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Archive for September, 2013

How to Train a Dog to Come When Called

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Basic dog commands are considered an essential for any dog owner. Basic commands, such as sit and stay, can help keep dogs out of trouble—and keep dogs from exhibiting unwanted behaviors, like jumping on guests or chasing after other animals. Training a dog to come when it is called is often considered a basic command which can help dog owners retrieve loose or lost dogs, and help keep dogs from going into areas that they shouldn’t — such as neighbor’s back yards!—or getting into other mischief.

Training a dog to come when it is called is relatively easy. Most dog breeds respond well to this type of command, although certain stubborn breeds—such as the haughty Pekingese—may not always obey the command when it is given. The following are the necessary steps needed in order to train your dog to come when you call its name.

Step One

How_to_Train_a_Dog_To_Come_When_CalledFirst, you will need to find an area that doesn’t have many distractions. This can be a large room in your house, an enclosed back yard, or a front yard during the daytime when not many people are walking around. If you are not in an enclosed space, remember to use a long leash to make sure your dog is not able to run away or run loose.

Step Two

Next, you will need to show your dog a treat or something else rewarding, such as its favorite toy, a small piece of meat, or anything else that your dog will find very desirable.

Step Three

After you show your dog this item, quickly move away from your dog. Then, crouch down and keep your hands close to your body, but still in front of you.

Step Four

Once your dog begins to move closer to you, say “Yes!” and praises them. Wait until the dog reaches you to give them the treat or other reward.

Step Five

Repeat steps one through four. Once your dog begins to respond correctly–in other words, come to you after you move away–begin using the command “Come” with your dog’s name in front of it. (“Pepper, come!”) Some trainers recommend beginning to use the command in a happy, excited voice, while gradually switching to the normal voice you would likely use when giving this command.

Step Six

Practice until your dog is capable of coming to you without you moving quickly away or crouching down. It is essential to gradually introduce distractions during this type of training—never solely train your dog without distractions, as the situations in which you would use this command are typically ones which would be full of them.

Fun Dog Tricks to Teach Your Dog

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Most dogs love to learn something new. It is important for pet owners to teach their dogs basic commands, like sit and stay, in help curb bad behaviors and keep them—and anyone around them—safe from harm. But not everything you teach your dog has to be a command! Dog tricks can be used to help stimulate intelligent dogs that need mental stimulation, to strengthen a bond between a dog and its family—or even in a professional capacity! These tricks aren’t really essential commands, but they can make owning a dog even more fun. Let’s take a look at some fun, interesting tricks that you can teach your dog.

Touch the Bell

touchung the bell

How do you know if a dog has to go to the bathroom? Many pet owners will teach their dog to fetch their leash or sit by the doorway. Or—you could try the bell method. This method will teach your dog to ring a bell whenever they need to go outside. You will first need to teach your dog to touch the bell, which can be done by using a training stick to indicate the bel


Spin Around
l to the dog—when they touch it, reward them with praise and a treat. Once the dog has associated touching the bell with praise and reward, start having the dog touch the bell every time before it goes outside. Soon, the dog will associate ringing the bell as the precedent to taking them for a walk!

This cute trick may not be practical, but it does make for fun bonding time and an adorable trick to show off to friends. To teach your dog to spin around, use a training stick or touch stick guide your dog in a circular motion. Once the dog has made a full turn, reward them with a treat and praise. After this has been accomplished a few times, add a physical gesture—such as spinning your index finger around—while using the training stick. Once your dog is capable of spinning without using the touch stick, add your command to the physical gesture. Keep practicing until your dog is able to spin at your command!

Roll Over

If you ask anyone on the street what the most famous dog trick is, they’ll probably answer (after giving you a strange look, of course): “Roll over!” To teach your dog this popular trick, you will first need to teach your dog to lie down. Then, you can gently move them onto their side using your hand or training stick. Reward them with a treat. Then, using your stick or hand, lure the dog onto their back–this will likely take time and patience for most breeds. Reward them a treat. Continue luring the dog until they have rolled all the way over. Reward with them exceptional praise and a treat. Continue practicing until the dog is capable of rolling over smoothly, and then add the “Roll over” command. It may be helpful to also include a physical gesture, such as moving your hands in a circle.

Dog Training Tips

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Dog training is essential to the well-being and happiness of any dog. Most dog behaviorists recommend that basic commands—including sit, stay, come here, and so on—in addition to basic dog and social etiquette are taught to dogs in order to ensure their overall well-being. Dog training can be useful in emergency situations, such as when a dog attempts to run into the road, as well as everyday situations, such as when family or friends come to visit. Without training, dogs tend to behave in ways that are less than desirable—jumping on people, chewing on furniture, and even going to the bathroom inside of the house. In order to combat and prevent these behaviors, training is necessary. The following are some of the top dog training tips which will help a dog live a happy, healthy life.

Tip #1: Reward desirable behaviors when you see them

2_More_Dog_Training_MistakesDon’t think of dog training as being a temporary, part-time situation. Any interaction that you have with your dog can be a type of training session. If you see that your dog has sat politely instead of jumping on someone when they came through the door, reward your dog with immediate praise and affection. Let your dog know when it is doing something that you disapprove of—likewise, let them know when they are doing something that you disapprove of as well.

Tip #2: When training high energy dogs, exercise before training.

If you are attempting to train a dog with a significant amount of energy, start your session by giving the dog some brief exercise. This will help bring their energy levels down to a more manageable level, which will make it easier for them to focus on the training and not on playtime or another way to expend their energy.

Tip #3: Be realistic in your training goals

Not every dog is made for every type of training or every type of command or trick. You must take the dog’s breed and natural behaviors into account. For example: You will have a hard time training a low-energy Pekingese to perform in dog show obstacle courses—likewise, you will have a hard time training a Bloodhound to cease sniffing and hounding behaviors when walking or exercising outside. Unless the command is essential for your dog’s safety, it is best to let it go when it becomes apparent that your dog is simply not interested in learning a certain behavior.

Tip #4: Use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is generally considered to be the most effective and healthy way to train your dog. In the past, corrections—often done through choke collars and pinch collars—were commonly used; today, however, most dog trainers agree that dogs can be just as effectively taught using positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement can come in the form of positive attention, such as praise, petting, energetic words, treats, playtime, and favorite toys. Your dog will enjoy training sessions much more when they know that they will be getting positive attention.

Even More Dog Training Myths

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

One of the most important aspects of ensuring a dog leaves a happy and healthy life is dog training. Dog training can curb and prevent undesirable behaviors, keep a dog from accidentally hurting itself or others, and help strengthen the bond between a dog and its owner or family. Although dog training is an important part of a dog’s well-being, there are many myths, legends and misconceptions about dog training which can confuse, frustrate and mislead dog owners. The following are even more dog training myths–and the facts behind them.

Myth: Positive reinforcement only works for easy-to-train bDog_Training_Mythsreeds, not stubborn or large breeds

This myth is often used to justify the usage of harsher training methods, which are typically only recommended for experienced dog trainers who know how to properly use tools such as choke collars and pinch collars to train dogs.

Positive reinforcement is, in fact, used around the world to train exotic animals, marine mammals and pets. Positive reinforcement teaches an animal to associate a behavior–or stopping certain behaviors–with a reward. In the case of an exotic animal, the reward might be fresh meat, while in the case of a family dog; the reward can be positive praise, petting and a little treat. Research has shown that corrective training methods are much more likely to lead to anxiety, stress and fear rather than a happy and well-behaved animal.

Myth: Using treats or food during training is bribery

Although sometimes dog owners do use food as bribery, such as when they try to lure a dog away from a situation by offering treats, using food or treats as a reward during training is not actually bribery but a reinforcement or reward. During training, food is often used because almost every dog enjoys food and treats and they will attempt to work for that particular reward. Other rewards may also be used for dogs that do not show much interest in food: toys, playing, petting and praise are also commonly used training rewards.

Myth: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

This myth is so pervasive that the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has taken on its own meaning in popular culture! The truth of the matter is this: You can train a dog at any age, whether it’s a bouncing puppy or an elderly dog. It is true that older dogs will often require more patience and time during training than younger dogs because certain behaviors are likely now ingrained in them due to their past training or lack of past training. However, older dogs are typically calmer than younger dogs and will usually be able to focus on you and your commands during training sessions.

If you are having difficulty training an older dog, remember to exercise patience! You may be, in the course of your training, trying to undo a behavior which the dog has practiced for years.

Dog Training Myths

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Dog training is an essential part of ensuring that a dog is happy, healthy and safe. Some dog training can be relatively easy; many dog owners are able to teach their dogs basic commands, like sit and stay, without too much trouble. But dog training can be difficult, confusing or even frustrating! It makes matters complicated when myths and legends about dog training enter into the equation. There are many myths about dog training, some of which can actually confuse or frustrate a dog—or its owners. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly spread myths about dog training, and how the facts measure up.

Myth: A dog knows that they’ve disobeyed because they look guilty.

Dog_Training_MythsThis myth is incredibly common–and incredibly untrue! While the debate as to whether or not a dog can feel guilty in same way that a person can is still up in the air, the “guilty look” that people see in their animals is not the product of a guilty conscience, but a learned behavior. A dog can pick up on the body language and vocal inflections of their owners. When an owner sees that something is wrong, such as a chewed up couch or a puddle on the floor, they will typically react by becoming upset; their pet will react accordingly by appearing “worried,” because they know that this behavior will appease a human who is displaying upset or angry types of body language. The dog does not necessarily know that it’s done something wrong—it is simply picking up on human body language and reacting accordingly.

Myth: A puppy should be six months old before training begins.

This myth likely originates from old school training methods which typically used heavy or spiked collar corrections, which meant that the dog should be old enough to withstand the potential corrections from the collar. Today, however, positive reinforcement training has done away with harsher corrective methods. In reality, you should start training your puppy as soon as you can! Puppies will likely take longer to train because of their shorter attention span, but there is no reason that you can’t begin your puppy’s training as soon as possible.

Myth: A dog that can’t be trained to respond to a certain command is stubborn, stupid or dominant.

This myth often leads to frustration both on the part of dogs and their owners—but it doesn’t have to be this way! It is true that some dogs may be more stubborn against training than others. However, these dogs simply require more patience and a better understanding of the situation from a “dog’s point of view” from their owner. Imagine that you are a dog—are the commands you are giving clear and consistent? Do they make sense? Would you want to obey them? Before you write off your dog as dominant, dumb or stubborn, take the time to think about how your dog perceives the training and adjust your own actions accordingly.

Dog Training Mistakes Small Dog Owners Often Make

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Small dog breeds have been popular companions for hundreds of years—Marie Antoinette was a fashion of small dogs and pugs, which she doted on in her palace. While some smaller breeds of dogs are considered to be work dogs, most small dogs are bred in order to be family pets and home companions. The term “lap dog” comes from the fact that many of these smaller breeds enjoy snuggling into their owner’s lap.

SDog_Training_Mistakes_Small_Dog_Owners_Often_Makemall dog breeds are very popular. However, they are also considered to be at a higher risk for behavioral problems, largely due in part to mistakes made by their owners. Among all of the dog breeds, small dogs are usually those who are the least trained or poorly trained, which can result in injuries, undesirable behavior and “attitude” problems in the dog. The following are the most common dog training mistakes that owners of small dogs often make.

Mistake #1: Letting Their Size Create Indulgence

Would you let a massive German shepherd jump up on a houseguest when they walk through the door? No. Likewise, you should not like your small Chihuahua or other small dog breed jump up on your houseguest, even though they likely won’t reach your houseguests knees on their hind legs.

Unfortunately, far too many small dog owners indulge their small dogs because of their size. Behavior which would be absolutely unacceptable in a medium or large sized dog is suddenly cute or adorable in a small dog. This mistake can result in a number of behavioral problems, including aggression, over-protection, and even safety hazards to the dog or people who interact with the dog.

To avoid this mistake, small dog owners should ensure that they train their small dog just as well as they would larger sized dogs. Basic commands and dog etiquette should be taught regardless of size.

Mistake #2: Long Training Sessions

For dog owners who do train their small dogs, there are still mistakes to avoid. The most common mistake made by small dog owners who do strive to train their small dogs is having training sessions which are too long and arduous. Most dog breeds are not patient enough for very long training sessions. Small dogs are especially prone to quick boredom or inattention due to their generally lower attention span. Dog owners may mistakenly believe they should train their small dog until they get it perfectly—this method, however, may cause the dog to become frustrated, bored and annoyed with the process.

To avoid this mistake, plan micro training sessions instead of longer ones. This will allow the dog enough time to learn and practice new tricks without making them bored or listless.

Mistake #3: Being Aggressive or Domineering

An all too common mistake made by small dog owners is being too aggressive or domineering with the dog. Small dogs are easy to frighten, and a human looming over them or yelling loudly may cause them to become nervous, skittish or even aggressively defensive. If you do need to take control of a situation, get down on the dog’s level and use a dominant stare until the dog looks submissively to the ground—then reward the dog for its behavior. Never shout, hit or physically threaten your dog.

Can a Dog Be Impossible to Train?

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Countless dog owners have dealt with the frustration that comes with a dog that is seemingly impossible to train. Many professional dog trainers have dealt with this all too common problem, which dog owners often describe as a dog that is “impossible” to train. But can a dog really be impossible to train? Let’s take a further look at why some dogs appear impossible to train—and how, if possible, to solve this all too common problem.

Can a dog be impossible to trainEvery dog breed—and indeed, every dog—are built differently. Some breeds were bred for hunting, others for sport, others for companionship, and so on. Through the years, certain dog breeds have been bred to be highly trainable due to their involvement in police work, entertainment, field and farm work, disability services and similar uses. Easy to train breeds include Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweiler’s, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Poodles. Some dog breeds, on the other hand, have not been bred to be trainable. These breeds tend to be stubborn and independent. Difficult to train breeds include Pekingese, Bloodhounds, and Beagles. More often than not, these “stubborn” breeds have traits that make them respond less readily to dog training than others.

However, it is not impossible to train a dog that is resistant or stubborn to dog training. It may be difficult, and require plenty of patience, but these dogs can be trained—if the owner knows what they are doing. To train a stubborn dog, it is important for the owner to take a step back from the situation and properly analyze it by asking the following questions:

Why might the dog not be responding to my training?

The first question that must be addressed is why the dog is not responding to training. To illustrate this, let’s look at an example from an actual example from dog trainer Suzanne Clothier, who often hosts dog training seminars. During one seminar, she was presented with a dog that, according to their owner, would not stop sniffing the ground during the “heeling” command, no matter how hard they tried. The dog in question was a Bloodhound, who has been bred specifically to exhibit such behavior. In this example, the dog was not responding to the training because the training was attempting to break decades of built-in behavior which was natural to the dog.

Why should the dog respond to my training?

Dog owners should imagine this question whenever they are training their animal: “Why?” When a dog is presented with a command, the question of “why?” should be answered. For example: “Why come when I am called?” The answer, after training, will be that they will receive rewards and praise. For many breeds, especially those notoriously difficult to train, the question of “why?” is often not addressed well enough by their owners. A Bloodhound, to use the previous example, must be given a very good answer if they are being told they should stop sniffing the ground, a behavior which is ingrained in them. When the owner can sufficiently “answer” their dog, they will find that the dog is much easier to train—although attempting to reverse natural dog behaviors, such as sniffing in Bloodhounds, is often a fruitless effort.

10 Dog Commands to Teach Your Dog (Part 2)

Friday, September 13th, 2013

There some dog commands which are generally considered to be essential, regardless of the dog’s breed or their particular role—such as family pet, seeing eye dog, and so on. Although specific breeds or working dogs might require different basic commands than a typical family pet, most dog experts agree that there are basic commands which can help any dog breed and any dog owner. These commands are intended to help keep the dog, and anyone or anything that interacts with the dog, safe from harm and happy. In part 1 of this article, we covered the following basic commands: sit, stay, leave it and down. The following are other basic dog commands which are considered to be essential.

Okay

OKAYThe “okay” command release a dog from a previous command, such as sit or stay. For example: If a pet owner commands their dog to sit when a family friend comes through the door due to the tendency to jump on anyone when they first arrive, the “okay” command will let them know it is now okay to greet their visitor. Although “okay” is not as common a command as sit or stay, it is important for dog owners who have dogs that have difficulty recognizing when they are allowed to discontinue a previous command.

No

Although pet owners may not realize it, “no” is actually a command. When a dog is taught “no,” they are being taught that a certain behavior is not acceptable. This is a command that should be taught as early as possible, preferably when the dog is still a puppy. Certain behaviors, such as chewing furniture, jumping on furniture, or biting, can often be curbed by training a dog to learn that “no” means the behavior is not okay.

Drop It

This command, similar to “leave it,” will teach a dog to drop something which is inside their mouth. This command can actually be a lifesaving command, if a dog has grabbed something in their mouth which may hurt or even kill them. It can also be used to save personal items, like shoes or clothing, from becoming a dog’s next chew toy. Drop it can also be used when teaching a dog to play fetch—dogs which are stubborn against typical training may find it easier to learn the command when it is included as part of a game.

Heel

Heel is an often misunderstood command. Many pet owners believe that “heel” means back-off or get away. Heel is actually a command used during walking which teaches a dog to walk alongside its owner’s hip, rather than in front of the owner or behind the owner. In other words, the heel command teaches a dog to walk with their owner—not against them. Heel is absolutely essential for large breeds who may run or give chase when out for walks.

Stand

Stand, sometimes used as “be still,” is a command which teaches a dog to stand up and stop moving. This command is particularly useful for veterinarian trips, trips to the groomers, and home-grooming a dog. The stand command allows a veterinarian or dog owner to examine the dog without it moving around or becoming restless.

10 Dog Commands to Teach Your Dog (Part 1)

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Dog commands are essential to the well-being of dogs, their owners, and anyone—or any animal—that has an interact with a dog. Dog commands can help curb or prevent bad behaviors, dangerous behaviors, and otherwise unpleasant interacts. It is generally recommended that all dogs, regardless of their breed, are taught basic dog commands by their owners. What is included in these basic commands might vary from dog to dog depending on their role—for example, seeing eye dogs may be taught basic commands that aren’t necessary for sheep herding dogs, which may be taught basic commands which aren’t necessary for family pets. However, most dog trainers agree that the following basic commands are necessary for almost every breed and every role a dog might have.

Sit

10_Dog_Commands_to_Teach_Your_DogSit is the quintessential dog command. Teaching a dog to sit has numerous uses, many of which are intended to curb or stop bad behaviors. These behaviors include, but are not limited to: jumping on people, jumping on other animals, fighting, and chasing. Teaching a dog to sit is considered to be one of the easiest commands, and almost every dog breed—regardless of their stubbornness—can be taught to sit fairly easily.

Stay

Stay is another common dog command which is typically used in conjunction with sit or, less frequently, “lie down.” The stay command may be used to prevent bad behaviors, such as chasing or jumping, but it also useful for keeping a dog out of harm’s way. For example, a dog which is prone to running ahead on a leash may be taught to “stay” to prevent the dog from running into the street when it is not safe. Although this is a common dog command, it is not always easy to teach dogs to curb their natural behavior, which is to give chase and appease their curiosity. But teaching a dog to stay has benefits that will outweigh the patience and time necessary to teach them to obey this useful command.

Leave It

Dogs are curious animals and it is only natural for them to want to pick up new or unusual objects, such as items on the ground, food, etc. But it is not always safe or desirable for a dog to pick up something with his mouth—many items may be poisonous to dogs, hazardous to their health, or—in the case of pet owners—something that their owner does not want destroyed. Leave it is a command that will teach the dog to ignore something which they may want to pick up, thus sparing them potential harm or sparing a pet owner from having to buy a new pair of leather shoes.

Down

Down is a command which is similar to sit, although the position it teaches a dog is different. The down command teaches a dog to lie down, rather than sit, which is more comfortable for the dog when they must remain in place for a longer period of time. The down command is also useful in situations where people may be fearful of dogs, especially large breeds, when a lower position will make them more at ease.

2 More Dog Training Mistakes

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Have you ever overhead a fellow pet owner lamenting the fact that their pet just isn’t responding well to dog training? It’s a common complaint. But how much of these all-too-common laments are the fault of the pet—and how much are the fault of the owner? Although training a dog to do basic, necessary commands is a relatively simple process, there are many dog training mistakes that can get in the way of the dog’s learning process. Previously, we have talked about three common dog training mistakes: not training your pet often enough, which leads to a deterioration of the pet’s learned behaviors; repeating commands, which leads to a lazy response; and keeping training sessions too long or too short, which can cut down on the benefits of a training session. Next, we’ll talk about two other common and damaging dog training mistakes.

Mistake #1: Training your dog under limited conditions.

2_More_Dog_Training_MistakesDogs need to learn under various conditions. Some pet owners make the mistake of believing that their dog only needs to learn commands—once they have learned a command, they will respond to it no matter the situation or circumstances. This is simply not true. For example, if you train your dog to sit in a calm, quiet room and only in a calm, quiet room, the dog is not learning to obey with any level of distraction. If you attempted to have your dog sit down in a crowded, noisy room, they would be likely to ignore your command altogether or only respond slowly or halfheartedly. It is important to gradually train your dog under a variety of circumstances, especially ones that they will encounter during their daily lives. Train them in quiet rooms—but also train them in living rooms with running children or distracting relatives; train them outside with animals and other people as distractions, and so on. It is important to start training in a room with limited distractions: but remember, don’t limit the way that your dog learns.

Mistake #2:  Relying on treats.

Everyone knows that all you need to do to keep a dog well-trained is a bag of treats, right? Wrong. Although treats are a helpful way to begin the initial process of training your dog, they are not a viable or helpful way to keep a dog well-trained. Think about it: do you see police dogs or disabled-assistance dogs being given treats every time they obey a command? Of course not! Treats would only be a distraction and, in many cases, could cause health issues if given excessively. The key to keeping your dog well-trained without treats is using praise, affection and other types of non-edible positive reinforcement. When you are first teaching your dog, using treats can be helpful—but once they have gotten the hang of things, put away the treat bag and focus on using positive attention instead. Petting your dog, praising your dog, and otherwise making your dog feel special for having done the behavior is a much better way to reinforce training in the long term.