Monday, July 28, 2014

Dog Training: Like A Pro Seminar Series

Have you ever wondered how dog trainers can get their dogs to listen so easily? It’s a science and an art form. In this “Like A Pro” series Professional Dog Trainer Jade Robertson will demonstrate and walk you through how she would address each training strategy.

You can apply to have your own dog trained during the session or Jade will bring one of her own. The dog chosen to participate will not be proficient at the selected skill already so you will see exactly how to do it.  

The session is 30 minutes long with a 15-minute Q&A period afterwards.
Topics will include: loose leash walking, recall, stay and keeping focus in a high distraction environment.  

Spectator Spots: $10 per person per session
Apply to have your dog trained: $80 per dog/per session

Session Dates:
Saturday, August 16 at 11am
Saturday, September 13 at 11am
Saturday, October 11 at 11am
Saturday, November 8 at 11am

The location and topic will be selected 1 week in advance. All sessions will be held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 

Please email to participate. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dogs need to think twice and make better decisions…

Have you ever made a decision without really thinking it through? Have you let anxiety or fear lead you to a dangerous predicament? Most people would say yes. It happens when we’re small children, it happens when we’re teens and it happens when we are adults. It also happens to dogs.

It’s the human’s responsibility to teach their dog crucial life skills like impulse control and how to deal with fear/anxiety/predatory behavior. They are dogs and they will make bad choices if we don’t set them up for success. This is obviously easier than it sounds. Recently I’ve had a number of clients whose dogs are lovely pets but have a history of aggressive behavior due to poor impulse control or because they are missing the ability to settle themselves down.

(Ari exhibiting poor inhibition by jumping up on me for attention)

This issue can manifest in aggression towards humans (dog gets excited and begins nipping owner’s hands) or aggression towards other animals (dog attacks another family dog when he/she becomes stressed or over excited). This doesn’t mean the aggressive dog doesn’t have a bond with his/her family. What it means is that this dog is missing crucial social skills that are making him/her dangerous. The causes for this can include genetic background, training, missed socialization or a medical issue. No dog is the same but what an owner can do is to teach all their dogs (big and small, old and young) how to deal with stress and not immediately react to something exciting.

Some tips:

  • Sophia Yin has a wonderful program called the “Learn to Earn Program” where she insists dogs say please by sitting. This is a crucial skill when teaching your dog manners and also calming themselves down when something is exciting is happening. Examples include sit before going through doors, sit before petting or play, sit before greeting another human, etc.
  •  Teach your dog to handle excitement in small doses. An example would be teaching your dog a calm response to the doorbell ringing. You can practice this by first teaching your dog to sit, down or go to bed. Once your dog is very good at this behavior then you can first ring your doorbell. Doorbells are often a source of excitement for dogs so you’ll be triggering your dog to become excited and then pairing that with a calm behavior. You can then move on to using other excitement triggers such as have a friend come over and practice sitting for attention.
  • Do not reward your dog for over excited behavior. This includes taking your dog out for a walk and then leashing your dog/exiting your home while your dog is barking, lunging or acting over excited. This could also include letting your dog out of the crate while barking or scratching excitedly. Ask your dog for a sit first.

(Ari exhibiting impulse control by sitting before getting pets)

If your dog is unable to calm down when only triggered by small excitement sources then you should consult a trainer or behaviourist. If your dog exhibits over excitement or anxious behavior it is also prudent to check with your veterinarian. Remember no two dogs are the same but in order to be successful in society it is your job to teach them patience, thoughtfulness and manners.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Why Has My Dog Changed???

Well I’ll start off this blog entry by apologizing for the very long delay in entries. 2013 went out like a lion with a number of personal emergencies. Luckily life has settled down a bit and I have time to write more dog training entries!

Today I want to discuss why a dog’s behavior would change. I often see dogs around age 2 to 4. The owners will describe a change in the dog’s behavior towards other dogs and/or people. They are often confused about what happened and will attempt to pinpoint the change to one circumstance.

So what’s really going on? How can a seemingly friendly dog suddenly not like other dogs? Or a well-mannered happy go lucky pooch just start to blow off anyone he/she doesn’t know already? What has happened?

Well simply put sometimes once a dog completes adolescence they are less playful and happy go lucky just like humans. Sometimes they’ve spent the first few years of life being bullied or mishandled and they’ve had enough. More often than not there is no single occurrence that has led to this change.

This change can be a shock to the owners of any dog. And sometimes there’s not much you can do about it. Let’s talk about it from the dog’s point of view. As a puppy Ms. Golden Retrieve was very friendly. She adored playing with all types of other dogs. She went to the dog park every day and sometimes to doggy daycare too. She would play and play and play. Sometimes she played so much she would get sore. Now she’s 3 years old and her hips hurt sometimes, she still goes to dog daycare and has adolescent dogs bouncing off her and biting her ears. She wants a break. Last night at the dog park a young, large male jumped on her and hurt her hips which made her cry out. So the next time she sees a young dog bee lining her way she shows her teeth. What she’s trying to say “hey there youngster, give me some space”.

This dog is not aggressive. She’s getting slightly older, she’s less playful and she has an undiagnosed medical issue. Her behavior has changed. So what should her family do?

- Get a vet examine and if possible visit an Osteopath or Physio as well. This will rule out lameness issues. Anytime your dog’s behavior changes drastically you need to rule out medical causes. Dogs can’t tell you that they are sore and will often hide it.

- Respect that your dog might not want young dogs bouncing off of her anymore. Find play solutions with appropriate friends for your dog’s play style. If necessary STOP going to the dog park and daycare. Instead take her for leisurely hikes where she can sniff and run around without fear of being knocked over.

- Take your dog to environment where dog interaction is more controlled. A Rally Obedience class where all the dogs are in control and having fun bonding with their owners is a great option. 

That’s just one example of what I see on a daily basis working with clients. All of our dogs are different and as they mature they will change. They are not puppies forever (for better and worse). And please remember behavior changes should not be ignored as they can be a symptom of anxiety or illness.