Certified Professional Trainer
(614) 987-7495 (614) 987-7495
Training and Behavior
For whatever reason, I've had a rash of owners calling with new puppies over the past many weeks. As discussed in past articles, a puppy's first 4 months is an important imprint time. This stage of a pup's early life should be filled with favorable exposure to people, places, and things. These introductions need to be thoughtful, and many owners can benefit from a trainer's guidance in this realm. In addition to early exposures, starting rules is a fundamental part of building a healthy relationship with your new pet. Today I thought I'd share a few points I discuss at my puppy consults, and which I believe should be part of any good puppy class or instruction.
1) Socialization is not just blind interaction! If a puppy class is nothing more than play time for your pup and others attending, then consider what you're puppy is learning (or not learning). Good socialization means owners (and a trainer) should be monitoring interactions, and helping young pups learn to behave and be respectful around other dogs.
2) Wear a collar! In the real world it is very hard to train or teach a dog anything if it can't wear a collar. I've seen too many young dogs over the past year that have never worn a collar before 4, 5, or 6 months of age. On a few occasions this created significant aggressive outbursts when the dog was simply being expected to start wearing a collar. Any puppy class that disparages teaching a dog to wear a collar early, is not helping that puppy prepare for future training and life in our human world.
3) Handle your dog! In a similar way, many puppy classes no longer encourage having owners handle their young dogs in ways that help them become accustomed to Vet visits and future training. This isn't about play or cuddling, but rather teaching simple and effective methods that help a young pup understand and accept all handling by humans.
4) No Teeth! All young puppies bite and explore the environment with their mouths. While this is typical, the pup's mother will try to build some biting inhibition into every pup, as will its litter mates before leaving for a human household. Responsible owners need to pick up this task, and get play biting and ground trolling under control sooner rather than later. Any recommendations to simply ignore these behaviors, are not setting a puppy up for health and success.
5) Puppies are not the center of the universe! While they often believe they are (since they have a rather limited view and understanding of our world), good puppy classes will begin guiding a young pup to the understanding that its owners set agendas, and they need to learn to live well in their human household. Owners should be teaching, not accommodating a puppy.
In short, not all puppy education is the same, Seek education that has a life-long understanding geared toward teaching your new pup up to live well in your home, and your world!
As a firefighter for over 30 years, I have learned the importance of regular training. In that arena, daily training is tested and put to good use every day. Weak areas are identified, strengthened through more practice, and tested again in real life situations. Yet in the areas of dog training, I often see a big disconnect for many owners between training and application.
Before I discuss this further, I think it's important to mention 2 core beliefs I've developed over many years:
1) I never see training as something that is "done" - I see it as something owners should be doing (every day).
2) I believe there is a huge difference between training for success, and training to never fail.
When you consider these two points together, they bring into focus a clear reality (at least for me) - the more you need to depend on a dog's obedience to be reliable, the more work you'll need to do. This is really common sense, and the reality of the world we live in.
So to discuss these concepts further, I have many clients that have modest expectations for their dogs. They may simply want their dog to walk nicely on a leash, or go lay down during dinner. These goals will require less work than owners wanting their off leash dog to come off of chasing a squirrel, or to hold a down when guests are coming in the front door. Are all of these realistic goals for every dog - for the most part, yes. But owners with higher expectations need to be realistic, and be willing to do the work needed to reach those goals. And once they are reached, daily practice will assure continued long term, reliable, real world performance.
Another area of disconnect I often see is owners who do all of the work, but then fail to apply it. If you have a dog that's crowding a door when a guest arrives, what can you do? Well, if you have solid obedience on board you could call the dog to come away from the door, place it in down, and go greet your guest without any canine drama. Training should be seen as a skill set you teach your dog, but it's still up to an owner to use those skills through the language of obedience. Dog's will always need daily supervision and guidance for everyone to live well together,
So to sum things up, the secret to getting your dog's best is this:
STEP ONE - Train your dog.
STEP TWO - Use your training - every day!
Socialize, socialize, socialize! It's hard to read anything online regarding canine behavioral problems without fingers being pointed down the socialization path. Today I wanted to talk in more detail about what socialization means to me, and what it seems to mean to many pet owners.
For starters, a dog's prime window for significant socialization is during the first 16 weeks of life. If there's one time in a dog's life where time and effort should be focused on socialization it's during these first 4 months of imprinting. Favorable exposure to people, places and things during this time in a puppies life can provide some helpful experiences that can shape a developing personality. Socialization later in dog's life can still be helpful, but it's not as critical as it is for young pups.
With dogs older than 6 months of age, the single most common behavioral problem I see is leash reactivity - dogs that are out of control with pulling, lunging, barking, snapping, etc when in the area of other dogs. As I assess dogs with these issues, almost 75% have a history of frequent, excited or rough interactions with other dogs at dog parks, day cares, neighbors play dates, etc. I believe our society sees any time where dogs are with other dogs as good. But as I tell all my clients, there is a difference between good socialization and bad socialization.
When dogs are allowed to interact as they please, a certain percentage become very excited or rough with other dogs (sometimes in a very short time). This adrenalization is NOT healthy, and is responsible for probably 50% of the reactive dogs I see. Another 25% were generally on the receiving end of a dog that was too rough (they got roughed by a bully) and no longer have trust of other strange dogs when out walking. So for me, I see these as the dogs that have been "socialized" into problem behaviors. The owners mean well, but allowing (or encouraging) rough and excited play is a recipe for failure, plain and simple.
So what are the solutions? Well, to start with, I require every dog to be calm around another dog before ANY interactions. For dogs that are too exuberant, this can take a bit of time and won't be fixed with treats or good wishes. It's hard work that requires stringent and persistent focus on desired behaviors. For dogs that are anxious, very closely monitored, and stepped re-introductions will be needed to regain their trust in other dogs. Sending them back out into the "octagon" of a dog park is the last thing that will help. In short, teaching dogs to behave and play "nicely" together is good for dogs. Letting dogs play and behave roughly or excitedly around each other is good for the training business. What is your dog learning when around other dogs?
Greetings For October 2014;
The most important item for successful training is follow-through IMO. This week I'd like to suggest reading an article I first published about 1 year ago. Read about the power of persistence as it relates to dog training.
October 2014 CALENDAR
Month: Adopt a Shelter Dog Month / Pet Wellness Month / Pit Bull Awareness Month
Weeks: Walk with Your Dog Week Oct 1 / Veterinary Technicians Week Oct 12
Days: World Animal Day Oct 4 / Pet Obesity Awareness Day Oct 8 / Pit Bull Awareness Day Oct 25 /
CHA Pets at Gallery Hop 10-04 / Cols Mingle with Our Mutts 10-05 and 10-19 / Dayton Mingle With Our Mutts 10-12 /
Further details can be found on the community page of my website: http://thek9guy.com/community.shtml
IN THE NEWS
Recent news stories of interest to owners....
Therapy Dog Susie Hero Dog of Year
Dog Runs Bear out of Children's Bedroom
Resort Lets Guests Hike with Shelter Dogs
Community Donates $$$ for Dog Attacked on Walk
Dog Hit in Police Car Chase, Donations Pour In
Hip Harness for Dysplasia
Breed Blacklists for Insurers
Bretagne - 9-11 Dog Returns to Ground Zero
Lessons from Dogs of 9-11
Links to these and other daily stories are available at http://thek9guy.com/ddn
Kids are back in school and family schedules get busier this time of year. Spend some time with your dog(s) on training every day! Regular practice will always get best results.
Vacations and the start of a new school year find late summer typically a bit calmer for scheduling. Recent calls have seen an increase in dogs needing help with leash reactivity and aggression.
Every month I run across interesting stories of shelters that are thinking outside the box to help get their dogs adopted. This week I ran across a shelter and resort letting guests walk the shelter dogs. A few weeks ago a business was providing funding to place life size cardboard cutouts of available shelter dogs in a their furniture store. The video below features a NV shelter's "hiking Buddies" program. I really enjoy seeing stories like these, and applaud those who are leveraging new strategies for improving adoption rates.
Some owners ask how I came to get my dogs, and I always say I pick dogs based on personality not looks. Both of our current dogs are from the shelter, and both were around 6-9 months of age when adopted. Getting dogs at this age means I can assess a mostly adult personality, and I look for dogs that are friendly with a desire to please. House training usually takes a few hours to a few days, and training begins immediately once they're in our home.
I understand many people want a specific breed for a variety of reasons, and there's certainly nothings wrong with that. But whether you are planning to add a dog to your home, or whether you would otherwise like to help homeless pets, please remember your local shelter(s) in some manner. Donations of resources (money, food, supplies, etc.) as well as time can make a huge difference. I think you will find helping the pets in your own community particularly gratifying.
:: Next >>