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Why Train Your Dog?

Fort Collins Dog TrainingIt seems natural for us to teach children how to function properly within our homes and environments outside of the home.  However, we tend to think that dogs should magically know how to behave within the human world.  Why is that?  Without proper guidance and training, dogs will behave according to their animal instincts. For example, it is NOT instinctual for a dog to know to eliminate in the yard versus the living room carpet or to ignore food on the coffee table.  He must be taught.  Just like a child will instinctively eat with their hands until we teach them to use a spoon.

I have found that dogs do not learn good behavior simply by being corrected or punished each time the bad behavior occurs.  When teaching a child to cross the street, we hold their hand and tell them to look both ways.  We do this a million times before we are confident the child understands and is old enough to cross the street safely.  We do NOT wait until they go into the street and then yell at them to not do that.

If someone was trying to teach you something by only telling “No!” when you get it wrong, would you ever learn?  It has been proven that if a dog is taught the appropriate behavior and they practice that behavior enough, the bad behavior is eliminated.   That is because now the dog is doing what he was taught to do rather than relying on his instincts.

Paw and Order Dog Training in Fort Collins, CO helps you training your dog in your own home using positive, reward based methods.  Why rewards vs. correction?  If a behavior is rewarding enough to the dog, it is more likely that he will repeat that behavior.  Repetition leads to habit.  Good habits REPLACE bad habits – and it only takes a few minutes of your day

In-Home TrainingIn Home Dog Training Fort Collins

I recommend in-home training when looking for a trainer to help with your dog’s behavior issues.  Here’s why:

  • Allows the dog to learn in their own familiar surroundings.  Dogs learn faster when they are comfortable and calm.
  • The owner and trainer can focus on only those issues the owner considers a problem.
  • Training sessions can be flexible to fit your schedule.  You don’t have to commit to the same day and time each week.
  • Behavior issues can be addressed in the setting in which they normally occur.
  • Training can be conducted in alternative locations if you dog is having behavior challenges outside of your home.
  • One-on-one attention from the trainer.
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Is Your Dog Driving You Crazy?

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • My dog destroys the house while I am at work!
  • My dog just never seems to settle down!
  • My dog always wants attention!
  • My dog barks at everything!
  • My dog never listens to me and is always distracted

As a professional private dog trainer, I hear these complaints all the time.  We dog owners want a happy, calm canine companion, of course.  So how do we turn our crazy dog into well mannered calm pooch?

The answer is in the phrase I say everyday to my clients – “A tired dog is a good dog!”

Most owners underestimate the amount of exercise our dogs need each day.  A 10 minute ‘potty walk’ before work is not even close to what is necessary to get your dog in a relaxed state of mind.

I recommend at least a 25 minute walk in the morning and in the evening – depending on the activity level of your particular dog and their ability to walk.  These walks should consists of 80% walking and 20% stopping to explore.

If you are unable to walk at those levels, hire a dog walker or train your dog to walk on a treadmill! Set it at a speed that is a comfortable walking pace for your particular dog. My dogs absolutely love walking on the treadmill.  It’s a great way to avoid walking outside in bad weather.  It is also an awesome mental exercise for your dog!

If your dog has a very high level of energy, consider a dog sport such as agility.  Again, this is a great activity for both physical and mental energy exertion.  Consider hiking trips on your days off.  Or build an obstacle course in your backyard.  If you have a pool, teach your dog to swim.  Dogs, like people, relish variety!

Feed all of  your dog’s meals from a food dispensing toy such as a Kong.  I recommend feeding twice a day – not leaving food out all day.  This will provide a more balanced energy level throughout their day.

If your dog is difficult to manage on walks, consider hiring a trainer to help you with that.  Some dogs are highly stimulated and reactive to the outdoor environment.  A good personal dog trainer should be able to work one on one with your dog in your neighborhood.  The goal is to train your dog to learn to walk politely (no barking, lunging or pulling) and to train you to manage his behavior during the walks.

In my experience, prescribing more daily physical and mental exercise for my client dogs has solved several behavior problems that obedience training did not.  So, before calling a trainer, try to increase your dog’s daily exercise.  The solution to your problems may be just that simple – “a tired dog is a good dog”.

If you are in the Fort Collins, CO area, I’d be happy to help you!

Paw and Order Dog Training
Fort Collins, CO
www.paw-n-order.com

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Watch Your Language!

So, here’s a mystery that I have yet to solve:  why do all of us dog owners speak to our dogs in such a rude and impatient way so often?  Here’s a perfect example of what we are all guilty of:  “Can you sit Molly? – Molly sit – SIT Molly! – Molly SIT!”  All of this said in exactly 2 seconds.  Notice how your dog just stares or ignores you when you do this?

I will never understand why we speak to dogs this way when we don’t to each other.  When I ask my clients to call me to set up their next appointment I don’t say – “Call me Ashley, Ashley call me – will you call me -can you call me?”  I would sound ridiculous and Ashley would think I was crazy!  Well, so does your dog when you speak like that.

There are a few things wrong with this whole approach to getting your dog to do something like sit:

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1) They do not understand you!  “Molly – sit” is what she understands because that is the language she was trained with.  “Molly – sit, sit, sit” sounds like a completely different cue to her and she doesn’t know what to do!

2)  This is the part that really confuses me.  Why do we expect our dogs to react to our cues within milliseconds?  We say “sit” the second time almost before we finish saying it the first time.  Why do we do this?  Where is our patience?   We need to realize that the dog has to do a few things before actually sitting:

  • Hear what you said, (make sure you use their name to get their attention before saying the cue).
  • Remember what the cue means
  • Do the actual behavior.  (I have seen so many dogs look for a comfortable spot to sit before doing it.  The ground or floor is cold or hard – I’d really like to sit on a rug.)  If you don’t have a dog competing in dog obedience, can’t you wait for him for a second or to?

So, here is my advice in using the proper language when cueing your dog for a behavior:

1)  Use their name to get their attention.
2) Use the command that she was trained with, not a variation of it
3) Give the command ONCE and then SHUTUP!
4)  Count to 2
5) If your dog obeys – reward with a Good Girl! and a treat if you’d like.
6) If your dog doesn’t obey and knows the command well, turn your back on her, count to 2 and then try to give the command again.  If she still doesn’t obey, you might want to work on practicing the command with reward based training.  You could be in a highly distracting environment and need to redirect her from her surroundings to focus on you first.

So, WATCH YOU LANGUAGE and your dog may respond to you more reliably!

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Leash Walking Training

In my dog training business,  leash pulling is a very common complaint from my clients.   Walking your dog should be a pleasant, not frustrating experience.  It is so important to walk your dog each day for their physical and mental exercise needs.  But who wants to spend 20 minutes fighting a pulling dog?  I know I don’t.   Here is the basic premise of my leash walking training program.

Step 1 – Teaching Your Dog to Follow

Your dog’s desire to follow and remain close is the necessary foundation for walking politely on leash.

You must become the center of your dog’s universe. You need to stimulate and strengthen your dog’s gravitational attraction towards you by moving away enticingly and heartily praising your dog all the time he follows. Click your fingers, slap your thigh, or waggle a food treat or a toy in your hand to lure the dog to follow. Be sure to praise your dog frequently as he follows you.

Whenever your dog attempts to lead, accentuate his “mistake” by doing the opposite. If your dog forges ahead, slow down or quickly turn around; if your dog lags behind, speed up; if your dog goes right, turn left; and if your dog goes left, turn right. As you change directions, say ‘This Way!’ Practice in large areas, such as in your backyard, friends’ yards, tennis courts, dog parks, and safe off-leash areas.

Feed your dog his dinner kibble or treats, piece by piece as you walk. Once your dog is following closer, time yourself while practicing following-courses at home, going around furniture, from room to room, and from the house to yard.

Step 2 – Using the Leash

Teach your dog not to pull while you are both standing still.

Hold the leash firmly with both hands and refuse to budge until your dog slackens the leash. Not a single step! It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Just hold on tight and ignore every leash-lunge. Eventually your dog will stop pulling and sit. As soon as he sits, say “Good dog,” offer a food treat. Then say ‘Let’s Go’ and take just one large step forward and stand still again. Hold on tight; your dog will likely explode to the end of the leash. Wait for your dog to stop pulling again (it will not take as long this time).

Repeat the Sit, Good Dog, Let’s Go sequence until your dog walks calmly forward (because he knows you are only going one step) and sits quickly when you stop and stand still. Your dog quickly learns he has the power to make you stop and to make you go. If he tightens the leash, you stop. But if he slackens the leash and sits, you take a step. After a series of single steps and standstills without pulling, try taking two steps at a time. Then go for three steps, then five, eight, twelve, and so on. Now you will find your dog will walk attentively on a loose leash and sit automatically whenever you stop.

As you’re walking, reward your dog frequently for staying next to you or slightly ahead of you.  If you do this consistently, he’ll learn that 1) if he stays near you or looks as you, he gets treats and gets to keep moving and 2) if he pulls on the leash, the fun stops because he doesn’t get to keep walking and he has to come back to you and sit.

If your dog pulls toward an object to sniff or eliminate, stop and wait for him to come back and sit.  When he does, say ‘Good Dog’ and take him to the location as a reward instead of the treat.

After a few days or weeks, you’ll find yourself stopping less frequently.  Make sure you continue to reward your dog for walking with slack in the leash or he’ll start pulling again.  As always, be sure to praise your dog frequently when they are doing the right thing.  They are more likely to repeat behavior that makes you happy!

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How to Housetrain Your Puppy

To housetrain your puppy: first, it is the owner’s responsibility to prevent any mistakes; and second, to teach your puppy where you would like him to eliminate.

 Prevent Mistakes

Mistakes are a disaster since they set a bad precedent and create bad habits, which can be hard to break. Consequently, you must prevent mistakes at all cost. Whenever you are not at home, leave your dog in a long-term confinement area, such as a single room indoors with easy-to-clean floors (bathroom, kitchen, or utility room)—this will be your puppy’s playroom.  I highly recommend an exercise pen (available at most pet stores) on an old rug on a tiled floor – as seen in the picture below.

potty training potty training puppy puppy

Exercise Pen for Puppy Potty Training

Using the exercise pen area as the puppy’s space when he has recently come in from a potty break, but cannot be supervised is a great idea.  This also prevents the puppy from having to be in his crate, but unable to roam the house and have accidents or chew the wrong objects.  An exercise pen versus a baby gate avoids the puppy chewing inappropriate items such as baseboards or kitchen cabinets.

For Long Term Absences –more than 1 hour

Provide your dog with fresh water, plenty of stuffed chew toys for entertainment, a comfortable bed in one corner, and a doggy toilet in the corner diagonally opposite from his bed. Your dog will naturally want to eliminate as far as possible from his bed, and so will soon develop the good habit of using his toilet. And remember, good habits are just as hard to break as bad habits.

For a doggy toilet, use sheets of newspaper sprinkled with soil, or a litter box filled with a roll of turf, or a concrete paving slab, depending on the surface you will use as your preferred bathroom area outside. Dogs can be very sensitive to what surface they will want to eliminate on.

The purpose of long-term confinement is to confine your dog’s natural behaviors (including urinating and defecating) to an area that is protected (thus preventing any mistakes around the house when you are not there), and to help your dog quickly develop a strong preference for eliminating on soil, grass, or concrete.

If You Are Home

When you are home, use the same setup, but CARRY your puppy out to your preferred elimination area every 30-45 minutes AND after eating, napping or a play session.  Carrying him to the location prevent accidents on the way.

At Night

Take your puppy out right before heading to bed.  Have your puppy sleep in a crate next to your bed.  Use a crate just large enough for him to get in, turnaround and lay down.  A crate that is too large provides opportunities for bathroom use in a corner where they are not sleeping.  Young puppies have small bladders and will need to go out one or two times in the middle of the night.  As they get older, they will be able to hold it longer and will eventually sleep through the night.  Remember, to carry them out first thing in the morning – not after your shower.  If you are not ready to take them outside, don’t let them out of the crate.

Teach Your Dog to Eliminate in the Right Place

When you are at home, confine your dog to a short-term confinement area with a number of stuffed chew toys for entertainment.  A portable dog crate makes an ideal doggy den.  Alternatively, keep your dog on a short leash fastened to an eye-hook in the baseboard near his bed or attach the leash to your belt or a piece of furniture. This way he can settle down beside you.  If they are leashed instead of in their crate, make sure that you are watching over them for signs that they need to eliminate.

Every 30-45 minutes, say ‘Let’s go outside to go potty’ (or some other appropriate instruction) and hurry your dog to his designated toilet area.  Stand still with your dog on leash and repeat the instruction to eliminate.  Give your dog three minutes to empty himself.

When your dog eliminates praise him enthusiastically and offer a treat or two.  Most puppies will urinate within two minutes on each trip and defecate within three minutes on every other trip.  As he is eliminating, say ‘Go Potty’ or whatever cue you want to use (be consistent).  Over time, you will have taught your puppy to go on command which is quite convenient.

If your dog does not eliminate during the allotted three minute toilet break, put him back inside his crate for another hour.

The purpose of short-term confinement is to prevent any mistakes around the house when your are home (but cannot devote undivided attention to your dog) and to predict when your dog needs to eliminate.  Temporarily (for no more than an hour at a time) confining a puppy to a small space inhibits elimination since the dog does not want to soil his sleeping area.  Consequently, your dog will want to go immediately upon release from confinement. 

Never confine a puppy or an unhousetrained adult dog to a crate for longer than an hour.  A dog confined too long will be forced to soil in his crate, making it extremely difficult to housetrain.

Helpful Tips

I have found it very useful to be sure to use a regular feeding schedule and to limit the amount of water available in the evening.  I also feed them within the exercise pen so they get the idea that this is their eating and living space – NOT their bathroom.  Most puppies don’t like to eliminate near their dinner table.

Keep a diary of when you took him out and what he did.  If he pottied, then give him about 20 minutes of supervised play time then back into his crate or supervised with undivided attention until the next potty break. If he did not, confine him to his crate for 30 minutes and try again.

Always take him to the same elimination location if possible.  This will build a good habit and make cleaning up the yard easier in the future.

Always take him out the same door – this will be the door he goes to in the future to let you know he needs out.

Pay attention to the signals that he gives to let you know he needs out.  He may paw at you, sniff around and circle looking for the right place, cry or attempt to get to the door.

Be patient!  Your puppy is LEARNING a complicated skill.  Accidents will happen.  Do NOT scold your dog for it.  Review your own actions first – accidents are usually the owner’s fault.

Within a few weeks, start giving your dog SHORT periods of SUPERVISED freedom (off leash) in various locations around the house.  Be sure to watch for the signs of him needing to go out.  If he heads for the door – awesome!  He’s learning!

potty training
potty training puppy
puppy

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With Dog Training, What Gets Rewarded Gets Repeated – What Doesn’t, Doesn’t

With dogs, what gets rewarded gets repeated.  Meaning, if they get any attention from their behavior, they will continue that behavior.  Whether it’s barking, jumping, chewing inappropriate items, etc. , if you respond with either a positive or negative reaction, that is attention – which is rewarding.  Which means I should do that again – look at all the attention I got!

So the flip side to this is, what gets ignored gets extinguished (eventually).  So, for example:  If your dog likes to jump on you and you respond with pushing the dog away, verbally scolding etc.,  he gets exactly what he wants from jumping – ATTENTION.  So learn to ignore!  If your dog jumps on you, be quiet, be still and IGNORE until all four feet are on the floor – THEN give attention.

I realize that is hard to do – but it works.  Let me give you an example that will really help make my point.

I have an older dog named Amber.  She loves to groom my dog Abby’s ears and face.  She will do it for 20 minutes straight.  Abby just lays there and basks in it.

When I brought home a new puppy, Amber of course started her grooming routine with Molly.   Molly, being a very young puppy, didn’t know how to handle this.  It seemed to trigger a nipping reflex.   As soon as Amber would start licking Molly’s face, Molly would nip at Amber’s muzzle.

Amber, of course didn’t like this, so her response was to stop the licking and dramatically turn her head away from Molly.  Molly would start to beg her for more grooming, but Amber would ignore her until Molly stopped asking. When Molly calmed down, Amber would try the grooming again.  If Molly stayed still and didn’t nip, the grooming continued.  If she nipped or got too excited, Amber would stop.

Each time Amber stopped she would patiently wait for Molly to calm down and try again.  If after a few tries, Molly just couldn’t resist the nipping, Amber would leave completely.  She would come back a few hours later and try again.

After about a week – it worked!  Molly could now lay next to Amber quietly and be groomed for 20 minutes without a nip.  Molly is now 4 years old and they continue their grooming ritual almost every evening.

So Amber successfully trained Molly for grooming using the ignore method.  Amber did not bark, growl or nip at Molly to get her to calm down – she simply IGNORED and then tried again later.

Practice ignoring and let me know how it goes.  Have you tried this method before?  Let me know about it

If you or someone you know needs help with learning to ignore your dog’s unwanted behavior, call me at Paw and Order Dog Training.  I conduct In-Home Personalized Dog Training in the Fort Collins, Colorado area.  Visit my website at http://www.Paw-n-Order.com.

Patty Harvey
Paw and Order Dog Training
(970) 682-5314
http://www.Paw-n-Order.com
patty@paw-n-order.com

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Consequences – Good and Bad

When I am training a dog using positive reinforcement, I try to remember that for each action the dog takes in attempting (or not attempting) to perform the behavior (i.e. Sit or Down), I need to make it very clear to the dog whether he got it right or wrong.  This helps him to learn and/or perform the cue more quickly.  How do I communicate right vs. wrong to the dog?  By implementing consequences.  Good consequences or bad consequences.

When we use positive reinforcement there is always a reinforcer used to communicate to the dog that they got it right.  This can be a treat, a toy, a short game of chase or tug.  If he gets it right, the consequence is that he is given his reward.  Most of us know to do that.  However, what should the consequence be if he doesn’t perform the behavior or gets it wrong?

What most people do when a dog gets it wrong or doesn’t perform at all, is to repeat the cue multiple times.  “Sit Abby.  Abby Sit.  Sit Abby.”  This simply just confuses the dog.

What we should do is the exact opposite of what we do when he gets it right.  Walk away from the dog with the reward and ignore him for a few seconds.  This is a bad consequence.  The dog clearly sees that he lost the opportunity to receive the reward. The next time you ask for the cue, he will probably perform it so you give him the reward rather than taking it away.  Very simple!