Welcome to my journey! This blog is about my adventures in dog training, pet therapy work, rescue work and life with my menagerie of animals. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

We Don’t Always Have To Like Everyone

Sometimes in life there are people that just get under your skin, push your buttons and plain old make you mad. We try our best to avoid these people, and when we can’t we try really hard to keep our cool and diffuse any tension, we avert eye contact, try to ignore their goading and bite our tongue (really hard sometimes) but often it just becomes too much and you want to yell “SHUT UP”. Well, canines are no different. They have personalities that run the gamut from goofy to serious to crabby to shy and everything in between, so suffice it to say there are dogs that know how to push other dogs buttons!

So what do you do when you have a friend that has a dog that just pushes your dog over the edge? I have two clients in just such a situation. When I observe these two puppies (that came from the same breeder, different litters, at the same time) I can see such vast differences in their personality that I am 99% sure most of it is their nature. That is not to say that positive and consistent dog training can’t make them tolerate and even learn better communication, in fact I believe it can, that is where the nurture comes in. I do think however that their interactions will likely always need to be monitored and supervised to avoid the squabbles they seem to regularly and easily get into. One is the antagonizer and the other is the reactor, however once it escalates neither one wants to be the one to back down.

So what kind of dog training would be beneficial for these pups? In my opinion the first thing they need is a great amount of self-control. They need to learn to relax and have more relaxed interactions. I have been instructing both owners to work on calming sits; basically mandatory relaxation and body handling. It helps settle and ground the puppy when they just lose their marbles. The next will be rewarding
self-interruption behaviors as well as calm interaction behaviors. The owners will also have to increase mental and physical stimulation as well! These are high energy dogs with quick triggers, this process will be slow and on-going but they are both super smart and pick things up easily, they’ll get it.

So just remember your wicked good dog doesn’t always have to like every dog and you should be understanding and willing to give him the tools he needs to deal with those pesky antagonizers, as well as help him make a clean get away when it’s needed!

Monday, February 18, 2013

It’s puppy season…Do you have what it takes??

In my years of training dogs and working in animal shelters I have heard countless (and I seriously mean countless) times the excuse of “we just don’t have the time he needs…”. It is a sad fact of life that people go about bringing a puppy into their family in a completely backwards fashion. It is usually all based on looks, bravado, fluffiness or a false sense of their own life reality. I have seen it time and time again, someone gets a high energy puppy with the thought “Oh THIS will make me get in shape” or “I want to do agility with him” (when they’ve never even stepped into a training class) Or they get a guardian breed dog and never socialize him and wonder why he growls and tries to bite strangers. Now, that is not to say that these scenarios can’t work and create some fantastic relationships and impart much wisdom and humility on people, unfortunately though that is the exception and not the rule.

The first thing (and I mean even before you start looking at dogs) you should do is write down your families schedule for one week, including impromptu visits from friends, trips to the store, library, school functions, etc. and then sit down at the end of the week and take a look at it. Is there time for a puppy in there? If someone is not home most of the day, (an 8-12 week old puppy shouldn’t be only for more than 3-4 hours max.), do you have the means to hire someone to come and exercise and let your puppy out to potty? Asking friends is great but someone you pay is often more reliable. Is your home easily set up to be puppy proofed? Gated off rooms, no small toys lying around, shoes and laundry off the floor, trash inaccessible, etc. A puppy needs plentiful and positive socialization and play time; do you have time to take your puppy in the car multiple times a day and expose him to lots of people and places and take him for walks in new neighborhoods? Are you able to supervise your puppy 100% of the time, especially during the potty training phase? Puppies need to potty at least every hour and almost immediately after they wake from a nap, play or eat/drink. Are you prepared to take your pup to proper training every week at least through his first two years of life? Yes, that’s right AT LEAST two years! One puppy class isn’t going to cut it. By the time the pup is between 6-9 months they hit adolescence and all training goes out the window, you wonder what alien has taken over your previously sweet and well behaved puppy! It happens again around 18months!

Am I making it sound like having a puppy is hard? You bet your life it is! It is constant work and supervision and mistakes and being on the ball! You have taken responsibility for another living being and that should never be taken lightly. Having a puppy in the home is like having an infant...do you have time for that? If you can answer all of my questions in the affirmative and you have done your research and talked with your family and figured out schedules and training classes and puppy proofed your home than I encourage you to go find the puppy of your dreams. Having a dog in your family is a great joy, just remember it is also a big responsibility and not something easily taken back once taken on.