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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Counter Surfing

Wolfie loves to counter surf with everybody for the Holidays.  He normally doesn't do it during the rest of the year and I don't want it to turn into a regular thing!

This is the time of the year that we have a whole lot of things going on.  We also have a lot more food out and about that we might not be watching.  We also have guests over who are just leaving stuff around.  Our house has become a giant buffet for Wolfie.

What we have to do is to first understand Wolfie's concept of food ownership.  If food is left unattended for a long period of time (you our your guests have food on a coffee table, but aren't actively eating) or you abandon the food (physically walk away from it), there is no longer a clear picture of ownership. 

Remember, in the wild, the Alpha Wolf would be the first to eat the killed hunt.  The Alpha Wolf would then walk away from the food, indicating that he was done and that the killed hunt is now available for everyone else.  It it is natural that Wolfie would go after the unattended or abandoned food.  This could be on a coffee table, dinner table, kitchen counter, etc.

Here is what you do:
  • Make sure that food is not left unattended.  If needed, pick up your plate and put it in an area that Wolfie can't reach.
  • Set boundaries.  When you are cooking or have food out in the kitchen, set a rule that Wolfie can't be in the kitchen.  Correct him as he approaches your boundary and praise him when he obeys you.  This can also be done for the sofa or dinner table.
  • Give Wolfie his own goodies (Kong Toys w/peanut butter, cow's holves, etc).  This will help to redirect him from your goodies. 
  • Feed Wolfie when you are eating.  This will help redirect him and when he is done, his stomach is full.
  • Instruct your guests not to feed Wolfie.  This might be fun for them, but it will be a terrible thing to teach him for the rest of the year.
  • Take Wolfie outside and engage in some exuberant play.  Getting him tired will minimize his wanting to engage with you inside. 
Remember, it is ok to "correct your guests".  They aren't the ones who will have to live with the inappropriately learned behavior for the next fifty weeks of the year.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wolfie, the Holidays, Family Coming to Visit...

I can just about handle Wolfie when everything is normal, but the Holidays and all my "wonderful family" is coming to visit.  How can I keep my sanity?

The Holidays are always a crazy time, especially for all of us down in South Florida.  It seems that our guest rooms and every sofa in the house now becomes a Hilton for relatives from up north.  All our routines are messed up and our lives are turned upside down for about ten days to two weeks.  Since Wolfie likes things calm and consistent, this is not a good time for him.  Here are some ideas:
  • When your family first starts to arrive, have Wolfie somewhere else during the initial "meet and greet time".  Bring Wolfie in to meet everyone after they are settled and have stopped arguing who gets to sleep where.  This will be a time where the adrenaline is lower and Wolfie will react calmly when greeting everyone.
  • Tell everyone not to "make Wolfie nuts".  No "run-run, yell-yell, jump on me-jump on me" games in the house.  This is a recipe to straight disaster.
  • ONLY DOGGIE FOOD for Wolfie.  Do not let anyone give Wolfie all the little goodies that are now in the house.  First of all, you aren't sure if the food is good for Wolfie.  Many foods can make Wolfie sick and make a big mess in the house.  This is not a good thing with a house full of people.
  • No feeding at the table.  This should have been obvious from the bullet point above, but it is something that family members love to do.  They all go home and now you have a dog that expects to get stuff from the table.  You now have a bad behavior that will take time to correct.  Just don't give Wolfie stuff from the table.
  • Assign a buddy for Wolfie.  If you have some kids who are twelve years or older, ask them to be Wolfie's buddy.  They are the ones who keep track of him, play with him, help feed him, and manage his time according to the rest of the activities going on in the house.
  • Keep Wolfie on a leash.  If he starts to get out of hand, you can easily step on the leash and regain control.
  • Manage the front door.  Put a sign on the front door that says "WHERE IS WOLFIE?".  This will make everyone aware where he is before you open the door.  If you aren't watching where he is, he can easily dart out the door.  If he is close to the door when you want to open it, you can ask someone to take him to another area while the door is open.
  • Include Wolfie in many of your events.  Make sure he has some presents and that he opens them with you.  Remember that Wolfie is a very social animal.  The Holidays are a social time.  Make sure that you and he enjoy the special moments!  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Who can Wolfie Jump On?

I don't mind if Wolfie jumps on me, but it is now the Holiday Season and I don't want Wolfie to jump on Aunt Minnie...

It was always so much fun to have Wolfie to jump up.  He would get so excited and bark and lick!  I didn't care if my clothes got a little dirty with dog hair or I got a little slobber on my pants.  Wolfie wasn't really big as a puppy, so that "blind tackle" didn't really hurt...

Oops!  Wolfie is now big and things hurt!  More importantly, some of my friends and guests don't like Wolfie to jump on them.  Even though Aunt Minnie is a dog lover, she is 90 pounds and 87 years old.  She can break.  What do I do?

First of all, you have to understand that dogs need simple rules to follow.  You must now tell Wolfie that it is wrong to jump on anyone.  Wolfie must understand the rule of "don't jump, period".  No jumping on you, your friends who like Wolfie to jump, and everyone else who would rather Wolfie not jump on them.  Here are some ideas:
  • You first have to enforce the "cold turkey rule".  Never encourage Wolfie to jump on yourself or your friends.  Tell your friends to never encourage Wolfie to jump on them. 
  • If Wolfie comes over to you and appears to be getting ready to jump, walk away.  This takes the "moment away" from Wolfie.  Don't turn your back on Wolfie when you walk away, but move at a diagonal so that you can still keep him in your peripheral. 
  • If Wolfie actually starts to jump on you, do not knee him or swing around to turn your back.  Face him, stand tall, and give him a very stern "NO".  As soon as he decides not to jump, reward him with a "good puppy".
  • Put a leash on Wolfie when you have guests around or plan to have guests around.  As you see him getting ready to jump, put your foot on the leash at a point where he can only get a few inches off the ground before the leash stops his upward movement.  Allow him to attempt the "failed jump" several times and he will quickly look for other things to do (like sitting, well behaved, next to you).
If you are consistant with the steps we mentioned above, you will have happy guests.  
For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wolfie Just Doesn't Listen, What Are Some Clues?

Wolfie just doesn't want to listen when I talk to him.  Is he stupid or deaf or obnoxious or what?  Should I just give him a kick when he doesn't listen?

No, he is not stupid.  No, he is not deaf.  No, he is not obnoxious.  No, do not kick him!

The problem is that you don't understand how Wolfie talks.  There are several levels that dogs use to communicate with other animals (you included), and we are going to discuss one of them now.

One of the ways that dogs communicate is to use their vocal cords.  We use our vocal cords to form words, phrases, sentences, etc.  Dogs use their vocal cords to create sounds.  We sometimes call them "growls" or "yips", or "crys", etc.  In any case, they are unique sounds created by Wolfie when he wants to use his vocal cords to communicate.

Now comes the difference between Wolfie and us.  As I said earlier, we use words and Wolfie uses unique sounds.  We can create and understand thousands of words and sounds to mean different things, depending on how they are used.  Wolfie uses unique tones to generate specific meanings.

This means that we can not simply talk to Wolfie in the form "Hi Wolfie, how would you like to take a ride with me and then go see Uncle Bill?".  He has no idea what we are saying.  We do have the ability to use unique tones to communicate with Wolfie. 

One of the tones I would like to discuss is the low, guttural tone.  This is a unique tone because it is something Wolfie almost never hears from you.  You would use this tone to let Wolfie is is doing something wrong and that he needs to give you his complete attention.

Another tone is a very high pitched, almost baby-like tone.  Since we normally don't talk "baby-talk" all day long, this is another tone that Wolfie rarely hears from us.  We use this tone only when we want to let Wolfie know that he has done something right and that we are proud of him.

There are other tones and techniques that we also use to communicate with Wolfie so that he can understand what we are discussing.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Your "big take-away" from this discussion is that Wolfie does not understand every word you say.  Wolfie understands very few words you say.  Your tones, and more importantly, the uniqueness of your tones is the verbal communication he is processing.