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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.