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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Again, Wolfie isn't Listening, What Now?

It is so strange, sometimes Wolfie seems to be listening and sometimes it is like we just aren't there!  I wish that it wasn't quite so difficult to get him to be a good dog that listens and obeys.  What could we be doing wrong? 

As dog trainers, we hear this a lot.  Many times it isn't the problem that Wolfie isn't listening, he could be intently listening, but not understanding.  From a canine behavioral standpoint, there could be many reasons for this and I would like to discuss of those in this blog article.

Dogs learn and respond through simple consistency.  This is established by setting up an environment of simple, repetitive rules and actions.  If we expect Wolfie to be off the furniture, we must never allow him on the furniture for any reason.  To take it one step further, nobody can allow him to be on the furniture.

This process extends far beyond being on my favorite sofa, it is a process that we must universally apply when telling Wolfie what he can and can not do.  If I have a rule that Wolfie can't jump, every other member of the family must also apply that rule equally.  Wolfie can't jump, period.  I don't care which family member he is with, he can't jump.

One family member can't have a different set of rules for Wolfie.  Again, everyone must be on the same page.  The best way to accomplish this is to sit down, agree what everyone wants Wolfie to do and then write it down so everyone is clear.

So why wasn't Wolfie listening?  It was because you were all telling him different things.  He couldn't process that because you appeared inconsistent.  Have everyone keep the same rules and you will see that Wolfie will begin to listen and obey because he finally understands exactly what you want.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Separation Anxiety, How Can I Help?

Wolfie just goes nuts when I leave the house.  He barks and attempts to destroy everything.  The neighbors tell me that they think there is a "possessed being" in my house.  Is this "separation anxiety" and what can I do about it?

Separation anxiety is one of the most difficult issues to resolve in a dog's behavior.  It is brought about because of prior experiences as shelter or abused dog or lack of leadership in the current environment.  Over the coming months I will be discussing this in more detail, but, for now, let's get going on one thing we can do.

Wolfie and other dogs are very attuned to the sounds around them.  If their territory (home) sounds like everything is fine, they will feel that it is fine.  The way that they come to this conclusion is based on the "white noise" they are processing.  If they hear you doing the laundry or opening the refrigerator, everything is fine, Mommy or Daddy are home, no big deal.  If they don't hear this, they begin to increase their adrenaline and wonder where the rest of the pack actually are. 

Many people leave the TV on for their dogs as "white noise" for their being home.  This could actually be a negative thing if the TV is not always on.  Wolfie learns "A=B".  If the TV is on, you are not here.  Oh my gosh, I have to react to you not being here!  I will bark and destroy! (Just for your information, this is bad.)

We have an interesting solution.  Record about 30 minutes of daily household activities you would normally perform.  About 10 minutes before you leave, turn on the recording.  From this point until you leave, be very quiet.  Now, leave the house while your continuous loop recording continues to play.  

Wolfie now is focused on your natural noises and has been be redirected from your departure and his need to initiate separation anxiety.

This is only one of several things you must implement to successfully resolve Wolfie's separation anxiety, but it is a start.  In the coming weeks, I will publish more articles that will assist you to resolve this problem.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

More Quick Tips When Walking Your Puppy

There are so many things I have to remember when walking my puppy.  What is a quick safety tip that I could be overlooking?

Down here in South Florida it is hot and humid most of the year.  Because of this, we have a lot of standing water and mold.  Little puppies love to sniff and lick just about anything.  The one thing you don't want them to do is to ingest mold and run the risk of stomach infections, loose stools, or even worse.  Here are a few, simple suggestions you might employ while walking your little puppy, Wolfie:
  • Always be aware of your environment and avoid standing water or really dirty sidewalks.
  • Walk at a brisk pace and stop only when you think it is safe for Wolfie to sniff and just be a puppy.
  • Don't just blindly look off into the distance when you are walking.  Always keep your eye on Wolfie to make sure he is keeping his nose and mouth off the ground.
  • Walk Wolfie on a short leash.  This takes away a great deal of the opportunity for him to get into trouble.  It also make is easier for you to keep him in control.
Always be observant of Wolfie when you are home.  If you see he is having loose stool, becomes listless, or his eating habits change, give your Veterinarian a call right away and discuss the problem.  It is our responsibility to keep our little puppy safe for his entire life and part of that is just being a smart and observant leader.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Tip For Your Dog's Separation Anxiety

Every time I leave the house, Wolfie cries and barks until I come home.  What can I do so that he won't be like that?

Wolfie is experiencing separation anxiety.  When you leave he becomes anxious and will cry and bark for long periods of time.  He will pace back and forth, sometimes jumping up on the window ledges to see if you are coming home yet.  Sometimes this behavior turns destructive.  He might start chewing on the baseboards near the door or on pillows and other pieces of furniture.  In one extreme case, we saw two dalmatians actually eat their way through a wall.

There are many things you can do about this.  For now, I would like to offer one of the suggestions I provide my clients having this problem.

Separation anxiety many times starts with anticipation.  When Wolfie has the ability to anticipate our departure and his solidarity, it builds up the adrenaline and can make the matter even worse.  What we must do is to eliminate Wolfie's anticipation of our departure.

We are creatures of habit and usually have set routines for things we do.  This is almost always true when we leave the house.  We need to get our keys, check to make sure the doors and windows are locked, turn off the lights, grab our wallet, put on our shoes, grab our coat, etc.  Many times this process might begin up to 30 minutes before we actually leave.  Wolfie watches us every day and knows every one of our routines.  When he starts to see the "I am leaving" routine, his adrenaline and anticipated anxiety begin to build.  To minimize Wolfie's anxiety, we need to "hide" our "I am leaving" routine from Wolfie.

Here is what you do:

  • For the next three days, write down everything you do when you leave the house.  Start your list 30 minutes before you actually leave.  After three days, pull out your lists and look for a pattern of repeated actions you do before you leave.  Take these actions and make it your "I am leaving" routine.
  • Now, every time you leave, mix up your routine or even eliminate some of the actions.  You might put your briefcase and shoes in the car the night before or leave your car keys in the garage.  Continue to mix up your routine for the next few days.
  • Now, start to perform your "I am leaving" routine, but don't leave.  Get all ready to leave, walk out the door, come right back in side, and sit down to watch TV.  Repeat this and then work on the computer.  Even mix up the routine slightly, but don't leave.
  • Perform the "leaving" and "not leaving" routines for several days.
What you have done is to show Wolfie that there is not a precursor to your leaving.  There is no need to get anxious because of particular actions.  Although this is not a complete cure for separation anxiety, it is a first step in minimizing the overall level of anxiety.  To completely cure Wolfie's separation anxiety, he needs to have a clear picture of his place in the family and your leadership ability. For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Your New Puppy & Pool Safety

I just got a new puppy and I want to make sure he is safe in the back yard.  What sort of things should I do to make sure he is OK around the pool?

The first thing that I always tell my clients is that their dog doesn't have to love the pool, he just needs to know how to get out of the pool if he ever falls in.  

We have to remember that dogs still have that innate canine mentality and perspective.  To them, the pool is the same thing as a lake or stream.  The bank is sloped and they have the ability to walk out anywhere along it.  Unfortunately, a "pool's bank" is a straight wall.  You can not easily get out where ever you want.  There is usually only one or two places where you can easily exit a pool.  Since Wolfie doesn't understand this, he will be splashing and clawing at the pool's side, never being able to get out.  He will eventually tire and possibly drown.

What we must do is to train Wolfie how to locate the exits to the pool and what he must do to get out.  Here is what you do:

  • Put Wolfie on a leash and gently place him on the first step in the shallow end.  Sit with him and even have some of his toys there.  Give him some treats.  What we are doing here is to introduce the pool to Wolfie so that if he does fall in, he doesn't become so scared that he can't focus on the exits.
  • Now have Wolfie jump out of the pool from the first step.  Praise him when he does it.  If you need to guide him with a little tug of the leash, that is fine too.  We are teaching Wolfie the first step of getting out of the pool.
  • Now hold Wolfie and slowly move him away from the first step and around the pool.  Always do this slowly and NEVER let go of him.  We want to make sure that Wolfie is building a larger perspective of the pool while still feeling safe.  Always end "your little trip" back at the shallow end step and then guide him out.  Praise always follows.
  • Move Wolfie about five feet away from the shallow end step and let him loose in the water.  Use the leash to guide him back to the step and then out of the pool.
  • Repeat the above process until you can be at the other end of the pool and Wolfie will return to the shallow step and then out of the pool. 

I want to emphasize that you should move slowly through these steps.  The longer we give Wolfie that ability to feel safe at each step of the process, the better he will learn.  Also, I would suggest that you keep distractions to a minimum while you are working on this.  Having crazy kids or other dogs around could easily detract from the learning process.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.