Thursday, 12 January 2012

Remember to have fun!

I have talked about being consistent and correcting unacceptable behaviour, but we also have to remember that time spent with your dog should be fun!  Remember to keep things upbeat and talk nicely to your pup.  Keep corrections short and to the point and quickly move on to lots of loving praise.
As I have said before we directly affect our pups with our own behaviour and that means a lack of praise can affect them just as much as constructive corrections can.  
Talk to them happily while out for a walk heeling, praise them like crazy when you call them to 'come.' 
Have fun with your pup!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Training for an audience

I just wanted to make a note on a particular difficulty that can arise when training your pup.  Being consistent with training can be especially hard when you have an audience.
People come into your home, or you meet someone on your walk and training goes out the window.  During this time, when we are greeting people and chatting away your dog might be jumping up on someone or pulling at the leash.  When someone knocks at the door, we might be consumed with greeting the person that we don't realize our dog is barking away and running up to the front door, perhaps even greeting them first.  We lightly push them away and greet our guests.  Then, chances are good, that your guests will pet your dog while they are being jumped on.
These times are especially important and pivotal.  They are high energy situations, a lot is going on and your dog needs to know that you are in charge of such times and they are to behave as told.  All your other obedience training will be strengthened if you train them under such distractions.
So, what do we do?  Not greet our guests?  I recommend telling your friends and family prior to their arrival that you are training your dog and let them know what to expect.  This doesn't mean you can't even say hello to them, but let them know that you will be attending to your dog's behavior.  When the doorbell rings you can tell your dog to sit and stay, and then greet your guest.  Remember if your dog breaks the command, you must correct them regardless of your conversation.
I know this sounds like a lot of work, but your dog will learn much more quickly with consistency and these greetings will become routine.
In addition, let people know what to do if your dog shows an unwanted behaviour such as jumping.
When greeting people on the street, you can say, 'one moment, just training my dog,' or something similar so they know you will be right with them.  Get your dog into a sit and if you want your dogs to say hello, release your dog from the command.
Training can seem like lots of work at times, but remember, consistency not only helps our pups, but helps us too.  We learn much more quickly to be attentive to our dog's behaviour with consistency.  Also, training is fun, you just have to let your friends know it is a priority for you!
Best of luck,

Thursday, 11 August 2011


A key component of building communication with your dog is consistency!

Being consistent doesn't mean telling your dog, 'no,' when he jumps on you, only when it bothers you.  The word consistent means, 'free from variation or contradiction.'  If you correct your dog nine out of ten times your dog shows a behavior you don't want, but let him that one time, what is your resolve about the behavior?  That it is sometimes allowable?  Your dog will remember the enjoyment of the behavior if allowed, and try again!  Correcting them on future attempts will be increasingly more difficult.

Sometimes people think that their dog can jump on them when their paws are clean, but not when they are dirty, or they can jump on the couch when it doesn't bother them.  As smart as our pups are they don't understand such variables.  If you don't want certain behaviors, put in the work and be consistent! Think black and white, right and wrong.

Consistency doesn't just apply to corrections.   Commands should always be given with the same word.  If you train your dog to come on the command, 'come,' use that word all the time.  Don't mix it up by saying anything else.

Also keep in mind, with a couple exceptions, commands are only given once. Sit means sit!  As a last note, get the family and visitors involved in being consistent!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

What? No treats?

Most dog trainers use treats to 'train' dogs to follow basic commands.  Is your dog really trained though?  The word trained means to be proficient with instruction and practice.  Is your dog trained to obey the word come using treats?  Probably not.  If your dog is off leash and you yell 'come,' he very well may choose to respond to that command if he is not more interested in something else.  If your dog spots an interesting and tasty treat on the ground, chances are pretty good he will not respond to your 'command,' but instead run off with the treat.  Does this mean your dog is trained?  I don't think so.

The problem with treat training is that it bribes your dog to follow a command.  It gives the dog an option of following the command you have given it.  I'll give you a yummy treat if you just sit when I say.  Your dog should sit when you command it without a treat.  Basic commands including sit, down, stay, come and heel are all important commands for the dog's manners, safety and your peace of mind.  The fact is that treat training is a much slower process than without them and they do not produce reliable results.

In addition to the lack of reliable results, treat training takes respect out of the picture.  Your dog may trust and love you with treat training.  This doesn't mean he respects you though.  Your dog doesn't respect you if he doesn't come when you command it because he finds something more interesting than you.

This is not to say that you shouldn't use positive reinforcement.  Calm praise and lots of it are encouraged when training your dog, but gentle and effective corrections must be used as well.  Let me give you an example.  When teaching your dog to stay you can't expect to continually reward your dog with treats to learn the command.  As soon as something more interesting comes along that dog is getting up.  You tell your dog to 'stay,' he stays and you release him and praise him.  If you tell your dog to 'stay,' and  he gets up, he must learn that he cannot do that with a gentle, quick and effective correction back to the spot you told him to stay on.  If he is not corrected, what does the word, 'stay,' mean to your dog?  Stay when you get something out of it you want?

Truly training a dog will achieve results you can rely on and build a stronger bond between you.  Your dog will listen to your commands and obey them because, yes, they want to please you and because they respect you.  They are not looking for a reward for a simple command.  They are not conditioned to simply respond to a stimuli.  They know sit means sit!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Small breed dog behavior

Why are Small Dogs Viewed as being Poorly Behaved?

Often times when choosing a dog for the family people are afraid of getting a small dog.  While breed, energy level and genetics should all be taken into consideration, a dog's temperament should not be a lottery game.  Putting aside health concerns, a dog's temperament is our responsibility.  
So why do small dogs have a reputation for excessive barking, unfriendliness and disobedience?  Lets take a look at how we treat a small dog as opposed to a large dog and how it can affect their behavior.  
  • When a large dog jumps on us, we tend to correct the behavior immediately because it can cause harm.  A small dog jumps on us and it's adorable.  Perhaps they want to be held and cuddled?  How cute.  In reality though a dog jumping on us and infringing on our personal space is a lack of respect and a display of dominance.  When we allow this we are communicating you are accepting of this.
  • When a large dog growls, people get scared.  When a small dog growls, it is often viewed as not a threat and therefore not corrected.  Growling should not be left uncorrected. 
  • If we are sitting down we don't allow a 100lb dog to jump up on our lap whenever they feel like it, but we often do with a small dog.  We view it as sweet that they love us so much.  What they are doing is claiming us as their own.  That can lead to behaviors that become an issue for us.  Dogs must be invited on our laps, not climb on us of their own accord.
  • Having a small dog can be fear inducing because we are nervous for their safety.  We take them for a walk, the dog gets nervous and we comfort them.  Because we are afraid to allow other dogs and people to handle our delicate dogs, we don't ensure positive interactions.  The dogs may bark or show aggression and we quickly walk away.  We have just taught our dog that their nervousness, barking and aggression will get positive results.  While we must be cautious for our dogs safety, we must also ensure positive interactions and correct behaviors that are not calm and submissive.   
  • When feeding a large dog a treat, chances are much better that we will make them sit, than with a small dog.  The small dog may jump or paw for the treat and we allow it.  This teaches the dog that dominant, impolite behavior gets a reward.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the differences in treatment of large and small breed dogs.  Keep in mind that when we pet a dog, comfort them, or give them a treat we are telling them, 'I want you to behave like this more often.' 
I encourage you to take a beginner obedience class, or if you have a puppy, a socialization class.  You will learn how to correct these unwanted behaviors with consistent reinforcement and develop a bond with your small dog that is beneficial to everyone.   Check out my website for further details,

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

What can our dogs teach us?

  1. Patience - Sometimes teaching a dog a new trick can be time consuming, and well, tricky.  In teaching my dog, Joey, tricks, and correcting behavior I've learned when things get frustrating, take a deep breath, concentrate on the goal and think of the solution not the problem.
  2. Goal Setting - When Joey was a puppy, socialization was a top priority.  It was of utmost importance to ensure a well socialized dog that enjoyed interactions with humans and other dogs.  I set a goal to ensure he had positive interactions everyday.
  3. Relaxing and enjoying the moment - Joey knows how to relax!  Life can be non-stop rushing it seems sometimes, but in the midst of it all, I'll see Joey relaxing in the sun.  At that moment, I'll go and sit right beside him, and enjoy it with him.
  4. Practicing - Putting your mind to practicing for a period of time can be challenging.  As Joey and I practice new tricks and behaviors we are rewarded with the outcome and look I forward to our sessions.
  5. Rewards - Joey shows a desired behavior and gets a reward.  "Hey wait a minute, I deserve rewards too."  We put time into work and studies and we deserve a little reward as well.  I like to reward myself with sitting down and reading a good novel for awhile.
  6. Attentiveness -  With all dogs and especially small dogs you have to be attentive to their behavior because their detrimental behavior might not be as noticeable.  With a four pound dog you might barely notice that he has jumped all over you, climbed on your lap and is now digging at your clothes.  Even so, we have to be attentive to these behaviors to correct on the spot!
  7. Words should hold meaning - This also relates to follow through and no nagging.   When I tell Joey, 'down,' I mean it.  If I let him get up and wonder away while I am repeating, 'down,' what does that word mean?  Having a dog has taught me to 'say it like I mean it.'
  8. A new language - Dogs do not communicate and hold emotion the same way we do and it would be unfair to expect them to.  It's our job to learn their 'language' and use it, because they can't learn ours.  Having a dog has taught me a whole new language.
  9. Forgive and Forget - Dogs don't intentionally displease us.  They don't know it is upsetting if they pee indoors, unless they are told.  So, don't bicker at your dog ten minutes after the deed is done.  Correct the behavior on the spot and forgive and forget!
  10. A new kind of love - We know dogs don't communicate or experience emotion the same way we do, but we care for them, teach them, play with them and love them for who they are.

Monday, 18 July 2011