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Sunday, December 30, 2012

When Wolfie is Sick

Every once in a while, Wolfie gets an upset stomach and throws up his food.  Do I need to always rush to the Vet?

If you are a new dog owner or if Wolfie is a small puppy, I would at least call your Vet, explain the situation, and ask for their advise.  If you believe that they have come in contact with anything poisonous (click here for more details), wash their mouth out and take them to the Vet.  If Wolfie isn't a puppy and you have had dogs before, I would use my common sense and experience to decide what to do. 

The big thing is observation.  After they have thrown up, are they still active?  Do they still have an apatite?  Are they hydrated?  (You can tell this by pinching their fur and see if it bounces back or stays in that "pinch".  If it bounces back, they are hydrated, if it doesn't, they are dehydrated and need to go to the Vet.)

If they are still active, have an apatite, and are hydrated, it might be a good idea to continue watching them.  This "upset stomach" might have been a one-time thing and they will be fine.

The one thing that you should do during this time is to change their diet from their regular, dry food to something more soothing for their stomach.  Just like us, we suggest white rice with a cut up boneless chicken breast.  Make sure they have all the water they want.  After about a day, everything should be fine and they can go back on their regular food.

If, from your observations, they continue to throw up, become listless, or dehydrated; off to the Vet you go!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting Wolfie to Stop Chewing and Teething

Wolfie likes to chew and teeth a lot.  I have tried all the normal ideas like Bitter Apple, Bitter Yuch, Tabasco Sauce, and the like.  It seems that these things make Wolfie want to chew the item even more!  Ideas!  Help!

This training blog is going to be rather short, because I believe I have found the Holy Grail of dogs chewing and teething.

I was at a client about two months ago and our discussion turned to their dog's obsession with chewing on wicker and hands.  Besides the normal corrections that we always teach, I wanted to provide them with a "Plan B".  I knew that the mainstream suggestions of the "Don't Chew on Me" items from the pet stores never worked, so I turned to my favorite suggestion of Hot Sauce.

They said they had some Hot Sauce and went to get it from the kitchen.  Being from Southern California, I assumed it would be a Mexican Hot Sauce.  I was wrong.  My clients were originally from China so they brought out some great Mandarin Chinese Hot Sauce!  (I hadn't had any of this stuff since I frequented a little place called The Mandarin Wak in California!)  This stuff was HOT!

I put three drops of this stuff on my hands and rubbed it in.  I then let their dog come back to my hand, (earlier he chewed on it), he took one sniff/lick, and he was done with that.  I put a few drops on the furniture he was chewing.  After one snip, he was done with that activity.

If your dog has a chewing problem, I think that Chinese Mandarin Hot Sauce is the way to go.  (Since I am also a hot sauce lover, I want to way that is is also really tasty!)   For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Five Great Things a Good Dog Owner Should Do for Their Dog

I really want to be a great dog owner for Wolfie and there are so many opinions and suggestions of what I should do!  Are there some general things that I really need to focus on?

There are bookstores and bookstores full of dog books.  We could spend the rest of our lives just reading about what we should do with our dogs.  Since we probably don't have time for that, let me cut to the chase and give you the five "you really shoulds" for your dog:

  1. First, good dog owners walk and exercise their dogs. Most dogs love to run and play. It is both a physical and mental release and helps keep them physically strong and emotionally happy. 
  2. Yearly check-ups. Ensuring that your dog has yearly check-ups to help identify any medical problems before they become problems is a very good habit. During the yearly exam, your veterinarian will also determine if your dog requires any vaccines, flea control or heart worm preventative medications. These measures will help to keep your dog healthy and comfortable. 
  3. Good daily care. Daily monitoring of your dogs appetite, urinations, bowel movements are a part of be a good responsible dog owner. Healthy dogs have a good appetite, normal urinations, healthy bowel movements and maintain an ideal weight. Any abnormalities should be noted and any persistent changes should be reported to your veterinarian. 
  4. Feed a good quality food. Good nutrition is one way a dog owner can proactively make a difference in their dog's health. Over the past two decades, there has been a lot of research and scientific information used to properly formulate dog's foods to optimize health. Many of the foods that we recommend have these enhanced formulas that helps burn fat, develop muscle and promote healthy digestion. They were developed by nutritionists and veterinarians, so these complete, all-in-one diets have the right balance of proteins, fats and fibers to help protect your dog's health. Please do your own research and select a great food for your dog.
  5. Daily grooming. Monitoring your dogs nails and trim them when needed, brush his teeth at least every other day and daily brush his hair are important ways to prevent unnecessary problems such as dental disease, torn nails, matting, and needless shedding around your home.

Do these things and your dog will thank you with better health and months, if not years added to their lives.

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

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Getting Wolfie to Stay

No matter what I do, I can't get Wolfie to stay.  I think he just wants to drive me nuts.  I think he is going to stay, but as soon as I walk away, he is up and following me...

What you have done is to try and teach Wolfie too many things too quickly...  Remember that we all learned that 1 + 1 = 2 before we started to work with calculus.  That is the problem we are having with Wolfie.

Let's break to the chase and let me explain exactly what you need to do to start getting your dog to stay:

  • Make sure that you have your dog on a leash and that you are in a quiet place with no audible or visual distractions.
  • Put your dog in a sit.  If he does not do this the first time and does not stay in a sit position with focus on you, stop the "stay exercise" and simply work on the sit.
  • Once your dog is sitting and focused on you, stand in front of him, hold your hand up like a traffic cop, and tell him to "stay".
  • He needs to remain in his sitting position while focused on you and, more importantly, your hand.
  • After 10 seconds of your dog not moving, slowly step back a few feet (be careful not to tug or pull the leash).  Keep your hand up and always stand tall and face your dog. If he starts to move, correct him.  If he gets up, start the process again.
  • Once you reach the length of the leash, make sure that your dog is focused on you and your hand and that you are focused on him.  Wait for 15 seconds.
  • Now, while facing him and with your hand up, slowly walk around to your dog's left side.  Next, walk around to his right side.  Finally, return to standing in front of him. Always make sure that he is focused on you.  Again, if at any time he stands up and starts to move, start the exercise from the beginning.
  • Return to your dog's side and praise him for a job well done.
It will be quite possible that you will not be able to successfully accomplish all these steps the first time you try.  The first time, you might only be able to stand right in front of him.  After several days, you might get him to stay when you take a few steps back.  It might take a week or so before you can walk to his right and left without his moving.  

It doesn't matter how long it takes to teach him these steps as long as you are ending on a winning experience and you have been consistent in your teaching.  The big thing to remember is to always face your dog while you are teaching and to hold your hand up to give him something easy to focus on.  

We are always telling our clients to understand the world from their dog's perspective.  In this matter, we are telling our dog to sit still and watch our hand.  It is something that they can easily learn and we have gained the result we require.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

How Do I Get My Dog From Running Out The Door?

Every time I try to leave through the door to the garage, Wolfie is always at my feet trying to get out ahead of me.  Many times I have to get to work and sometimes I am late because I have to try and catch him and put him in another room so I can leave.  There must be a better way!

Dogs running out an open door is a very common and really annoying problem that many dog owners face every day.  It is a big problem because is gets us mad (and we don't need that in today's world), hampers our relationship with "our best friend", and poses a safety risk for Wolfie.  So, what is going on here?

As a trainer, I always tell my clients to check out the world through Wolfie's eyes.  Wolfie watches our body language to constantly try and get clues as to what we are saying and what we are allowing him to do.  A large part of body language is posture and one of the key factors of that is whether we are facing Wolfie or if we have our back to Wolfie.

When we face Wolfie, we are in a dominant stance.  We are telling him that we are in charge of the room.  He needs to watch us and wait for our commands telling him what to do.  When we show our back to Wolfie, we are telling him that we are submissive and even playful.  Wolfie can take this as a "follow the leader" game, chase after us and pass us (out the door).

With this in mind, let's get an idea of what Wolfie is seeing when we go to the door to the garage.  Normally, we say "goodbye" to Wolfie.  We are facing him at this point.  We pick up our keys, coins, etc., and then walk to the door.  Guess what?  We now show Wolfie our back.  We are now in a submissive, play mode.  We are telling Wolfie that we are no longer in charge so he doesn't have to obey and respect us.  We are also asking Wolfie to play.  No wonder he isn't listening to us and running out the door.  So, what do we do?

We need to let Wolfie know that we are in charge as we are leaving.  We do this by facing him and backing up to the door.  As soon as he starts to move towards the door, tell him "no" in a very low voice and hold our hand out like a policeman telling a car to stop.  Slowly back up to the door so that your movement does not generate any adrenaline in Wolfie.

Open the door slowly, continuing to face him.  Correct him again if he begins to move towards you.  Now, step through the door and close it slightly.  In a high voice, tell him "good boy" as you finish closing the door.

What you have done is to use the body language Wolfie is expecting from a good leader to clearly communicate to him what is right and wrong.  Your actions were simple and consistent.  Practice this for about two or three weeks and Wolfie will understand that your leaving through the door to the garage is not a game.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The ONE THING You Don't Want To Do With Your Puppy

When I get a new puppy, what is the one thing I really should remember to never do?  There are so many things to remember and I know that I will probably get things wrong for a bit.  But, what is that "drop dead thing" I should remember from the very start?

Excuse me if today's training blog seems more like a sermon than training advise, but this is the one thing that Robin and I see from time to time that is almost impossible to fix.  The terrible thing about it is that it is not the dog's fault.

The picture at the top of this article shows a little boy pulling a puppy's tail.  The puppy normally gives a little "yip" and squirms a bit.  The little boy thinks that is funny and does it over and over, day after day.  That activity might turn into throwing things at the puppy, hitting him with a toy, hiding him in a dark closet while banging the door, or poking him with a stick.  

When the puppy is small, it isn't a big deal if he barks or lunges at you, it could even be a little funny.  The problem is that the puppy will get bigger, many times much bigger.

You have now taught your dog that you (and most other humans) only want to harm him when they approach.  The only thing he can do is to lash out to try and protect himself.  Aggression, biting, and fighting are the natural tools that your dog has at his disposal to keep himself safe.  Remember, your dog doesn't want to do this, but you taught him that this is something that he MUST do.

The result of all of this is that you now have an aggressive dog that is a danger to you, your family, and the neighborhood.  To reverse this process requires a long period of deprogramming and re-socialization.  Nobody is safe while this process is underway and it is also very difficult to know exactly when you have been successful.  Sometimes, you will never be successful.  You have now written the death warrant for "who was supposed to be your best friend", and it didn't have to be that way.


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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What To Do When Doggie Sitting a Friend's Doggie

I know that I am a "push-over", but I just agreed to doggie sit my friend's dog while he is away over Thanksgiving.  How can I make sure that Wolfie isn't going to go "Cujo" on the dog?

The good news is if Wolfie doesn't have a history of being unsociable with other dogs, you have a fighting chance of making this work.  With that said, you can't just throw them in the same room and hope for the best.  What you must do is to initially socialize the dogs and then establish boundaries (Hey!  Don't use my toothbrush!).  Here is what you do:

  • Before your friend's dog comes over to stay, have his dog and Wolfie meet several times in a neutral territory.  Have them both on leashes and allow them to sniff and exchange doggie pleasantries.  Take them for walks and even play catch with them.  This builds up  a social understanding between the two dogs regarding their individual levels of assertion and respect.  This is important when you bring them into your home.
  • When your friend brings over his dog to your house, have the dogs meet outside and let them sniff and play for a little while.  Now, take Wolfie inside to the family room.  Make sure he is on a leash.  Have your friend bring in his dog into the family room on a leash.  Let the dogs sniff and walk around.  Drop the leashes and have everyone "just hang out" for about 30 minutes.  If the dogs show any sign of aggression, correct them and have them sit by their perspective masters for a minute or two before releasing them again.  If Wolfie is over-possessive with any particular toy or object, it would be a good idea to remove them during your friend's dog's stay.  
  • If everything is fine after about 30 minutes, it is time for your friend to be on his way.  Don't have your friend make a big thing about leaving.  He should just get up and leave.  
  • During the stay, remember these simple rules:
    • Feed the dogs separately.
    • Never leave the dogs together, unattended for the first few days.
    • Never leave the dogs together if someone is not going to be home.
    • Be sure to let them out and have a good amount of supervised play time every day.
    • Never allow your friend's dog in Wolfie's crate, on Wolfie's bed, or in your bedroom.
    • If your friend's dog has a potty accident in the house, be sure to clean it up immediately using an enzyme cleaner or vinegar & baking soda.
    • Give equal amount of attention and love to both dogs.
Follow these simple rules and your friend's dog's stay should be happy and uneventful.  And remember that now, your friend owes you!  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wolfie Seems Afraid of Me... What Can I Do?

I am not sure what it is, but Wolfie seems afraid of me.  He'll always stay away from me and never comes!  What can I do that won't make the situation worse?

Unfortunately, we see this more times that we would like.  All doggie owners try to be good doggie owners, but sometimes we just blow our stacks.  We get mad, yell & scream, and sometimes whack our "best friend".  Bad experiences can leave very strong impressions with dogs and can last a long time.

So we messed up.  What can we do to make it right with Wolfie?  

One way is to practice an exercise called "V Feeding".  This is a process where we use small treats or kibble to entice Wolfie to come to us, feel safe, and then allow him to move away.  The entire point of this exercise is that we are allowing Wolfie to feel safe the entire time.  Here is what you do:

  1. Get some small treats (Zukes Doggie Treats are perfect) or Wolfie's kibble.
  2. Have Wolfie about eight feet away from you.  Throw a goodie to the left of Wolfie about seven feet from you.  Allow Wolfie to go and get it.
  3. Now, throw a goodie to the right of Wolfie about six feet from you.  Allow Wolfie to go and get it.
  4. Repeat the left and right process with the food, moving Wolfie closer and closer to you.
  5. When you have Wolfie about three feet from you, kneel down low to see if he will come to you.  If he does, that is great.  If he does not, that is not a problem.
  6. Now, start throwing goodies to your left and right at increasing distances from you.  All you are doing here is reversing the process where you had Wolfie come to you.
  7. Once Wolfie is about eight feet away from you, praise Wolfie in your high voice.  Stand still for a moment or two and then walk away.
Repeat this process two or three times a day.  What you are doing is to remove the notion that you are "the boogie man" in Wolfie's eyes.  Coming and going from you is a pleasurable experience.  After about one week, toss the goodies so that Wolfie is right next to you.  Continue that for a week and then start to slowly pet Wolfie when he is right next to you.  (Remember that you are kneeling down low when you are doing this.)

Do not pet Wolfie by extending your hand over his head.  Show him the back of your hand and slowly move it along the ground towards his chest.  (If he flinches, do not press the matter.  You will try it again the next time.)  Once you reach his chest, slowly rub him.  Make sure that he is looking at you and you are looking at him.  Next, slowly move your hand around to his back and continue the rubbing.  

What we have done is to "reintroduce" yourself to Wolfie in a non-aggressive way.  We have allowed Wolfie to come to the conclusion that you will not harm him.  You will then have the opportunity to regain his respect and focus  and he will once again feel safe and secure around you.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why Fluffy Goes Nuts at People in the Car

My dog, Fluffy, is the greatest dog in the world until she gets in the car.  Bark, Bark, Bark,Bark,Bark!  She barks at everyone as I drive down the street.  What gives?

I have seen this time and time again.  Here is Fluffy in her car seat.  The owner is doing the right thing by constraining her so that she won't go flying around if they had to put on the breaks.  So far so good.  So Fluffy constantly barks and drives you crazy.  That is bad.  What is the problem and how can you fix it?

...The answer is simpler than you think and the explanation is just as simple.

Dogs are always very aware of dominance and their role in the pack.  Who is the dominant one?  Who is in charge?  Look at this picture of Fluffy.  She is in her car seat that is raised off the normal seating which puts her in a raised position.  In the canine world, height is dominance.  Guess what?  We are sitting lower in your driver's seat while Fluffy is sitting high and mighty in her "dominance seat".  On top of that, we have given her a very clear view of everyone around the car.  She is dominant and she sees all these "other animals" (people) moving around the car.  Some of these "other animals" might even be walking towards the car which is a naturally aggressive move.  

We put Fluffy in the dominant role and she sees issues.  Barking, jumping, growling are all natural actions she could take to try and protect the rest of the "pack".  We put Fluffy out in front.  We told her that she was the one who had to protect us.  We did this by giving her height and dominance.  We elected her the "boss of us".

Now, what do we do?  The answer is simple.  Lower her height.  Find a car seat that sits on the seat of your car.  Find a doggie carrier that you can put on the seat or floor of your car.  All you are doing is lowering the height of Fluffy and lowering her requirement to be the "boss".  Also, make sure that you don't put her in the front passenger seat, unless you can turn off the air bag release.

This is a quick fix that seems to work over and over again.  Take away your dog's requirement for dominance in the car and your rides will be a whole lot nicer!  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How to Safely Deter Wolfie from Chewing, Nipping, Mouthing, etc.

Wolfie just had some surgery and the Vet told me that he isn't allowed to lick or chew at his stitches.  I tried that funny "cone collar thing", but it just drives him nuts.  What else can I do that I can keep on him, protect the stitches, and not drive him nuts? 

We recommend the Italian Basket Muzzle.  "Muzzle!  Muzzle! Are you nuts?!  I would never muzzle my dog!"  I can hear some of you saying that right now.  That is because most people are only familiar with the standard nylon dog muzzle.  This muzzle covers the dog's nose like a straight jacket.  The dog can barely pant, bark, drink water, etc.  If left on too long in a warm environment, it can cause the dog to overheat, dehydrate, and possibly die.

The only thing in common between the nylon dog muzzle and Italian Basket Muzzle is that they both have the word "muzzle" in their names.  The Italian Basket Muzzle does not constrain the dog's nose in any way.  He can still pant, bark, drink water, etc.  The only thing he can't do is to use his mouth to nip or bite.  The only places the muzzle actually touches the dog is at the crown of his nose where a soft leather strip positions the muzzle on the nose and at the back of the neck where a fitted strap holds the muzzle in place.  Most Canine Professionals actively acknowledge the Italian Basket Muzzle as the most humane way to teach and deter a dog from nipping, chewing, and biting.

So, how do you use it?  

  • First make sure that it fits properly and that your dog can't easily "paw it off".  It should be snug without your dog's nose touching the end of the muzzle.
  • Now, start to socialize your dog with the muzzle.  Put it on for short periods of time while you also have him attached to a leash.  As soon as he starts to go for the muzzle, give a slight tug on the leash and tell him no.
  • You can also put a little goodie inside the muzzle to redirect his attention as it is going on.
  • Do not make a big deal about the muzzle.  Your dog should become aware that it is just another part of life.
  • Extend the time your dog wears the muzzle until he becomes used to it.  This is the same way that us "glasses wearers" got used to wearing our first pair of glasses so long ago.
Bingo!  You now have solved your "stitches problem".  As you can see, this tool is also valuable with any issue where you have a nipping, biting, or chewing issue.  The great thing about the Italian Basket Muzzle is that it allows your dog to do everything he wants, except to nip, bite, or chew.

Please understand that this is a tool only.  Some biting, chewing, or nipping issues will also require the assistance of a qualified training professional to ultimately resolve the issue.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quick Tips on Doggie Allergies

Wolfie was scratching and chewing himself and I knew it wasn't fleas.  A friend of ours  mentioned that he might have some skin allergies and suggested to feed him grain-free food.  I gave it a shot and he is still scratching.  What next?

I first want to make it quite clear that I am not as qualified as my Veterinarian to diagnose solutions for skin allergies and the like.  I simply want to pass on some information that my Vet told me to "try first".  

The "quick and dirty" and inexpensive solution for canine skin allergies is to switch to a grain-free food.  Many times this will solve the problem and won't incur large medical expenses.  The one thing we forget when we switch to a grain-free food is the "hidden grain" that might still remain.  A local natural dog food supplier recently provided us with an epiphany that makes perfect sense.  

When you switch to a grain-free dog food, make sure that chicken is not the meat in the food.  For most chickens, their main food is corn.  So when you have chicken in your dog food, you are also adding corn.  Pick another meat such as lamb, duck, salmon, etc. as the main meat ingredient and you will eliminate that "hidden source of grain".

As always, talk to your Vet concerning any health issues with your dog.  This is the advise given to us by our Vet and natural dog food supplier.   For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wolfie is Eating His Doggie Bed

I think that my dog, Wolfie, has probably eaten his weight in doggie beds!  He never does it in front of me, but he just chomps on it at night or when I am away.  I don't want to take his bed away from him.  What would he sleep on?

In my early days of dog training, I wrestled with this question time and time again.  I came up with some interesting answers and scenarios I asked my clients to try.  The results were hit and miss...

Several years ago, I had one of those "Oh my gosh" moments about dogs eating their dog beds when we weren't around to let them know it was wrong.  The first thing to remember is that dogs don't need a nice fluffy bed to lie on to fall asleep.  Look outside.  Wolfie is sleeping on the cement patio or on the rocks under the tree.  They love to sleep on the cool tile during the hot days of summer.  So, our first "truism"  is that we don't need to give Wolfie a bed.

Next, we have to understand that dogs build behaviors through repetition and direction.  If we are allowing them do destroy their fluffy beds because we can't catch them, we are instilling the behavior of "let's tear up fluffy things" with our dogs.  The next thing we know, it isn't the $35 dog bed that we find torn up, it is the $400 upholstered and fluffy family room chair that now has stuffing all over the carpet.

So, what do we do?  The answer is really simple.  I know that we "humans" don't like simple answers, but here goes...

Take the dog bed away and let Wolfie sleep on the ground.  We know that he is fine with the ground, so we are not going to give him back aches.  Also, we have removed that repetitive destructive behavior.  This will keep him from escalating that unwanted behavior to destroying more expensive things. Wolfie is still fine and we have saved a ton of money.  Win win for all!  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The "Mad Dash" at the Start of the Walkies

I know that I am probably doing something wrong, but when I take Wolfie out for a walk, he is already crazy because all my other dogs are barking and jumping.  It takes all I can to hold him to get the front door open.  Then he bolts out and the rest of the walk is nuts!

I was out at a client a few weeks ago that I hadn't seen for over a year.  She told me that the reason she hadn't called me for so long was that everything with the training had been great, but that her dog recently started to go nuts anytime he would go for a walk.  This started to happen when they added a new dog to the pack (they now have 5 dogs!).  The new dog had a tendency to get the other dogs crazy and it always happened when a "walkies" was involved.

The problem was really quite simple.  Her dog was at full adrenaline as soon as the door was open and she couldn't regain focus of her dog to maintain the control needed for the walk.  We had to set up a new "exit strategy" that allowed for a calm and focused start of the walk.  What we did was quite simple.

We placed the leash on the dog and everyone went nuts.  That was OK because we then took the dog into the garage (with the garage door closed) by way of the laundry room.  The rest of the "crazy dogs" were left in the house with a family member keeping them busy.  We had the dog sit and stay for the client.  We walked the dog in a circle once or twice and then had him sit again.  He was calm and still and the client had complete control and focus.

Next, while the client firmly held the leash, we opened the garage door.  The dog began to loose focus on the client in favor of "everything outside".  We redirected the dog's focus back to the client with some simple obedience exercises until we again observed that the client had complete control and focus.

Now, we slowly walked the dog to the driveway.  We had him sit and observed his focus.  It was still on the client.  We now began the walk slowly and calmly.  The dog was perfect.

The client exclaimed "Wow!  This is a different dog!".  I explained that he wasn't a different dog, we simply provided the appropriate environment to allow him to give us focus and respect.  We became the leader and he became the follower.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I Want Wolfie to Stop Jumping on My Friends

I just don't get it.  Wolfie seems to be such a good dog, but I can't keep him from jumping on my guests every time they come in the front door.  It was cute when he was a puppy, but now he is over 100 lbs.  What gives?

This is a classic "annoying problem" that, unfortunately, we bring on ourselves.  It is so great when you get your little puppy.  They are so full of life and just wanting affection all day long.  We have them jump on us and we give them hugs, chase them around the room, play with them when they bring us toys, pet them when they nudge our hands, and a whole lot of other "puppy things".

The problem is that we are now socializing them to particular behaviors.  We are teaching them how to jump, chase, and demand attention.  The problem is that Wolfie learns in a very black and white method.  If we teach him to jump, it is OK to jump on everybody all the time.  If we teach him to demand attention, he can demand attention from everybody all the time.

As we interact with our puppies or dogs, we must understand that whatever we ask them to do, from their perspective, they can do with anyone all the time.  "Wolfie can jump on me, but not my guests" is something that we might be able to understand, but Wolfie will not understand.  All Wolfie can understand is "I can jump".  So if Wolfie is performing any action that you would not allow him to perform anytime with anybody, you must teach him that is not what you want him to do.

The bottom line is to think of your rules, or what you want Wolfie to do through his eyes. Examples of what your rules might be are:

  • No jumping.
  • Off the furniture.
  • Not in baby's room.
  • No counter surfing...
When things are simple and straightforward, Wolfie gets it.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, September 24, 2012

When I Get Home at Night, Wolfie Always Wants All My Attention...

When I get home at night, Wolfie is right there at the front door (like I assume most dogs are).  I give him a big pet and hug, but after that he won't leave me alone.  How do I tell him "enough"?

After a long day at work where we were probably yelled at by our boss or had a customer cancel an order, or just had a hectic day, it is always great to come home to someone who is really excited to see you.  So, what do we do?  We immediately respond to Wolfie's request for attention.  We pet him or hug him and then "try" to walk in the house to put down our stuff or change our clothes.  

The problem is that Wolfie doesn't want to stop asking us for "hugs and kisses".  It finally gets to the point of being annoying to us or the rest of the family and we get mad at Wolfie.   ...And we really didn't want to get mad at him.  Wolfie is our best friend and he wasn't trying to make us mad.  

The problem is that we forgot that Wolfie is a dog and needs to be treated like a dog so he understands what is going on and what to expect.  Wolfie sees his family as his pack.  In a pack, there is the leader and the rest of the pack (the followers).  The leader makes all the decisions for the pack.  Everything must be his idea.  The leader will be the one to engage and to direct the pack.  

When you come home and open that door, if Wolfie is coming up to you, he is engaging you and requesting that you pet him and do what he wants to do.  Being a human, you think nothing of it, and you pet him.  You have just allowed Wolfie to tell you what he wants you to do.  You have just passively admitted that Wolfie is the leader and you, as a pack member, are obligated to do whatever he requests.  That is why Wolfie won't leave you alone.  He has more stuff for you to do.

So, what do we do about it?  We practice passive dominance with Wolfie when we first come home.  We open the door and ignore Wolfie.  Whatever he is doing, we ignore and walk past him.  We put down our brief case, put our keys on the table, get a glass of water, or anything else that we want to do.  This sends a clear message to Wolfie that we are not engaging in his request.  We are not telling him that he is the leader.

Now, WE call Wolfie over to us.  We can now pet him and greet him.  The major difference between this way and Wolfie's way is that everything is now on our terms.  Wolfie is doing what WE want him to do.  In this scenario, Wolfie is now giving us the leadership role and he is assuming the role of a member of the pack.  We also need to remember that when we call Wolfie to us, we use a calm voice and remain tall.  This uses natural, canine body language to further tell Wolfie that we are the leader and he needs to respect us.

Please give this a shot and I am sure you will see that your nightly arrival at home will be far more enjoyable.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Should I Let Wolfie Walk Without A Leash?

I see other people walking their dogs on the street with no leash.  I am thinking about walking Wolfie without a leash.  How do you do that and is that a good idea?

You might get an idea of my answer by looking at the picture above.  The reason that I am on this subject today is because of a consultation I had with one of our clients this morning.  She told me that she would often let her dog off leash in the front yard.  Things were normally fine, but this morning her dog suddenly took off down the street chasing a truck.  Luckily there wasn't any other traffic at the time and she finally could get her dog back about a block away with the help of a neighbor.  

"This kind of thing has never happened before", she told me.  "He plays next door with the neighbor dog and I can play fetch with him at the park across the street and he always walks right back into the house after me when we are done.  He has seen trucks before and he has never gone after them in the past." 

To cut to the chase, we do not condone having dogs off leash at any time.  The reason is that the real world is full of thousands of distractions that will engage Wolfie.  Since we can't plan and train for each of these unique distractions, we can't unequivocally state that Wolfie won't take off down the street. Since we can't guarantee Wolfie's safety, we strongly encourage our clients to always have their dogs on a leash when outside.

We live in South Florida where things are always busy with trucks, crazy drivers, bikes, motorcycles, golf carts, joggers, and a whole bunch of other things.  Now, if you lived in the country or a small town, I would probably answer this blog in a different way.  The reason is that there are far fewer distractions that we have to deal with.  But, this is a topic for a future blog.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Should Wolfie Like His Crate?

So many people tell me so many things!  Don't put your dog in a crate, it is mean and he feels he is being punished!  Always use a crate because your dog loves it!  These are pretty different views and there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground on it.  So, what should it be?  To crate or not to crate?

Look at the picture and you can probably guess the direction this blog posting will take.  As a canine behavioral trainer, I love the crate.  The reason is simple.  Dogs (canines) naturally see the world at three distinct levels of safety.  The first, and most important, is their den.  This is the place that, if they feel threatened or "simply want to leave the party", they can retreat to and be assured that they are 100% safe from anything.  This is their den, their safe place.  The lions, tigers, and bears can NEVER get them in there.  (I will discuss the other levels in another posting.  That information is not pertinent regarding this discussion.) 

Some dogs naturally love the crate (Wolfie does) and some dogs seem to have a hard time with the crate.  These dogs might have come from pet stores or puppy mills where the crate was used as a containment area instead of a safety area.  They might have been inappropriately introduced to the crate as a "time out place" and physically thrown into the crate while their master was yelling and screaming.  The crate might have been kept in the garage or outside in the far corner of the yard where they felt ostracized from the rest of the pack.

So what do you do if your dog is fearful of the crate or you have a new puppy and you want to make sure that they will like the crate?

  • Make sure the crate is a fun place.  Put his toys in the crate or feed him in the crate.  Do not initially close the door.  Let him wander in and out so that he will get the feeling that "this is a cool place to be".
  • Have the crate near you.  Move the crate during the day so that it is near the rest of the family.  He can be in the crate and the rest of the pack is there too.  This will remove any appearance of being ostracized by being in the crate.
  • Open and close the crate door.  We want to start to let him know that the door can be opened or closed and everything is still fine.  You do this by removing the fact that closing the door means anything.  Open the door for a while and then close it (while he is inside).  Do this at different times and make no big deal of it.
  • Leave him for a bit.  Walk out of the room or out of site for a moment while he is in the crate.  This helps to remove us as the main safety resource and to reinforce the crate as the safety resource.  It is also a critical part of separation anxiety training.
  • Actively engage him while he is in the crate.  Wolfie shouldn't feel like "bubble boy" while he is in the crate.  Get down next to the crate and engage him with conversation or play with the door open or closed.  This will further disengage the crate as a possible inappropriate enclosure.  
Start working on these items above and you will be long on your way to have a doggie that loves his crate and has a safe place he can always visit!  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Taking Wolfie to a Restaurant

I would love to take Wolfie to my favorite restaurant, but I am afraid he would just go nuts with all the people, sights, and smells.  Is there any way I can "teach" Wolfie to be good at restaurants?

The good news is that it can be pretty easy to get Wolfie, or just about any dog, to be well behaved at your favorite restaurant.  First, you have to understand that if you like to hang out at a popular sports bar, it will take longer than if you like to sit outside at Panera Bread.  In any event, the process is the same for either place.  Here is what you do:

The intent of this training process is to slowly ease Wolfie into the new environment of the restaurant while you maintain your alpha leadership role and Wolfie continues to look to you for guidance and safety.

First, you and Wolfie go to the restaurant when there is nobody there or the restaurant is closed.  Sit off in a corner with Wolfie.  Have some food with you so that you can simulate having a meal.  Also, have something for Wolfie so that you can be in charge of his focus.  Repeat this process until Wolfie becomes completely comfortable with the environment.

Next, continue this process but enlist the help of a friend.  Have your friend slowly talk up to your table, talk with you for a moment or two and walk away.  Have your friend come again with something in his hands that he will place on the table.  Correct Wolfie if he starts to give your friend too much focus or he starts to get up.  Repeat this process until Wolfie could completely care less when people approach your table and you.  (We have now completed the "waiter test".)

We are now ready to add more people, noise, and smells to the training experience.  Come to the restaurant during a slow period, but when there still are other patrons and employees.  Be sure that you are still sitting away from a main passageway.  You should inform your waiter when you enter the restaurant that you are training Wolfie to be a good canine patron so he might see you correcting him while he is taking your order and bringing you your food.  

Have your meal and correct Wolfie if he starts to have too much focus on other patrons, waiters, etc.  Continue this process with Wolfie until you see that he is calm with the sights and sounds of the restaurant at that level of activity.  If you believe that Wolfie is becoming pensive or nervous, cut that day's training session short (ask for a doggie bag) and come at a slightly quieter time for your next training visit.

Repeat the above process, slowly coming at more active times until you are coming at your normal time.  Please be aware that the really loud, crazy restaurants might just be too much for Wolfie at specific times.  In that case, you will have to adjust your schedule for Wolfie.  Also, be sure that the restaurant allows dogs.  If it doesn't, you will have to find a new restaurant.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How To Help Wolfie's Fear of Storms

I thought that Wolfie was fine with our summer storms, but he is whining, panting, pacing, and just driving me crazy!  I try and comfort him, but it just seems to get worse!

Remember that I am always saying that we should not treat our dogs like humans?  Remember that I am always saying that we should treat our dogs like dogs?  Guess what!  You are treating him like a human, again.  

We have to understand that the sights, sounds, and even the drop in barometric pressure could be very strong negative stimuli on Wolfie.  This will cause him to become unsure and scared of what he thought was his safe environment.  Naturally, he comes to us to reassure his safety.  Here is where the problem begins.

When Wolfie comes to us, whining and getting under our feet, we instinctively go down and pet him and talk to him in a high, "baby voice" tone trying to sooth and console him.  If Wolfie would be our young son or daughter, that might work.  But Wolfie is a dog and he needs to reassured of his safety in a manner consistent by a strong, canine Alpha Leader.

Here is what you do in order to reassure Wolfie of his safety in a manner he requires:

When Wolfie comes to you, stand up, face him, and ask him to sit or lie down.   Give him a "good boy" when he does.  Continue with your work.  If he starts to whine again, stand up, face him, and give him a firm, low toned "No".  Ask him to sit again, praise him, and go on with your work.  

If Wolfie starts to whine again (what a persistent little guy!), take your leash, hook it on his collar, and briskly walk him around the room or the house.  Return to where you started, have him sit, and return to your work.  What you are doing is to correct and redirect Wolfie away from his perceived fear and to have him focus on you.

You are the boss and your appropriate presence should be all the reassurance he needs to maintain his safety.  As you are communicating with Wolfie, you are standing and facing him.  In the canine world, this is a sign of assertion and leadership.  

Give this a try and see how it works for you.  I have used this technique with our dogs for years and it works like a charm!  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wolfie Is Nuts...

I read all the books, watch all the dog training shows, ask for advice from all my friends, and Wolfie is still nuts.  What gives?

I bet you are wondering what the picture of Marge, Homer, Bart, and Lisa has to do with doggie issues.  Surprisingly, it depicts one of the most important issues you need to take into consideration when Wolfie isn't listening to you; or Wolfie is crazy; or Wolfie is nipping you; etc.

We all must remember that Wolfie is a member of our family, or in his eyes, a member of the pack.  If the pack is weak, inconsistent, or always fighting, it is not the pack that Wolfie can trust and respect.  Because of this, he will not listen or pay attention to anything you ask of him.  Some examples of families who show this inappropriate tenancies are:

  • Kids always bullying parents.
  • Parents going through a divorce.
  • Strong difference of opinion of how to deal with Wolfie.
  • General "insanity" within the household...
Unfortunately, some of our clients are experiencing these activities and, because of it, they are having issues with their doggies.  General canine obedience or behavioral exercises are not enough to get Wolfie back in line and for him to become a happy member of the family.

What we tell our clients is that they must first build a strong, consistent, and calm environment within their human family.  It is only at this point that they will provide Wolfie with the perspective that he is part of a pack that will keep him safe.  It is only at this point that he will provide the respect and focus that is necessary to be a good dog.

So, now let's get back to the picture of Marge, Homer, Bark, and Lisa.  If your family looks like that, your ability to instruct Wolfie in being a good dog is just about nonexistent.

You must be happy, calm, respectful, and consistent among each other in order to have Wolfie understand that it is time to learn.   For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wolfie's Potty Problems While On The Road at Our Cabin

I just don't get it.  Wolfie has been potty trained for years, but when we are on a trip, he makes accidents!  What gives?

Well, our family, along with our four dogs, was on a vacation trip recently and we ran into this exact problem.  Our dogs that never made accidents for years began to have accidents in our rented cabin.  We quickly realized that we had to remember our initial potty training with each dog and the environment/schedule that we finally set up for our "pack".  It then became quite obvious that what we had established as the "norm" in their life was now drastically changed.

We went out hiking in the morning, ate at strange hours, were in and out all the time, had them in and out on our schedule, and just didn't give them the focus that we normally did when we were at home.  We broke the main rule of potty training, we were not "listening" to them telling us to let them out.

Well, when you are on a traveling vacation, it is sometimes difficult to always pay attention to your furry friends.  We had do think of something different so that we weren't loosing our "cleaning deposit" at every place we stopped.  Here is what we came up with:

We went back to the basics.  We established a schedule based on our activities for the day.  Whenever possible, we tried to get them out every three hours, even if we had been playing with them earlier.  Also, we kept them in their crates when we left the cabin.  Since they really didn't want to go in their crates, it helped to strengthen the encouragement when we took them out.

Guess what?  It worked perfectly.  As soon as we put this in place we had zero accidents.  All we did was to go back to the basics of potty training.  We put them on a schedule, tried to observe them as much as possible, and crated them when we couldn't watch them.

Even though this is simple advice, it will surely help you keep your cleaning deposit the next time you travel with your pooches!  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Let's Get Serious about Getting Wolfie to Come

Why is it the more I try and work with Wolfie to come, it seems that he only comes when he feels like it?  It feel like every time I really, really want him to come, he doesn't feel like it...

I have talked about this before, but because so many of my clients seem to need "refreshing" on this subject, I wanted to talk about it again.

Dogs learn through consistent, repetitive association. They learn that A always equals B.  When I hear this sound or see that hand action, I always do something.  "Always" does not mean sometimes.  When you tell Wolfie to come, he must always come.  If you don't provide this type of learning environment, it won't work, or take a really, really, really long time.

Here is what you do:

  • Put a leash on Wolfie.  See Wolfie above?  Guess what, he has a leash on!
  • Hold the leash, step back to the end of the leash, and go to your knees.
  • Now, say Come.  If he doesn't come, give a little tug on the leash to guide him in your direction.
  • When he reaches you, praise him for doing the right thing.
Guess what just happened!  You said "come" and Wolfie came to you.  If Wolfie didn't come to you, you gave him a little tug on the leash and he came to you.  A sound (command) resulted in a unique and consistent action.  That is how Wolfie learns and that is the method you used to teach him.

Until Wolfie will come to you every time you give the come command without your need to guide him with a gentle tug, do not say "come" if you don't have the leash.  This opens up the possibility that he won't come to you and you will no longer be consistent.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ideas to get Wolfie to Eat His Food

I just don't get it.  I spend more money on Wolfie's "holistic/good for you food" than I spend on myself.  I put the food down and he toys with it, eats a few bites, and then walks away.  I don't want to feed him junk food.  But, what do I do to get him to eat the "it's good for you" food?

Let's think about our childhood and our mom serving us green beans.  There was no way that we were going to eat them.  But when we mixed them with mashed potatoes and maybe a little butter... Yum...yum...yum.  Now, I am not advocating giving Wolfie mashed potatoes and butter with his food, but I do have some ideas on adding some healthy goodies to make his food a little more interesting.  Here is what Robin, my wife, adds to our dogs' food and they just love:

  1. LOW SODIUM CHICKEN BROTH.  Chicken is a healthy meat and the low sodium minimizes any additional salt added to their diet.  The moisture gives a pleasing smell to the dry food that our dogs love.
  2. PUMPKIN PASTE.  Pumpkin is naturally good for the dogs and is a great additive to the dry food.  It is a little hard to mix with the dry kibble, but a winning, healthy treat for our dogs.
  3. COTTAGE CHEESE.  The great thing about cottage cheese is that it is so easy to mix up with the dry food.  It has some moisture that helps alleviate the boredom of dry kibble.  It is healthy and good for the dogs and what dog doesn't love cheese?  It is a true winner that we have been using for years for all four of our dogs.
Again, these are just some simple ideas to spice up Wolfie's healthy diet.  The one thing that I want to implore you not to do is to add wet dog food to your dog's diet.  Although there are many good and healthy wet dog foods on the market, they all require you to brush your dog's teeth regularly.  Most of us just don't do that.  Our dog's teeth will then rot out early, causing health issues in their later years.

So, let's keep with options 1, 2, or 3 above.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Teaching Wolfie Fetch

I thought all dogs loved to play fetch.  I throw the ball or a Frisbee for Wolfie and he just looks at me like I have two heads.  I yell "Wolfie fetch!  Wolfie fetch!" and he just lays at my feet.  Do I have a stupid dog?

No, Wolfie isn't stupid.  What you have to understand is that "Fetch" is a learned behavior just like Sit, Stay, Come, etc.  You also must understand that some dogs just might not like to play "Fetch".

Let's assume that Wolfie would like to play fetch.  Just like teaching our kids to play baseball or basketball, we have to teach Wolfie how to play "Fetch".  You first have to understand that there are two pieces to "Fetch".  The first piece is for Wolfie to run and pick up an object that you throw and the second piece is for Wolfie to return it to you.  Let's first work on these two actions and see how Wolfie does.

Get the Object:
Take some object or toy that Wolfie likes.  Pick it up and wave it around in front of him.  Say things like "Where's the toy?  Get it, Get it Get it!!!  Oh boy!  Oh Boy!  Fetch! Fetch!" in a very excited, animated way while you are waving the toy.  Now throw it a few feet away from you and see if he goes after it.  If he does not, go over to the toy in a very animated manner, stoop or lean over the toy, and point to it.  Say things like "Get the toy!  Where's the toy!" in an excited manner.  

If Wolfie still doesn't run and pick it up.  You should get down on the ground, pick it up and play with it until Wolfie comes over.  Shake it and let Wolfie grab it.  As soon as he grabs it, let go and say "Good boy".

If Wolfie still needs come coaxing, replace the toy with a goodie or chew bone.  After he will run after that, replace it with a toy that you have coated with a slight "goodie smell".  (Rub a little gravy or raw meat on the toy.)  Slowly decrease the amount of the "goodie smell".

After Wolfie is going after the toy, increase the distance until Wolfie is running across the room or yard to get the toy.  Wolfie now can "get the object".  Now it is time to have him bring it to you.

Bring it Back:
Bringing the object back is essentially the come command with something in Wolfie's mouth.  For this, you need to attach a training lead to Wolfie's collar.  Throw the object and have Wolfie get it.  

Now, give Wolfie a command like "Fetch".  If he doesn't come back to you, give him a little tug on the training lead while you kneel down low.  If he still doesn't come to you, give him another little tug.  He should now come to you.

If Wolfie still doesn't return to you (some doggies are a little suborn), decrease the length you are throwing the toy.  

Repeat the process until Wolfie will return the toy to you without your needing to tug on the training lead.  Detach the training lead and repeat the process, having Wolfie get the toy and bring it back to you.

Wolfie now knows basic "Fetch".  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.