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Friday, January 25, 2013

A Tip When Walking Your Puppy

When I am walking my little puppy, Wolfie, he seems to pull the leash and try to run away from any distraction like big cars, joggers, other dogs, the garbage men, etc.  What can I do about it?  I don't want him going nuts all the time...

This is a walking tip that we have found works best for puppies.  When we are thinking they are going nuts or are super-afraid of that distraction on the walk, that really isn't the case.  With older dogs, this is a strong possibility because of inappropriate socialization or negative experiences.  What we have to remember is that our little Wolfie is new to the world and every sight and sound around him is new.  He has to make a decision if "that thing" is friend or foe.  

What we need to do is to set up the socialization experience so that little Wolfie feels safe while observing and/or hearing that new distraction.  If Wolfie is moving (walking at your side), he might not maintain that sense of safety.

As you are walking little Wolfie, the first thing you must do as the Alpha Leader and his "Safety Provider" is to constantly scan ahead and behind you for anything that might frighten or negatively distract him.  

Let's say that a UPS truck just turned the corner behind you and is coming up the street.  Stop walking and have little Wolfie sit.  If you are walking right at the edge of the street, move about 10 to 15 feet back from the edge of the street and have him sit.  Allow him to passively watch the truck pass and move out of sight.  

If little Wolfie begins to bark or "leave his sit", give the leash a slight tug, correct him, and have him sit again.  If you think you are too close to the side of the road, move farther away from the road and then ask him to sit.

What you have done is to allow little Wolfie to observe this new distraction in the real world and in real time.  You have also provided him with the safety he needs to understand that he does not feel threatened by the distraction while maintaining the focus on you as his safety provider.

If you do this in a consistent manner, you will teach little Wolfie the correct socialization "manners" for all the things in his new world.  You will have a great dog without bad habits.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dog Training is a Family Event

I am trying to train Wolfie, but the rest of the family just doesn't want to get involved.. They then complain when Wolfie nips their pants and never listens.  What gives?

Having trained over 2,000 dogs, it has become quite clear to us that training your dog is a family event.  To give you a quick example, when you were a child, what if your mother was the disciplinarian and tried to teach you right and wrong?  When  your father came home, he had nothing to do with you and could care less what you did or said.  You would probably turn out as a "messed up" kid.  The same can be said about the dog-human family dynamic.

Dogs crave consistency and rules.  If one family member responds to Wolfie in a specific way, he expects that the next family member will also act in the same way.  If they don't, it creates an inconsistent environment for the dog.  This will result in the Wolfie's lack of focus or obedience to you or anyone in the family.  In Wolfie's eyes, why should he listen, you are all nuts!  The more the family is inconsistent, the more that Wolfie ignores and disobeys their wishes.  Frustration among the family members mounts and could even escalate to harmful, physical acts or having Wolfie surrendered to the Dog Pound.

The bottom line is that this doesn't have to happen.  Before you get a dog, have a family meeting to discuss the responsibilities the family is about to undertake.  A few things you should include in your discussion are:

  • Everyone must agree that they want a dog.  (Wolfie can't be unwanted from the very first day!)
  • Everyone will agree to the family rules between them and Wolfie.  Items to include are:
    • What rooms will Wolfie be allowed to enter?
    • On or off the furniture?
    • Jumping or not jumping?
    • What kind of play in the house?
    • etc.
  • Everyone will agree that they will be involved with Wolfie's training and socialization.
  • Create a feeding, playing and walking schedule.  Assign names!
  • Discuss how you want Wolfie to act with anyone coming into the house.
  • Talk about how these new responsibilities come at a cost.  Some of your current "free time" will now become "Wolfie time".
  • Discuss how you will resolve disagreements between family members when they are treating Wolfie differently.
A family is a family.  One for all and all for one.  Having Wolfie as part of your family does not change that.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Never Use an Extension Leash!

I know that I have said this in the past, but after a conversation with a client this week, I just have to reiterate...

Just as it says in the Taylor Swift song, "never, ever, ever..." use an extension leash when walking your dog!  It is unsafe and could end with your dog being hit by a car or truck.

Yes, I have told this to you before, but I now want to share a conversation I had with one of my clients this week.

My client is a Fire Paramedic who has a great puppy and a wonderful love for dogs.  She told me of an incident she experienced about two weeks ago while responding to a call early in the morning.

It was about 6AM and they were heading to an emergency call driving down a major street in Fort Lauderdale.  Ahead of them was a man with his dog.  The dog was sniffing the grass at the edge of the street.  The owner had the dog on an extension leash and really wasn't paying too much attention to the situation.  It was early in the morning with no traffic, so they didn't have the siren on at the time.

Just as they approached the owner and the dog, the dog leaped in front of the oncoming fire truck.  It happened so quickly that the truck's driver couldn't respond and they were sitting so high up, they couldn't immediately see if they had hit the dog.  My client said that everyone's hearts were were racing as they looked in the rear view mirrors.

Luckily, they had missed the dog by inches.  My client said that this incident impacted every Fireman and Paramedic on that truck for the rest of the day.  If the dog had jumped one second sooner of they were five feet farther back on the road, the dog would have been killed instantly.

Can I state it any clearer than this?  Please, no extension leashes, period.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Should My Kids Train Wolfie?

We got a dog and I want to make sure that my kids are involved in his training!  First, I don't want him to be my sole responsibility, but I also want to teach my kids responsibility...

We get this question (request) a lot and the answer really depends on the dynamics of the family and the current issues with the dog.  Let's just walk through some scenarios that we have experienced and we will explain what needs to be done.

The kids don't want anything to do with Wolfie:
The first thing that we would do would be to get your kids involved with Wolfie around the house.  

  • Ask them to take Wolfie's bowl to him at feeding time.  
  • Have Wolfie and your kids together with you as you are giving him s treat.  Show your kids how to do that and then ask them to try it too.  
  • You can also ask them to "babysit" Woolfie while you are making dinner or on the computer.  You are still in sight of them, but you have given them a chore that involves passive interaction with him.

After they are OK with him, start involving them with come simple commands like COME and SIT.  You do the exercises first and then you invite them to join in.  You are always there to encourage them and guide them when they aren't getting the exercise done correctly.  Never let them become angry or hit Wolfie.

As your kids see that Wolfie "will do what they want", it will give them a feeling of accomplishment.  Now, start to move on to other commands like STAY and WALK.  Again, this is all taken slowly and always in an atmosphere of having fun.

Wolfie seems to be a little aggressive and nips at the kids:
Usually we see a dog nipping and automatically label them as "aggressive".  Although we always suggest contacting a professional dog trainer for specific advise, this situation is normally caused by Wolfie demanding attention.

The first thing you have to do is to establish your dominance over Wolfie so that he gives you the respect and focus you require.  Have Wolfie on a leash around your kids.  As soon as he approaches them and begins to nip, correct him and direct him back to you.  You will very quickly notice the proactive signs of Wolfie wanting to nip (get attention) your kids.  Correct him ahead of time.  Wolfie will quickly learn that he can't perform that behavior.

Now, ask your kids to call Wolfie over to them in a calm manner.  Have them pet him and give him treats.  As you see that Wolfie is no longer the one demanding attention and your kids are no longer threatened by Wolfie's nipping, you can start with some simple COME and SIT obedience commands.

My kids are small and Wolfie is twice their size:
I don't want the kids training Wolfie in this instance.  They can play with him under controlled visits with you always present.  Under no circumstance do you leave them alone.

The reason that I am so adamant in this situation is that I don't want Wolfie knocking them over.  It isn't that I think that Wolfie is mean or would want to hurt your kids, but they are kids and dogs.  Bumping and falling happens.  When they are small, this could scare them and make them afraid of dogs the rest of their lives.

The bottom line whenever you want your kids involved with your dog is to have them properly socialized first.  Any of the cases that we have discussed above first involves proper socialization so that a level of respect is built between your kids and Wolfie.

As I mentioned above, if you have any concern regarding your kids' interaction with your dog, call a professional dog trainer.  You can reach us at