obesity is quite sad considering it is a HUMAN problem, not a dog problem. We are responsible as owners for what goes into our pet's tummies. There is really no reason, other than a severe medical problem, that a dog should be fat. All it takes is some food moderation and exercise. Or simply food moderation and no exercise for some dogs!

Today I was with a training client and she commented that Lex looked underweight. I will admit he is about 2 pound under where I would like to see him. He is a picky eater and moderates himself severely. I don't believe in free feeding, so he gets an opportunity to eat 2x per day, and what isn't eaten in a reasonable amount of time, gets put back into the bag. I once was a victim of his food terrorism, offering him canned food, people food, raw diets, dehydrated diets. Even after two meals of such gourmet fare, he would turn his nose up at his bowl. I had knots inside me thinking how my poor dog was starving. I sought out advice on training forums, spoke to his breeder and was told that a healthy dog will not go hungry for long and that I needed to stop catering to his demands. His breeder even told me that his relatives were also "thrifty" eaters and they kept themselves lean naturally even when left alone with a bowl of kibble all day. I can tell you he is less underweight now with our 2x per day kibble regimen than me offering one delicious tidbit after another, which resulted in him going off food until I offered something even tastier.

I find that with so many dogs overweight that most owners don't appreciate a healthy, trim dog. Also, with Lex being a smooth coat, he doesn't have fur to hide behind. Here are some pictures of Lex.

And here are some pictures of Lucy (they weigh the same):

So how do you make a fat dog slim? It is easy. You don't even need to buy a diet food!

Step 1: make sure your dog is on a high quality food (see such as Avoderm, Pinnacle, Castor and Pollux, Wellness, Solid Gold, Call of the Wild, Innova or any Natura product, Merrick.

Step 2: read the back of your bag for the feeding recommendations for your dog's age and IDEAL weight. Start feeding that amount suggested.

Step 3: closer monitor your dog's weight via weigh ins or rib checks/belly fat checks. I don't weigh my dogs frequently, I feel their mid-section.

Step 4: augment amount fed as necessary based on your checks.

Step 5: exercise your dog when you can!

Step 6: no more fatty, nasty, sugary, chemical based treats! If you are training and need treats, use small pieces of veggies or Charlie Bear treats as they are very low calorie. Also cut back on dinner or breakfast on the days you use treats or give your dog a bone.

Depending on how many pounds Fido needs to shed, you should see a change within 2-3 weeks. Pretty soon your dog will be happier and healthier. I think it is a given the benefits of being fit, so I won't bore anyone with those facts.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bored Dog Busters!

My dog's lives drastically changed in the last year and a half. I got pregnant, had a baby and we moved from Oregon to California.

While I kept up on their lifestyle most of my pregnancy, towards the end I had to slow down. We stopped herding sheep for my safety, and took a hiatus from flyball. We did less hard physical exercise, but took more leisurely walks and played brain games.

When my daughter was born, I relied on friends and my husband to take the dogs out to the park or on walks for the first month or so. One of my best friends, Mandy, took them to her place for a few days and they got to enjoy trail rides with her horse, play on her property and play ball with her dogs.

Then we moved to California and all had to readjust. I found a flyball club to join and have found new ways to keep the knuckle heads entertained. You would think that with me at home most days with my daughter that I would have tons of time on my hands right? Not exactly!

My 9 month old, of course, needs lots of attention. I still need to do house chores and have some time to myself (usually nap time). With the weather being so awful lately, I found my dogs were getting the short end of the stick by the end of the day. I started keeping a very informal log (pen and paper) of how long I did what activity with each dog. The first day I was saddened to see that aside from normal care (feeding, pottying etc), the dogs were only getting 30 mins of quality time each! Maybe I wouldn't have felt so bad if they weren't Border Collies or the fact that I am a dog trainer or that their former life consisted of agility, herding, flyball, river trips, beach trips, hikes, training, dog park etc. My log has helped me a lot though in the past week. I have been remembering more creative things to do with them in leiu of the weather. I thought I would share some for those other bored dogs at home!

We work on commands as needed throughout the day, but sometimes they need a refresher in commands that aren't given every day. When we do command time at home, we tend to do it in 5 minute spurts with each dog alone or together. I don't want them to burn out. I want them to think it is fun.

- 5 mins of known commands and current tricks: I have been practicing Lucy's lie-down on recall, sending her to her bed, directionals around the couch and coffee table, duration stays while I clean (hey, two birds with one stone!), "say your prayers" and "night night" which is when she rolls herself up in a blanket.

For Lex I have been practicing backing up, nose targeting, leave-it, crawl, "say your prayers" and directionals as well.

- 5 mins of nosework: nosework is actually a class/activity that people do with their dog that can be easily done at home. You take some small boxes or paper towel rolls and place a smelly treat in it (I use hot dog right now). Just place the treat in one box while your dog is out of sight and then line the boxes up in a row. Let your dog loose and cue "Go find." When the dog finds the right box, give the treat out of it. I took this a step further and want them to alert to the box and not destroy it trying to get the treat out. As soon as they find it, I cue a lie-down, then give the treat. Now Lex finds it, and automatically lies down. Nosework really gets them excited to use their nose and tires them out quickly. Plus it is a confidence building exercise. For a dog new to this, I would probably put the dog on leash so they aren't looking all over the place for the treat. Also, limit the box number at first and build up to more.

- 5 mins of laser pointer: Lucy hates the laser, so this is only for Lex! I put her away and then basically just let him go bonkers with the laser. I can't do it for too long because he gets a little OCD about it. Once we are done, I put it back in a drawer so he doesn't obsess looking at it lol. We actually had to take a break from using the laser for about a month. We used it so often he was just staring at it all the time. We only play laser once a week because we don't want that to happen again.

- 10-15 mins of fetch indoors: pretty self-explanatory. Sometimes I do this with just one dog, or both. Lucy tends to be a hog, so Lex needs his own fetch time. I also throw tug into the game.

- 10 mins box-work: this is flyball specific. We work on our box turns with our practice board.

- Going to work: sometimes I bring the dogs with me to a private training or to Petco.

- 30 mins walk: when the weather permits, we take a walk with the baby in her stroller or carrier.

- 5 mins massage: both dogs loooove being massaged. I had never done this formally, but Lucy was never too thrilled when I just rub her belly or neck for 30 seconds, so I decided to give her a full 5 minute massage! Boy was she happy and so chill afterwards!

- Flyball practice: every Sunday (although not in the next month due to tournaments and bad weather!), we go to flyball practice for 3 hours. Tired, tired pups till the end of Monday.

- 30- 60 mins kong time/search: while I can give the dogs a Kong or bone to keep them occupied, it is more fun for them (and me) to have them find it first. Today I used some hotdog and put one little piece in two kongs and had them do this over and over and over. I hide the kongs, they find them, get the hot dog out, then bring it to me for re-loading. In fact, it is going on two hours at this point since I put bigger pieces of hot dog in a made it more difficult! I was also able to get all my chores done while doing this. Win/win!

-10 mins of bubble time: my daughter loves bubbles and we have this great little thing we got from gymboree baby class that blows out a lot of little safe non-toxic edible bubbles. The dogs also love biting and eating the bubbles, so everyone gets a turn with the bubbles.

Do you do any creative fun things with your dog at home during bad weather or just in general? Please comment if you do!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Training 101

I was just recently talking to a friend about dog training. While she doesn't have dogs, she has friends who do and from hanging out with me she has picked up a few pointers about basic training. It seems she witnessed first hand some big training faux pas: multiple commands, undermining the person working with the dogs and using a loud, strong voice.

Imagine that you only speak English and you have just moved to China. The only words you know in Chinese are "No" and "Bad girl." Of course, you know your name as well. Your Chinese housemates have some strange rules. They think that shaking hands for greetings is disgusting, that toilets are for decoration only and you must get permission before going outside or sitting on their furniture. Of course you don't know any of these rules, you only know what is normal for you in America.

Day one: you politely go to shake hands with your housemates and are immediately barraged with "Bad girl!" and a slap on the hand. You wonder "What the heck? Are these people crazy?" As you continue with your day, you get a good meal and some good interactions with your new housemates however there are still some strange blow ups. When you are using the toilet, one housemate storms in and starts whacking you with a magazine! Later in the day, when you go to sit on the couch another housemate runs over to you shouting, "No!" repeatedly. Dejected, you sit in the corner and wonder when you are leaving this forsaken place.

Now imagine that you are in China with some more understanding and enlightened housemates. When you go to shake hands, they ignore you and turn away but as soon as you stop they clap and smile repeatedly to show you that this is their preferred greeting. When you go to use to use the toilet, they calmly escort you to where they would prefer you to eliminate and then give you $20 when you do so. When you go to sit on the couch, they block you, wait for you to hesitate, and then invite you onto the couch. They start using the Chinese words for things when you are using said object to build an association between the word and the object, or action. They are patient, and only one person interacts with you at a time. They don't repeat things and scream at you. You aren't as confused living here and are slowly starting to understand their culture.

This is possibly how a dog sees life with us humans. Dogs don't speak English and can only learn associations with words and objects or actions.

If you wanted to teach a dog to sit, the dog would learn much faster if you simply waited for him to sit, and then said "Yes! Good sit!" or "Good sit!" or used a clicker. Now if you repeated sit over and over and over to a dog that doesn't know the word, is he going to understand that putting his butt on the floor means that word? Probably not. In fact, owners can ruin a word association by using it repeatedly before the dog understands the action and word link.

Now what about a dog that already knows the word "wait" for waiting at the door and the owner says it and the dog is trying to blast past him? Some owners may repeat the word until the dog actually waits. This can teach the dog that he needs to hear said command 3,4, 10 times before actually doing it! Instead, I would use the door or my foot to block the dog and when he hesitates, release him through the door. I got what I wanted. No need to repeat it again. The dog wants to go outside and he will soon understand that the faster he waits, the sooner he gets released. It is as simple as that.

Undermining commands: I have seen many times in dog class a spouse attempting to train their dog, with the other yelling the command over their shoulder when the dog does not perform. This can teach their dog that only Daddy is in charge and that Mommy doesn't know what she is doing! On another level, this can deplete the confidence of the person working with the dog. It isn't helpful for the dog or the other person for an additional party to yell commands. The dog and that person need to work it out amongst themselves.

Using a "strong" voice: While it is great to be confident in training a dog, there is no need to yell commands or try to demean the dog in getting him to do something. In fact, if you train with a soft voice, the dog will become a better listener. When you do yell "Here!" as your dog is heading towards the street, he will think "Wow, Dad means business, I better go back." Some dogs are soft dogs and some are hard dogs, but both types benefit from a calm owner that has a steady voice, not necessarily a strong voice.

So next time you are working with your dog and he is confused, imagine you are in a foreign country with strange rules and how you would like to be worked with and treated.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Crate Training

Just recently I met a new client with an 8 week old puppy that had questions about potty training. It seems they were misinformed that this puppy they had just received was "completely" potty trained and the following Monday they left for work for 9 hours and left him with a potty pad in the kitchen with free rein of their house. They were disappointed and confused to find messes every where upon returning home and thankfully reached out to a trainer (me) to help them.

After explaining to them that an 8 week old puppy can no way be completely potty trained at that age and that leaving him to roam the house was probably not the best idea, I started telling them about my sure-fire way of potty training, which involves crate training and received shock from them as to why I would recommend such a torturous thing!

Dogs don't think being in a crate is torture. In fact, research shows that dogs are den animals and really enjoy the comfort of a crate. Think of a crate as your dog's private relaxation place where he can go to get some R&R when the house is too busy, when guests are over around stressful holidays or a safe place to sleep at night.

Crates have so many positive functions that I hope more people will crate train their puppies and dogs.

12 week old Lex sharing his crate with Lucy.

- Puppies will not potty in their den, therefore a crate is a great way to potty train a puppy. The crate must not be too large for the puppy to potty in the back and lay in the front though. Large enough for the pup to turn around and lay stretched out.
- Crates are a safe place to put the pup when you are busy and can't tend to him (further avoiding accidents and chewing things in the house).
- Many of my clients also use the crate as a time-out zone when puppy has done something wrong and needs some time to calm down.
- Pups should sleep in the crate at night to ensure no midnight romping, peeing or snacking when you are sleeping!
- In addition to a crate, some owners who will be gone for too long, will attach a pen to the crate so the pup has a potty spot if they are gone for over the length of time the pup can hold it.

10 week old Lex hanging out in his pen.

- For a fully trained dog, an open crate is a place of refuge during times of stress (when children are visiting, when another dog is visiting, changes in lifestyle etc).
- As per my previous post, crates are also great ways to transport a dog in the car.
- If a dog is crate trained, there will be less stress involved for air travel, boarding at the vet or boarding facility and pet sitters are very appreciative to owners that crate trained their dogs!
- If your dog ever has surgery and is prescribed cage rest, there won't be stress associated with crating a dog that is unfamiliar with it.
- Visiting a friend or going to a hotel? Friends, family and hotel owners appreciate crate trained dogs that will not be destroying rooms or getting into things when their owner is away!
- Thinking about taking up a dog sport in the future? When it isn't your dog's turn, they must be crated.

Dogs can be crate trained at any age, it is just easier in puppyhood and has more applications if started sooner. If you would like more information, check out this link:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lane, the imaginary reactive dog part 2

The saga of my imaginary reactive dog continues…..
Last we left off, I had just determined my new rescue dog “Lane,” had reactivity issues with boisterous dogs and puppies in particular. I arranged one session with my mom using her pup as a trigger and achieved success.

I will point out here that I am “playing” myself in this role as my imaginary dog’s owner. As a trainer, if I were to ever find myself owning a reactive dog, I would be able to write a thorough training plan and follow it. For those that are not professional trainers, this blog should not serve as your roadmap because every dog is different. I would highly recommend we get together for me to evaluate your dog and determine your dog’s training plan. Some owners also need my assistance in providing the “trigger” that is a willing and calm dog. Most of my reactive dog clients meet with me weekly or every two weeks to have a session and to check on their progress.  Now back to Mr. Lane.

In order to ensure I don’t cause chronic stress, I have decided that I will work Lane 3x per week.  Sundays I will take him to flyball practice and he will chill out in the crate in the car and when I have time in between runs, I will take him out when the puppies have their turn and do some walk-bys with my clicker and treats. Wednesday evenings I will take him to my dog training classes for two hours and crate him with a blanket away from the ring. I will get to class early and work him off the dogs in the store, take him out for appropriate demos and work him after class. Fridays we will take a walk alone after my husband gets home and walk to the dog park and stay on the outskirts. In between those “working” days, he will get to play with my other dogs, play with puzzle toys, and play some fetch in the yard as well as learn more obedience commands as necessary.

I take Lane and Lex to flyball practice in Novato. My crates are zip-tied in the car, so I find a shady spot and pop the back open. There are two puppies in flyball class and they both get turns at the same time. Flyball however, is a fast paced sport, so I am pretty sure ALL of the dogs are triggers for Lane. After Lex’s turn, I get Lane out with my treat bag, string cheese, clicker and fleece tug toy. We walk towards where the 2 dogs are practicing. At 100 feet he is alert. I click and treat for looking the dogs (no words or commands from me) and we turn around and trot in a circle. 95 feet, click and treat. 90 feet he stops taking the food. This means we are too close. I back up to 120 feet and get him to tug with me. He does so half-heartedly. I put him back in car. This whole scenario took about 5 mins.

Next turn with 2 dogs out, I get him to go potty near the car then tug out of sight of the dogs. He is really into the tug. We tug towards the dogs. 110 feet and still into the tug, 100 feet and still into the tug, 90 feet, he drops it and looks alert then a dog looks at him and he loses it. We retreat and re-group by having him do doggie push-ups (sit, down, sit, down) near the car. Then we go to 115 feet and do some watches, click, treat, about 12 in a row, and I put him back. He is done for Sunday.

I go to dog class early and leave Lane in the car while I set up a plastic crate with blanket over it and soft x-pen around it. I set up my training area, get hand-outs ready, load my treat bag and get Lane out of the car. I have recently discovered he also enjoys liverwurst from a squeeze tub that I picked up at a sporting goods store. I get his harness on and let him potty then we practice walking into the store nicely. Any pulling towards the store and we make a u-turn, until he enters calmly. We see a dog about 30 feet in straight ahead, so I quickly tell him “this way!” and happily trot with him down the main side aisle. He didn’t bark or do anything since the dog caught him by surprise. We walk around the perimeter of the store just focusing on walking nicely and doing frequent watches for liverwurst. We see a dog at 50 feet that is sniffing the floor near its owner. We stand still and I have Lane sit and do looks and watches. The dog leaves, so we continue walking. I hear one of my puppy clients entering the store and tell Lane to down/stay and I walk 20 feet away and peer around the aisle and ask her to please go to the ring for me. Since I now know where the puppy will be, I release Lane and we heel to the side of the ring. We do fast pass-bys with almost a constant flow of the liverwurst into his mouth and me clicking for looking at the puppy that is only about 15 feet away frolicking in the ring. This lasts for about 2 mins. I ask the puppy owner to exit the ring on the other side and put Lane in his crate, crate facing away from the ring, covered and with its “reinforcements” of x-pen and clothing rack boxing his crate in. There is no way a dog can see him nor can he see a dog. He is crated for the 2 hours of class except when I bring him out to show something, and then I ask the puppy owners to stand outside of the ring and practice their puppy’s watch commands and duration stays while I demonstrate. At the end of the two hours after everyone has left, I let him off leash to run around and enjoy the store while I pack up.

Friday is the day I dread working with Lane. It is the most unpredictable setting: the dog park. There is an official dog park near where we live (Newhall Park). I won’t be taking Lane into the fenced park to play with dogs off leash. I will be using the whole park and be off to side as the dogs walk into the fenced park, or use the dogs walking by on leash to the trails with their owners.

I wait until my husband is home to watch our daughter and drive to the park. We could walk there, but the trails are too populated en route there. We go the less frequented parking lot on the backside of the park and approach the back side of the fenced area. We are about 200 feet away from the fence and about 150 feet away from a main gravel trail. There are lots of dogs out walking and Lane is very very interested. I get him to engage in a game of fetch with a tennis ball with him on a 30 foot line attached to his harness so he isn’t so into the dogs. He is still wary of them, but playing ball with me. Then I get the liverwurst out and we do big circles towards the fence and trail, clicking and treating for looking at any dog, even if it is a dog that he probably wouldn’t react to. We are doing quite well until I see a man with a lab puppy on his way to the gate start pulling towards us. I have a decision to make. I can tell the man to back off, I can stand there and work Lane or I can walk away.  Since the lab is out of control and the owner obviously is being dragged, I choose to walk away, well literally jog away and do the “jolly routine” with Lane. “This way!”  He lets out one bark, but then trots with me, looking nervously over his shoulder. The owner seems confused and his lab now charges to the entry of the park. Now further away we begin to make a straight line to the fencing working off the dogs playing in the park. Walk, sit, click, treat, walk, sit, click treat. I am working on him being in control and sitting at heel and seeing the dogs, then giving me eye contact. Now within 20 feet of the fence we have attracted some dogs, so we turn around and I have Lane down at about 50 feet, treat, treat, treat, treat for nice duration down. Then I release him and we walk back to the car.

My next idea for him: work on Karen Overall’s relaxation protocol and mat work for taking to the park and work and flyball. Also, finding another treat he loves so I can rotate them.

Any literature or protocol I refer to is linked on my discussion page under links at Tailored Dog Training on facebook.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reactive Dogs

Right now I am literally flooded with reactive dogs in my group classes and private sessions. I specialize in that area of training, however I am pretty sure that these dogs aren't flocking to me from far and wide because of that. I have a theory though.

What is a reactive dog anyway? A dog that over reacts to a stimulus. This can be other dogs, people, livestock, objects etc.

Here is some jargon for you with reactive dogs:

Trigger: this is the stimulus that sets the dog off.
Threshold: maximum "place" that dog can withstand trigger.
Counter-conditioning: changing the dog's association or feelings to the trigger usually by pairing treats or a reward when the trigger is present.
Desensitization: gradual exposure to triggers.
Flooding: extreme exposure to triggers. We don't want to do this!

Why are some dogs reactive? Well the studies and meaningful literature out there states it can be hereditary (we see this in selective breeding for calm guide dogs or pushy police dogs), it can be learned from a situation (dog gets attacked and becomes fearful of other dogs or dog is abused by humans and is now fearful of humans), it can be a product of being taken away from litter mates too early or lack of socialization (to dogs or people) and lastly it can be from getting corrections from the owner when the trigger is present.

In Oregon, I had reactive dog clients, but not nearly in this volume at one time. My theory for why I am seeing so many in California has to do with all the reasons why dogs can be reactive.

1. I have noticed a lot more people here rescue dogs. Rescue dogs tend to have baggage and sometimes this is reactivity issues. Perhaps the previous owners locked the puppy in a garage and never socialized him or maybe an older resident dog picked on the new dog and they then took him to the shelter to prevent more bullying. Maybe the dog became reactive from fence fighting in the kennels at the shelter.

2. There are an insane amount of irresponsible breeders here. People having whoops litters and selling pups for $20 or free and letting these pups go way too young (as in 5-6 weeks old). The puppies don't get time to learn proper play habits with liter mates and then they are confined to a home until their shots are complete and by that time the golden window of socialization (up to 12 weeks of age), has closed.

3. Vets here are a bit anal about puppies getting ALL their vaccines before going out in public. Perhaps there is an increase of parvo scares and the like due to a higher population of irresponsible owners and breeders. I am running into people that are keeping their dog in their home until 6 months of age! Most vets don't give rabies till 6 months, but the DHLPP series is finished by 12-14 weeks if started on time. Dogs aren't harboring rabies at the pet store or park. Usually rabies is contracted from wild animals, and it must be contracted from a bite. The other diseases are spread by fecal matter so a dog that is infected can step in its own feces, walk into a pet store and your dog walks over that spot and licks his paws later. It is the DHLPP diseases owners need to worry about. Current literature suggests that pups are actually completely protected by the third shot in the series and a forth is "just in case."

I am also seeing various degrees of reactivity: simple barrier aggression only when the dog is leashed, reactivity only towards small dogs, inappropriate greetings and play-style (however friendly towards dogs), fearful of only men, fearful of only children, truly aggressive towards all dogs.

The general training concept is the same for all the above cases. However, there is a ton of behind the scenes work to be done before an owner tackles reactivity training successfully.

1. Dog must have some basic obedience skills and be able to "watch," "sit," and not pull on the leash.

2. Dog must be evaluated for chronic stress. If the dog is stressed, he cannot learn. There are many homeopathic remedies and pharmaceuticals reactive dog owners can use in conjunction with training to enable learning.

3. Owner must know what the dog's ultimate reward is.

4. Clicker training is helpful, though not essential.

5. Owner needs to embrace that they are not going to correct their dog, but change his association with triggers and owner needs to be aware of exactly what happens when a dog goes over threshold physiologically.

Once these "steps" are taken care of,  we can get down to work.

Let's pretend that I have just adopted a Border Collie that is a year old from rescue picked up as a stray with no known history. I take "Lane" home and after a rocky two weeks, he is fine with my two. We get down to clicker training and teach him the basics. I don't trust Lane off leash yet, so I have only walked him around my neighborhood and brought him into Petco a handful of times. He is shy of people, but warms up after a few meetings. He seems very interested in other dogs, but the few we have seen, I have just turned him on his harness and walked the other way. I decide that now Lane is crate trained I will bring him to my classes. He sees an exuberant puppy in class and explodes. Barking, lunging, teeth showing. Out of shock, I say, "No!" loudly and drag Lane away.  His ears go back and he grovels since I yelled at him. I now realize we have work to do.
1. I know rescue remedy works great on Lex, so I dose Lane with it whenever we are going to go work with dogs 30 mins prior to leaving.
2. I know Lane absolutely loves string cheese, so I stock my treat bag with it and use it only for dog issues.
3. Lane is on an easy walk harness for control and to make sure he doesn't get a correction when seeing dogs
4. I arrange for my mom to meet me on neutral territory with one of her puppies. I instruct her to be across the street not moving. Lane sees the puppy and whines, I tell him to "watch," he does, and I click and treat. He looks at the pup again and does nothing. I say "Good Look!" and click and treat. Lane catches on quickly that Look means look at the trigger, do nothing and get a treat. Within a five minutes he is rapidly head turning from the pup to me. We haven't moved, neither has the pup.
5. I take about ten steps back up a driveway and tell my mom to start moving with the pup. Lane perks up and his ears are forward, tail straight back and still. I can tell he is about to go over the top. I quickly tell him to watch and get no response. The whining starts, I immediately stick a large piece of cheese in front of his nose and as he chomps down on it, we do a u-turn away from the puppy and gain more distance. You see, now that the puppy is moving, we had to get more distance away from it in order to still be successful. We work for 10 more mins and slowly work our way back to where we started, still across the street and end. 20 mins of non-stop work, he didn't go over threshold and we ended on a good note.

I now know that I don't want to sabotage our work, so if I take Lane out for walks, I always have my clicker and treats and his harness on and if we see a puppy in the distance we get out of dodge to work on our Looks and watches. When I do take him to work, I make sure it isn't a puppy class or that I cover his crate since it isn't fair to let him react in his crate. If I don't have treats and we see a puppy, we just retreat. Over time we will get there.

I could continue this saga into what I would do with my imaginary dog for our next training sessions. If you are interested in this, please comment and I will write some more installments.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Car safety

Today in a few of the dog training yahoo groups I am a member of, this issue of driving safely with dogs kept coming up. The posts in particular center around atypical dogs that have extreme shyness or reactivity. All the more reason to travel safely though! These posts got me thinking though, that not everyone may be aware that securing a dog while driving is something every dog owner should do.

My two travel in wire crates. That way they are secure and I can see through the crate in my review mirror. Prior to having the crates and my dog mobile, I had an Xterra that could not fit two appropriate size crates for my dogs. I taught them that their place was in the cargo area by putting them back there and repeating the process if they jumped over (hollering at them to "get back" while driving). However, if I was not in the car, I would always come back to a dog in the driver seat. This scenario was not fun when I was taking turns herding sheep with the dogs and coming back to the car meant the driver seat covered in mud and sheep poo from Miss Lucy scampering into the front while Lex was getting his turn on sheep!

After that I turned to a vehicle barrier that is a metal divider pressure mounted between the back seat and cargo area. This worked for a while but the cargo area was getting trashed with mud, sheep poo, grass etc and so were the back windows. After a while the pressure mount began to degrade my ceiling and Lucy figured out how to take her paw and pull the barrier back on them, thus falling on them both while I was driving!

It was after a few scary moments of sudden "crash!" and cries from the dogs I turned to using wire crates. An appropriate size crate fit just fine for one dog. The other dog (Lex) had to suffer in a crate for a slightly smaller dog. Sometimes I traded off who was in the smaller crate. I assuaged my guilt by telling myself I have seen many a dog stuffed in a small crate for agility or flyball matches and our car rides were never too long. Lucky for me (and them), I got my dream car with plenty of crate room in June 2010.

My new car fit two crates side by side fit for two large german shepherds! Finally my two could lounge and be driven about in style! What if you cannot afford the luxury of tailoring your car buying to your dog?
Why secure your dog in the car anyway?

If a dog is not secure in the car he can interfere with the driver by getting in the driver's lap, attempt to look out the driver's window, put his paws on the dash or center console and slide about the car. In the event of an accident a dog that isn't secured can fly out the window and injure himself or even survive and run away in fright from the emergency crew (I have known this to happen). Dogs that are secured are also not a distraction and the dog learns a routine, thus making him more comfortable with trips.

- Seat belt harness: this keeps any size dog in one place and prevents flying through the windshield
- Zip-line: if you feel cruel that your dog is affixed to one place, there is a zip-line that attaches from handle to handle on the backseat ceiling to hook the harness to, giving the dog more backseat access, but still preventing him from accessing the driver and flying out the window.

- Booster seat: designed for dogs under 20 pounds, this keeps small dogs in one place and allows them to see out the window.

- Hammock: this attaches to the front seat and backseat headrests to create a hammock for the dog to lay in. Does not help in the case of an accident and pretty much takes up the whole backseat.

- Crate: if you have room, this is the best option. Keeps pet contained, keeps mess contained and prevents fly-outs in an accident.

- Mesh vehicle barrier: this goes behind the front seat headrest to keep a dog in the back. Will not help with larger dogs that can push down the mesh and will be a mild help in case of an accident.

- Metal vehicle barrier: only works for SUV's, Subarus or Minivans (must get extra bars for minivans). Keeps dogs contained and helps in case of an accident.

It used to be most of these items had to be special ordered online. Petco wised up though, and they now carry a variety of all the options! Happy driving and stay safe!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Clicker Training my Dogs

On my business facebook page I have posted two articles about clicker training. I have been "re-vitalizing" clicker training in my group classes as well. L&L are clicker trained and I highly recommend it!

My two know a lot of tricks. They know so many that I frequently am at a loss of what to teach them next! After my daughter is asleep I get my "me" time online. Sometimes I scour the internet for tricks, read dog training blogs and links, peruse facebook or read funny websites. I will tell you though that the best dog trick ideas to be found are on youtube. I like to follow one person in particular called Kikopup. She uses clicker training with her border collie, and two small breeds.

The latest trick we have been shaping is what she calls "orbit." It is a rear-end awareness exercise. Most dogs don't know they have hind legs and this is important for things like agility, flyball etc but also a crucial step for some advanced tricks. My dogs can do the ladder rung test just fine and can do box-turns for flyball and confidently use agility equipment. They know enough about their back legs to do that! However in my quest to teach some more advanced tricks I realized that this was the step I forgot about.

You see, I have been wanting to teach Lucy in particular, how to weave BACKWARDS between my legs for years after I saw it on a dog freestyle video (doggie dancing). She can weave forwards with me standing still or walking and I taught her to flip around between my legs and walk forwards or backwards.We have been working on this "orbit" trick for a few weeks now, on and off and tonight I had a major break through with both dogs.

1.The first step of this was to get an elevated surface, such as a book, and teach the dog to step-up on it. I quickly realized that for my dogs, it needed to be a high elevated surface for them to remain on it and not slide it, so we use a box or tote that Elsie's toys go in. This part was easy since they already know "paws up."

2. Next click the dog for any back leg movement. Wait for it, or walk into the dog or lure a treat to get some movement. Treat luring didn't work for them. However if I was across from them directly and moved, they mirrored my movement. I think this has to do with their herding instinct (keep the sheep between handler and dog).

3. Slowly raise criteria or change criteria. Click for more movement, try both directions, go for a full revolution. This is where we got stuck for a while. I wanted them to move without me moving across from them. It was slow going at first. For a week they would do a few steps without me moving and then I had to lean my body to fake I was going to move. That was until tonight.

Tonight after a few reps, Lucy did a half revolution without me moving. Lex did a whole revolution with me way off contact (7 feet away) with a little movement. Since I used the word "orbit" from the get go before the trick was complete, I have to repeat it to keep them going around. So I could change the word later to something else to mean a complete revolution, or just keep repeating it.

When does this turn into backwards weaving? The orbit on an object is a trick in itself, but once the object is removed there is more steps.

4. Get the dog to do the orbit in place with paws on the carpet.

5. Insert your leg and tell dog to orbit and voila, backwards weaving!

I hope that wasn't boring! This is what dog trainers do after their dogs can sit, stay, leave-it, crawl, high-five, bow, spin, bounce, speak, whisper, retrieve things, find things, say their prayers, roll up in a blanket etc!

Here is the link to Kikopup:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Altering your dog

While working at Petco yesterday, a small family came in with two pit bulls looking for collars and leashes. The intact male pit was massive. He was a grey and brown brindle with a large head and looked like he was possibly mixed with a bull mastiff. On his choke chain he sputtered and dragged a tall man in his 30's dressed like a teenage rapper towards where I directed him. The man's wife, a red headed woman that looked haggard with worn clothes, followed close behind with a white and brown female pit bull on a flimsy collar with rope tied to it. Behind the parents, a 4 year old girl bopped along repeating everything her parents said (for better or worse) pertaining to the dogs, "He is outta control!" "Don't worry, he don't bite!" "We need something to walk Angel better!" "Cognac knocks me down and I don't like it!"

Seeing as there was no one for me to attend to at the register and walked over to the family to assist them. I stayed just out of range of the dogs as I normally do with hyper dogs to avoid being jumped on. The man noticed and said, "Why you standing there like that? They ain't mean." I replied, "I am sure they are friendly dogs sir, I just didn't want to get jumped on." Well I did get jumped on, hard, as I had to fit the female for a better collar. I convinced them to purchase a martingale collar instead of a chain and a nice 4 foot leash with traffic handle for better control. While talking to them I found out that these dogs weren't theirs, they simply belonged to a "buddy" that was unable to exercise them or train them and he was helping him out. Suddenly I felt a little bad for having judged them for having Angel on a rope and Cognac intact. They weren't his and he was spending his own money getting her a better collar and leash. He even bought them some treats and got the male's nails trimmed by the groomer.

When he reached the register I asked how old the dogs were: Angel 6 months, and Cognac 2 years. I asked if Angel had been spayed because if not, he should be careful with them together since she might come into season soon. Now I usually don't give people lectures on spaying/neutering their pets at work. After all, I do have an intact dog myself. However if you were to walk into any pound or humane society in California, 80% of the dogs are pits. Adults and puppies alike for very low adoption fees. The paper and craigslist here is also swimming with pit bulls for sale.

I didn't like the answer I received: "No, she ain't spayed. We want them to have pups. Then I get the pick of the litter! I had to get rid of my dog a few years ago that was aggressive when I had my son. Well, she was protective and it was cute for a while, but then scary for people to come over, so we took her to the pound."

I shut my mouth, rang them up and politely bid them a good day. I was mentally face-palming though.

Many people I encounter don't know that Lex is intact. He doesn't act like a "typical" intact dog. He doesn't mark in my house, hump anything that moves and isn't a big bully at the park. I can take him to work with me and he happily plays with most dogs. I will say he does pee a lot on walks, but then again so does altered Lucy. He also isn't a big fan of other intact males, but I just don't let him play with them.

Recently a co-worker found out Lex was intact and asked me why. I launched into what I tell most people. "Lex is purebred, papered with ABCA, is a titled sporting dog, CGC and I have entertained the idea of breeding him someday to a like papered and titled bitch (I actually have a friend's dog in mind, BC Rose, when she gets to that level)." With Lucy spayed, I don't worry about an unplanned litter and I don't allow Lex to roam the neighborhood. If he were to ever display inappropriate mounting behavior or aggression towards Lucy or the family, I would alter him in an instant. I like to think I have a good "checklist" and am responsible about this.

It seems though in California that there are only two extremes: ALTER YOUR PETS OR ELSE! and I BREED MY DOG TO ANY BREATHING DOG! I have yet to personally meet a responsible breeder here or even hear about one from where my dog training clients got their dog.

My clients have gotten their dogs from the shelter, SPCA, the paper (back yard breeders), craigslist re-homes, the flea market, finding a dog in their neighborhood, a friend having a "whoops" litter or someone giving them a dog.

I'm not sure why people that don't want a rescue don't go to a responsible breeder. Maybe they don't want to pay a higher price than what they see in the paper and don't understand the difference. Well, there is a difference.

Responsible breeders don't over-breed their dogs. Most of the time a bitch only gets bred a handful of times in her life. If they have multiple females, they probably have maybe two litters per year. Responsible breeders get the puppies their first shots on time, they de-worm the puppies, do any dew-claw removal if necessary or tail docking (if applicable to the breed). Good breeders will give you a puppy care pack and tell you what food the dogs have been eating. I know Lex's breeder used to wheel the pups around in wheel barrow to prevent motion sickness. He also had those pups chasing a lure toy to encourage their herding drive and Lex could lie-down and sit the day I brought him home! My mom's wheaton terrier pup came with a crate, scent cloth, list of vaccines he received, and the breeder was always available to her for any questions. Good breeders breed dogs to better the breed. Most don't do it for money (they actually lose money or end up breaking even most times). A great breeder won't use a dog that has undesired physical or character traits. They don't want aggression in their line, or genetic diseases or things like hip dysplasia.

So next time you are in the market for a dog or puppy, go see a RESPONSIBLE breeder (not the paper, not craigslist, not a friend of a friend) or rescue a dog from the shelter or rescue organization. Purchasing a dog from a "backyard breeder" only enables those people like yesterday's customer, to create more puppies in a nation where we already have a surplus of pits, mixed breeds and even purebred, unwanted dogs. While the initial price may be higher, your new pup will have already had vaccines started and not be as susceptible to popular diseases within a breed. In the end, you will spend more money if you get a sickly puppy that you are "saving" from a backyard breeder.

If you have a dog that is not purebred, doesn't have papers, isn't getting titled in any sport or conformation and you think you can make money breeding, then ALTER your pet!

Note: for those that have experience with rescue dogs and the joy of giving a shelter dog a home, I commend you! Rescuing a dog is a whole new post since there is a lot to that!