Thursday, December 24, 2015

Play Ball with your Dog

Playing ball with your dog:  You throw a ball for your dog and he runs and fetches it and brings it back to you.  What an easy way to exercise your dog while you bond with each other through play. Some dogs are naturals at this game, and most dogs can learn it with some good instruction.

Who is this for?
This activity particularly suits active dogs and is good for humans that aren't super enthused about going for a good run with their pups.  Even if you have a dog that has been banned from the dog park, you can give him a good run right in the comfort of your backyard.  Most dogs will learn to fetch a ball.  A lot of hunting breed dogs (especially pointers and retrievers) take to fetching a ball like a duck takes to water, and border collies usually love a game of ball. Most other dogs readily learn this fun game.


Mental stimulation
Physical exercise
Bonding activity
Human doesn't need to do much
Can be done at home or at an off leash area

What you will Need

A rubber Chuckit Ball, a Hockey Ball or a tennis ball
An open area
A dog that comes back when he's called
Some tiny soft  treats to teach this

How To Teach Your Dog To Fetch a Ball:

  1. Playfully Tease the dog with a treat and give it to him as he follows your hand around but doesn't bite at it.  Repeat about 5 times.
  2. Now do the same thing with the ball, and give it to him. 
  3. Tease him with the ball, but this time toss it a few feet away.  
  4. When he gets it say "Good Fetch Whatyername!"
  5. When he drops it close to you, give him a treat and praise
  6. Repeat 5 times
  7. Gradually toss the ball a little further each time
  8. To keep him interested, stop playing after about ten minutes.  You can play a little longer next time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Agility! Fast Paced Fun with your pooch

Looking for things to do with your dog that will make him a better dog, while helping you to learn great dog training and handling skills?  There are so many to choose from!  From highly disciplined canine team sports to games and activities you can enjoy one on one with your dog, there are lots and lots of dog activities to choose from. Lucky for you, I am going to post a new one on this blog every day.  I'll start with the beginning of the alphabet: Agility


Agility is a sport whose canine participants run and jump over, around and through a circuit of specially designed obstacles such as jumps, tire jumps, weave poles, walking bridges, tunnels, and a frames.  Agility is a fun fast paced time trial dog sport.  Members of each team  earn points to gain the best overall score for their team in competitions. It's alot of fun for both human and canine.  Competition Agility has particular rules about how a dog does the obstacles (for example dogs have to touch the bottom of the downward side of the Aframe rather than vaulting off the middle of it.  

Who is it for?
Agility is a great dog sport for people with active dogs who enjoy training and competing with them. Although all dogs can participate in agility, some breeds that really excel at include: Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers, Jack Russell Terriers and any athletic, relatively light weight, breed. 

Most local agility clubs welcome new canine members who have basic obedience training. Generally dogs should be reasonably well behaved around other dogs.  Most teams that I talk to like to have small dogs on the team along with the bigger ones so they will be allowed to set bar jumps lower.  


For Dog:
-Muscle development and coordination
-Mental Stimulation
-Better working relationship with handler

For Human:

-Train and compete with other like minded dog lovers
-Training skills development
-More focussed and attentive dog overall
-Better working relationship with dog


Agility obstacles can be purchased online through websites like Clean Run, but all the obstacles you will need will be provided by your local dog agility club.   This is a good thing, because competition agility equipment can run a really pretty penny.  Other than the obstacles you will need:

Comfortable shoes that you can run in
Clothing suitable for the weather
Water to drink, for you and your dog
A portable water dish
A buckle collar for your dog
A leash
A treat pouch
Plenty of Small moist, easy to consume, treats

How to Check it Out:

Agility equipment tends to be on the pricey side, so you'll probably want to check it out first. Your local agility club is a great place to start.  Here are a few places you can find a local dog agility club:

Local Community Activities/Recreation Guides

No matter what you choose to do with your dog, remember that his mental health and his resulting relationship with you and the rest of the world should always come first.  If you find either yourself or your dog becoming stressed, impatient and snappy with other dogs or their humans,  one or both of you is getting stressed out. Now's a good time to re-evaluate why you took up the sport in the first place. Is it really the right activity for you?  In the end, nothing is more important than thoroughly enjoying and revelling in the all too short time we have with our dogs.

Friday, December 4, 2015

German Shorthaired Pointer is a Mountain Biker's Best Friend

German Shorthaired Pointers kick butt as trail dogs. I can't wait to get riding again with Earl and possibly Jolene too.  Not to be a nag, but Here's a few safety rules for biking with a GSP or any other dog:

  1. Leash on roadways (careful with this, walk if you need to instead of risking tumbling into a mess of spokes, front tire and pavement)
  2. Plan your route so your dog won't overdo it.   No more than 10 km to start with and you can build endurance from there.
  3. Start your ride slowly so your dog gets to warm up a bit first.
  4. Wear a helmet and eye protection (do I need to say this?)
  5. If you have a short haired dog like a pointer, it's smart to have him wear Skidplate to protect his shoulders and belly from cuts and scrapes while allowing for ventilation.
  6. Bring lots of water and a snack for both of you.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Attention and Focus training build any behaviour on this foundation

Attention and Focus Training for Dogs

Attention occurs when the dog is alert to his name and “answers” to it with his full attention when you say it.   Focus occurs when the dog remains attentive to you with distractions, in a variety of environments.  

Attention and focus training are the foundation for any good dog training program.  After we establish rock solid attention and focus with distractions present, we will have much better success teaching a rock solid recall, heeling on leash, trick work or any distance behaviour. We can’t teach the dog anything if we don’t have their willing and complete attention.  We want the dog to prefer to pay attention to us than to other things in his environment.

Keys to teaching a dog to pay attention to us under any circumstances?

  • Use tiny really high value rewards and plenty of praise at first.
  • Break paying attention to you down into identifiable baby steps and wait until he offers the behaviour at each step reliably before you proceed to a more demanding step.  Here is what I do:

  1. Mark, Reward, and praise the dog for turning his head toward you at first.  
  2. Repeat 10 times.
  3. Now up the ante:  The new criteria to get a reward becomes looking at you
  4. Mark, reward and praise for any eye contact.  If you have a shy or nervous dog, you may need to repeat the first step more.
  5. Repeat 20 times.  
  6. Say his name in a happy voice
  7. Repeat 20 times every day.
  8. Get someone else to distract him with a ball or other toy that he likes.
  9. When he first notices the toy, then say his name, click for the head turn and reward and praise.  Repeat 20 times per session in different locations.

  • Never use the dog’s name in a negative way.  If you need him to stop doing something, physically interrupt and then quickly distract him with something great.  We want our dogs to always think when you call their name and they pay attention something great will happen soon.  
  • Attentions training is a game that both parties can win at.  Keep the tone light and happy.  
  • Never punish your dog for ignoring you.  This will be counterproductive because after he is punished, he will, given a choice, avoid you.  
  • Feed the first meal of the day for attention and focus with distractions.
  • Once you have his attention when you say his name, begin adding a cue that he knows right after you say it.
  • Treats tossed on the floor beside the dog may be more effective for getting and marking a head turn toward you.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Train at the Next Level - Tawzer Dog - Online Video Portal

Train at the Next Level - Tawzer Dog - Online Video Portal

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dog trainers certification: What you need to know

It used to be that dog training was an unregulated industry.  Like many dog trainers in
Canada, I was once certified by the small dog training school in my town.  I soon found better, more positive training methods.  I held off on getting any further certification as a dog trainer for many years, until the Association for Professional Dog Trainers and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers convinced me that their certification actually meant something.  I decided they were both well recognized organizations that stood behind their reputations for excellence.  To achieve my KA Certification with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, I needed to have:
  1. 300 proven hours of dog training experience
  2. 3 reference letters: From a fellow trainer, a veterinarian, and a client
  3. A minimum of 75% on a very extensive examination
  4. Adherence to strict ethical guidelines for: treatment of animals, business practices, and customer service
  5. Proof of ongoing education for at least 3 years.
To acheive my APDT C.L.A.S.S. Evaluator certification I had to pass a very extensive
examination with a minimum of 75% correct answers.

To acheive my CTDI certification I had to take a course and pass a practical skill exam.

It occured to me that there are still people out there hiring unqualified trainers who rely on discounting the value of CCPDT-KA Certification to attempt to convince potential clients that they should employ them.  When a client hires a trainer they are trusting that trainer to provide training that will make the dog a safe and functional family member.  Hiring an uncertified, unproven dog trainer who openly discounts the value of CCPDT certification is hiring someone who is at best, ignorant and at worst dishonest.

Our dogs are family members who deserve to have qualified professionals involved in their care.  We would never consider hiring a veterinarian, teacher, dog groomer, or any other professional who had never passed an exam to acheive certification with a recognized body. Dog training is no longer an unregulated industry; however, there is still no way to stop unqualified people from calling themselves dog trainers.  In the end, hiring an uncertified trainer is every bit like playing Russian Roulette with your ongoing relationship with your dog as well as with your dog's life.  Who would do that?


Saturday, July 11, 2015

3 Simple tips to safeguard pets when disaster strikes

Recent wildfires in every region of in BC are a wake up call to be prepared to evacuate with our pets.  Emergency evacuations can be very stressful if we aren't prepared to go.  Having a plan and a kit with 72 hours of essential supplies for your family and your pets can help to make things alot easier in a situation that demands an immediate exit.

Make a plan now as to where your pet can stay in an emergency.  During and immediately after an earthquake, wildfire, or flood situation, emergency services may too taxed to provide reliable accomodations for your animals.  If you can find your own pet friendly accomodations with a friend or family member ahead of time, you will have one less thing to worry about in an emergency.

 At the time of an emergency, you may not have the ability or the time to put together the supplies you need to go for at least 72 hours on your own.  Remember, in an emergency situation, power may be out.  Cell phone service may be unavailable. Even If stores are able to remain open, their shelves will likely soon be sold out of basic necessities within hours. Don't risk being caught unprepared.

Here's a list of things you can do now to help you and your animals survive a disaster.

  1. Arrange accomodations with friends or family in another area for your animals and for yourself, in case you need it.
  2. Plan for transportation of pets livestock.  Pets like dogs, cats, or birds can probably travel in your personal vehicle with you, but horses, pigs, goats and chickens will need a trailer.  
  3. Put together an Evac Kit for your family, and your animals.  Admitedly, my list is a little less minimalist than most out there but it has everything  here is what you should pack into a duffle bag or two:
Paper and pens
A sharpy
A roll of duct tape
Flashlight with spare batteries (one for each person)
Charged portable power pack
a battery operated radio with a spare set of batteries
cell phone (preferably for each person)
lighter and candles
toilet paper
Paper towels
small single burner cook stove with fuel 
Basic first aid kit (appropriate to the number of people in your group)
Basic first aid kit for your animals
Insect repellent 
Water purification tablets
A can opener
A sharp knife
Medication for humans or animals
72 hours worth of canned, pouched or dehydrated foods. If you bring dehydrated food, be sure to bring extra water
Paper plates, cups and cutlery
3-4 litres per day of drinking water for each person and enough water for each animal
72 hours worth of food for each animal
Instant Coffee or Tea and whitener/sugar
a tent 
crates, tie outs or leashes  to keep dogs and other animals from getting lost
Beds for your dogs
ID for all pets
Board Games or cards for children
Toys for your dog 
dishes for dogs and other animals
A small pot to heat water and food in
Sleeping bag and foamy for each person
Towel for each person and dog
Diapers and other supplies for babies
Clothing appropriate to the weather
Rain gear or a garbage bag
A good book or two
Don't forget to include items that will help you to be comfortable, like some nice wine, beer, your favourite tea, etc

When you have your kit together, store it in a dry place close to your vehicle.  If you don't have a vehicle, keep it near your door or in a seperate building, in case of an earthquake.

When you evacuate, leave a note on your door to tell emergency crews that you are gone, and who is with you.  If you have to leave livestock behind, use your sharpy to write your name and phone number on them and in the event of a wildfire, leave barns and gates open so they can escape if they need to.

After you have left, go to the emergency evacuation centre and register, so they don't come looking for you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tips for teaching your dog to be calm around other dogs

Tips for teaching your dog to be calm around other dogs

It's really tough having a dog that reacts to others of his species with a spazzy, lunging, snarling, aggressive, threat display.  For most people it's embarrassing to have a dog who lunges at other dogs and acts like a nutbar on walks at least a few times a week.  But they accept it as a necessary rite of taking the dog for a walk anyway.  But for most dogs that are volatile on leash, and their humans, life does not have to be like this.  

The reasons some dogs react aggressively to other dogs when on leash vary, but the primary motivation is nearly always the same: this behaviour works to get rid of the disturbing dog, and this crazy behaviour has become habit. The dog often gets himself into such a high arrousal state, that he can't calm down, and any attempts to intrude on his little tantrum with corrections or misguided food rewards by the owner often add fuel to the fire.  I am not going to write a detailed description for helping all dogs to calm down around other dogs here, because I believe although the primary motivation of a reactive dog is pretty common, there are many other factors at play, including, but not limited to past experience., owner interaction etc. You really need the guidance of a CCPDT certified dog trainer with an aggression issue.  That being said, here are a few general tips that work:

      1. Stick with a reward based training and rehabilitation program!        Here is why:  While you can stop a dog from performing a particular behaviour using corrections (electronic shock,stim,vibe, collar checks, shake cans, spray bottles, and the like) you aren't helping to address the underlying arousal that is causing the behaviour.  In fact you are probably increasing the arousal as you suppress the threat display that the spazzy behaviour represents.  Because by adding something else the dog doesn't like to his environment, his stress level rises accordingly.  This means, even though he might suppress the aggressive display when you are in control, the dog is still going to be motivated to scare the bejesus out of whatever he thinks might be a threat.   So when he is not in your direct control, he is likely to still perform the aggressive/threat display. At which time you could start to use a stronger shock or leash pop or whatever you are using.  And then your dog will develop some other issue, and you will still have a dog that can act crazy at times.  This is supposed to be a quick blog post, so I can't go into alot of really boring scientifically proven detail, and please don't make me.                                                                                                                                                                                             When you use a reward based training system, you can reduce the arousal to the point where the dog no longer feels he needs to make a big threat display.   In short:  The dog learns to associate it's own calming behaviour with a food reward, eventually even in the face of whatever creeped it out in the first place.  He doesn't spaz out like a Tazmanian Devil on a leash anymore because he feels absolutely no need to, because the self calming behaviour that you taught him, and your own calm behaviour (because he's calm) make him more confident and less worried and creeped out by other dogs.  He's going to be calm even when not under your direct control, too.  You get better results and way more bang for your buck with a positive, reward based training system.                            
      2. During the retraining period, avoid situations where the unwanted behaviour is going to get a chance to repeat.  Some dogs develop new skills faster than other dogs, but generally it can be several months before the new self calming behaviour is really solid. Prevention is imperative during the retraining period.                                                                            
      3. Teach a hand touch in a non-distracting environment where no other dogs will creep your dog out and make him want to act like a lunatic.   This will become his go-to self calming behaviour.  Remember, it takes at least 100 repetitions for any behaviour to become solid.                                                                                                                                             
      4. Teach a solid stay.  And practice it every single day, using a positive, game based approach.   Stay is an exercise that teaches the dog self calming, and self confidence.  It really, really helps.                                                        
      5. Get help from a CPDT-KA or CPDT-KSA dog trainer who uses positive, reward based methods.  Positive trainers are the ones with the clickers and front attachment to the leash type harnesses and treat pouches.  Positive trainers always eshew e-collars in all their forms, and pretty much any collar with a metal chain.  You won't regret hiring a properly certified trainer.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Training rewards: Things to consider

Many packaged dog treats are laden with chemicals and/or highly refined ingredients that have been deemed not suitable for human consumption.  Sometimes the label even says that you should wash your hands after handling them. To me it's obvious that packaged, processed treats are not often the healthiest thing to feed your dog, even though he may love them alot.

Many people turn to dried treats, like dried liver, lamb lungs, or dried chicken tenders. These make great tasting treats for dogs, and if they are locally grown and processed (like the ones from Pet Treats Bakery) they don't generally have anything but the meat they are made from in them.  The only problem I have with dried liver treats is that they are made from an organ that accumulates heavy metals slightly more than muscle meat.  A study in 2002 found that cattle raised where pasture or grain were affected by polutants had high concentrations of mercury, lead and cadmium in their liver than in other meat from the same animal. These days, is there anywhere grain or pasture is not effected by pollution?

The liver also contains really large amounts of Vitamin A.  If liver (or any other meat for that matter) is fed cooked or raw, these heavy metals aren't as concentrated as they are in dehydrated liver and probably won't have any effect on your dog's long term health.  If we feed our dogs dehydrated liver every day as training rewards, his body has to deal with and accumulate relatively high concentrations of heavy metals on a daily basis.  This can't be good at all.

The other concern I have about dehydrated treats is that they absorb moisture from the digestive tract as they pass through.  If you are feeding many bits of dried liver while you train, this can eventually be dehydrating.  Not keel over and die dehydrated, but still the level of dehydration that reduces the ability to concentrate and to perform.  Adequate and copious hydration is absolutely necessary for dogs to perform at their peak.   Don't get me wrong:  I am not saying dehydrated treats are evil and should be avoided at all costs. You need to be judicious with them though.  Make sure your dog is adequately hydrating as you train with dehydrated dog treats.

The best dog treats don't come in a package at all.  I've found dogs respond best to bits of moist, lean roasted meat or even liver as training rewards. It's easy to make these for your dog.  Just put the meat on a roasting pan. If you want to get fancy, sprinkle with a little lime juice and a little olive oil or bacon fat, and a bit of tumeric and black pepper, for flavour and to help your furry friend's joints to stay healthy.  Pop the pan in a 350 degree oven and set the timer for about 30 minutes per pound.  When the timer goes off, pull the pan out and let the meat cool before you cut it into tiny little bits (about .5 cm cubed).  Stick them in a baggy and refrigerate or use immediately to train.  Go ahead: Experiment to see if your dog works better for your moist treats or dehydrated or processed treats.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Canine Fitness: Body awareness and core strength exercises for dogs

25 Body Awareness and Core strength Exercises

 for supple joints Healthier Dogs

Even long bodied dogs like basset hounds benefit 
from body awareness and conditioning exercises.

Whether you have an active dog, a canine athlete, a hunting dog, or a more laid back dog, all dogs can benefit from exercises that build both body awareness and core strength.  Dogs with good body awareness, strong muscles and supple joints are far less prone to injury and lameness than dogs that get lots of exercise walking or running.  By keeping training fun, and looking at each exercise as a game rather than a task, dogs can really enjoy doing these exercises that will build their coordination and muscle structure as well as developing cognitive skills. When looking for a pedestal for your dog, be sure to get one that is appopriate for his size and build- he should be able to get up on it easily and have room to turn in a tight circle on top of it.

Work with a qualified istructor (CTDI or Fitpaws). Because it's important to teach the exercises in a specific manner to avoid injury, you should get instruction from a specifically quallified instructor.  We're betting that you'd only take fitness classes from an qualified fitness instructor, so please don't take chances with your dog's fitness either!  BTW We teach all of these exercises in our tricks classes.
  1.  Pedestal work- with two paws up on a 6 inch to 18 inch high pedestal, depending on the size of your dog
  2.  Pedestal work- all fours on the pedestal standing and then sitting
  3. Spin- right and left use different core and leg muscles 
  4. Spin on top of pedestal 
  5. Back Up 
  6. Walk on a 8 foot by 4 inch wide double balance beam. (advanced)
  7. Walk on an 8 foot by 4 inch wide single balance beam. (advanced)
  8. Back up across a double balance beam   (advanced)
  9. Back up across a single balance beam (super advanced)
  10. Back up stairs.
  11. Back up onto a wall (advanced)
  12. Back up back paws onto a 4 inch wide balance beam (super advanced)
  13. Roll over
  14. Lie on back with four paws in air
  15. Roll a barrel with front paws
  16. Walk on top of a barrel (advanced)
  17. Yoga Ball work (use a kids play ball for very small dogs) front paws up
  18. Yoga ball work all four paws on, standing (advanced)
  19. Fitdisc/ balance board work front paws only 
  20. Fitdisc/ balance board work all four paws
  21. Lift right front paw
  22. Lift left front paw
  23. Lift right rear paw
  24. Lift left rear paw
  25. Front Paw stands (Super Advanced)