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Dog Etiquette Made Easy

The most common complaints heard from clients and students that take classes revolve around basic manners. Jumping up, dashing through doors, the list goes on. If we haven’t taken the time to teach our dogs what we would like to see more of, how can we expect them to read our minds? These easy training tips will have you and your dog on your way to a more polite household.

Don’t Feed Into the Bad Behaviour

“Off!” “Enough!” “Stop!” Whether you are giving your dog praise or scolding them you’re giving attention to a behaviour… period. Physical attention such as pushing, kneeing (please don’t do this) is the same deal. Once you withdraw attention from rude behaviour it tends to stop because dogs don’t waste energy on something that doesn’t work. Put your focus on giving attention to the polite behaviours you’d like to see more and you will see your dog offer that more often.

Teach Something You’d Like Instead

If your dog jumps up on you or new people, teach them something that won’t enable them to jump, like “sit”. Every time your dog comes toward you ask them to sit before they have the chance to jump. Then reward them with the attention that they desired in the first place from jumping up. If they’ve been practicing jumping up for a long time, up the ante and reward the ‘sit’ with a tasty treat to make it really stick! Ask anyone new to your dog to ask for a sit before your dog has a chance to jump on them, or keep your dog on lead so you can better control the situation and ask for the sit yourself before greeting strangers.

Say Please!

Get into a routine of asking your dog for a polite behaviour to access things such as meals, going out or in doors, getting in and out of vehicles, putting on a leash for a walk, etc. You could ask for a sit, a down, stay. After doing this for some time your dog will get into a routine and start to OFFER these polite behaviours! Don’t forget to reward your dog and acknowledge the good stuff or they may resort to acting out in the attempt to gain attention.

Remember; if we don’t take the time to teach our dogs what we would like to see more of, how can we expect them to know? Unfortunately dogs are not born with an innate sense of what their humans would like. Give clear direction, consistently and keep it positive and fun!

Why Nosework?

frenchienosework

Some of the many benefits of nosework are:

  • Dogs easily burn lots of mental & physical energy doing searches
  • Searches can be done anywhere you can take your dog
  • No prior training is required and no obedience is needed
  • In classes, dogs work one at a time and rest crated or safely in a vehicle between searches so reactive dogs can enjoy the activity, too
  • Shy or fearful dogs build confidence and overactive dogs put their energy into fun searches
  • Stronger bond between dog & handler as handler learns to observe, understand, and rely upon his dog

Training Your Dog with Treats

Using food as a reinforcement/reward in dog training is always a hot topic. Opinions vary from“food is a bribe” to “using food for training is for the weak.” But If we move away from opinions and towards science and fact, we can clear up many misconceptions about using food to train.

Bribe vs. Reward

A bribe would come first, before the behavior. This means the dog will perform the behavior only if food is presented. A reward is something given to the dog AFTER the behavior has been offered or performed. This reward tells the dog that there is a possibility of reward in the future if they repeat the behavior, so the likelihood of them offering it again is very high. It’s all about creating an association.

Now, if I were to wave a piece of food in front of my dog’s nose to get that behavior, that indeed would be a bribe.

The Difference Between a Lure and a Bribe

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Many times using food to lure is the best and simplest way to show a dog a particular behavior, such as “down.” If you lure with food into a downward motion from a sit, the dog can follow the food to the ground and we can mark and reward this. VERY IMPORTANT: Be sure to fade the lure into a hand signal quite quickly or you WILL have to use a food bribe in future.

Why Food? Shouldn’t Praise Be Good Enough?

To ensure animals are motivated for training, we cannot kid ourselves and think that praise would/should be good enough. If your boss were to offer you the same, would that motivate you to work? Since money means nothing to dogs, it is only natural that such sense-driven beings would be highly motivated by food.

Food actually turns on the dog’s “seeker” system. It activates the senses and turns on the thinking brain (as opposed to the emotional brain) and readies them for learning and work.

Can’t I Just Use My Dog’s Kibble?

Day in and day out the bowl goes down, full of kibble. The same kibble. Every day. Now, if you want to motivate a dog, it makes sense to “up the ante” from bland kibble to something more delicious. A “treat” if you will.  And depending on the difficulty of the training, you should dish out the reward accordingly. As an example: you have never taught your dog to hand target AND you are in a very distracting environment. A double whammy. What would be a better choice, kibble or a piece of cheese?  ☺

Remember, if you utilize food in training the way it is intended, it will prove most effective. You’ll speed up your dog’s learning process and yield long-lasting results.  Why not base your decision on sound science and see the results for yourself?

Responsible Pet Ownership

The top 5 things responsible dog owners have in common

Their dogs get daily physical exercise

Depending on the breed and size, your exercise sessions may range from 20-60 minutes, multiple times a day. Consult with your vet to determine what is appropriate. Dogs need physical exercise for a variety of reasons.  Bored dogs become bad dogs. They dig, bark and chew. Vary your walks in terms of route and intensity to keep it interesting and enriching. And don’t forget: every walk has the opportunity to be a training session.

Their dogs gets daily mental stimulation

In my last article, we discussed how important it is to provide a stimulating environment for dogs. Mental exercise is a key component for a dog’s health that should be implemented every day. You can achieve many things with mental stimulation, ranging from building confidence to de-stressing dogs with high levels of anxiety. Every meal can become a mental stimulation session!Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 5.53.52 PM

They have routine vet visits

Oftentimes when I visit a client and their dog is acting strangely or misbehaving, I ask when their last vet visit was. A dog that is not feeling well is a dog that is likely acting cranky or reactive, so it’s important to rule out any health issues. Routine vet visits are important, and we must make them a priority.

Their nutrition is in check

Have you ever observed a child trying to sit still in a classroom after a breakfast of Froot Loops and juice?  I can imagine teachers must struggle with this quite often.  Many dogs are not getting the exercise they need and are being fed low quality food — a dangerous combination. Optimum nutrition enables our dogs to retain knowledge and allows for their bodies to function at a high level. Often, guardians turn to obedience training for behavior issues when a change in diet may actually be part of the solution.

They use humane, force-free training methods

If your goal is to have a well-balanced, well-behaved and content dog, your relationship needs to be based on trust. If we use fear, intimidation and pain to train, we break those bonds and damage our relationships. Long-term results do not come about overnight and can’t be produced with the shock of an electric collar. Reward-based training helps to promote a trusting relationship and ensures that your dog enjoys the learning process.

Why We Should All “Get Leashed”

Leashes required signIf you have a dog, you have likely experienced this scenario. You are walking your dog on leash, and all of a sudden an off-leash dog comes straight towards you. You have nowhere to go. If there is someone around, they are likely saying “My dog is friendly”– or maybe they’re smiling innocently, and not saying anything at all. It’s an all too common occurrence, and it shouldn’t be happening at all. Are you guilty of the “lazy leash syndrome”?

Why leashes matter…

1. Leash laws keep communities safe

They protect people and dogs. They prevent traffic accidents, keep dogs from wandering off and getting lost, keep dogs away from people that are afraid of dogs or children that may get knocked over. They also prevent dog fights, dog bites, and dogs digging in yards that are the pride and joy of homeowners. You get the picture: leashes are important.

2. Off leash dogs in undesignated areas create reactive dogs4723432610_31e7b1de43_b

Dogs that are leashed and are approached by unknown dogs or people are at a disadvantage right off the bat. They have nowhere to go. How vulnerable would you feel? If rushed enough times by strange dogs, this can easily cause reactivity.

“Reactivity” means that a dog over-reacts to stimulus, whether it’s other dogs, people, sounds or objects.  It could be due to fear or it could be due to an overexcited dog; the reasons vary. There are many reactive dogs out there (or I would be out of a job) and co-existing with dogs means respecting their space as well as their guardians. If you choose to let your dog off leash in undesignated areas, you are putting them at risk, not to mention your own dog who may get injured as a result.

3. Off leash dogs lack impulse control

Impulse control is the ability to control one’s impulses. Obviously. It’s common for me to see clients who gave up on loose leash training early on. As a result, their dogs are without boundaries – a potentially dangerous situation. They have learned that pulling gets them what they want; to be off-leash and doing whatever they please.  This lack of boundaries can translate to bad behaviour in the home as well. Jumping up will get them attention, barking will get them treats, etc.  My previous article (link) discusses why leash walks should be training sessions. These sessions can create noticeable benefits in very little time and will teach your dog boundaries and the ability to control impulses.

All in all, try to remember that although you might feel comfortable with your dog off leash, it  may be making other dogs nervous and unintentionally damaging the training regimen their owners are trying to accomplish with them. Adhering to leash laws will keep communities safe and our canine friends balanced and happy.

Beat Boredom with Mental Stimulation

Tricks for tapping into your dog’s cognitive abilities

By Renée Erdman

resourcesYou’ve heard it said a million times before: a tired dog is a happy dog. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “I know, I know, my dog needs more exercise! But I just don’t have the time to run my dog for hours every day.” The good news is, you don’t have to!

Grey matter matters!

Can you imagine never having the opportunity to learn new things? Never reading a book or learning new vocabulary or learning new skills? Life would be pretty boring, wouldn’t it? That’s how our dogs feel when we don’t tap into their cognitive abilities. Mental stimulation means engaging our dogs’ brains in activities that get them THINKING and WORKING.

Just think, how does it feel when you learn something new or achieve something on your own?

Damn good!

It’s not easy but you persevere until you achieve your goal. This same tactic also applies to our canine friends and is especially important for dogs that are fearful, stressed or lacking confidence. Makes sense doesn’t it? Our dogs aren’t robots that only need exercise, food, water aScreen Shot 2014-10-03 at 5.23.49 PMnd shelter over their heads. Cognitive science and research has revealed to us time and again that canines are complex and intellectual beings that thrive off of learning.

So, how do I do that?

For starters, you can get rid of your food bowl. One of the biggest motivators for dogs is food so why not have them work for it? Food dispensing toys are an investment that will give back ten-fold. If you feed twice a day, aim to consistently feed one meal out of a treat puzzle or toy. Stuffed Kongs with kibble or raw food layered with vegetables, peanut butter or other items can be packed and frozen to increase the difficulty. Your goal should be to make mealtime take an hour or longer!

Tell me more!

Add some training time into your daily routine. It only takes a few minutes to practice sit, down, stay and recall, but this training is tiring for your pup mentally. Don’t forget those daily on-leash walks are also an opportunity to work on training. How about some fun hide-and-seek scent games in the house? Engage your dog’s nose AND noggin! Most of these ideas only take a few minutes throughout the day, but the results are totally tangible. You’ll notice that your dog is more balanced and well behaved.

The Best Dog Training Secret

Dogs Do What Works

dogwhatworks3Despite what you may have heard, it’s just this simple: dogs do what works. There is no ulterior motive of “dominating” you when your dog jumps on the couch or bed. They simply either enjoy being on the nice, soft furniture that smells like you, or they want to be close to you. It’s time the “alpha dog” theory is put to rest for good. It’s doing our dogs—and the families that love them—a huge disservice.

“But I thought I had to be the pack leader in order for my dog to be balanced, happy and well behaved?”

Wrong.

The top veterinary behaviorists and trainers have spoken out, but in our “Dog Whisperer” world, are we listening? Dr. Ian Dunbar, one of the most well-known and respected veterinary behaviorists, says, “Notions of a “dominance hierarchy” with an “alpha wolf” being the all-powerful, supreme leader are simply incorrect. Such a muddled and simplistic view is a bit of an insult to the wolves’ most complex and sophisticated social system. This is not the way that wolves live together. Wolves live together in large groups based on family units — in fact, not that much different than the way large groups of humans live together.”

“So does it matter if my dog goes out the door before me? What if I don’t want him/her to do something: should they just be able to do whatever they want?”

No!
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Within your household you must determine what is rude and polite. If you would like your dog to be invited to join you on the couch instead of barreling on top of you, or you prefer they don’t barge into the street from the front door–that is perfectly logical. Setting up guidelines and structure within your household with a consistent routine is something that dogs can benefit from. And how do we do this? We use humane, reinforcement-based training techniques from qualified trainers. We don’t dominate them, intimidate or force them. This breaks down human-dog relationships and destroys dogs’ confidence, health and spirit.

I recently met with a client who was so relieved to hear that she could allow her dog to join her on the couch or bed and still make behavior improvements. She breathed a huge sigh of relief! I was happy to inform her that what she had seen on television was in fact incorrect.

“But I thought dogs were pack animals?”

Nope.

Studies of free-ranging street dogs in Romania, sub-Saharan Africa, South America, India, Mexico, on the Cook Islands, Hawaii, Bangkok and Moscow determined that while dogs briefly interact with each other and may be drawn together when food or resources are present, they then go on their merry ways, separately. They aren’t forming packs. So while wolves form packs, dogs do not.

“A trainer told me my dog is dominant due to his constant jumping up.”

Incorrect information.

Dogs do what works. If they keep jumping up, it’s because they are being reinforced for their behavior, meaning you are speaking to them, touching them and interacting with them. Simply put, they are getting attention for what they’re doing, whether it’s good or bad! They aren’t scheming to rise in a so-called household hierarchy. Dominance is a reference describing BEHAVIOR, it is not a personality trait. Dogs display dominant behavior with other dogs and in turn display dismissive behavior. Your dog may be more bold or shy or a mixture of the two, but either way, we need to start using the correct terms.

Determining the motivation of our dogs’ behavior is the key to making lasting change. We must educate ourselves on why dogs do what they do before we slap a label on them that will only set them up for future failure. It’s time we turn the mirror around and examine what it is we need to be doing differently in order for our dogs to succeed.

Choosing the Right Trainer

by Renée Erdman

Choosing a dog trainer or behavior consultant can be a daunting task. Different designations, certifications and different approaches may yield very different results depending on your choice. The terminology can be confusing to say the least, and the style of training.

The dog training industry is unregulated, meaning, anyone can set up a website and print business cards claiming to be an “aggression expert” or “whisperer”. Scary, isn’t it, especially since our canine companions cannot speak up when wrong-doing occurs. Here are some important things to consider before hiring a professional dog trainer or behavior consultant:

Certifications and education can vary from very little to no learning theory. This is an important note because the science of behavior is an important base in which trainers should build upon. It would be like a psychologist just “winging it” with the hopes that whatever methods they choose for your issues will work through trial and error. Good grief!!! This isn’t responsible or professional. Dogs and their guardians are instilling their trust in a professional that claims to specialize in helping dogs. They have a responsibility to be qualified to do so.

patient OscarHumane, dog-friendly techniques should always be employed in training, and there should be a focus on promoting a relationship based on trust and mutual understanding vs dominance/submission and fear. A trainer can claim to be “positive” and “balanced” meaning they combine reward based training paired with punishment techniques. This is a red flag. As mentioned above, a well-versed education or background in the science of animal behavior tells us that punishment techniques are not only damaging physically and emotionally, but they destroy human-animal relationships.

Conduct careful research of short listed trainers such as prior education and an ongoing commitment to keep abreast of the most current knowledge of canine behavior. Are they attending seminars and lectures, taking new courses or studying new literature? If it’s been 10 years since they have updated their education…

…. MOVE ALONG!

 

Attend a class or watch a session with the trainer, meet with them and observe how the dogs are responding to the training. What does their body language look like? Are owners using force or intimidation in order for the dogs to comply? An ideal scenario would be void of owners using punishment or putting their hands on the dogs. You will want a trainer or class that use lure and reward, clicker training and shaping to yield the desired results.

Very quickly you will be able to determine who is a humane trainer. If prong, shock or choke chains are employed…

…MOVE ALONG!

 

Trainers should be very clear and transparent in the ways they work with dogs.

These 3 questions should always be asked of them.

 

  1. What happens when my dog gets it right?
  2. What happens when my dog gets it wrong?
  3. Are there less invasive/aversive alternatives to what you propose?

 

If you get confusing answers riddled with lingo you do not understand…

…MOVE ALONG!

 

And lastly, if a trainer is reciting a script familiar to a television personality promoting pack mentality, again…

MOVE ALONG! To clarify here, it is a myth that dogs form packs within households with humans.

It’s easy to get caught up in a sales pitch guaranteeing that your dog can be “fixed”. Animals are complex beings, as is their behaviour. The right professional will answer the above questions and concerns with complete transparency, will make you feel at ease, and will improve the relationship between you and your dog while improving the behaviour of your canine companion.

Puppy Development Stages

Puppy Development Stages

The most important time in a puppy’s development is during the first year, especially during the first 4 months of life. By understanding the development stages, we can provide our puppies with what they need when they need it most, for optimal development!

The Imprinting Period: First 4 Months of Age

Like children, puppies have a small window of time during brain development when they are most impressionable. This is called the imprinting, or critical learning period.  For puppies, the imprinting period is during the first 16 weeks of life. Puppies learn more during this time than they can learn in a life time. Therefore, the quality and quantity of what they experience will have a huge impact on their future personalities and determine the formation of many of their “good” or “bad” behavior tendencies. In fact, such vast change in development happens with each day that passes, the Imprinting Period is further sub-divided into multiple distinct puppy-stages.

First 7 Weeks (Neonatal Period, Transition Period, and 1st Socialization Period)

In the first 7 weeks of life, puppies gain use of all the senses, become mobile, start growing baby teeth, transition to eating solid foods, and become completely weaned (independent) from their dog moms.

Learning is already rapidly occurring, making it important that human caretakers provide puppies with specific neurological stimulation, a complex environment, and careful, yet thorough, socialization for proper development and adjustment to living in human society.

During this time, there are also very critical lessons that the puppies must learn from their dog moms and siblings. Therefore, puppies should not be removed from their original homes before 7 weeks of age.

7–16 Weeks (2nd Socialization Period)

The optimal time for puppies to be placed with their new human families is at 7-8 weeks of age.  As soon as your puppy comes home, time is of the essence for you to provide a huge heaping of high quality socialization and schooling. This is the key to creating a socially self-confident, well-behaved puppy that is strongly bonded to you.  It is also the key to preventing yappy, shy, and/or aggressive behaviors from developing later in life!

Fear-Impact Period: During the 2nd Socialization Period, when your puppy is around 8-11 weeks of age, it is important to be aware of what is known as a Fear-Impact Period. If puppies have “bad” or scary experiences during this time, the impressions are likely to last a lifetime and resurface during maturity.  So, protect your puppy from these long-term effects by avoiding bad experiences.  Should your puppy become afraid for any reason, dangerous or not, immediately step in and remove him/her from the situation. That is good parenting!

4–6 Months (Juvenile Period)

During this time, your puppy will gain more energy, and become more “mouthy” and restless from the discomfort of teething as the baby teeth begin to fall out and the adult teeth erupt. This will typically occur between 4-6 months of age, but sometimes lasts longer.

Your puppy will also begin to acquire an adult coat and attain most of his/her height.  During this time, he/she will also become sexually mature, so this is a great time to get your puppy spayed or neutered… before related behavior problems manifest!

2nd Fear-Impact Period: Starting in the 5th month of the Juvenile period, there may be a Second Fear-Impact Period that lasts for 3 weeks.  This is similar to the First Fear-Impact Period. If it does not occur at this time, it will occur later during the Adolescent Period.

6–12 Months (Adolescent Period)

Hold on tight—your puppy will now be attaining full “puppy power” and will begin to test his/her wings! This is usually a difficult time for many puppy parents, but can be a mess for those with puppies that missed early establishment of boundaries, socialization and training.

Your puppy will be likely to have much more energy, spend more time exploring the environment, become easily distracted, and may even seem less interested in you and forgetful of his/her training skills.  Just be patient, consistent, and supportive—make sure boundaries are still well in place, review your training, and continue building on your successes.

2nd Fear-Impact Period (if has not yet occurred): Puppies that did not experience their Second Fear-Impact Period in the last stage of puppy-hood will experience it during the Adolescent Period. The Second Fear-Impact period is similar to the First Fear-Impact Period and lasts for approximately 3 weeks.

1–4 Years of Age (Maturity Period)

Physically, small-medium breed puppies develop more quickly than large-giant breed puppies. Smaller breed puppies will usually attain maturity by around 1 year of age and large-giant puppies can take up to 2 years.
Mentally and socially, a dog may be considered a puppy for up to 4 years!

Bravo Dog Philosophy

It’s Really Quite Simple

relationshipAt Bravo Dog I use humane, science-based training methods to work with dogs.

Motivating our dogs to learn really isn’t that complicated. The most up to date science tells us that reward based training hits the mark. We can teach our dogs faster using food or whatever motivates them while improving our relationship. Punishment doesn’t feel good for anyone and if it’s not effective, why bother?

Before “bad” behaviours crop up it’s important to focus and reward those behaviours that we do appreciate. Often times we forget to acknowledge when our dog is calmly sitting by our side while many distractions go by. If we ignore these behaviours then often times our dogs will start to offer up the ones that get them attention. Like finding your favourite shoe and demolishing it as a snack.

The more often we reward/reinforce positive behaviours the more often our dogs will offer them; why wouldn’t they?

My goal is to improve relationships between humans and dogs so that we can all live harmoniously together. Not all dogs OR people are the same so our expectations need to be realistic. Every dog has the potential to be their very best and I’ll help you get there.