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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.