Monday, November 21, 2011

Did my dog really eat that?!

How do you handle it when your puppy, or adult, picks up a sock and runs around the house with it. This is a very fun game for the dog, but not so much for you. There are a few basic behaviors you can teach your dog to remedy this situation. First, here's a small list of commands you can teach your dog. "Drop It", "Sit", "Leave It", "Come", "Down". We teach these with the clicker in our classes because it will make the behaviors an automatic response, if you practice it enough.

 Example of "Drop It": My parents Beagle likes to steal pillows and run them outside. We have trained her that if she opens her mouth and drops the item she gets a click and a treat. On a dead run to the back door, we say "drop it" and she opens her mouth dropping the pillow, but she will stay in her run and continue to the back yard.

Example of "Leave It": My rescue pug likes to eat poop... yummy right... With this I don't even want him to get it in his mouth. He has been trained that if he looks away from an object when I say "leave it", he gets a click and a treat. So in the instance he looks at the poop, I can get him to "Leave It" before he touches it.

Example of "Sit" and "Down": If they are in a sit or a down.... they're not running from you!!!

Coming When Called: This command is harder to train. We teach this over a 6 week class, in steps. You will also continue to set up situations to practice throughout your dog's life. Just remember, "come here" doesn't always mean fun time is over. Let them go back out and play sometimes. Keeps life more random for the dog.

In closing... don't chase your dog around the house with your underware. That's just plain fun for your dog!!!
Take control of the situation, and have fun training your dog.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Do you and your dog really want to do the same things?

This is in continuation of a blog post a friend of mine just posted. "Are you really having fun with your dog?" She talked about how hard she was working toward different goals and how if she pushed herself and the dog too hard Beanie would shut down.

See, dogs put off these things called calming signals. (Sniffing the ground, yawning, sneezing, looking away from you, dropping their ears back, suddenly having a horrible itch, shaking off, pretending to forget their name; aka avoidance, and many others.) Some people know nothing about these. Some people know enough to notice when their dogs aren't comfortable with a situation. Then there are those of us that train our dogs in obedience, tracking, agility, and other dog sports. At the competition level you would think that we would recognize how stressed our dogs are when the do something that, "isn't like them". But no, we just keep pushing, trying to get that title because we know our dog can do it, and for some reason we want a piece of paper and some ribbons to prove it to others.

I am, for the first time, guilty of this; and I'm a professional dog trainer studying to become a "BEHAVIORIST". Ya, bad huh?!
Achilles and I were in a drill team dance last weekend and I have a three day Rally trial this weekend. Both of us have never done this before. I've been teaching dogs and people for years, but never felt the need to compete. Over the last few years my curiosity over competing has continued to grow. Athena did great this year in Nadac Agility trials, so what's different about me and Achilles? I'M PUSHING US TOO HARD!!! Duh. Yesterday we were spot on as a team and we did great. Except that I felt like going home and getting into the fetal position afterward because I worked myself up so much. What's fun about that? Then today...Achilles sniffed the ground through 40% of the course, suddenly needed to scratch his neck in a front, and sneezed at me when I told him to sit in heel position. About halfway through the course he looked at me like "Oh! I'm supposed to be watching you!" So, tomorrow we are going to go into the trial for fun. Yes, Achilles really wants a title, but I'd rather, "Have fun with my dog..." Check out Erica's blog too...

Also check out my link to Turrid Rugaas, an internationally respected trainer who has videos and books on "Calming Signals".

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fears and Phobias

Unfortunately a large number of our four-legged friends are terrified of things in everyday life. How are we supposed to help them? First, you have to notice the dog is having a hard time.  Then you have to determine whether it is a fear or a phobia.  A fear is when a dog startles and worries about the stimuli, and a phobia is when a dog shuts down and worries to the point of exhaustion. Some dogs with a phobia will do anything find way out of the situation, causing them to get loose or run out into traffic and get hurt or worse; some dogs will bite; other dogs will check out. When checking out happens they can either be in a panic or standing completely still and look like they are fainting. Dogs can also have dilated eyes, dry panting, and many other symptoms. .No matter what symptoms your dog has, you have to find things that can help them cope.
One thing that is highly recommended is Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP). This comes in the form of a collar, spray, or diffuser. The pheromone is a synthetic version of the pheromone a mama dog would put off in her milk to relax her puppies. It’s works just like we would use aromatherapy in our homes to relax ourselves.
Another thing to try is the Thundershirt. It works just the same as swaddling a baby. When you put it on the dog it makes them feel secure and in turn can relax them.  I have had a lot of luck using this shirt with phobias. Every dog is different, so it will depend on how severe the phobia is as to what the results will be. Dogs with extreme reactions may only slow down movement or trembling. Although, dogs with less severe reactions may stop shaking or come out from under the bed. Dogs with minimal reactions to the stimulus may just go about life normally. I have found that the shirt doesn’t always work the first time. Sometimes they have to wear it 4 or 5 times to start relaxing when it goes on.
Of course, to help the dog with any fear or phobia, it would be most beneficial to add training into the mix. This can teach the dog how to handle a scary situation, in turn making it less scary.
I do want to say that sometimes we have to recommend you go to your vet to get started on medication because the symptoms are so severe. (We always recommend you try the non-medicinal things before you make that vet trip). After getting the dog on the right medication you want to add the training in. Our company works with the local Veterinarians; they prescribe the medications, we help the owner with the training. The medication just takes the edge off so we can start conditioning the dog to handle the anxiety in a different way. Many times the dog only has to take the meds temporarily.

In closing, when severely stressed, dogs can do amazing things. Make sure your dogs have collars with tags in case they bolt. A microchip will help get your dog home if the tag falls off. Good luck with your four-legged babies and call Side Kick Dog Training for further information about your dogs fear or phobia, so we can get you started in the right direction. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

"My dog doesn't usually do that?'

People who spend a lot of time with their dogs, know their dogs. (Or at least should) If you ever hear yourself say, "That's not something my dog usually does", STOP. What was the thing your dog did? Is it a dog (or any animal) you haven't had for very long? If so they could hopefully just be adapting to your home. If not, or if it's a dog you have had for years... you have to look a little more carefully. The behavior could be anything; sleeping more; sleeping less; eating more; eating less; pacing; whining; not wanting to go on a bike ride; less interest in toys; licking obsessively and the list goes on. Noticing something out of the ordinary can mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately our furry friends can't tell us if something is wrong with them, so we have to listen to the subtleties. If you have any worries, talk to your vet. If you want a second opinion, don't worry about hurting your veterinarian's feelings. If anyone is a true professional they wont mind. I talk with my colleagues all the time to see if they have any different ideas to help with behavioral issues. I want all dogs to do well in life, even if it wasn't my idea that helped them. So love your four legged furry friends and take notice when they might be trying to tell you something important.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why do we scoop our dogs poop?!

The long and the short of it is so that we don't spread diseases... Believe it or not, many people don't get their dogs the shots they need and fewer get them dewormed. If you're one of those people, please be extra careful with your dog's feces. Just take a few seconds to pick it up. You never know when you be causing someone else to have a sick dog and a huge vet bill.
For those of us who do get our dog's shots and dewormings, pick it up anyway. If your dog isn't on a monthly preventative, they could still contract parasites....Therefore spreading them to others. I know some of these medications can be expensive, but they are still cheaper than a dying dog's vet bill. And not to mention, if the infestation is bad enough with certain parasites... you just might loose your best friend.
For more information on parasites, the ways to contract them, and prevention, contact your local vet.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Potty Training- Psycology 101

 Think of potty training your pooch the same as a child learning to crawl. You don't just let the baby have immediate freedom to roam anywhere in the house. There are too many things they could get into, even if you think you baby-proofed your house. You keep them confined with you with baby gates and playpens, and you give them things to occupy their time.
 With a dog that has just entered your home, you want to do the same thing. Keep them in the room with you. If you can't watch them, put them in their crate or in an exercise pen with somethin to do. You can even leash them to your waist. If the dog has an accident in front of you; just interrupt them and take them outside. When they finish pottying in the grass treat them there. Go back in and clean up the mess with an enzyme killer (don't let your pooch watch you). If your dog goes potty and you find the mess later.... consider that your bad.
 Here's the psycology part most people don't know. When you find the mess and rub the dog's nose in it, scold them, clean up the mess in front of them and shun them; this is what your dog gets out of that, "Boy, humans really get upset around pee and poo, weird. Next time I'll just hide it in the back room in the corner".
 There's nothing like finding a dried pee spot behind your favorite plant in the dining room months after it has been used over and over. So the long story short is keep potty time fun, and take frequent trips to the yard. The more time you put in now, the better partner you'll have in the long run.

Happy Potty Training!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why does my dog bark so much?!

I come across many people weekly that want to know where they can get a bark collar. First thing I ask is, "When is your dog barking?" My favorite answer is, "All the time". Really? Your dog barks from morning to night without taking a breath? Boy am I glad I didn’t get that dog....
In all seriousness, this is a big reason dogs either get a shock collar slapped on them, are taken to the Humane Society, or are dropped on the side of the road. A lot of people really believe their dog is barking just to make them mad. So I’m going to tell you a big secret….. You’re dog is barking because it needs more exercise! It's bored!
You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who don’t believe this at first. I show up at their house for a private lesson. I Give them some basic training tips, figure out what the dog might like to do in it’s spare time, and figure out some things for the owner to do cooperatively with the dog. All these things amount to mental or physical "exercise". The client usually says they can’t believe these things will cut down on the barking, but they will try anyway. Two weeks later I show up at their house and the first thing they say is the dog hasn’t been barking as much, and that they can’t believe it!
The one catch to this is the breed of your dog. If you don’t like barking don’t get a Beagle, Chihuahua, or Schnauzer. These are just three big barkers I get to go see regularly. Make sure you go to or Google the breed you are thinking about getting. If you don’t like barking, but want a Yorki… go to the Humane Society and find another breed you’ll love that doesn’t have such a tendency to bark.
...And always remember, "A tired dog is a good dog".

Friday, July 29, 2011

My First Blog

I finally decided to do my first blog on my favorite part of training dogs, behavior modification. It still amazing to me how many dogs could be kept in their home, or saved from being euthanized, just by teaching the owner how to handle the stressful or potentially dangerous situation. Think of it this way... If you are scared of snakes, are you more likely to calm down if someone is yelling at you and grabbing your face, or if someone is giving you some chocolate and talking calmly to you? Positive behavior modification can be a wonderful thing. I love how each day people become more interested in helping their pets cope with life rather than trying to find someone else to "deal" with the dog's problems.

I am so excited with my new website and blog page!!! I love doing new things in life.