Monday, January 25, 2010

The Great Crate Debate.

You've read it in books, you've heard it from fellow "craters"—crate train your dog, it's the best way to go! However, you still have reservations about it.

We'll take a deeper look into the many uses, benefits and reasons why you should use a crate for your dog no matter what age he/she may be and no matter what the reason may be.

As a dog trainer, I find that many of my clients have or are in the process of crate-training their dog once we start with dog training. This is absolutely music to my ears! Nothing could be a better tool for dog owners than a dog that is properly crate-trained!

The Common Uses

The most common use for crates is for help with potty training . . . and I could not agree more! Potty training can run as smooth as silk when done properly, and with the aide of a crate. A crate provides your dog with a place he can call his own. It will help him learn to value this place, keep it clean, and teach him to 'hold it'. Healthy, well-raised dogs do not like to be in a soiled area and thus will refrain from using his new home as a potty area so it stays clean and comfy.

Another common, and wonderful, use for the crate is for confinement when unable to be supervised. This is great for growing, curious, puppies as well as for teaching an adult dog that he has a safe place to stay out of trouble. A crate is a wonderful way to teach a dog boundaries.

The Uses We Don't Always Think Of

This leads to another topic—how long does a dog need to remain crated once he's beyond potty training and puppyhood?

I often get the question: "Well she is now 13 months old, when can we get rid of the crate and have her just have free run of the house?" Let me touch on a few things to answer that question. First, crates are not designed for one single reason and they do not have an expiration date, so-to-speak. If you have ever known anyone with a Service Dog (aiding the handicapped) then you know that those dogs live their entire lives in their crates. They sleep in them and stay in them when the owner does not have the dog with them, or needs to put the dog away for some reason. The great thing about this—these dogs love it! They would be absolutely lost without their crate, as they find comfort in their little home.

The crate can be used for the life of your dog, no matter the reason or age of your dog. It is a good idea to keep your dog going in and out of a crate randomly so that when you need to use a crate he is still quite comfortable with being crated.

One of the uses a crate has, that is less often thought of, is if your dog becomes injured or sick. If you ever have a dog break a leg or need to be "forced" to be calm and relaxed a crate could save your dog's life. If anyone has ever adopted a dog or had a dog that had to go through heartworm treatment, then you know that it requires a dog to be calm and virtually inactive for 4-6 weeks. If you do not have a dog crate to use during this time, it could be life threatening for the dog.

Another use of the crate is for travel and visiting guests. If you travel with your dog or take your dog places away from home then a crate is a safe way to confine your dog when in someone else's home and in the car. Often when at a strange place (if you go to grandma's just once or twice a year), a dog may be destructive if left alone due to stress. A crate would be a great tool to save grandma's couch and a way to keep your dog safe and secure.

Lastly, a use that we rarely think of unless we get into the situation, is separation from other dogs should there be a fight or disagreement. If you ever add a dog to your home, foster a dog or for some reason your current dogs begin to argue then a crate will be your best tool during a behavior modification program. A crate would be absolutely necessary in this type of situation.

A dog is a dog. He may have never noticed the Ficus plant that has been in the corner of your living room for the past two years, but if he's left out in your house the possibility is there to explore. The possibility is there for him to be unsafe. To have access to the cat. To have access to cords, plants, cleaning solutions . . . a dog can in fact wake up one day and decide to eat the wires to the TV. Offering freedom to a dog is more of a relief for us, not the dog. We do it to satisfy our own wants, not to keep the dog happy. Dogs feel happy and safe in small spaces. They don't have the stress of having to maintain a large space.

Keep your dog's crate, or go get one if you don't have one. Let Fido have his own home, don't take it away because he reached maturity. Allowing him access to his crate will keep him happy and secure. You can also use it as his bed for as long as you wish. A crate is a safe place for a dog, a home, his very own apartment.

In conclusion, there is no reason why you shouldn't crate train a dog. Crates are used as tools during many facets of a dog's life! Many people want so badly to get to "that stage" where the dog can be out of the crate permanently. My question is always—why?

If your dog isn't crate trained or doesn't like his crate let us know and we'll help you get your dog in his crate happily and willingly!

Mayday! Mayday!

I was going to post this on my facebook fan page for Adventures in Canine Training (sure I still will) but decided to head to the blog first. I think this is worth a bit of a glance and not all folks will see it on facebook. Anyway . . . I look often at sites and other places that our non-profit organization can help. I am starting to plan for our big fundraiser and so I want an organization that I can donate part of the proceeds to. I found it. The Morris Animal Foundation: Canine Cancer Campaign.

I think just about everyone who has had a dog has had one that died of cancer. I read somewhere that it kills more dogs than humans right now. Alarming. So I also discovered in my Googling this great website: and they sell some great first aid kits they call "Mayday Pet First Aid Kit". For every kit sold $2 will go to the Canine Cancer Campaign. The kits are great, easy to tote and attractive, not to mention they could help you in a situation! Not only do they make and sell this great first aid kit they make some other marvelous products that you would never think of. They make an evacuation kit for a disaster situation and many other great things. Take a look at their site!

"Well, my neighbor said . . . ."

I've discovered that if you ever get a puppy or dog suddenly everyone you know with a dog is a dog trainer. You'll get advice from neighbors, cousins, carpool friends -- you name it, everyone will know something. Of course as a dog trainer this makes my skin crawl. I sarcastically retort to a client when I hear, "So my neighbor has had Labs for 20 years and he says . . . ." "Oh? I didn't know your neighbor was a dog trainer?!" "Oh, he's not he's just had them forever . . ." Exactly. While someone who has had your breed, or dogs in general, "forever" that doesn't make them proficient in dog behavior and training. Your lovely neighbor may even have some of the best trained dogs in a 5 mile radius but it still doesn't mean he's going to know everything. I've had the same sinus infection over and over again for years but I still don't claim to be a doctor. I also have changed a tire a hundred times but I'm still not a mechanic.

Every dog is different and training has to be approached properly depending on the dog and situation. One wrong move could mean lots of "un-doing" to go in the right direction. Plus, if you are already working with a trainer and then begin to apply training that your trainer may not have advised you could very easily confuse your dog at the least, or screw up things royally, depending on what the situation is and what you try to apply.

If you're having a moment where you think you need help "now" try to call your trainer. If you can't get a hold of them then put your dog in his/her crate and wait until you get some advice or your trainer can tell you what to do until he/she can come assess the situation. Don't try to wing it, you may regret it later!

Best laid plans are to seek the advice of a doggie professional that is proficient in dog behavior and training. And contrary to what some TV "pros" say you have to be a dog trainer and be good at "rehabilitating" dogs. They go hand in hand. If you can't train a dog you can't rehabilitate a dog. So find someone who doesn't use physical force for any reason what-so-ever, even if your dog is aggressive (or rather, especially if your dog is aggressive!).

Bottom line: don't try anything at home without meeting a dog professional in person, don't rely on TV or the neighbor!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Training Collars: Which is best?

I had this in my July 2008 newsletter and thought it was worth putting online again. I just copy and pasted . . .
So what is the deal? How do you know which collar is the best type to use on your dog for your needs? . . . Well, this is a very good question! There are so many sizes of dogs as well as personality and strength types in dogs that we always wonder which collar is best suited for walking, training and everyday use.

If you just started training your dog in the past 5-10 years (assuming you hadn't formally trained a dog before) then you've noticed how many different types of [training] collars and tools there are for dogs -- how overwhelming! Back in the 60s and 70s they only used choke chains and sometimes the German pinch collars. Now you find that very few modern-day trainers promote these types of collars for training. Let's talk about all the different types and their uses, there are many out there today. Every trainer has his/her own thoughts and theories behind why they use what they use. These are the thoughts and philosophies from all the trainers at Adventures in Canine Training. We cannot speak for other trainers. Let's take a look . . . .

Facts: This is a collar made entirely of chain, or metal links. It was designed so that when used as directed you give a quick jerk with the leash, the collar "snaps", tightens and then releases. This is known as a "Leash Correction" or "Collar Correction" and is the primary reason the collar was designed -- to use for training and corrections.

It prevents a dog from slipping out of the collar.

It is heavy. It can be used improperly and cause severe damage to a dog's neck and trachea. It can often become caught if put on incorrectly and will not self-release as it is supposed to, causing the dog to have a tight collar around it's neck.

Trainer's Thoughts:
This collar is out-dated and I never use this collar for any reason what-so-ever. It is mis-used too often and can cause the dog to shut down during training when an owner becomes frustrated. When a dog pulls against it the collar is heavy, bulky and causes the dog to "cough" and choke. I do not recommend this collar to any person with a dog. There are much better collars to use!

Facts: This is a collar made entirely of metal with prongs that squeeze and pinch around the dog's neck when there is pressure applied or when used with a leash correction. The prongs do not have pointed/sharp tips but do produce a pressure sensation that is uncomfortable for the dog. You can also purchase rubber tips to place on the ends of the prongs to keep the pinching to a minimum. These were designed with the same theory as the choke chain and is used primarily with leash corrections when training. There actually are some pinch collars made entirely of plastic with the same thing in mind but without the force and weight of the metal.

Although it looks like a torture device on sight it is gentler (in comparison) to the choke chain. It often doesn't take much to get a dog to stop pulling or doing what it shouldn't be doing.

Very bulky and heavy. Often difficult to get on/off the dog. It too can be mis-used and cause damage to the dog. Dogs with thin skin/hair can get little wounds from this collar around its neck. It can also cause problems when training in the same way the choke chain can--the dog can become fearful or uneasy when an owner over-uses it or abuses it.

Trainer's Thoughts:
This collar can cause an aggressive dog to become more aggressive (fighting aggression with aggression, it never works). Owners mis-use this collar like you wouldn't believe, as well as take advantage of it and use it as a crutch for training. I often see owners that cannot control their dogs without the use of this collar. This is again, not my collar of choice for training.

Facts: This collar is designed to minimize pulling dramatically and is made of nylon. The collar fits around the dog's neck and muzzle and is almost exactly like a horse bridle, minus the bit in the mouth! This collar is used by many, many service dog facilities and trainers. The head collar is not a muzzle and does not serve the purpose of a muzzle nor was it ever meant to. The collar gives more control as you are able to control the dog by it's full head and neck as opposed to a collar just around the neck. This collar was not designed to be used with leash corrections and should not be used with leash corrections. The collar is very much self-correcting and little work is needed for a dog to stop pulling with this type of collar on. The dog does have to get used to wearing it, some really fight it.

The collar is humane, simple to use and can minimize pulling dramatically when a dog is able to tolerate wearing it. It requires no leash corrections. Once a dog is used to it anyone of any size or age can easily walk even the largest dogs with ease. It gives almost instant control and dogs can easily be guided with this collar on. This is used by many trainers out there today.

I have seen people use a leash correction with this collar which can cause damage to the dog. I also see this again as a crutch for many people--they cannot control their dog without this collar on. Also, I have seen some dogs fight it so badly that they harm themselves, some dogs do not tolerate this collar well.

Trainer's Thoughts:
This used to be the collar I always used for training when a dog was big or walked poorly on leash; that was about 7 years ago. Of all the collars already mentioned this one is by far one that I would choose over the other two. However, I do not like the fact that so many people cannot control their dogs without the use of this collar or that some dogs really stress with this collar on. I don't have anything against this collar when the dog can wear it comfortably and the owner can control the dog easily with it on; it can really be a great tool.

Facts: This is a collar that has a box on it and sends electric stimulation or "zaps" to the dog to receive a response. Often called a "shock collar" the modern day e-collars do not hurt the dog unless they are being abused by the user. You control the collar and the stimulations/zaps with a remote control that can fit in your pocket or around your neck. This collar comes in many different frequencies, sizes and ranges. The most common use is for gun dog training and very long distance work with dogs, such as field dogs and hunting dogs. However, a man by the name of Fred Hassen has copyrighted his own company -- Sit Means Sit -- and primarily uses e-collars for training in all areas of training. He has swept the country with this training technique and many trainers are using this type of collar and training for their dogs and clients today. Many trainers also still find this method controversial.

Pros: When used properly this gives an owner instant control of their dog off-leash because of the use of the remote control.

Cons: This collar can be mis-used to the point of causing irreparable damage to a dog. It is still very controversial among the dog training community.

Trainer's Thoughts: I must honestly say that because I have never trained a dog with this type of collar that I cannot rightfully speak about this collar. I have seen some dogs do amazing things with this kind of training, when done properly. However, I feel that you should be able to control and train your dog without the use of a remote control. I have also seen dogs that have become very, very aggressive and/or fearful with the use of this collar (often due to mis-use of the collar).

Facts: This device is made of cotton or nylon, with the latter being the most common. The harness fits entirely around the dog's body (back, over the spine) and wraps around the front chest. Some harnesses are designed as "no pull harnesses" and the leash actually attaches to the front at the dog's chest instead of the normal attachment on the dog's back. When training sled dogs, carting dogs, Tracking dogs or the sport of Skijoring, this is the only device you can use.

Pros: For small dogs that can easily get a collapsed trachea, such as Yorkies, this is often the collar of choice. When fitted properly the dog cannot get out of it.

Cons: You often have very poor control over a dog with this on. If the dog is not trained not to pull on a leash this will not help the dog and often can help a dog pull with ease -- can you say sled dog?

Trainer's Thoughts: I do not use these for training. I feel that they do not give the owner control and often are worse for controlling a dog than even just a regular collar. While these aren't bad as far as for the well-being of the dog, I do not prefer them for training purposes. If someone prefers that their dog wear this I like to train the owner and dog how to walk on a loose leash first.

Originally designed for Greyhounds and often referred to as a "Greyhound collar" or a martingale. They can be made of all nylon or nylon and a small strip of chain. They are not designed to be used like a choke chain or for leash corrections. This collar prevents a dog from slipping out of the collar if they try to back out of it. The collar tightens and they cannot get it over their heads.

Pros: Does not slip off the dog. Can be used as the dog's everyday collar.

Cons: Sometimes people tend to give leash corrections as if this is a choke chain.

Trainer's Thoughts: This is my collar of choice. We train the owners to control their dog on this collar (walk with a loose leash) and also have the safety of knowing that the dog will not slip out of it. We require that all of our clients get one of these collars for their dogs. They can also wear them all the time, not just for training.

There are more tools out there but I find that these are the devices
most commonly used for training purposes, or attempted to be used for training purposes. The biggest problem, I find, is that people attempt to find a device that trains the dog. No matter what tool you use to train your dog, the tool does not do that for you. You must train your dog with the device, not rely on the device to do the work. A dog that pulls on a leash will pull with anything on, no matter what the package may say. You have to train the dog to understand that it cannot pull on leash, the collar is not doing that for you.

The reason we use the no-slip collar is that it is safe for the dog, the dog cannot slip out of it and owners are not allowed to do leash corrections with it on (we don't use leash corrections in our training). We train the owners to gain control of their dogs and therefore they can use any device they wish if the dog can understand what is right and wrong (no-pulling on leash vs pulling on leash).

In conclusion, you may attempt to use any of these devices on your dog however, you should realize that training all depends on you not the collar. If you need help with your dog in a specific area, such as pulling on the leash, join one of our mini-workshops! . . . or contact us today and we can head you down the right path!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"So how do I properly discipline my dog? . . . " (Version I)

*** PLEASE NOTE: This blog post has been updated to a newer version! Read the new version here.***

A question I hear often and sadly there is just so much going around with dog training these days the answers would be different from every dog trainer you'd contact. So the question is somewhat difficult to answer and more confusing for the dog owner to grasp when they've been researching different things on this glorious internet, now televised dog training shows and books abound. The bigger question that usually follows is " . . . so how do I know your way is the right way? . . ."

I pause and take it in as this would be the same as rearing children. Everyone will have something different to tell you, why you shouldn't do this or that or what is right or wrong or downright awful. I simply answer, "You don't know that mine is right but you will see the relationship change for the better with your dog and you will never use any physical means to punish your dog. . . ."

I personally believe that humans and dogs need a very middle of the road version of correction that gets the point across without doing harm physically or mentally. Discipline actually means "learning" so discipline is not punishment. We often interchange the two, which is a mistake. The definition of punishment is "a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure; to deal with roughly or harshly". There are definitely forms of punishment that are not harsh or harmful but we often immediately think of harshness when presented with the term, punishment.

Discipline teaches a lesson, and when done properly the consequences should prevent the undesired action or behavior from reoccurring. Punishment can do the same thing but often when punishment is relied on too much it breaks down the mental stability of the subject being punished.

With punishment we use too much emotion and once we raise our emotions to a high level with a dog they immediately see us as weak. While it may scare the beejeezers out of your dog for the moment that is all it does--work for the moment. The dog will concentrate on the actual punishment, not the behavior.

If you discipline correctly you should see the undesired behavior go away within a short time. Often people have been punishing their dogs for the same thing over and over again. This is because it's not working! A good example is a client I have has a dog that reacts on leash to other dogs--barks, goes wild, sometimes shows teeth. Her husband said to me, "Well if I sharply say "NO!" and then jerk her back she'll stop." My response, "Then why is she still reacting if your punishment works?" His punishment only works for a moment but has no long term effects on the behavior.

You also have to take a step back and remind yourself that you have a dog, not a baby. As much as we have dogs that serve as children they are still dogs. They still think like a dog and learn like a dog. We have to consider this so that we can help them with everything they learn and do.

I had a client many years ago call me out to help teach his black Lab to sit nicely when people came into his home instead of jump. When I arrived he opened the door and the dog, of course, became excited but was very politely in a sit right by the door. She stayed seated, was just a dear of a dog. She was about to pop out of her position and the man began to count, "One, two, . . . " I said, "What are you doing?!" He said, "She knows if she hits three she'll be in trouble!" I looked at him and said, "You do know this is a black Lab and not a kindergartner, right?" He wasn't too pleased . . . then we sat down to talk at the formal dining room table and the dog sat in a chair next to us as he fed her from a plate from his china collection . . .

Dogs live in the moment. Your corrections need to be timed so precisely that when the undesired behavior occurs you deliver the consequences immediately. Your rewards need to be timed so as to be delivered 1/64th of a second after the desired behavior occurs. Timing is everything. Counting to three is really just, well hilarious!

So then what is a good correction? I've been babbling on forever . . . Well remember I said dogs live in the moment? Well make a list of things your dog loves, likes and hates on a pretty regular basis. They can't be people. List 5 things. Most likely one of those things will be around when your dog does something undesirable. Stop and say, "Right this moment what would my dog like or dislike the most?" Now use that, whether you are disciplining or teaching a new behavior.

Let's say your dog really dislikes being left alone and isolated. Your dog jumps up on your counter and grabs a piece of cheese. Immediately take yoru dog to a time-out. You can use the crate or a bathroom or laundry room. This will not ruin your dog's view of his crate unless you do this with a lot of emotion. The punishment here is what the dog dislikes most--being isolated.

Ok. Let's say your dog doesn't mind being alone but man oh man does he hate being brushed. So when your dog jumps up on the counter to grab something you take him off and brush him for a good minute or two.

Every dog has something that they will avoid if they can. The punishment has to fit the crime but also has to have such an effect that it will cause the offender to think twice about repeating the crime. If you simply yell at your dog, although he won't like it, for stealing the cheese off of the counter he wont' mind so much. Yelling isn't really so bad and the cheese was worth it! But if your dog despises being pent up in the bathroom then you have your magical trick to stop the behavior! Most likely that consequence will not be worth the cheese!

If you are having issues with a certain behavior (or two) let me know. Don't try to be a dog trainer from what you see online or TV. You need a pro in the home to assess your certain situation. Dogs all have different personalities and ways of dealing with things so don't do anything without consulting someone first!