Why Breed Matters When Choosing a Dog.

Why Breed Matters When Choosing a Dog.

As many can tell from my previous posts and articles, I am a big proponent of responsible dog breeding and of purebred dogs. This is not because I for any reason dislike or don’t trust shelter dogs or the shelters themselves, though some shelters have been shown to be doing very negative things in the recent past. This is simply because I believe that responsible breeders will last.

If responsible ownership is encouraged and enforced I would love to see a world where responsible breeders, whether they produce purebred or mixed breed, are the way to get pets. I would love to see a future where shelters are a thing of the past because there are few to no unwanted or homeless pets. Shouldn’t this be what we aim for?

Regardless of this ideal future, people do get their dogs from many sources and no matter where they choose the breed of a dog is always a factor.

Some might say that this isn’t the case, especially with mixed breed dogs. I however beg to differ. It has been my experience that many dog – person relationships could experience a significant change if the person takes into account the breed when not only bringing home a dog, but when training or interacting with them as well.

Here’s what I mean by this.

Certain dog breeds were and are bred or created for specific purposes. Dogs who are known as being destructive, loud, or difficult are usually bored, underestimated, intelligent animals! Do you think a mathematician would be happy to watch infants all day every day? Then why do we believe that an Australian Shepherd or Siberian Husky, dogs bred to work, would be satisfied by a half hour walk when you get home from work, after leaving them alone for 8 or more hours while you were there?

In the same regard, I have heard and experienced many people do the following. Say that they want a dog to get them to be more active. I have said this before in my post on responsible ownership, rather than encourage you to get out more this dog will most likely do nothing more than frustrate you. Instead, if you are inactive, get a dog that might only need a short walk daily, not a marathon sprinter.

Does this mean that all energetic people need Greyhounds and Salukis and all couch potatoes need Bulldogs or Pugs? No! Many Greyhounds are happy as a clam to lounge on the couch daily so long as they get the opportunity to dash every once in a while and get to go on walks regularly. Many Bulldogs would be happy to take a long slow hike so long as you give them adequate sitting breaks.

I’m also not saying that apartment dwellers shouldn’t have energetic dogs. I am saying that if you are to get one, know the responsibilities that go into giving them the appropriate stimulation and exercise.

Mental training is great and treat puzzles can keep some dogs entertained and happy for hours! You can also have just as much fun as your dog through activities like competitive obedience or agility or flyball. There are countless games, puzzles, activities, and more that you can do with your dog.

Always, always, always take all of the necessary steps when looking to add someone to your family, which is what you are doing when you get a pet. One of those steps is determining what personality, energy level, size, and requirements your furry friend is going to need. Looking at breed is a great way to do this! There are some exceptions to this and dogs cannot be 100% judged by their breed. Every dog is individual and every dog has its own personality traits that cannot be fully predetermined by breed alone, but it is a great place to start!

Training tools – Part 2: The Bad

Training tools – Part 2: The Bad

Now that I’ve gone over some good training tools, let’s talk about some not so good. As with anything, we are learning more and more about how to properly train a dog (or any animal) as we go on. There has been some trial and error which means some of these tools have been marketed as great training tools in the past. We know now that this is NOT the case. These tools can leave lasting impressions on your pet and can very negatively affect them. Please void, even when used by a “trained professional”.

  • Shock Collars
    • Whether remote-controlled, perimeter bound, or bark activated this tool is one which many people had negative feelings about and yet went along with because their trainer said it was the best. Rather than training your dog to ignore stimuli or to not react, the collar reacts and tells them that a thing is dangerous, scary, and aggressive. Instead, use the clicker method to reward good behavior and your dog will learn not to do those things which don’t get them a reward.
  • Spray Collars
    • These are less harsh than a shock collar, but do the same thing to your dog. The collar is a reactive and punitive form of training which we now know is not as reliable and does not cause long-lasting results. This tool as well as shock collars could also cause dogs to become more reactive and aggressive when faced with stimuli which (in their minds) caused the negative effect.
  • Martingale Collars
    • Though these are less harmful than a full choke collar, these have the same negative aspects. Though they have a limit of tug that can be done these collars still choke and use pain to “train” a dog not to do something. When clicker methods can provide safe, reliable results, why use something that intentionally causes pain and discomfort.
  • Retractable Leash
    • A tool that would be wonderful for well-trained dogs on open trails that is used for daily walks with untrained, in training, leash reactive dogs, and many more inappropriate pets. This leash gives your pet the ability to roam and explore which is wonderful, but if your dog is reactive, not trained, or disobedient, this is a problem waiting to happen. The lines are usually thin and easy to break, and even if your pet is too small to do any damage to the leash, them pulling can harm the person holding the leash, or even pull it out of their hand. Please stick with a solid lead when training and with larger dogs.

There are many more bad training tools, some of which you’ll see later in my “Part 3: The Ugly” post but I will say the same thing you’ve ready many a time from me. If something seems or feels wrong, or you feel bad using a tool on your dog, do not feel compelled to use it.

More information on Shock Collars: https://positively.com/dog-training/methods-equipment/training-equipment/shock-collars/

Training tools – Part 1: The Good

Training tools – Part 1: The Good

There are countless methods and tricks and aids to help with training. Today, I want to go over some of the good things you can use to help your training plan.

  • 6 foot+ leash:
    • A solid strong leash is a wonderful tool. No only is it necessary for walking, and leash training, but it can be used when training a recall command or when training sit outdoors.
  • Solid Collar:
    • In addition to being a key safety need in case your pet ever gets lost, their collar is important to training. Not only to get them used to it, but as it’s used for walks, securing, and of course the identification.
  • Front lead Harness:
    • These harnesses are great because rather than hook your leash to the top of the dogs back or neck, you connect right at the front of their chest. This is so helpful when training a polite walk and proper heel because if your dog tries to pull they not only feel resistance, but are forced to change directions. This helps to teach them that pulling does not mean getting what they want faster.
  • Head Harness:
    • These are wonderful for the same reason the front led harnesses are great. Pulling causes the dog to turn.
  • Crate:
    • While one might have once thought it inhumane and horrible to put a dog in a box metal crate, we know that this is actually a wonderful tool and benefit to the dog. It gives you a secure place to put your puppy or dog for short periods of time while you are away and it also gives your dog a safe place to go if for example you have many friends over and your dog gets over stimulated.
  • Toys:
    • The stimulations from playing and chewing is so key to a happy dog. If your dog is bored, destructive behaviors can and usually do follow. Use toys as a reward after training, or to show a job well done for play motivated dogs.
  • Treats:
    • When used in training and in addition to an appropriately nutritious diet treats are your dogs best friend. You can highlight good behaviors, redirect, and more by using treats.
      • Treat and Toy combination: These are great tools to use and there are different levels of difficulty depending on your dog’s level, from a peanut butter filled kong all the way up to puzzles you have to lift, twist, and pull. These are also wonderful for crate training because you can stimulate your dog while they are in the crate without you.

There are countless good training tools out there but here are some of the basics which every dog-owning family should have and use. As always, if a tool puts you off or makes you feel bad using it, don’t. Follow your gut in your training.

How to Tell if a Trainer is Wrong For You?

How to Tell if a Trainer is Wrong For You?

There are countless trainers in the world, and people who would like to be trainers. These people have different certifications, no certification, work for organizations, work for small businesses, work for them selves, charge by the hour, charge by the session, charge by  number of sessions, charge by issue, train one-on-one, train in groups, train at home, train in a park, train in a rented or owned space, board for training… I can go on and on but the important thing is, no two trainers are exactly the same. Even trainers who have similar methods or ideas might teach or train differently. You are also inevitably, in searching for a trainer, going to come across multiple schools of thinking which drastically differ from one another.

Though I am in favor of Positive training methods for multiple reasons, this article is not meant to side one over another but to tell you that it is OK to fire your trainer. It is OK to say after meeting with someone, after one session, or after a hundred or more sessions, to say that you have changed your mind and do not want to go on with them.

Here are some examples of times where you might want to get a new trainer.

  • The trainer does not tell you or offer his methods of training and charges a fee to board and train your dog.
    • You should always know how your dog is being trained, especially in situations where you are meant to trust someone else to do the training. It might also be good to ask how effective or long-lasting the training will be without you being involved in the training. You are going to have to be the one following through, how can that be done if you don’t know how they enforced or discouraged behaviors.
  • The trainer uses methods that you know you will not continue once he leaves.
    • This is not only a waste of your time, but it is a waste of your money as well. If he or she uses methods that you are either not comfortable with or which you don’t believe in, tell them. If they won’t or can’t train another way then it’s better for both of you to end the relationship.
  • The trainer doesn’t tell you why you are doing something.
    • You should always know why an action is meant to help. If you do not, you could accidentally use it in an inappropriate way in the future when the trainer is not around.
    • Every action a trainer tells you to do should have a purpose beyond “It will work” or “Because that’s how I’ve always done it.” If your trainer cannot say why they are doing something, or why you should be doing something, it is important to rethink the situation.
  • The trainer talks down to you and your family.
    • Even if a trainer gets frustrated with owners because of actions they have done or do during sessions, it is important for them to speak to you in a proper manner and to show respect. In the end trainers are doing more to train the owners than to train the dogs. To do this, you have to respect them and they have to respect you.
  • You don’t like the trainer.
    • This is one of the harder ones to get people to follow. Many people may stick with a trainer because they come recommended, have great testimonial reviews, or any number of other reasons. If you do not like a trainer, if they make you feel weird, self-conscious, anxious, etc., even if they might do a great job it is better to stop training with them. During sessions if you feel this way you are less likely to focus, less likely to pay attention, and less likely to trust what they are telling you. This is wasting your time, money, as well as theirs.

These are only a few reasons, there are definitely many more. Follow your gut in situations like finding and following a trainer. If something doesn’t feel right, stop.

“Live Saving” Commands – Part 2

“Live Saving” Commands – Part 2

The second of the three commands I feel are life-saving and completely essential for all dogs to know is “Wait”.

This command is important for a multitude of reasons and in addition to helping you, it will help your dog in the long run.

Wait: We know to take a moment to check the cross ways before we cross the street. We know to eat slowly and carefully otherwise we can get sick, or hurt, or worse. We know that sometimes waiting is the best, but sometimes it’s not. Our dogs however don’t know any of this or more. Knowing a “Wait” command could mean the difference between running into the street before you have a chance to look. It could mean getting your pet to take a moment before you give them their food, causing them not to inhale it the moment it’s put down. It could mean calmly taking a toy so as not to scare or possibly hurt a person who is giving it to them. And one instance which no owner wants to have happen, it could mean gaining your pets attention as he or she darts off out of your reach. This command could be the difference between a lost or injured (or worse) dog, and one at home. In combination with a recall command, this can save you the worry and hurt that comes from a dog getting away while in sight of you.

Importance of finding your dogs incentive

Importance of finding your dogs incentive

You’ve probably had a time where you’re trying to praise your dog and hand them a treat just to have them reject the treat. This could be because the dog has been pushed past a point of stress and so they cannot even think of food. However, more than likely the treat you are trying to use means very little or nothing to your dog. More and more you will hear dog trainers and training books mention using “Jack-Pot” treats for those things you really want to encourage and enforce. This is in those books usually in regards to house training and leash training.

That “Jack-pot” doesn’t have to be food though as not all dogs are food driven. A dog could be mainly praise driven and only needs food in the most distracting of situations. Or a dog could be play and praise driven and care nothing for food. Or if they are food driven, they might accept a regular biscuit while in the house and yard, but needs something more special when on walks or at a park. You need to figure out what incentive drives your dog within the first few weeks and months of owning so that you can encourage your dog the most efficiently.

Also, as I mentioned briefly above, one form or type of encouragement might not be enough. I like to think of their encouragement like their paychecks. A person wouldn’t want to get paid $2 for something that should be a $100 job. In the same realm of thought, one who gets paid $100 for a $2 job might then ask for $200 on a $4 job. To put back into dog language, don’t give them the freeze-dried liver every time they sit and don’t give them a plain dog biscuit when they focus on you as another dog walks right beside.

This not only shows them what is most important to you, but it gives them a hierarchy. You can occasionally use a high value treat on a day-to-day action but if you use it too much, that treat will lose its value. Rather, if you use a high value treat on a very random schedule for daily actions you will enforce that action. This is the same train of thought that backs a “variable-interval” reward schedule for encouraging actions that have already been trained through positive methods.

It’s also important to use your dogs incentive to encourage them because even though a freeze-dried liver treat might be a “Jack-Pot” for your Pit-Bull it may mean nothing to your new Australian Shepherd who is encouraged by play and praise. For them a jack-pot could be being able to play tug for 10 minutes or a “Good Dog, that’s it” in addition to being pet for a moment or two. To them you are using a low value treat ($2) for a big ($100) job.

Once you’ve found your dogs appropriate incentive and discovered their own hierarchy of  encouragement you’ll be able to see the change in how your dog reacts to training!

Here are some great resources on positive training and reward enforcers. Note-some of the “conditioning” links are very much relating to people, this is because this enforcement works on all animals, including Humans.

http://psychology.about.com/od/vindex/g/def_variablerat.htm

http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/schedules.htm

https://positively.com/dog-training/positive-training/positive-reinforcement/

https://positively.com/dog-training/positive-training/the-value-of-rewards/

Bonus article: Using Food in Training

What is CGC and Why does it matter?

What is CGC and Why does it matter?

In the dog world you might hear that a trainer is a CGC evaluator, that a dog passed their CGC test, and you may even see a dog with a CGC collar and/or leash, but what does this mean?

CGC is short for Canine Good Citizen and it is a test, administered by certified CGC evaluators, which in essence will show that the tested dog is well-mannered and well-trained. All of the points that are tested for have real world reasons why your dog should be able to do them. The test is from the AKC but does not only apply to AKC registered dogs. This test is used as a one time thing to “prove” that your dog is well-behaved, or it could be a stepping stone for any number of activities in the future. Passing the CGC test could be the first step in a future of Agility competition, Fly-ball, Therapy work, or competitive Obedience just to name a few.

One thing I love about CGC is that it give a “goal” to training some very important and basic commands. This helps many a lax owner by giving them something to aim for.

The CGC is comprised of 10 simple tasks.

  1. Greeting a friendly stranger
  2. Sitting politely for petting
  3. “Appearance and Grooming”
  4. Walking on a loose leash
  5. Walking through a crowd
  6. Sit, Down, Stay
  7. Come on Command
  8. Reaction to another Dog
  9. Reaction to Distraction
  10. Supervised Separation

Now many of these are self explanatory, but for those that might not be (#s 3, 8, 9, and 10) be I’ll explain a little.

Appearance and Grooming: This does not mean that they will judge your dog for confirmation as would happen in a dog show, nor does this mean your dog will be judged on their appearance, though they should be clean and healthy. This means that your dog will accept someone grooming them and examining them. This will help you in the real world because your dog will then openly accept being groomed, important for all breeds regardless of coat, and will also accept inspections which veterinarians may have to do. You will bring a brush and comb which the examiner will use to lightly brush the dogs coat. Then they will examine the ears, lift paws, and do a very light examination of the dog where they are expected to stand calmly without hesitation or fear.

Reaction to another dog: By reaction it is meant as polite reaction. Your dog should show confidence without aggression and calmly greet the other. Jumping, growling, snapping, and other reactions are not allowed.

Reaction to Distraction: This time by reaction they mean the dog should not react. This is another test to show that your dog is confidant and more so, that in fearful or distracting situations your dog trusts you enough to not show fear, anxiety, or aggression. During this portion of the test the examiner has a number of sound and visual distractions to choose from and will use two of them, usually one sound and one visual, to test your dogs reaction.

Both of the above tests are important because you do not control the world around you and you need to be able to know that your dog will react, or not react, appropriately.

Supervised Separation: Here you will leave your dog with the examiner or someone else for the test, for about 2 minutes. During this time your dog should display calm confidence. Your dog shouldn’t bark, whine, or pace excessively. They also shouldn’t show nervousness or agitation. This will allow you to confidently be able to leave your dog with friends, family, or at a boarder.

I highly recommend training with a “1st end goal” of passing the CGC.

note: All of the parts of the CGC program are given in detail on the AKC Canine Good Citizen Participant’s Handbook and in various places on the AKC site.