Dog Blog

January is “Train Your Dog” Month

A well-fitted harness that allows the full range of motion of your dog’s forelegs is an important piece of equipment that takes the pressure off a dog’s sensitive neck area and distributes leash pressure over the chest instead. But many dogs dislike wearing a harness, and often this has to do with their aversion to having the harness put on. Here is a good video by Chirag Patel showing how to teach a dog how to put its harness on.

Check out “The Best Front Clip Dog Harnesses” from Whole Dog Journal.

Photo by José Guilherme Moretti Gomes on Unsplash

January is “Train Your Dog” Month

Cooperative Care — brushing, nail trims, wiping paws, bathing, giving medications, cleaning ears, brushing teeth, doing body checks, tick removal — all of these can be easily trained using positive reinforcement and giving your dog the time and choice to willingly cooperate with the task. Taking the time to train these behaviours, especially BEFORE you need them, is a boost to your relationship with your dog. And it reduces major stressors in your dog’s life.

The Facebook group Cooperative Care With Deb Jones is an excellent free resource. As well, Chirag Patel has some excellent videos on this, including The Bucket Game. Here is a great video showing how The Bucket Game is used to teach a dog to accept ear medication.

Photo by Ayla Verschueren on Unsplash

January is Train Your Dog Month

Teaching your dog to come when called (Recall) is an important skill and it needs to be proofed in a variety of contexts, levels of distraction, and locations. And it needs to be practiced frequently so your dog’s Recall remains a strong behaviour with a long history of positive reinforcement.

Here is a fun training video teaching a Recall. It does a very good job of breaking down the skill into small pieces and shows the progression of the dog’s skills in varying levels of distractions. NOTE: you do not need a clicker (as shown in the video); you can use a marker word like “Yes!” if you like. And you do not need to use the same word as the verbal cue.

Photo by Oscar Sutton on Unsplash

January is Train Your Dog Month

Does your dog know SIT? In a high distraction environment? When you are sitting in a chair? From a distance? Without any body language cues from you?

Here is one of my favourite instructional videos for teaching a dog to SIT on cue. The instructor includes some important points about fading the lure and establishing a verbal cue. It’s a great review, even if your dog already knows how to SIT on cue.

photo credit Taylor Kopel on UnSplash

January is “Train Your Dog” Month

With just 5 minutes of training a day, teach your dog to relax and settle when people come to the door or when guests visit your home

Now is the time to start training to help ensure your dog is better-behaved and better able to relax when people come to the door or guests come over.

What you will need:

A blanket/mat/towel to serve as your dog’s “place.” A dog bed or crate will work, too, but if you use an easily portable mat/blanket/towel, then it can be used in many locations and you can easily take it with you to other locations outside the home (yard, park, a friend’s home, an outdoor cafe, etc.).

Small bits of food your dog likes. The food should be valuable enough that your dog will want to train, but not so valuable that your dog is too excited to relax. Using a portion of your dog’s regular meal may be ideal.

A non-toxic hollow food dispensing toy or a bully stick that will occupy your dog for 5 minutes (for teaching the beginning of SETTLE).

Contact me if you would like to participate privately, with or without online personalized instruction. I’ll email you 12 sets of instructions, each with a 5 minute training session to help your dog settle and greet guests politely and calmly.

Photo by Taylor Kopel on Unsplash

Holiday Dog Challenge: 5 minutes a day for 12 days

(Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash)

Would you like your dog to relax and settle when guests visit your home?

Now is the time to start training to help ensure your dog is better-behaved and better able to relax for the holidays. Or for every day!

What you will need:

A blanket/mat/towel to serve as your dog’s “place.” A dog bed or crate will work, too, but if you use an easily portable mat/blanket/towel, then it can be used in many locations and you can easily take it with you to other locations outside the home (yard, park, a friend’s home, an outdoor cafe, etc.).

Small bits of food your dog likes. The food should be valuable enough that your dog will want to train, but not so valuable that your dog is too excited to relax. Using a portion of your dog’s regular meal may be ideal.

A non-toxic hollow food dispensing toy or a bully stick that will occupy your dog for 5 minutes (for teaching the beginning of SETTLE).

The Holiday Challenge (December 1 to 12) is now over.

Contact me if you would like to participate privately, with or without online personalized instruction. I’ll email you 12 sets of instructions, each with a 5 minute training session to help your dog settle and greet guests politely and calmly.

The Best Book for Puppy Socialization

This e-book is a life-saver! Figuratively AND literally. It is full of helpful links including many video examples. It’s like having a professional dog trainer at your fingertips coaching you along the way. I recommend this book BEFORE any puppy class. This book goes well beyond a puppy class.

It can be helpful for dogs with fearful or over-reactive behaviours, as well. The process will be slower, but the principles are similar.

It is for sale at Dogwise (click here) and where ever you buy your e-books.

Teach Your Dog How to Be Alone

“Loved the book. Very straightforward. Can be read in an afternoon. Great practical advice and easy to follow steps.” — Jacqueline Paul Surdu, Regina, SK

“I have been using some tips from your book and working with Odie to go to his crate on his own with great success. This morning I was gathering things to head out the door he just knew and went to his crate without me saying a word. Almost too easy for a pup that is anything but easy“ — Stephanie Bank, Regina, SK

The e-book is now available on DOGWISE (click here) and other online stores (click here). If you are interested in purchasing a printed copy, contact me through email.

Tired of Dog Enrichment? Your Dog Might Be, Too.

Dog Enrichment is a popular buzzword these days, especially for dog parents who are staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are books, websites, social media groups, podcasts, videos, all promoting ways to help fill a dog’s mental, emotional, and physical needs — even spreadsheets to track enrichment opportunities and where there may be gaps that can be filled. As with all things, dog enrichment efforts can be taken to the extreme, and dog parents may feel pressured to fill their dog’s days with enrichment in order to be a good pet parent. Sometimes a dog just needs a break from it all. And so do pet parents.

Let’s take a step back and assess things.

For dogs that spend a lot of time alone or in an environment devoid of stimulation and opportunities to perform natural behaviours, providing more enrichment is beneficial.  Enrichment can help reduce stress, improve health, and prevent unwanted problem behaviours. But when is it too much?

To begin with, dogs require a lot more sleep/rest each day than many people realize.  Individual dogs differ, of course, but some sources suggest 12 to 14 hours a day, and some suggest 17+ hours a day correlates with fewer stress-related behaviour problems. A dog’s health and behaviour will suffer if a dog’s day is constantly interrupted by activities or if the dog’s environment doesn’t allow the dog to nap (e.g. too much activity in the home, too much guarding of the window or yard as people and dogs pass by, too many sudden environmental changes such as construction noises).

As well as sufficient sleep, dogs benefit from unscheduled time. Structure and routine are very beneficial for dogs, absolutely. But free-time needs to be included in the dog’s schedule so the dog can learn how to settle on his/her own and entertain themselves.  Obviously, one must ensure the dog’s environment for free time is such that a dog can entertain themselves safely and appropriately. For example, for puppies, chewers, dogs with housetraining issues, or dogs that tend to get into mischief, barriers/expens can be used to contain the dog to an area with a variety of toys, a bed, water and food dishes, and a potty area for accidents.

Providing enrichment activities for your dog doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming, or expensive.

Free-time to sniff and explore on walks is also essential for a dog’s well-being and to help reduce behaviour problems. Dogs experience the world largely though their noses, and if they are rarely allowed to stop and sniff (safe) things on a walk, a walk can become a frustrating, unpleasant experience for them. Letting a dog sniff and explore on a walk — if not the entire walk, then at least a portion of it — can do wonders for lowering a dog’s stress levels. Using a longer flat leash (3 to 4 meters) can allow you to shorten the leash to 1 or 2 meters when needed, but let it out to 3 or 4 meters when it’s safe to do so; a longer leash can allow a dog to move more freely and naturally through their environment, and training for loose leash walking skills will allow the dog to walk nicely on any length of leash. There is recent scientific evidencethat dogs on longer leashes sniff more and that sniffing lowers a dog’s heart rate.

Let the dog choose the activities he/she enjoys is also important for a dog’s wellbeing. Sometimes people enrol dogs in activities without considering if the dogs are enjoying the activities or not. Sometimes the environments for the dog sports are too intense for the dog. Sometimes the human has become too competitive and has taken the fun out of it for the dog. Sometimes there are too many of the activities in a week and the dog has not been allowed to rest between activities. Free work for dogs (unstructured time where dogs freely engage with various items in a space) is a trend that is helping dog parents understand their dogs’ preferences for activities. I would argue that for dogs that are not stressed when walking on a leash, a relaxing sniff and stroll on a long leash in a natural environment provides a similar opportunity to learn about a dog’s preferences.

Mealtimes can provide opportunities for mental stimulation and the expression of natural behaviours. Rather than feeding the dog from a bowl, try a food dispensing toy (e.g. a kibble ball, a hollow rubber toy, or a snuffle mat) or feeding a meal by hiding bits of it around the house, scattering it in a room, or laying food trails in the yard.

And finally, Cooperative Care training is a perfect opportunity to provide enrichment for practical purposes. Teaching dogs to love the grooming table, sand their own nails, rest their chin in your lap, happily swallow a pill — all of these things can be taught in a fun way for you and your dog. These “tricks” become practical skills and allow you to turn these necessary activities into relationship building activities.

For more information about dog enrichment, training, and behaviour, contact Jennifer Berg CPDT-KA.