Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is it time for you to add a new member to the family?

It is so exciting to bring a new puppy home. We get to go shopping.We take it everywhere with us and show everyone. It is exhausted by the end of each day and sleeps with us perfectly...
Then we go back to real life...

Now we have a little peeing, pooping, and sometimes chewing, nipping, and barking machine on our hands. 😇 At this point, we decide to take the puppy to a class where we can learn how to manage and train our little ball of fire. Class is so fun! We learn how to use our dog's brain and keep them busy so they don't eat our house....and the puppy sleeps like a rock afterwards!!!
Then real life again...

According to the ASPCA, "Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs..."

Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself before getting a puppy/dog:

-Do you have time to walk/exercise them at least 2x daily?
-Do you have a way for them to run their little legs off?
-Do you have 1-3 minutes 2x a day to train (at the least)?
-Who is going to help you with exercise and potty training while you are gone?
-Can you afford the food, supplies, and vet bills?
-Can you afford a trainer if there are behavioral issues?
-Where is your dog going to stay if you have to leave town?
-Are you going to crate train?
-Are you sure this is the best time in your life to have extra responsibilities?
-Do you have the time and patience to repeatedly gently remind your puppy the right ways to do things?

Pet ownership can be a ton of fun and a great blessing. A new pet can also be just like having a toddler. Have a support system in place to help you throughout your pups life and to help ensure that your new furry family member will stay with you forever. Dogs are never too old to learn new things, so choose an age and temperament that fits your lifestyle. And most of your research! 

Carrie Galvan CPDT
Precious K9s

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

When should you start training your new dog?

When should you start training your new dog?

The long and short answer is..." Immediately"!

First impressions are important with humans, but imagine what they are like for a dog... They are brought out of familiar surroundings and put into a whole new life. Sometimes they are changing from no dogs to multiple dogs. Sometimes they have to be a quick study on children and how they move and make loud noises. You never know what a dog has encountered in it's life so you want to slowly introduce it to all of it's new surroundings without causing some sort of emotional trauma.

 As if this isn't enough pressure," You have to start teaching it how to act appropriate immediately???". Yep!

Starting at square one and teaching your new dog to be calm for things can be priceless. The fewer times they get to practice the wrong behavior, the fewer times they will need to practice the right one for it to become muscle memory. If we always sit for a food dish...then we ALWAYS sit for a food dish. There has just not been another way. It can also decrease any anxiety when you give them positive structure. I know I like knowing what is expected of me when I go somewhere new...

Now, realistically we are not going to get everything perfect the first day, or even the first week, but we can always try our best. Just picture the way you would prefer your new dog to act, in any given situation, and practice getting closer and closer to accomplishing that behavior. Maybe you want them to sit before getting their leash put on. You might start with a few seconds of standing still the first time, then a sit with a second of sitting the second attempt. Just gradually increase the criteria in increments and you will eventually reach your goal.

For more tips and information on Precious K9s follow us on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter!

Helping your four-legged family members live in our two-legged world.
Carrie Galvan
Precious K9s
Springfield, Mo

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Unwanted Behaviors

I often times start out a lesson listening to all of the things a dog does that the parents don't appreciate. "How can I get my dog to stop digging, barking, shredding my house, etc."? The long and short answer is...EXERCISE... Yep it's kind of that simple... Although, it's really not that simple in this day and age. We are all to often go, go, go in our lives and find ourselves too exhausted to throw a ball or go on a run. Dogs need mental and physical exercise to stay sane. They crave companionship and yes, get super excited to see us come back to them after a long day at work. So what can you do to keep you and your dog sane and happy? Find ways to keep them busy that fit your lifestyle... Here is a list of things you could possibly do to enrich the lives of your dogs:

Hire a dog walker
Teach them a trick
Give them safe bones to chew on
Leave work early just for your dog
Find interactive toys that dispense treats
Hide treats around the yard and/or house
Go home on lunch and take a walk with them
Take your dog to daycare on your longer days
Do a training session focusing on obedience and calm behavior
Teach your dog to fetch and play while on the computer or better yet outside
Take a training class with them for fun one-on-one time with no interruptions

This is just a small list of fun things to keep your dog happy and tired. It really is all about carving out a few minutes of your time daily to spend bonding with your dog. It should be a stress reliever to interact with one of the few animals in the world that will play for their entire life.

Some of my favorite sessions during the week are those where people want to teach their dog something new with me coaching them. I love to see the relationship between humans and dogs change for the better over time. So many times I look at them as a team six months or a year later and think, "I wish I would have had a camera crew to document our first session. There is such a difference in the teamwork. This has really developed into an amazing friendship and it could have so easily have been a colossal mess for both the two and four-legged animals involved". 

My professional advice to you today is to set aside just a few minutes of your day to play with your four-legged family member and over time watch them become a loving and happy member of your family.

                                                                     Carrie Galvan CPDT
                                                                     Precious K9s Training and Behavior
                                                                     Springfield, Mo

A quick training session with Achilles.
Working on leaving treats while he lays down.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Can you fix every dog?

As a professional I am asked difficult questions weekly if not daily.  One of the hardest questions I have been asked over the years is, "Can you fix my dog"?   Unfortunately, the answer is more complicated than just "yes" or "no".  Over the years I have helped many people save their dogs with behavioral issues through training, management, and even medication protocols when teaming up with their veterinarian.  The hardest cases I have had in my career have even prompted me to consult a behaviorist for more information. You can never get enough information as a positive dog trainer. Science and psychology are ever changing.  If you don't learn and change with the times you can not continue to help canines as they evolve in our world.  It has been disheartening when a behaviorist tells me I am doing everything that could be done; minus more costly and intensive medication and behavior modification that still will never take the dog out of the "management case for the rest of his life" category. Dogs are just like people....Not all of them CAN be "fixed".  This is a harsh reality, but we can try every avenue to make the dog's quality of life better until the Rainbow Bridge becomes everyone's most humane choice.

Below are some of the steps I go through when counseling a family with two and four-legged members.  I will focus on aggression as the behavioral issue in these steps, but there are many other psychological and neurological issues dog owners may be faced with.  If you are torn in your family, please ask yourself some of these hard questions and then consult a professional to help you assess what is best for you and your dog.

The first thing I need to do is figure out what the issues are by getting all of the facts...
How big is the dog?
Are you this dog's owner or does he belong to a rescue?
What situations did the dog show aggression in?
How old was he the first time you saw the aggression?
How often do the aggressive situations happen?
Who is living with or could come in contact with the dog?
Are their kids around this animal?
Has anyone or another animal ever been bit. and if so, how bad?

After you discuss the needed information with your professional they should help you assess your situation and discuss your options with you. These are most typically re-homing the dog, training and managing the dog, and euthanasia.  Each situation is different for each household and each person in the household. There is no blanket right answer for everyone.  Here are a few more of the topics your professional should touch on, if necessary, when guiding you through the process...

Re-homing as an option: What kind of home would be perfect for your dog?
                                         Is it safe to give your dog to another family?
                                         What would your dog's quality of life be if he went to stay
                                               with another family?
                                         How are you going to network your dog?

Training and management as an option:
                                        Do you have the time, money, and space it would take to
                                               implement the training plan laid out by your 
                                               professional trainer/ behaviorist?
                                         Are you prepared to handle situations when your
                                               management breaks down?  (as it usually does).
                                         What is your dog's quality of life now and what will it be 
                                               after implementing the new rules?
                                         What is the quality of life for the human(s) involved?
                                         How hard is it to interrupt your dog once his aggression is 
 (All of these questions will be would also be reevaluated as the training progresses).

 Euthanasia as an option: Have you had a conversation with your 
                                                 veterinarian about your decision?
                                            Could my dog be a seriously potential danger to himself, 
                                                    or other dogs/ people that  could come in contact 
                                                    with him?
                                             What is the process when euthanizing an animal?

There is so much that goes into situations as tough as these.  The key thing to remember throughout this process is that this is the family's decision to make. Your professional is just there to answer questions and coach you through the decision you choose.  They are not there to tell you what you should do.  What is good for one family may not be the best thing for another.

The rare times that I have given a professional opinion have not been to sway a decision, but to give a realistic picture of the prognosis and/ or liability involved when you own a dangerous or special needs dog.  The injuries they can potentially pose to themselves or others are not always common sense because of the emotions involved. These are not easy conversations, but as much as we love our furry pets we have to keep human safety and the quality of life for all involved on the forefront of our minds.

There are a lot of cases that can thankfully be managed by training and responsible pet ownership. The best way to avoid these tough issues is to start early with training and socialization.  Undesirable behaviors may be genetic, from learned experiences, or from a traumatic event, but the bottom line is the same as with human beings...The earlier we notice and diagnose, the better our prognosis can become.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Resource Guarding

How many of you have brought home a new dog...loved everything about it...

and then one day it growled or snapped at you over a toy, or it's food, or a piece of trash?!?! 

This is a behavior called Resource Guarding. It is a behavior all animals do to some extent. When canines do this in our home the human's natural reaction is to be shocked, scared, or go on the defensive. Sometimes people yell that their dog "should respect them more than that", or they cry because their dog "should love them and trust them"... But in reality, all your dog was doing is giving you information about how they feel about loosing their item. When a dog is fearful in a situation it is natural for them to use aggressive displays to let dogs, people, and other animals know that they are uncomfortable. 

So, after the initial shock how do we handle the situation?

Unless the dog continues to pursue you (In which case you would need to seek professional help immediately)...after the initial growl, snap, or bite... take a deep breath.  I give dogs an empty hand signal and say, "Okay, okay...", then I walk to get them something that would be considered really good to them. You can give them the treat from an overly safe distance. This distance is different for each dog and each situation. It's called keeping them under threshold.  If a dog is over threshold it is not learning anything, it is just in defense mode. If they are willing to walk away from their item and get the treat, GREAT! Toss more and move toward the item they initially guarded. Keep this up as long as you don't see them race toward the item, stop and stare at your or the item, freeze in motion, or lunge toward you. If they are loose and happy and you can pick the item up you have been successful! Do not force it! If they let you have it, treat them and have a party! Then give them the item back!.....WHAT? Yes, as long as the item is not dangerous to them...GIVE IT BACK. See if they really care about it now. Trade them treats for it again. Then, GIVE IT BACK. At this point, your dog should be super happy about all of the treating and the item has turned into a happy thing and they like you playing with them and the item. What you have done here is take away the fear of potentially loosing something they value. Some of the training cues that could help in the future are "leave-it", "drop-it", "take-it", and "back up".

This is a pretty simple explanation of a potentially serious behavior. If at any time you get uncomfortable STOP. A professional that specializes in the issue of resource guarding can walk you through all of the little steps if more training is necessary. The goal is not to teach the dog who is boss or cause a bite. The goal is to get the dog to relax so that if it is ever in a situation that you cannot manage he will hopefully chose to relax instead of bite. Jean Donaldson has an incredible book called "MINE" that could help you understand what is going on in your dog's mind and how to handle raising a dog that has a tendency to guard things. 

Can all dogs get better?

The simple answer is NO. Some dogs are wired wrong, just like humans. What we do is work on training and managing the issue for the rest of the dog's life. Different techniques work differently on each dog. Keep it positive. You can't make a dog positive by adding stress to the situation. Teach them to relax instead of giving them the need to be more fearful and escalate their aggression.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Walking with your dog should be like therapy.

There aren't many things that are as relaxing as going on a long walk with your dog...right?! Okay, so some of you are laughing right now...but hang in here with me...Picture you and your dog on the perfect walk. Choose where you like to walk the city, suburbs, in the country, or on a hiking trail. Your hand is not loosing circulation from the tight leash. Your dog looks super cool walking on your side, looking around, and not pulling with overexcited reactions to other dogs or people. When you talk to your dog he glances at you as if he is listening and understands how your day went. Remember he can tell how you feel through the leash. As much as we may not admit it, our dogs are the best person in the world to talk to. They listen and pass no judgement and they love us unconditionally. So how do we get to the point where we can take that perfect walk?

Training Ideas: 
Start with super yummy rewards for looking at you. You can use a clicker or a verbal cue such as "yes" or "good" to mark them looking at your body. Whether you use the mechanical or verbal reward marker you must always treat! Think of yourself as the bulls-eye of a dart board. There are rings around you at 2 feet, 4 feet... We have to make it super cool for our dog to hang out within the distance we prefer!
      Next, I want you to pick the side you want your dog to walk on. They wont always have to walk next to you, but you want to start there so that it is their default position in any instance that you may need them close to you. Put their walking equipment on and don't do any lures or hand ques, just wait for them to check in with you, use your reward marker, and drop the treat on the side you want them to hang out on. You will need to start in an area where there are no distractions and with a treat the dog really enjoys. Slowly, over time, you will increase the distractions while still using the super yummy treats for paying attention to you. If your dog stops eating and/or wont check in with have raised the distractions too quickly. Examples of slowly raising the distractions would be walking from room to room in the house, opening the front door, walking on the porch or down the yard or driveway toward the street. If they pull, you stop! ...And wait for them to check in again. If it takes more than a few seconds back up toward where you came from, and spend time playing the "look at me" game where they can still pay attention. Sometimes just making it down the driveway can take days or weeks. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but if you think about it, they are moving back and forth, still getting the same amount of footsteps they would be getting on a walk, they're getting mental exercise, AND they are practicing the correct way to go on a walk, not self rewarding by pulling you toward their unknown destination.
     Once your have made one side and checking in with you default behaviors for your dog, you can start rewarding for other things...
        Stopping or sitting when you stop moving
Coming back to you when they feel the leash pull taught
   Walking in the position you chose as the default, with a loose leash
    Looking at distractions without reacting, pulling, or stepping out of position
     Laying down and doing nothing when you are sitting or talking to a neighbor

Teamwork Ideas:
                    Training classes such as agility, obedience, freestyle, and conditioning
                    Interactive games such as fetch, Frisbee, and tricks
                    Road trips
                    Trips to get snacks at drive thrus

Reactive Dogs: Being reactive does not necessarily mean a dog is aggressive! Don't meet their reaction with aggression. Yelling or amping up the situation does not help the dog learn to relax...they just think mom or dad are reacting with them. Teach them to relax around the stimulus that they are fearful of. Give them the distance they need to be comfortable and reward them with treats, petting, or praise for just watching. Over time you will be able to get closer and closer to the stimulus. For the dog that "just wants to play"...find a doggie daycare that does small groups with appropriate play partners, so they can get that chance to be around dogs off-leash. It will help take the edge off of the need to play "RIGHT NOW". Proper socialization and training from a positive trainer will help your dog relax when under the restrictions of a leash. These are social skills that can be accomplished over time with a proper self-control and self-confidence training program.

"So, I don't reprimand them for going out to the end of the leash!?" 
No... If you are reprimanding them you are negatively reinforcing the "wrong" behavior...and negative reinforcement is reinforcement. Focus on the right behaviors and your dog will WANT to repeat them. You don't have to be a pack leader to walk your dog. You just need to teach them what the right way is. After they clearly understand what it is you are wanting, you can ad adversives...What! Yes, you can interrupt them and remind them where you want them to go...once they understand the right way. Adversives such as a quick loud noise, stopping forward motion, or ignoring your dog should be all you need if your dog truly knows what he is supposed to be doing. 

Go on a walk with your dog and focus on all of the wrong behaviors your dog does...How do you feel when you get home?
Go on a walk and focus on all of the right behaviors your dog does...How do you feel when you get home?
               Keep it up and soon you will be the talk of the neighborhood!
                                                         Happy Walking! 
                  Contact your local positive trainer for more information!

Friday, March 25, 2016

What is really happening when you punish a behavior out of your dog?

     All to often I have people tell me things such as, "He used to growl at me, but I broke him of that really quickly" or "She used to jump on people, but now all I have to do is show her the newspaper and she will stand quietly". That's great, maybe, but what have you really taught your dog? Maybe he thinks growling isn't allowed, even though growling is a signal animals use instinctively to signal they are uncomfortable or want more space... So, how is he supposed to tell you he is uncomfortable with a situation if he's not allowed to growl? Showing teeth or snapping at you? Which one seems worse now?
     Maybe she thinks if she doesn't move at all mom wont smack her with the newspaper, and mom thought it meant stop jumping. Sometimes what we think the words "stop" or "no" mean, really mean something else to them. It can simply be all in your timing. You may have intended for the presentation of the newspaper to mean no jumping, but the dog could have thought that when they stood still mom stopped smacking them. Yes, it may have stopped the undesirable behavior, but what if someone where to approach the frozen dog and cause her to have to move? What if she thought she was going to get in trouble for moving and snapped at the person so as to say, "Hey! don't make me move. Mama gets mad when I move at the door". Now what kind of trouble is the dog in? And who's fault is it really?
     Most likely it is no one's fault. It was just a product of miscommunication. People watch trainers on TV, or remember how the dogs were treated years ago on the farm and think this is the way to train. "You have to be the Alpha". THIS IS NOT TRUE! TRAINING IS THE KEY TO A DOG THAT LISTENS TO YOU...THAT'S THE BIG SECRET.
     There have been many times that I have showed up somewhere in my truck, that clearly states that I am a dog trainer, and a person's demeanor changes immediately after they see me. They were enjoying the sled pull around the block, with minimal annoyance toward the fact that their hand was loosing circulation from the tight leash, and bam! The owner stops the dog and tells it to sit ten times, then gets embarrassed because the dog is clearly "not listening to them". Then comes some sort of punishment. It could be getting yelled at, being dragged back home, or I even had one lady smack the dog with her flexi-lead....That's a entry. Lol
     The bottom line is when we punish our dogs and don't let them know what they are doing that is good, they often focus on the timing of the punishment and don't understand what to do instead of the undesirable behavior. They just do nothing or avoid looking. That may make the behavior stop, but it often times causes fallout such as snapping, biting, or worse. This behavior of doing nothing to keep out of trouble is a term we call learned helplessness. They don't understand what they did wrong, so they just stand still and wait to see what someone is going to do next. If they aren't noticed, maybe dad wont get stressed out... The fallout that often occurs, is just their way of trying to communicate without the signal you did not like the first time they told you.
     So, if this isn't the most effective way of training, what is? What if we switched things around and made things a little less stressful? Jumping at the door is annoying. What would you rather your dog do? Wait until it is okay to greet someone? Maybe keep their feet on the floor when they greet them? Okay, so let's teach them those behaviors get them goodies or praise from mom and dad. Many times it as simple as ignoring the bad behavior (being wild and jumping), waiting until they offer the good behavior (a sit or at least no vibrating), and then rewarding them for finding the right thing to do. "Yeah! If I sit and be calm, mom lets people come and say hi to me. If I jump and be wild she will just stand there boring and not let the person in the door". How cool is that? We just turned a stress filled situation into a relaxed situation with tons of treats and praise! And... think about the human body language in this picture. Wouldn't you rather be the person that is happy to introduce their dog to people instead of the person armed with the fly-swatter at the front door when the UPS guy shows up? Positive training is standing the test of time, and the days of using the training style of being the "Alpha" or "Pack Leader" are going by the way side. Be open to learning new ways, after all we are the ones that domesticated these animals...Shouldn't we be responsible for them enjoying their all to short stay with us?