Friday, December 21, 2012

'Tis the Season ...

Well it's that time of year . . . but well . . .  I must apologize because this list is way too late for anyone to gift any of these things but they are still great to look at and get for um .... New Year's gifts?!!  Why not add to a dog lover's list for help with a good start to the New Year?! 
This list is a repeat from last year's list but that's because I loved them so much I had to repeat them ... and also because I didn't have time to put a new one together this year! 

K9-Rosco Dog Walking Jacket, still one of my favorites, I am in love with this coat! Too many features to list here but a few include: built-in leash belt, extractable pick-up bag cargo pocket, Detachable Plastic Cargo Pocket Treat/Waste Insert, & 2 Hands Free Accessory Carabiners.  For more details, full list of features & where to buy click here.

DawggieGoPak®, don't want the whole jacket but would like easier walking? This is the perfect solution for urban professionals and on-the-go suburban parents to properly care for their dogs.  The product’s compact size allows it to attach to any leash and is large enough to accommodate all of your on-the-go needs.  DawggieGoPak’s multi-pocket design can carry: Keys (both house and car), Dog treats, Any MP3 player, Any mobile phone. For more details click here.

Dog Gone Smart Beds, not just your average dog bed.  These beds wick away the tiniest of particals leaving the bed virtually unable to be penetrated with any liquid or messes of any kind.  They come in many sizes, colors & styles.  For all the details, click here.

'Zack' Personalized Dog Collar, not your average personalized dog collar!  She's got tons of different designs to choose from.  The very uniqueness to the personalization on this collar is what makes it so special.  It's hand-sewn & made just for your dog!  This one is perfectly gorgeous velvety material.  For more of her designs, click here.

Soggy Doggy Doormat--need we say more?!  Who hates muddy paws? I thought so!  This mat absorbs more than just wet & mud, it also captures dirt & debris so that it stays off your floors.  Every pet home should have at least one of these!  For more details & purchasing info, click here.

Your Pet as a Plushie, cutest thing I've seen!  How would you like a plush dog that was commissioned from a photo of your own dog?  Your very own plush dog that is your dog!  I'm a kid at heart & can never pass up a plush anything!  I just think these are too cute to pass up.  Great gift idea at anytime of year.  Details here.

PetHub Tag, the most innovative tag to date!  These pet tags have a QR Code that is able to be scanned by any smartphone & the dog owner's information is displayed immediately on your phone.  No need to drive around, take a pet to be scanned, it all comes to you immediately, making getting the dog home a quick process!  For more details, click here.

Blanket ID Pet Tag, the most attractive ID tag out there!  Want a more attractive tag that has all your dog's info, easily accessible to anyone that finds your dog by logging into the BlaketID website and helping reunite you & your dog!  You have the ability to log on & change anything about your dog at anytime so that your dog's information & photos are always up to date. Get details here.

Etched Unique ID Tag, just plain cute.  I'm obviously a fan of an ID tag for your dog.  All dogs should have one on at all times.  And with some on the market as cute as these, why not?!  These are handmade & absolutely amazing.  I got one of these for each of my dogs this year.  She custom designed them to fit their personalities. They are great! They have other designs & styles as well.  Check them all out here.

The Amazing Treat Machine, a fun simple toy.  This inexpensive cardboard design is so simple yet so entertaining for your dogs!  For hours of enjoyment, fun & mental stimulation go get yours today.  You can even decorate it to be to your liking!  For a video & more details, click here

Cartoonize My Pet, cool gear to show the breed you so love!  This darling store has tons of gear you can buy with your specific breed.  It's got loads of breeds as well as loads of different colors & markings for each breed!  They also have other pets too!  Check out their store here

Dog Bone Charm Necklace by Heart on Your Wrist Jewelry is nothing short of the perfect gift for the dog lover in the family!  It is dainty & delicate but shows off your love for Fido all the same.  Check out several different styles & other designs of charms for the pet lover in the bunch!  Click here for more.

Luv & Emma's Dry Pet Towel, a must for those wet paws.  This towel is amazingly soft & does just what a towel should do -- absorb lots of liquid!  The towel holds up to 16 oz of liquid yet dries quickly.  It has a loophole on it so it can be hung on the door knob ready for use when Fido comes in from outside (now that's handy!)  It is made in the USA & is completely machine washable too.  Go get yours here.  

Tuffy's Sherman the Sheep, giant stuffed, durable dog toy.  While I don't believe any dog toy is completely safe from a dog's teeth these are the only stuffed toys I do recommend.  Most stuffed toys are obliterated in minutes & can be dangerous.  Tuffy makes some cute & durable toys.  Meet Sherman the sheep here

Molly Mutt Green Dog Bed, most amazing dog bed idea out there!  Like to be Green & environmentally conscience?  This bed is a great way to stay Green--get a DIY kit where you get a stuff sack, stuff old clothes or blankets inside, then cover it with one of their environmentally friendly duvet covers & you have a dog bed!  Choose from many amazing duvet covers & change as often as you like!  Check out more here

Padded Seatbelt Harness, a must for car safety!  This luxurious yet rugged harness is fully adjustable for chest & girth and sits low on the chest & extends only behind the front legs, thus avoiding pressure around the neck & stomach area during quick starts/stops. Designed for all sizes of dogs, you can get yours here

Under-counter dog hideaway/bed, a must for those design-conscience home owners!  This is the coolest thing on this list, and probably the most expensive!  However I couldn't leave it out!  How gorgeous is this kitchen island while still allowing for dogs to be comfortable?!  I just love this!  When I'm able to design my own house & have it built it will have many nifty dog-friendly items just like this (one day!) Get your contractor's numbers out & visit this site for more great pics.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"So, how long do I need to use food [when training]? ...

As a "sequel" to my previous post "But he'll always do it for food..." I wanted to continue with this topic.  The first blog post was meant to explain why some dogs will only do it for food, and seemingly make it appear that "food in training doesn't work".  However, it wasn't meant to say that I do not condone the use of food or think that food should be faded fast and dogs should "just do it".  (If you misread that post please go back and re-read it in it's entirety and view all the attached videos. However hopefully this little sequel will help too!)

I find that many dog owners, as the previous post stated, don't understand this topic at all.  They think that all dogs should be taught the desired behavior and then just do it, with no reward after they "know it".  I do not agree with this. Why? Well do you go to work and after you are proficient at your job you are expected to just show up and work as proficiently?  No checks any more, just do it because you're so good at it?  I'm sure you'd soon find a new job if that were the case! I love my job. I'm doing exactly what I wanted to do since I was a kid -- work with dogs!  However, even I still have to get paid and rewarded for what I do. I will even admit that not working for someone else can be unrewarding due to the fact that there are no bonuses, no rewards for doing a good job.  I only get to reward myself. I don't hear it from anyone else.  I do get rewarded with  my great clients and the successes of the clients and their dogs.  Those are rewards and with those rewards I continue to do what I do!  

What amazes me is how dogs are put in such a different category than humans but they have the same expectations we have of humans. How does this make sense?  Our dogs should learn something and "just do it" without any reward but they should perform as well as humans do when they know what to do at their jobs.  However, after time the dog's "paycheck" should cease, according to many humans, but the human will remain getting paid as long as he's performing his job.  It's really not fair, regardless of the fact that a human and a dog are very different species. It's the "you can't have your cake and eat it too" mantra. 

I will admit that my dogs rarely get food for performing simple tasks, like sit  or down or "go to the rug" [and stay].  They know those cues well as I use them often. But that does not mean they don't get some sort of payment or reward.  A reward does not always mean food or treats.  Rewards are defined by the dog. This is where I discussed the "Life Rewards" in the other blog post.  I also always, always, always tell my dogs when they do it right -- "Go to the rug, Noah. .... Goooood boy.  That's a good boy..."  I never leave out the verbal rewards, ever.  And my dogs are now 7 years and 10 years old. I also give life rewards often, always in fact if there is no food involved or new behaviors being taught.  Remember, your dog's life reward is defined by your dog, the environment and the context.  If your dog has to pee, he's got his little paws crossed dying to be let outside, then the life reward in that situation would be -- open the door and let him out!  So you could ask him to "sit" and then say, "Good boy..." now open the door and let him out.  There was his reward. Wa-la, you're done, you have given your dog a "Life Reward" which was defined by your dog in that moment.

More examples of Life Rewards:
  • If you are playing a game with your dog and a toy is involved, ask your dog to perform a task then wait for the dog to do it and then give the toy as the reward.
  • If putting the leash on your dog and going outside is extremely rewarding to your dog then ask him to perform a task then put the leash on as a the reward.
  • If getting on the couch to be pet is a reward to your dog ... you get the idea!
The more you start to incorporate life rewards with your dog after he's reliably been taught the desired behavior, then the more your dog will perform tasks when asked, regardless of what may or may not be in your hand, i.e., if food is present!

So back to the original question -- When do I remove food from the training equation? When will my dog begin to work reliably for Life Rewards?  The answer is: once you have properly taught your dog what you want him to do.  And when I'm starting out with training I'll use food or a toy or whatever is the most rewarding to the particular dog being trained.

Your dog should know the behavior being trained and perform it on cue.  This is when you can start to incorporate Life Rewards and intermittently give food rewards.  A cue is -- A stimulus that elicits a behavior. Cues may be verbal, physical (i.e., a hand signal), or environmental (i.e., a curb may become a cue to sit if the dog is always cued to sit before crossing a road). Here is an excellent video on when to add the cue.

Also, you will need to start to see your dog performing things in all environments and be able to generalize the behavior you have asked for.  This is explained best in my first blog post under reason 4) Training Gone Wrong ... Re-read that and watch the video listed there.  Visit that blog post here.

After all of the above is done properly then you'll see your dog needing less and less food and working when asked, regardless of whether food is present or not.  However, please do keep in mind you need to always reward your dog in some way and always praise him for performing any desired behavior/task.  Always, always, always.

Stacy Greer, CPDT-KA
Sunshine Dog Training & Behavior 
servicing Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas

Monday, December 10, 2012

Do I need a trainer or a behavior expert?

A dog trainer can be anyone.  Sadly the dog training industry is not regulated and there are no governing bodies to qualify a person under a blanket title of "dog trainer".  There are no degrees or the like for a dog trainer.  Anyone can become a dog trainer.  Anyone.  And yes, there are many "schools" out there with their own type of "certification", heck I even attended one.  However, this still isn't a green light that one should immediately say, "Oh then he must be a qualified trainer..."  Sadly that may or may not hold true.  The best way to find a good trainer is by referral and observation.   

Always seek a trainer that uses modern and up-to-date training methods.  Outdated methods are still very, very widely used and those more "current" trainers out there find that dogs trained with these methods are suffering from long term problems due to lack of correct education on dog behavior and training.  Never choose a trainer that puts a "I can fix your dog in X amount of lessons" or a "guarantee" on their training. There is no such thing when it comes to dog training, and especially with behavior modification.Here is an excellent read on how to find a good trainer.
Then a question often asked by many dog owners is: Do I need a dog trainer or behavior expert? How do I know?

If your dog is exhibiting any form of aggression or "reactivity" (it may look like aggression but be more "talk" than anything), fears, phobias, anxiety or extreme shy or timidness then you should seek the help of a behavior expert that knows canine behavior and body language very well.  Most box-store trainers cannot help dogs with the above listed problems and many trainers will also attempt to help but cannot get far as they don't have the proper education or experience to do so.  

Dog training is great for all dogs, regardless of their issues.  However, just teaching a dog the basics of obedience and how to "obey" will not help behavior problems that may go beyond that.   Many dog owners get the advice of "join a class" in the hopes that this will "fix" their dog's issues.  If your dog doesn't know how to sit, or walk nicely on a leash (due to pulling) then yes, a class would be a good option. However if your dog barks incessantly at other dogs when on leash or likes to growl and snap at others or dislike people coming into your home (these are just a few of many examples) then a group class is not the answer to start your dog's behavior modification program.

B -Mod is the abbreviation professionals often use that stands for "Behavior Modification".  Some trainers use the term "Rehabilitation" or maybe even some other terms.  It's all about the same thing: working with a training and canine behavior consultant (or even an Animal Behaviorist) in order to change your dog's behavior for the better.  That's a simple way  to put it.  

What dog owners need to know is that b-mod isn't a quick fix, if done properly by a qualified and highly educated dog professional.  B-mod Programs, as I call them, are just that "programs". Which means it's not a 2-lesson deal.  A training professional doesn't just come to the home, put a leash on your dog and show you a few little tips and then tell you your dog is going to be "fixed" within X amount of time.  If a professional does do that then they are not a professional I'd recommend you work with.  

If a dog has some behavior issues and requires a B-Mod Program laid out by a qualified professional then you need to know what you have to prepare for.  Do not expect instant results. Do not expect your dog to just be taught obedience and that solves your dog's issues.  Expect a commitment.  Expect to have all household members to participate, fully.  Expect to change your dog's current environment. Expect to learn about dog body language and how to read and use it.  Expect to never put your dog in a situation that sets him up to fail again.  Expect to lay out rules for any person that comes into your home or in contact with your dog.  Expect to possibly have a full medical check that involves blood panel and a thyroid panel to rule out medical components to the behavior issues.  Expect homework and dedication.

If you have a dog with behavior issues there are many great professionals who have very successfully changed the dog's behavior with a great Behavior Modification Program, coupled with the dog owners' compliance and dedication.  However, the biggest problem is people who don't commit, who fail to follow all the trainers' instructions and/or who expect more than what is realistic.

Sadly the internet and television have made it appear that dog behavior problems can be fixed quick and easy with certain methods.  This is not true and any qualified, educated and well-versed canine professional knows this.  So, if your dog has the need for a behavior modification program then please seek the help of a qualified professional and be prepared to do some work.  Do not be discouraged, these programs work and they work well, but they are not quick fixes.  All you need is a great canine professional and readiness to really do what it takes to change your dog's behavior, regardless of what that may be.

Understand what a Behaviorist is, as well. Many dog trainers call themselves "behaviorists" when in fact they are not.  That doesn't mean they don't understand behavior, and they could very well be absolutely amazing but they are misrepresenting what a true "Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist" is.  Read more here to know how to find a behaviorist, should you want a "real" certified animal behaviorist.
Note: You do not have to hire a genuine "Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist" to accomplish goals with behavior problems.  I simply wanted to have people understand what a behaviorist actually is and isn't.  There are many, many qualified trainers and behavior consultants (like myself!) that are not certified but are quite versed in dog behavior, training and behavior modification.

Here are a couple of organizations that I recommend to use to find a qualified trainer/behavior consultant:
Pet Professional Guild
Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT)
Truly Dog Friendly
Karen Pryor Academy

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