A dog is not an accessory!

shellbe and pipi

A dog is not an accessory, piece of furniture or another object.
If you work full time and have a busy life style think again.
Yes you can use day care and yes there are great dog walkers.
However, during the first months a puppy or a rescue dog will require a lot of time and commitment.
I have seen a few shell shocked clients lately. They tell me that it is like having another baby. Yes it is and no it will not get better anytime soon. The first few years are really important and will take a lot of your time.
You really should make sure you are up to it and can provide your new family member with the time, training and socialisation they need to develop into a well adjusted canine citizen.
But if you can – happy days!

A few people got really upset when I posted this on facebook and questioned my duty of care. Because in their opinion everyone should be able and allowed to have a puppy. This is not the case. If you do not have time, don’t do it.

I also told them that my duty of care was with the dogs and puppies and not the people who buy them like a care or a piece of furniture.

Your dog is training you.

Your dog is training you!

I hear that a lot. Mainly at competitions when I do not just lock Shellbe up in her crate (she prefers to hang out with me) but spend most of the time with her. Or if I walk them and I let them sniff, or they come up for a cuddle and I pat them.
Guess what. I could not care less. In a successful relationship it goes both ways.
I do train them and we are doing well, they train me, I am doing pretty well, too.
We have to stop thinking that they want to take over the household or the world and finally call it quits with this old fashioned approach of dominance and pack leadership.
And remember, most important things in life are free.
both cute

But punishment works in dog training!

But punishment works. Of course it does and I know that. Punishment is designed to suppress behaviour.
However in my training I do not just want to suppress a behaviour, I want to establish a new more appropriate behaviour.
If your dog barks or jumps up and you scream ‘no’, your dog might stop barking or jumping. Without being to technical, this depends on whether your dog perceives the ‘no’ as aversive or not.
If it is aversive then he will stop. If he thinks his name is ‘no’ and this is a great game because you are both barking now, he will not stop.
Depending on your dog the screaming can have severe side effects like fear, anxiety, panic, distrust and more. Your dog also might generalize to unrelated stimuli present, this could be your children, a friend, a noise, pretty much anything and the dog then might be scared of children, friend, noise or other things present.
Punishment also creates a void as you have not taught something more appropriate.
It might take a bit longer but it is much better to teach a new appropriate behaviour, like ‘go to your mat’ first and out of the problematic context, then manage the environment to set you dog up for success and if YOU fail, use interrupt (gently with the dog’s name) – redirect (go to your mat) – reward with a treat, chew, praise, pat.
It is not rocket science but try it and stop yelling no and ah ah!

How to choose a good puppy pre school

How to choose a good puppy class:

  • The instructors should be qualified and use best practice methods, which means positive reinforcement and not punishment. Professional Members of the Delta Institute (https://deltainstitute.edu.au) or The Pet Professional Guild Australia (http://ppgaustralia.net.au/) are a good starting point. Trainers who call themselves balanced use positive reinforcement as well as punishment based methods. This is not best practice.
  • The class should provide a safe and stress free place to meet new and different people including children and men. ’Pass the puppy’ is not an appropriate way of introducing strangers.
  • It should provide opportunities to socialize with a range of stimuli the puppy is going to have to deal with in life.
  • Recommended class size by Delta is 6 puppies maximum with two instructors.
  • There has to be off leash interaction in class but controlled and strictly supervised, only two puppies at any one time.
  • The class teaches basic manners, at least name recognition, attention, sit, lie down, come when called, exchange toys and food and a few tricks.
  • Puppies are not forced into interaction or specific behaviour but can learn in their own time.
  • The instructors provide alternatives for ‘normal’ but not appropriate behaviours such as mouthing and chewing, house training, chasing the children, digging and general exuberance. Yelling ‘no’ at the puppy will not solve the problem.

bulldogs2And most of all the whole family, including children, should be allowed in puppy classes; it should be a family affair because training the puppy should be shared and it has to be fun!


House training for your puppy

My puppy is house trained, she just has the occasional accident.
If that ‘occasional accident’ is once a year, I would agree. If it is once a month I do not.
A house trained dog should have no accidents unless they are unwell, have been locked up for too long, are having a stressful time or something else unusual is happening in their life.
If you are still having accidents you need to go back to basics. The puppy has to go out after a sleep, after a play, about 15 to 20 minutes after they have eaten and every hour in between.
You also have to stay out there with them until they have done their business. Otherwise you do not really know if they are ’empty’.
It is a good idea to take them to the same place. You need to reward, not with ‘good dog’, but with a treat! You have to clean up the poo, dogs do not like to go to the toilet where there are feces. They will go back where they smell the urine.
If you clean up in the house, do not use ammonia based cleaners, use Urine off or similar.
For more info contact me via the contact pagesuoperman spotty and I can send you a handout.

But my old dog never did this.

My old dog was never that active! My old dog learnt this much quicker.
I feel for the puppies that have to follow an old dog.
I think we tend to forget and we are often more than 10 years older than when we had the last puppy.
Puppies have not changed much, they nip, they chase, they wee in the house, they don’t sleep at night, they want to be with you all the time.
When they are teenagers, they will not come when called, they seem to have forgotten basic cues, they regress in house training, they become a bit stroppy at the dog park.
And then they turn into well adjusted adult dogs!
No, the puppies do not change, it is us who forget!sleeping

Does your dog really need to heel?

Does your dog really need to ‘heel’?
Only if you do competitive obedience otherwise a different skill set might be handier.
In our classes we do teach ‘heel’ but only because it then makes it easier to teach both the dog and the owner to walk on a loose leash.
If you want to know exactly keep on reading.
Loose leash walking – It is a difficult concept.

Imagine, two different species, one two legged, one four legged, one sniffs, one watches and they are trying to walk down the street at the same pace.

The dogs do not get it and most owners don’t get it either.

Before you start you will need a few things: a flat collar, a front clip harness, treats, patience and a bit of spare time. It does not matter on which side your dog walks, I would actually teach both sides.

We will teach the heel position first as the dog will not understand the concept of a loose leash.

To get going:
• Teach the heel position first, teach it on both sides.
• Put the leash in your right hand, the dog is on your left side, the leash connects to the dog with a slack in front of you, a handful of treats in your left hand. And change for the other side.
• You are making the position on your left knee a high reward zone.
• Get attention, ask for a sit, step off and lure the dog into the correct position (head on your left knee). As soon as the dog is in the correct position, say yes or click and reward.
• Repeat and gradually increase your criterion, reward after two steps, three steps, seven, ten etc
• Do short sessions on your walks.
• Do short sessions without lead in the backyard or in a fenced area.
• If your dog pulls, stop, ask her to come back to the correct position, do a few steps and reward.

Once you start teaching heel you cannot change the goal posts on your dog. This means if you cannot insist on a loose leash but still have to walk the dog you need to change something in the set up. Otherwise you are confusing the dog. I recommend using a flat collar if you train heel/walking on a loose leash but use a front clip harness if you are not training and accept a bit of pulling or lagging.

Once your dog gets the heel position; gradually start relaxing criterion and let your dog walk a bit ahead, behind etc as long as there is not tension on the leash. If the dog pulls, stop, ask him to come back into the heel position, and reward after a couple of steps in the right position.

The most common problems are:
• Too low reinforcement rate, in the beginning you have to reward every step. Loose leash walking is boring and difficult for both of you!
• But then you have to up criterion very quickly.
• Walking straight lines. If you walk a straight line the dog is very likely to surge ahead. Try walking curves or figures of eight.
• Session is too long, keep it short and sweet.
• Reward for coming back into the correct position. If your dog pulls and you ask him to come back into the position and then reward, you will get a yo-yo action. Dog pulls, dog comes back because you are rewarding the coming back rather than the correct position. You have to get the dog to walk for a couple of steps in the right position before your reward.
• Walking on a tight leash. If you hold the leash tight, the dog thinks that is what you want. You need a loose leash.
• Relaxing criterion too early – the dog has to understand the heel position as a high reward zone first.
And by the way, do you know why we walk the dogs traditionally on the left? It is a left over from the military training: Holding the gun in the right hand so the dog has to walk on the left.

Have fun and a little bit of patience!

Thunderstorm phobias in dogs

I have talked to a lot of dog owners this week about fear of thunderstorms or even worse thunderstorm phobias.
This is an extremely distressing situation for the dog and the owner.
As with most cases, prevention is better than cure. If you have a dog or puppy who is not scared of thunder, storms or noises, keep it that way. Use the Sound Proof Puppy App to get them used to all these noises and play/feed/interact with them when storms approach so the have a positive association with the potential trigger.
If you have a dog that is already scared but can cope, start a counter conditioning process during the off season and again make the storms a happy occasion.
If your dog is more worried you could try a Thundershirt, ADAPTIL, give them access to a safe place and start counter conditioning.
If it is really bad you might want to consult a veterinary behaviourist for medication.
This is Zorbas in his thundershirts.thundershirt

Tired dog happy owner

Tired dog happy owner.
I see a lot of pictures of destroyed yards, couches, dog beds… you name it.
Most dog owners underestimate the amount of mental and physical stimulation dogs need so they can be calm when left at home.
In most cases a walk around the block will not be enough.
I recommend two walks a day of at least 30 to 40 minutes, one should include some off leash time to run and run and run some more. I also recommend doing a bit of training on the walk, loose leash walking, sit, attention.
Two to three short training sessions at home for some trick training and to be on the safe side, feeding some of their meals out of food dispensing toys.
zorbas tiredshellbe tired

Going past other dogs nicely

One of the essential skills we teach in our teenage and rescue training classes is to walk past other dogs calmly. Either in a coffee shop or on the footpath.
When I took the dogs for a walk this morning we met three other dogs: One was barking, one was lunging and barking and one was ‘just’ straining on the leash to get to mine.
I do not recommend on leash greetings and I ask my dogs to come into a heel position and walk past or when the other dog really goes off, we move further away, they look at me and wait. I obviously reward them for being calm.
The interesting part for me was the lunging and barking dog. Zorbas just ignored him completely but Shellbe was going close to threshold.
This shows I have not trained her enough so she is completely confident in these situations and can ignore it. On the other hand it shows that years of training and counter conditioning with Zorbas are paying off big time.
There were two other situations recently when we were walking and off leash dogs ran up to us. He either greeted them appropriately or when he got stressed look at me for instructions.