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dog training

Ask-a-Trainer Thursday
Ask-a-Trainer Thursday: Meeko the Goldendoodle
June 16, 2016 at 4:12 am 0

Ask-a-Trainer Thursday

Welcome to our regular blog feature we call "Ask-a-Trainer Thursday". Think of it like the Dear Abby of dog training. We take questions submitted to us by email or on social media from people who have questions about their dogs and we get them answered by professional positive based dog trainers. 

Meeko the goldendoodle

This week's question came to us via a blog post comment from Lyla in Kitchener, ON. Lyla wants to know how to help Meeko her goldendoodle get over her fear of strange men. Lyla writes:

Our one year old mini goldendoodle has always been a more fearful pup than other dogs I've owned. We've been able to help her work through most of her concerns with positive counter conditioning methods but she remains reactive to strange men. She will growl and bark if they move in her presence. She is great with her "daddy" and occasionally meets a man she is okay with but for the most part she is fearful reactive.

meeko goldendoodle playhouse

Meeko the mini goldendoodle

The difficulty is we don't have enough opportunity to use positive exposures to help her overcome this issue. When we occasionally have men visit our home I have them toss treats to her over a gate but otherwise not engage with her. If necessary, I put her in her crate where she feels safe — but it is pretty rare that this opportunity arises.

She has been to classes and quickly learned to trust the men there and would approach them for treats, but anyone new gets a warning from her that they should stay away. Is there anything else I can do, assuming that I am un
able to recruit a line of adult male volunteers to help me socialize her?

Samantha DeJong of Puppy Power

Our expert this week is Samantha DeJong a positive based trainer and owner of Puppy Power. Samantha shares her advice on how to help Meeko:

Working with a fearful dog can be a challenge but it sounds like you're on the right track. Having new men that come into her space toss her treats is one way to teach her to be comfortable with the uncomfortable situation.

I find most people get that part right, but sometimes their timing of reinforcement is a bit off. In some scenarios they can accidentally reward fearful behaviour with attention or by giving a reaction to fearful behaviour.  

Teaching a good "leave it" and quickly removing her quietly and smoothly as soon as she displays any fearful behaviour is a good start. Don't say "ah ah" or add any vocalization because the dog may interpret this as barking or growling. It's also important not to pop or jerk the leash. Be sure to reward her calm behaviour as soon as you can get Meeko to a distance where she can be calm.
meeko's puppy playhouse

One method I like is to teach a game where you work at a distance from new people. You can reward her for glancing at them while staying calm and removing her for any reaction.  As this becomes easier you can step closer and play it again, continuing to get closer as she shows more confidence.

Working with a positive reinforcement trainer who deals with desensitizing to fear will help you get the timing of this right.  With dogs, every second counts. If we throw a treat as she barks, even if we think we're rewarding her for approaching, we've rewarded the bark.  If we go to coax her when she's acting fearful, we are giving attention to fearful behaviour.

A good trainer will also teach you about dog body language and early signs of discomfort. Your dog will display this body language to say they need space before they escalate to any sort of a reaction, and often it is missed.

The trainer should discuss with you how people can use their body language to be less intimidating. You can even use the calming signals that dogs use to communicate they are not a threat.  If you'd like to read up on some of this yourself, I suggest Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas.

meekogoldendoodleThe game I mentioned above can be played at a distance from passersby (at parks, outside grocery stores, pet stores, etc.) to reinforce that good things happen when she sees new people in a variety of situations. If someone stops and asks to say hi, you could ask them to toss treats if she can be calm.

Finding a trainer who offers socialization classes will give you an opportunity to have new people practise the close up interactions more regularly.  The benefit of socialization classes as opposed to a regular puppy class, is the change of people. It's not always the same people week to week so you'll get a better variety of exposure for Meeko.

Lastly I have to mention that if you're trying to deter any behaviour using negative stimuli (leash corrections, shaker cans, shock or spray collars, clapping or any vocalizations that sound like barking, growling or intended to startle the dog), you will add to the problem.  These are commonly used by trainers who use corrections and while they may temporarily stop behaviours, they do not address the underlying problem to create longterm success.

If you take a look at the IPDTA (International Positive Dog Training) website there is a list of positive trainers you can contact from wherever you live. I'd also be more than happy to help you in person if this is something you'd like to work through together. 

Have a dog training question?

If you've got a question you'd like featured on our Ask-a-Trainer blog, you can submit your question and have it answered by a professional positive based trainer too. Contact us via email or leave a comment on our Facebook page and let us know how we can help. 

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Ask-a-Trainer Thursday
Ask-a-Trainer Thursday: How to Pick a Puppy
June 2, 2016 at 8:26 am 0

Ask-a-Trainer Thursday

Welcome to our regular blog feature called Ask-a-Trainer Thursday. We take questions from our social media audiences and then ask a positive based trainer for their advice in each situation.

This week, Jess Croezen of Impressive Canines answers one of the most common questions she's asked as a trainer: "how do I pick out a new puppy?".

 

How do I pick a puppy?

When looking for a new puppy, I tell clients to do their research.

If you’d like a purebred dog, find a breeder that loves their job and has a passion for raising amazing well rounded family pets. A good breeder will let you meet the parents and grandparents of the litter (if possible). They’ll also happily supply you with testimonials about previous litters and tests which prove their health background and genetics are in good standing. I also recommend spending as much time with the litter you are looking at as possible and if you feel uneasy at any time, don't feel bad about moving on and continuing your search.

boxer puppies

image from blog.thecozypet.com

When spending time with the actual puppies, I look for the ‘middle of the road’ personality. A lot of people like the one that runs up and wants to be the centre of attention all the time, or the shy quiet one in the corner. I want the happy one that likes to be with me, but also enjoys exploring and playing with their littermates. Ideally the puppy should seem calm but also happy-go-lucky.

Does that mean that the other puppies are not a good choice? Not at all.

The in your face kind of personality may test you a bit more. They might get demanding, need a lot of mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis or get bored easily for example.

The shy pup hiding in the corner on the other hand might be more prone to developing fear, separation anxiety, or need some confidence building. They may also require a lot of positive socialization exposure as well as might struggle a bit more with change such as a new home and may be nervous with a highly active family.

These are just some examples and it truly depends on each litter and each puppy. In some litters all of the puppies can seem pretty similar personality wise.

Some of the really good breeders I recommend actually pick a puppy for you based on your lifestyle, your experience with puppies and knowledge of that specific breed. Another breeder I’m familiar with, will choose a puppy for you based on whether you want a pet or show dog. She will also ask you if you prefer a male or female and if you have a preferred colour. After sorting through all of the criteria she’s collected, she will pick the pup that she believes is best suited for you.

litter labrador retriever puppies

image from waggingtails.ca

Another important aspect to be aware of when picking a new puppy is genetics. Genetics can play a big role in the puppy’s health and temperament. If the parents seems really loud and intense (or alternatively really shy and submissive) those traits may show up in your puppy. This is another reason why meeting the family beforehand is an important part of choosing a puppy.

I also like when the breeder has exposed the puppies to different real world scenarios: polite children, various sights, sounds, smells, and gets them comfortable wearing a collar and leash. Being exposed to all of these things at an early age means the puppy is less likely to find issue with them when they are older.

 

Adopting from a rescue

Another option for finding a great puppy or dog is to consider adopting from a rescue group. Rescue dogs are a bit different because most of the time you can't get an accurate history on them or see the relatives. It can also be hard to tell the exact breed (or breeds) sometimes.

Fortunately, you can get a good sense of personality when you meet them. Rescue groups are also experienced in dealing with lots of different dogs and will be honest if they see issues or problems you may need to train through when you get your dog. If the rescue you are looking at is in a foster home you can get a really good sense of what they are like in a home environment from their foster family.

If the dog is coming from a humane society setting, I tell my clients to just keep an open mind because it can be a harder environment for the dogs. The dog may be nervous, vocal or hyper simply because of the environment. In a home setting, the same dog may be totally fine. I know of one particular dog that would intimidate people when he barked in the humane society setting based on his stress levels, but in a home setting is a very sweet, quiet boy.

 

I'm here to help

I am a firm believer that if you put your mind to it and take the time and patience to understand how your dog thinks, feels and thrives, all dogs and puppies can be amazing.

Before you consider getting a dog, it’s important to be honest with yourself and the kind of lifestyle you have. Not all dogs can handle quiet, inactive homes and others won’t do well in an active and busy household.

If you’re thinking about bringing a dog into your life, I do offer assistance. I’m happy to help you find a reputable breeder, or evaluate a rescue — so feel free to contact me for further assistance.

dalmation litter

image from ovulationpads.info

Unless the pet store specifically offers pets from a rescue or humane society, it’s best to stay away from these places. It’s hard to walk away from a cute puppy, but in many cases, these dogs are from puppy mills and can cause you big headaches (and vet bills down the road).

No matter what kind of dog or puppy you choose for your family, training should be considered mandatory. Find a good positive based trainer and teach the dog to become the kind of family you want them to be instead of trying to undo bad behaviour down the road. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and you’ll be so happy when you have a dog you can take with you anywhere.

For more information on finding a puppy or to inquire about my school or classes, please feel free to contact me at Impressive Canines using the information below.

 

Do you have a question?

Do you have a question about dog behaviour in general or why your dog acts a certain way? Leave your question in the comments below and we’ll get a positive based dog trainer to answer it for you.

 

 

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Ask-a-Trainer Thursday
Ask-a-Trainer Thursday: Oliver the Golden Retriever
May 5, 2016 at 6:25 am 0

Ask-a-Trainer Thursday

Welcome to our weekly feature called Ask-a-Trainer Thursday. Each week, we take questions from our social media audiences and then ask a positive based trainer for their advice in each situation.

Oliver 1

The question

This week’s question came to us from Anna in Kitchener, ON. She asks:

My 13 month old golden retriever loves people and loves meeting new dogs. When we're out for a walk, or when we have visitors over, he often gets so over excited all of his training goes out the window. He jumps and pulls and will do anything to get to the new dog/person. It can be very jarring for new people who don't know Oliver and it can cause a lot of stress for both myself and my partner.

How do we teach him to remain calm in situations where there are new people and new dogs? How can we help him deal with his excitement?

Trainer's advice

We asked Jess Croezen of Impressive Canines for her advice. Here’s what she had to say:

 

Hi Anna,

Thank you for your great training question!

For any greeting, it comes down to self- control and controlling the environment. On walks, you will need to teach him that if he sits and waits calmly, he may say hello to the person or other dog when you release him with a cue such as “Go See”. Make sure you don’t release him until he is in a calm relaxed state. If you release and he starts getting over excited again, or jumps, then walk him away (a short distance). Wait for him to be calm again and then try another greeting. Remember that it’s three strikes and you’re out. If he can’t stay calm after three tries, walk away, and he loses that greeting.

Oliver 2
In your house, you can do a lot of prep work. I teach my dogs to stay behind an imaginary line I draw with my hand and use the word “wait” as I wave my hand across this line. I slowly build up time and distance until I can get to the door and open it without them crossing the imaginary line I’ve drawn. As they get better, have your partner add in door knocks, doorbells and other distractions to proof his “wait”.

Timing, consistency, understanding and small positive steps is the key. If you are struggling with reading his body language cues, or need any other assistance, I offer private training sessions and can assist you on your path to success!

Oliver 3


Do you have a question about dog behaviour in general or why your dog acts a certain way? Leave your question in the comments below and we’ll get a positive based dog trainer to answer it for you.


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Dog Advice
Can I Teach My Old Dog New Tricks?
April 27, 2016 at 11:06 am 0

The origin of an old saying

According to MythBusters, it was an English man who first coined the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". Fitzherbert was literally talking about dogs when in 1523 he wrote "the dogge must lerne when he is a whelpe, or els it wyl not be; for it is harde to make an old dogge to stoupe."

Today the saying is used in many contexts. Generally it's used to mean that it's near impossible to change someone who's set in their ways. But does it hold true when it comes to dogs? Does a dog, past a certain age, lose the ability to learn? 

old dog 2

image from yourdog.co.uk

You can and should teach an old dog new tricks

Not only can older dogs learn new things, it's important to keep them mentally stimulated (as much as it is younger dogs). I've lost count of the number of times someone has come to me with a dog that they exercise like crazy and can't seem to figure out why the dog is still unsettled. 

The answer in many cases can be a lack of mental stimulation. For most dog owners taking their dog for a walk every day makes sense. Whether they do it themselves or hire an awesome dog walker to do it for them, the idea of a dog needing exercise seems natural. It's easy to forget that dogs need to use their brains too. Dogs are smart, and teaching them to use their brains is both fun and rewarding. 

Teaching an old dog is like a broken elevator

So while teaching an old dog isn't impossible, it can be more difficult. It's why I always express the importance of getting a puppy trained when they are young instead of waiting until the dog is older.

Another old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" also applies here. Better to nip behaviours in the bud before they have to be untaught or retrained later on. 

dog elevator

image from kare11.com


Think about yourself. No matter how old you are, you're set in some of your ways. Getting you to change your habit takes effort. Whether it be to become more active, to eat healthier or quit smoking. Old habits die hard. 

I liken the experience to a broken elevator. Pretend for a minute that you live in an apartment building on the 5th floor. You've lived in this apartment for just over three years now. Each day you come home from work, enter the lobby press the up button and wait for the elevator to arrive and open its doors. Each day the same pattern starts to develop: Press button, wait... elevator doors open. Press button, wait... elevator doors open; etc.. 

The elevator is still broken, what do you do?

One day you get home from work and the elevator isn't working. You press the button like you normally would and you wait and wait, but no elevator arrives. Do you:

A) Say "oh well" and take the stairs right away (with enthusiasm)

B) Throw a rope with a hook attached up the side of the building and start climbing 

C) Frustrated, press the button repeatedly saying "C'mon you stupid thing.. work!"

old dog
If you were being honest, your answer was most likely C. It's the same with your dog. When you're trying to change behaviour, they're always going to try what worked for them in the past first. They'll take the path of least resistance (the elevator) before looking for another option (the stairs). 

Essentially when you're teaching your dog a new behaviour (or shaping an old one), you're teaching them about the stairs in the apartment scenario. In order to reinforce taking the stairs as the default behaviour you also need to reinforce that the elevator (the old behaviour) is broken - no matter how many times your dog tries to press that "up button".

If you're consistent, your dog will go for the stairs first because it is the path of least resistance that creates the same desired effect. Obviously the longer a dog has used the elevator (or their old behaviour), the longer it'll take them to learn to use the stairs. 

old dog bed
Old dogs still have lots of love to give

Training an old dog isn't impossible. It might take some time, but it can be done. All of us are stubborn in our behaviour patterns. Patience and consistency are the keys to creating positive change and teaching your dog a new trick. 

If you're interested in the MythBusters findings about training an old dog new tricks (mentioned above), you can find them here.

Senior dogs can be the hardest to find homes for. Many people prefer a young puppy instead of the old classic. Old dogs can have lots of love and fun left in them (we'll write about great reasons for adopting an older dog in another post). So if you're thinking of bringing a new dog into your family, consider adopting one in their golden years. 

Looking for an older dog? Contact the Grand River All Breed Animal Rescue or your local Humane Society of Canada and see what dogs they have searching for their forever homes. 



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