Thursday, March 22, 2012

A dog party, a Big dog party!!!

Well we had our first Doggy Party day and boy was it fun!!! We had 9 dog that ranged in age from 5 months to 9 plus years!  Everyone had a good time and I am sure they will all sleep very well tonight! (the treats for us people were sure good too!) Thanks for coming all of you who did! Hope to see you next month! For those of you who missed it, we will be doing it again next month! Hope to see you there!
 How dogs day "hello"
 Gumby and his friend Thomas!
 Elvis and Mika
 Roxy and Frodo play ball
 Thomas checks out Champ, while Boxy watches.  The water bowl was a pretty popular place!
 Frodo, Gumby, Strider, & Champ!
 Roxy, Elvis, & Champ
 Mika, Frodo, & Gumby
Frodo & Mika!

We had a few tiffs, but all in all everyone was very well behaved, and even the few tiffs weren't too out of control.  We were able to calm everyone down and everyone went home happy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hide and Seek!

A great game to teach your dog is "hide and seek."  Not only will it give you a few spare seconds without your dog pestering you to play ball, but it makes them use their little brain!  Why is that so important you ask?  The more your dog thinks, the happier and less energy he needs to expend (digging up your newly planted flower bed).  That's right, when your dog has to think in new ways or in ways that are challenging it uses about the same amount of energy as he would going on a walk.  Now he will still need his walks, but lets say it's rainy outside or bitter cold in the winter and a walk is just not going to happen, or  lets say he is just a bundle of energy and he could easily go on 5 walks, let alone one.  Now you have something that will help.

To teach him how to play first find a treat that is really smelly and has a unique smell ( moist liver treats, Greenies, or peanut butter treats work well to start).  Put your dog in a sit/stay or a wait, place the treat in an obvious place, then add the cue; "find treat", or "where's the treat".  As soon as he finds it (and can be eating it) click and he gets another (smaller) treat.  The next time make it a little harder to find, but still pretty easy to find. Click and treat the same way and gradually make it harder.  If your dog ever just gives up, put him back in the wait, or stay and re hide it  making it a little easier.  The next time you start pick back up  to be just a bit easier than the the level of difficulty that you were at the last time.  Always remember to ask for him to find something by name, so "find Timmy", "find ball", or whatever your dog might know the name of.

This game also works well to teach your dog the name of toys.  Clear the room and place the object in a very obvious place and ask him to "find_____"  If he goes up to the toy, click, treat, and repeat!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The workings of the brain, how and why the clicker method works...

    Now that you know a little bit more (if you have read my past posts) about the clickers have you said to yourself, "how does that make a difference or why does that work better than food?"  Well let me explain.
    Stop and think back to a time when you were looking forward to something, a concert, a trip, an upcoming party, anything that you were really excited for.  Now in the anticipation of that event weren't you just as excited thinking about the upcoming event as you were experiencing it?  This is how the clicker works.  Instead of instant gratification, that gratification is delayed for a few seconds but in those few seconds a part of the brain called the "SEEKing circuit is stimulated and that produces the excitement  in anticipation.  So just like you get good feelings when thinking about some fun thing that you are soon to experience, so does your dog. (They have actually done quite a few studies on this phenomenon in animals ranging from monkeys to rats, to read about a few pick up the book "For the Love of a Dog")  So when you click that clicker that dog is flooded with good anticipation feelings for that treat or toy that will be imminently coming.  So they in reality are not working for the food as much as they are working to get that flood of good feelings.  The food after the click just continues to reinforce the click.  Pretty cool huh :o)  So remember not only are you training your dog with the clicker, you are also reinforcing that bond between the two of you.  Keep in mind that the more fun you make training the more you become that awesome all giver of goodness at any given time, and the less likely you are to have dominance issues with your dog in the future.  No need to "show your dog who's boss," they won't even feel the need to question it if whenever you ask them to do something they feel so good because even after you stop using the clicker for your "commands" they still have those good feelings associated with doing what you have asked. Really neat huh :o)  Now if I could just remember to do that with my kids, I think I will have it made! :o) 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Aggressive dog?

So you have a dog who is great with the family, but doesn't like other dogs.  Maybe your dog is great with you but not other people.  Either way I can help.  Even if you dogs is older and is just getting worse there is never a better time like the present to get him/her back on track.  I will set up one on one time and we will slowly recondition your dog to "watch" you when he/she sees another dog, and we recondition good feelings to replace the scary ones he is feeling now.  Each dog is individualistic and I will take the unique approach to each of them.  Some dogs might take only 6 weeks to make a remarkable difference, others may take 10 or more.  I am willing to work as slowly as needed to help you and your furry friend.  A lot of what looks like aggression ("I just don't like you") is really "I'm afraid of what you might do so I am going to tell you to back off first".  That is called fear aggression.  It is one of the most common issues that dogs develop. Fortunately it is reversible in most cases.  If you or someone you know has a dog with aggression issues please let them know that there are ways to help.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Inside the mind of your dog...

I wanted to share with you a passage from Patricia B. McConnell's book "For The Love of a Dog" (she is an applied animal behaviorists)  In it she explains how and why the clicker works so well: "Food is a great motivator to both people and dogs and is a great way to teach dogs both basic obedience like Sit and Stay, and advanced tricks... This isn't just because food taste good, in fact, dogs don't have taste buds as sophisticated as ours.  It's also because food has strong odors associated with it, and the sense of smell is directly linked with the areas associated with pleasure.... Indeed, the smell of food is so closely linked with primitive emotional centers that neurologists believe that it was first evolved as a way of evaluating whether food was good for you or would make you sick.  Good smells equaled good good which made you feel good inside.  Simple as that."
(By using the clicker as an in between translator you are making him work for a good feeling and then he gets reinforced again with the treat.  That is why it is easier to wean them off the clicker than just a treat.)
"If your dog learns to associate the good smells of food with sitting when you ask, then your teaching his brain to feel good when he listens to you.... If on the other hand you train primarily using force (perhaps you use a leash correction to make your dog sit), you're missing out on a remarkable opportunity to condition a primal, positive association between obedience to you and his reaction to good things.  Additionally if you use force you're probably stimulating the fear centers in his Limbic system,so that he learns to associate you with the potential of danger."

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Here are some tips for teaching your dog to "Heel" by you instead of trying to pull your arm off.  This is one that will take time and practice (and lots of it) to get it down perfect.  It's kind of like "come", they may know it after a few times, but getting them to do it reliably will take practice.

First stop pulling back on the leash. (I know, what do you mean just let them run? No) As soon as your dog starts pulling, stand still. Call your dog back to you adding the word "heel", if they come Click and treat! If they don't turn around and take as many steps in the opposite direction as you need for your dog to be next to you, then click and treat when they are by your side.  Turn back around and continue on your walk.  As soon as your dog is pulling again, repeat the process.  This uses both negative and positive reinforcement and they work together to teach your dog that he is not going to get anywhere fast unless he is walking by your side.

The more often you do this the faster your dog will pick up on it for a few reasons:  First your dog is getting out and being exercised ;o) (that always makes a big difference), second consistency builds upon itself (if you are always asking and expecting the same thing from your dog he will catch on faster), and last but not least, the more closer together that you do the training for the same thing the faster they will catch on to the rules of the game.