Category Archives: training

Proper Socializing starts with the Breeder.

I am always advocating for socializing dogs as early as two months old. I can understand that someone new to dogs might not fully understand the need to socialize or the terrible consequences of NOT socializing a puppy. But a BREEDER???This past week I had the sad and troubling experience of a person bringing a young 9-month-old puppy to a group agility class with the intention of “socializing” it. This puppy looked so scared and upset and repeatedly lunged aggressively at all the other dogs in class. He also lunged at me when I tried to approach him in a very friendly and non threatening manner! Upon questioning the owner I found out that this puppy had been kept by the breeder until two months ago when this naive person bought it! What is worse, the breeder told her all the dog needed was to practice his “social skills”.

This poor dog needs some serious and intensive behavior modification rehabilitation. What worries me even more is that the owner truly believed there was nothing wrong with this puppy and that her repeated exposure to other dogs would magically “cure” him. When the dog lunged at me she wholeheartedly reassured me: “He is fine around children! I take her to school and the kids can pet him”. Chills run down my spine… you have to be kidding me! This puppy is a time bomb and this inexperienced person is putting innocent children and dogs at risk.

This greedy breeder, who only cares about selling dogs and not the welfare of the puppies she brings into this world, is the reason why we have all this punitive breed and breeder regulations! This irresponsible breeder is the reason radical groups like PETA exist!

If you are getting a dog from a breeder please make sure it has been properly socialized and ask to meet the sire and dam. The only way to stop irresponsible breeders is let them deal with the maladjusted dogs they breed and not allow them to dump them on good people.

Don’t buy puppies from Flea market vendors, the internet or backyard breeders. You will just be promoting more suffering. There are enough dogs in shelters and  there is enough cruelty towards all the poor animals that have to be euthanized because of behavior problems.

When you get a puppy: SOCIALIZE, SOCIALIZE, SOCIALIZE the instant that puppy comes into your life!

You can have what it is you want…

Let’s face it, training during summer in Florida is a bummer! I find myself procrastinating and getting distracted with ten other things before I make myself go out and do something with my dogs.
But to keep my agility dogs in shape and ready to bounce back into trial mode when the fall trialing season starts, I REALLY need to train through summer. Because performing well at trials is important for me, I try to push myself by thinking how I feel when my dogs perform below par because I have the seemingly perfect excuse: “I is so hot!”
I play this quote in my head, over and over again: “You can have what it is you want or you can have your excuses for not having it.” Very powerful…still so hot out there.

Ok, Lilianne you need a plan. We will train a minimum of 3 times per week, very specific exercises, each practice short and sweet (and hot). We just need to practice the weave poles, not even all 12 poles just correct weave entry. How hard is that? just 2 poles, I will send each dog 3 times. I will do a couple of simple one-jump exercises (Linda Mecklenberg’s jumping system is my favorite); that will keep the muscles they need for jumping in shape. Amelia and Oliver need to work on their running contacts. I am experimenting with this new (for me) method and it looks like they are fast learners but you need to get out an do it!

Today I made it! After putting it off for a couple of hours, my guilt level rose to the max as I had left Holly, Amelia and Oliver in their crates in the garage after giving them their breakfast and promised them that after tending to just one urgent stuff, today we would train!

So armed with some super high value treats (tripe and meatballs) which I think is the doggie equivalent to a Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (which is my idea of a high value treat if I was to work in this heat), we trained, the dogs had a great time, were really eager to work for the super yummy treats and I am sure I sweated at least one pound off. Maybe I should get a scale and weigh myself after each session, that might keep me motivated!

“Come!”… “Come!”…”Come here!”…”I said COME!”

If you have kids, you know that the possible responses to calling them are:
1) “What?”
2) “Wait a minute”
3) “I’m coming” (yeah right!)
4) Pretend they didn’t hear you.

No matter how many times you explain that if you call them is because you want them to come, you will invariably get one of the responses above.

I have news for you, your dog is your kid.

One of the most common complaints I get from dog owners starting a training program is: “He does not come when I call him”. The expectation is that I will wave my magic trainer wand and install on your dog a
come when called key just like the ones on your TV remote control.
What I hear is owners describing features they want their dog to posses just like they were picking a car. “I want a blue car, with leather interior, power windows, GPS, anti-lock brakes etc.” “I want my dog to come when I call him, even when he is running away from me at 40 miles an hour chasing something.”

I have more news for you. Coming when called is not a built in feature in your dog. You have to TEACH him to come.
Almost everyone’s attempt at teaching their dog to come are: to call him, and then call again, then again and again with the voice level escalating rapidly and then adding in some frustration and anger. Needless to say, if a raging person was yelling for me to come to them, I would seriously wonder if that would be a safe thing to do! Well, your dog is no different. To top it off, the consequence of coming is usually something “bad” from the point of view of the dog. For example, he was out running around having a grand old time sniffing, chasing a squirrel, barking at the neighbors cat, dog, kids and now you spoil all this by having him come in and end the fun!

To teach your dog to LOVE coming to you, you have to convince your dog that coming to you is the best thing that he could think of doing. Some good starting points are: using a pleasant and inviting tone of voice, calling your dog for things he enjoys, like mealtimes, walks, belly rubs and cookies.
If you have to do something “bad” from the
DOG’S point of view, then go and get him, snap the leash on and take him with you as opposed to calling. Yelling “Come” a million times when you know your dog is not going to respond is teaching him that he can ignore you.

I you would like to polish your dog’s recall skills, do the following homework during the next week. Write down how many times you call your dog for pleasant things versus unpleasant things. If the unpleasant outnumber the pleasant, you will know why your dog refuses to come to you in the first place. Remember pleasant is defined by the dog not you.
Carry treats in your pocket and reward your dog with one every time you say his name and he stops what he is doing to LOOK AT YOU, add some lavish praise too. Resist the temptation to call more than once or even better do not call at all if you know your dog is very distracted and the probability of him obeying you is close to zero.

In next weeks post I will give you more homework and additional exercises for you improve your dog’s recall skills. Until then, happy training!

BE CONSISTENT

When I decided to start writing a Blog, I did some research to find some tips on how to get started. There is no shortage of advice out there, but one thing was mentioned by ALL sources: Decide how often you want to write and BE CONSISTENT, because your followers will be expecting it, so don’t disappoint them.

This made perfect sense I thought, it is just like dog training. Be consistent, don’t change your commands, don’t give commands you cannot enforce, don’t set up your dog for situations that are more distracting than what you have trained. Consistency is the key to your dog understanding that you really mean what you are asking of him. You confuse your dog when you are constantly varying your criteria and you have to be consistent with your training schedule to see improvement.

So I decided I would post once a week. I could write during the week, revise it over the weekend, get input from my family and post Sunday night or Monday morning. It would be a nice treat for my followers at the beginning of their work week.

Well, I got a taste of my own medicine with this blog writing business. I caught a cold that took two weeks to go away, then we hosted an agility trial that left me exhausted, then…opps, I am out of excuses! I have not posted since October 11. I simply procrastinated and voila, I wrote nothing for a month. I even forgot that I had outlines for not one, but two Blogs!

So many of my students come to class and sheepishly admit: “I did not train at all this week” and you know what is always so amazing? The dogs have not forgotten but the owners are so rusty. So they forget to BE CONSISTENT and then the dog starts getting confused and performs poorly.

So let’s renew our vows together! I will start typing away and you will pick up your leash, load your pocket with treats and get out and train. Your dog will love it and you will feel so much better too. It is so easy to BE CONSISTENT!

I am working on my next two posts. I will be on time, will you?

I said “NO”

Watching my young puppies play with their mother is simply fascinating. We humans think of language mainly as a verbal communication, so we tend to oversimplify dog language as barking, whining and probably because it is so obvious, tail wagging. But if you watch closely you will start noticing so many subtle cues that are easily missed through casual observation. In this particular instance, Holly was playing with a toy, which she strategically placed close to the puppies enticing them into the game. A tug-of-war soon ensued with the puppies clamping on, and pulling harder and harder. Acting bold and cocky they even started growling as they tugged.

All of a sudden Holly stopped tugging, gave them a stern stare and moved her muzzled forward ever so slightly; the pups stopped in their tracks, let go of the toy and immediately adopted submissive postures: belly up, ears plastered back and avoiding eye contact. This whole act probably took less than 3 seconds!

This game was repeated on and on and Holly’s reaction was exactly the same every single time: subtle, fast and right to the point. I could not help but think how ineffective we humans are when trying to correct out dogs. We nag, nag, nag, beg, plead, nag a little more, beg, plead, threaten, yell…Our dogs resort to ignoring us or even escalate the negative behavior in response to our agitation. Wouldn’t it be great if we could also be subtle, fast and right to the point?

Did you know that allowing your puppy to play with his mother and siblings is very important because it allows him to practice “doggie language“? This is something we quite clearly are not capable of doing well. It will make your puppy more accepting of our clumsy human corrections and will also allow him to interact safely with other dogs. Puppies should not be separated from their dam and litter-mates until they are 7 weeks old. By practicing this dog-dog communication your puppy will be able to distinguish threatening or playful signals that the other dogs display. Once you pick your puppy and bring him home allow him to play regularly in small groups of other well socialized dogs. This is a key part of his early training and proper socializing.