Friday, June 22, 2012

What Every Dog Should Know

I started a new Basic Manners class last night.  I always love the first night because I never know what is going to arrive.  There is always a large variety of breed, ages and owners.  All with different expectations of what they hope to get our of this class.  My job is to help them achieve ...

In my opinion the least your dog needs is to come when called, walk well on leash and allow you to catch them when you need to (of course you don't need this skill as much when they come when called :)).  The other skill your dog needs is self control, in other words not to lose their minds anytime they see _____.

Recalls (coming when called) are the easiest thing and the hardest thing to teach.  It's all about value for you as opposed to value for the environment.  Every now and then you meet a dog who just doesn't care about anything but their owner and they tend to have great recalls.  That is not the norm, the norm is everything is wonderful and your the crazy person who is always yelling.  Starting with something as simple as rewarding every time you call your dog for the next two weeks will alone make a humongous difference.

Walking on leash is in my opinion the hardest thing in the world to teach your dog.  It's like driving your car without a speedometer, nothing to slow you down.  Add that to the fact that most dogs get heavily rewarded every time they pull towards something and it is a monolithic task.  Again it's all about value just starting rewarding the dog for walking beside you and preventing the dog from walking anywhere else will go a long way into shifting the value for walking with you.  Remember it took a while to train your dog to pull this well don't expect huge changes overnight, but if you are patient you will start to see changes over time.

The last needed skill is your dog letting you catch him.  The first step never, ever scare or intimidate your dog when you have his collar, this is a sure fire way to prevent him from ever letting you catch him.  Start out on leash, grab your dogs collar and reward.  Do this a lot, usually I use their dinner so you can get a huge amount of repetitions in.  What I am looking for is when you reach for your dog he moves towards you not away.

So there you have it, these are the skills you need for a great dog.  Really it's not asking a whole lot of work on your part and it will provide you years of living with a dog who everyone want to have.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Excitement of the First Time

Yesterday Iggy and I went to K9 Cup.  K9 Cup is an agility event hosted by ADSC, very much like an agility trial except designed for dogs getting ready to compete in agility.  This is probably my eight time but I haven't been in a number of years and I had forgotten what a good time it was.

It was wonderful seeing all these dogs with their owners trying out something that for a lot of them was the first time.  It is great to know that a lot of these people bought a dog did the usual obedience training and then thought it would be fun to try some agility.  A couple of years later here they are competing off leash.  The dogs are so happy that mom or dad took an hour a week to train and spend time with them.  It made their lives much happier and therefore much better behaved.

Sometimes I watch people with their dogs and I am sad when I realize how little time and training could make everyone's lives so much better.  Training your dog in agility may not seem that it will teach your dog how to be better behaved but that hour a week starts to create that relationship and bond that is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Privilege of Dog Ownership

Today you get to hear me rant.  There is nothing that gets me more upset than a dog owner who is so disrespectful of those around them that they give a bad name to dogs anywhere.  I feel every dog owner should be responsible for their dogs actions and never allow the dog to behave in such a way that it gives a bad name to dogs.

Yesterday my mother-in-law went for her daily bike ride and got a pretty serious bite on the leg.  There is no excuse for that to ever happen.  This was an adult dog, I have a very hard time believing that this dog has not displayed any aggressive or chase behaviour before.  It was therefore very irresponsible for the owner to allow it to be loose.  How could someone be so irresponsible to put someone else at risk of serious injury  I don't understand.

A few days ago a dog was left to die in a parked car while the owners went shopping.  Did the people not think that maybe the car would get too hot.  These people where on their way home from Woofstock a big dog event in Toronto, maybe thinking that they were caring dog owners is incorrect.  From what I understand people saw the dog, then security was called, then the police where called and then the fire department came.  How long did this take?  Did people actually watch the dog die?  Why didn't someone immediately break the window?

There is no surprise when events like this happen on a regular basis that there is a large part of the population that wants nothing to do with dogs.  They don't want them living on their street, or playing near their children, or at public events.  A few dog owners give dogs a bad name and ruin it for the rest of us.  I personally was in a building in a line up with two of my dogs sitting quietly next to me, the little girl in front of us turned and started talking to the dogs, the lady behind the desk started screaming at all of us and freaked the little girl out.  What horrible experience has this women had that left her that fearful of dogs.

As dog owners it is our responsibility to protect our dogs and people we expose our dogs to.  To train our dogs so when people meet them the get a better impression of dogs not worse.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Perfect Dog

There is nothing like a new puppy.  They have their own special smell that you just can’t get enough of.  They are perfect and innocent.  The dreams of the perfect puppy and the perfect dog that they will grow make you smile.  You have just spent a pile of money getting the perfect leash and collar, dog beds, toys, food, crate, etc.  Hopefully the training of the puppy is also a priority.

Iggy at 6 weeks
The easiest situation to train a dog is when there is no competing behaviour to deal with.  Your puppy comes home with no habits good or bad and it is your job to mold this puppy into the dog you are picturing in your head.  Yes there are the lucky few who don’t really do a lot of training and end up with the perfect dog but they are not the norm.

If you spend the time during the first six months to a year of the puppy’s life with you, training, you will then get to spend the rest of your dog’s life with a dog who you enjoy living with and makes life less stressful, not more.  This does not require harshness, or being the boss, it just requires consistency and a clear picture in your head of what that perfect dog is to you.

When working with some of my clients I regularly hear in sheepish tone “my dog does this ______” insert sleep on the bed, get on the couch, eat human food, etc.  I always answer with a smile, “That is great”.  The perfect dog for you is not the one that behaves the way your neighbour or the book says it should behave; the perfect dog is the one that does what you want.  As long as you want him on the bed or couch than that is fine.  There is nothing more rewarding for the owner than sitting on the couch cuddling your dog.

This being said, every behaviour you allow will have consequences.  You have to be aware of what these consequences are and are you willing to live with them.  For example; if you just got a puppy that could grow to around 100lbs and you are allowing him to jump on your you kids, that will probably be a behaviour you regret allowing, when your dog reaches full weight in a few months’ time.  On the other hand you have a 10lb dog who jumps you might decide that isn’t worth the effort to try and change since most people who greet little dogs regularly pet the dog for jumping on them because they don't want to bend that far.

Enjoy your puppy and train it to be the best dog you have ever had.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Welcome to my first Shake-A-Paw Dog Training Blog.
I am very excited to see where this will lead us.  
Please feel free to ask questions.  I will do my best to answer all of them but please remember all questions will be answered in general since I cannot comment on a dog I have not met.
I always like to start my classes with the question “What is your favorite thing about your dog?”
I will tell you mine
Iggy - 2 year old Border Collie
My favorite thing about Iggy is he loves everyone, never met a dog or person that he couldn’t love.
Splash - 9 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever
My favorite thing about Splash is her drive.  I love watching a dog do what they were bred to do and Splash will retrieve until her feet fall off.
Max - 11 year old Siberian Husky
My favorite thing about Max is the talking.  He can discuss anything with me and the more excited he gets the louder he gets.

Let me know what your favorite thing about your dog is.