Monday, March 25, 2013

Doggie Manners - What is acceptable?

When I bought my first dog I had a very clear picture in my head of how I wanted my dog to behave.  Probably the biggest criteria I had set for this dog was no jumping and not on the furniture.  From the day Yukon came home he was rewarded for jumping up and immediately taken off the furniture.  It worked, as an adult dog he didn't jump and didn't get on the furniture until later in his life with  a lot of convincing.

My last dog was allowed to jump on anyone and everyone and sleeps on the bed or couch all the time.

Neither of these dogs are badly behaved they are just products of what I have allowed.  My life is not the same as it was 20 years ago when Yukon came into the picture.  Now my life is all about dogs and most of the people that come into my house are the type of people that not only allow the jumping but enjoy and encourage it.

The problem is when you want dog A some of the time but some of the time you allow dog B.  Your dog doesn't understand that he is allowed to jump on your friend coming over but when your mother-in-law walks in he should remain calm and never allow his feet to leave the ground.  He doesn't understand that it is perfectly OK to sit on someones lap when they are sitting on the couch and put his tongue in their ear sometime but not when it is the mortgage broker or insurance salesman.

Whenever I am in the situation that I want dog A, I think maybe I will work on this with the next dog or even retrain dog B (much harder to do than if done right at the beginning) to control himself with company.  Then I have someone come over who so appreciates and enjoys the tongue in the ear and I think no he is fine the way he is.

My solution for now is management.  I don't want to correct a dog for behaviour I have allowed on a regular basis.  Instead I can keep them on leash or put them behind a gate or in a crate.  This prevents the behaviour when it isn't acceptable and still allows them to love up the company when it is.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I was at a non dog seminar this weekend.  People there knew I was a dog trainer and I did talk about dogs with a number of people.  This was a seminar about using energy work when working with people.  Most of the people were therapists, hypnotherapists, homeopaths, etc.  I would consider these people to be very big on not looking to blame, finding solutions to help people and working   with people to improve themselves.

I was shocked to listen in on a conversation and here one lady speaking about a dog she had and how she had to show her who was in charge and that she ran the house.  This woman was lovely and I am sure a supportive and helpful therapist and it saddened me that this hadn't transferred to how she dealt with her dog and was falling back on the antiquated dominance theory.  She didn't feel that training was the answer but showing her dog who was boss.  I was sad for her and her dog.

I want a relationship with my dog that is based on trust and understanding.  No that does not mean my dog should do what he wants when he wants.  This means the dog has been trained to find value in the appropriate behaviour and accept when I let him know in a kind manner that some behaviours are not acceptable. I do  not want this relationship based on fear and intimidation.

It always surprises me when this gets brought up to me by my clients.  I have to bite my tongue and remember that for whatever reason this person believes that there dog could dominate them and for their own safety they want to learn how to prevent this from happening.  The answer is training.  You have a behaviour, it has value for the dog.  You want a behaviour and your job is how to build value for what you want and prevent what the dog wants from being practiced and therefore acquiring more value.  When you take out all emotion and just look at the facts it makes life so much easier.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Is He Ignoring You On Purpose

I was talking to a friend of mine today and she mentioned how her dog had done a lot of sniffing at the agility trial this weekend while they were running courses.  I see this a lot, not just in agility but also in dogs on leash in class or outdoors.

My first comment to my friend was that she had not built enough value for agility.  She completely agreed that this was the case and then the question becomes how to fix it?

When you give your dog a cue, for example sit, and your dog starts looking around or sniffing that should tell you that you are putting too much pressure on the dog.  This means that you are asking the dog for something he is not capable of doing right now.  Could be he knows how to sit but can't do it with the distractions that are around or your cue was not as salient as you thought it was.  The worse part is if you keep putting your dog in this situation he will eventually find stuff that actually is distracting and know becomes even harder to train.

We are quick to blame the dog; he loves to sniff, he gets very distracted, he never pays attention.  If you have done a good job of building value for the behaviour and building a relationship with your dog you will be utterly amazed at what your dog can ignore.

You need to be regularly testing your dogs understanding of a cue regardless of the distractions going on around him.  Here are some suggestions on what you can work on

  • can your dog come to you away from his food bowl when you put it on the floor
  • can your dog sit after you throw his toy
  • can your dog sit when he sees another dog
  • can your dog come if there is a squirrel in the tree
If you are trying these ideas make sure you are not depending on the leash to get the behaviour.  Try if it doesn't work move further away from the distraction.  Keep moving away until it works than have a party and reward your dog.

Have fun with this, let me know what great distractions your dog can preform through.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Our life is controlled by our expectations.  If your expectations are too high and not realistic you are in a constant state of disappointment.  If your expectations are to low diminish the potential of those around you.
“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” ― Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar
This is also true of our relationships with our dogs.  We all have things we would like our dogs to do.  These aren't really expectations more like dreams because we don't really thinks our dogs are capable of the thing.  What if I told you they are possible.  You are a totally competent dog trainer and your dog is a great dog and together you can create almost any behaviour if you have a well thought out plan and your are consistent.

In the past few years I have observed that our expectations are probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks with limiting possibilities with dog training and with life.  I am constantly amazed at what can be accomplished if you put expectations and feelings aside and just make a plan and stick to it.  The changes I have created in my dogs and my clients' dogs are amazing.

The most recent one is with my 12 year old Siberian Husky, Max.  Like most Siberians, Max loves to run not necessarily with me around.  Even though we have done a lot of off leash experiences such as agility and search and rescue classes I was never content with his off leash behaviour when I did not keep him focused.  He would come back but you might not see him for 15 minutes at a time.  Therefore he only got a run once in a while when I was relatively confident he would be safe.  In the past year I have been walking him on a flexi when I take Iggy for a run.  Max is going deaf and is getting old and I just wasn't comfortable letting him off leash anymore.  While he was on the flexi I did piles of recalls and I rewarded him as soon as we got back to the yard since I do this with Iggy because I wanted him to always beat me back in to the yard.  Over the last few months I have started to take the leash of Max.  At first it was only about 10 feet from the gate but we have slowly worked up to about 500 feet.  While he is running I can recall him and if he gets too far ahead he will stop an wait for me.  this doesn't sound like a big deal but this was a dog who when let off leash without direction he would just run.  Really goes to show that building the value for the appropriate response does work.