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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Going to Your Relatives with Fluffy

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and some of us have found a way to get a free dinner at the relatives'.  Of course, we will bring Fluffy along too.  It is always fun at Uncle Al's, I am sure that Fluffy thinks so too!  Really?

Remember, Fluffy is a dog.  Things that stimulate and entertain Fluffy are not necessarily the same things that stimulate and entertain us.  Things that give Fluffy a sence of safety and security while we are away from our house can be very different than how we percieve safety and security.  So, what does Fluffy really think of Uncle Al's house (full of strange people and possibly other dogs)?

First, let's think of what we are walking Fluffy into.  Here is a new house "strange territory" filled with all sorts of unfamiliar people, smells, sounds, and other dogs.  We normally think "Oh, let's put all the dogs in the back where they can play".  Several things have just occurred here. 
  • First, we have abandoned Fluffy in a strange area with other dogs of divergent personality types.
  • Since we have established ourselves as the Alpha in our pack, it is our job to keep Fluffy safe by being in his sight or in his sight on a regular basis.  This isn't happening (we are inside with Uncle Al checking out his new High Definition 52" TV)!
  • Dogs always attract kids.  Now the kids are out with the other dogs and Fluffy.  They might be pulling his tail, chasing him, screaming, and all the other wonderful things that little kids like to do with dogs.  This puts him in a very stressful situation!
Bottom line:  Fluffy is not having a good time at Uncle Al's.  So what can we do?
  • First of all, we need to transition being with Fluffy and not being with Fluffy.  Stay outside with him for ten to fifteen minutes playing with him and the other dogs.  Observe which dogs might be aggressive towards Fluffy and how he reacts to their body language.
  • Check on Fluffy regularly.  "Hey Guy, how are you doing?"  This goes a long way in allowing Fluffy to understand that even though you aren't right there, you are always close at hand.  This goes a long way in his understanding that he is safe because you are always there (although sometimes night in direct sight).
  • Every once in a while, bring Fluffy inside (on a leash) to see the rest of the party.  This assures that he has not been ostrisized to the outside and is still a part of the "party".  It helps to build his self importance while keeping focus on you as the leader providing his safety.
  • Be sure that you are providing him with the water and food he needs.
  • If the kids start to go outside to play with the dogs, think of going out to supervise.  Kids can do things that cause dogs to "nip" and many parents call a "nip" a "bite".  We don't need this to happen.
  • When you are leaving Uncle Al's (stomach full of free food), praise Fluffy for doing such a great job.
If you follow these steps, you might even be asked back to Uncle Al's next time for more free food! 

For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Let's Not Play Tag in the Living Room

"Don't play tag in the living room!"  Well, that makes perfect sense to us, but what about Fluffy?

The answer is, it depends.  (Don't you just hate when I do that?  But let me explain why...)

Playing with Fluffy is always a lot of fun.  The exercising, the bonding, the good times... are all reasons why we decided to become dog owners.  The important thing is to let Fluffy understand where he can play.

As humans, we have the ability to understand that when we are home, by ourselves, it might be OK to rough house inside.  When we have a dinner party with guests wearing nice clothes, we understand that it is not a good idea to go "nuts".  We can understand "We can go nuts except when we have guests over". 

Now we come to Fluffy.  Fluffy can understand "We can play rough inside".  Fluffy can understand "We can not play rough inside".  Fluffy can not make the distinction of "We can play rough inside except...".  No matter how much we love Fluffy, we have to remember that he is a dog and does not have the ability for higher lever cognitive thought.

So we get down to the decision of allowing Fluffy to go nuts in the house when guests are here or not.  I think that it would be best to say "not".  Besides just being annoying, he can jump and ruin nice clothes or jump/push/nip small children and possibly make them afraid of dogs the rest of their lives.

Here's what you do.  Let's take all the rough housing outside in the back yard.  Isn't that where you would play football anyway?  I don't think that you would play football in your living room!  Play Frisbee, let Fluffy chase you, even set up a small agility course and run him through that.  Build that bond outside where you have the ability to go nuts.  When you come inside, do more of the gentle petting and correct him if he starts to ramp up.

Do this and you will have a great dog that understands your rules and will be great around your guests.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Traveling with Fluffy

Over hill and dale, off to Grandmother's house we go (with Fluffy)...

It is getting to be the holiday season and many of us will be traveling to family festivities with our dogs.  How do we make this a good experience for everyone in the car?  Here are some pointers:

First, let's talk about Fluffy's "happy time" in the car.  If Fluffy doesn't like to be in the car, "hill and dale" can be an eternity.  Here are some training tips:
  • Start walking Fluffy by taking him out to the car in the driveway.  Have him sit for a few minutes, have some toys and other distractions there, and then walk him back in the house. Repeat this for several days.
  • Next, open the car door.  Have fluffy walk to the car and jump in the back seat.  You might need to have some toys or other enticements in the back seat to have this happen.  As soon as he jumps in, praise him.  Wait a minute or two and have him come out and go back in the house.  Repeat this for several days.
  • Repeate the above step, but close the door.  Repeat this for one or two days.
  • Now, have Fluffy get in the car, start the engine, and back to the end of the driveway.  Then pull back, praise him, and bring him inside. Repeat this for several days.
  • Put Fluffy in the car and drive around the block.  Repeat this for several days.
  • Now, go on a little trip of ten to twenty minutes.  Do this a few times. 
Fluffy is now ready for "hill and dale".

Next, let's talk about safety,,,

Remember that I asked that Fluffy be put in the back seat.  This should eliminate the passenger side air bag deploying in Fluffy's face if you (I hope it never happens) get into a car crash.  I would also include that you either keep Fluffy in a crate that is stable or a restraining device that would keep him safe in the event of an accident.  A crate or restraining device is Fluffy's "seat belt" that will help him survive a crash.

I have heard of so many horriffic accidents with unrequired fatalities because of unrestrained dogs.  If you restrain your dog on a car trip, everything will be great.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Dogs Learn

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?  Or, is it that you can only teach a new dog old tricks?

The answer is that it doesn't matter the age of the dog or really what you are trying to teach him.  Dogs learn in a very specific way and if you are willing and able to follow the process, you will have a trained dog.

First, dogs learn through consistency.  Whatever you are trying to teach Rover, you must perform it in the exact manner every time.  For example, if you are teaching Rover to walk, always walk him on the same side of you.  Make sure that everyone else in the family who is walking Rover is walking him on the same side.  This simplifies and streamlines the learning process by removing unneeded variables in the training.

Next, dogs learn through repetition.  You must practice with Rover between fifteen and thirty minutes every day to reinforce the action you are trying to teach.  Think of when we were learning our "times tables".  We would practice every day with our flip cards until we always knew that "eight times eight is sixty-four".

Finally, you have to understand that Rover is ready and willing to learn, just not at lightning speed.  We humans like to rush things, jump ahead, and fill in the blanks later.  If we teach Rover slowly and patiently, we will succeed in our training.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.