Trick Tuesday: Shaping Introduction

Welcome back to Trick Tuesday!  Every Tuesday, another trick tutorial.

This week, we are going to start the process of shaping by teaching our dogs how to get into a box.  The traditional definition of “shaping” is asking our dogs to offer successive approximations on a skill or behaviour.  Shaping is so much fun and can be used to teach limitless skills.

What we are doing is asking our dogs to offer or “shape” a behaviour.  Essentially, we are teaching them to think and problem solve.  To start shaping, you’ll need an easy behaviour, like getting into a large box.  Initially, click any step, motion or even just slight attention towards the box.  Then, wait for a little further commitment each time until you’ve reached your desired behaviour.

We’ll be using shaping to build many more behaviours in future Trick Tuesday videos!  You won’t want to miss it.

Method: Shaping
Skill Level: Advanced
What you’ll need: Food, dog, conditioned reinforcer (clicker), box

Happy training!!!


4 Dog Training Resolutions To Keep for 2015

new-years-dogA New Year is upon us and with that comes the tradition of the Resolution!  I will lose 10 pounds.  I will clean my house more often.  I will remember to tell my loved ones how important they are to me…  We wanted to include our dog training.  Thinking about the most important things we could, we came up with a list of 4 resolutions that will make the time and dedication you give to your dogs a success.

1 – I will Listen to My Dog – If you remember our post on The Yellow Dog Project, then you’ll remember how important it is to listen to what your dog is telling you.  Keep an open mind and an open ear when it comes to your dog’s needs and making them a wonderful, easy to manage companion will be a piece of cake.

2 – I Will React Fairly – All too often, as humans, we let our emotions dictate our reactions.  The unfair part of this is that it doesn’t help the dog and often hurts your relationship.  When things aren’t going as you’d like, it’s important to take a deep breath and think about how you are going to proceed.  Reacting with frustration or anger will do nothing to help your dog learn.

3 – I Will Adjust – Being fluid in your training is important.  Dogs are all different.  Just because a method worked well with a previous dog, that doesn’t mean it will work with the one you are currently training.  Be open to trying new methods and new ideas until you hit on the one that works for the dog you are training.

4 –  I Will Not Give Up – When things aren’t coming together as you’d like, try, try again!  Keep working until your dog gets the idea.  Be persistent, kind and fair and help your dog understand what you are looking for.  You won’t regret putting in the extra effort when things come together.

As you work through your New Years Resolutions, remember that your dog will give you honest feedback on how well you are keeping them.  Take that information to heart and let it be your guide as you build and learn about your beloved companion.  They will definitely return the favour!

4 Easy Steps to House Training Success

cute-wallpapers-wallpaper-animals-wallpapers-puppy-sleeping-cute-puppies-wallpaper-41287Housetraining can be a daunting task if you don’t go about it right.  With proper supervision and timely responses, any owner can have a fully housetrained puppy in no time.

1 – SUPERVISE – this really is the key.  The most crucial step in the process.  If you aren’t watching and the dog has an accident in the house, it’s a lost training opportunity.  Don’t think that disciplining after the fact will help.  It never will.  It’s crucial that you actively supervise your puppy so that any accidents can be caught as they occur and proper feedback can be given.  This may include a soft scold followed by bringing the puppy outside.  No harsh corrections are needed or warranted.  If you cannot supervise, use an appropriate crate.

2 – SCHEDULE – initially, this is very important.  Learn about your puppy and their bathroom habits.  Keeping a journal can be very helpful.  Most puppies will need to pee after sleeping, eating and playing.  Make sure you take them outside after these activities.  Use your leash to direct them where you want them to eliminate and praise them when they go.

3 – FEEDBACK – be sure that you are able to praise your puppy when they go outside and scold them when they go inside.  Any missed accidents are wasted opportunities and possible rehearsals of the wrong behaviour.  This will work against you.

4 – RESPONSIBILITY – once your puppy understands that they should eliminate outside, it’s time to put the onus of responsibility on them to ask to go there.  Decide how you’d like to have your dog notify you that they need to go out and set it up.  For example, you may want your pup to come to you, sit and stare.  When you need to take your puppy out, start with them at that door, ask them to sit and look at you and as their reward, open the door to allow them out.  As the scenario progresses, move further from the door.  Initially, just a step or two, then progress to another room.  Ask the puppy to sit and look at you, when they do, reward them by moving to the door and allowing them out.

With some diligence and information, any puppy can be well housetrained in no time!

Happy training!!!

Christmas with Canines: Eliminate the Dangers!

11480754_sChristmas should be a magical time for all.  Don’t ruin your holiday with a trip to the Emergency Vet – be aware of a few Christmas dangers and keep everyone in your family safe this holiday season.

Things to be aware of:

  • Tinsel: Tinsel can be a tempting treat for dogs.  It’s shiny and fun to shred.  Swallowing pieces of tinsel can result in a bowel obstruction.  Even a well trained, older dog may take interest in something novel like tinsel, so try to block access to the tree when you can’t supervise.
  • Glass or plastic ornaments:  Some dogs, who like to crunch and destroy, may be temped by ornaments.  Keeping dogs away from temptations such as these when you can’t intervene is a good way to keep them safe.
  • Wrapped presents: If you’ve ever given your dog a wrapped gift to open, you’ll know that they are very good at quickly getting into them!  Remembering that their sense of smell is far greater than ours, there is a good chance that they can identify items high in scent and perfume even through shrink wrapping and containers.  Wrapped gifts of chocolate, soap, alcohol and other foods can be deadly if dogs sniff them out and get into them.
  • Christmas Trees, Holly, Mistletoe, Poinsettia:  All of these can be mildly to severely toxic depending on how much is ingested.
  • Food:  Dogs love to eat!  If there are nuts, trays of cheese, fruit baskets, cakes, etc. left on the table and your dog is unsure of the rules, they may help themselves.  There are plenty of foods around on the holidays that may cause digestive upset or worse dangers for your dog.  Be aware of the household garbage as well.  Be sure your dog isn’t getting into turkey or chicken bones.  They can splinter and be lethal.

To ensure an enjoyable holiday for you and your canine, take care to supervise closely!  Even a reliably trained dog can fall to temptation when the right ones are presented.  Include them in the festivities so they can be part of the action, but have a place to tuck them away safely, like a crate or room, when the festivities become too busy to properly attend to the dog.

Trick Tuesday: Teach your dog to run backwards through your legs

Welcome back to Trick Tuesday!  Every Tuesday, another trick tutorial.

This week, we are going to teach your dogs to run backwards between our legs. We’ll do this by combining our “spin” trick with our “back up” trick.  If you missed the backup trick tutorial, you can view it here:

If you missed the spin trick tutorial, you can view it here:

Method: Luring
Skill Level: Advanced
What you’ll need: Food, dog, conditioned reinforcer, previously taught tricks (back up & spin)

Happy training!!!

What a Beggar!!! 4 Quick steps to Stop Begging at the Dinner Table

Dog-Begging-for-FoodPeople often say that they don’t want to use “human food” to train as they don’t want their dogs to learn to beg at the dinner table. In reality, this rationalization is very far from the true reason dogs learn to beg while you eat. In actuality, you can feed your dog kibble from the table and they will learn to beg just as quickly as if they get human scraps.

As a dog owner, burn this phrase into your brain: DOGS DO WHAT’S REINFORCING! If you never learn anything else of importance about how dogs think, learn this!!! Dogs will repeat behaviours that earn them reinforcement. The only tricky part is figuring our what that particular dog finds rewarding. Most dogs love food and often dogs love petting, praise and play. That’s just basic insight into canine nature.

So how does knowing this help us teach our dogs not to be pests at the dinner table? Simple! Decide what you would prefer your dogs do and reward them for that. For example, you might prefer your dogs spend family meals tucked on their bed in the corner. Get ready with your training plan!

1 – Without the distraction of dinner, teach your dog to go to their bed and lie down with some tasty treats as reinforcement.

2 – Use a variable reward schedule to build duration on the bed

3 – Once your dog is reliable without the family dinner going on, add it in. Be prepared to train through if your dog has trouble. Have a leash on to help direct him if he makes mistakes

4 – Increase the duration between your rewards until you are able to reward only at the end of the meal

One final tip is that you should NEVER feed them from the dinner table. This often takes some family training lessons – especially if there are kids in the house who don’t like their vegetables. Follow these steps and soon, your dog will realize it’s far more rewarding for them to lie on their beds than it is to beg from the side of the table.

Happy Training!

Trick Tuesday: Teach your dog to crawl

Welcome back to Trick Tuesday!  Every Tuesday, another trick tutorial.

This week, we are going to teach your dogs to crawl!  If you have trouble getting your dog to move to you without getting up, you may find that setting up a pole for them to crawl underneath aids in their understanding.

Method: Luring
Skill Level: Advanced
What you’ll need: Food, dog, conditioned reinforcer, pole (optional)

Happy training!!!

10 Things New Puppy Owners Should Know

Bad-puppy-850x636There is nothing in the world quite like a puppy – warm, fuzzy and snuggly and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything cuter!  But as the holidays approach, squash those thoughts about giving the gift of a puppy.  Often parents imagine the wonderment of a soft, fuzzy puppy under the tree – providing a Christmas morning that their children will never forget.  Fast forward a few days, weeks or months and the reality is a puppy can put a major strain on a household.  Puppies under the tree are NOT a good gift for anyone!  So that begs the question: Is your household ready for a puppy?  Here are 10 things you should know before adding a puppy to your household:

1.  Puppies are LOUD! – Puppies are usually noisy creatures.  Lots of barking, play-growling and even screaming.  If you have close neighbours, or live in an apartment, be prepared that there may be some noise issues to deal with, particularly during early crate training and their first experiences alone.

2.  Puppies make a Mess – They will have accidents in the house!  It’s all part of the learning process.  Be prepared to have to clean up some messes and possibly endure some carpet stains.

3.  Puppies wake you up – Get on your warm housecoat and winter boots and go and trudge around in the yard at 2 am.  See how it feels before committing to doing it for real, throughout the puppy’s initial few weeks.  It’s very rare to have a puppy sleep through the night right away.

4.  Puppies are Smart – So you’d better be too!  Puppies are always wondering, exploring and learning.  If you want to get on the right track, you’ll be busy managing and teaching them so that their intelligence works in your favour.

5 – OUCH!  Puppies Nip – Just as babies explore their worlds by putting things into their mouths, most puppies explore theirs by biting it!  This will include your hands, feet, arms, clothes and anything else that might grab their attention.  Running, screaming children are an open invitation for puppy to get excited and chase with the intention of latching on… and those little needle teeth HURT!  If not dealt with properly, the puppy will make this their new favourite game and it will quickly become a nightmare for the humans in the family.

6 – Puppies are Destructive – Puppies are notorious chewers.  Whether they are teething or just bored, they will try to chew anything and everything.  They can become destructive quickly and ruin a house.  We can’t recommend crate training strongly enough.  A puppy left unattended with access to the house will make short work of couches, baseboards, table legs, electrical cords…. you name it, they’ll chew it apart.

7 – Puppies Dig – Most puppies will explore their world with digging.  If they are left unsupervised in the yard, be prepared to deal with holes from their exploits.

8 – Puppies are a lot of Work – To avoid all of the above points becoming an issue, one must put in the work.  Puppies require time and effort.  Good management, supervision and training go a long way in curbing unwanted habits, or better yet, preventing them all together.  This means obedience school and hard work teaching them what you want.

9 – Puppies are Expensive – Costs for the first year of a puppy’s life will go well beyond the initial purchase price and usually include:  Vet visits (inoculations, preventative medicines and special treatments such as spay/neuter), food bills, obedience school, equipment (collars, leashes, crates, beds, toys).  Also, you may have to invest in groomers if you choose not to groom at home.  Often dog walkers are a necessity if the pup is to be alone for extended periods while you are at work.  Don’t forget to add pet sitters or boarding to your family vacation expenses if plans can’t include the puppy.

10 – Puppies Grow Up! – Our last point is our most important.  That tiny, fuzzy Saint Bernard puppy is going to grow into a 150 pound adult.  Are you prepared to deal with the adult version of the puppy you’ve chosen?  Everyone wants a Lassie – the dog who was born knowing not to pull, not to jump on guests, not to counter surf.  We all want that one-in-a-million puppy who is born knowing how to walk nicely, how to come when they are called, how to guard the house from evil-doers while giving a friendly tail wag to invited guests.  If you are lucky enough to get that, you truly have won the lottery.  For the rest of us, be prepared, because challenges don’t end when the pup is no longer considered a youngster.  They will go from the puppy stage into adolescence where they will challenge the status quo all over again.  Some pups aren’t considered adults until they are 3 – 4 years old.  Are you prepared to deal with puppy antics and adolescence for that long?  Good training and skills will help, but there will always be challenges to overcome.

Now, if you have made it this far, congratulations!  If you can face the reality of the negatives and still consider the benefits to outweigh them, get ready for a heck of a ride and a journey that is incomparable to most.  The properly raised and trained warm, sweet, loyal creature who will love you unconditionally, make you laugh on a daily basis and greet you everyday with a wiggly-bum, will add love and devotion to your life that non-dog owners could never understand.  With all of these points, we would be remiss not to point out that despite all of the negatives, there is nothing in the world that is quite as wonderful as puppy breath.

Trick Tuesday: Hand Stand

Welcome back to Trick Tuesday!  Every Tuesday, another trick tutorial.

This week’s trick is about balance and rear-end awareness.  We are going to teach our dogs to do a hand stand.  Before starting this trick, make sure your dog is physically fit and capable of putting pressure on their front end.

We are going to use our back-up command and a ramp to teach our dogs to balance on their front end only.

Method: Capturing
Skill Level: Advanced
What you’ll need: Food, dog, conditioned reinforcer, movable ramp

Happy training!!!

Stop!  Please keep away!  My dog needs space!!! How do Yellow Ribbons Help?

yellowdog_279x378Presented for your consideration: Donna & Skippy – Skippy is a happy young dog.  Boisterous and energetic, always up for a good time!  Innocently, Donna thinks he should socialize with all dogs – he is super friendly, after all.  Skippy always loves everyone he meets and just wants to play, play, play!  He walks his owner down the street and when he sees another dog, his whole body vibrates as he pulls and lunges to go for a visit.  Now enter Devon and Spike – Spike is insecure.  He approaches other dogs nervously: tail down, ears back, averting his gaze while trying to maintain a polite position at Devon’s side.  Devon recognizes that Spike doesn’t like to greet other dogs and does her best to keep them away, but she has found that all too often, people don’t acknowledge her requests for space.  As they approach each other, Devon says, “please give us space, my dog is nervous.”  Donna, thinking that Skippy is just a super-friendly guy, still allows him to pull into Spike’s space.  Spike reacts poorly with a growl, followed by a snarl, lunge and snap.  Skippy squeals, urinates and then cowers behind his clearly agitated owner.  Donna snaps at Devon, “he just wanted to say, ‘hi’.  Your dog is aggressive and should be muzzled.”

What’s your take on this scenario?  Who is responsible?  Who should take the blame for the altercation?  If you answered Spike, you need to read and re-read until you realize you’re way off.  Not all dogs are friendly – that’s just a fact of life.  Just as you probably wouldn’t appreciate a stranger jumping into your lap at the park, not all dogs want to be greeted by other dogs or people.  Perhaps  you have a reactive dog, or maybe your dog is frightened.  What if you have a dog in training and don’t want visitors interrupting the process?  Maybe you have a dog who’s been injured and can’t risk play.  All very good reasons for you and your dog to be given space.  Both Devon and Spike gave very clear information.  Devon verbally requested space, which Donna ignored.  Spike requested space through body language, which Skippy ignored.  Skippy has never learned to approach other dogs using good manners.  A crucial lesson to be taught to all young dogs is to wait for permission to say hello and if you aren’t given permission, leave the other dog alone.

Poor Spike!  Asking for space is often a hard message to convey, but it’s getting easier!  There has been a global movement in the dog training world.  Perhaps you’ve heard about it?  The Yellow Dog Project (TYDP), born in Red Deer, AB has been gaining momentum since 2012.  It’s a simple, but powerful idea: if you see a yellow ribbon tied to a dog’s collar or leash, don’t approach.  That dog has requested space and we need to give it to them.

What a great way to quickly request that other dogs/people be kept away from your dog!  As a bright colour, it’s clear and easy to see.  Please help us spread the word with TYDP.  If you have a dog who needs space, use a yellow ribbon.  Talk about the project to other dog owners and ask them to spread the word.  Follow TYDP on Facebook for up-to-date events and posters that you can print and use in your community.  Most importantly, if you see a yellow ribbon, give that dog their space and give their owner a smile to thank them for their efforts in helping their dog be happy and safe!884995_344692135632404_65083432_o

Happy Training!

Images courtesy of The Yellow Dog Project