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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.