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 Backwards

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

This week, we are going to teach your dogs to crawl BACKWARDS!  We’ll do this by combining our “down” skill with our “back up” trick.  If you missed the backup trick tutorial, you can view it here: http://youtu.be/tCJNt2maTto?list=UU5QwYlOxcT1higtcJVGzCCg

Method: Capturing
Skill Level: Advanced
What you’ll need: Food, dog, conditioned reinforcer, previously taught trick (back up)

Happy training!!!

Training From the Dog’s Perspective

Have you ever wondered what things look like from your dog’s perspective?  We took an opportunity to “be the dog” with Ken and Rad, and the use of a “Go-Pro” camera.  I think it’s safe to say that Rad was having a great time working through the Grade 1, Lesson #1 demo with proud-Papa, Ken!  Watch them train Look at Me, Walking on Lead, Coming When Called and Emotional Control exercises:

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: Chin Target

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

This week’s trick will help your dog win the hearts of everyone around them with its adorable nature!  Our tutorial will help you teach your dog to target their chin to an object or your hand.

We are going to use our chin command as a jumping off point for another trick in coming weeks.

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

Happy training!!!

Taking the Fear out of Nail Trimming

“Oh my word, NO!!!!”  That was her response when I asked her if she wanted to practice nail trimming with her Head Start puppy.  Clearly she was terrified of the process.  I asked her why.   “My last dog used to fight so hard, we had to muzzle him and eventually had to resort to anaesthetizing him to get his nails trimmed.  It was awful!”

We hear these and other similar stories all of the time in classes and we consider it all the more reason to work hard with your puppy to get them used to nail trimming.  With a little bit of knowledge and practice, nail trimming can be a simple part of grooming.  Remember that even if you don’t want to trim nails yourself, your dog will have to be part of the process and it’s essential that they are comfortable with it.

For a healthy foot, nails should be trimmed short on a regular basis.  Care should be taken to avoid trimming too close and nipping into the nail’s blood vessel (the “quick”).  Also be aware that some dogs have dewclaws that will need trimming.  If present, they will be on the insides of the lower leg (possibly front and back), though often, breeders will remove these at a few days old.

Whether you are starting with a young puppy or an older dog, a little practice, paired with some well-timed rewards, will help you and your dog overcome any stress about nail trimming.

With that in mind, we’ve prepared this video to help you teach your dogs how to be comfortable with nail trimming!

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

Safe Travels with your Dog

dog-barriersWe’ve all seen dogs traveling in unsafe manners, flinging themselves wildly about the back seat, resting on the drivers lap, heads way out the window or loose in the bed of a pick-up truck.  What are some of the downfalls of loose dogs?

  • Loose dogs in the car who don’t remain in place can be a dangerous distraction causing accidents
  • Drivers can be charged under Distracted Driving laws
  • Loose dogs become a flying missile in the event of a collision or hard braking situation
  • Dogs with their heads out the window or in the open bed of a pick-up are left open to injury caused by flying debris
  • Dogs with full access to windows or in truck beds may get loose while the vehicle is moving or stopped.

So what are the safest ways for our pets to travel? Using an impact tested dog crate, approved for air travel by the IATA (International Air Transport Association) is the best way to ensure safety for both them and the people in the vehicle.  Properly secured to the vehicle, your pet will be more securely protected in the event of a crash.  They will also be kept in place and will not become a dangerous projectile.  Most dogs learn to ride calmly and quietly in a crate, which ensures they are not a distraction to the driver.

Another option in an SUV or Minivan is a car barrier.  Properly installed, it will keep your pet secure in the cargo area of a vehicle.  If you have a very large dog, a barrier may provide a better option for his containment.

If you cannot afford the space a crate or barrier requires, consider a harness restraint system.  Most car harnesses buckle into your vehicle’s existing seatbelt system and keep the pet in place in the event of a crash.  They also keep your dog from roaming far from his allocated seat.

The downside to car harnesses is that they do allow your pet some motion and an untrained dog can get tangled easily.  If you are going to go the harness route, make sure you take some time to train your dog to be mostly still and calm when riding so they don’t become a distraction.

Whatever you choose to keep your pet safe, drive carefully and enjoy your travels!