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Using Annoying or Scary Sounds for Dog Training

Let’s pretend you saw an ad for a new dog training product. It read something like this: Introducing the Noise-Aided Obedience Device (NOD)! Never have trouble with your dog again. When you jerk or flap the lead attached to your dog’s collar or harness to punish him or to force him into the correct position, the device adds a noise that makes the leash jerking or flapping extra unpleasant. You can get instant compliance! That is, for some dogs. Some won’t be bothered by the noise or will get used… Continued

Professional Training and Pet Sitting

As a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant I developed a working relationship with hundreds of families over the years, and many pet owners have asked for my recommendation when they needed a pet sitter or dog walker. This often arose when there was a planned vacation, a wedding or an unplanned absence from home. Some folks did not want to board their pets and for others that simply was not an option, as many of my dog clients are anxious or fearful of strangers. It was always difficult to… Continued

Front Door Freakout

If you come to my house, brace yourself. You walk up the stairs, ring the doorbell. Suddenly…the shrieking of a hundred banshees? Maybe an exorcism in progress? Or fiery-eyed, froth-mawed Cerberus guarding the gates of Hades? Nope. It’s my people-loving hound Huckleberry going freakshow crazy at the front door. Sometimes trainers’ own dogs can make people doubt our training chops. Maybe it’s that we fall in love with “project” dogs, with issues so bedeviling we’re sure no one else will put up with them. We bring home these fixer-upper pups, and… Continued

Pain Underlying

By Dr. Lynn Bahr Most people who work professionally with cats know what stoic creatures they are and how well they can hide their pain. There are many different theories as to why this is. Until relatively recently, it was thought cats did not experience pain at all, based purely on the fact that they tend not to show it. Some people — including some feline professionals — even still believe this, despite significant advances to the contrary. It is an astounding reality that, in the year 2017, we still… Continued

It is Unwise to Say, “Just Ignore the Problem Behavior!”

By Niki Tudge Last week, while perusing my Facebook news feed while I drank my morning coffee, I came across a link to a blog advocating for force-free dog training methods.  This short blog had a video link which was showing a dog trainer punishing a dog for a problematic behavior. In summary, the positive reinforcement trainer was quoted as saying “encouraging the behaviors we want and ignoring behaviors we don’t, is the correct and positive way to train your pup without using physical force”. I always try to read… Continued

Do Helicopter Moms Impede Pups’ Success?

Talk about a tough graduate research assignment: Watching puppy videos. Where can I sign up? Seriously … it’s been done. A research team watched hundreds of hours of video of puppies interacting with their moms. The goal was to evaluate how the way moms treated their very young puppies affected the pups’ future success as guide dog candidates. But the results are interesting to any dog lover. An early paper by the team, led by researcher Emily Bray, looked at variations in maternal style. A later paper, just out, looks… Continued

“Naughty” Dog Or Normal Dog?

I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve heard that Fido is ‘really naughty,’ ‘he’s doing it deliberately,’ ‘he’s trying to spite me,’ or, if an owner has more than one dog, ‘they’re trying to gang up on me!’ But are these labels in any way helpful? Let’s consider this for a moment. Ask yourself ‘Why?’ before reacting  The number one point I would like all dog owners to consider when their dog is not responding in the way they would like their dog to respond is ask a simple question… Continued

Having a Bit More Fun with Our Dogs

When I got my first dog as a child no one in the family knew much about dogs, puppy preschool classes were unheard of and the average dog just somehow became part of the family. My father mainly got the dog because I probably pestered him for too long. He was a Dalmatian called Lord, he was not very well trained but loved to run and he ran a lot. He spent a lot of time with us children, he went on holidays, barked at people coming to the house… Continued

So Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want: Nine Ways Preference Testing Can Go Wrong

  What’s your favorite color? Do you prefer pie or ice cream? Which shirt do you like better: the striped one or the solid green one? Most of us have been asked our preferences since we were children. Sometimes we are being asked to make a choice: if we choose the striped shirt we won’t be wearing the green one also. If we are asked to choose enough times, our preferences often become clear. With the best intentions, many of us are attempting to determine our dogs’ preferences by trying to offer them choices. There are quite a… Continued

Does Breed Specific Legislation Work?

Recently a dog incident occurred in the tiny northern village of Plain, Wisconsin. As reported by TV news in the southern part of the state, a lady was walking her dog when three Pit Bulls escaped their home and rushed up to her. The lady ended up on the ground and was “scratched”. The news report did not explain how the lady went to the ground, that there was any biting or dog fighting, or which of the four dogs scratched her. Evidently the news editor felt the story was… Continued

Labels and Limitations…..

By Kamal Fernandez Do you have a nickname for your dog? I mean, an endearing title or word that describes or captures who they are? This can often be a positive thing… all of my dogs, have a ‘second name’, that I often use to reference them… Sugar is ‘shu-shu’….. Punch is ‘P dog’… ‘Super’ aka suppy, dupey do, or do-do…. thriller… Girlie whirl…. you get the drift…. It’s so easy to label your dog with a phrase, word or characterisation… but what does it actually mean? Whenever I deliver… Continued

A Good Start in Life

By Francine Miller Thankfully, more people are now aware that puppies need early socialization to have the best shot at being behaviorally healthy, but there are still many that are sketchy on the details of the process. Very few people are aware that kittens also undergo a sensitive period, and that socialization during their early weeks can greatly influence their temperament. Bateson (1979) defined a sensitive period as an age range during which particular events are especially likely to have long-term effects on individual development. A sensitive period may best… Continued

Dog Car Safety: Help – An Escapee!

  Recently, my nephew and I saw a dog running down a busy main road. She was very lucky as between us we managed to redirect her down an alleyway away from all the traffic and eventually I got her to come near enough to me so that I could take hold of her collar. She was obviously very frightened and stressed. A scared dog may well bite so my approach was very slow, low, friendly and unthreatening in order to gain some trust and not put either of us… Continued

Cognitive Dog Training

              I first started teaching about what I called cognitive dog training several years ago. I didn’t invent it; I simply named what a lot of positive, forward-thinking dog trainers were already doing. Cognitive dog training enlists the dog as a partner in learning; it is not about training so much as it is is about teaching. It’s also about redefining human-dog relationships. How does it differ from other approaches to dog training? It encourages dogs to think and solve problems. Often, there is… Continued

The Problem with Punishment

Fortunately today, thanks to force free advocating organizations like Pet Professional Guild, there is much more awareness of the detrimental effects of punishment.  Sadly though, in some quarters it still prevails and is even advocated by some and perpetuated by the media.  So what actually is the definition of ‘punishment’?, what constitutes it? What are the alternatives? Let’s take a look. What Is Punishment? Speaking scientifically, there are two forms of punishment – positive and negative. Let’s deal with positive punishment first. Positive punishment refers to when something is added into your pet’s world… Continued

Change Is Difficult – We Are Humans After All

As trainers we sometimes talk about owner compliance, or maybe more accurately – in some cases at least – the apparent lack of it. Part of our job as dog trainers is to find ways to motivate our clients to make changes to the lives of their dogs and often this means they also need to change the way they do things too. Change is hard and we humans need good reasons to initiate change, but nevertheless, to change the dog’s behavior, we need to change the owners’ behavior first. I… Continued

Local Enhancement and Socially Facilitated Behaviors in Dogs

This post started out as one thing and transformed into another as I went along, as many of mine do. I have been familiar for a while with the term local enhancement for a type of social learning in dogs. I had some videos that I felt were good examples. But while researching this post and putting the clips together into a movie, I learned that the concepts and definitions were a lot less cut and dried than I thought. This topic is up for lots of interpretation and discussion… Continued

Putting More Tools in the Tool Kit

Recently I worked with an adolescent dog that I trained as a puppy. Like many adolescents he suddenly forgot several of his training skills and got stuck offering two behaviors in specific circumstances. When greeting people he climbed upon them with his fore paws, seeking attention. And to greet another dog (while on leash) he pulled hard and quickly became frustrated he could not reach them, barking and screeching while his owner strained to keep her footing. I have observed that when dogs enter adolescence they often develop annoying behaviors… Continued

A Lesson in Tolerance

By Susan Nilson An estimated 40 – 75 percent of all cats that present with behavioral symptoms have some kind of elimination disorder, making it the most commonly reported feline behavior problem of all (Overall, 1997) and the most common reason cats are abandoned or surrendered to shelters. In this particular case, nine-year-old Ruby had started urinating around the house for no apparent reason. Ruby was an indoor spayed female domestic short-hair who lived in a four-cat household comprising her male sibling and two much younger cats, one male and… Continued

Body Language – Your Dog’s Native Tongue

By Susan Claire, CPDT-KA If you own a dog, then you teach English as a second language. A dog’s native tongue is body language. Yet, dogs adapt and learn our English words with remarkable ability. There are many emotions that we share with our canine friends, and some that we project onto them. It’s in our best interest to learn about how our dogs really think and feel and learn. If you insist your dog learn your language, then it’s only fair you make the effort to learn his. This… Continued

Service Dog Teams and Continuing Education

A few weeks ago, I was part of an amazing experience — the first-ever continuing education weekend seminar for guide dog teams that included trainers and puppy raisers, as well as 80 teams. The weekend was organized by the Guiding Eyes for the Blind graduate council. Actually, it was two members of the council and their partners (including me). It was a lot of work to pull it off, and as the teams started arriving, we all had a moment of panic. But the weekend was an enormous success — and it made… Continued

Dog Park Etiquette

If I had $1 for every time an owner told me how irate they were about something that had happened in the park when they were walking their dog – well, you know the rest!  So what are the unspoken rules about how us dog owners should conduct ourselves, what’s expected of us, what’s frowned upon, what constitutes unruly canine behaviour and how can we prevent it in the first place?  That’s a whole load of questions for one blog but let’s start at the end and work back! What’s… Continued

What Is the Purpose of a Real Dog?

Labeling normal dog behaviors like barking, digging, jumping up, chasing, growling and others as problems is something my colleagues and I have started seeing more often in our classes and consultations. However, typical puppy behaviors can include mouthing, housesoiling, not wanting to be alone, eating everything in sight, running away, rolling in smelly stuff, chasing moving objects, growling, smelling other dogs’ rear ends or biting and mouthing. These are all natural behaviors, but sometimes a new owner may simply not have fully realized what having a puppy entails. Indeed, our expectations may be high as we… Continued

Leave It: Not Just for Dead Men Anymore

The other day I was pondering the trend of talking about teaching “self-control” and “impulse control” in our dogs. I got to thinking about “leave it,” both the term and the behavior. I realized a couple things. First, the term “leave it” doesn’t pass the dead-man test. (I’ll get to that below.) Second, the behavior “leave it” is not just one, but several behaviors. Third, I realized that this combination of problems could present some difficulties when training. What is your dog actually doing when she successfully “leaves it”? You know what that means:… Continued

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