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Sunday, December 29, 2013

When Your Holiday Guests Leave

All of our out of town Holiday guests left several days ago and our home is now returning back to normal.  The one thing that has not turned back to normal is Wolfie, our dog.  Although he has been perfectly house broken for several years, he is not going into the guest bedroom and going to the bathroom.  What gives?

Remember when we were little and our parents would drop us off at Uncle Bob’s and Aunt Lizzie’s for the weekend?  Uncle Bob would take us to the movies, the local amusement park, and the ice cream parlor.  Aunt Lizzie would make us our favorite goodies and we could stay up late watching all the TV our parents never let us watch. 

The funny thing is that when we got home, everything we had smelled like Aunt Lizzie’s rose peddle perfume.  Mom had to wash our clothes several times until we finally got that smell out.  Until then, we refused to wear those clothes.  They smelled “icky”.

The same thing happens when our house guests leave our home after the Holidays.  They leave their natural smells in our home’s guest room.  We really don’t care because we understand that is just “Uncle Bob and Aunt Lizzie smell” and will go away after a few days. 

Our dog does not react to this different smell in the same way as us.  He expects “his territory” to smell one way, the way it smelled before our guests “invaded his territory”.  He needs to reestablish the prior smell (smelling like him) and he only has one way to accomplish that.  He goes into the guest room and raises his leg.  We really don’t want this to occur and need it to stop as quickly as possible.  We need to remove the foreign smell from the territory.

First of all, we need to neutralize the foreign smell.  As opposed to our dog’s urine smell, we will introduce another, natural smell that we and our dog can “live with”.  We suggest the scent of lavender.  This is a calming scent and also introduces a neutral smell.  Get a lavender Glade plug-in, a lavender candle, or a bamboo lavender oil vase and place it in the guest room.  If you have carpet in the room, vacuum the room after sprinkling lavender carpet dust on the floor.  If you have a tile floor, clean the floor with lavender Fabuloso.  To make sure that everything is consistent, place some lavender Glade plug-ins in other rooms in the house.

Shampoo your dog with a lavender dog shampoo.  You have now removed the “Uncle Bob and Aunt Lizzie smell” from the guest room and have reestablished a singular smell that is like Wolfie, your dog.  He no longer has the need to raise his leg.

Leave the door to the guest room open for several days but don’t allow your dog in the room.  The best thing to do is to place a doggie (baby) gate in the guest room doorway.  This allows the room to “air out” and to allow your dog to pass by but not go in the room until all the old smells have dissipated.

Remove the doggie gate after about a week and you can probably stop using the lavender products after another week.  The house smells have now returned to normal and you have reestablished the natural smells of the pack.  The potty issue should now be resolved.  If you have any questions, you can always contact us at TheBest Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Last Minute Tips Keeping My Dog Safe for Christmas

By now I have been given multiple tips to keep everything great for my doggie and guests during the Holidays.  I have had a few people over up to now.  The main event is about to occur.  Is there anything else I should think about now that we are finishing the tree and taking all the presents out of our closets and putting them around the tree?  EVERYONE is coming over on Christmas day, so it will be very busy and crazy.  What are my last tips?

The Holiday Season has been going on for the last few weeks, but for many of us, it is now “show time”.  Without trying to overwhelm you with an entire list of every possible thing you might experience, we would like to focus on just a few items.  These are the items that you and your dog are about to experience within the next two days.  So let’s get going:
  • Your Christmas Tree: 
    • Decorations…
      • Now is the time that you are finishing decorating your tree with balls and tinsel.  If your dog is “ball crazy”, you could be encouraging him to “go after” your Christmas ornaments and try to pull or “catch” them.  This could cause your wonderfully decorated tree to fall over.
      • Remove all Christmas ball ornaments from your tree to eliminate any “grab the ball” issues. Replace them with ornaments that aren’t round.
      • If you see your dog focusing on the tinsel, remove it.  Your tinsel can also gain your dog’s attention when you have the tree’s Christmas lights turned on.  Check this too and remove the tinsel, if necessary.  You could use ribbons and bows to decorate your tree in place of the tinsel.
      • Eating tinsel can possibly be harmful to your dog.
    • Presents…
      • Christmas presents introduce new objects and smells into the house.  Right about now, you are probably putting out the remainder of those presents around your tree.
      • The sights and smells of the presents can stimulate your dog to investigate and possibly steal.
      • If you are giving your dog presents, do not put them under the tree.  This will probably insure that he will explore and dig through everything under the tree.
      • Give your dog his current toys on the other side of the room from your Christmas tree to redirect his interest.
      • Place your presents tightly around the base of your tree.  This will minimize the visual distraction and will make it very difficult to “investigate through the presents”.
      • If you see your dog approach the tree and presents, correct him with a low toned “No” and have him come to you.  Give him his toy and engage him for several minutes.
  • Christmas Dinner:
    • You do not want your dog bugging you and your guests for all the great things that will be on your plate.
    • Do not feed your dog from the table or give him any of your “fixins” in the kitchen.  As soon as you have done it once, you have told him it is OK to demand food from you.  If he approaches, ignore him.  If he continues to bug you, stand up and tell him “No” in a firm, low tone.
    • Do not leave food unattended.  Your dog will think that you are relinquishing ownership of the food and he can how have it.
    • Feed your dog at the same time that you are having dinner.  This will redirect him away from you and your guests.  It will also fill his stomach so he won’t approach you because he is hungry.
    • Remove foods that raisins and fruit cake from your menu.  These items, if eaten by your dog, could cause issues.
  • Last Few Thoughts:
    • Keep your dog on a six foot leash when everyone is over.  If he starts to go crazy or going somewhere you don’t want him, simply step on the end of the leash and guide him back to you.  You will maintain maximum control and focus with the minimum effort.
    • Don’t let your nieces and nephews play crazy with your dog inside the house.  As the kids and your dog ramp up their playing, the adults will start to get them to stop.  This will simply increase the situation’s adrenaline and will increase your dog’s craziness. Chances are, things will be broken or spilled before you can get control of the situation.
Just use come common sense with your dog and you will have a great Christmas Eve and Day.  If you have any questions, please contact us at The Best DogTrainers in South Florida.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Stop Your Dog Nipping at Your Heals

Every time I walk past my dog, he lets me pass and then nips my heals or pant legs after I have walked by.  This is annoying and putting holes in my pants legs.  I don’t think it is right to kick him.  What should I do?

When a dog is overly playful or demanding of attention, he will try to do whatever he can to have you pay attention.  Nipping at your heals gets your attention.  You now stop doing what you were doing (walking down the hall) and turn to address his “request”.  You have now responded to your dog’s demand for attention and have submitted to his authority.

You cannot yell, hit, or scream in response to your dog’s nip.  These actions will often escalate the situation to where your dog will start to jump, bark, or even bite.  You must deescalate the situation and address the issue before it actually occurs.  You must show leadership to your dog in a consistent and repetitive manner.  Here is what you must do to correct the situation:
  • As you approach your dog in preparation of passing him, stop, face him, and (in a very low tone) say “No”.
  • Begin to slowly pass him.  As you are doing this, constantly face him.  When you are facing another person (or animal), that portrays dominance or assertiveness.  If your dog starts to move towards you, stop, continue to face him, and say (in a very low tone) “No”.
  • Continue to move away from him and continue to face him.  This means that you will probably be walking backwards.  Do not practice this near a stoop or stairs.
  • Once you are about ten feet away from him and he has not approached you, give him one more (in a low tone) “No”.  Turn around and continue walking.  Now you will be walking with your back to your dog.
  • Just to be on the safe side, glance back to make sure that he isn’t making his move to nip.  If he is, correct him again while facing him.  Back away from him while you are facing him until you are another ten feet away.  Repeat this process, if necessary.

Practice this little exercise five to ten times a day for a few weeks.  Very shortly, you will notice that this “let’s nip daddy’s heals” has vanished.  Every family member that is experiencing this issue should perform this exercise.  If you have any questions, please contact us at The BestDog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dog Safety at Home with Workmen

I am pretty sure that my dogs will be fine when friends come over, but sometimes I am not too sure that they are “happy” when we have a plumber or electrician come to fix something.  Should I keep them out so that they can “get used” to the contractor or should I put them away?
You must remember the one thing that our dogs want more than anything else in the world.  They want to feel safe.  As their leader; their teacher; their boss; it is my top priority to make sure that they always feel safe in any situation.

Let’s first look at the situation when we have some family friends or neighbors over. These are people that I know and I have a pretty good idea how they are going to react with my dogs.  If they have been over in the past, I also have a pretty good idea how my dogs will react to them.  Are they good friends or “Oh, it’s you again”?  When I am answering the door, I am greeting them with a relaxed, safe body language.  My dogs can read this interaction and understand that I am in charge and that these “new animals” entering our house (territory) have been approved by me.  Since my guests have already met my dogs on a prior visit or understand that they are coming to a house with dogs, they are already prepared for the situation and they won’t communicate inappropriate posture in their body language.

When we have people visit, we are normally with them most of the time. Because of this, we can constantly reassure our dogs that everything is OK.  We can also demonstrate the appropriate way for our guests and dogs to meet to determine the level of interaction that would be appropriate between the two.  The bottom line is that when we have guests over, we have already (knowingly or not) prepared for the event so that our dogs will feel safe through our leadership.  Everything is fine.

Now, let’s change course and talk about having workmen or other contractors in our home.  The first thing that we should understand is that the reason we have workmen over is because something is broken.  We are already slightly stressed over that.  When we greet them at the door, we are not greeting a friend, but a stranger.  As we are trying to assess this individual, our body language communicates that we are not completely confident and that we have a little bit of a “defense mechanism” in place.  All of this puts our dogs on warning that they might need to come to our rescue.

We also have no idea if the contractor likes or is afraid of dogs.  They might have dogs, but beat them on a regular basis.  The contractor will display that aggressive/disrespectful body language to our dogs.  On the other hand, they might love dogs and our dogs might just want to play with them while they are there trying to fix our problem.  All of this adds confusion to the situation and diminishes our dogs’ focus on our leadership abilities.

With this said, we have found that it is best to put our dogs in a secure location in another part of the house when we have contractors over.  This allows us to be in control of their experience so that we can continue to show our leadership and keep them safe.  It also allows the contractors to work in peace and to get their job done as quickly as possible. 

It would be best to be with your dogs while the contractors are there.  Have them in your office with you or in the back yard playing with you.  This allows you to redirect their attention back to you if they start to become too focused on the sounds the contractors might be making.  It is your way to confirm “It’s OK, you are with me”.  Maintain your leadership and role of caregiver and you will secure your dogs’ respect, love, and obedience.  If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in Weston.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Make Time for Doggie!

With the Holidays upon us and all the extra things taking up my time, I just don’t have as much time to spend with Wolfie.  Is this going to cause a problem or can I just make it up by getting him a bunch of great gifts?

First thing, you can’t bribe dogs like you can bribe your kids.  Just getting Wolfie a bunch of great gifts is not going to make up for the time you are neglecting him.  Dogs are social animals and need companionship to maintain the bond between you and him that is so critical in your relationship.

When you don’t give him the time needed to maintain your relationship, your dog will start to test you to see “what he can get away with”.  Let’s say that you have taught him that it is not OK to jump on people.  He will challenge you by taking a few “test jumps” to see what will happen.  If you are distracted with guests or out of town family members, you probably won’t react to his “breaking of your rules”.  You have now shown your dog that he can start to do whatever he wants.  You are not correcting, so why should he obey your rules?

When you leave Wolfie alone at home or in his crate for longer than normal, you are going to increase his need to play and get all of that pent up energy out.  Not being outside with him throwing the ball or going for a jog means that he will have to find another way to release all his “crazy”.  That normally means that he will be far more active in the house, demanding your attention and the attention of your guests.  Since you are already engaged in other activities, this normally means that he is going back in his crate or outside. 

With no bonding and interaction, Wolfie will have to escalate his actions to, “in his mind”, continue the bond you had established.  This normally means that he will start stealing things, showing you that he has them, and then run like a crazy dog around the house as you chase and scream at him.  This only puts you in a bad light as his leader and care giver.  It builds up your dog’s canine perception that he better be the boss and take charge.

If you notice, I am not painting a very rosy picture.  If you simply ignore or minimize the play and bonding time between you and your dog during the holidays, you will have an unpleasant holiday and a crazy, internally focused dog for the New Year.  Let’s make sure that this doesn't happen.

The answer is organization.  You must be organized enough to take the minimal free time you have during the holiday season and use it wisely.  Here are some simple steps:
  • Write down your schedule for the upcoming week.  Put in your work, shopping, family obligations, church, parties, etc.  Now, find 45 minutes every day (broken down in 15 and 30 minutes) that you will devote to your “best friend”.  If you have to take some time away from another event, so be it.
  • Make a promise to yourself and Wolfie that you will not miss those two times daily where it will be your bonding time.
  • Make sure that those times are for you and Wolfie!  Do not be throwing the ball while you are on the phone. 
  • After each play time, make sure that Wolfie is still with the family.  Do not simply put him back in the crate and say “Adios”.

As your dog’s leader and care giver, it is your responsibility to maintain a constant bond so that he will respect and obey you.  When you break that bond and trust, you are minimizing your relationship with him.  I know that you are going to tell me “But I am so busy with this, I am so busy with that!”  My response to you is to ask yourself if “this and that” is more important than Wolfie who gives you unconditional love, is always there for you, always wants to please, and always makes you feel great when you are down. I think you know the answer.

If you have any questions, we will be happy to help.  Please contact us at TheBest Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hints on How to Correct Your Dog

I have heard all sorts of ideas and suggestions on how to correct my dog and get him to listen.  Frankly, they are all over the spectrum and doing all of them would just be nuts.  Is there anything that I can do to at least start the process?

The big hurdle that any dog owner has when their dog is misbehaving is to get their attention.  Once you have your dog’s attention, you have the ability to move forward with their training.  There are multiple methods and schools of thought regarding how to properly train your dog.  We are canine behavioral trainers.  This means that we focus on how the dog naturally responds to stimuli from the canine perspective.  There are also trainers who use positive only reward systems and trainers who use more physical methods such as e-collars in their training programs.  With this in mind, let me give you some simple hints that will help in correcting (teaching) your dog.

I think that all dog trainers using any method will agree that dogs can’t communicate like humans.  They can’t talk like Scooby-Doo, Huckleberry Hound or Augie Doggie.  Our dogs use their body language when they need to communicate.  If you have several dogs, just watch how they interact.  You might see one jumping on the other, one getting down low or lying on his back, or your dog might have his tail up like he is standing at attention.  All these actions help one dog to tell the other what they are thinking. 

Let me make it real simple and give you two hints regarding what you can do to let your dog know that you need him to listen.  I want to emphasize that this is not the only thing you must do.  What you are doing is to is to send a message to your dog that he needs to focus on you and the training you are about to employ.
  • Be calm and still when you are about to correct your dog.  From your dog’s perspective, their leader is not a crazy person.  We get mad when our dog has eaten the remote or pulled the freshly marinated steak off the kitchen counter.  We then run and scream because that is how we (humans) react when something goes wrong.  Remember, we are dealing with a dog so we must portray the message that he will understand.  Running and screaming does not do that.  Being calm and still is what your dog needs to see.
  • Stand up and face your dog when you are about to correct.  From your dog’s perspective, height shows leadership.  This is what they are doing when they have their tail and ears up.  The same thing occurs when they are jumping.  They are saying “Look at me.  I’m in charge around here”.  We can easily portray leadership to our dog by simply standing up.

As some people would say “easy-peasy”.  No matter if you use our canine behavior training method, the positive only training method, or a more physical method, letting your dog easily know that you are the one that demands his respect is always important.  Incorporate these two actions the next time you are working with your dog and you will see a great improvement.  If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in SouthFlorida.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

To the Woods for the Holidays with your Dog

It is really great to get away from it all and enjoy the Holidays in a warm cabin in the hills.  The air is brisk, the snow is fun, and you have more than enough time to enjoy all the stuff in the forest.  But what about your dog?  This is something new for him.  What do you do to make sure that he will be happy and safe?

If you live in a warm climate like South Florida, you will understand that it never really gets cold down here.  Because of that, our dogs don’t really experience what “cold really is”.  If you are planning a trip to a “winter cabin in the hills”, you should properly prepare for your dog’s well being in the woods.  Here are some ideas:
  • Don’t have your dog’s hair cut before you go.  The long hair will help keep him warm in the cold air.
  • If you are in snow, make sure that you dry him off when you come back inside.  You don’t want him to stay wet and possibly become sick.
  • (Even though I normally don’t recommend this), get doggie sweaters, especially for your little dog.  Warmth is always critical and we want to assure that they maintain their body heat.  Do not leave the sweaters on in the cabin.
  • Be aware of how long he is outside.  Remember, it is cold!
  • Always have your dog on a leash or long lead while you are out of the cabin.  You never know if he will just take off after something.  Since he is not familiar with the surroundings or possible creatures in those surroundings, this could put him in danger.
  • Before you take him for walks, follow the path you will take by yourself.  Check the area out for any poisonous plants, prickly bushes, animal tracks, etc.  As I mentioned earlier, always walk him on a leash and take a walking stick in case you need to ward off any creature.
  • Be sure to take enough food to last the entire trip.  You may not find a dog food store up in the hills.  Having to switch food could cause stomach issues and potty problems.  That is one thing you don’t want in your rented cabin.
  • Take his crate and toys.  This will allow you to keep him in his “happy place” when you need to be away from the cabin without him.
  • Be sure to actively schedule play time with him.  You are up in the beautiful hills and your time might just get away from you.  You don’t want to leave him alone in your cabin all day, every day.  Make sure you plan your outward excursions in such a way that you will be back at the cabin multiple times during the day for play and bonding time.  If you can take him with you on your outings, even better!
  • Go on the internet and find the name of a local vet.  Call them to confirm their office hours.  If possible, get your dog’s chart from your local vet.  In case something happens while you are in the hills, it is better to be safe than sorry.

These are some of the steps we have taken when we go up in the hills with our four dogs.  They absolutely love the mountains and the fresh, brisk air.  If you have any questions, please contact us immediately so we can help.  You can get us at The Best Dog Trainersin South Florida

Monday, November 11, 2013

Potty Training When You Are Away For A Long Time

I am in the middle of potty training my four month old puppy and things are going relatively well when I am home.  When I go to work, I can’t always get home at lunch to take him out.  What can I do to make sure that I don’t mess up the training when I have to be gone a long time?

We have a good number of clients who get new puppies and then have to leave them while they go to work.  The mistake that most of them make is to either leave them in their crate or give them the run of the house.  The problem is that their little puppy physically can’t hold it for the time they are left alone.

Let’s first talk about what you are doing wrong and then discuss what you should correctly do…

Leaving your puppy in the crate for an extended period of time is wrong.  Dogs naturally don’t want to go to the bathroom in their crate.  They see the crate as their den and they don’t want to leave their scent there because it might “draw in their enemies”.  They also don’t want to go to the bathroom on themselves because of the same reason.  Because of this, they will try to hold it as long as possible.  If you are gone longer that they can hold it, they will reluctantly toilet on themselves and in their crate. 

If you continually force them to toilet in their crate, their drive to try and hold it while they are in there will diminish and eventually disappear.  Since you use the crate as a place where they do not toilet, you have eliminated an important potty training tool.

Letting the puppy out in the entire house or an extended portion of the house while you are gone a long time is also bad.  Since you are away for a period of time that is longer that your dog can hold it, he is naturally going to toilet somewhere.  The key word here is “somewhere”.  Sometimes it is very hard or impossible to find where your puppy has toileted while you were away.  When this happens, your puppy has left the smell of a toilet somewhere in the house.  If it smells like a toilet, it must be a toilet.  This smell will constantly entice your puppy to return to that spot to go to the bathroom. 

Here is what you should do if you are going to be gone from the house and you know your puppy will probably go to the bathroom:
  • Pick a small room with a tile or linoleum floor such as a laundry room or bath room. 
  • Pick up all the items that your puppy might destroy.
  • If there is access to any “inappropriate area” such as behind the washer, block that access.
  • Clean the floor with a mild cleanser such as Lavender Fabuloso.
  • Cordon off the room with a doggie gate that your puppy can’t knock over, climb over, or jump over.
  • Place some toys, his bed, and a small amount of water & food in the room.
  • Place a wee-wee pad in the room. (Entice him to go in that area but not require him.)

Put your puppy in that room when you leave.  You have now confined him to a comfortable area that you can manage once you return.  The important thing here is that you are not diminishing the importance of the crate or possibly creating an “invisible toilet” (as noted above).

When you return home you can remove him from this area.  If he has gone on the wee-wee pad, simply pick that up and throw it away.  If he has gone anywhere else in the enclosed area, simply clean that up with an appropriate cleanser.  Close the door to this room and do not allow him in the room except when you are going out for an extended period and you have appropriately set it up for his use (mentioned earlier).

What we have established here is a “time out” in the potty process.  Your goal is to maintain the importance of the crate and not to have the house smell of urine.  You have created a place that he can go, if necessary.  Since he is not allowed in this area except during long absences by you, this will have a minimal impact on your potty training process.  As always, if you have any questions, please be sure to contact us at TheBest Dog Trainers in South Florida

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Getting a Second Dog

My little dog seems so lonely.  I just hate leaving him home alone when I go do work.  I am thinking about getting a “little friend” for him.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing? 

As Dog Trainers, we are asked this question from time to time.  Our clients have to leave their dog home alone while they are at work or their dog seems to show signs of separation anxiety or they think that a second dog will be a good “play buddy” for their current dog.  These are some of the thoughts that go through our clients’ heads and there are a lot more, for sure. The honest answer is that you never completely know what will happen when you bring an additional dog into your family.

My Dog is Lonely:
The idea that a dog is naturally “lonely” when he is left by himself all day is not correct.  Most dogs sleep most of the day while you are at work.  Why do you think they are fully adrenalized and ready to “rock and roll” when you open the door at night?  You have just woken them up and they are now ready to play. 

My Dog has Separation Anxiety:
If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, a second dog is normally not the answer.  Separation anxiety, normally shown through destruction, defecation, and persistent barking; is caused by an issue between you and your dog.  You have not established the appropriate bond between you and your dog and your dog is trying to get to you or call you back.  This can easily be resolved through proper behavioral training and does not require the addition of a second dog.

My Dog Needs to be Socialized with Other Dogs:
If you believe that a second dog will help with your dog’s socialization skills, you don’t need to bring a new dog into the pack.  Think about taking your dog to a doggie day care a few times a week.  If you have some neighbors with nice dogs, arrange some play dates in a neutral area. 

If our client still really wants to get a second dog because they are “sure that the new dog will be great for the current one”, we ask them a very simple question:

Are you prepared to take care of another dog, period

Getting a second dog can’t be done to simply solve a perceived problem.  What if getting the second dog doesn’t solve the problem?  What then? 

Let’s say that they have assured me that they really want a second dog and will do whatever is necessary to make sure that both will feel happy and safe in their family.  No matter what it takes, they will be the “diligent parents”.

With that said, I council them on the appropriate method to pick and introduce a new dog into their family:
  • Check Rescue Groups and the Local Humane Society for dogs you like.  Try and find a “middle of the pack” dog.  This is a dog that doesn’t run at you instantly when you approach the cage or their area.  This dog also won’t stay in the back of the cage or area.  This dog will respond when you address them and will come over to you in a calm and polite manner.  This is important when you introduce this dog to your current dog.
  • Have the two dogs meet in a neutral area.  Many groups and Humane Societies have fenced in areas that are used for this purpose.  You can also use a neighbor’s fenced in back yard if that neighbor does not have any pets. 
  • Have both dogs on leashes and bring them into the area from different locations.  Walk them around the area while slowly approaching each other.
  • Bring them to about eight feet from each other and have both sit.  Once both display submissive body language, allow them to approach each other.   Do not force them.  Let them sniff each other for a few moments and then separate them and have them sit again.
  • If all is still going well, walk them around the area again for a few minutes.  Have them sit and then release the leashes.  If either dog shows aggression towards the other, quickly step on the leashes and separate them.
  • Continue to let them interact, watching closely for any signs of aggression of fearfulness.  If they eventually lie down and show passive tendencies towards each other, you may have a good match.
  • Continue the introduction at your home.  Have both dogs meet on your front lawn.  Have them leashed and walk them around for a moment or two.  Now, allow them to approach and sniff.  Continue this for about fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • Take your dog into the house and have him sit in an area away from the front door but with a view of the front door.  Bring the new dog into the house but do not walk directly towards your dog.
  • Allow both dogs to sniff if they want. 
  • Sit on the sofa with the dogs at opposite ends.  Still have them on their leashes and have them sitting or lying down.  After a few minutes, let the leashes go but do not remove them.
  • Get up from the sofa and quietly walk around the room but never leave the room. 

There still is never an air tight guarantee that the two dogs will be “best buddies”, but you have done everything possible to properly introduce and jointly socialize them.  If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers inSouthern Florida.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Teaching My Dog to Come When Called

I am really frustrated with my dog.  Just as soon as I think I have trained him go come to me when I ask, he ignores me completely or I have to say it over and over again.  I must be missing something.  What am I doing wrong?

This is a common complaint that we hear many times when we visit our clients for the first time.  They think that their dog understands “come” if he comes to them a few times.  Now, when the dog is at the dog park or in the back yard, he completely ignores them.  The client normally gets mad and yells at the dog.

It is obvious that this method does not work.  In order to understand what will work, we have to understand how our dogs learn.  Dogs learn through repetition and consistency.  We could compare this to the same way we learned our times tables.  Every time we “flipped the card”, the same answer would be on the other side.  Eventually, we didn’t have to flip the card because we knew what was on the other side. 

To relate this to our dog’s training, we have to make sure that every time we give the command “come”, out dog will go to us.  With that said, let me explain, exactly, what you must do to assure that your dog understands and consistently obeys you when you tell him to “come”:
  • Have your dog in the house with a six foot leash.  Make sure that you are in a calm and quiet environment.  Go down low and say “come” in your regular voice.  If your dog doesn't come, give the leash a slight tug.  Once your dog comes to you, praise him in a high voice and stand up.
  • Leave the leash on your dog and just walk around the room without paying attention to him.  Next, go to the end of the leash, put your foot on it, stoop down, grab the leash, and tell your dog to “come”.
  • Repeat the above process until your dog will always come without the need to give the leash a tug.
  • Now, switch the six foot leash with a twenty foot training lead.  Use about ten feet of the lead and have the rest wrapped up.  Go down low and say “come” from ten feet in your regular voice.  If your dog doesn't come, give the lead a slight tug, repeating the tug until he comes to you. 
  • Repeat the above step until you no longer have to tug on the lead to have your dog obey you.  Extend the training lead to fifteen feet and repeat the process.
  • Extend the training lead to twenty feet and repeat the process.
  • Now, take your dog to the back yard.  Repeat everything you have done above with both the six food leash and twenty foot training lead.

Now you have your dog consistently coming to you outside.  Since you aren't tugging on the leash to get your dog to obey, it has now become unnecessary.
  • Continue telling your dog to come to you, but do not hold the leash anymore. 
  • Now, have someone unhook the leash from your dog and tell him to come.  He should come to you without the need of the leash.

What you have done is to program your dog in a consistent and repetitive manner.  You set the scene so that every time your dog heard “come”, he went to you.  You initially used the leash to assure the outcome.  As the programming took hold, the leash became superfluous and could be removed.  If you have any questions, we are always available at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Managing Your Puppy’s Play with Other Puppies

We have had our very first puppy for about a month now and I am starting to let him play with neighbor puppies and other dogs.  Sometimes it looks like they are really trying to hurt each other.  How do I know they are just playing or if something bad is happening?

Socialization is a very important part of your puppy’s life experience.  Your puppy’s play with other dogs and puppies allows him to reinforce and establish his communication skills, canine interaction, and physical well being. 

The one thing that you have to understand is that your puppy lives in a “canine world” of absolutes and clear social roles.  There is the leader and there are the followers.  There are things you can do and things you can’t do.  Everything is absolute and unambiguous.  These are the types of games that puppies play in order to build experience and understand their social experience.

Puppies play games such as:
  •  “Follow the Leader” where the leader is chased by the rest of the puppies (the pack).  Eventually the leader stops and a new leader takes over.  That puppy now takes off with a flash while the rest of the group chases him. 
  • Many times two puppies will play “Tag, You’re It!” where one chases the other until the follower jumps on the leader and sometimes gives a little nip.  The act of “tagging” exchanges roles where the leader becomes the follower and the follower becomes the leader.
  • “King of the Hill” is another game that puppies play where one puppy gets to the top of something (like a chair) and defends it by posturing, nipping, and barking.  The other puppies might challenge by getting close, but they will always back off.  Eventually the puppy on top will jump off and a new puppy will become the leader or “king”.

Even though these are all activities that demonstrate dominance or submission, they are still only games.  Just like we used to play games like Cowboys and Indians, we understood that they were just games.  Our puppies also understand that these are just games.  After about thirty or forty minutes, they will all be drinking out of the same water bowl and then fall asleep, exhausted, by each other.   

So we should encourage and let our puppies play these games.  With this said, there are a few precautions that we should take to make sure that everything stays safe:
  • Have puppies of the same size play with each other.  When a big puppy rushes up to a small puppy, it might scare and intimidate the smaller.  This could create a fearful little dog that might later become dog aggressive.
  • We suggest playing outside in an enclosed, grassy area.  This allows them the most freedom to run and not “get into trouble”.
  • If one puppy is becoming fearful (tail between legs), remove him from the main play area.  Let him watch from a safe distance and allow him to decide if and when he might want to join the group.
  • Watch the puppies very closely.  If any puppy is constantly jumping on another and the other is whining, growling, or nipping with no release, the play has escalated too far.  It is now time to separate the two for five minutes.  If they are calm after that, resume play.
  • Always have water available.  This allows for proper hydration and provides for a “quick break” in the games.

We all want to be good “doggie parents” and to allow our puppies to become well socialized.  Allowing our puppies to play together is a large part of the equation.  Unfortunately the line between exuberant, healthy play and aggressive bullying is quite fine.  If you are ever unsure about a situation, remove your puppy and let things start again.  If you have any questions, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What You Need to Know Before Starting to Train Your Dog

I am trying to teach my dog commands and to be a good dog, but nothing seems to be working.  He isn’t staying when I tell him to stay and it will be a cold day in “you know where” when he would ever come to me when I ask.  I am just totally at a standstill!  What is going wrong?

As dog trainers, we have heard this complaint from dog owners time and time again.  It is normally an issue with first time dog owners.  Before you can even get to the point of training your dog, you need to understand a few, basic concepts.
  • Dogs need consistency.  They do not understand complicated or logical situations.  Every time they hear a specific sound (like SIT), they will put their rear on the ground.  They know they can never jump on people.  When things begin to get complicated, like you allow them to jump on you but not your guests, they have no idea how to respond.  So make sure that when you give them commands or expect specific behavior, the result will always be the same. 
  • You must understand what your dog has the ability to currently learn.  Another way of expressing this is that you need to know your dog’s current skill set.  If you can’t get your dog to consistently sit, you will never get him to stay.  If you are calling your dog to come to you from across the yard and he doesn’t, yelling at him over and over again isn’t going to do any good.  He just doesn’t understand what you want.  With this said, you need to figure out what your dog can do and start there with your teaching program.  Just like a tennis player, you learn and improve by playing with someone just a little better than you. 
  • You must be in control when you are teaching your dog.  Remember, you are the teacher and need the focus and respect from your dog in order to teach.  If you give your dog a SIT command and he runs out the door, that really isn’t a good “teaching moment”.  The best way to make sure that you have control is to have your dog leashed when you are training him.  If you tell him to SIT, he can’t run away and you can use the leash as a tool to help and guide him into the SIT.  If you tell your dog to COME and he doesn’t, you can give the leash a little tug to direct him towards you.

These are just three little concepts that you need to keep in mind when teaching your dog.  I know that they sound simple, but dogs crave the simple.  What you have done is to create an environment where they are prepared to learn.  If you ever have any questions, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Walking a Very Strong, Big Dog

I have a very big, head strong German Sheppard who pulls and lunges like crazy when I walk him.  I have tried all the tricks of walking on a short leash, using a Holt and Gentle Leader, walking at different times; he still pulls and lunges.  What can I try next?

I had this exact situation with a client and his Sheppard on a training visit earlier this week.  He said that walking was next to impossible with the dog.  With that said, I asked him to take the dog out on a short leash and walk down the street.  (By the way, the street was nice and quiet… no cars, people, kids, squirrels, etc.)  The walking was a disaster.  It was a constant tug of war between the client and the dog.  It was a stalemate where nobody was winning and nothing was being taught.

This is where I introduced a slightly different method that is not for everybody.  I asked for the leash and simply held the leash by the handle.  There was six feet of loose leash between me and this 90 lb., 2 year old, rambunctious Sheppard. 

He looked at me and then began to run out to the end of the leash.  As soon as he got there and began to pull, I gave a good tug on the leash and directed him back to me.  During this entire time, I continued to walk and did not make a big deal of the redirection back to me.  The Sheppard gave me a quick look and slowly began to walk out to the end again.  I corrected him again, but this time I didn’t have to give such a tug to get him to look back and slow down.

After several repetitions of this process, that Sheppard was walking right around me and never encroached on the 6 foot limit of the leash.  Kids and animals would pass by and he still would stay right around me.  Dogs will be dogs, so I still needed to give him slight corrections as we continued and completed the walk.  Also, I want to make it quite clear that I never chocked the dog or hurt him in any way.  I was simply giving him very clear signals that “you can’t go that way”.  

Sometimes dogs need a little more room to “move around” when walking.  I noticed this immediately when I asked the owner to walk the dog.  All I did was to give the dog a little more “walking room” with the clear rule that he still needed to stay around me and to be mindful of my presence.  I simply put the Sheppard in a situation where he could clearly understand my rule and that I had the ability to let him understand what was right and wrong.

Please remember that this technique isn’t for everybody.  The client was able to handle the dog if he lunged, had a clear grasp of the technique I was displaying, and was able to successfully apply it, if needed.  If you have further questions, please contact us at Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Dog and His Dog House

I just bought a really great dog house for my doggie, but he wants nothing to do with it.  The people at the Pet Store said that all I had to do was put it in the back yard, and like “Field of Dreams”, “he will come”.  It’s not working and I am afraid it will just become filled with spiders and squirrels.  What can I do to get the Welcome Wagon out and have Wolfie happy with his new place?

Dog House Training Tips

We always think that just because we get something called a “dog house”, that our dog will naturally want to go there and hang out.  The question that you must ask yourself is “Why should he?”  Did you make it a place that was fun and comforting for him?  Did you make it his special retreat where he could retire and relax?  Did you even tell him that it was his?

The big thing you must do is to socialize your dog with his new abode, letting him know that it is a fun and safe place that you, as the leader of the pack, have provided for him.  Here are some ideas:
  • Place the dog house in the family room where everyone convenes and shares happy times.  This allows Wolfie to see that “this new thing” is just another object in his natural play area.
  • Put your dog's toys in it.  Put goodies in the dog house and even feed him there.  Play with him around the dog house so that it becomes just another fun place.
  • After a week or so, move the dog house out into the back yard. 
    • Put it someplace where your dog already naturally likes to hang out.  
    • Make sure that you put it where the dog house will not get too hot or be “rained upon” by the lawn sprinklers.  
    • Don’t put it near a spot where there is a lot of street or neighbor noise.  
    • Also, don’t put it “in the farthest reach” of the yard.  This might be construed by Wolfie as being ostracized by the family.  
  • Repeat what you were doing in the family room.  Feed your dog in his new house.  Make sure that his toys are around the house.  If your dog likes to dig, build a digging pit next to it.
  • Make sure that the dog house stays clean and “free of vermin”.  Take a broom and sweep for cobwebs on a weekly basis.  Clean it with a non-toxic cleanser and make sure that it stays dry.
  • Make the dog house part of your outside “play routine”.  As you are playing fetch, get the ball or Frisbee inside his house.  If you like to play “find it”, hide the goodie in his house.  This helps to include the dog house as part of the bonding between you and your dog.
  • If the weather starts to become inclement, bring your dog inside.  Since dog houses are “hard environments”, the noise from thunder can be multiplied and the dog house could even vibrate from the “clapping”.  This could be a terrorizing experience that we don’t want our dogs to deal with. 

Follow these simple steps and we are sure that you can create a great “home away from home” for your dog in the back yard.  It will become a retreat where he can hang out and call his own.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How to Stop My Dog Stealing From the Table

The one thing that really makes meal time stressful is trying to keep my dog from begging and stealing food from the table.  I know that other people with dogs don’t have this problem, but I do.  What can I do?

There is one important thing that we must understand about dogs stealing food from the table.  They don’t place an implicit ownership on food.  If they see food left unattended, it is just like their finding a dead animal in the wild.  If they are hungry, they will naturally eat the food.  So, as humans, we need to understand that if we leave food unattended with our dog nearby, it might be gone when we return.

With this said, we must also understand when it is not acceptable for our dog to steal from the table.  If we are providing our dog leadership while building a bond, establishing trust, and delivering companionship; our dog will see us as their caregiver and leader.  From our dog’s perspective, it is not acceptable to take food from the leader until allowed.

When our dog attempts to take food from the table while we are at the table, he is breaking that natural rule and we must, as the leader, let him know that he is doing something wrong.  In order to do this, we must set the scene to allow him to either try and steal the food or respect us and not encroach.  Here is a little exercise for you:
  • Establish a perimeter around your table where you don’t want your dog to cross when you are eating.
  • Make sure you have toys, goodies, or even your dog’s dinner placed outside the perimeter.
  • Place a leash on your dog.
  • Create one or two plates of “smelly food” like cheese, cold cuts, hamburger meat, etc. and place them on the table.
  • Everyone with a plate needs to sit down at the table and keep their chairs placed far enough away from the table so that they can easily stand up.  Everyone must sit “side saddled” (like our Mom always scolded us for doing).
  • Make “yummy sounds” and nibble on the food while you watch your dog out of the corner of your eye.
  • If your dog begins to approach your boundary, quickly stand up, face your dog, and loudly say “No” in an authoritative, guttural tone.  If you need to, gently pick up the leash and guide him away to his toys, goodies, or dinner.
  • Praise your dog with a high pitched “Good boy” for doing the right thing.  (You might have had to show him what was right, but that is OK.  He is learning.)
  • Return to your chair, always facing your dog.
  • Slowly sit down and repeat the process until your dog looses interest and does not approach you.
  • Repeat this every day until you no longer have to actively keep him away from the table.

Having to deal with a “nosy dog” while at the table can be a big pain for your family and friends.  Practice this exercise regularly and we are sure you will soon have an enjoyable time at the dinner table.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.