January is “Train Your Dog” Month

A muzzle is an important piece of safety equipment that all dogs should be conditioned to enjoy wearing — just in case. A muzzle is not a licence to put your dog into a situation that is too much for your dog. The muzzle is a piece of safety equipment just in case things go wrong. Like a seatbelt– wearing one doesn’t mean you should drive recklessly. A muzzle is but is NOT a substitute for science-based, force-free behaviour modification. For example, if your dog bites other dogs at the dog park, slapping a muzzle on your dog and tossing him in the dog park group is NOT going to help your dog’s mental and emotional health and it will have extreme fallout. Your dog should NOT be at the dog park. But that’s another post…..

There are many reasons why your dog might have to wear a muzzle — your dog is injured and needs to be handled, the vet clinic or groomer requires all dogs be muzzled, your dog is rescued from a natural disaster and is being cared for by strangers who may put a muzzle on your dog. If your dog already knows how to wear a muzzle and has developed a strong positive emotional response to wearing it, then that can help reduce the anxiety your dog might feel in the situation your dog is in.

Here is one of my favourite videos showing how to teach a dog to LOVE wearing a muzzle.

FYI: a muzzle should NEVER EVER be used as a punishment to try to stop a behaviour. It is an important safety tool and if you use to punish a dog, then you will create a negative emotional response to the muzzle and your dog will become stressed/anxious/fearful when your dog sees it or has to wear it.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

January is “Train Your Dog” Month

How can you keep your dog’s brain stimulated when the temperatures outside are too cold for longer walks? Games that engage your dog’s mind! Free-shaping is a excellent “game” that both gives your dog a mental workout and improves your skill at training your dog (specifically, your observation skills and timing). Free-shaping can build confidence (when done correctly to avoid too much frustration) and improve your relationship with your dog. Here is a very good video that explains free-shaping and how to use it to play a game called “101 Things To Do with a Box.” The first half explains the concept and the second half demonstrates it.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

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