Here are a few trainer tidbits and techniques to aid with your dog training (and cat training too) that have been very successful for our Lead Trainer, Mary Stadelbacher, with the canines she's instructed. These easy to use, step by step instructions deal with some of the most common training troubles you may encounter with your own dog. With these tips, you and your dog will quickly be on the path to a more harmonious relationship. Of course each dog is unique in their learning abilities and personalities, so your dog may quickly master a lesson or may be on the gradual program. Being patient, and most importantly, staying consistent will be your best tools to helping your dog overcome their challenges.
We've also included some tips on dog and cat psychology that you may find quite useful with your own furry friends. Either way, we hope you enjoy reading the following information and find it helpful in your companion/Service animal family. Make sure to check back as more tidbits will be posted along the way!
NOTE: ALL HEALTH TIPS THAT WERE PREVIOUSLY ON THIS PAGE HAVE BEEN MOVED TO SHORE SERVICE DOGS' NEAT STUFF PAGE. PLEASE VISIT THERE TO BOOKMARK THE NEW ADDRESS.
Learning Food Respect
Stopping Bolting Through the Door
Best Technique to Calm a Hyper Dog
Aggression in Dogs
Stop Cats From Urinating on Furniture
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Make your Dog Work for All Its Food & Water!
You do it for yours, their wild cousins do it naturally, makes sense that they should work for theirs also. Every time you feed them, make them sit (no doing a jack-in-the-box, it must be a solid sit/stay) *BEFORE* you put the food down. Do that with *EVERY* meal. Once they've mastered that, move on to having them sit and stay even after you've put the food down. Yes, they will drool but don't let that sway you from their lesson. Wait a moment and then tell them it's OK to eat. Then praise them verbally that they did a good sit/stay.
Gradually increase the time between the moment you put the food down and when you release them (you may want to place a towel under them to minimize the drool puddles). Soon you'll be able to walk out of the room and they'll be still sitting there when you come back, food untouched. It's true! Occasionally I've put Major’s food down and then got sidetracked and 15 minutes later realized I hadn't released him to eat. He was still sitting there patiently (with a big drool puddle) waiting for his command that it was OK to eat.
The more advanced training can even get them to eat and stop eating on command. Think that would take forever? All the dogs I've trained, learned that advanced eating command within a week and a half. Granted, I've perfected the technique but with patience and consistency, your dog could learn it also! One of the nice side effects of this training technique is that it amazingly cuts down on the stealing of things (food, items, etc.). They soon learn that they need to look to you for permission before they are allowed to just do anything they want.
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Make Your Dog Wait Before Going Outside
I'm sure many of you have opened your door and your furry Seabiscuit has just bolted right out, intent on winning their version of the Kentucky Derby. And then you have to chase them down and what should have been a simple thing of opening the door, turned into a nightmare. If you're lucky you catch them. If *THEY'RE* unlucky they become lost, get into trouble, or worst of all, possibly are hit by a vehicle and become seriously injured or killed. It's such a common problem but there actually is a very simple solution for it! You need to start teaching them that they aren't allowed to just run out but have to look to you for whether its OK or not before they do anything.
Start by leashing them and going to the door. Make sure you have a firm grip so they don't yank the leash out of your hand, tell them “Sit, Wait” and then make them sit far enough back so the door could easily open. Once they've sat solidly for about 15 seconds, place you hand on the doorknob. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR! Your dog will probably anticipate you and will pop right up from that sit. They're no dummies!
Make them sit again and repeat the technique until they don't pop up from their sit/wait. By that point you'll probably be exhausted so praise them, take the leash off and go away from the door to do other things (not training). They'll probably wonder about your sanity but there is method to the madness. Simply, it helps break them of the habit of thinking that you going to the door means they get to bolt out.
The next level will be going to the door as outlined above and then just cracking the door a little. They'll pop up from the sit and you'll immediately close the door and get them back into position. Keep doing that until they don't move and then call it a day. Gradually increase the distance you open the door (with corrections of closing it and making them sit again) until they're solid on sitting and waiting with the door wide open. Soon you'll be able to graduate on to doing it without a leash (expect a regression, as said before, they're no dummies and will realize you don't have as much control over them as you did before). Don't give up! Be consistent! Within short order you'll be able to have your dog calmly sit by the door while you open it up to either go out or greet people (greeting people is a whole different technique but that'll be for a later tip).
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The Best Technique I've Found to Calm Hyper Dogs!
The absolute best technique I've found to deal with hyper dogs is a specialized “Down & Time Out”. When used, this can dramatically calm a dog down within a few days.
Unlike the concept of trying to wear a dog out physically so they don't have the energy to get into mischief, this technique teaches them how to learn self discipline and control of their emotions, even if they've not had a chance to exercise yet. Too often trying to wear the dog out just builds up its endurance and stamina and then you have a very well conditioned hyper dog on your hands, which is the last thing you want! This modified time out is the same common sense concept of teaching kids how to learn patience in situations that require calm demeanors without the pacifier of a distraction.
Distractions are many times only a quick fix and can even backfire by rewarding for bad behavior (the oh so common, if I act up enough, I'll get something fun or good tasting to shut me up scenario). Teaching self discipline addresses the underlying problem of lack of emotional control. Unfortunately, this modified time out is not something that can be described without a hands-on demonstration with your dog. Each dog is different in how they respond to the initial learning of this technique and the protocol has to be adapted to their personalities. It can also take some work to get them into the correct position at first and you would also need to learn how to do that to achieve the desired results. If you are local to Salisbury, MD and are interested in learning this valuable technique, please contact me and I'd be happy to set up an appointment for you to get you and your dog on track to a much calmer existence!
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Aggression in Dogs
Aggression can be caused by many different things... past abuse, poor health, genetic predisposition, not enough fun in life, even fear, to name just a few. And it can come in mild forms of a subtle curled lip to the proverbial psychotic Cujo's "I want to tear you into tiny little pieces!" displays. One thing is for certain though, whatever the reason and level of aggression it might be, if allowed to continue, it will progress to a more intense level as the dog gains confidence in being allowed to use that tactic to get what it wants.
One of the biggest differences between dogs and humans is that dogs work off of what is successful for them, so if baring teeth, growling, and snapping works for getting them what they want, progressing to a bite should certainly be better. Well maybe that's not so different from us afterall, but we've modified our ways of dealing with each other to a more "civilized" way of getting what we want.
To a dog though, displays of stregth and dominance is just common sense and an important survival tactic that is an integral part of their natural social interactions. But we want dogs to behave as a human would in a human society (not that all humans conform to that either as our growing jail population can attest to) and if they don't, we exile them or put them down usually without even a "trial" or attempt to rehabilitate them. That's a pretty sad fate for a dog who just was never taught how to act in "polite society".
Now that's not to say that all dogs would be able to learn. There are plenty of cases of both dogs and humans that just feel aggression is the only way to deal with everything in life and no amount of schooling will alter that. Determining which dog will change and which won't can be extremely difficult so trying to determine that on your own may not be the best thing to do. Just as you would make sure that you utilized a doctor well trained in a surgery you would need performed, making sure to look for that kind of expertise when dealing with such a complex emotion as aggression is a ticket to a greater chance of a successful outcome for both you and your dog. And if you're reading this looking for a solution, you're obviously wanting to avoid the option of just a quick death sentence for you pet. So please consider consulting with someone early in the aggression level when it hasn't become an ingrained habit for your dog (and you).
But what if you don't have that option of getting someone in early on? Well it would still be best to bring in a behavior coach to assist in trying to break that ingrained aggressive habit that your dog has formed. They will be able to teach you ways to read your dog's mood and with them coaching you, you'll learn the important skills to safely help curtail your dog's addiction to aggressive tendencies. Realize though that it will be a harder and longer road to travel but it can still get you to where you want your dog to be.
So what can you do in the meantime to help your dog to start to get beyond its grouchy mood? Below are a few generalized suggestions that may aid in improving your dog's view on life and how to deal with it. As each dog and their aggression issues are unique, it would be difficult to give more specific steps towards helping your situation without evaluting your dog in person, but these tips should at least help alleviate some of the problems in most cases. Please realize though that safety for you and others is the utmost importance when dealing with dog aggression. Make sure to adequately protect all involved while helping your dog to learn a different way of dealing with life. It's no sign of weakness to muzzle a dog that may bite. Rather it helps them learn faster as you've taken away the option for them to cause damage and to continue to intimidate you and others. Set them up to succeed and you will be better able to avoid having to deal with the consequences of failing. And one last thing to remember, expert guidance could mean the difference between life and death for not only your dog, but in extreme cases, for others as well. With something as serious as aggression, please consider utilizing that helping hand to achieve your goal of a safer and happier pet.
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- Your dog should earn your trust by their behavior. Don't prematurely trust that they will be good just because you want them to be. Gradually work up to believing in them. That way they will learn that they must consistently behave correctly. If you trust them too soon they'll learn to behave well just once or twice and then they'll count on you going back to the old routine allowing them to get away with their aggression. The more times you show to them that you'll no longer accept that kind of behavior and won't allow them to get themselves to the point of misbehaving, the more convinced they'll become that there's a new pack leader and it's no longer them calling the shots.
- If you think your dog might possibly bite, muzzle them when they're training and when they're around others. Even if you think it's an extremely remote chance. If they are showing aggression, it's not safe to trust them to not bite. The dog may not like the muzzle at first but they get used to it fairly quickly if you don't give into their "poor pitiful me" Academy Award winning performances. Then with that variable taken care of, both of you can concentrate on the training. You're asking your dog to change something that's worked well for them in the past. They're not going to want to give up that habit without some resistance. Shore Service Dogs has to deal with a variety of dog personalities and dog histories. If there's any doubt, the safety of a muzzle is always a better route to go than the consequences of a bite. Once they've learned better how not to always resort to aggression, then the muzzle comes off and the trust earning stage starts. But until they're to the level of willingess to work under a truce of no teeth, they don't have the option of that weapon.
- All work and no play make for a grouchy dog (and human too). Exercise is important but so is good old fashioned playtime. Try to spend at least 10 minutes a day just playing with your dog. That way they don't see you as the dull one that they don't want to be around. Just keep in mind that roughhousing with an aggressive dog is on par with the proverbial waving of the red cape in front of a bull. Your dog does not have control over their ability to keep things in check when it comes to biting so don't tempt them with behavior that encorages that kind of response. Playing ball with them is a pretty safe type of recreation. Running around with them, roughhousing, playing tug, all of those kinds of play are dominance or prey drive modes of play and should be avoided until you're absolutely certain that the dog has gained the self control that will make them safe to play such games with them.
- If they want to avoid something, help them learn to deal with it instead. Avoiding a problem will never solve the underlying difficulties, it will only encourage a broader range of avoidances. This is a tricky training part with many dogs, so calling in an expert might provide you with some valuable tips to help you and your dog over the worst of their particular hurdles. It's vitally important though that they gain the self confidence to deal with their anxieties. Not only will this help with all kinds of aggressions but will also help with a lot of separation anixiety problems too. A dog that can understand that stressful situations are not something to be afraid of or avoid is a dog that's much more trustworthy than one that's letting their emotions get the better of them. All of the dogs here at Shore Service Dogs have come from sometimes horrendously abusive and stressful pasts. Each of them has successfully learned to overcome their fears. It can be done as long as you have the willingess to help them overcome it. Giving in to their fears does not do them any favors. Instead it teaches them that they can hide and not learn to be a well balanced, calm, and happier dog. That type of avoidance behavior is definitely not a desirable outcome for either your dog or you.
- During the first learning stages of the behavior modification, don't allow them the freedom to make choices that could be bad. If you're walking them on a leash, don't use a flexi-lead. That gives them way too much opportunity to get into trouble with you having no way to adequately stop them from doing wrong. Having them walk beside you in a heel with a short lead encourages them to not charge off after someone or something to show them that they're the boss. And if they do, you have much more control in stopping them than if they're waaaaaay at the other end of a long flexi-lead. When you provide the guidance to them as to what's acceptible, then they're not trying to figure it out all on their own (and usually getting it wrong in the meantime). You're also reinforcing the concept to them that you're in charge, not them. Until they learn that you're determined to be the leader of your pack, they'll keep seeing if they can fill that job position and their idea of being the ideal boss is probably a lot different than yours.
- Be open to the idea of using different training tools to help your dog overcome their aggression. A balanced regimen of training with a variety of different tools and techniques can sometimes be much more effective than just sticking with a single style. Always remember that praise is a very important part of training for everyone. Just as corrections are important, so is acknowledgement that a job was well done. But don't praise for just praising's sake. That will give your dog a distorted idea of what's really good and the less you confuse them, the less frustrated and angry they'll become. It's important that you praise when they've actually completed a task correctly. Then they'll know the rules that you're teaching them. After all, isn't that the ultimate goal of trying to help them better understand what you expect from them?
- Most importantly, be consistent with letting the dog know what is and isn't appropriate behavior. Consistency from you is vitally important in helping them understand their boundaries. It's just like what a mother dog does when she's raising her pups. She teaches them the ropes so they know how to properly behave in their pack. That's what you'll now be doing with your own "pack". Contrary to what some believe, I'm a firm believer that dogs do have the ability to know right from wrong (if they didn't, they'd get killed in the wild mighty quickly). If you let them get away with an inappropriate behavior because at that moment it's the easiest or quickest thing to do, they'll remember that forever and a day. Not only will they lose respect for your leadership abilities, they'll have gotten your measure as to the best way to get a response out of you that they want. Don't give them that ammunition to make your life more difficult. Spend the extra minutes now to make sure that they understand their boundaries. It'll save you a ton of time and troubles later on down the road.
Stop Cats from Urinating on the Furniture
Once a cat decides to use a piece of furniture for a replacement litterbox, it can be extremely frustrating and difficult to get them to cease that behavior. Many times inappropriate urinating in cats is caused by kidney or bladder health problems or other diseases. When unsure what's causing the issue of not using the litterbox, the first thing to be done is to get your cat checked at the vet to see if there is a physical difficulty that can be treated to stop the inappropriate urination behaviors.
For some cats, it's more a psychological issue rather than physical. After one of my cats started repeatedly peeing on the couch, I immediately took her in for a check up where it turned out her tests came back normal on everything. With that ruled out, I started to think of what it could be that was causing her to not use her litterbox. Turns out, apparently the vacume cleaner was the epitome of her worst nightmares. So we started in on months of desensitization to get her beyond her fears. But while it helped some, if the vacume cleaner was used (and with 3 dogs and 2 cats, it gets used a lot) she would fall back into the terrified kitty routine and would invariably take it out on the sofa later on by peeing on it. And then of course the other cat had to get in on the act just to add her calling card to the scent.
Needless to say, after cleaning the sofa multiple times and applying every suggestion I could find to mask the odor so they wouldn't be attracted to the spot again with nothing seeming to work, I was getting just a bit "pissed off" at the whole situation (pun intended). Fortunately I finally found a solution to stop the problem and keep my sanity. While browsing through a local discount store, I saw a gadget that was similar to the static charge scat mats but used a system that produced sound instead. This thing was as loud as a smoke detector so there was no missing when the cats got on it. Amazingly it only took a few times before they ceased to even try to get up on the sofa. The instant one of their tiny paws puts any weight on the sensor area, it shrieks that loud sound and those cats are gone. I have to admit, initially I had my doubts as to how successful it would be but it has been fantastic for the cats and stopping their inappropriate urinating problems!
Unfortunately, while it was fantastic with the cats, it's a wash out for keeping Kayne off my bed when he's home alone. He can apparently ignore the sound quite easily if it means he gets to curl up on my pillow. How he can deal with all that noise, I haven't a clue but he does. Normally he's not allowed on furniture but I figure if it keeps his intelligent and curious mind out of mischief by encouraging him to snooze while I'm out, it's not a big deal if he dog naps there. While sound doesn't seem to work with the dogs, if I really needed to make sure they stayed off furniture while I was out, I'd be willing to check out the static charge version of the scat mat as I was extremely impressed with the audio one's ability to modify two very stubborn cats' behaviors. I can't even begin to describe how much less stress there is in life when you don't have to constantly worry about repeatedly stripping down a sleeper sofa to steam clean it. Technology can be a wonderful thing at times. Many kudos and thanks to the person that came up with that idea. It certainly is a sanity saver!
Disclaimer: Many behavior problems may also arise from medical issues. The information provided on this page is not to be used in place of qualified medical advice. Please contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns regarding your pet's health and well-being. Information provided by Shore Service Dogs and their sources is done so in good faith and therefore Shore Service Dogs does not accept responsibility or liability for your actions based on the content of the information provided. When dealing with ANY emergency, please contact a local expert to assist with your situation as soon a possible!