Training


I hate when people let their dogs chase squirrels. They usually think it’s harmless, but they are encouraging their dog to participate in an activity that the dog can never succeed at. Would you want to chase something that is always just out of your reach? Occasionally dogs do catch squirrels and will the owners be happy about it? Of course not. They will instead punish their dog by yelling at him to drop it and shouting “No”. But they were the ones that encourage their dog to do so in the first place. If you bike with your dog, do you want him running after a squirrel then? What happens if your dog takes after a squirrel and the leash slips out of your hand and the squirrel runs across the street? Your dog thinks it’s doing what it’s supposed to do: chase the squirrel until it jumps into a tree.

If your dog is consistently chasing squirrels,  maybe he’d like another job. For instance, fetching the newspaper or a ball, carrying a backpack, running alongside you, etc. Give your dog a job to be proud of. You can un-train your dog to chase squirrels by being the leader and taking charge. Give your dog a firm leash correction and keep walking. Don’t allow your dog to show excitement or stare the squirrel down. If you need to, stop walking and wait until your dog is calmly facing away from the squirrel, then keep walking. In a short time, he will get the message that you no longer want them to exhibit that behavior and they will stop.

Okay. Rant over (there’s a dog in my park that gets run over nearly daily from chasing squirrels–oy). Lead your dog!

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My little Emma Penelope is now 6 months old–Wow, how time flies! It has been an amazing journey so far, and I am looking forward to even more that God is going to teach me through this little one.

We ended up giving Princeton to our friend’s  in Kentucky because I wasn’t able to give him as much exercise as he needed. Nothing bad happened to cause us to want to re-home him, but when I realized that it would be better for everyone involved including him, it just made sense. Sounds like he’s getting plenty loved on. Click here to see Princeton with his new family: http://karicorsi.blogspot.com/2012/02/we-are.html

Meanwhile, Mr. Bennett has adjusted great to being Emma’s…brother/pack member/kindly Uncle. He is a faithful companion to her when she’s in her highchair (wonder why) and lays next to her in the sunshine. He gently but firmly keeps other dogs away from her at the dog park (it’s quite sweet actually, but I am careful not to let him get too bossy). Highlight of their interactions so far was that they were laying next to each other by the window and I walked away for a moment. I heard him yelping and ran back in only to find that Emma had him by the beard and he was just calling for me to help him out. He could have disciplined her like a puppy by gently using his teeth to correct her, but instead he just called for help. What a sweetie pie.

Life is pretty awesome right now I must say. Lead your dog!

So in case you didn’t know, a child is not a dog and a dog is not a child. I’m convinced that some people do NOT realize that this is true because they treat their dog like a child, but this has definitely become apparent to me since I gave birth six weeks ago. Dogs are pretty much black and white. You say something is wrong, and they respond. You feed them the same amount at the same time everyday after taking them to the same tree and nobody complains. But a child has a mind of their own to respond as they feel. A four ounce bottle may suffice for lunch, but not dinner. A child poops for 10 minutes, you change their diaper, and they respond by peeing on you and then soiling the next diaper. I DO think that dogs prepare a couple for parenting in many respects, but right now I am realizing how different being a parent and being a pack leader can be. There are lots of similarities (which I may expand on in a future post), but for now they are different! And actually, it’s a good thing. I am learning lots over here!

On a happy note, the dogs are adjusting perfectly to Emma’s presence in our home. No improper behavior toward her whatsoever. All our prepping paid off!

Lead your dog!

The most common type of obsessive barking occurs when a dog is focused on what it cannot reach (usually out the window or at another dog while on a leash).  It may or may not happen when you are home with your dog, but it most certainly happens when you are gone! “How can I stop my dog from barking when I’m gone?” you may wonder, and I sincerely hope that these suggestions prove beneficial to you and your neighbors!

1) Exercise. If a dog is properly exercised, the occurrences of obsessive barking are almost entirely eliminated.  Walking, jogging, or biking with your dog are the best ways to exercise since they help you relate side-to-side with your dog (which is extremely important to all canines). Other exercise forms would be fetching, a trip to the dog park, fetching up and down the stairs, or having your dog learn to ride a treadmill. I recommend at least a 30 minute walk twice a day for a barker (you can read about mastering the walk here).

2) Training.  You can train your dog not to bark out the window by taking the following steps. First, make sure your dog is exercised. Second, place a leash on your dog (preferable not a flexi-leash since you cannot give a proper leash correction with one easily). Third, purposefully create the barking scenario. You need to make the barking occur so that you can stop it in that moment (thus showing your dog what is expected of them). For example, if your dog is a leash barker, walk past lots of other dogs. If your dog is a window barker, ask a friend to walk in front of the window with their dog. Fourth, correct early on. As soon as your dog begins to become obsessed (you’re looking for level 2 excitement–don’t wait until level 10 when they are already barking like crazy) give a calm, quiet leash correction to the side (think “snap” of the leash: loose, tense for 1 second, then loose again). Give the correction when your dog’s ears go up, his tail becomes alert, or he gets anxious.  Do not become frustrated. You are teaching your dog a new concept: that barking is no longer acceptable behavior. Remember that when you discipline your dog you are disagreeing with the behavior, not with the dog personally. Fifth, repeat, repeat, repeat!

Once your dog is no longer barking with a leash correction in front of many different dogs (or window distractions), take the leash off and repeat some more. You are now teaching your dog that it cannot bark even with the leash off. Now is the time to use auditory or physical corrections (snap your fingers, say “ah-ah”, block your dog from getting closer to its target, use “the touch“, etc). It will make much more sense to your dog if you come between them and the thing you are barking–do not try to call them away. Another note: if you have more than one dog that is an obsessive barker, target the stronger one/instigator. Whenever you have two dogs, one is the leader and one is the follower. By correcting the leader/instigator first, the follower will calm down too.

3) Don’t give them reason to worry. If your dog is a alone-at-home barker, one way to diminish barking is by conveying to them the idea that it’s no big deal to be home alone, and that the home is a place of rest. You can help your dog understand this by not working them up when you come and go. Don’t say “ok, honey, Mommy’s going to leave now, but you just stay home and be a good boy!” Nonchalantly pick up your keys and go without a word to your pup. When you come home, practice no touch, no talk, no eye contact to help your dog understand that it’s no big deal when you come home either (I realize that this takes a lot of self discipline, but it IS worth it to your pet!). Feel free to love and cuddle your dog like crazy when they are being calm. Your goal as pack leader and authority figure is to promote calmness in your canine (this is what pack leaders do in the wild).

4) Authority. As you take charge of your dog by showing them that you are in control of every situation, you will see their behavior improve in other areas of life as well. All dogs want to be followers. Your dog will live a more contented, happy-go-lucky life if you don’t let them rule the roost.

Lead your dog!

Was in the park yesterday and I see a guy chasing his loose pit bull trying to get her back. He’s running after her shouting her name and trying to grab her, but she’s too quick. So I squat down and smooch my lips and she comes barreling towards me. I don’t say a word and just hold onto her collar while he come lumbering over.  I tried to make small-talk but he was obviously very frustrated having chased her for about 5 minutes to no avail. He grabs her face and smacks her hard. He then proceeds to put an extremely tight prong collar on her (which is attached to a flexi-leash) and give her four hard leash corrections in a row shouting “bad girl”. The dog whimpers and looks up at him and the owner says “Yeah, that’s right. That’ll teach you to run off”. He then pulls her away from me and leaves the park giving her random hard leash corrections and then freedom with the leash. Needless to say it was hard for me to keep my mouth shout. So I’ll open it here:

1) If your dog runs away from you that means that your relationship is not strong. The dog doesn’t take you seriously, doesn’t know what “come” means (many owners don’t seem to realize that “come” is something you have to actually teach), or has become obsessive about something it sees and tunes everything out (so your vocal command should have been given before your dog began to fixate and run away from you).

2) If you punish a dog when it finally comes back to you, why would it bother to come back the next time? You have to live in the moment and reward your dog for “coming” and continue to work on the basics another time. It is impossible for a frustrated owner to give appropriate discipline.

3) Prong collars have very specific uses in my book. The collar ought to be quite loose on your dog except for an instantaneous correction. If your dog’s neck has indentations in it while you’re holding a loose leash, the collar is too tight–add an extra link or two or three!

4) Never, under any circumstance, should a prong collar be attached to a retractable leash. Your dog is given freedom by pulling when wearing a flexi-leash (the dog pulls on the leash, he gets further away from you). So by wearing a prong collar and pulling for freedom, your dog is learning nothing except to become desensitized to prongs digging into his neck. Furthermore, it is impossible to give a proper leash correction with a flexi-leash due to the fact that your dog doesn’t know when it’s about to occur (not to mention that when he reaches the end of the length of the leash, he gets a surprise correction for no reason).  Dogs aren’t good at rationalizing–they don’t get “if, then” commands very well. I can guarantee that the only thing this little pit knew at the end of the “training episode” was to avoid the owner when she runs away next time and steer clear when he’s frustrated. Oy!

Take away for my readers:

~When you’re frustrated with your dog, don’t attempt to correct. I don’t care if you’ve been trying to catch your dog for 2 hours and you keep narrowly missing her, don’t punish her when you’re unbalanced–it will NOT result in two balanced beings working together (which IS the goal, isn’t it?)

~ If you let your dog off-leash and after a time she ran away (as was the case with this guy), I would take her back to that original spot after you finally catch her and spend time there with her again (just don’t take her off the leash this time). Leave that spot on a good note.

~Don’t assume that your dog can read your mind! “Come” is not an “included feature” when you get a dog; it has to be taught.

Lead your dog, friends. Lead…don’t bully!

Dogs, like babies, are rather addicting–especially when you have an easy one.  How, you might ask, will I know when it’s the right time to get a second dog?

The most popular reasons to get a second dog are as follows:

  1. We want our dog to have a companion
  2. Our first dog is so easy, having another won’t be much different
  3. Our first dog is “finished” training so let’s get a new project
  4. I just “happened” to be at a shelter/pet store and I fell in love with another dog
  5. One of our dogs just passed away, so we want to get a second dog again to help everyone get past the grief of death
  6. Our first dog is bad, so we want to get a canine role model for him

If you are seriously considering getting another dog and your motives are any of the above, please think LONG and hard about this decision. Let me counter these thoughts:

  1. We want our dog to have a companion. Dogs do enjoy companions because they are pack animals, but not just any dog you pick out will necessarily be a good match for your first dog. Look at the energy of the dog before considering the shell/breed of a second dog. Critically evaluate your first dog. What is their overall energy level? Are they more fearful or more dominant? Are they more/less comfortable around dogs of a different size than they are? What kind of canine mind will best compliment your family and current dog?
  2. Our first dog is so easy, having another won’t be much different. Nearly everyone who gets a second dog because their first is easy will have a difficult lesson to learn. The second dog will add a whole new layer of responsibility even if you choose a very calm, submissive second dog. Know that it will be harder to have two, no matter what you may think about your skills as a pack leader.
  3. Our first dog is “finished” training so let’s get a new project. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something new to train, just make sure everyone in the family knows in advance what that will mean for them individually. Even if you want something to train, do NOT pick a dog that “needs work”. You will be much more satisfied if you can pick a dog that is already close to being done and you can just refine his training and feel great about having two very well-behaved dogs!
  4. I just “happened” to be at a shelter/pet store and I fell in love with another dog. When picking out a second dog use your head, not your heart. What I mean is, do not allow your emotions to talk you into making a decision that you will later regret. When we went to visit Princeton in the shelter, there was another family on its way to see him too. The shelter was located over an hour away from our house and so instead of being patient and making a slow, calculated decision based on Princeton’s fearfulness and nervous energy, we left the shelter with dog in tow. This also applies when you are in a pet store and you see a puppy available for purchase. Please note that many pet stores that sell puppies are often supporting the puppy mill industry giving you drugged dogs with many, many health concerns. You can read more about puppy mills here. If you’re not ready to adopt a second dog, stay off petfinder.com and do not enter a shelter!
  5. One of our dogs just passed away, so we want to get a second dog again to help everyone get past the grief of death. Dogs do know when a pack member has passed away. It is natural, normal, and healthy to grieve the loss. It is very dangerous to try to cover up the pain by getting a “replacement” dog. It’s not fair to your pack or, especially, the new dog. Wait several weeks if not months, and critically evaluate the state of mind of everyone in the household. Is everyone ready for a new adventure to begin without living in the past?
  6. Our first dog is bad, so we want to get a canine role model for him. Of all of the above reasons for getting a second dog, this is the most dangerous. Dogs that are un-trained and exhibit poor behavior are almost always dominant. If you bring in a second dog even if it’s super calm, submissive, it will NOT teach your dog manners–it’ll be the other way around! Your good dog will pick up on the behavior of the bad one and suddenly you’ll have TWO out of control dogs. It is much more advisable for you to consult a trainer and get your first dog behaving as you’ve always dreamed
Having a second dog can be a wonderful addition to the family. Adopting Princeton has been incredibly hard at times, but he has also helped shaped me into a better human being, pack leader, and trainer.  Looking back, I would have made a different decision by not adopting a dog that was so needy and fearful, but would have waited to find one that was calm and submissive. It is my hope that by really thinking the decision through, you will end up with the dogs of your dreams!
To read my thoughts about adopting a puppy vs. a adult dog click here.
To read my thoughts about adopting from a breeder vs. a shelter click here.
Lead your dog!

Do you keep track of your dog’s progress? I am greatly benefited from journaling about many areas of my life–it helps me process things wisely. Sometimes it’s easy to get fixated on that one training element that your dog doesn’t seem to get instead of seeing all that he has learned! When you feel discouraged with training is the perfect time to stop and reflect! Here’s what I mean.

Princeton (since we’ve adopted him two years ago)

Positives:

  • Much more sensitive to leash corrections
  • Not so flighty or fearful
  • Social behavior greatly improved with people and dogs
  • Has a better idea of personal space
  • Slowed down when eating
  • Put on weight
  • Food aggression is gone
  • Gets into “work mode” while walking
  • Trustable off-leash
  • Doesn’t jump up
  • Completely house trained
Things we’re still working on:
  • Staying next to me on the walk
  • Being at ease around children
  • Him trusting Boxers
I think the to-do list is very long, but in reality we’ve come so far! Wooo! Lead your dog!

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