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Friday, May 31, 2013

How to Start the Great Relationship Between Your Dog and Your Child

I have a three year old son and a six month Golden Retriever.  I know that they really like each other, but how can I start to build their relationship so that my son will be a life-long dog lover?  Some of my adult friends are scared of dogs.  They tell me that it is because of some incident that happened when they were young and they can never get over it.  I just want to do what is right...

It is almost a universal law that little boys and puppies love each other.  They are both full of energy, want to play & explore, and have a natural trust of almost everybody and everything.  We need to take these qualities and create an environment where your young son and your little puppy, Wolfie, can build a bond of friendship, respect, and rules.

Before I go any further, I want to be crystal clear that you can never leave your young son and Wolfie alone.  You must always be in control of the situation no matter how well you think they are getting along.  Just one quick mistake can critically damage the relationship and put a fear of dogs with your son.

There are multiple training steps that you will need to accomplish to build your son's bond with Wolfie.  We would like to discuss one socialization and obedience technique that is great for both your son and Wolfie.  All we want to accomplish is to have a little "walkies" with your son and Wolfie.  This doesn't have to be a perfect march where Wolfie is buy his side.  Think of it as more of a "stroll around the yard".

First, you must do your homework to make sure that Wolfie is socialized with the leash.  This means that he doesn't go crazy every time he sees the leash.  He can't grab it in his mouth and run away with the leash.  You must be able to click the leash on him, drop the leash, and Wolfie will not pay attention to the leash whatsoever. 

Next, you must be sure that Wolfie can understand what a "walkies" is all about.  You must work with him so that he calmly walks by your side when you are the person walking him.  Walk him past any distractions you have in the back yard that might make him bolt or jump.  Make sure that he doesn't constantly have his nose to the ground looking for things or is constantly stopping and digging.  He must be well behaved for you before you pass him off to your young son.

Now we are ready.  First of all, make sure that Wolfie has his collar properly fitted around his neck so that he can not slip out of it.  Next, click a 20 foot training lead to Wolfie's collar.  (This is going to be for you and will assure that proper safety precautions are in place.)  

Have someone bring your son up to Wolfie.  Have him calmly pet Wolfie until they are both calm and focused on each other   Have someone hand your son a 3 - 4 foot leash and have him click it on Wolfie's collar.  (The reason that I suggest a shorter leash is to minimize it dragging on the ground and getting Wolfie's feet and body tangled in it.)  Help your son, if needed.  Make sure that your son actually clicks it on himself.  This helps to build your son's sense of accomplishment and allows Wolfie to see who is taking charge. Give them a minute or two to continue petting and acclimating to the situation.

It is now time to have your young son walk Wolfie.  Remember, this is more of a stroll than a walk.  All we want them to do is to calmly walk around the yard while your son is guiding.

Ask your son to begin walking and to give Wolfie a little tug to show him where to go.  You will also be right there with the training lead, helping with the tug and providing guidance to Wolfie, as needed.

Ask your son to go wherever he wants.  Remind him to guide Wolfie with him and to always pay attention to Wolfie.  In the background, you are using your training lead to keep Wolfie next to your son and to correct/enhance his guidance with Wolfie.

Be very aware of any areas where Wolfie might want to run and go after something (duck landing in the lake, squirrel in the tree, bikes in the road).  Ask your son to stop and have Wolfie sit.  You can assist in this command and should also put Wolfie on a short leash in case he wants to go after that distraction.

Give your son massive encouragement and praise for being such a great dog owner.  Ask him to pet Wolfie often and to say "Good Doggie".  Do not give Wolfie treats during the walkies because this might create an inappropriate distraction and too much excitement from Wolfie.

Spend up to 20 minutes a day performing this little exercise.  Do it when Wolfie is in a "quieter moment".  Make a big deal about it during the day with your son so that he sees it as a great "play date".

As I said, this is just one exercise you can perform to build up the lasting bond between your child and dog.  We all have that wonderful, mental picture of the little boy with his fishing poll and his dog, walking down a dirt road to their favorite fishing spot.  This is what we are trying to accomplish here. For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

When I Correct Wolfie and He Cowers, What Then?

I know that I need to tell Wolfie that he is doing something wrong and I am not hitting him or using those shock collars on him, but he is still cowering and hiding in the corner.  I don't want to scare my dog every time he is doing something wrong, but what can I do?

We have faced this situation many times where the Wolfie is overly fearful or has experienced a traumatic experience in his past were a straight correction, even slight, can cause a fearful reaction.  As dog trainers, we are not trying to scare a dog into obedience, we are trying to teach them what is the right thing to do and to build a positive relationship between Wolfie and his owner.

So, let's clean the slate of all those other correction methods and figure out what we can do with Wolfie.  Remember, we still need to show him what is right and wrong...

The bottom line is that we want to use an alternative method than the standard correction to let Wolfie know he is doing something wrong and we will teach him what is right.  As opposed to a correction which we know isn't working on Wolfie, we suggest an alternative method known as a redirection.  We still want to tell Wolfie he is doing something wrong and to teach him what is right, but we will use a more passive method.

First, you need to get a leash and click it on Wolfie during the day.  Take the leash off him and put it back on at random times so Wolfie doesn't associate the leash with a particular event or time of day.  You don't need to hold the leash, let him drag it around with him.  This will eliminate the leash as a special event and turn it into "simple white noise".  Please remember, you can only have the leash on him when someone is home and within earshot of Wolfie.  If he gets it caught on a chair leg, you must be able to release it quickly to no harm will come to Wolfie.

After a few days, Wolfie will be wandering around with the leash and will pay no attention to it.  Now you are ready to begin to use the leash as a tool of behavior modification through redirection.

Here is an example of how this works:

If Wolfie starts to act up such as running around the house like a crazy boy, don't chase him or yell and scream.  Simply approach the end of the leash which is six feet away from him.  Since you are not directly approaching him, you will not be adding to the adrenaline of the moment.  Calmly put your foot on the leash.

Wolfie will stop and look back to see what happened.  He thought he was in control of the room and could do whatever he wanted (run and go nuts).  For some reason, he lost control.  He sees you and you are calm & still, not approaching him, and standing tall.  This is what Wolfie expects in a good leader and teacher.  You passively told Wolfie that he couldn't run and go nuts and he needs to obey you because you are his leader and teacher.

I want to make it clear that you still told Wolfie "no", but you allowed him to come to that conclusion  by defusing the situation in a direction of your choosing.  You broke his focus on doing the wrong thing and drained his adrenaline fueling his inappropriate actions.  The end result is he is now doing what you want him to do.

There are many other nuances to this technique and we would be more than happy to review your specific issues to determine if this educational process would be most appropriate in your situation. For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Wolfie Seems to Think He is the Boss.

I just don't understand it.  I work with Wolfie on Come/Sit/Stay.  I play with Wolfie.  I walk Wolfie.  But it seems like he still thinks he is the boss.  I think I am doing everything right, but something must be missing!

Remember the old phrase  "Walk a mile in my shoes"?  Well, this is the problem that you are having with Wolfie.  Yes, you are providing him education, exercise, and bonding.  What you don't understand is that Wolfie sees the world through a canine perspective.  He judges you as if you were a dog and not a human.  You must understand his perspective to understand how and why he does what he does.

So why does Wolfie act like he is the boss?  The reason is because you are constantly telling him that he is!  You don't know that you are doing this because you view the world from a human perspective and your actions reflect that.  From Wolfie's perspective (the canine point of view), you are constantly implying that he is the boss.

Here is what you are doing, why Wolfie believes he is the boss, and what you have do to...

It is a typical Saturday afternoon and you are sitting on your back porch reading the paper.  Wolfie comes up to you and sticks his nose in you hand asking for a pat on the head.  You think nothing of it and give him a big pat and maybe even throw the ball for him.  You have just told Wolfie he is the boss.  Since he is the boss, he can do whatever he wants because you will always comply.

In a human family, anyone can have an idea and the family can respond.  Nobody implies anything about leadership about the act.  We (humans) thought it was a good idea and did it.  Now, in the wolf pack you have the canine alpha leader and the rest of the pack.  The only one that tells the pack what to do is the canine alpha leader.

As soon as Wilfie said "pet me" and you did, you submitted to his demand, placed yourself in the role of the pack, and promoted him to being the canine alpha leader.  We (humans) do this all day long.  We are constantly telling Wolfie that he is the boss.  Since he is the boss, he can do whatever he wants.  This normally equates to a misbehaved dog that is always annoying us.  So what can we do to fix this?

You must always make sure that it is your idea and not Wolfie's.

When Wolfie comes over to you and wants to be petted, ignore him.  In a moment or two, he will turn away.  At that moment, you can call him to you and you can tell him that you want to pet him.  It is now your idea and when Wolfie comes to be petted, he has placed himself as the pack member and you as the canine alpha leader.

This sounds like a simple thing to do, but in reality, it is very difficult.  The reason is that (we humans) really don't care whose idea it was.  Dogs do care whose idea it was because that equates to leadership and ultimately their general safety.

So, if you want to be on the way to having Wolfie well behaved and understanding his position in the pack, you must always initiate, you must always begin, you must always implement your idea.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Playing With Your Dog Outside in Summer Heat

Yes, I know that it is never "cold" down here in South Florida, but it really starts to get nasty into the summer months.  Should I change the way I play with Wolfie during this time?

In a very quick and simple answer, "yes".  The most important factor that should be taken into consideration is the summer heat.  Perspiration is the way that our body regulates it's temperature to stay healthy and survive.  We perspire through our skin.  This gives us a very large ability to regulate our body temperature.  Wolfie perspires through his mouth; panting.  This affords a far less opportunity for body temperature regulation in extreme situations (hot South Florida summer day).

Because of this, we have to take extra precautions during the hot, summer months when playing outside with Wolfie.  Here are some tips:

  • Only play outside before 9AM in the morning and 7:30PM in the evening as the sun is low on the horizon.  Never play for more than 15 minutes without taking a break.
  • Always have plenty of water for Wolfie.  Even if he seems uninterested, guide him to the water from time to time.  Make it a game and splash the water in the bowl to get his attention.
  • If you have a pool and Wolfie enjoys the water, throw the ball in the pool to have him jump in and retrieve it.  This will naturally cool him off.
  • If Wolfie likes the water and you don't have a pool, use your hose to crate a rain shower so he can jump up and try to "eat the rain drops".
  • If possible, play on a grassy, cool surface.  Concrete or asphalt can get hot quickly and since we are normally wearing shoes, we don't know just how hot the surface is.  If you have to play on these surfaces, get down and put your entire palm on the surface to check it's temperature.
  • Mix up your playing with some active fetch and chase the ball with more quiet grooming and scatter feeding.
  • Put a leash on Wolfie and practice some attentive walking.  This is a slower exercise and also helps to promote focused obedience. You can also practice come, sit, and stay while you have him on the leash.
  • Short snouted dogs are more susceptible to heat exhaustion than long snouted dogs (Pug vs Lab).  Because of that, take extra precautions when playing with your short snouted dog outside. You might think about shortening your play times or playing earlier in the morning and later in the evening.
  • It is OK to have some quiet, outside time during the day if you manage it properly.  Quiet time bonding is also a very important part of your relationship with Wolfie.  Go outside and sit in the shade with Wolfie.  You can read a book or tweet on your tablet.  Give Wolfie a toy, a goodie, or scatter feed.  Still have plenty of water for Wolfie.  Don't stay out for more than 30 minutes and come inside if Wolfie becomes too active or it gets just too stifling. 
  • When you and Wolfie come inside, make sure that he still has some water to re-hydrate.
Heat exhaustion is a very serious issue for dogs in the summer.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.  If Wolfie appears overly lethargic after being outside, call your veterinarian immediately.

"Mad dogs and Englishmen to out in the midday sun"

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Things To Consider When Bringing An Additional Dog To Your Family

I have had Wolfie as a great member of our family for years and am thinking about adding another dog.  I've heard stories, good and bad, about families bringing additional dogs into their fold.  What are some things that I should watch out for and what things should I consider?

The very first thing that you should consider about getting a second dog is if you are prepared for the additional responsibilities of owning a second dog.  Your neighbor that was fine in baby sitting one dog while you were away for the weekend might not have the ability to watch two dogs.  The places you travel that don't mind you bring Wolfie might not accept a second canine guest.  Your Vet bills and dog food bills will now be twice as much.  Your association might not allow a second dog.  Do you have time for a second dog? Your home owner's insurance might drastically change.  Again, these are just a few real life things to consider before you even continue your thoughts about more doggies.

Now, let's way you got past those first, few hurdles.  You need to consider Wolfie's temperament and the type of breed you might consider.  Here are some tips:

  • If Wolfie is dog aggressive, territorial, or over protective of you, you might want to stop thinking about another dog.
  • If Wolfie is more of a "couch potato" or over seven years old, you probably don't want to consider getting a puppy.
  • Consider a dog that is roughly the same size as Wolfie.  This will make play time safer for both of them.
  • In my opinion, I would make sure that both dogs have been neutered or fixed.
  • If you are not prepared for a high energy environment, do not consider breeds like Jack Russels, Boxers, Labs, or Dalmatians.  (Great dogs, just high energy!)  
With these things handled, it is now time to start your search.  Here are some more tips:
  • Start your search with a family meeting with the open ended question, "What kind of dog would you like?".  Dogs you have had in the past, favorite neighbor dogs, or the "I always wanted a ..." normally will be mentioned.  Go on the internet and research these breeds to see if there are any red flags that would pop up about them.  Dog Breeder Info Center is a great place to look.
  • If you have small children, large, high energy dogs might not be a good fit.
  • Large dogs in apartments or homes with small back yards might not be a good idea.
  • If you work long hours, dogs that require a good amount of exercise or require a good amount of interaction might not be a good match.
  • Check out the local Humane Society, Animal Shelters, and Rescue Groups to locate your next doggie.  There are so many great dogs already out there, it really isn't necessary to go to the pet stores or local breeders.
Now, you have found your next doggie and he appears to meet all the above criteria.  Now is the time to see if it is really going to work.  Now is the time to see if Wolfie will really get along with this potentially new member of the family.  More tips for you:
  • Have Wolfie and your potential doggie meet at the Shelter, Humane Society, or Rescue location.  Be in a fence enclosed, outside environment and have both doggies on leashes.  Allow them to approach each other and exchange their doggie sniffs.  If there is any sign of fear or aggression, separate them and try again.  Once they are "used to each other", drop the leashes and allow them to wander.  Always be right there in the event they become aggressive.  If needed, step on the leash, pick it up, and separate them.
  • Repeat the above process for a second and possibly third visit to assure that they are fine with each other.  If, after three sessions, there are still signs of aggression or fear, this is not the right fit.
  • If they appear to be the right fit, it is now time to bring the new canine family member home.  Have your new doggie and Wolfie meet in the front of your house.  Let them sniff and re-greet each other.  You might want to take both of them on a little walk up and down the street.
  • Now, take Wolfie inside the house to an open area in sight of the front door.  Bring your new doggie in and have Wolfie and him greet again.  Walk them around the house (on leashes).  Now you can drop the leashes but still keep both of them in sight.
  • Take both of them to the back yard and let them play.  Use new toys so that there will not be a "possessive issue" with Wolfie.
  • Feed them separately for the first few days.  After that, try feeding them together (much easier) while being on the lookout for any food possessive/aggression issues.
If you follow these guidelines, you are on your way to having a great life with your larger human/canine family.  For more information, please contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.