At ADGTK we do not use nor recommend the use of collars that cause pain or discomfort to change behavior. The collars mentioned in the title do just that. People use these collars because they can change behavior relatively quickly. If the timing is correct and the dog finds the result to be aversive, you will see a change in behavior.
So if they can change behavior, why do we feel this way? For multiple reasons. One big reason is because these devices have side effects. What do we mean by that? Well, dogs are always learning via associations. This means that whatever is causing the dog to act in a way that results in a collar correction or a shock, can cause the dog to start to associate the presence of that thing with pain or discomfort. An example: A guest arrives and your dog has a history of jumping on guests. You decide to put a collar on him and "correct" him for jumping. After a few guests coming over and your dog receiving corrections your dog is probably going to start to associate guests coming in with pain. If your dog is associating guests coming in with pain or discomfort, your dog probably isn't going to like guests coming in. If every time you saw a spider you got bitten by that spider, you'd probably not like spiders. In this case, the guest isn't the one doing the harm, but the presence of the guest is resulting in something the dog doesn't like. This is just one example.
Another example is walking your dog while using one of these collars. In a lot of situations dogs pull when they see other dogs or other people. Often times it's because they're excited and want to get closer. If every time they see a dog or a person and start to pull towards them and that results in pain or discomfort, they will start to associate the presence of people and dogs with pain and discomfort. This will result in your dog disliking people and other dogs. Here's an example of how this has happened to our dog V.
So why should you believe us? How do you know we aren't just making this up? Well, science tells us this is true. Here's the position statement on The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. This goes along with what we've found to be true while working with thousands of animals in our career as dog trainers.
Another reason we don't recommend them or use them is because they aren't needed. We successfully change behaviors in dogs without having to hurt or scare them. This is done by reinforcing the behaviors that we want them to do instead, and by managing their environment so they do not receive reinforcement for behaviors that we don't want to see more of. If there is an instance where we have a behavior we want to see less of, we either reinforce incompatible behaviors or we use punishment that consists of taking away what the dog wants. This is all done in a way that won't have your dog build negative associations or hurt/ cause pain. We also use training devices that help but don't hurt or scare the dog. You can find more about those here.
And finally, we don't recommend the use of these collars because we don't want to hurt or scare dogs. We love dogs. And as we mentioned above, there is no need to. We even work with dogs that are labeled "highly aggressive" and work with them without the use of these collars. (You can probably figure out why by now.)
If you're currently using a collar like one of these, this isn't meant to bring you down. This is meant to inform you on what the side effects are of using these things. If you haven't seen your dog start to build negative associations, there is a good chance you will in the future. Before this happens, switch to a front hook harness and put on a treat bag. (Or look at the link above for other equipment we recommend.)
Food is something that you can give your dog in situations to get him to act in a way you'd like. It's used as payment. Ask your dog to do what you'd like, and in return your dog gets a tasty morsel of food. If everything goes to plan the behavior your dog did that earned the food will happen more frequently in the future. The technical term for this is Positive Reinforcement.
Today Kelly and I brought V to Lowe's. As we were walking around doing our shopping V received small pieces of food for walking nicely with us. He also received food for holding sit stays and doing other behaviors that came in handy when we were shopping. By doing this he was able to join in on the shopping and do so in a way that was fun for all involved.
Carrying food on you when your dog is present in our book is a must. Why? Because the food serves as motivation. In order to get your dog to do behaviors, you must provide motivation. Food is the easiest form of motivation as it can be carried in a pocket or a small pouch. The food can be cut up into small pieces so you don't have to worry about your dog putting on excess pounds. It's also important to bring food that dogs' deem to be "high value." High value in a dog's mind is typically something like real meat or cheese. (You wouldn't want to leave these out in room temperature for too long.) Your dog will let you know what his favorite is if you try lots of different stuff.
If you don't bring something that your dog finds motivating what usually happens is a lot of frustration. Usually you end up asking over and over for your dog to do something and your dog doesn't respond. This frustration ends up being stress that you don't need which can all be prevented by the power of food.
In order to make food as powerful as it can be, make sure it isn't readily available. Feed your dog twice daily and remove the food after 15 minutes. And to really increase your dog's motivation for food, make him earn every piece of food he gets by doing some sort of behavior. By using food to get your dog to do the behaviors you'd like, your life can be a lot less stressful and you can have fun, happy moments with your dog. Make sure to always have it on you though because without motivation, you can't get behavior.
What is the point of socializing a dog? Why do trainers talk about it so much? Is there a correct way or an incorrect way to do it? Where is the best place to socialize your dog? There are so many questions out there when it comes to socialization. Before getting to those questions, why don't we start off with what socialization is actually about.
Socialization is about building positive associations with the things that a dog is going to come across in it's lifetime. Things can include the sound of a train, other dogs, walking on different surfaces, people with glasses, people with beards, people with backpacks, and the list goes on.
The point of socialization is to have a well balanced dog that really enjoys the presence of the things mentioned above. A lot of dogs are inside a house for 23+ hours each day. The time they are outside is to relieve themselves and doesn't last long. If they finally get to go out on an adventure, (either because their human brought them along or because of bolting out of the front door) they don't really know how to handle themselves. They are overwhelmed. Imagine if you only left your house once every couple of weeks. You'd probably be a little overwhelmed too once all of the stimuli of the world hit you.
Trainers harp on this so much because a lot of behavioral issues can be prevented if socialization is done properly and continuously. Another thing about socialization is that it's never over. This must be continued on throughout a dog's life. It's definitely most important at a very young age, but older dogs can be affected from lack of socialization.
So let's talk about how and where to do it.
These are equally important. The first rule is to always have something that your dog loves. The easiest thing to bring along is small pieces of food. If you do bring food, make sure it's something that would be considered "high value" to your dog. There are lots of great high value treats out there and you can also bring things like turkey, chicken, hot dogs etc. Once you have your high value item you're ready to hit the streets. (or park, or dog friendly store.)
There are some important rules to socialization. One is to make sure that you introduce the high value item a second after your dog experiences the person, dog, car etc. You want to continue to give your dog a few things while the thing is still present. Once the thing goes away, or ends, stop giving the high value object. An example is if a loud truck goes by. As soon as your dog notices the loud truck, start giving him high value stuff until the truck goes away. This will teach your dog that when loud trucks go by, awesome stuff happens. If your dog associates loud trucks with awesome stuff, your dog will not be afraid in those situations.
Another important rule is to make sure that there is enough distance in between your dog and the novel stimulus. You wouldn't want to get your dog directly next to the loud truck to start. Start off at a distance where your dog notices it, but isn't overly concerned. Start to close the distance as your dog gets more and more comfortable.
When it comes to socializing with other dogs there are some rules as well. It is recommended to keep on leash initial meetings under 5 seconds. Typically if something goes poorly it happens after the dogs have been in close proximity for too long. After those initial seconds, call the dogs away and give them lots of high value stuff. You can repeat that exercise a few times and if everything goes smoothly, you should be fine to increase the amount of time they're together.
Socializing with people can be a bit easier since you can tell people what to do. Overall it's a great idea to pair people with food. Depending on how your dog currently feels about people, you can either give your dog treats when he is in the presence of people, or if your dog is pretty comfortable around people, you can give them treats to give to your dog. For any dog that is very nervous of people, we recommend having the owner deliver the treats. Dogs don't necessarily generalize people very well when it comes to socialization. Make sure that you find people with hats, back packs, beards, different skin colors, skateboards, costumes, you name it. Make sure to do this in different contexts as well. You want to practice this out and about, as well as in your home with people coming through the door.
The overall idea is to get your dog out and to have a lot of fun while doing it. Make sure you bring lots of awesome stuff and give it to your dog when stuff changes in the environment. You can also use small tasty treats to reward your dog for doing behaviors that you enjoy. (Walking on a loose leash, sitting at cross walks and leaving objects from the ground.)
For a nice visual of how to socialize your dog, check out this video:
Have you ever been walking down the street with your dog and all of the sudden you look down and your dog has something in its mouth? I think it's safe to say that it happens to just about everyone. This is actually a solvable problem with a little bit of training. The video below shows a step by step guide to solving this unwanted problem. Remember that along with the training you must also be watching your dog closely so you can give the cue prior to your dog picking up the forbidden object. If your dog does pick up the forbidden object, that's where a drop it cue comes in handy. That'll be our next video.
This video is brought to you by:
Today may be the warmest Christmas Eve on record here in Northeast Ohio. It's 60 degrees and sunny. This is what I call a great day to take a hike. So you guessed it, Kelly and I took the boys on a hike.
After loading the boys up in the car and grabbing all of our gear, we arrived at the nearby hiking trail. Being Christmas Eve I didn't think that people would have time to go out and hike, but I was wrong. When Kelly and I pulled in there were 10-12 cars in the parking lot. Typically theres a max of 4-5. With all of the cars we decided to park farthest from the trail head towards the back of the parking lot.
Fast forwarding a few seconds, the boys had relieved themselves and we are walking through the parking lot to hit the trail. As we are walking a couple cars pull in and park. As we are approaching to pass by, one of the people in the car opened the door and out came a small white dog off leash heading right towards us. I instantly exclaim, "Please leash your dog!" Fortunately they were able to grab the dog rather quickly and leash it up. The reason why Kelly and I go to this trail is because there is a leash law in effect and we hope that people will follow it. So about 2 minutes later we are on the trail walking. As we are about to hit a corner that is somewhat blind, a dog appears - off leash with no owners in sight. The dog starts to approach us and once it gets within about 8 feet I had to spray her with spray shield. It was a pretty direct hit so it resulted in her retreat pretty quickly. This is a position that it really sucks to be put into. But had I not sprayed, things could've been worse. It could've turned into a dog fight resulting in multiple injuries to multiple dogs. There aren't many dogs who enjoy being approached by an off leash dog while on leash. Leashes can cause frustration and remove a dog's flight response option.
In the end, the dog who was just being a dog was sprayed in the face. It could have all been avoided had the leash law been followed. I'm not writing this to publicly shame the dog's owners. This is being written because it's not fair to dog owners that have dogs that need space. Kelly and I have both put a ton of work into helping our dogs feel comfortable around new dogs. It only takes one bad experience for a dog to start being very uncomfortable around other dogs.
Leash laws are made for a reason. No one is perfect. Years ago I was hiking in a park on a trail where I never saw anyone. I had V off leash. V has a 95% recall out on the trail. Out of the blue someone appeared with two dogs. I called V and he didn't come to me. Instead of coming to me he went up to the investigate the other two dogs. I ran up there and nothing had happened between the dogs. I apologized at least ten times, grabbed him and walked passed her with him leashed up. To this day I feel bad about the situation and no longer do I let V off leash on hiking trails. Prior to that instance we had come across dogs while he was off leash and he ran on back to me no problem when I called. It can happen even if you think your dog will come back to you every time.
Please keep your dog on leash in dog friendly areas where it's the law to keep your dog leashed. Even if you think your dog will come every time. Believe me, there will be a time when your dog doesn't come when you ask. The other big reason is because of the other dog; not all dogs like being approached by other dogs. There are lots of dogs out there that are very afraid of other dogs and their people are working hard on building their dog's confidence. One instance of a dog running up to them could cause a huge setback. And finally, your dog could very easily be sprayed in the face with a deterrent. Let's all be on the same team and follow the rules so everyone can enjoy the outdoors without having to have the added worry of being approached by an off leash dog.
Hey y'all! Kevin from All Dogs go to Kevin here. It is safe to say that this year has been the best year of my life. Lots of changes happened with ADGTK and it has been fantastic. About halfway through the year my wonderful, beautiful, and talented girlfriend Kelly moved on up to Ohio. Since her arrival we have been able to make some big changes to the classes which we have found have helped people a ton. Also since Kelly's arrival we have been able to co-teach all of the classes which has really provided even more help to our clients. That's right, all of our classes are co-taught by two professional trainers.
This past year we've added Katherine Knapp to the team to head our Dog Walking and Pet Sitting departments. She has done a wonderful job and she even watches our dogs when we go out of town. Katherine is doing fantastic and we couldn't be happier with the services that she is providing to our clients. In 2016 we plan on advertising these services more so they're more well known to the general public and also our clients.
Another awesome sight to see every time we walk in the doors is our awesome assistants/interns, Chris, Crystal, Sierra, Lydia and Katherine. They all started as students and decided that they wanted to pursue a career in the dog training field. It's fantastic to have all of them on the team and we are very lucky as they continue to show their dedication day in and day out. They make our jobs so much easier by demoing the skills we are teaching the dogs during classes, helping people with training equipment, and also they do a fabulous job at cleaning up pee and poo during puppy socials. We've been told we look like a nascar pit crew. Thanks again guys, we love having y'all.
The business was opened in March of 2012. At the time the only service offered was private dog training done in the person's home. This is a service we continue to offer. Now we offer 15 different group classes, dog walking and pet sitting. As I'm writing this I am humbled and overwhelmed with joy to see all the hard work pay off. It means the world to me that we are able to offer services that people need in a humane way that the human and dog both really enjoy.
I'm not really sure what to expect for 2016. My expectations though are more growth. As I mention above, we are really going to focus on getting the dog walking and pet sitting off the ground. Did I mentioned that all our pet sitting and dog walking services include training? That's right! Your dog will not be doing undesirable behaviors on our watch.
As for Kelly and I... Kelly has accepted a job with the world renowned The Academy for Dog Trainers. I'm so proud of her as that is a real honor. She is such a hard worker and this really shows it. My goal this year is to attend the academy to further my knowledge and to get a formal education. As I preach a lot, dog training is an unregulated industry and anyone can call himself or herself a dog trainer.
I want to personally thank you all for sticking around the website/Facebook page. It's always great getting to know everyone. We will continue to post lots of fun True or False and multiple choice questions. I also want to thank you all for your support. I know there are a lot of you that have been around since the beginning. I will never forget you guys and will always be thankful for your support. Additionally, I want to thank all of our awesome, wonderful, dedicated clients. You guys are the best and really keep us going. Keep on coming back with your smiling faces and happy dogs.
Thanks so much for reading and have a wonderful holiday season!
- Kevin, Kelly, V, Villere, and Rosa
When I first got into dog training I thought dog tricks were dumb. I thought they served no good purpose and were a waste of time. Well, I also had ultimately no knowledge of how dogs learn and why they do the things they do. My opinion has now changed.
The other night during week 2 of our first session of tricks class I had a thought, and also came to a realization. Why do dogs do tricks so reliably but struggle with the common cues that we need them to do on a daily basis? The answer is because humans love to give their dogs rewards when teaching tricks, but often times struggle to give rewards when asking their dogs to do things on a daily basis. It's as if we have the mindset that in order to do a trick, we need to reward the dog, but in order to get our dogs to do the things we want on a daily basis, we shouldn't have to reward them, they should just do it. I'm not sure where this mindset comes from, but it certainly hurts the relationship between the person and dog and creates this power struggle.
A dog does what it does because of the consequences it receives. A dog's brain isn't set up to listen to humans by default because they know we are humans and they are dogs. That isn't how their brains work, and it never will be. Dogs are just like any other animal in regards to learning. It comes down to what kinds of consequences they receive for the behaviors they do.
Teaching your dog tricks is a fantastic relationship builder, and it also really gives you some hands-on insight as to how dogs learn. Get the dog to do this thing, then give a reward. The dog is likely to do that thing again. This style can be transitioned right into the real world. You can look at any behavior you'd like your dog to do as a trick. Does your dog jump on the table while you're eating dinner? A fantastic trick to teach your dog is how to hold a down-stay on a mat during the duration of your meal. To make this work, you just need to teach the trick and then reward the dog. This means that you will be giving your dog small food rewards every couple of minutes to keep him holding his down stay. Here's how to teach the beginning of this trick:
Does your dog jump on guests when they arrive? There's a trick for that as well. Instead of allowing your dog to jump on the guest, teach your dog the trick of sitting to greet people. To make this work, you need to have some high value food rewards and a leash to help control the situation. Here's how to teach the beginning of this trick:
Does your dog pull your arm nearly out of the socket while attempting to go for a walk? There's a trick for that too. The trick is walking with you and receiving rewards. To accomplish this, you need to be consistent and give lots of rewards. It's also important to start off in an area where your dog isn't too distracted. I mean, you wouldn't introduce a brand new trick to your dog out in the front yard, right? Start off inside your home and then take it on the road. Here is a video on how to get started with that:
Does your dog try to bite the leash and play tug while you're attempting to walk? Well, you guessed it! There's a trick for that too. This one actually consists of teaching a few little tricks to your dog and rewarding often, especially in the beginning. Here's how to get started:
Reward your dog and life will be easier. Reward your dog for the real life "tricks" as you would for the other tricks that you do for fun. If you do, there will be no power struggle and your life will be easier and a lot less stressful. Training a dog takes time, patience, consistency, and lots of rewards. It's not necessarily easy, but it will get easier with the work you put in. Remember the more rewards you provide, the more behavior you will receive. Reward that dog.
Depending on the situation your dog can have an extremely short attention span. And in those situations, often times we humans are asking our dogs to jump through hoops. Okay, maybe not literally jump through hoops, but in a situation where we can barely get our dog's attention, the last thing that we need to be asking for is more advanced things like sitting or lying down.
The first skill that needs to be worked on is a cue that gets the dog to look at the human. This is often referred to as a "watch me" cue. This is the first thing I recommend teaching to your dog. I don't currently have a video on it so I will do my best to explain it. Firstly, start teaching new cues in your own home. Do this in a room that has limited distractions. (eg cats, dogs, other humans etc.) Start off by taking a small piece of food that your dog finds enticing and bring it to your dog's nose. From there, take that piece of food up to your eye and wait for your dog to make eye contact. When he does, tell him "good" and give him the the small food reward. Do this a handful of times until your dog is really getting it. From there, you're ready to move onto the next step.
The next step is getting this new behavior on a hand signal. For this, you will mimic the same motion you made with the food, but without the food in your hand. Basically, you'll point at your dog's nose and then up to your eye. Once your dog follows your finger and looks into your eyes, tell him "good" and then give him a small food reward from your treat pouch. Do this a handful of times until your dog is really nailing it. From there, you're ready for the next step.
The next step is adding a verbal cue for this new behavior. I say, "watch." To introduce this new cue, say the word, "watch," wait a few seconds, and then do the hand signal that you previously introduced. Reward your dog for following the hand signal. Do rep after rep and before you know it your dog will be looking into your eyes when you say the cue, "watch."
Why did I go into such depth on how to teach this behavior? Because this is what you really need to be working on if your dog is easily distracted. Teach this to your dog in your home in a room that has limited distractions like I mentioned above. From there, teach this to your dog in the back yard, and then the front yard. Start off at the very first step when starting in a more challenging environment if your dog needs it. The end goal is to get your dog to respond to the verbal cue in any environment.
Here's the takeaway:
This will make your life a lot easier. To make this successful, do lots of reps with lots of reinforcement. (Reinforcement in this case means food rewards.) If you pay your dog, your dog will continue to work for you. Just make sure you're using something that your dog really enjoys. Working on a very solid foundation of a watch cue is the place to start. If your dog is looking into your eyes, he's not looking around at everything else.
"Watch" as taught by Jean Donaldson, The Academy For Dog Trainers
In order to motivate your dog you must provide things your dog likes as payment for doing what you ask. This is known as Positive Reinforcement. By providing this payment your dog is more likely to repeat those behaviors in the future. The easiest form of payment is small food rewards. Other things like toys, play, praise, and petting can be used as well depending on the situation and what is motivating the dog at the moment.
Kelly and I work with hundreds and hundreds of different people and their dogs each year. The people that have the most success with training their dogs are the ones that pay their dogs a hefty salary. The more payment you give, the more behavior you will receive.
When I first got into dog training I was a punishment based trainer. I really didn't give rewards at all. In fact, I "rewarded" the dog by not giving corrections. It's something I feel bad about to this day, but I can't change the past. Transitioning from no rewards to starting to use rewards consisted of me keeping a stick of string cheese in my pocket and slowly and frugally doling out the tiniest of rewards. Since then I've transitioned to wearing a treat pouch and doling out treats at a rate of reinforcement that I've only seen Kelly offer. Since I've started using this high rate of reinforcement I've noticed that the clients I work with our getting better results. (If they follow my lead.) A great example is the Reactive Dogs class we had last night. Cooper the pit bull keeps his eyes glued to his mom. He wasn't always like this. When we had him in Basic Manners 1 he was hard to handle. Last night in the final Reactive Dogs class he kept his eyes glued his mom and didn't even bat an eye at another dog. Why? Because Alexis pays Cooper a very high salary. (Everyone in the class did awesome, just Cooper really stuck out seeing his transformation.)
Paying a dog isn't bribery, it's the laws of learning. Animals, human or dog, repeat behaviors that provide good consequences. If a dog is paid for holding a down stay on a mat a few feet from the dinner table, he will most likely stay on that mat. This is a lot more effective and stress free than yelling at the dog to "go lie down" repeatedly. This is just one example.
Don't be stingy. Pay that dog. Find something your dog likes and use it as payment for the behaviors you like. If you want your dog to really respond to what you ask, don't pay him minimum wage, give him a six figure salary.
"My dog won't listen to me." "Treats aren't working."
You've finally mustered up the strength and courage to take your dog for a walk. Your arm is still recovering from nearly being dislocated from the previous walk that took place 30 days prior. So what's going to make this walk any better? What can you do? You've tried treats, collars etc. Why aren't they working?
What it really comes down to is the novelty of these experiences. When dogs don't get the opportunity to saturate it can be extremely challenging to get them to do what you ask. Why? Well, there are so many sights and smells that you've become old news. These are what we refer to as competing motivators. This is where saturation comes into play. The first step is letting your dog absorb all these new sights and smells without you asking for anything. If you're starting out on a walk, hang out in your yard for 5-10 minutes with your dog leashed up and ready to go without asking your dog to do anything. In the beginning, your dog will be very confused and anxious. Wander around with him and let him start sniffing. Plant your feet if he's trying to actually pull you in a direction. Don't ask for anything from your dog. This is very important. At the moment, your value has dropped since there are so many new sights and smells. You can raise your value by patiently waiting a few minutes and letting your dog saturate. If your dog does happen to look back at you, offer a treat for it. If he willingly takes it, great. If his interest in the treat drops when you go to offer it to him, remove it. The last thing you want to become is just another distraction in the environment waiving food in your dog's face.
Saturation takes place by getting to experience the thing often. If you do daily walks in the same area, your dog will saturate in the environment and it will be a heck of a lot easier to get his attention. As soon as saturation takes place, food will become a motivator again. This is an example I hear all the time. "When I take my dog for walks he isn't food motivated." It's not that he isn't motivated by food, he is just overwhelmed with motivators and doesn't know what to explore next. It's like a kid in a candy store.
So what is the takeaway here? If you're in a situation where your dog is "out of control" and you can't get his attention, you need to bring him to that environment more and let him explore it with his nose and eyes. By doing so, all those things will no longer motivate him leaving just one motivator left, you. It's also important to use the proper training equipment. So for your next walk, leash him up and hang out in front of your house for a bit. Let him explore and wait for some of the excitement to die down. When you're ready to start walking, try this.
I couldn't imagine living without a dog. Every morning when I wake up I am greeted by 3 smiling doggy faces. Okay, so the reason why they're smiling is because they know that seeing me equals breakfast, but at least they're happy to see me. And seriously, it feels great coming home from work and being greeted by their wiggly butts. If having a dog was as simple as feeding them and getting greeted by them then I think peoples' lives would be less stressful. Yes, owning a dog can ease your stress, but sometimes it can increase your stress.
Patience is incredibly important when dealing with another species of animal. Often times we wish our dogs would do what we ask the first time we ask. And for a lot of people, they wish that their dog would do it the first time, and do it solely because they asked their dog to do so. It's important to remember that dogs are animals and don't speak the native tongue of us humans. The majority of the time when we are asking our dogs to do something, all they hear is, "blah blah, blah blah blah." I know this to be true because sometimes I'll ask V to do something, like, "go lie down." He will look at me and not do it. I will then say, "V, blah blah blah" and he will go lie down. This is a perfect example of dogs having no idea what these words coming out of our mouths mean. For the record, we can introduce verbal cues to dogs and they can understand them. What I'm saying though, is that we as humans have a tendency to speak full sentences to our dogs and just expect them to understand what we are saying. Usually they don't respond the first time which then results in the phrase being repeated with a little more seriousness behind it. Humans typically get impatient in these circumstances. A couple takeaways here:
1. Dogs are just like any other animal. They don't do things unless their is motivation involved. We can motivate our dogs to do things by showing them what we'd like them to do, and providing great consequences. A dog will not comply with a human's requests just because it's coming from a human. That human needs to either provide good consequences, or bad consequences, both of which can create motivation.
2. Take the time to teach your dog cues, whether it's a verbal cue, or a hand signal and provide things your dog enjoys as payment. This will help your dog understand what you'd like him to do, and will keep your stress level down because you won't have to ask multiple times. With the "blah blah blah" example I gave above, I really should have just ask V to go to his "place." His place is his bed. This is a cue that we've practiced a ton and there's a very high probability that he will respond in the way that I'd like. But I'm human and I'm not perfect. Hence me saying, "V, go lie down." Honestly, it's an old habit of mine that I am trying to break. Don't they say the old habits die fast? Pshhh.
If you're sharing your home with a dog then you're sharing your home with an animal. Yes, that may be a blatantly obvious statement, but I feel that a lot of people forget that dogs are animals. Often times we anthropomorphize our dogs. We think of them as another human in the family. While V, Villere and Rosa are a part of our family, and we do refer to them as our kids, we remember that they're dogs. This helps us stay less stressed. Here are 5 things you can do with your dog to lower your stress level:
1. Meet your dog's physical and mental needs:
Just like you have needs, so does your dog. A lot of dogs will benefit from a daily walk, a fetch session, and a few training sessions throughout the day. Most dogs spend 23 + hours inside your house each day. That can be pretty boring considering that if they were wild, they'd be spending 20+ hours looking for food. While age and breed do play a factor in this, try to get your dog out on a daily walk and try to do at least one 10 minute training session per day. This will help meet your dog's needs.
2. Teach your dog appropriate behaviors:
Screaming "No!" when your dog is doing something you don't approve isn't the best option. We can teach out dogs behaviors that we'd like them to do. "Leave it" is a great option instead of shouting "no". Remember that these appropriate behaviors that we'd like them to do must have consequences that they like. If you'd like your dog to hold a down stay on his bed while you're eating dinner, make sure he gets little food rewards for staying in place.
3. Use appropriate equipment:
If you have a child, you probably aren't leaving home without bringing cheerios, or the iPad. Think in a similar way with your dog. Bring your treat pouch, small food rewards (multiple types just in case), a 4-6 foot leash, and a harness where the leash hooks in the front, or a head halter. All of these things will make life easier.
4. Let em' Saturate:
A lot of the times our patience is tested with our dogs is when we are trying to do something new. Saturation is important. In new situations there are a lot of things that are going to catch your dog's attention. We refer to these as competing motivators. It's important to let your dog check things out. The more often he can visit these places, the less exciting they are. It's the same concept as bringing your child to an amusement park and expecting them not to pay any attention to all the fun rides and games. When they first get there, it's tough, but after they get on a ride or two and win a prize, the excitement is less and it's easier to gain their focus. The more you can bring your dog around these things, the less novel they become and the easier it is to get your dog's attention and for him to do the things you're asking him to do.
5. Be patient:
Easier said than done, right? Seriously, remember that you're dealing with a living breathing animal that doesn't fully understand you. They're going to do things that animals do. Like lick themselves loudly, regardless of who's around. They're going to jump on counters and steal food if the opportunity presents itself. They're going to bark from time to time. These are normal dog behaviors. This is why it's a great idea to take a dog training class with your dog. Taking a class, or even doing private training will help you have a better understanding of why your dog is doing what it's doing. It will also give you the best ways to communicate with your dog. Just avoid any trainer that says you need to be a pack leader or your dog doesn't respect you etc. Also, avoid any trainer that is recommending the use of choke chains, prong collars, or shock collars. These devices can change your dog's behavior, but often times there are side effects that are much worse than the initial issue.
Humans like to talk to their dogs. I get it, I talk to mine all the time. And one of the best parts of talking to them is they're happy to listen. But did you know that your dog has pretty much no idea what you're saying? I say "pretty much" because they are smart enough to catch on to phrases and certain words. But how do we teach them these words and phrases? That's a great question, and knowing the answer will help you understand your dog better and ultimately teach your dog things a lot faster.
Teaching your dog a word is actually quite simple in concept. The first thing you need to do is teach the behavior. Examples of behaviors include sit, down, come, and stay. There are different ways to teach behaviors. Some behaviors you can lure, while others you can capture. If you're luring, it's recommended to get the dog to understand the hand signal prior to working on teaching the verbal cue. If you're capturing, you'll want to make sure the dog understands the sequence before adding in the verbal cue. The important part with either though is that the dog is getting the motions down, prior to adding in the verbal cue. With luring, once your dog understands the hand signal, you can start saying the verbal cue a couple seconds before giving the hand signal. At first the dog will not respond to the word, as it has no idea what relevance it has to the sequence, but with repetition of doing the sequence, the dog will catch on and do the behavior before you're able to do the hand signal. With capturing, it's important that the dog is doing the behavior reliably before you add in the verbal cue. If you try to add in the verbal cue prior to the dog understanding the sequence you'd like him to do, he'll have no idea what the word means.
Another way that dogs understand words or phrases is due to the order of events in which they're used. A couple examples are, "Wanna go for a walk?" or "Wanna treat?". The way that a dog starts to understand the meaning of these is because the phrases or words are said prior to something happening. Most people say "Wanna go for a walk?" prior to bringing the dog on a walk which serves as a predictor of walks. Dogs are smart enough to catch on to these sequences when they're done correctly.
That is how dogs understand some of the things we say. Dogs don't speak human. Pretty much everything that we say to them they hear as "blah blah blah blah blah." This is why sitting down and having a talk with them about what they did wrong doesn't and will never work. Too bad, right? Wouldn't that be great if we could just ask them nicely not to do something again?
In conclusion, if you'd like to teach your dog how to understand words or phrases, the order of events must happen in a particular order. Repeating the word over and over until the dog guesses right isn't the most efficient way either. I know we have all had a tendency to do that in the past. Stay patient, teach the behavior first, and then add in the word you'd like to use. Thanks for reading.
I am not the best dog trainer in the world. I have come a long way though. When I first started training my own dog I had no idea what I was doing and I actually made my dog's behavior worse in some ways. The only education I had was from watching tv, and that was about the worst education I could receive.
Over the past few years I worked very hard to further my knowledge. I read more books than I ever had. I went to training seminars. (And I continue to.) I worked with professional trainers. And most recently my wonderful girlfriend Kelly and I started working together which has really opened up my eyes even more on how to be a better trainer. I can now confidently say that we offer the best dog training services in our area.
With that being said, I feel that there are a lot of trainers out there that shouldn't currently be accepting money for their services. My opinion is based off of what I see in a lot of groups on Facebook. There are Facebook groups all over the place dedicated to positive training techniques. (Don't get me wrong, I really love the idea of it.) But occasionally I am scanning through these groups and I just see some of the worst advice from people that call themselves positive trainers. I remember once reading a person ask a question about how to get their dog to stop barking when people rang the doorbell to their house. The first comment I read was to counter conditioning every time someone came over. Well, this may be fantastic advice if the dog is barking because it doesn't like visitors. But what if the dog really loves visitors and it's barking out of excitement? Well, counterconditioning would then make the problem worse. We don't need the dog to associate the visitor with even more exciting stuff, right? When I read the comment I scrolled over the person's name and it said they owned their own dog training company. I instantly smacked the palm of my hand to my forehead and sighed audibly.
We need to do better than this. If we are going to hang out in Facebook groups and give advice, we need to ask more questions first. When I first got into dog training I put a lot of my eggs in the Facebook basket. I spent a lot of time answering questions for free. Thinking back I know I was guilty of giving answers prior to gathering all the information needed to give answers. Once again, I'm not perfect. No human is. But we can be better. If we want to really help people and their dogs in a humane way, we need to do better. I will be attending The Academy for Dog Trainers next year to help further my knowledge to be an even better trainer.
What to take away from this:
-If you're a trainer, never stop trying to learn. Learning is awesome. That is why I am going to invest a lot of time and money in more education via the Academy.
-Consider trying to specialize in one area before trying to take it all on. There's nothing wrong with only working with puppies, or only working with fearful dogs for example. There is so much to know in any category and if you're just starting out, it's pretty difficult to be able to help with every dog issue.
-Know what the quadrants are. If you call yourself a dog trainer and can't define what the four quadrants of operant conditioning are, you really shouldn't be taking money.
-Know what Classical Conditioning is. Dogs are always building associations. You need to know how this affects the dog and how to help control how the conditioning takes place. If you're working with dogs that have negative associations with things, and you don't know what Counter Conditioning is, you're not doing the dog or the people that own the dog any justice and shouldn't be taking their money.
-If you're going to give advice in groups, great! Just make sure to gather a proper history prior to giving advice. The example I gave above is perfect. If the dog is actually just very excited that someone is at the door, Counter Conditioning will only make him more excited.
This post isn't meant to bring anyone down. This post is meant to inspire people. Be a better dog trainer. Never stop learning. We all love dogs, but love isn't enough when it comes to helping them with their issues. Having a solid education is the best way to help dogs stay with their families.
In closing, another big take away is that if you're not doing a great job as a positive trainer, you may unintentionally turn people away from humane training techniques because they feel that they don't work. This could send them over to the local traditional trainer who is still hanging around because people feel it's the best option. Let's be the best trainers we can be. Never stop learning. Don't take on a client who you don't think you can handle. And finally, get a formal education.
Kelly and I went to New York so she could do a presentation at a university on reactivity and we decided that we'd check out Niagara Falls on our way home. Along for the ride came V and Villere. V is a shepherd/lab mix and Villere is referred to as a pit bull.
In the United States there are some places that pits are not allowed. Living in Ohio we have multiple cities near us that Villere and our other pit Rosa are not welcome. The reason why they're not allowed in is due to BSL, or Breed Specific Legislation. The point of BSL is to put limitations on certain breeds of dogs whether it's an all-out ban or other limitations such as muzzling in public. Pit bulls are on the list obviously. BSL is something that I have known about, but it never hit me right at home until now.
Villere is honestly one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met (of any breed). The pure joy on his face when he sees a person that is approaching to give him some loving is heart melting and hilarious all wrapped into one. On the American side of the falls, (New York) at least 8 different sets of people stopped us to meet Villere. (I even caught one guy taking photos of him.) A couple of the people even got nice and low so Villere could give them kisses. All in all Vilere was having a fantastic time.
After hanging out on the American side for an hour or so we thought we'd take the pedestrian bridge across the river into Canada. We were pretty excited about this because none of us had been into Canada before. After getting buzzed through the gate we headed across the very long bridge to Canada. Here's our journey:
Once we arrived in Canada we entered the door to go through Customs. It was empty so we walked right up to the desk. After exchanging pleasantries and before we started handing over ID's I asked if there were any breed bans. He replied yes and then it was clear to us that we weren't allowed to go in. I want to make it very clear that this guy was only doing his job and he was an extremely nice guy. He said that he would let him in if he could, and even offered his own water to give to Villere. I'd also like to point out that if we had planned this trip, we would have done research as to if he was allowed to enter or not. So there we were, standing at this invisible line that Villere was not allowed to cross. If he crossed it, according to the law, he could be confiscated from us. It's really hard to put into words what it feels like to be told that he can't go in just because of the way that he looks. (Once again there is no blame being pointed at the gentleman that wouldn't allow us in, he was just doing his job.) Villere is one of our kids, and just because he looks different, we can't bring him to certain places.
So there must be a reason for this law, right? BSL must make communities safer so these "vicious" dogs of certain breeds won't go around biting people non stop, right? Well, what if I told you that there is no, and will never be any actual evidence out there that makes this make sense? More people die from mop bucket accidents each year than dogs of any kind. Take a look at these graphics for some statistics:
To continue the story, Villere was pooped from his excited trip across the bridge and was in need of some water. We watered the dogs prior to going across the bridge, and planned on getting more once we arrived. After finding out that Villere wasn't allowed in, we brought him back outside so he could lie down. After a moment I headed back in with V so I could cross the border to get Vill some water. Approaching the desk the gentleman asked for my ID which I gave him. He then responds, "this isn't proper identification to get into Canada".... After a very brief conversation of me explaining that I needed to get Vill some water, he allowed me to cross the border anyway. So V and I went to the store that was very close and headed inside to get some water. Inside, all the workers were beyond friendly to V. I explained to them what had happened and why I was there and they were upset/embarrassed. 4 of the employees helped pet and water V, and then one was kind enough to help carry some of the stuff as far as she could. She even put the quarters in the machine for me which allowed V and I to get through the gate so we could get to Kelly and Villere. The people were so nice, and not the problem. The problem is outdated laws that don't actually make any sense according to the statistics. After watering Vill, we took the long journey across the bridge back to America where Vill is allowed.
Once back in America we stopped at the first bar we saw, and they happily allowed V and Vill in. The waitress was so kind that the first thing she did was brought the dogs some water. Here they are tired and happy. As Kelly and I sat at the table I asked her what she thought we could do to change BSL. That is why I am writing this.
This is the final photo I'll post in this blog. This is Villere lying down quite exhausted. At the bar, 4 different sets of people came up to see him. Isn't it crazy how many people willingly come up to a "vicious breed" of dog and give him tons of petting? They even let him lick their faces.
Once again, I'm posting this to bring awareness to this law. This is a pointless law that should never have been put into place to start. Progress has been made as now according to state law in Ohio, no breed of dog is deemed vicious. (This doesn't stop cities from keeping their BSL though.) We got a ways to go though. It's time to end BSL.
Two months ago my beautiful girlfriend, Kelly and her two dogs moved across the country to live with me. Villere and Rosa are their names. I call Villere, "Vill" for short, and I call Rosa, "Rosah." Let's start with Villere.
Villere is a bundle of joy. He lives for attention from people. This is why we are working towards getting his Therapy Dog certification. He is a show stopper. Seriously, anywhere we bring him everyone sees his big smiling face and they have to stop to pet him. Whether it's downtown Kent, or if we are shopping at Lowe's, he is like a magnet. I love it. I love how people are so accepting of him considering there is still such a misconception of the breed out there. One of Vill's favorite things to do is climb up on my lap while I'm working. This results in a little less work getting done, but I enjoy it. The last thing I am going to say about Vill is that he loves to give kisses. Kelly had warned me that both of "the blues" loved to do this. I've never been a big fan of having my face licked, but I allowed it and it brings him so much joy. And I admit it, it has grown on me. Okay, let's talk about Rosa now.
Here I am with my daughter Rosa. She is my sophisticated girl, and I love her. It took a little while but we've got a routine down now. Every morning when I walk out of the bedroom her little vibrating butt is at the door ready to greet me. From there I take her out where she quickly pees and poops just so she can run back inside and eat her breakfast. I first met Rosa at the New Orleans airport where she greeted me with kisses as soon as I got in the car. Yes, they both love to kiss. Rosa and I bonded right away. Something about her drew me to her. I think it was the look she gave me. The same look that she's giving the camera in the photo of her in my arms. How can you not love that face? Recently Rosa enjoyed her very first hike in the woods. I've included that photo at the bottom of this post. Talk about the best time of her life. She was just overwhelmed with joy. Here she is pictured with our other boy V.
I wanted to write this for a couple reasons. 1. I wanted to introduce my new dogs. And 2. I wanted to show that Pit Bulls are awesome. Try not to judge a book by what the media sensationalizes.
A couple mornings ago I let V out to relieve himself. As part of the morning ritual I get the table set outside for breakfast as Kelly prepares our meals and V hangs out with us. I went inside to grab some napkins or something and when I came out, I saw something in V's mouth. Never do I see V with things in his mouth, so this was a little out of the norm. This caused me to exclaim, "V! Drop!" V dropped what was in his mouth and I went over to investigate. What was it? Well, if you read the title, you've probably already figured it out. It was a baby bunny. My dog V had just caught a baby bunny.
As a lover of all animals, this made me kind of sad. I went over to check on the little guy and unfortunately for him, he wasn't going to make it. V had chased lots of small animals before, but never caught them. I always jokingly said that I don't think he would know what to do if he actually caught one. I was obviously wrong. V is a dog. Dogs are predators and this is an absolutely normal behavior. I think that in a lot of cases we unintentionally hold our own dogs to higher standards. "My dog would never bite anyone." "My dog would never hurt a small animal." I really never thought that V would kill anything, but that was just ignorance on my part.
Prey drive is something that is in every dog. Whether it's tracking with their eyes, or actually chasing the "prey," this is built into dogs. This is part of how they would survive if they were out on their own. (That and rummaging through garbage.) Does your dog like to chase tennis balls? Does your dog like to play tug? Those are examples of prey drive. (V loves playing ball.)
The reason why I am writing this is because I want to bring awareness to how normal this actually is. I think that as we go through our everyday life with our dogs, sometimes we forget that they are actually dogs. And this may be the most obvious statement of the year, but dogs are animals. They've been domesticated but they're still animals. This behavior is so normal that the very next day I was bringing out V's brother Villere, and it happened again. I brought him out to the front of the yard on leash, and within 2 seconds of him sniffing a bush, he dove in and caught a baby bunny. It happened faster than lighting strikes. (At least it seemed like it.) I watched this one happen right in front of me and it looked just like he was chasing a ball or toy. This was not aggression. This was prey drive. The point of aggression is to increase distance between the dog and the thing. The point of prey drive is to eat.
If your dog has killed a small animal it doesn't mean you have a bad dog. It means you have a dog that is doing what dogs do. I will admit that I was a little shaken/ upset when the first incident happened. ( I felt bad for the bunny.) But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that V was just being a dog and this is a totally normal behavior.
Does your dog have difficulty settling down? Does your dog get a little too excited when someone arrives at the door? Does your dog hang out too close to the table when you're eating? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, or you can think of a similar situation where your dog is doing something that you'd prefer him to not be doing, then matwork is the answer you've been looking for.
Matwork is actually pretty easy to teach. All you need is a mat, rewards, and a clicker/verbal marker to let your dog know when it does the correct thing. As you'll see in the video below, the first thing you want to do is teach your dog that when it interacts with the mat, (looks at, steps on etc.) it gets a nice payout. Once your dog is getting the hang of it, you'll start to ask more of your dog before giving the rewards. In this video we show how to apply it to jumping on visitors, but once the foundation is taught you can use it in any scenario where you can't have your dog at your feet.
If you have a dog that enjoys turning a leisurely walk into a game of tug, then this video is for you. This can definitely be an annoying problem. With that in mind I made a video to give you a visual of how I remedy this situation. It really comes down to making sure that the behavior doesn't get any reinforcement, and that other behaviors get all the reinforcement. Take a look.
In 2007 V was born. His full name is V for Vendetta, but he just goes by V. On easter Sunday he was 6 weeks old and I went to get my new best friend. At the time I knew very little about dogs. I knew that they needed to eat, pee, poop, and that you were supposed to walk them. I think my sister may have mentioned to me something about making sure he met people and dogs. But that was it, that was all I knew.
In 2009 V was 2 years old and was about as wild as they came. One day I stopped over my parents' house and my dad was watching a show called the Dog Whisperer. I started watching it and I believed everything I saw. It was like, all of the sudden I got it. If I wanted V to stop acting like a wild child, all I needed to do was be his pack leader. I mean, it's such an easy concept. All you have to do is get your dog to respect you and everything falls into place. So I tried it.
In early 2010 V was a different dog under my dictatorship. He was far from perfect, but I could at least get him to respect my status of pack leader. (A pack leader shapes the behaviors it wants via corrections.) This means as the pack leader I was waiting for V to do the wrong thing so I could give him a correction. The corrections came in the form of a leash "pop" or a jab to the neck which was supposed to simulate a bite. This was my approach. This is how I did it and it seemed to be working. I still loved him, but I was doing what I thought had to to get him to act appropriately.
In December of 2012 I received my certification as a professional dog trainer. Between mid 2010 and into 2012 I spent a lot of time working under other trainers, and reading lots of books which led me to a new way of training. This way meant I no longer needed to "assert my dominance," give collar corrections, or any other physical/forceful corrections and still have a dog that does what I ask.
A Proactive Approach
I refer to the way I train now as being proactive instead of reactive. Being proactive means setting your dog up to succeed. Now when V and I are walking down the street and another person and dog approach, instead of waiting for V to bark and then giving the collar correction, I ask for V to look at me, or "leave" the other dog followed by a food reward to reinforce that behavior. (The reinforcement makes the behavior likely to happen again in the future.)
Another example of how being proactive comes in handy is giving your dog something to do, while you're doing something. If you're getting ready to sit down and do some emails, you'd be setting your dog up for failure if you didn't give him something to work on. (Or put him in a place where he can do no wrong.) A great option is an interactive toy. If you get one with a big enough opening you can stick awesome stuff in there like banana, peanut butter etc. By doing this, you're giving your dog something awesome to focus on. This will prevent him from looking for something awesome all on his own. (Because he will find something awesome and it's probably going to be a shoe.)
Being proactive means working with your dog as a team. If you know he has trouble with jumping on people, ask him to sit to get his reward of meeting the guest. (Practice this a lot and use a leash as a management tool.) Below is video to help:
And to get the best performance out of your teammate, find something that your teammate really likes. For most dogs it is small tasty food rewards. (cheese, hot dogs etc.) For some dogs, toys are their favorite thing to work for. (tug toy, ball etc.) Once you've got that you just need to ask your dog to do what you'd like it to do in those situations and then give him some of his favorite thing. Now obviously there is more work to it then just asking them to do something, but that's the general idea. Below is an example of how I practice working on V's skills using a ball as his reward.
Being proactive also means setting our dogs up for success not only at the present time, but for in the future. Instead of waiting for a dog to start having guarding issues around the food bowl and then trying to dominate the bowl back, (whatever that means) I have my clients work on conditioning for when they approach the dog around the food bowl. Because of the conditioning, the dog realizes that when he is eating and approached good things happen and not bad things.(Stuff is given and not taken) This is a proactive way of preventing guarding from ever happening.
The big take away with all of this is that once I started having a proactive approach towards training V, I started having fun. He also started having fun during training, which was definitely not happening before. Additionally, he is way better trained now than before. He now has his Canine Good Citizen Certification and his Therapy Dog Certification. These were achieved all by using a proactive approach that focuses on rewarding appropriate behaviors and preventing inappropriate behaviors. If you're looking for visuals of how to do this, click here.
If your dog jumps on you and you're not a fan of the behavior then this video is for you. Jumping is a very common problem and most people are effected by it when they walk in the door to their home. As soon as they walk in their dog is extremely excited to see them and starts the jumping. So how do we get this jumping to cease? Fortunately I have a trick that I use that helps. Check out the video below to see one of my tricks!