Here it is: The one answer to all your dog training questions!

I had a lovely client, with a lovely dog tell me that they had a question for me while they were out walking with their lovely dog. Unfortunately, they could not remember their question. (This happens to me all the time! I have lists and notes for everything!)
Knowing this lovely dog, I said the answer to your question was probably going to be “give her cookies”.

Years ago, I probably could have come up with some scenario where cookies were not appropriate. Now that I have been doing this for a while, I cannot think of a single place where cookies are not a good idea.

There might be those situations where your dog can’t eat those cookies, but that still gives you information and those cookies were still a good idea.

Let’s explore some options that may have been presented to the lovely clients in this story!

A dog showed up! If your pup has some feelings about this dog that showed up then using cookies to keep them under threshold by luring away or tossing some cookies in the grass to allow some sniffing and decompressing are both great options.

The bag of leaves in the street suddenly required some boofing and caution!Well that’s okay, those leaves are not going to cause you any harm, can you take this cookie from me while we move away?” “Feeling brave and want to investigate, well that’s awesome, can you take this one cookie from the ground as you move closer? Oh you moved all the way to the bag? Oh look how brave, here is a shower of cookies to show how proud of you I am!“ Remember, you can’t reinforce fear! (Fear is an emotion not an action!)

 

Overzealous Neighbor! This is especially important if you have a shy or fearful dog. As you eye roll on neighbors high pitched squeaky approach of you and your dog, start dropping cookies near you. This will keep your dog occupied while the chaos ensues. If your dog is acting fearful or you know has a history of being fearful in these situations, then do not give the neighbor the cookies! You continue to drop those cookies until your dog is confident enough to approach the neighbor on his own. If your dog is not approaching or in full body wiggles approaching the neighbor, do not let the neighbor pet your dog. He’s not ready, and all the cookies in the world from her is going to make that situation okay for your dog! Instead, have neighbor ignore your dog while he investigates on his own, without any pressure. You continue to give cookies for any good response. (any response is a good response for a shy and fearful dog)

Dog’s brain has melted! Increase your rate of reinforcement to keep your dog engaged and focused until you can get their brain between their ears. Keep those high value treats in front of them until they have moved far enough away from the thing that they can focus on you again. Or end your session. This is especially true for adolescent pups. (6 to 18 months) They have puppy brain and sometimes things are just hard when you are an adolescent. Work with what they give you and I promise it gets better. (Cargo is 13 months at this point and some days are better than others. Last night’s agility class, was a little rough!)

That one situation that you had no idea would ever happen but it just did! Throw a handful of cookies for your dog while you make a decision on how to keep your dog safe.

Tell me what you think! Can you come up with a time that simply giving cookies was a good idea? Share here or on Facebook!

Fluency in Training: Does your dog know “sit”?

So how do you know if your dog knows stuff?

In my last post I talked about your dog actually knowing stuff, or just getting by with environmental cues. Read that here! If you are concerned that maybe there are some holes in your training, then don’t worry, I’ll go into that here.

So how do you test your dog’s level of knowledge in certain situations?

This is assuming that your dog is successful with these cues 80% of the time in your “training” location. This might be your kitchen, living room, or wherever you typically practice with your dog.
Here are a few options to test what your dog does, and doesn’t know.
Can they be successful without you holding the leash?

Many dogs only comply to cues because of the inevitable leash pressure that is associated with the cues. “sit,” pull up on leash, dog complies because they know that will release the pressure on their collar. This is a throwback to more traditional training, where leash corrections were popular, and the only way to communicate with your dog. (We know better now, thank goodness!)

Can they be successful without a cookie in your hand?

Are you in the habit of bribing your dog? “hey pup look I have a cookie, don’t you want to sit so we can go?” If this is you, then your dog doesn’t know sit. Put that cookie in your pocket or on the counter and see what happens.

What if your cookies were on the ground in a container? Is your dog totally obsessed with the container, or can they focus on you? If your friend has left you to investigate the container of cookies, then let him get his sniffs out of the way and then see if he can comply.
I hope these tips help you and your furry friend communicate a little better. Let me know where your struggles are in this exercise and maybe I will do another Facebook Live to help you out!

Fluency in Training: Your dog doesn’t know “sit”

Fluency in Training our dogs

Those of you who have worked with me have heard me talk about my 4 points for Behavioral Wellness. (Sarah Stremming talks about this quite a bit for those who would like to know more. Or ask me!) I find the biggest disconnect is people’s understanding of what their dog actually knows. They tell me that their dog “knows” how to sit and wait at the door to go for a walk, or when the food bowl is in your hand. Dogs are super smart, and they “get by” with very little actual information from us. If you start scooping food and your dog runs to the mat and sits, do they know a “go to mat” and “sit” or do they just know they won’t get fed until they sit on the mat? Can you ask them to sit in the living room, while watching TV and with no cookie in your hand? Do they pop into that sit or look at you blankly then sit?

Fluency

Fluency is defined as: the ability to express oneself easily and articulately. When we were in school we had to learn a foreign language. Did you consider yourself fluent after one year of that language? I certainly did not. Are you expecting your dog to be fluent after just a few repetitions? In dog training, we talk about fluency as the dogs ability to accurately comprehend what we are asking them. Is your dog trying stuff or do they really know what we are saying?

Quick Story!

I have been working on Cargo’s fluency in her “down” position since she was a tiny pup. She will quickly and confidently offer it on her own and when I ask for it. Recently, I had my fence put up and needed to leash walk her while they were out working. One of the workers needed to ask me a few questions so I asked her to down while I spoke with them. She confidently dropped right down, and stayed there as long as she needed to. (I payed her, of course, for staying there) I have never asked her to “down” while I was speaking with someone, but the history is there for plenty of other circumstances. For now, I would call her fluent in the “down” cue.

I was listening to a training podcast recently, (yes, all my free time is spent training, or learning about training or reading about training… maybe I need a new hobby) and the guest was speaking to the interviewer about the joy that your dog receives when they “know” a cue. When they confidently can offer that behavior in any location without any prompts from you, many of your behavior problems will melt away!

How this helps you

When I am working with anxious or fearful dogs, having some line of communication to let your dog know that you are in control and they are going to be safe, creates a whole different outlook for your dog. We bring them into our lives to live with our rules and constraints that really do not make any sense to a dog. Training is time consuming and sometimes difficult, but you owe it to your dog to make sure they truly understand what we are asking them. This is why I spend so much time at the beginning of training making sure your dog knows the rules for living with us and what we expect, before adding in the things that are making life so difficult for you.

She knows “sit”

I recently created a Facebook group for present and past clients to learn from my dogs and take a peek into the things I find important to communicate with them. This is a safe space to ask questions, learn from my dogs, and other clients who may be having similar struggles to yours. If you would like to join this group just shoot me a message and I will happily add you.

Puppy’s first day: The most important thing!

House training a dog can be frustrating and monotonous. In and out, where is the puppy, what time did he last go out? All questions that you will be asking yourself until your puppy is about 5 months old. With an older rescue dog, this process can go much quicker if your new dog has some foundation in housebreaking. Consistency is key in this process, so make sure your entire family is on board. An accident is not the puppies fault, it’s your fault for not seeing the signs or adjusting your expectations of your puppy.

1. Manage your expectations
As a first step, do an assessment of how well your dog can control his bladder and bowels when he’s not in the crate. With an older dog, plan to take them out every two hours for the first few days, with puppies younger than 8 months, every hour that they are not napping. Keep in mind that your puppy can “hold it” for his age in months plus one. (example: 12 week old puppy can hold it for 4 hours in his crate.)

2. Keep up with what your pup is doing.

x-pens are great for giving your puppy a play area while you get some work done


Keeping eyeballs on your puppy at all times is key for successful house train

ing. If your puppy can wander off and have an accident then they will keep wandering off to that same space. If you have to get things done and cannot keep your eyeballs on your pup, then crate him for a short time, or tether him to you.

3. Throw a party for your puppy
How excited will you be when you realize your pup is house trained? Really excited! Make sure that level of excitement is shown to your pup when they “go” outside. Throw your puppy a party that will make the neighbors wonder what you are doing. (Acting like a fool means you will be a great dog trainer, but that’s a blog post for another day) Have your cookie ready for your puppy before you go outside. Many people want to come back inside and give their puppy a cookie but by that time your puppy has completely forgotten what they are doing, and why they are getting the cookie.

4. When accidents happen
Clean the crate and any bedding so it is free of any scent from urine or feces. Use Natures Miracle or another cleaner with an enzyme that will break down the proteins in the urine. Dogs noses are way better than ours so an odor eliminator will not do the trick.
Whatever you do, don’t punish your dog for accidents. This will cause the puppy to want to hide from you when they have to go. If your puppy party is good, then your puppy will want you to come outside with them when they need to go. Which is exactly what you want them to do!

Puppy Bells
Bells on the door are a great training tool if your “potty door” is not in a common area. If you find that your pup is going to the door and sitting, and you can’t see him, then a bell might be your answer. When you get your bells, ring them yourself before opening the door to let puppy out. After a few days of this, encourage puppy to touch the bell to get you to open the door. Soon your puppy will learn that bell means the door opens (basic classical conditioning!). If you find that puppy begins to ring the bells to go outside to play, make sure you are ignoring the play behavior outside until they have taken care of business. If puppy only wants to play, then they go back inside for a quick time out in the crate, and straight back outside once let out.

Time management: the overwhelm is real!

Y’all I am overwhelmed. Life is getting in the way of doing the things I want to do and something has got to give. For those who don’t know, the hubs and I just got back from our honeymoon in the UK and we just bought a house. Because I can’t do just one thing at a time, we found the house 2 weeks before we left, and closed on it the day after we got home.

England was so pretty! This is outside of Buckingham Palace.

(I also brought Cargo home 4 weeks before our wedding day. I like things complicated. He knew what he was getting into.) The new house does not have a fence yet so I have been walking my dogs 4 or 5 times a day in the rain and bugs which takes up about 2 hours of my day, then unpacking, and getting everyone settled has been stressful to say the least.

Because just getting through the day is enough for me right now, my dog training has taken a back seat. Poor Cargo has done a few days of conditioning, but most of her training has been searching for her dinner, and walking around the new park in our neighborhood. (I can tell you she is not happy about it and this fence cannot get here fast enough.) The other two can handle a few days of not training so they are not happy but coping better than the puppy.

I keep telling myself this will not last forever. I just need a few more days to get back on track and then things will get better. And that’s okay. Sometimes we just don’t have time to train our dogs. I still love them, and they are getting the minimum that they need right now. Things will change when I have time to get myself organized and we will get back on track. I know life happens for you guys too and I understand that dog training sometimes has to take a back seat to life. When it happens forgive yourself for not giving everything 100% and try to do better when you can.

For now, I am making sure I plan my sessions and take advantage of the little bit of time I do have for them. I have made a list of the bare minimum life skills that I need to do with each of them, and if I have

Ball makes everything okay!

3 seconds, I go to that list. I will literally grab a handful of kibble and reward downs on the mat in the kitchen for that handful, or ring the doorbell and reward quiet (our last house didn’t have a doorbell). 10 kibbles is better than nothing,and having 2 life skills that I need to work on right now will get me through until I can plan their agility, dock diving, Therapy Dog, and barn hunt training.

So a quick apology to you guys! I am sorry I have been a bit quiet lately, I will get back on track soon!