Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mission K9 Possible.

I want to add some zip to the lives of you dog owners out there . . . so I'm designing the Monthly: Canine Mission Impossible . . . Here are the logistics:

I'll give out a mission for you to do with your dog that will involve training of some kind. Your dog cannot already know or be versed in whatever is presented in the challenge. You have to video your dog just before you start the challenge and then once during the training and then upon completion.

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it: Train your dog to do something polite instead of jumping. The dog must either sit when greeted, go to a requested place (mat, bed, stair, etc.) or something else that shows manners and good choices instead of jumping up or on a person.

In this mission you have 4 weeks to teach and train your dog. You must document, with video, how you accomplish this and the end results. Email all videos to Stacy at Mission begins Friday, July 30th and ends Monday, August 30th.

Winners will be selected based on technique, timing, creativity and the apparent relationship with you and your dog.

Prizes are as follows:
1st: Free group class & video showed off on blog & Facebook
2nd: $10 off group class
3rd: $5 off group class

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"My dog doesn't listen . . ."

This is a common phrase I hear, alongside a few others, however this one plagues many dog owners of all breeds and ages -- "My dog doesn't listen to me."

From my own perspective, isn't that what all of these blog posts are , I have to elaborate on the why and the how of this common "complaint". First, dogs are just that, dogs. They do not know English or Spanish or German or . . . We teach our dogs to understand what we want from them through training with respect and understanding. Without that exact thing -- training with respect and understanding -- our dogs will most likely appear to "not listen".

The main thing would be understanding. When a dog seemingly defies us humans, we say -- "He knows he's just being stubborn . . ." Humans immediately slap the human aspect of it to our dogs, as if he was acting like a rebellious teenager. The truth is that the dog is confused and conflicted in the situation. Perhaps he's unclear what you want. Our body language most likely is the culprit.

We are so, well human, that we have a difficult time using anything but our verbal skills and expect our dogs to understand all of our language and vocabulary as well. Perhaps we haven't taught the "sit" command in enough situations or made it abundantly clear what a sit actually is [in our eyes] and so the dog is not reliably offering a sit when asked to. Perhaps the dog does know sit but in a particular situation when asked to sit he is confused/conflicted and does not respond due to other factors.

We owe it to our dogs to understand them and learn more about their body language and communication. A good example of a dog that would appear to most people to be purposely "not listening" would be in a group class setting. Most dogs who attend group classes are a bit uneasy at first due to the fact that they are in a very different and possibly stressful (to the dog anyway) situation. They come across as not being "good" or "not paying attention". The fact is that the child riding his tricycle across the way or the people tossing a ball back and forth 200 yards to the left are causing the dog some stress and therefore he is not going to "perform" for you in that environment right away. This doesn't make your dog defiant or even flat out dumb (many people will use this adjective as well!), it simply makes your dog a dog. However, commonly the owner is upset I mean how on earth could Fido be ignoring me? He knows this! So poor Fido gets a jerk on the leash or a verbal reprimand. Because, most likely, Fido was already stressed, hence the reason for not responding, we have now added even more stress as well as the notion that Fido's very own person is a ball of emotion and cause for more frustration. What will happen next? Yup. Nothing. Fido will surely shut down now.

So how do we remedy that? Well, once again the magic way -- through training with good communication on both ends of the leash. You must learn to teach your dog that you are there to guide and protect him in all situations. You must learn to read your dog, know when and how to diffuse a possible stressful situation and most importantly you must build a very, very strong relationship with your dog.

You can start this program now, no matter how young or old your dog is. Make a chart, like the sample to the right (click picture to enlarge). Your dog, being a dog, enjoys working for things and getting feedback from you. This builds the dog's confidence and training skills. I recommend (no matter what age your dog, but all puppies should start this way in the home) you tether your dog to you with a leash. You can simply hook the leash around your waist, belt loop or even get one of the handy hands-free leashes that I love! (I love The Alpha Pac leash. I've said so many times on this blog and my Facebook page. But I truly love this item!)

Set your dog up to learn and succeed. Ask for commands everywhere as your dog follows you around. At the sink, at the door, before he eats, before he goes outside, etc. Remember to say, "Okay!" (or whatever your release command is) to free your dog from each command when it's over.

After you do that for 7 days in the house then take your dog to the next level of low distractions, usually your backyard. Still tethered to you, take a few steps and ask your dog to sit and reward. Practice all your commands this way. Increase the value of the rewards as you move to different and more distracting environments. After 7 days in your backyard then move to the front yard, then to the park, etc. Give each environment 7 days of training before moving to the next.

Set yourself up to learn and succeed. Get a book on canine calming signals. Attend a workshop on doggie body language. Get Turid Ruugas's DVD "Calming Signals: What Your Dog Tells You". Read Brenda Aloff's books, "Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide" and "Get Connected with Your Dog". These resources are great for learning what your dog is telling you and how to communicate so you both understand each other.

With all of these things in play and you maintaining clear, consistent rules and expectations you and your dog will go as far as you want to go . . .

(There are many more parts to this program, but this is the beginning and a way to get started. To set up a complete training program or for questions, please contact me!)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Challenge your dog trainer. . .

I must apologize for not posting as much as I'd like to on here as I often just post so many things on my Facebook page. I know not everyone is into Facebook so I'll post here what I did there . . . . I put a challenge on the line: List something (put it as a comment to this post) you'd like to see Stacy the trainer teach a dog (her own dog or one in her care at her home) and then she will capture the process on video. Then a challenge will take place with prizes for grabs where clients can participate too!

So far someone asked me to teach a dog to go through a hula hoop and also have a dog open the 'fridge and bring me a drink of some kind (that's still in the works). So here are the videos of me teaching first, my Lab Jake, and then my Aussie/BC Noah.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Leash-Free Dog!

Do you ever wonder if you'll ever be able to have a dog that can be trusted off-leash? . . . First let me cover a few points here . . .

I am not a huge advocate of dogs being off-leash due to safety issues and other dogs, i.e., dogs I don't trust or that are nasty. Not only that, there are leash laws in just about all cities now so it's usually against the law no matter how well trained your dog is or how well he may listen to you. A leash law is a leash law.

Ok, however I do believe that a dog should be able to be trusted off-leash if need be or if you are in a safe place and they are allowed to be off-leash. I often get the question right off the bat--"Will my dog ever be able to be off-leash and trusted?" The answer is "Yes." The solution is training, lots of it.

If you have a good relationship with your dog, you've done lots of training, classes and your dog listens to you then you will very easily be able to have your dog trained off-leash. Of course dogs will be dogs and a squirrel, cat or tennis ball may be much more fun than you but with the right training and consequences when they do run off during a recall, your dog will be easy to manage off-leash.

You can read many "breed books", of which I put in quotes because I hate breed books, that state that Jack Russell Terriers are not good off-leash and often can't be trusted off-leash. Well my Jack Russell is amazing off-leash and I can call him away from just about anything. He's been mostly off-leash during flyball training and practices but some of that was in a wide open park. It can be done, no matter what you may read or hear . . . it's all about the training and relationship you have with your dog, not the breed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Extreme Mutt Makeover 2010

Many of you have followed my blog for a while but for those that have not you may not know this . . . last summer I participated in a new event called "The Extreme Mutt Makeover" where they took 10 shelter dogs and paired them with trainers for 6 weeks. During that period the dog lived with us in our home and endured our care and training for the event that took place over a weekend. You can go back to the archives and see all the blog posts I did on Harry and his adventure with me from August-September of 2009. It starts with this post.

I never thought I'd be so nervous about something that really had no bearing on anything . . . except the life of the dog I had, "Harry". Harry was absolutely a doll. He looked just like a dog on TV and he was goofy, smart and fun to be around. He was also a bit of a challenge in that he was very active, needed lots of mental stimulation and exercise. He was probably only about 7 months old when I got him, making him the youngest of the dogs in the event which did pose a little more of a challenge for me. However, he was truly a great dog and full of fun. Everyone who met him loved him and he loved everyone. Harry now has a home with a wonderful couple that is active and takes him everywhere. They were a perfect fit for him.

No one could quite understand the emotion the trainers felt during this whole process, and even we didn't see it until the final days of that competition. All the trainers actually became very close during the entire event. I had put a Yahoo! message board together just for the trainers and we all talked almost every day on that board with triumphs, tears and anything else our dogs threw at us. A couple of the trainers lived in Austin and so it was great to see the diverse group we had.

I would have instantly qualified to be a trainer in this year's event but with a toddler at home and my own dogs I felt I wouldn't be able to put what I needed to in it, as it was a bit challenging just for me last year. So, I've kept up on Facebook with their page and also this year each dog in the competition has their very own Facebook page! The event is going to be amazing and I can't wait to go watch. We have all sent emails to Oprah to see if see what we can do, yeah it's a stretch but you never know until you try!

Here is a video that Patti Colbert, the woman behind this wonderful event, had done professionally from last year's competition. Of course it really does bring back a flood of memories for me and I cry every time I watch it. . . . enjoy, and come out to see the event this year! August 13, 2010: 12:00pm - 3:00pm, Will Rogers Memorial Center, Fort Worth, Texas.

Click here to view this video

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Good Dog!

Need a dog that comes when called and walks nicely on the leash . . . or maybe just one of those things? Well I just set up a couple of short workshops to tackle these issues specifically. Workshops are great because they are just a one-time or two-time meeting with your dog. They last an hour and are cost efficient! Get details on my schedule by clicking here.