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)