Friday, February 27, 2009

It's People Training . . .

Dr. Ian Dunbar, founder of the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers). Two great videos. Of course I found myself laughing out loud because this is the true thoughts of a dog trainer!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ideas from the Doggie Parents--Newsletter Time!

Ok. I'd love to have some ideas/suggestions/comments on topics and items folks would like to see in my newsletter. I'm writing the newsletter this week and hoping it's all complete and ready to be sent out by March 1st. This is the first newsletter I've done since I had Sophie in November. I had already done a December newsletter before I had Sophie and just set it to be automatically sent at the first of December. So, that was the last newsletter. . .and well, frankly I'm feeling horrible about not being on the ball!

Every month it's very difficult to try to keep fresh ideas and not repeat things. However, we do find that many dog clients have the same questions. It's difficult for me to be on the outside looking in since dogs are my life and training just comes to me . . . So ideas from the fans--er, that's you--is the best way to get topics and good material for the newsletters.

So, if you have any ideas post it as a comment to this post and then sign up to get the newsletter if you don't already! You can do that here. It's free and it's cool. You can view all of our past newsletters here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Exercise is Good!

So I watched an episode of "It's Me or The Dog" with trainer Victoria Stilwell--I really like that show. I wish more folks would watch it. You have to have Animal Planet but of course if you have The National Geographic Channel you will have Animal Planet. So tune into this show.

She, like Cesar Millan, stresses the importance of exercise to keep your dogs minds and legs in the right place. I must admit I'm the worst about this. I don't exercise my dogs enough. I am the horrible dog owner who falls into the trap of, "I don't have time to walk 4 dogs" or "I do have a huge backyard" . . . . it's not a good excuse and it doesn't make up for the time with you. Also, dogs get bored of the same ole same ole backyard. Don't get me wrong, my dogs are not ever left in my backyard. They go out to potty and I'll leave them for about 15 minutes but if they go more than that it's a long time for them to have for themselves in the yard.

My dogs do get a lot of off-leash play in parks, playing ball and training . . . so I guess I can use that excuse--ha ha! And that is actually more than many pets get . . . so I'm saying walk your dogs. I'm only saying this now because I'm of the notion practice what you preach, and well if I wasn't walking my own dogs on a regular basis how could I preach to my clients that they had to? I could, I should but I'd feel like a hypocrite. '

However . . . I just got back from another walk with my new Alpha Pac leash system (I know I keep mentioning this don't I?) and this time I used it with two of my dogs attached. I took Noah my Border Aussie and Trevor my Jack Russell. I bundled up my little girl (now 12.5 weeks old) and put her in the jogger stroller. Off we went! We only did about 15-20 minutes. I forgot my watch so I didn't time it. I should have -- Time your walks so you know how long you went! Anyway, it was a great walk. We passed by a man walking his two dogs. They appeared to be Min Pins, and they went nuts-o when we walked by. They barked and snarled and the guy had to hold on tight to their leashes with all his might. Noah perked up and looked at them and Trevor kind of stopped and looked in awe. We just kept walking and I told my boys, "Good boys! Such good boys!" as we walked by and they didn't act a-fool like those other dogs did. We made a loop and I noticed the same man coming again toward us. This time I decided to make my dogs sit calmly while they passed us. They were on the opposite side of the street of course but it was only about a 25 foot span. Noah sat the whole time like a handsome boy, ears perked but still sitting. Trevor stood there. He was watching them intently but he took me asking him twice to sit, and helping him in the position. I noticed that it was harder for him to sit with his little body harness on. Remember the harness I mentioned before? Yes. The Webmaster from Ruff Wear. Anyway, there I go again with excuses . . .

Ok. Today I have no doggie clients and so I will be running errands and taking a trip to the park later with my dogs to play some ball and practice their recalls--you never can practice that enough!


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Build it and they will come . . .

I had one of my group classes today. I really enjoy this class, the dogs are of a wide variety and are doing very well. The owners are just as easy to like. They are doing well too.

One must remember that most dog problems (I said most, not all) are directly the fault of the owner whether intentional or not. There was proof of this in class today. We did recalls (coming when called) and did recall races where the dogs had to run from one side of a line to the other straight to their owners when called. The owners were taught to be extremely exciting and give their dog a very good reason to come to them. When broken up and doing it privately they were doing great but when in the group it came down to one of my clients who was obviously more exciting than the other dog owners. All the dogs went to her! It was quite humorous. It was nice to see the dogs speak for themselves!

It all comes down to being your dog's true best friend. I deal with recall issues all the time with clients. The dog runs out the door and the owner yells for him to come back, all to no avail. After time the dog is now in danger of getting run over not to mention the dog owner is insanely frustrated and once the dog is caught what normally happens? Yep. The dog gets in trouble--"Fido! You bad dog! Never ever run away from me again! . . ." They storm inside and plop the dog in his crate.

While it is understandable that the owner is frustrated the owner just taught the dog to run faster and further next time! Recall has to be a fun thing for Fido. He has to know that coming to you is the best thing in the entire world--everytime! We have a sure-fire way to get your dog to be reliable with his recalls, yes, even in distractions--ask us how!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Dog Whisperer . . .

You know I have very mixed feelings about good ole Cesar Millan, aka, The Dog Whisperer. I'm currently watching an episode of the show. A Pit bull that is unruly, jumps, nips and just has no value for his owners. No, he's not aggressive (a whole other speech on breed stereotypes), he's just unruly.

What I do like about this episode: He talks about how your body language and movements can be more powerful than your words. This is so very true. People talk too much to their dogs. They yell, they repeat commands, they expect too much. Nonverbal communication is very powerful for dogs, when done correctly. He tells the man to get his daughter to stop yelling at the dog. I agree with that. People repeat themselves over and over with dogs. Dogs begin to tune out people at this point and then frustration in both parties is at a high.

What I don't like about this episode: Also in this episode he looks at the dog and says, " . . . he's nervous . . ." and my response to this is "No kidding! You just cornered the dog chasing him into the corner of the front porch . . ." Apparently the dog runs off of the porch and out their front gate and greets by jumping and nipping. So Cesar so nicely shows them how to keep the dog on the porch. His ludicrous snapping and "sssst" sound while poking the dog with his fingers (I really wish they would air the episodes where he does that and gets bit!) to supposedly show he's boss (puuhleez!).

So here the dog attempts to get off the porch and he quickly moves his body toward the dog without saying a word (I agree with that) then does his finger snap (could be beneficial if you teach the dog a command/hand signal that tells him to get back on the porch) and the dog tries to run from Cesar at this point. Cesar says "You have to follow through . . ." so he walks toward the dog again, the dog runs and since he's on an enclosed patio he has no where to run so he backs into the porch's corner. Cesar is trotting over toward him. His goal is to get to him and do the finger poke. He claims he has to do this. Of course the poor dog is scared to death and several times he tries to snap at Cesar all while backed into a corner. The dog is showing obvious signs of distress and confusion. Cesar doesn't back down.

The main issues here are, well are several . . . First, why corner a dog into fear? That's the very best way to get bit! Way to go! Show on television how people can corner a dog and get bit. Because the bad thing about this show is that it shows supposed immediate results which means people will attempt these things at home (regardless of the advice at the show's beginning stating to only do this with a professional).

Secondly, why doesn't he teach dogs things? His first response is to correct a behavior. However, he doesn't show the dog what is a better behavior and then praise the dog. Oh, no I very very seldom see Cesar praising a dog. The few times I've seen it his form of praise is a quick verbal "good dog" and it's not even nice enough to get across to the dog that he's actually telling the dog he's done something good. He never teaches a command either. Of course his excuse for this is "I rehabilitate dogs, I train people . . ." Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you can't train dogs and people then you aren't goign to be very good at rehabilitating anything . . . long term. I've already heard of 3 dogs that were on aired episodes that had to be rehomed after Cesar supposedly worked his magic. The magic was short lived. I wonder why . . .

And lastly, his mis-use and over-use of the word and application of "dominant" and "dominance". He uses it to "diagnose" everything. People need to know the truth about dominance. You can find a very good scientific study done on this by clicking here. I also recommend two great articles on The Dog Whisperer here: "The Dog Whisperer Controversy" and "The Dog Whisperer Controversy II: Answering his Fans".

Ok. I had to report my findings . . . there is always something with that show that I like but a whole lot more that I don't like!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Alpha Pac

Well I finally got a chance to use my new Alpha Pac leash system--wow--it's great! I only took one of my dogs, Noah, although you are technically able to take up to four dogs. I don't think I'll ever take all four of my dogs on a walk together! Anyway, I loaded up Sophie in our new Baby Jogger and then put on the Alpha Pac and off we went! We were headed to the gas station that is literally a block away from our house to air up the tires on the Baby Jogger. We got there and discovered they didn't have an air station for tires! Ahhh! So we waddled back with one wheel a little jicky. We'll find another station when I can go without the baby and just air it up . . .

A note on my book, "Pup Parenting"--love it! I highly recommend the read. It's really great and although I'm not finished with it I like just about all that I've read so far.

I also recommend a body harness for activities such as jogging or anything face-paced that is not a leisure stroll or training walk with your dog. Noah is wearing this in the picture above but it's difficult to see because the harness is black like him. It is called the "Webmaster" by the company Ruff Wear. Great products from that company for active dog owners that do things with their dogs. The gear isn't price cautious, but it's very, very sturdy and high quality!

You know there is something that plagues me as a dog trainer.--the lack of confidence my clients seem to have in what I say. I preach day in and day out about how people need to praise their dogs, "Tell your dog when he/she does something right--this is so important! . . ." and I find that it is the one thing owners do not do well. They are insanely quick to jerk the dog as soon as he does something wrong [when on leash] or yell if they come in and find that they have eaten the newly acquired rug but they are incredibly faulty at redirection and teaching correct behavior and then praising it when it happens! I can't tell you how much this effects dog training. I love the fact that I can sit on my couch and direct my dogs to do something and not even have to get up. I was reading the other day some trainer's advice and they state that you need to "stand tall", "be firm", "show you are boss" . . . I laughed and clicked off of the website. I don't have to do that and my dogs "know who is boss" and I can have them do as I ask without having to stand at all! They trust me, we don't have a breakdown in communication and they don't do things to avoid the punishment if they don't. They do things because they like the outcome if they do!

Ok. I'm off to train some dog owners and their dogs! . . . Tootles!